In this episode, host Eden Caceda is joined by film critic James Fletcher to talk about the new Australian productions commissioned by Disney+ in Australia and Ocean's Eleven and A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen reboots. Then Eden chats with Western Australian writer and director Renee Webster on her TVC career, how she filmed during the pandemic and created a sexy and meaningful story and box office surprise with How To Please A Woman.
In the delightfully hyperactive Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, animated anthropomorphic critters respond to the soul-crushing slap of Hollywood.
Life has been tough for Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) in the thirty years since they last appeared on the television series of the same name. Having fallen out over a desire to go solo (in true showbiz style), the once inseparable besties have gone on to live separate lives; the sensible Chip opting for a white-collar career in insurance – the major joy of his quotidian existence coming in the form of his Clifford-like pooch, and the buzzing Dale – cosmetically enhancing himself to 3D to attract more jobs in Hollywood – making his living, how all former stars do, navigating the convention circuit.
Reunited following the disappearance of their former colleague Monterey Jack (a fair dinkum Eric Bana), the at-odds Chip and Dale set out on a noir-esque adventure to save their friend, encountering a slew of familiar faces and pop-culture references.
While parallels to Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit are apparent, the developments in CG technology offer new territory for screenwriters Dan Gregor and Doug Mand to explore. The ‘meta’ Hollywood practice of pandering to audience nostalgia doesn’t make an appearance in DnD: RR, with director Akiva Schaffer (of The Lonely Island fame) using call-backs to contemporary characters – both recent and new and of differing animation styles – to create a hearty richness in the film’s absurdist humour. (That said, some of the references will time stamp the film into the now, potentially placing a shelf-life on the jokes.)
The film plays to both Mulaney and Samberg’s strengths, allowing their comedic styles – the restless sounding Mulaney contrasting with Samberg’s zaniness – to coalesce into a buddy-cop pairing loaded with charm.
This is further highlighted in the film’s star-studded voice cast, with the likes of comedy heavy-hitters J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Keegan-Michael Key filling out the principal roles. (Exactly who they play is a mystery best served cold.) The film moves at an up-tempo pace, making for an engrossing spectacle charged with playful action sequences and a humour that never feels inappropriate, particularly for the littlies in the room.
When animated characters come into contact with humans, the film becomes less animated on two fronts. While the talented KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) does her darndest fitting into Chip and Dale’s world, her role as a police officer working to rebuild her reputation is unfortunately written too straight-faced in a film that otherwise revels in silliness.
Doing to IP cross-pollination what Scream did for horror, Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers rides high on its buoyant sense of play and intelligence. It is a blast from the past and a time capsule worth opening.
Those wacky New York neighbour true-crime podcasters return for another round of hijinks, and it looks like their rich neighbour Nathan Lane is still on the loose, as are cameos from Amy Schumer and Cara Delevingne, if this first trailer is anything to go by.
Australia's own Craig Pearce (Strictly Ballroom, upcoming Elvis) adapts Sex Pistol Steve Jones' memoir, with Danny Boyle directing all 6 episodes! Fellow Aussie Toby Wallace plays Jones, Louis Partridge is Sid Vicious, Anson Boon is Johnny Rotten, Christian Lees is Glen Matlock and Thomas Brodie-Sangster is Malcolm McLaren. Anarchy in the UK! Timely, but Disney+, really?
Marvel movies. They’ve become so ubiquitous, so ever-present, it’s hard to remember a time when they didn’t occupy cinema screens en masse and dominate the box office. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Even the weakest Marvel offering is usually a pretty good time, however all but the most ardent superhero lover would likely agree that stylistically these flicks are starting to feel a bit samey. This house style has frustrated some directors – Edgar Wright who left Ant-Man for one – and occasionally it feels like these movies are simply slick content delivery machines. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness does not feel like that, and the movie – for all its many shortcomings – offers a rather unique (albeit occasionally baffling) experience in a genre of film that is all too often homogenised. And how does it accomplish this?
Three words, people: Sam motherflippin’ Raimi.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness continues the tale of neurosurgeon-turned-wizard Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who in the dizzying opening moments of the movie meets America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager on the run from various gloopy monsters. Said beasties appear to be after America’s ability to zip through the multiverse, from one dimension to another during moments of extreme emotion, and ol’ mate Strange decides to give Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) a ping to see if she can help. And… that’s all the story beats we can chat about without getting super spoilery.
Multiverse of Madness takes some big, BIG narrative swings throughout and while not all of them work, they’re undeniably ballsy. It’s also probably the Marvel movie you’ll need to do the most homework for. Unless you’ve seen the entirety of WandaVision (streaming now on Disney+), you’ll likely be a little lost. Hell, you might even raise an eyebrow or two if you have!
See, Multiverse of Madness goes berko. Wild new dimensions are visited, jaw-dropping cameos occur and the level of creepy moments and straight up gore is higher in this flick than any other Marvel offering. Like, don’t get us wrong, it’s not A Serbian Film or anything, but it’s probably going to have your ruggies hiding behind the seats and adult fans cackling with inappropriate laughter. The sheer unbridled verve with which Sam Raimi directs the shit out of this yarn is an absolute pleasure to behold.
