Julia Emmanuele
  • Charting the Critical Decline Of the 'Transformers' Franchise
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 26, 2014
    Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection Every two or so years, when the sun is at its hottest and summer blockbuster season is reaching its peak, a long shadow is cast over the movie theaters of the world, bringing with it dread, despair, and a week-long migraine. It is time for another Transformers movie. The latest one, which arrives in theaters on Friday whether we like it or not, does away with the established story of Shia LaBeouf, his trusty car and the gorgeous girlfriend who isn’t given much to do, and instead places the fate of the world in the toned arms of Mark Wahlberg. There aren’t many people who are expecting Transformers: Age of Extinction to be a great film. In fact, most fans and critics are expecting the film to be torn to shreds by the press, many of whom had the pleasure of doing the exact same thing to its predecessors. Though most of the world now regards Michael Bay as the architect of the downfall of modern cinema, it’s worth remembering that there was a time when he wasn’t the most reviled filmmaker in America. But if you follow the reviews for the first three Transformers films, you can almost pinpoint the exact point of no return. Transformers It might be difficult to remember – three very long, very loud movies later – but the first installment in the Transformers series was actually relatively well-received. By that, of course, we mean that it received mixed reviews rather than outright scathing ones. Still, there were plenty of critics who were never a fan of the franchise, and made their disdain for Bay’s most famous works clear from the beginning. Some were upset over what had become of such a beloved part of their childhood: “Transformers is a terrible film. It’s not even bad in a campy, funny way that is enjoyable in the right mindset. It’s bad in a horrible way that makes you wish you’d spent your evening doing something other than ruining your childhood memories.” - Sean Gandert, Paste Magazine Many found it difficult to follow the film, which was somehow simultaneously overly-complicated and full of holes: “The story has something to do with Autobots and Decepticons battling to be the first to get to what amounts to a giant battery pack (a "cube of infinite power," someone calls it, I think) that's been held for decades by the U.S. military in — oh, never mind.” – Bob Mondello, NPR Or, they just had trouble looking past one glaring fault: “Even by Michael Bay standards, this movie is vapid.” – James Berardinelli, Reelview Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Because audiences failed to heed these early warnings, the first film made enough money to warrant a sequel, two years later. A sequel which took all of the worst parts of the first Transformers film, made them louder, more obnoxious and four times as long, pumped them full of steroids and then strung them out to create a full movie. A sequel which will one day be remembered if not for its quality, than for the exuberance that critics showed in tearing it to shreds. First, they ripped apart the script: “Describing the plot of Revenge of the Fallen pretty much equates to making “boom, crash, kablooey” noises, but I’ll attempt to distill all the boring, non-explodey elements into this bite-sized paragraph.” – Simon Miraudo, Quick Flix  “Much of this film was put together during the Writer's Strike, and I'm guessing Michael Bay never once worried about it.” – Drew McWeeney, HitFix Then, they tackled the exhausting experience that was sitting through Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: “It’s like standing in the middle of a dust storm and opening your eyes to let the grit pour in.” – Josh Tyler, CinemaBlend “Trying to take in this movie is akin to shaking up a snowglobe and paying attention to glitter shard No. 432,581: When two similarly-colored CG robots are simultaneously morphing and punching each other in the head, it’s impossible to figure out where one ends and the other begins, resulting in a visual cacophony that goes hand-in-hand with the bowels-rattling bassline and the shrieking, incoherent dialogue.” – Alsonso Duralde, MSNBC Some put the blame squarely on Bay’s shoulders: “Sweet Jesus! Does Michael Bay not know how to make a movie?” – Michael Edwards, What Culture But nobody summed up the contempt that critics held for this movie quite like the legendary Roger Ebert, who was primarily concerned with helping moviegoers save their money: “If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.” Transformers: Dark of the Moon Just when we thought that we were free, that there was no way for Bay to come back from the torrent of abuse that was levelled at him as a result of Transformers 2, along came Dark of the Moon, because this is Hollywood, and it doesn’t matter how terrible a film is as long as it makes boatloads of money. On the whole, though, critics seemed to like the third movie a lot better, and focused on the positives: “With his third, and by all accounts final, try director Michael Bay has made what is probably his best Transformers film yet. Which means that it is merely mind-numbingly bad rather than eye-gougingly bad.” – Joshua Starnes, ComingSoon “There is more of a plot this time. It is a plot that cannot be described in terms of structure, more in terms of duration. When it stops, it's over.” – Roger Ebert,  “It's better than 2009's horrendous Transformers 2, but almost anything is.” – Claudia Puig, USA Today “At least McDreamy gets sucker punched. Simple pleasures.” – Kieth Uhlich, Time Out NY But there were still some who couldn’t look past the marginal improvements that Bay and his team made in the third installment, and instead remained focused on all of its loud, headache-inducing faults: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a work of ineffable soullessness and persistent moral idiocy, concludes with Chicago taking it in the shorts for 50-odd minutes, at the hands of the Decepticons in an alien takeover scored, partially, to an emo-ballad mourning the "cataclysm" of it all.