Christopher Robin

August 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Jim Cummings
Directed by: Marc Forester (“Finding Neverland”)
Written by: Alex Ross Perry, (“Nostalgia”), Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) and Allison Schroeder (“Hidden Figures”)

If you get a sense of déjà vu when you hear that there’s a new Winnie the Pooh movie called “Christopher Robin,” bear with us. Last year’s drama “Goodbye Christopher Robin” was a biopic on English Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne and the inspiration that led him to write children’s books. In “Christopher Robin,” we return to the fictional world of Pooh, 30 years after Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien as a young Christopher) is sent to boarding school and leaves behind his fluffy friends in the Hundred Acre Wood in Sussex.

Ewan McGregor (“Moulin Rouge!”) stars as an adult Christopher, all grown up with a wife (Hayley Atwell) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael) and heaps of responsibility as an efficiency manager at a struggling luggage company in London. His daughter is heartbroken when he has to skip out on their family vacation because his boss orders him to overhaul the budget on his weekend off.

It’s a theme we’ve seen countless times before: the balance of work and home life, and a father who can’t seem to understand which is more important. None of it rings very original in “Christopher Robin,” although the scenario is more complicated since Christopher is faced with not only family obligations, but also having to “put away childish things” once again when the huggable, anthropomorphic Pooh comes for a surprise visit, which leads to Christopher traveling to Sussex to get him home.

Directed by Marc Forester, who explored this same type of narrative in the 2004 fantasy biopic “Finding Neverland” about Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie, “Christopher Robin” doesn’t break any new ground with its human characters, but there is plenty to love when Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang come out to play.

The appearance of these computer-generated, vintage-looking stuffed animals is flawless, and their interaction with Christopher provide some of the best examples where live-action meets animation in recent memory. It feels like the actors and animated characters are inhabiting the same realm, which is a testament to the incredible creativity and realistic design by VFX studios Framestore and Method Studios.

As a family-friendly film, some viewers might be a bit turned off by the gloomy, quiet nature of the picture as a whole (“Christopher Robin” is more “Where the Wild Things Are” than it is “Alvin and the Chipmunks”), but the charm is never lost when Pooh is delivering one of his clever Poohisms (“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day”) or even when Eeyore is sulking in sadness. If anything is impossible, it’s not being enchanted by the film’s many adorable qualities.

Hidden Figures

January 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae
Directed by: Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent”)
Written by: Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent”) and Allison Schroeder (debut)

Films based on historical events have a tendency to feel like well-crafted museum exhibits, in that they politely lead you from beginning to end, illuminating certain events along the way without affecting your emotional state too much one way or the other. It’s a perfectly pleasant experience and you learn some stuff, sure, but you can feel yourself being ushered through all points along the way, the velvet ropes mentally brushing up against you as it unfurls. “Hidden Figures,” the true to life tale of three African-American women instrumental in the success of NASA’s early space flight, is a pleasant, heartwarming, and effective enough. These women are inspirational, no doubt, but by the time the film ends, it lacks a resonance strong enough to differentiate itself from the well-trodden genre.

Set in the early days of the space race at NASA’s Langley campus in the 1960s, “Hidden Figures” follows a trio of genius-level black women at a time when two of those three traits were detrimental to a career in literal rocket science. Math savant Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) works with Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) as “computers” in the colored-only wing at a NASA. When a position opens up to work on the trajectory calculations that will put Americans in space, Goble ends up working under mathematicians Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) and director Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). The men are initially reluctant to trust Goble’s work (her being a black woman and all), but begin to warm to her after charming, pioneering astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) gives Goble’s work his complete and total trust.

Meanwhile, Vaughan verbally spars with by-the-book supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) about advancing her position while secretly learning to work with the mysterious new IBM computer. Also, Jackson is eager to become an engineer, but NASA regulations require engineers to take extension courses at a local school—a school that remains segregated even after federal order. So in order to attend, Jackson must seek a court injunction to even begin to advance her career.

Fine performances abound in “Hidden Figures,” but nothing stands out, except that Spencer and Monae seem to have been shorted in the story department—they feel like footnotes to Henson’s character. Noticeably, however, all of the likable actors—Costner, Parsons and Dunst—in parts that are traditionally more villainous in Civil Rights-era historical films are given relatively bland, inert roles. Maybe it’s all true, sure, but it all feels a little too safe, right down to the climax cribbed from “Apollo 13,” one of the safest movies ever made. There’s never a doubt where “Hidden Figures” is going to splash down.