Casabloga: Loving Vincent

When I heard that they were making this film, I knew immediately that I had to see it. I’ve been a fan of Van Gogh my entire life, and in fact The Starry Night is my favourite painting of all time. But the moment I officially became obsessed with him was when I watched Vincent and the Doctor, in my opinion the greatest Doctor Who episode of all time.

Loving Vincent is not only the story of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, but also the circumstances surrounding his death. Officially, he committed suicide. However, there have always been rumours that he was shot by someone else and just told everyone he shot himself so no one else took the blame.

But what truly sets the film apart is that it is the first one to be entirely animated through paintings. It consists of over 65,000 frames, every single one of them an oil painting in the style of Van Gogh himself. Not sure what I mean? Here is the trailer:

Not only is the story fascinating, the visuals are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. To be honest, this is the perfect way to tell his story. All of his paintings come alive, because everything he painted was inspired by actual people and places. In fact, Armand Roulin is the main character. Armand was the subject of some of Van Gogh’s paintings. His whole family was.

I feel that Vincent’s story is a very important one to share, because it’s a very relatable story of mental illness, depression, and suicide. He may, in fact, be the most relatable historical figure. That Doctor Who episode really helps to make him feel like a modern figure. As though if he were alive today he’d have had a better life. Not that he wouldn’t still be depressed, just that there’s now treatment for it. Back when he lived, he was just considered “mad” and everyone picked on him. Which, naturally, didn’t help his depression.

At the beginning of this post I linked to a scene from the Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor”. The following contains spoilers for that episode. For context, Amy Pond (the Doctor’s companion at the time) wanted to save Vincent from killing himself. She feels that if he knows how important he is in the present time, he wouldn’t kill himself. Van Gogh never knew he was famous, because that didn’t happen until after his death. So the Doctor uses the TARDIS to bring him to the present (when the video begins) to show him that all of his artwork is on display where all of the greatest works of art is, given it’s own special room. It’s the most crowded room in the museum. The Doctor has the curator (played by Bill Nighy in an uncredited role) talk about how important Vincent was to history, which obviously brings him to tears of joy.

The beauty of the episode, and the reason I feel it’s one of the greatest episodes of the show, is that despite their efforts, Vincent still kills himself. Amy is confused, and the Doctor stresses that they can’t undo all the bad in the world.

Basically, depression isn’t as simple as “Oh, I’m happy now, I’m all better”. Vincent was penniless and (at the time) hated by almost everyone who knew him. You’d think that’s why he committed suicide. So why did Robin Williams do it? He’s the complete opposite. extremely successful and loved by all. He had four films released after his death. Vincent’s suicide makes sense from a logical point of view, so why did Robin Williams do it?

The answer is that depression isn’t logical. Everything could be going right in your life, and yet you still have this dark cloud over you that you just can’t explain or understand. You could be surrounded by everyone and yet feel like you are alone on a deserted island.

This is why I feel it is important for this story to be told.

Loving Vincent is available on Blu-Ray as of today.

If You Know Someone in Crisis. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.


Casabloga: This Is Spinal Tap

This is actually going to be a two part review. I was going to do my first double review of two unconnected movies (as opposed to whole trilogies like The Butterfly Effect or comparing a remake like Carrie), but decided to just split them into two separate reviews. So I’ll post this one tonight and the second one tomorrow night.

This Is Spinal Tap is a 1984 mockumentary directed by Rob Reiner and starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. It follows fictional rock back Spinal Tap, which has been around for over seventeen years (at the time of the film), as they tour America for the first time in years.

It is shot so well that had I not known it was satire when I first saw it years ago, I’d have probably thought Spinal Tap was an actual band that I just somehow missed.

The film has multiple iconic scenes, most famously the “Turn it up to 11” scene. But one of my favourite scenes, one that never fails to make me laugh, is when the band is standing at Elvis’ grave trying to harmonize to Heartbreak Hotel.

As mentioned above, the film makes this feel like a real band. So much so that I’m kind of curious what they’d be doing today. There have been a couple of updates, but nothing as big as an official full scale sequel.

The four main actors went on to become legends in their own right.

Rob Reiner, who both directed it and played the fictional director, Marty Di Bergi, finished the ’80s by directing Stand By MeThe Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally. He started the ’90s by directing the Stephen King classic Misery. He’s done quite a few between then and now, with an upcoming film, Shock and Awe, in the works.