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune “Transformers 3 is one of the stupidest movies I've seen since Transformers 2.” – Scott Weinberg, Twitch And then there was one critic who managed to sum up the way that critics and moviegoers everywhere feel about Bay, his movies, and the Transformers franchise as a whole, in one pithy sentence. Never has something so scathing, so true, and so unbearably funny been said so succinctly. “I am no expert in theology, but I'm pretty sure evil looks a lot like Transformers 3 – Will Leitch, Yahoo Movies Well, on the bright side for Transformers: Age of Exctinction, it truly can only go up from here. Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Rumor Superlatives
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 25, 2014
    20th Century Fox Film These days, it seems like every day brings with it a new influx of rumors about Star Wars: Episode VII. From the initial casting reports to the latest cameo rumors to the never-ending, constantly conflicting plot "leaks," every time you turn around there's something else to cover. Even Marvel and DC are struggling to keep up with the barrage of press releases and insider information. With so much to cover, it can be hard to keep track of what seems real (the villains are probably Jedi Hunters, they might resurrect the Sith), what's completely insane (Harrison Ford will be replaced ) and what's already been debunked (most of it). In fact, there might only be one way to keep everything organized and comprehensible: give all of the rumors awards. And that's exactly what we did.  Least Creative: Production Delays on Production Delays on Production Delays At the rate that we’re seeing rumors about production delays, everything on set must shut down whenever someone sneezes. The most recent are centered on Harrison Ford’s broken leg, with multiple outlets claiming that the whole film has been shut down until he returns to set, which either overestimates how much screen time Ford will have or underestimates the importance of sticking to the December 2015 release date. The Harrison Ford Heritage Award for Replacing Harrison Ford: Robert Pattinson It all started when the Internet had a breakdown over the possibility of Pattinson playing Indiana Jones in a reboot of the franchise. Then, when Ford got injured, it was rumored that Pattinson would take over the role of Han Solo so that production wouldn’t have to be – you guessed it – delayed. This one was quickly debunked though, as nobody with eyes would every believe Pattinson and Ford to be the exact same person. Most Disappointing Debunking: Oscar Isaac’s Role Will Be Expanded Pattinson wasn’t the only person to get swept up in the frenzy surrounding Ford’s injury; Isaac’s character was rumored to have been expanded in order to fill story time to avoid – all together now! – more production delays. Unfortunately, Disney quickly refuted this one, showing us great possibilities before cruelly yanking them away. Most Morally Ambiguous: Adam Driver: Hero or Villain?  Because so many details are still under wraps, we don’t know anything about the characters that the new cast will be playing, which makes it easy for conflicting reports to cast the same person in different roles. When Driver first came on board, it was to play a villainous role, but by the time the rest of the cast was added, he was rumored to be playing the son of Han and Leia. Now, he’s back on the dark side, playing one of the Jedi Hunters terrorizing the heroes. At this point, it’s probably best to just imagine him as a double agent. Biggest Potential Style Inspiration: Lupita Nyong’o, Villainess Perhaps no actress in recent memory has become a style and beauty icon as quickly as Nyong’o. She can pull anything off, and does so in a way that almost convinces you that you can wear the same thing. So when reports surfaced that she was playing a villain with yellow eyes, the world’s immediate reaction was basically “Hey, do you think I’d look good with yellow eyes?” You probably won’t. She definitely will. Most Highbrow: David Cronenberg Approached to Direct Spinoff The Star Wars rumor mill doesn’t just affect Episode VII, but has come to encapsulate the spinoffs as well. Though the first two have been handed off to their respective directors, Cronenberg was reportedly approached to put his own spin on the Star Wars universe, an offer he almost immediately declined. Maybe all those Pattinson rumors inspired Disney to reach out to him? Most Absurd: Tom Cruise Will Be Making a Cameo If you’re Tom Cruise and you meet up with Mission Impossible III director/producer JJ Abrams, the only logical reason is to plan a cameo in Episode VII. Your meeting couldn’t possibly be about the Mission Impossible franchise, or the numerous films you have lined up, or even just a chance to catch up on each other’s lives. Nope, you’re definitely going to be in Star Wars. Most Surprisingly Awesome: Tom Cruise Will Be Making a Cameo Did you see Edge of Tomorrow? Slightly dickish, alien-fighting Tom Cruise is the best Tom Cruise of all. Obi-Wan’s ‘These Are Not the Droids You’re Looking For’ Award For