January 31, 2017

Coraline

[School of Movies 2017]

A commissioned show from Joel Robinson, this is the first of the LAIKA studio movies. 

Written by Neil Gaiman of Sandman fame, Coraline is the story of a girl dissatisfied with her boring parents and finding her way into a strange pocket universe, and a mirror of her new house, itself containing a woman who claims to be her "Other Mother".

This film has, what I like to call a "Twisted sumptuousness", and Sharon and I delve into the many details hidden throughout.

[School of Movies 2017]
 
For our 200th movie episode we celebrate the occasion by taking on another immensely challenging film, not because it's a mixed bag that's hard to place, but because it's pretty much perfectly crafted, very personal to us, dauntingly important and critically acclaimed. So we had to somehow shed new light on a masterpiece. This is why we put things like this off.
Paschal Dooley commissioned this one to match his prior request of Hero, and it forms another part in the trilogy of epic, Chinese wuxia ("wushu") period piece films featuring the amazingly beautiful Zhang Ziyi.
 
This time, Ang Lee takes what he learned from the interpersonal drama of The Ice Storm and the Jane Austen propriety of Sense and Sensibility to convey a drama surrounding two couples. One middle-aged and regretful of time misspent and one young and fearful of lives that almost certainly will not bring them what they want. And then there's fighting, glorious martial arts with weightless wire-work, choreographed by the master himself, Yuen Woo-ping. 
[School of Movies 2017]
 
This was a commission from Chris Finik and turned out to be one of our most challenging shows. I was ill and having to energise myself on sugar, caffeine and enthusiasm while painkillers did their work, but more specifically we were dealing with a movie that is on the surface a silly mess, unlovable and mostly forgotten. We had to find the elements of quality in a mismanaged, overambitious yet underachieving project which ended the careers of a promising director (Stephen Norrington, the man behind Blade and little else) and a legendary actor, Shaun Connery. 

Also we haven't seen most of the rest of the cast in the interim years either, but that's what happens when you throw 22% of your budget ($17 million) at one actor and find yourself short on what is obviously an ensemble film. This also serves as a weirdly specific prototype for Marvel's Avengers movie which came out nine years later in 2012. 

So join us for ourr 199th movie covered as we go on a voyage with these men who aren't very extraoriary, certainly not gentle and the best of their number is a woman (notably the only person in the film without a Y-chromasome.) 

January 24, 2017

Book of Life

[School of Movies 2017]

A little-seen animated film from 2014, produced by Guillermo del Toro, directed by Jorge Gutierrez, the man behind the award-winning show El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. This is a celebration of mexican culture, centred around the Day of the Dead, and the Lands of the Remembered and the Forgotten, as much about life as it is about death, and dealing with ancient gods making wagers with one another over the actions of humans. 

Masquerading as a cute, colourful, hyperactive, kid's movie, this in fact has more in common with the work of LAIKA, and slowly, over time, introduces more and more texture and personal touches from its creators who strove to make the art match their beautiful concept work. 

A commission by Abel Savard, who encouraged us with his supporting of this episode to dig deeper and find something really rather wonderful. 

January 22, 2017

L.A. Confidential

[School of Movies 2017]

A commissioned show, but for a film we adore. The only reason it's taken us this long is that L.A. Confidential is as rich and complex and powerful as a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle's Buffalo Trace Bourbon, and frankly... it was intimidating. 

It's a beautifully crafted film noir from 1997 which pretty much sets the bar for the genre from this point on, blending the best elements of the classics with contemporary filmmaking sensibilities, focusing on defying character expectations and showcasing physically expressive acting. 

Featuring career high performances from Russel Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell and David Strathairn, a darkly crooning score by Jerry Goldsmith, and an endlessly quotable script from Brian Helgeland, adapted from the novel by James Elroy.

It's the finest film Curtis Hanson ever made and the fact that Titanic gobbled up all the Oscars for that year is nothing short of a travesty (and I REALLY like Titanic!). 

Enjoy, and especially enjoy the toe-tapping jazz soundtrack. 

January 21, 2017

Watership Down

[School of Movies 2017]

Truly a work of classic British animation, less know outside this island, but a tale of rabbit society in Rural England, just waiting to be discovered.

OR

A horribly misjudged, mercilessly brutal, relentless, casually sadistic massacre of rabbit-kind, made by aloof Brits who don't understand story structure from a source novel thrown together by a man who hates the idea of anyone finding allegory in his work. And a film responsible for irresponsibly traumatising a generation.

You decide... with our help.

A commissioned show sponsored by Jamas Enright.

January 20, 2017

Swiss Army Man

[School of Movies 2017]

This one was an unexpected commission and pushed us well out of our comfort zone. It's an obscure little indie film about being isolated from civilisation, and it has a couple of particularly... provocative ways of illustrating that point.