Raimi hasn’t actually directed a feature film since 2013’s forgettable Oz the Great and Powerful, but in that time the 62-year-old Evil Dead helmer hasn’t lost a step. From the opening moments to the end credits, this feels like a Sam Raimi flick. Dutch angles, roaming camera, alarming close-ups and giddy whip pans are all present, as well as new tricks including an hilariously grisly third act addition that we won’t spoil, but you’ll know it when you see it.
It’s a good thing Raimi’s so on point too because, frankly, the script is a bit of a mess. It simplifies a lot of the great character work done with Wanda in WandaVision and spends quite a bit of the second act seemingly unsure where to go. Perhaps some of the lumpy, inconsistent structure is a hangover from previous director Scott Derrickson (who departed the film due to those “creative differences” that seem all the rage these days), but the result is a film that at times feels at odds with itself. That said, it does end on a high note, with one of the more exciting and visceral third acts in Marvel history.
Ultimately, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a bit of a mixed bag. The script is patchy and feels micro-managed, but the direction is vital and lively. This is an okay narrative directed by a master, and while the end result is imperfect, it also feels weirder and gutsier than recent entries.
Sure to be divisive for all sorts of reasons, Multiverse of Madness is destined to be the Marvel film most appreciated by stoners, goth kids, horror fans and twitchy weirdos. And if you know that up front, there’s a weirdly giddy adventure waiting for you to enjoy.
In the 10th episode of the podcast, Eden chats with co-directors Alastair Fothergill OBE and Jeff Wilson about their careers as nature documentarians, the newest tech helping them capture incredible scenes and their newest film Polar Bear on Disney+.
In Turning Red, Disney Pixar’s latest family-comedy, love protects, restricts and even threatens the destruction of Toronto.
Following the coming-of-age happenings of Mei (Rosalie Chiang), a thirteen-year-old Chinese-Canadian schoolgirl with an obsession for boybands (this element alone sets the film firmly in the early aughts), Turning Red, largely, transcends familiar Mouse-House storytelling (you know the ones where the human transforms into an animal?) to offer one of the year’s most heartfelt stories.
Puberty isn’t an enjoyable experience for anyone. In Mei’s case, it is a ticking time-bomb. Transforming into a giant red panda with every intense outburst of emotion, a hereditary condition affecting all of the women in her family, Mei must navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence with the cool of a heart surgeon. It is through her relationship with her mother, the intensely watchful Ming (Sandra Oh), where Mei’s temperament is put to the test, resulting in a display of fibs that challenges their once close-knit relationship.
The most trying of these difficulties arrives in Mei’s desire to attend the concert of her dreams; the hypnotically gyrating boyband 4*Town (just don’t count how many members are in the band). (Their songs are also penned by music’s coolest brother and sister pairing, Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell.) Seeing an opportunity to monetise her transformative ability, Mei and her posse of fellow boyband obsessives – the wonderfully supportive Miriam (Ava Morse), Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and Abby (Hyein Park) enterprise their way to a quick dollar, exploiting big joy and passion with the merchandising moxie of a hot-shot music executive. Cue a convenient resolve to Mei’s beastly problem and you’ve found yourself within a time-sensitive romp powered by a fevered energy.
Turning Red is as much about embrace as it is about letting go. (Britney Spears’ famous lyrics “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” ring true in a character like Mei.)
In first time feature director Domee Shi, Turning Red moves at an invigorating pace that matches the frantic, anxiety-riddled mindset of its adolescent lead. The Bao filmmaker imbues the film with an incredibly stylish vision of early ‘00s Canada; decorated in pastel hues and sweeping camerawork that captures the emotional highs-and-lows of its subjects.
Despite the film’s exaggerated use of metaphor, Shi and fellow screenwriter Julia Cho (Big Love, Fringe) create one of cinema’s most authentic depictions of girlhood; offering an unflinching look at the experiences of women seldom seen on screen (let alone in animation). It truly is groundbreaking. Shi and Cho’s dialogue brims with a buzzing humour, delivered with aplomb by the astute voice cast, that will read as relatable to anyone who has ever thought that their parents’ embarrassing behaviour would bring on a premature death. The wildly catchy music of the era brings a poignant bubbliness to the score that effectively captures Mei and her friends’ unbridled affection for music. Its effect plays a key part in not only strengthening their friendship (a shared duet bringing with it the tear) but being an important component of their formative years.
How parents express love and children receive it underscores most of Turning Red’s dramas and triumphs. It is through the context of Mei’s Chinese-Canadian background where Disney Pixar have again made a progressive, albeit overdue, step forward in their desire to move filmmaking past Westernised storytelling conventions. While unable to fully escape a filmmaking business model where predictability reigns supreme, particularly in the film’s rather foreseen last act, through Shi they have discovered a powerful voice that will resonate with most.