Deception: The Millennium Falcon Of all the rumors on this list, none was stuck down faster than that of the reappearance of the Millennium Falcon, which was spotted in leaked photos from the set. In response, Abrams leaked a photo of his own, denying that the Millennium Falcon had ever graced the set... from what appeared to be the inside of the Millennium Falcon itself. Still, once they saw it, the press simply nodded and allowed him to go about his business. Least Likely To Have Been Double-Checked On IMDB: David Oyelowo Will Play a Villain Buried in the reports that Nyong’o and Driver are going to play villains was a brief mention about the third Jedi Hunter, supposedly played by David Oyelowo. There’s only one problem: Oyelowo was never cast in Episode VII, nor was he ever rumored to be part of the cast. Clearly someone needed to do a quick Internet search before writing up the latest rumor/report/hearsay from the Episode VII set. Most Likely To Be Used As Punishment: Jar Jar Binks Is Back Every so often, when Star Wars fans start complaining too much or the press gets a little too invasive, one name appears, like an omen of despair: Jar Jar Binks. Do we actually think that he’ll pop up in the film? Probably not, but we do enjoy watching fans react to his name in much the same way the wizarding world did whenever Harry Potter said “Voldemort.” Rumor Mill MVP: Boba Fett Try and find a single plot, casting, set design, or spinoff rumor that doesn't mention Boba Fett in any way. You probably can't do it. He's practically become the new main character of the Star Wars franchise. When the inevitable remakes come along, you better believe they're going to be all about Boba Fett.  Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • Los Angeles Film Festival Review Roundup: 'They Came Together,' 'Dear White People' and More
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 25, 2014
    Lionsgate It might not be as glamorous as Cannes or as cool as Sundance, but the Los Angeles Film Festival has just as much to offer as its larger counterparts. Between high-profile premieres of blockbuster films, international competition entries and some of the most exciting indies around all premiering at LAFF every year, there's plenty to pay attention to. But if you were unfortunate enough to let the this year's fest — which ran from June 11 to 19 — we've got you covered with a rundown of the most talked-about films to premiere at LAFF, and what the critics are saying about them. Now you can make all of your friends think you're cooler than you actually are. They Came Together The Amy Poehler/Paul Rudd romantic comedy you’ve been waiting for is less about the relationship between the central couple, Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler), and more about skewering every last trope of the genre. Written and directed by Wet Hot American Summer’s David Wain, the film lovingly parodies the traits, characters, conversations, and comically large apartments that appear in every rom com ever made, while allowing two funny, good looking people to fall in love in an entertaining way.   // “The script’s on-the-nose descriptions of each character (as described by the characters themselves) actually works to frame them as self-aware people forced to play out roles we have seen before and allows the hilarious cast to play within those lines. Poehler and Rudd have a natural chemistry that makes them believable as the two leads in love, but their comedy also blends well making it clear they are having fun with each other and the characters they are playing.” – Allison Loring, Film School Rejects "Wain leads his well-known cast through spoofs of such classics as When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, The Graduate and the sharp-elbowed comedies of Tracy and Hepburn. Each gag makes you wish you were watching the original, although a clench between Joel and his grandmother (Lynn Cohen) that almost leads to incestuous coupling deserves credit for sheer audacity. Most of the time, however, the actors on the screen seem to be having much more fun than the audience will." - David D'Arcy, Screen Daily Cut Bank A small town crime drama set in Cut Bank, Montana that centers on a former high school football star (Liam Hemsworth) desperate to find a way out of his town. After he accidentally films the murder of the town mailman, he is offered a reward that would give him enough money to leave for good, but things aren't a simple as they seem, and he finds himself caught in a tangled web of deception and danger. "...Shakman lets the scenes unfurl with a clunky pace and little verve, simply exaggerating the irony and naivety in the town as his main go-to points. It only makes sense that [John] Malkovich’s sheriff has never fired his gun and carries an aversion to violence; likewise with Palmer, who itches non-stop after a Miss Cut Bank pageant title even while she wants nothing more than to skip town. Thankfully humor seeps in through the edges of the film and its characters, sometimes on purpose and other times not." - Charlie Schmidlin, The Playlist Lionsgate Dear White People A satire of college movies that tackles race relations and privilege in society, Dear White People follows four students as an Ivy League university — golden boy Troy (Brandon P. Bell), activist radio host Samantha (Tessa Thompson), Colendra "Coco" Conners (Teyona Parris), who has dreams of being a reality TV star, and shy misfit Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) — after a planned "African American"-themed party thrown by a group of white students starts a riot on campus.   // "If it ultimately feels modestly edgy rather than shocking or dangerous, 'Dear White People' nonetheless provokes admiration for having bothered to ask some of the hard questions without pretending to know any of the answers. It also works as a fine showcase for its actors: Fleshing out characters that could have been little more than one-note mouthpieces, Williams, Thompson, Parris and Bell all make strong, distinctive impressions, with Thompson perhaps the standout as the film’s sharpest and most enigmatic figure." - Justin Chang, Variety The Last Time You Had Fun With a cast full of comedians and sitcom alums, The Last Time You Had Fun puts a grown-up twist on the standard "wild night out" comedy. After Ida (Eliza Coupe) forces her sister Alison (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) to blow off some steam with her, they find themselves bickering and partying with Clark (Kyle Bornheimer) and the sweatpants-clad Will (Demetri Martin), as the four of them attempt to have the most fun that four older, dysfunctional adults could possibly have. "Granted, the excesses of Bridesmaids or The Hangover are not essential to sparkling relationship comedy, but Fun lacks an edge, or even much of an attitude. Blandly risqué situations, featherweight banter and a hint of implied sexual impropriety have all the heft of an extended cable sitcom episode. Or maybe it’s the casting, which draws extensively on the TV comedy background of the four leads, who all acquit themselves adequately but can’t achieve sufficient character differentiation within the ensemble. Undistinguished locations, flat lighting and primarily static setups perpetuate the small-screen aesthetic, which at least bodes well for the film’s transition to home entertainment formats." - Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter Echo Park The debut film from photographer Amanda Marsalis, Echo Park is a story about two people who come together "across cultural, economic and racial boundaries." Sophie (Mamie Gummer) is an unhappy housewife who moves from her Beverly Hills home to the up-and-coming neighborhood of Echo Park in order to shake up her predictable boring life, who finds herself drawn to Alex (Tony Okungbowa) after she buys his couch. But their burgeoning relationship might have to be put on hold, since he's about to leave for London... "It’s Marsalis’ direction, and the fine performances from Gummer and Okungbowa that elevate the film above what it might have been, given the issues with the script and story that hover around the edges of cliché and stereotype (the worst offender: Sophie’s mother). While the dialogue, especially the scenes between Sophie and Alex, works well, the story beats are oddly laid out, rushing through some important character and relationship establishing moments, and dwelling too long in moments where the characters are making frustrating, selfish choices. Still, the end of the film avoids falling into the traditional romantic film trap, leading to a message that’s a bit more complicated and nuanced than expected." - Katie Walsh, IndieWire Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • President Snow Promises 'Panem Forever' In Creepy First Teaser For 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1'
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 25, 2014
        // Wars, especially revolutions, aren’t just concerned about gaining control of the battlefield. It’s also vitally important to win control over the hearts and minds of the people you’re fighting for – or in the case of the Capitol, fighting over – so that they will rally behind your cause. And while Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawerence) might have the survival skills and manpower, it seems that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has something much more valuable: an expensive, terrifying propaganda campaign. The first teaser for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 shows the lengths that Snow is willing to go to in order to keep the people of Panem under his control. Don’t be fooled by the pristine white color scheme; these are some dirty tricks. Buried underneath talk of peace and elegance, and an elaborate metaphor for Panem in which the districts represent the vital organs that make up the overarching body, Snow slips in some menacing threats. “If you resist the system, and starve yourself… it is you who will bleed.” YouTube/The Hunger Games But it’s not until the very end that Snow plays his trump card and reveals Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), looking just as put together as the president, standing behind him seemingly in a show of solidarity. Having Peeta on President Snow’s side will no doubt encourage ordinary citizens to stick close to the government and make it a lot harder for Katniss and the other rebels to win their trust. Although – and it might just be us - but something seems a little off about Peeta. He's not the type to shy away from cameras or the opportunity to charm the audience, so why does he suddenly seem so stiff and reserved? Is there something President Snow isn't revealing, or has Peeta genuinely switched sides?  Now that we know the depths that the Capitol is willing to stoop to in order to keep Panem under control, the ball is officially in Katniss’ court. What tricks does she have up her sleeve in order to keep the Districts from buying into Snow’s threatening promise of “Panem Forever?” The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 arrives in theaters on November 21. Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • How Excited We Are About the Cast of the Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!'