Michael McKean went on to be on Saturday Night Live in the ’90s, as well as appear in numerous films. He currently stars in Better Call Saul as Chuck McGill.

Christopher Guest also went onto Saturday Night Live, but immediately. He’s appeared in numerous films and shows, such as The Invention of Lying and Family Tree,

Harry Shearer, like the other two band members, went on to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live. However, today he is best known as one of the main voices on The Simpsons.

This Is Spinal Tap really set the bar for future mockumentaries. Countless have been made in the over thirty years since it’s release, and there are very few that are even worth mentioning. However, there is one that came out fairly recently which I think is the closest thing to a modern This Is Spinal Tap we could have hoped for. That will be the subject of tomorrow’s review. Never thought I would say this on a Casabloga review, but…


Casabloga: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

This Is Spinal Tap, the film I reviewed last night, is the mockumentary that changed the genre forever. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the modern day equivalent of it.

The film follows Conner, played by Andy Samberg, the former leader of the fictional rap group “Style Boyz”. It starts some time after the group split up and Conner has released his first album, his second about to come out. There are interviews with actually celebrities, such as Usher, RZA, and Simon Cowell.

Just as was the case with Spinal Tap, Popstar includes full-length songs. One of the funniest songs is called Equal Rights, which ends with a cameo by ex-Beatle Ringo Starr.

Also like the three stars of Spinal Tap, Andy Samberg was formerly on Saturday Night Live. That show is a great pool of talent from which to draw from. It’s honestly not at all surprising that Samberg went on to make this movie, because he was known on SNL for his Digital Shorts, many of which included rap songs he wrote. This one actually went viral when it aired in 2005.

There’s really not much I can say about it that I didn’t say about Spinal Tap. This has been harder to write than I thought it would be, because I’m trying not to repeat myself.

Basically, if you like films like This Is Spinal Tap, you are definitely going to like Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

Casabloga: Cars 3

The title of this probably feels like a joke. I never would have thought that a Cars film would end up on my list of the great films of all time. The first film was okay, but was a little over-hyped. The second one is to this day the only Pixar film I have not finished because it was so bad. So when they announced the third one, I rolled my eyes and told my friends, “The only way that film would even be remotely worth it is if there’s a character called Vlad the Impala”.

Then they released the teaser. You have my attention, Pixar.

I’ve been wanting to watch it ever since that teaser released, and I have finally seen it, and it was better than I was hoping. In my opinion, it is the best entry in the entire series, including the two Planes spinoffs (the first was good, the second was better…yes, I watched them).

The following will contain spoilers.

In the subsequent trailers, it was clear that this was either going to be a Rocky V, Rocky Balboa, or Creed story. But it did something I didn’t expect. It starts off as Rocky V, becomes Rocky Balboa, and ends as Creed.

Lightening McQueen’s dramatic crash from the teaser ended up being Rocky’s brain damage from the beginning at the beginning of Rocky V that forced him to retire when he wasn’t ready to. But a younger car, Jackson Storm, is the Mason Dixon of this story that the older car has compete against. In the end, he passes the torch onto Cruz Ramirez, the Adonis Creed of this story.

Right, so the Rocky analogy isn’t exactly perfect, but you get the idea.

I think the reason this one was so good was for two major reasons; 1. While they included Mater, his part was more of a background character. So he wasn’t overused as with the previous two entries. 2) They focused on the right characters. Cruz is a new character, but I feel we know as much about her as if she’d been a part of the story the whole time. That’s how well the character development was done here. When she’s given the opportunity to race, it feels well-earned. Even more so when she actually wins.

I do have to say this; I never thought a movie about sentient vehicles would ever make me cry. There were multiple scenes in this film that had me at least tear up.

I honestly hope they never make another one. End it on a high note like this.

Casabloga: The Lion King

How I haven’t gotten to this one already is beyond me. However, there are several other films that I could probably also say that about, so I don’t feel so bad. The Lion King was recently re-released on Blu-Ray as part of the Signature Collection, and I bought it.

While I’ve seen this movie a thousand times, as I’m sure every ’90s kid has, it was my first time seeing it on Blu-Ray. The movie is as amazing as ever, but seeing it in HD you really get a sense of the amount of effort put into the film. The characters almost look 3D now.

But this isn’t a review of the Blu-Ray. However, I honestly don’t know what I could say about The Lion King that hasn’t already been said, I just really wanted to add it to my Casabloga list.

