Friday, July 26, 2013

Movie: Gods Behaving Badly

Christopher Walken as Zeus, Nelsan Ellis as Dionysus: Best Movie Ever?

So this is happening, and I am so frikkin excited about it! According to I09, there is a movie coming out based on the book Gods Behaving Badly, a personal favorite of mine. The Greek Gods have not disappeared. They have adapted to circumstances, and are living in an apartment in London (well, NY in the movie). They are still squabbling and screwing as usual, but lack of belief has depleated their powers to almost nothing. Then, two hapless mortals stumble upon this celestial group house, and are caught up in a story that not only tests them to their limits, but may signal the end of the world as we know it.

The cast looks amazing! Christopher Walken is Zeus (who has shut himself away in the attic), Nelsan Ellis  is Dionysus (now a DJ), Sharon Stone is Aphrodite (a phone sex operator), Edie Falco is Artemis (a dog walker), John Turturro is Hades, Rosie Perez is Persephone, Phylicia Rashad is Demeter, and Oliver Platt is Apollo, which I am so excited about! And Alicia Silverstone is one of the hapless mortals.

Christopher Walken as Zeus, Nelsan Ellis as Dionysus: Best Movie Ever?Christopher Walken as Zeus, Nelsan Ellis as Dionysus: Best Movie Ever?

It is in post-production according to IMDB, and is labeled as coming out in 2013, but there is no trailer yet, or any further information, so I will keep you posted! This is Joseph Campbell at his best!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fairy Tale Roundup: Everything Comic-Con and a Sci-Fi Snow White Movie!

Oh geeze Comic-Con. Why you gotta have all this stuff coming out right now? Quick round up of Comic-Con and other things, mostly gathered, curated and analyzed by the lovely Once Upon a Blog.

The Fairy Tale Comic-Con Line Up
First, fairy tales were well represented at Comic Con this year! Sure you had OUAT and it's spin off, and Grimm, and the CW's Beauty and the Beast, but you also had some beautiful fairy tale artists featured, the disturbing toy series Ever After High, and the sexy and gory Grimm Fairy Tales animated series which I don't know whether to squee about, or shake my fist in feminist rage. Click the link to see the rest!


Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
OUATW..which is a weird acronym....and it's 19 minutes of footage shown at Con seems to have had a positive response from Io9. "Gorgeous, fun, and scary" is certainly more than I had hoped for! Especially with the confectionery CGI in OUAT. (Click the link for details of the footage). It now is a mash up of Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin, which are two worlds I never would have thought to put together. Naveen Andrews (Sayid from Lost, yes, but I do love him as Balraj in Bride and Prejudice: click to see him singing and dancing) is going to play Jafar. This means that, as promicing as the premise of OUATW is, diverging from the Disney Alice, we will definitely still see Disney influence in the other worlds they promise. Sadface. See more of my sadface in the next item.


OUAT: Neverland and The Little Mermaid

In regular OUAT, our heroes and villains have all banded together to save Henry. Why? I do not know. I feel like they need to stop hanging their seasons on a character that no one really cares about. Peter Pan will be non-traditional, as we have seen bits of, which is thrilling! Way to not just tell the Disney version! Though we do have Rufio as one of the lost boys. And we have this little gem:

Why you gotta be like that, OUAT? It's still the same schizophrenic show: half dark new spins on fairy tales (shadow Peter Pan, Little Red as the Wolf) and half Disney advertisement. I wouldn't be so frustrated with it if it didn't simply reinforce that the Disney versions are the only versions of these tales. Of course the Little Mermaid is a redhead named Ariel. Isn't that how it is in the original? Grumble, grumble. 


Once Upon a Blog rises to the occasion yet again, and digs up some really juicy stuff about RDJ's Pinocchio: the conflicts in development and speculation on the content of the movie. Thanks for the shout out, friend! I only have the Disney version of Pinocchio for reference (hypocrite much, Megan?) and sad to say I remember not liking it very much. But looking back on simply the plot itself, there is so much to mine about what it means to be a person, father/son relationships, giving in to temptation, selflessness, all of that. Once Upon a Blog supplements the analysis with really beautiful illustrations by Roberto Innocenti that highlight a darker dimension to Pinocchio that I never new existed. 


