On Tuesday I reviewed Shazam! a DC film starring Mark Strong. So, what film could I possibly watch for this Throwback Thursday post? How about a DC film starring Mark Strong? Especially as it’s considered to be one of the worst superhero movies of all time. It even has a lower rating than X-Men Origins. Of course, they both star Ryan Reynolds. Until Deadpool was finally released, it seemed as though that guy just wasn’t going to make the superhero thing work. On the plus side, it isn’t the worst the film in DC history. Catwoman and Jonah Hex will forever beat anything and then there’s Joel Schumacher’s reign of terror. But, certainly, Green Lantern has to be one of the biggest missteps in comic book movie history. It’s just become an easy joke. Something that Ryan Reynolds is more than happy to join in with as evidenced by that line in Deadpool. I guess something good finally did come out of this film.
So, you may have noticed that this isn’t a book review. And that’s only partly because I haven’t quite finished Machines Like Me yet. I say partly because I’m trying to convince myself that I haven’t been rubbish at reading this week. That’s not the reason. The real reason is that I needed to talk about this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. Or, more specifically, the reaction to it. Cause this season has divided opinion quite dramatically. And the last few episodes have left a particularly sour taste in people’s mouths. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve found the final series of Game of Thrones to be disappointing. The writing has gone downhill and the storylines are being rushed to fit into the shorter episode run. The focus has been on spectacle instead of the story. Character development has gone out of the window in favour of more CGI dragons. Now, it should go without saying but spoiler warning guys.
I’ve not had the best history with DC films. I loved Wonder Woman but part of me suspects that I just got caught up in all the celebration. I mean, she was the first female superhero to get her own film. I was already going in feeling excited. I haven’t seen Aquaman yet and I’ve only made it halfway through Justice League. However, I’m pretty confident in saying that my relationship with the DCEU is dicey. So, when it was announced that they were going to release Shazam! I remained unconvinced it would change my opinion. Then I saw the trailer. And it looked really good. I was still kind of skeptical of DC trying to go down the Marvel route after so much Zack Snyder but it seemed like it could work. I mean Zachary Levi as the lead and Mark Strong as the villain? Both of those things sounded great to me. And it’s about time DC had a little bit of fun, right? Shazam! looked like it was going to be a great change of pace.
As I said in my review of Tim Burton’s Dumbo on Tuesday, I mentioned that it’s been a while since I last watched the animated version. It was definitely when I was a child because I didn’t feel weird about the crows. Something I didn’t bring up in my review. Not because I don’t think it’s problematic: I do. But because I didn’t see what more I could say on the issue that hasn’t already been said. Yes, there is a Jim Crow reference in the middle of the film. Yes, it’s clearly bad. But it happened over 40 years before I was born. Of course, it’s going to make me uncomfortable. We should just be grateful that there was no attempt to make that scene fit into the live action remake. There was already a lot about Tim Burton’s film that stressed me out without coming face-to-face with his interpretation of Disney’s racist past.
My last read was one of the books I bought in my post-Endgame book trip. I had needed something to cheer me up and nothing cheers me up quite like looking at books. I’d been attracted to this cover for ages because I’m a sucker for anything yellow these days. But I had also been wanting to pick this up for a while. I’ve seen it around quite a bit and heard good things about it. So many people bring up Agatha Christie when talking about it that I felt I had to give it a try. I’ve been a Christie fan for years and admit that she is one of the few crime writers I never get bored of. I’ve never been a big crime fiction reader. I always find them underwhelming. The twists are too obvious and I guess them from the start. I know it’s probably not in the spirit of the book but if it’s staring me right in the face what am I meant to do? Maybe there just are no crimes to write about anymore? Has every possible murder been committed in literature? I kind of feel like it has because I get such a sense of deja vu whenever I read the next big crime novel. But, that also doesn’t stop me trying so I’ve got nobody to blame but myself.
I definitely watched Dumbo when I was younger but I can’t say that it was ever one of my favourites. I don’t think I ever really rewatched it. Of course, I remember the adorable elephant because it’s the cutest creature to come out of any Disney film. I remember the clown scene, the song, and, obviously, the flying. My memories of the film were that it was a really sweet but not very exciting film. We were more of a Lion King and Aladdin family. So, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the upcoming remake as I have been with some of the others. Besides, I’m a huge Tim Burton fan. I even liked his reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. Although, I never saw the second one so I might hate that. Still, I was excited by the first look at this film. It had a great cast and it looked fantastic. And, with the dodgy history of this film, making it a bit darker or creepy. If nothing else, it’s 2019 and the idea of keeping elephants captive to perform in a circus is not exactly great.
We all know the story of Dumbo, right? Tiny elephant with massive ears who learns how to fly. He becomes a star and lives happily ever after. Although, in Disney’s latest live-action remake, Dumbo isn’t even the star of his own film. For whatever reason, the decision has been made to give the film a human face thanks to Colin Farrell and his motherless children. Farrell plays Holt Farrier who has returned from the war with one less arm and one less spouse. Holt and his wife were the equestrian performers in the Medici Brothers’ Circus before Holt was called to serve in the army. Whilst he was away, his wife died from Spanish flu leaving his children in the care of the circus owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito). Unable to go back to his old act, Holt is given the task of caring for the circus’ newly acquired elephants.