I’m excited about the upcoming live-action remake. Disney showed the new Circle of Life opening at D23 this year, but has not released the video online yet, even though at least once a week I look for it. I scoured the Blu-Ray hoping they’d release it on there, but they did not.

Casabloga: IT

I went to go see IT on opening night, so I was meaning to do this before now, but I thought it would be way too soon. But I’ve been seeing everyone, including people who normally don’t even cover movies, discussing this film.

I saw the original miniseries when I was a kid (If I reference that one in this review, I’ll refer to it as SKIT, for “Stephen King’s IT”, which is what it’s always been marketed as), and I think it may even be what made me afraid of clowns. Yes, like pretty much everyone, I’m afraid of clowns. That could be why I love this story so much. You watch/read horror to be scared. What better horror story than a killer clown?

So when I was maybe 14 or fifteen, I read the novel. It took me six months to read and is today by far the longest book I have ever read.

Obviously, SKIT is a classic, much like Carrie before it. And much like Carrie, I think the remake is superior to the original. But unlike the Carrie remake, I don’t think I’ll receive any backlash for this, because that’s pretty much what everyone else is saying. SKIT is a classic and still good, but it’s always been rather cheesy and corny. Doug Walker explains it better than I can.

This one, however, was not cheesy and/or corny. It was legitimately scary. There are funny moments, but this time they are intentionally funny parts. The film has been compared to Stranger Things, and I can definitely understand why. Not only because one of the child actors was actually in Stranger Things, but also because they fed into the nostalgia that the popular Netflix series started (well, at least the current trend).

Without giving away spoilers, they changed the story ever-so-slightly, enough to make me curious what they’re going to do for the sequel, when the kids are now adults. I’m very excited to see where this goes. Both the IT sequel and the future of Stephen King movies.

Casabloga: The Blair Witch Project

When you hear that a new found footage movie is being released, you automatically roll your eyes, because you already know that it’s going to be fake. With each one, they try harder and harder to make them as realistic as possible, while at the same time trying to make them as exciting as possible. But the problem is that in real life, no one holds a camera long enough during events like that. At least not enough to form a coherent story.

But there was a time when this was an entirely new concept. I’m speaking, of course, about The Blair Witch Project. While the film itself may not be all that exciting (it’s literally just three people lost in the woods for days and fighting with each other), what really makes this movie great, at least to me, is everything surrounding it. Love the film or hate it, you can’t deny it had the perfect marketing. It was sold as factual, and they went all the way with it. The actors weren’t to appear in anything else for at least a year, not even talk shows. They even made a documentary about the Blair Witch, just to make it seem more real.

I was one of those who fell for it. Up until I read a Cracked article years ago about how the film was made, I actually thought it was real. I’m sure if I’d have taken the time to actually look into it I’d have found out sooner, but that’s how great it was. There was actually heated debates over whether or not this was real.

For evidence on how over-saturated the industry is in found footage movies, look no further than the recent Blair Witch sequel, cleverly titled Blair Witch. No one has questioned whether or not it’s real. We know now it’s not.

This actually makes me wonder; if they actually found footage of something like this (or anything), would they even be allowed to release it as a film? I’m sure they’d need the family’s permission, but I’m sure i’d also be considered evidence, because the police would likely consider these murders and not supernatural happenings.

I’ve yet to see the sequel (either of them, but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of Book of Shadows other than to denounce it’s existence), but I can already tell that its not going to be as good as the original, simply because it doesn’t have the same feeling as the original going in.

This film does have a strong sense of terrifying claustrophobia about it. With all the arguing, especially with the camera so close to everyone, it’s a very uncomfortable movie to watch. I’ve been lost in the woods before (though granted it was only a few hours), and I can totally see how they would have gotten to the point of nearly tearing each other apart after a few days.

So for every Cloverfield and Chronicle trying to wow audiences with realistic effects, all they really had to do is set the actors loss in the woods and let them improvise for a few days.

Casabloga: Moana

***This review contains spoilers***

I was considering not covering this one, because it seems that I cover all major animated films. But I was scrolling through my past reviews and noticed that I reviewed Frozen. it’d feel wrong to review Frozen and not Moana, because as much as I loved Frozen, I honestly have tio say that Moana was better. For so many reasons.