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 24, 2014
    Getty Images/WENN Every good behind-the-scenes Hollywood story needs three things: a charismatic star, a visionary director, and a journalist to write tirelessly about them both. The Coen Brothers have officially found all three for their next film, Hail, Caesar! in Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton (via THR). The three join George Clooney and Josh Brolin in the film, which has been described as a comedic look at the career of Eddie Mannix, who worked as a fixer in the studio system in the 1950s.  It’s not every day that we come across casting news more exciting than high-profile engagements and major roles in Marvel blockbusters, but the Coen Brothers have managed to do just that with their latest additions. Forget Thanos; he won’t be nearly as interesting or menacing as Swinton’s gossip columnist. To prove how everything else pales in comparison to this casting news, we’ve ranked the cast members of Hail, Caesar! in order of how excited we are to see them on the big screen. Josh Brolin Who He’s Playing: Brolin’s role hasn’t been revealed yet. How Excited We Are: Meh. Brolin’s become a Coen Brothers fixture as of late, and we’ve enjoyed him in all of those films, but he’s not really known for his comedic ability, which makes us a bit wary about this part. George Clooney Who He’s Playing: Eddie Mannix, the studio system fixer who helped keep scandals out of the press and made problems disappear, sometimes through less than legal means. How Excited We Are: We’re interested. It’s been a while since Clooney did any comedy, but Eddie Mannix seems like a perfect role for his natural charm. Besides, everyone knows that Clooney’s collaborations with the Coens are his best films. Ralph Fiennes Who He’s Playing: Laurence Lorenz, a studio director. How Excited We Are: Quite. Think M. Gustave with a bottle of L’Air de Panache.  The Grand Budapest Hotel reminded us just how delightfully funny Fiennes can be, and Lorenz seems like it will provide plenty of opportunity for him to channel that kind of whimsy once again. Channing Tatum Who He’s Playing: A “Gene Kelly-type” star. How Excited We Are: Pumped. Tatum’s three major skills are comedy, dancing and being charming, and a major Hollywood player is the perfect opportunity for him to showcase all three. Plus, being cast in a Coen Brothers’ movie opens him up to a completely different caliber of film, which means we could soon be in the midst of a Tatumissance. Tilda Swinton Who She’s Playing: A powerful Hollywood gossip columnist. How Excited We Are: We’ve already bought out tickets. We’d watch Swinton in anything, but a terrifying yet glamorous gossip columnist with the power to make or break careers is the kind of role that Swinton will turn into a tour de force. Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • Our Two Major Problems with the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Trailer
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 24, 2014
    After watching the new trailer for Michael Bay's production of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the staff had a couple of issues. One was the tone that seemed to envelop the film, the other was the aesthetic of the turtles in question: Julia Emmanuele, on the toneThere are quite a few jokes in this trailer, including a well-done dig at the original idea to turn the turtles into aliens. But there is much more emphasis on the action and grit of these mysterious vigilante heroes. While action was always a significant part of what made the Turtles so cool, their insane, goofy nature made them the Turtles. A certain amount of humor and suspension of disbelief is required to tell a story about pizza-eating mutant turtles who live in a sewer and use their ninja training to keep the city safe, and that humor is nowhere to be found in this trailer. It’s irreverent, sure, and Michelangelo even gets in a few wisecracks, but it’s far too action-focused to truly inhabit the spirit of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And we haven't even gotten started on a scene that appears to hint at a dramatic death for Splinter, one which inspires the Turtles to band together and avenge their dead father. It’s a staple of the action genre, but it’s the antithesis of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’re already a team; they’re already devoted to one another and Splinter. Like all teenagers, they fight with one another, but there’s never the sense that the Turtles are anything other than a unit. Very little of that familial, brotherly dynamic is present in the trailer, other than a quick shot of them huddling up near the beginning. Instead, they seem to be setting out on their own, which goes against anything they would do, or anything Splinter would tell them to do. Besides, considering how many times Splinter has had to rescue them from certain doom, it seems unlikely that they would ever have to avenge his death in the first place. All of these things might seem like nitpicking, but without them, the essence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles won’t be translated into this film. These are weird, goofy guys who care about each other and their leader, and who just happen to be junk-food loving, wisecracking mutant turtles. That needs to come through in the film, or else it’s just another summer blockbuster.   