Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I've seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I'll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I'll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
Redemption. Pixar's minor speed bump in Cars 2 has thankfully not stopped their expensive history come to not. With fears allayed that Disney would somehow tarnish the great Pixar legacy, Pixar has not only taken the area Disney itself was most successful at, the princess story, and both turned it on its ear and brought it to new heights of excellence.
With excellent voice work by Kelly MacDonald, Merida is a princess with no real equal. While Princess Tiana from Princess and the Frog may have been a laudable and forward thinking heroine in the Disney canon, Pixar proved that when it finally decided to have a female protagonist that she'd be somewhat like her predecessors with all the modern sensibilities of a lady with convictions in our modern world. She's headstrong, willful and doesn't settle for tradition when it would mean betrothal to a boy she didn't love. Breaking out on her own, she meets a witch who enables a spell that she hopes will help change her fate. It causes a serious rift between her and her strong-willed mother (voiced superbly by Emma Thompson), and leads them both on journeys of self-discovery attempting to understand why each believes and behaves the way they do.
Billy Connolly is great fun, as expected, as Merida's father Fergus and the rest of the voice cast has a great deal of fun with their thinly drawn, but deeply felt characters. It is these characters where the film has its only real flaws. The artwork is breathtaking, the music compelling and the story is every bit as emotionally powerful as what we would expect to come out of Pixar. While it feels more like a Disney film than a Pixar film, their skilled hands have still woven a magical tapestry of love, dedication and a spirit of adventure.
Angels With Dirty Faces
Life on the streets is challenging for the youngsters in the big city. The forebears of modern street gangs, these young teenagers don't have a lot going for them, but one big break could change all that. Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) knows where these kids come from. He was there once, getting caught stealing pens from a train car and taking the rap while his best friend Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) gets away. Several years later, a grown Rocky returns to his home neighborhood, having finished up his final stay in the state penitentiary. There, he finds Jerry now a Catholic priest and Laury (Ann Sheridan), a girl he was sweet on once upon a time. Meanwhile, his lawyer James Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) dreads meeting Rocky for the $100,000 he hid for Rocky is now tied up in his new racketeering enterprise.
While not your typical mob movie, at least what would pass for mafia films these days, this movie focuses on Rocky and his bad boy reputation, his desire to do right by a new group of youths who've moved into his old hideout, and his psychological need to return his old thieving ways. The plot itself isn't too complicated, but revealing too much will take away some of the weight and excitement of the film. Five years before he would win his only Oscar for Casablanca, Michael Curtiz made an even bigger name for himself after 26 long years in the film industry both in Hollywood and his native Hungary. While he had a number of noteworthy efforts prior (and even that year), Angels With Dirty Faces is one of his most important films.
James Cagney proves why he was the perfect mug to take on any type of gangster role. As Rocky Sullivan, he is the epitome of what we have come to know of the stereotype. While these archetypes have more frequently been presented as bad guys, at heart Rocky is a good guy. Cagney brings out the charm, viciousness and redemptive qualities of the character like few other actors could have. O'Brien is fine in support, though Sheridan is a bit stiff and Bogart has been used far better in more meaty roles. As a side note, the kid they got to play young Rocky, Frankie Burke, had a spot-on impersonation of Cagney and had I not known better, I could have sworn Curtiz had used some form of camera trickery to de-age Cagney himself.
The Cabin in the Woods