Many thanks to Dan Mayer for getting this episode made, because I can ASSURE you that without his backing it absolutely would never have happened.

So for better or worse, here's what Sharon and I think of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe in the movie Swiss Army Man.

Next week, make sure you get hold of a copy of L.A. Confidential in the highest resolution possible. It's an amazing film and you don't want it spoiled before watching. 

Love the shows, kick us a few dollars: https://www.patreon.com/alexandershaw?ty=h

January 19, 2017

Wonder Woman

[School of Movies 2017]

This is a big one, a DC movie that we not only don't hate, but actively love.
Wonder Woman is breaking all sorts of new ground and Gal Gadot looks set to be the next universally beloved big screen superhero, joining a fairly small group that includes Reeves as Superman, Maguire as Spider-Man, Downey Jnr. as Iron Man and Evans as Captain America.

We spend two and a half hours discussing Diana's debut in solo form, highlighting the best aspects and touching on a few of the flaws. Largely though this is a celebration of a magnificent, empowering, inspiring experience.

Guests:

Bob Chipman of Geek.com

Laura Kate Dale of Lets Play Video Games

 

[School of Movies 2017]

Back with Marvel for one of their best movies yet. We kick off with why this hit me like a freight train, right in the soul, and then move on to an extensive and tasty discussion about these wonderful characters, old and new. This episode, like the movie, is very special. 

Guests:

Joshua Garrity of Cane and Rinse

Brendan Agnew of Cinapse

Jerome McIntosh of GameBurst

 

January 17, 2017

Doctor Strange

[School of Movies 2017]

A mystical return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe we love so very much. This one took us a while to get our heads around. On walking out of the cinema Sharon declared it as possibly her favourite of the MCU entries, which, if you know her, is saying something.

Alex on the other hand had doubts about why it failed to make such a huge impact on him, and they took several months of mulling over and three viewings on blu ray to really nail this one down. 

Guests

Joshua Garrity of Cane and Rinse

Neil Taylor of TheKidDogg

New Century on Bandcamp

January 16, 2017

The Grand Budapest Hotel

[School of Movies 2017]

This is our first Wes Anderson film and we explore what makes his worlds and characters distinctive. It was commissioned by Tylor Long and Harrison Brockwell. 

You should definitely see the film first. Funny, quirky, rude, unpredictable, sweet, sad, clever and uplifting. It's magnificent. Do not miss this one. It's one of our most personal shows.

January 15, 2017

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

[School of Movies 2017]

This is another commissioned show, and you have Jason Ronson to thank, because we wouldn't have done this movie for a long time, and when we did we would have spent half the time we did, delving beneath the surface. We felt, since we always like to give you guys value for money, that we would go all-out.

And it's not a movie we love, in fact there are elements of it that drive one or both of us up the wall, and we make no bones about its issues. But we also look for what they were attempting, and the reasons why this failed to wrangle a suitable audience upon theatrical release.

Book fans, we have you covered, and Alex Maskill joins us to fact-check the details of the six volumes.

This is also the podcast where I finally explain the "No Anime" rule. If anyone asks for anime in future, this will be the show I point them to.

The Cornetto trilogy will eventually happen. One of them is a little bit patchy for us, but gets better with repeat viewings, kind of like Scott Pilgrim, the other two are among the most perfectly crafted comedies ever made.

And the book to track down and read for the episode we're doing in two weeks is called Transmetropoiltan, Vol. 2: Lust for Life, by Warren Ellis.

Guests:

Alex Maskill

January 14, 2017

Hero

[School of Movies 2017]

In another commissioned show this week we cover the 2002 Chinese blockbuster from the director of The Great Wall.

Loosely (and as we find out that means REALLY loosely) based on a real life assassination attempt on the first emperor of China, this is one of Jet Li's most prestigious appearances. Featuring a trio of assassins played by Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and the amazing Donnie Yen, this blends serious, historical drama with stunningly photographed, excellently choreographed martial arts.

It's immense in scale, breathtaking in beauty and thought-provoking in story. It's also one of the Zhang Ziyi trilogy of period-set martial arts spectaculars, the other two being House of Flying Daggers by the same director as Hero, Zhang Yimou, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon directed by Ang Li. All three are absolutely worth your viewing time, especially on blu ray.

 
 
January 13, 2017

The Thief and the Cobbler

[School of Movies 2017]

This one is pretty special. You will laugh, you will facepalm, your jaw will hit the floor. 

The Thief and the Cobbler, or Arabian Knight, or The Princess and the Cobbler, or Once, OR The Amazing Nasrudin is, to date, the animated movie with the longest production run in history. It was begun in 1964 and released (after a fashion) in 1993... and then again in 1995. 