Paramount Pictures Jordan Smith, on the CGIThere's something seriously up with the CGI in this latest trailer. Now that we've gotten an extended look at the Turtles in motion, the heroes in a half shell just don't look all that convincing. Not that rubber suits of old were that much better. We all knew as kids that there were actual human actors inside the blubbery green reptiles from the trio of '90s movies, but at least those versions of the Turtles felt like they were a part of the world around them. What it boils down to is that there’s something really intangible about the new Turtles. The CGI looks off when the turtles are interacting with real things in the environment, and as our heroes mash their way through dozens of Foot ninjas, there’s a certain lack of humanity (turtality?) there. That crisp, shiny brand of CGI that works oh so well for something like Transformers, where the combatants are shiny metal robots, looks really off when applied to living, breathing, supposedly organic ninja turtles. Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm // Follow @CurrentlyJordan //
  • 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' Drags Down 'The Lion King'
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 24, 2014
    Buena Vista Pictures The Lion King had a significant influence on my childhood. It was the first movie I ever saw in theaters and one of the few films that I could watch repeatedly, day in and day out, without my parents going completely insane. To me, it is a nearly perfect Disney film, the kind of childhood obsession that not only holds up as you grow older, but actually becomes better in many ways. And yet, it’s only now, 20 years after its release that I feel comfortable admitting the one major flaw I’ve always found in The Lion King: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Allow me to state up front that I enjoy the song itself immensely. It’s catchy enough to appeal to a child, with lyrics that are simple enough to follow along, yet emotional and sophisticated enough for adults to appreciate. Still, every time I’ve watched The Lion King, I’ve skipped past it the second that Timon and Pumbaa finished the intro. Within the context of the film “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” has always felt unnecessarily long, something that I needed to sit through in order to get back to the action. I understand the importance of the sequence; this is the moment that Simba and Nala are finally reunited after years apart, and it establishes how much they love and miss each other. It’s what finally spurs him to return back to his pride and protect them from Scar, and it is, of course, the moment that they finally fall in love. But so much of that context is established in the conversations and moments surrounding the song that watching them roll around in the grass to an Elton John song feels superfluous. Not to mention that stopping the plot completely for a romantic montage has always struck me as unnecessary, even when I was a kid. We’re in the middle of Simba’s journey towards reconciling his role as king with his father’s death, we’re in the middle of hanging out with Timon and Pumbaa and we’re in the middle of Scar’s reign of terror over Pride Rock. There’s more than enough going on, and frankly, they’re all a lot more interesting than watching Simba and Nala make eyes at each other. We already know how much they care about each other – we watched them as childhood friends, we saw how much they loved and relied on one another, and they’ve just spent a few minutes talking about how much they’ve missed each other – and so there doesn’t need to be a whole number dedicated to them staring longingly across a pond. Nala revealing to Simba how much he’s been missed and how terrible Scar has made life for the pride is enough to get him to consider going home. All he needs is the knowledge that the people he loves are in trouble, and he’s willing to go home and help them. There was no need to shoehorn in a romantic moment with Nala in order to change his mind. It was already made up. Even if the sequence wasn’t cut out completely, it still could have been trimmed down a great deal in order to keep things from dragging. Timon and Pumbaa’s introduction is, like everything they do, wonderful, and the small moments of reflection that Simba and Nala have are nice, quiet character moments. But as a whole, it just keeps going on far too long, drawing out their romance when we could be watching Rafiki hit Simba in the head with a walking stick. At least that actually helped get Simba moving. I know that my opinion is an unpopular one. In the years since The Lion King has been released, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” has become a modern classic, the rare Disney song to shake off the childish connotations of its source, but it’s never been enough to get me to stop fast-forwarding once those opening notes start in the background. Of course, if Disney ever decides to re-release the film with a version sung entirely by Timon and Pumbaa, I might finally change my tune.   Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • What 'The Lion King' Taught '90s Kids About Death