At last! An outside-the-box fairy tale movie adaptation! Here, I cannot quibble with deviation from the main story, because they are using the Snow White tale to inform a new narrative...IN SPACE! The movie is said to be "the Snow White fairytale fused with Japanese pop culture in a sci-fi and futuristic mythological masterpiece" directed by the Wachowski’s  (The Matrix and Cloud Atlas). So you know it is going to be trippy and awesome.
"Jupiter Jones (Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning toilets and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along – her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos."
Channing Tatum is a...ahem... "hybrid wolf and human. And half albino." That is crazy and awesome and I love it. And Sean Bean is in it too! 50 bucks says he'll die.

The design stuff looks amazing too! "The costumes and makeup on some of the extras look like 17th century French royalty that had their clothes tailored in Southeast Asia. " They claim to be doing filmic things that have never been done before, and the stunts are all real, not CGI. Not sure I am cool with the, "I want you to have sex with me in an alley" promo images, but we shall see! Click the link for more info, pictures, and Once Upon a Blog's thoughts.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fairy Tale Roundup: Frozen is not Snow Queen, Adaptation in Saving Mr. Banks, What is Coming of Age?, Gans' Beauty and the Beast Stills, and RDJ as Pinocchio?

Frozen isn't Really "The Snow Queen" After All
According to the character profiles that recently emerged from Disney, Frozen is inspired by "The Snow Queen," but is not really the "Snow Queen" in the slightest. It is about two princesses, one of whom has magical ice powers that begin to corrupt her. I would love it if this ended up being a "Snow Queen" prequal, but until there is any sort of confirmation on that, I think I'm going to forgo reporting on any more Frozen things.

Saving Mr. Banks and Fairy Tale Adaptation
While Mary Poppins isn't quite a fairy tale, Once Upon a Blog examines the upcoming film and how it depicts the process of adapting fairy tales into Hollywood blockbusters: "trying to find the balance between being OK with the necessity of that, so the tales continue to live, and the despair I feel at missed opportunities when I see a lack of respect and/or understanding of the source material." She then goes on to state that fairy tales are malleable, and should reflect the time in which they are told:
"I'm interested in fairy tales even more as living things; things that both impact and reflect our society and the worldwide human experience.How tales are told, shared, recorded and retold show us where we've come from, reflect what's happening now and, if we pay attention, give us tools for where we're going. Studying history is excellent and valid but without paying attention to what's happening to fairy tales in the media and popular culture, it's like the sociology student closing the window on a college protest against Vietnam because he couldn't concentrate on his social and political science studies."
Great stuff! I am of her mind, that the source material is vital, and yet the tales must change to reflect the values and needs of the times. Click the link to read more about the movie and the rest of her thoughts. So excited for this movie!


Coming of Age Rituals: Do They Mean Anything?
The Hub recently published this compelling examination of coming of age rituals through the book Sons of the 613 by Michael Rubins. While not about fairy tales, most popular fairy tales are coming of age stories. The lowly person must rise above his or her station or means to do something spectacular and save the day, and thus become an adult. In the modern day and age, we do not have a set "you are now an adult" ritual. Sure, you could say you are an adult when graduate college, or get your first car, or have sex for the first time, or own a house, but the line is different for each person, and more often than not seems to be pushed later and later as adolescence extends into the early 20s. Religious ceremonies are symbolic coming of age rituals, but in contemporary society they rarely mean that the child is now treated as an adult.The protagonist's brother in Sons of 613 feels that physical feats prove that you are a man.

One of the students in the blogger's class offered a different mesasure for adulthood that I think also can apply to fairy tales:  “becoming an adult is really about getting over yourself. It’s not always about you.” Some coming of age fairy tales pass this test and others don't. Cinderella does not. Jack is ambiguous, depending on if you interpret his actions as selfishly motivated, or if you see his actions as an acceptance of household responsibility. The girl in "Diamonds and Toads" could be said to become an adult because she helps a poor old woman along the way, and gets rewarded, but you could say that decision came from innocence, rather than strength of character, as she was always kind. Perhaps the heroine in "The Seven Swans," who almost losses her life to save her brothers? Do you know of any coming of age fairy tales that fits this description of coming of age?


