Guillermo Del Toro, Mark Gustafson
No strings attached
This fabled classic is given a decidedly 21st century, animated turn (with an army of animators and visual effects wizards) that is well worth a look by veterans of the wooden-boy tale and newcomers alike.
From the git-go, it is all about lies (we learn that telling a lie can only make a nose grow longer, figuratively and literally). If that were true today, Trump’s nose would stretch from Mar-a-Lago to the Kremlin where Putin’s would easily return the favour.
Having purposeful lies save the day in the late innings, marvellously adds to the irony as to what is really true in 2023.
Where it fails a tad is narrator Cricket (Ewan McGregor in superb form), escaping too many “squishes” without benefit of Wood Sprite’s (none better than Tilda Swinton) deal-with-the-devil promise of immortality (saving Pinocchio every time except…).
Working in Mussolini and fascism (er, hello there Nick Fuentes) adds still more relevance to the uncertain state of democracy today.
Alexandre Desplat’s score is too cheesy by half, but certainly suits the creative trust’s intentions.
It’s a film for the kids on a superficial level, but they must all see it again a couple of decades from now to fully appreciate that this nose-inspired fairy tale speaks far more truth than the original version. As most viewers will “knows” JWR
Almost suffer the little children
Imagine exploring a cave (Tham Luang) in the beautiful mountains of Thailand’s Chiang Rai region, delving into its depths, only to be denied an exit due to the sudden, ceiling-high water eruption, then waiting weeks before any hope of rescue.
In 2018, that is exactly what happened to 12 soccer players and their assistant coach, sparking thousands of locals and foreigners alike to work together in an unlikely rescue mission, fraught with horrendous peril for alll.
Four years later, it is more than encouraging to see people from all walks of life working together against all odds of success in a multitude of natural disasters.
The real heroes of Howard’s film (beyond the stellar cast including Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell) are Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s exquisite cinematography—we are there in the flooded caves with the divers—and flawless editing from James Wilcox.
This true-to-life, incredible story comes to cinematic life that ideally portrays those weeks of terror.
It is only to wish that the rest of the world would help solve calamities instead of creating them. JWR
The Kings of the World
Everything in the world has an owner
A quintet of homeless, mostly pals, boys hope to escape their day-to-day semi-existence in Medelin, Colombia when leader Rá (Carlos Andrés Castañeda largely carries the film on his young shoulders) receives official confirmation that he has title to his grandmother’s property in faraway La Sirga, which was “stolen” from her after her death by paramilitaries.
It’s a highway-filled, jungle-rich road movie that deftly explores the good, bad and ugly of strangers met on the trek, along with evolving relationships amongst the travellers.
As with Eo (cross-reference below) the appearance of a white stallion (and also a couple of fantasy sequences that truly burn into memory) adds some extra cinematic and narrative depth every step of the way.
As well, the production includes an intriguing take on the notion that “all that glitters is not gold” in a dramatic reversal that has much to say about the level of greed in too many of us.
Come for the story, but do savour David Gallego’s wonderful, mystical-“mistical” cinematography. JWR