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 24, 2014
    Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection When The Lion King arrived in theaters 20 years ago, it helped cement Disney’s reputation as the premiere studio for animated films, entertained movie-goers both young and old with its catchy songs and brightly-colored characters, and taught a generation of children many valuable life lessons. We learned not to take life too seriously, that grubs taste like chicken, to avoid anywhere the light doesn’t reach, and that hyenas are not the brightest of creatures. But most importantly, The Lion King taught us all a great deal about death, and the emotional baggage that comes with it. For most kids who grew up in the ‘90s, Mufasa’s death was the first traumatizing cinematic event we experienced. (And if you were fortunate, it was also the first time that you encountered death in any form.) No matter how many times we watched the mighty king fall to his demise in a stampede of wildebeests, it never got easier. There are even some of us who still get teary-eyed watching Simba crying over the lifeless body of his father, barely able to understand why he wasn’t going to wake up.  In most of the cartoons and movies that we had seen until that point, the person hanging off the side of the cliff would be rescued in the nick of time. Mufasa’s death is one of the first times that we were forced to deal with the idea that the hero doesn’t always triumph. Mufasa is established as a good king, a noble character who cares for his family and his people, someone we look up to and admire. Watching him die showed us that terrible things can often happen to noble people, and that being good isn’t always enough to guarantee us a happy ending. His death is unfair – both because of his role as the hero and the fact that he’s leaving his son alone – as death usually is, and watching Simba plead with his father to wake up is the first time that most of us had to wrestle with that notion. But The Lion King didn’t just introduce us to the notion of death; it also helped us reconcile the difficult, complicated emotions that come with the grieving process. Like Simba, we learned that death can bring up a host of complicated emotions, and that losing a loved one doesn’t just make you sad. You’ll feel angry, frustrated, guilty, burdened, but that it’s ultimately okay to feel those things. In fact, it’s important to feel those things. We watched Simba wrestle with his guilt over Mufasa’a death, and learn that it wasn’t his fault. We learned that losing a loved one can have a life-long impact, and can be difficult to reconcile, even years later.   These are all emotions and issues that adults face, and often struggle with, and here they were, presented in a children’s film for kids to digest and learn from. The Lion King  doesn’t sugar coat these issues or talk down to its audience, either. It simply presents us with a situation that all of us are going to have to endure at some point in our lives, and shows us the reality of what that experience is like. “It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be complicated and messy, but you will make it through this,” is what The Lion King says about death, “You’re stronger than you realize, and you can handle this.” That’s an important message for both kids and adults, and The Lion King presents it in a simple, matter-of-fact way. Death is an important part of the circle of life, and in real life, we’re going to be expected to carry on, to keep living and learning and changing in the same way that Simba does after his father dies. The Lion King  understands that, and taught us kids that we will have to learn from it and grow in order to be the people that we want to be. Life and death aren’t easy, but with a little strength, determination and some good friends to help us through, we can make it through anything that gets thrown our way. It’s like Rafiki said: “The past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or... learn from it.“ That’s the lesson the film wants to impart, and it’s one that has stayed with us for our whole lives. The Lion King  may have been the first time that many of us were forced to confront the idea of death, but it was also the first time we were given the knowledge to face up to that idea, and overcome the hardships it brings with it. And ultimately, that’s worth more than all of the catchy songs and wise-cracking sidekicks in Disney’s arsenal.  