Where Anna had the same awkward quirkiness that is given to most female characters they try to give a personality to, Moana was a totally unique character that I immediately loved. Her life from toddler to adult is told through song at the beginning, and it’s made perfectly clear that she has a longing for the sea. The sea is, quite literally, calling to her. But her parents don’t want her to go out on the sea, (because of the thousand year old backstory in the introduction). she is also expected to be made cheif of the villiage, so she has to be kept safe.

The trailers made it look as though Moana and Maui are old friends. But she doesn’t meet him until around halfway through the film, and they don’t even like each other at first. He spends a large portion of the rest of the film trying to get rid of her.

The film sets it up that Maui has to be the one to save the day, but it turns out to be Moana who does it.

I couldn’t do this review justice if I didn’t talk about the music. When I fond out it was another singing Disney film, I rolled my eyes. But I actually loved most of the songs in this one. They’re not as memorable as Let It Go, but I’d still listen to them independently from th movie. In fact, I am listening to How Far I’ll Go on Spotify as I type this. Heck, I’ll add it to my playlist on the right side of this page.

Can’t forget the comedy. I was laughing a lot during this film. As weird as it seems, I think my favourite comedic thing about this film is Moana’s chicken, Heihei, who always pecks the wrong thing.

Although I already spoiled the end by saying that Moana saves the day, I feel telling too much more will spoil it even more. I went in knowing only what the first couple of trailers showed, so I went in mostly blind and I loved it, and I think you should as well. Granted, I didn’t know anything  I’ve written here before going in…

One last thing, I have to point out that this was the acting debut for Auli’i Cravalho, the voice of Moana. I believe she was perfectly cast. She also sings How Far I’ll Go, which I’ve added to this blog’s Spotify playlist on the right. Not only because she’s actually the age of the character, but also the nationality, for the most part. She’s Hawai’ian, and the movie is about Pacific Islanders. I’m glad they didn’t get, like, Jennifer Lawrence to voice a 16 year old Pacific Islander girl.

I give this film a 9 out of 10

Moana is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Casabloga: The Angry Birds Movie

In 2009, I played a little game called Angry Birds for the first time. It wasn’t entirely original (I’d played a similar flash game in high school with a bow and arrow), but it was an addictive take on the concept.

Over the years Rovio, the developer of the game, has released countless different versions of the game. There’s one based on Star Wars, there’s a Transformers one, and even one based on the movie Rio. Who can forget Space? There’s a racer game, an RPG adventure game, and a spinoff where you play as the pigs.

There were talks about a movie for years, but I always rolled my eyes because that’s taking things too far. Finally, though, they announced the movie. When I saw the initial trailer, I decided to pretend that it didn’t even exist. I mean, it didn’t even make sense! Now they have arms and legs and can talk? Rovio was obviously just cranking out random garbage to make a quick buck.

But then several of my friends saw it and suggested I give it a chance. Of course, I ended up giving in and forced myself to watch it tonight. And, to my surprise, I loved it!

They could have taken what little story the game had (pigs steal eggs, the birds are angry and go after the pigs) and made an equally flimsy film. But no, they expanded on what they had. In fact, the pigs appear to be friendly at first. Only the main character, Red, suspects anything. The eggs aren’t even taken until more than halfway through the film.

The humour was also something that surprised me. I was laughing through most of the movie. Especially at the Lake of Wisdom scene. That part alone gave me a headache from laughing so hard.

Let’s hope Rovio takes this success and makes more good decisions. I’d hate for them to ruin what they’ve done here.

Casabloga: Where The Sidewalk Ends

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an older movie. This one is truly a classic, and yet not many have heard of it. Where The Sidewalk Ends is a film noir released in 1950.

It’s about a New York police detective, Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) who tends to get rough with suspects. The film starts with his superior warning him that if it happens again, he’ll be seriously demoted.

Soon, there’s a murder and Dixon goes to the apartment of the main suspect, Kenneth Paine (Craig Stevens). Paine punches Dixon for not leaving, and Dixon instinctively slugs him back, killing him instantly. Turns out he had a silver plate in his head from an injury from The War, and when he hit the floor he hit that, and that’s what killed him.

Dixon immediately tries to cover his tracks, and frames Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill), an old enemy of his. Everything I’ve described above is just within the first half hour. The film is an hour and a half. There’s not a dull moment in this film, which I highly recommend. It’s on Blu-Ray.