Stills of Gans' Beauty and the Beast
The film looks beautiful! And they seem to be basing the moving entirely off the de Baumont novella, rather than any sort of popular culture permutation since then. It includes merchant father down on his luck, selfish sisters and the dreams! While apparently close to La Belle et la Bete, because they are both based on the same story, Once Upon a Blog states that the film will have more if a live action Miazaki style than any of the other adaptations. So excited for this one now!


(image from GeekTyrant)

Robert Downey Jr. To Play Pinocchio
Flavorwire has reported that Robert Downey Jr. will play both a young (ger than we are used to) Gepetto and motion capture and voice Pinocchio in an upcoming movie directed by Ben Stiller. Usually Pinocchio is about a man who wants a son, but in this case, due to the strange casting, it might be about a man who wants to make a duplicate of himself. Strange, but intriguing, and appropriate for the roles that Robert Downey Jr typically embodies.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976)

"You see only love and happiness staring you in the face. I see only war and destruction unless a sacrifice is made."

NOTE: May be seen through nostalgia colored classes.

What makes it different: Set in the imaginary European country of Euphrania in the 18th century, this Cinderella takes on the political ramifications of the Prince marrying the commoner Cinderella, all while singing and dancing. Written by the Sherman Brothers (who wrote Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and more)

Synopsis: After yet another failed road trip to see a potential bride, our prince has vowed to marry for love, much to the dismay of his aging parents, who need an alliance and a heir for their vulnerable kingdom. Cinderella has returned from her father's funeral and forced below stairs by her stepmother and stepsisters. Since they have dismissed the rest of the staff, Cinderella is overwhelmed by work until her no nonsense fairy godmother comes to the rescue.

 Cinderella and the Prince cross paths, but never actually speak, like when Cinderella is at her father's grave and the Prince discusses (and dances about) the more humorous aspects of kingly mortality with his best friend in a mausoleum. A ball is planned, through another fantastically silly and pompous number with the king and his council, and the prince refuses to attend, as he puts it, "some sordid beauty contest with me as the grand prize." However, when one of the neighboring kingdoms threatens war, he must go through with it, for the safety of the realm.

When he meets the love of his life, and looses her, and then finds her again, he must contend with his father and the Royal Chamberlain, who fear their tiny country will be crushed if the Prince does not make a marriage of alliance.

Review: This is a fantastic movie, particularly because of it's memorable beautiful score. The songs are not just spectacle, but meaty character development, ruminating on the singers' lives and larger questions.  Some are sweet and uplifting like "He Danced with Me/ She Danced with Me" or "Suddenly It Happens," some are silly like "Protocoligorically Correct," "What a Comforting Thing to Know," and "Position and Positioning," and some are heart-breaking like "Tell Him Anything." I would recommend this movie for the music alone. (Click the links to see the videos, but SPOILERS!)

Dances are choreographed by the same team that gave us Mary Poppins, and you can certainly tell when the vast array of castle servants kick-line on a railing a la the chimney sweeps in "Chim Chim Cheree." And it brings an added ridiculousness to the King's Council as they prance around the library discussing the upcoming ball. In the Prince and Cinderella scenes, their graceful flowing movements arouse in the viewer a sense of whirling, love-filled abandon.

The movie is fulled with stunning visuals, (the DVD is a significant improvement over the VHS I had!). The shots are beautifully composed, and the characters are draped in sumptuous costumes of lace, velvet, and silk, embroidered and form fitting. Julie Harris was nominated for the 1977 BAFTA award for Best Costume Design for the film.