  • Han Solo's Best Obnoxious Lines In the 'Star Wars' Trilogy
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 23, 2014
    20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Han Solo is many things: a pilot, a smuggler, a loyal friend to Chewbacca, and a hero, to name just a few. But more than anything else, Han Solo is obnoxious. His wisecracks and comebacks have become the stuff of cinematic legend, but if Harrison Ford weren't around to give the character so much style, we'd probably roll our eyes every time he opened his mouth; thanks to Ford, we love Han Solo because he's aggravating and sarcastic, not in spite of it. Finding the right balance of charismatic and insufferable is a Herculean task, and that doesn't even take into consideration all of the shooting, flying and stunts that playing Han Solo requires. In honor of the man who brought Han to life in all of his mischievous, obnoxious glory - and who is currently nursing a broken leg after an on-set injury - we've rounded up the absolute best of Han Solo's most obnoxious wisecracks and comebacks. Get well soon, Mr. Ford. About Ben Kenobi: “Where did you dig up that old fossil?” We’d deduct points for redundancy – a fossil is, by nature, old – but we’d have to give them right back to him for style. To Chewbacca: “Laugh it up, fuzzball.” If anyone else had delivered an insult this lame, we’d make fun of him. But somehow, Han Solo pulls it off. To C-3PO, while evacuating the Rebel Hoth base: “Hurry up, goldenrod! Or you're gonna be a permanent resident!” Apparently there is a less creative insult than “fuzzball.” Well done. To Leia: "Look, Your Worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me."Now you're getting the hang of this whole insult thing! You can practically feel the sarcasm dripping off this one.  After commandeering an attack station and shooting the intercom: “Boring conversation anyway.” Well, that’s certainly one way to get out of an awkward conversation. About the Ewoks: “Well, short help is better than no help at all.” Good thing the Ewoks aren’t too bothered about blatant backhanded compliments. To the barkeep, after shooting Greedo: “Sorry about the mess.” What’s cooler than taking out the guy who’s been threatening to kill you for years when he’s not paying attention? Following it up with a quick one-liner while tipping the bartender. As the garbage compactor closes in: “One thing's for sure, we're all gonna be a lot thinner.” Han Solo has never let the opportunity for jokes pass him by, even in what might be his last moments. At least he’ll die laughing, right? Upon hearing that Luke is a Jedi: “A Jedi Knight? Jeez, I'm out of it for a little while, everyone gets delusions of grandeur!” Because, truly, where would everyone else be if Han Solo weren’t around to keep them in their place? After Leia tells him that she loves him: “I know.” Just what every girl dreams of hearing from the man she’s in love with. How sweet. On himself: “Not a bad bit of rescuing, huh? You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.” It’s always important to have confidence in your abilities. Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • We Can't Wait For Michael Fassbender's Weird, Unstable 'Frank'
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 20, 2014
      //   Generally, indie dramedies tend to follow the same formula. There’s usually a protagonist with a mess of a life that is an endless source of conflict with their significant other/crush/family/general loved ones, and who learns to pull themselves well enough to fix those fractured relationships. Or there’s a dysfunctional family that is brought together by tragedy, or it’s a touching coming-of-age story in which the hero grows in confidence and independence and finds a family of misfits to call their own, or even a band using music to heal themselves and each other. But rarely do you ever see a guy who refuses to take off his giant paper mache head. Luckily, Frank is set to fill that void in the market with its titular character (Michael Fassbender), an eccentric, unstable, brilliant musician who prefers to see life through slightly creepy eyeholes. The film follows Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring musician who is recruited to the Soronprfbs, a weird, creative band that includes the abrasive theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and is fronted by… well, Frank. Somewhere in Brooklyn, an indie band is being forced to re-think its schtick. During their isolated recording trip to Ireland, Jon starts posting about the band online, and they start to gain a following, but the promise of success might just turn out to be Frank’s undoing. Magnolia Pictures If the trailer is any indication, there’s a lot more to Frank – and Frank – lurking underneath that fake head and weird, hipster aesthetics. In an industry that is becoming more and more hesitant to break away from proven properties and blockbuster reboots, it’s exciting to see a film that takes its good-looking, well-respected and well-known star and covers up his head for the entire runtime. But Frank, who is based on the alter ego of comedian Chris Sively, also named Frank, is a strange, confusing figure, and Fassbender is exactly the kind of actor who can bring him to life, even if he can’t manage to animate his face. And even though Frank promises to deliver all of the unique quirkiness you can possibly handle in a two-hour sitting (they do play at SXSW, after all), it also promises to be a funny, compelling and even moving film about art and the weirdos that create it. If you can get past the creepiness of Frank’s giant, unblinking eyes, that is. Frank opens in theaters on May 9. Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //