Tag Archives: paul giamatti

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

SAVING MR. BANKS

It seems that biographical films are often more dramatic and heavy than they are light-hearted and fun, and even rarer are they both at the same time, but Saving Mr. Banks manages to pull it off quite well without seeming forced or bipolar.

Saving Mr. Banks is the true story of the making of the Disney film Mary Poppins and the reluctance of the author of the books it is based on, P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson), to relinquish the film rights to her characters. When she visits Los Angeles to meet with the film’s creative team and with Walt Disney himself (Tom Hanks), heads clash as the fight to keep the heart of her story and her characters become flashbacks for Travers, revealing the events of her childhood that inspired her beloved Mary Poppins.

The obvious star of this movie is Emma Thompson as the stubborn P. L. Travers, whose money is disappearing and desperately needs for this film to be made in order to help her out financially. Unfortunately, she refuses even the slightest deviations from the way she had the story and characters composed in her head, and Thompson’s portrayal does a fantastic job of making the character both frustrating and, in the right moments, comedic. The character’s quirky way of dealing with various people and circumstances, such as the surprise of the endless Disney stuffed animals waiting for her in her hotel room, are often hysterical, but her moments of grief in response to various flashbacks to her father (Colin Farrell) are even more heartbreaking…in a good way. Farrell’s performance is the other highlight of the film, with his role as her father, Travers Goff, bringing even more joy and more heartbreak. There is a juxtaposition of a happy-go-lucky father with a down-on-his-luck drunk within the character, which Farrell does an outstanding job of portraying.

Tom Hanks does a pretty good job as well, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching Tom Hanks pretending to be Walt Disney rather than simply watching Walt Disney himself, probably through no fault of his own. I was impressed by the tiny details he got right, such as the tell-tale cough that hinted at the lung cancer that would lead to his death less than three years after the premiere of the film in 1964, but the fact that it was Hanks playing Disney just couldn’t get out of my head. Perhaps this is because he doesn’t look much like Disney, whose face I’m quite familiar with, which, as I said, isn’t his fault. Really, this is a minor complaint that doesn’t detract from the film – just a slight disappointment. Another petty disappointment was with the portrayal of the legendary Sherman Brothers, Richard (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert (B. J. Novak), the duo responsible for some of the most classic Disney songs of all-time, including but not limited to “it’s a small world (after all),” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (which I proudly just typed correctly without help), and “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” Aside from the fact that I thought that they could have hired better singers, I think part of my slight disdain for B. J. Novak, whose character in NBC’s The Office television series I dislike quite a bit. (Told you it was petty.) Again, though, this doesn’t really make me enjoy the film any less because, aside from the excellent performances of Thompson and Ferrell, we are treated with great performances from Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, and Annie Rose Buckley, who plays P. L. Travers as a child in the flashbacks.

I purchased the soundtrack for this film a couple of weeks before I was able to see it in theaters, and I must admit that I was initially pretty unimpressed. Sure, it sounds pretty, but it’s a Thomas Newman score that sounds like a typical Thomas Newman score, in the same vein as his scores for Finding Nemo and The Help (my review). However, I reserved judgment as best I could until I had heard the music in the context of the film, and, thankfully, it works much better as a supplement to the film, which is what really matters. (As a brief side-note, the Deluxe Edition of this soundtrack is worth the buy as it includes original demo recordings of the Sherman Brothers singing songs they composed for Mary Poppins, as well as recordings by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.)

I can’t speak to the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the film, but, as I’ve said before, I don’t think it matters too much. A film is meant to entertain or inform, and Saving Mr. Banks does both, whether it gets all the facts correct or not. It will have you laughing and crying from the very start of the film, largely thanks to Emma Thompson’s incredible performance. It’s certainly Oscar-worthy, but whether or not she will win the Best Actress award remains to be seen. Either way, this movie is worth your money to see before it leaves theaters.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for thematic elements including some unsettling images

-Chad


Turbo (2013)

turbo-header

 

I must preface this review by saying that I had decided this film was going to be awful before I ever saw it, based on the trailers alone. While watching, however, I did my very best to remain objective and to base my opinion of the film entirely on the film itself rather than on my preconceived notions. Of course, this is impossible unless the film had strongly convinced me to think contrarily to my initial thoughts, which it didn’t. So here’s my review of Turbo.

The trailers for this film told this story: a snail (Ryan Reynolds) dreams of being fast, but, alas, he’s a snail, which means he’s slow. However, upon accidentally getting sucked into a car engine in the middle of a street race, the snail swallows some nitrous oxide, causing his DNA to alter, making him super fast. What better to do with his newfound speed than to enter the Indianapolis 500?

Rest assured, everyone…the film tells that exact same story promised by the trailers, albeit with a few added characters along the way. Once he becomes fast, the snail (named Theo before adopting the name “Turbo”) is captured along with his brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti), by half of a taco shop-owning brother duo, Tito, voiced by Michael Peña, who takes the two of them to participate in what appears to be a serious underground snail race with snails owned by other local down-on-their-luck shop owners. When Theo surprises all with his super-speed, Tito thinks up the idea to bring in business by introducing the world to his snail via the Indy 500.

The characters are uninspired, including and especially Turbo as the lead character. I didn’t care that he wanted to be fast, and I didn’t care when he became fast and (spoiler alert) wins the Indy 500. I didn’t care that his brother thought he was crazy to go race in the Indy 500 because, hey, I agreed with him. If I strapped rockets to a pair of roller blades, would that qualify me to race in the Indy 500 as well? The script doesn’t convince me that this is an absolutely necessary path to take for either Turbo to fulfill his dream or for Tito and his brother/friends to bring customers to their businesses. Speaking of Tito, his personality is so obnoxious that I didn’t care whether he succeeded in helping his brother realize his dream either. Character building is kept to a minimum, with the turnarounds of both Tito’s brother Angelo (Luis Guzmán) and Turbo’s brother Chet feeling incredibly uninspired. None of the voice acting talent stands out either, with voices from Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dawg/Lion, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, and others all falling short.

Probably my biggest problems with this film are the inconsistencies and moments of outstanding ridiculousness. For starters, the beginning of the movie features a scene of Theo (not yet fast) pushing a TV off a shelf, but when he’s “trapped” under a plastic cup later on he is powerless to do anything. The idea of a sort of tomato harvesting factory run by snails existing in a residential tomato garden, complete with tomato-rolling rails, is ludicrous. The biggest inconsistency for me is the whole issue of “speed.” Let’s do the math here: one scene prominently featured in the trailers shows Theo traveling about one foot (twelve inches) in seventeen minutes (“a new record!”). The accident where he gains his speed takes place over a highway. Even if this highway is only 1/10 of a mile away (528 feet), that would be approximately 150 hours of travel time at the “record” speed, but it takes place over a single night. That issue aside, here’s another: I’ll accept the fact that NOS gives Theo super speed, but why oh why does it give him characteristics of a car too? Headlights, a stereo system, etc. It makes no sense to me.

All in all, the best I can say about this film is that I didn’t hate it and the worst I can say is that it’s flat-out stupid. I have to admit that the ending did have my smiling a little bit, but the overall film just isn’t worth smiling at. The awful premise and the logical inconsistencies/stupid character decisions combine to make this Dreamworks title one of the company’s worst. “But it’s a kid’s movie!” I hear someone shouting at me over the Internet. “So are the Pixar films!” I say in return.

-Chad

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for some mild action and thematic elements