It also has meticulous pacing, knowing when to take it's time. There is a luxurious long opening sequence over a snow-covered land, as the prince travels doggedly home and Cinderella walks behind the hearse to bury her father. Their first meeting and the waltz that follows is gentle and romantically delicate. On the other hand, the prince finally finding her and sweeping her to the castle is a whirlwind, and makes it all the more devastating when you see what follows.

The writing is wickedly smart, examining aspects of the fairy tale that are rarely seen. Much of the humor comes from the hilarious and daffy Michael Hordern (Taming of the Shrew, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) as the King, and his Chamberlain Kenneth More (though they have some tasty darker moments as well), the righteous and manipulative stepmother Margaret Lockwood, and Annette Crosbie as the best (and most overworked) Fairy Godmother in any adaptation.

Gemma Craven (who has some Emilia Clarke about her) is sweet and strong as Cinderella, if often subdued, but always sparkling, kind and regal,  and when the time comes for her to break your heart, she does. Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Kildare, Shogun, Thorn Birds, Brothers and Sisters) is handsome, charming,  and witty and playful as Prince Edward, yet he shows some wonderful dark shades as well. His biting frustration and despair at not finding Cinderella and his resignation to his royal shackles bring a depth to the prince that is rarely seen.

The movie does feel a bit long in parts, but each moment is full of delights and goodness that I could not tell you what should be cut. It is also one of the few movies I've seen that have actors take bows during the credits! It is honestly one of my top two Cinderella adaptations, and one of my top ten fairy tale adaptations over all.

Rating: Five Glass Slippers (out of Five)

Iconic Moment: "The Waltz"

Unique Moment: "Protocoligorically Correct"

Monday, July 8, 2013

Fairy Tale Roundup: Disney's The Beast, New Frozen Trailer and Culturally Diverse Fan Art, NEW FABLES VIDEO GAME, and Fairy Tale Scholarship

by Anne Lebovitz

Disney's The Beast Movie
Yes, folks. ANOTHER Beauty and the Beast movie. Once Upon a Blog is amazing as always, catching us up to the 3 Beauty and the Beast adaptations either currently running or in the works. This version focuses on the Beast (obviously). It is live-action, and supposedly a "darker" retelling, but honestly, how dark will Disney go? But it apparently has a few good things going on for it! Click the link to find out! I honestly hope that they try something new, rather than create a live action version of the animated feature from a different POV. No yellow dress, no talking furniture, no inventor father. I'd love it if they did an adaptation of Donna Jo Napoli's book Beast, but it doesn't look like that is happening.


By weepingrockrock
REAL Frozen trailer
Well, an international Frozen trailer is here, and it looks slightly better than the Moose and Snowman Comedy Hour. I am a little disappointed with the Rapunzel look-alike, though I LOVE that the community is speaking out, creating their own ethnically diverse versions of the hero and heroine. Perhaps Disney will listen, and make better choices in the future. (Click the link for the pics Once Upon a Blog's aggregation of the controversy!)


Telltale Games (who brought us Monkey Island and The Walking Dead episodic animated games) brings us a Fables video game, called The Wolf Among Us, set before the Fables comic book series begins. Ichabod Crane is deputy mayor, and the story follows our beloved Bigby as sheriff investigating a murder. AND [SPOILERS] you get to see stirrings of his feelings for Snow White. It seems to be very character driven, and the choices that the player makes will lead you down different paths. The creators say the game is different each time you play it. There will be fights, but they will all be narratively motivated. And actions have consequences: if you take too many punches, you will be bloody and bruised. If you pick too many fights, it might effect your relationships with those you care about. The art is also stunning! The lead writer, Pierre Shorette, has immersed himself in the world of Fables, making the art his computer background, even digging into the original fairy tales that inspired the characters. SO EXCITED! (Also, Once Upon a Blog speculates about the Fables movie)


And now for a little meat and potatoes after the wonderful pop culture confectionery delights above. Tales of Faerie, a brilliant and scholarly mind as always, has compiled for us a list of different ways to examine fairy tales: Fairy tales as myth, psychoanalytical, gender politics, structural, collective unconscious (Jungian), etc. Though I am surprised that it did not include anthropological, the study of fairy tales as they related to the time and place they were told?