It is the baby elephant that Max hopes will pack the punters into the circus but they turn against him when his massive ears are revealed. Thankfully, Holt’s children discover that he has a special talent. They encourage Dumbo to fly in front of an audience and he quickly becomes a star. But all Dumbo really wants is to rejoin his mother who was bought by the villainous V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton). Can Holt and his family save the pair before they become another attraction in Vandevere Dreamland?
I’ll be honest, I remembered Dumbo as being a sweet and charming tale about a flying elephant. I know there were some sad moments with his mum and everything but it was mostly nice, right? Tim Burton’s Dumbo made me feel stressed. There were so many awful moments. The bullying of Dumbo by the audience was so extreme. The scene with the fire was way over-the-top. Everything just seemed to be ramped up to cause as much stress as possible. I don’t wish to sound melodramatic but I was on edge through most of the film. Which would be fine if that was the point. But I don’t think it is. This isn’t a film that is trying to play up the horror elements that Burton is known for. It just feels cruel in points. Unnecessarily.
Cruel and a wasted opportunity. We know from films like Edward Scissorhands that Tim Burton knows how to make great films about weird outsiders trying to find a place in a supposedly civilised society. Dumbo should have been the perfect film for him to remake but, unlike its main character, it never quite gets off the ground. It’s weighted down by so many extra plots and distractions. There are too many characters, which means that nobody gets the development that they need. The CGI elephant is cute and all but you don’t care about him in the same way as the original. There is too much focus on Colin Farrell and co. But even they aren’t given any depth. Everyone just feels like a stock character who is only there to fill space in the frame.
And the story itself feels like it’s just rushing to get to where it wants to be. There isn’t enough build up before we first see the elephant fly. It all happens so quickly and then we’re racing off to a weird futuristic theme park. I know the original Dumbo wasn’t much longer than an hour but they’ve stretched the story so much you can basically see through it. And then there’s the weird message at the centre of the film about the exploitation of big corporations. Considering we’re watching a Disney film this feels kind of disingenuous and jarring. There’s too much going on and you get the impression that Burton wasn’t able to make the kind of film he wanted. The visuals are all beautiful and the cast is, mostly, great. But the script is messy and cluttered. And there’s just not enough Dumbo.
At the end of March I posted my first ever monthly wrap-up. It was mostly because I’d managed to read 8 books that month and felt that it needed recording somewhere. I haven’t done quite as well this month because I started my new job. For the first few weeks I wasn’t reading quite as quickly as normal. Still, I managed a fairly commendable 5. Again, this might not seem like a lot to some of you but, for me, this is outstanding. Especially when compared to last year. My 2018 reading target was 30 books and I managed to get 4 books over. This year I set myself the same target and I’m basically already there. Only 6 to go and we’re only in the 5th month. So, this shows you just how much better I’ve been with reading this year. Let’s hope it continues for the rest of the year and into 2020.
On Tuesday I posted my spoiler free review of Avengers Endgame. I wanted to make sure that anyone silly enough to come to my blog before they watched the film wouldn’t see anything that ruined any aspect of that film for them. But, I also have a lot of feelings and ideas about it. So, just like I did with Infinity War last year, I’m also posting my spoiler-filled post about the film. Last year I did a separate post from my TBT but I wanted to dedicate most of this week to this film. It feels that important. Plus, what film is good enough to pair with such a meaningful film? And, I want to do a final post on Friday without getting too post heavy this week. So, I hope you’ll forgive me this once.
As you know, I’ve been trying to get my way through all of the NetGalley books I’ve had waiting on my shelf for months. I always feel really guilty when I go on a requesting binge and then buy a load of new books to read. Plus, I have my ratio to think about. I requested Campusland because it sounded fun. It’s almost impossible to not think about Animal House in this situation. Which is both a good and a bad thing I guess. When you’ve already been lucky enough to watch the best college-based comedy we’re ever likely to see, it means nothing else will compare. But it also means you’re willing to try and find the next one. So, when I saw Campusland on NetGalley I couldn’t resist giving it a go. I should have known better. I really should have known better. It’s what I go through with psychological thrillers every time. I expect something new and different but just end up angry and full of regret. Shame I’ve got nobody but myself to blame.
Let me tell you a story about social media: it sucks. Last year, before I’d managed to see Infinity War a person I used to follow on Instagram gave out a massive spoiler to the film. It was a girl who thought she was being really discrete. She said something like, “I don’t want to spoil anything but I just think it’s so sad that after just after he gets his life together he dies”. Her exact wording made it super obvious that she was talking about Loki and that he died very early on in the film. Now, I’d already guessed this was going to happen but to have it confirmed by someone who didn’t think she was making it obvious bugged me. I promptly unfollowed her and anyone else who even mentioned the film. What is the matter with people? I get that we aren’t going to stop people talking about having seen the film but why go into any details? I even feel like all the people who have talked about being devastated are giving too much away. I’m planning to write a specific post about it later so I’ll stop ranting. But because of last year, I knew that I wanted to see Endgame as quickly as possible. I couldn’t risk anyone ruining this for me. It was going to be the movie event of the year. The culmination of 11 years of fandom. The culmination of 22 films. It was the end of an era and I wasn’t ready for it to be over. But I couldn’t wait to see it.