A cautionary tale for studios and a treasure trove of interest to animation experts, the story within the film itself pales in comparison, in terms of fascination, to its dreadfully staggered road of creation. 

This is the story of one unusual man who dreamed of making the finest animated film the world has ever seen, and what happened when that dream came up against reality.

If you would like to see more about this film (once you've seen the film, because I'm betting you hadn't even heard of it until today) you might want to catch this in-depth documentary *Persistence of Vision*, which features an array of animators and others involved with the making, and in which they are far more complimentary of the film than we are.

January 12, 2017

Brazil

[School of Movies 2017]

This episode would never have happened without a commission from Jamas Enright who effectively made me go back to a movie I had previously dismissed as an impenetrable mess. 

Terry Gilliam's 1985 dystopia, intended as a satirical black mirror held up against the bureaucracy that had driven him crazy was a box office flop, and if you've seen it you'll understand why. If you haven't you will get a lot more out of it from listening to our show first. 

January 11, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie

[School of Movies 2017]

Bob Moviebob Chipman and Brendan Agnew join us to delve into this deconstruction of the Batman mythos. While we do talk a lot about the movie, there's a great deal of pop culture analysis, examining the disparity between the colourful crime-fighter and the 'roided-up, armoured monster. I think that approach ended up kind of appropriate, since the film itself devotes much of its running time to the same concept, making the incidental events a lot less important than what they're actually saying.

Expect a hell of a lot of fun, some moments that are more than likely to become podcast memes and the messy business of taking to task overly obnoxious DC fans.

Reference Videos:

Cracked: So You Want to be Batman / Modern American History (As Taught by Batman Movies)
Folding Ideas: Everyone Batman Kills in BVS (And Why It Matters)
We Hate Movies: Mailbag (One Ticked Off BvS Superfan)
Moviebob: Does Batman Need a New Origin
School of Movies/Gonzo Planet: How to Fix The DC Movies With Just One Superman Film
Last Week Tonight: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization

Bob Chipman Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/moviebob1/posts
Alex Shaw Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/alexandershaw

Guests:

Bob Chipman of Geek.com

Brendan Agnew of Cinapse

January 9, 2017

Mulan

[School of Movies 2018]

Dan Floyd joins us once again as the Disney Project continues.

The house of Mouse picked themselves up from the financial low for the 90s that was Hercules, and came back punching with this Chinese legend of a girl who steals her father's armour to take his place in the army.

Still to this day one of the most beautiful and moving of their animated classics, Mulan had its detractors, and all of them had solid reasons to admonish story decisions. However, it is also beloved and inspirational, and the kind of movie that could be made today (with a few tweaks). 

Jerry Goldsmith's soaring yet delicate score was fortunately in plentiful supply for this one.

Guests

Daniel Floyd of New Frame Plus 

January 8, 2017

Hercules

[School of Movies 2018]

Now we reach the point where Disney seemed off their game, at least in comparison with the lightning strikes of Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin and Lion King. The fact that I really like Hercules is neither here nor their, this was a snarky yet earnest take on Greek mythology framed around an action sports movie for boys. 

It had one of the most real-feeling and grown up of Disney heroine's so far, James Woods before he revealed himself to be a complete dick, Danny DeVito on top form as a washed up boxing coach and a quick-witted, slightly-too-energetic pace which a lot of people might consider off-putting.

It was also an ideal, basic model for the superhero movies that were around the corner, and in fact it's a better Superman story than any of Kal-El's movies that have followed so far, though Thor and then Wonder Woman far exceed its reach. 

Since Alan Menken's lovely, lively score only spans a few minutes I have used other, tonally appropriate music for this one. Next week, Mulan. 

Guests

Daniel Floyd of Extra Frames

January 7, 2017

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

[School of Movies 2018]

The year was 1996, just a few months ago Pixar had changed the face of cinema by introducing a whole new medium of 3D animated film, with Toy Story.

Disney followed up their lukewarm reception of Pocahontas with another middling-in-appreciation Broadway musical. The art is beautiful, the scale epic, the songs memorable.

The subject matter is a serious social commentary written by a man who fiercely disapproved of injustice, framed as a tragic, gothic romance, but in the all-singing, all-dancing Disney style, the jokes are witty banter mixed with fart noises made by a pig-like gargoyle (who may not have even been real) played by Jason Alexander from Seinfeld. The main villain is a judge, because executives weren't happy with him being a Catholic Priest, yet rogue animators deliberately confounded their demands and depicted him upon his knees, praying for forgiveness from Mary for the darkness inside him which he knew would imminently lead to murder, in one of the most spectacular song sequences in ANY movie. In short, it had a tone problem. 

And with the help of Dan Floyd and Nama Chibitty, we dig into how this was pulled together and what the end result was. It's one hell of a ride.  

We have covered all the Disney animated classics canon so far from Snow White up to The Lion King and they can be found of the "School of Movies Archive" which is a separate feed on iTunes or wherever else you find podcasts. Here's all the Disney ones.

Guests

Daniel Floyd of Extra Histories 

Nama Chibitty

January 6, 2017

Pocahontas

[School of Movies 2018]

The Disney shows return, Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits joins us once again to continue our trek through the past of the animation giant.

And we are in the middle of the 90s renaissance, their third period of creatively blossoming (Pre-War/Post-War/90s) and the first after the box office high point of The Lion King presented a bar almost impossible to reach. Even if it hadn't been culturally troubling, deliberately historically naive and melodramatic when the audiences wanted fun, Pocahontas was going to stumble.

It became the benchmark of what happens when Disney decide they have a hit on their hands before release (everybody thought this was going to be their Cinderella and Lion King was just going to be a muck-about with animals). And yet for its faults, which we will go into, it remains a beautiful, sweeping, bittersweet Hollywood romance of the kind it's very tough to pull off successfully, even today, *especially* today. 

The music by Alan Menken is once again amazing, the voice acting is top notch, the animation might make you gasp, and it's probably the most Broadway musical-feeling of all the Disney canon, for better or worse. 

We have covered all the Disney animated classics canon so far from Snow White up to The Lion King and they can be found of the "School of Movies Archive" which is a separate feed on iTunes or wherever else you find podcasts. Here's all the Disney ones.

Guests

Daniel Floyd of Extra Histories 

Nama Chibitty

January 5, 2017

The Lion King

[School of Movies 2017]

This episode will be the deepest single Disney show we will ever do. It weighs in at just under four hours long, so I'd recommend absorbing it in two sessions, unless you have a long drive or a flight. But if you love the film you'll feel like you've died and gone to never-ending Lion Heaven!

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits joins us again to examine this magnificent beast of a film. Disney had taken a year off after Aladdin to develop their next two theatrical, animated projects, a sweeping Broadway musical melodrama, sure to go down in history as one of their greatest achievements (Pocahontas... it didn't) and a fun little movie about lions (which became known as one of their greatest achievements).

More than anything else, this movie made Bambi redundant for me. I never much gelled with the little dear, and while the death of his mother did have a shocking impact its repercussions were felt for all of 90 seconds. Lion King spends the rest of the movie either overtly avoiding confronting grief or stepping up to face it. The courageous subject matter, the beautiful animation, the majestic James Earl Jones, the amazing music and brilliant songs put this one at the highest peak for me.

This super special episode also includes the debut of the SteamHeart trailer.

Guests:

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits

 

January 4, 2017

Aladdin

[School of Movies 2017]

This one was recorded immediately after the Beauty and the Beast show, so we are absolutely exhausted by the end. What you can't hear because I trimmed it out is all the times we lose our thread and forget the point we were making. The magic of audio editing.

As it is, with musical breaks and comedy clips, this is another superbly detailed show where we praise the animation and efforts that went into making this a truly unique Disney experience.

It was recorded one month before Robin Williams died, and 23 years after master songwriter Howard Ashman died, and it is a celebration of their amazing work.

Extra Credits: https://www.youtube.com/user/ExtraCreditz

Cane and Rinse: http://caneandrinse.com/

Support our shows on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/alexandershaw

Come listen to my audio drama series, New Century:https://newcenturyshow.podbean.com/

Guests:

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits

Joshua Garrity of Cane and Rinse

January 3, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

[School of Movies 2017]

Get ready for a show of epic proportions, and a roller-coaster journey through the making of an absolute classic.

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits and Joshua Garrity of Cane and Rinse join us for a deep study into what made this work so well, and why it manages what so many of the previous films in the canon couldn't quite reach. Every aspect is discussed, from animation to music, to rejected ideas, to what makes Beast and Belle so endlessly appealing and what function the supporting cast serve.

This is either one to absorb in two sittings or a long evening spent watching the movie with the sound off at the same time... twice.

Support our shows on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/alexandershaw

Come listen to my audio drama series, New Century:https://newcenturyshow.podbean.com/

Guests:

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits

Joshua Garrity of Cane and Rinse

January 2, 2017

The Rescuers Down Under

[School of Movies 2017]

This will be the shortest of our Disney 90s Renaissance episodes, principally because there's so little information available on the making of this movie and also not too much actually happens.

It's more mice wearing shirts, but there are some wonderful elements in there that we will illuminate in between me being scathing about Disney underachieving and some amusing side roads into Australia.

Guests:

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits

January 1, 2017

The Little Mermaid

[School of Movies 2017]

We finally his the 90s third renaissance for Disney, and this kicks off a series of two hours plus shows of super detail and perspective on this era. Disney was under new management and after a string of mediocre successes and big failures now aimed to pull themselves out of the doldrums they had settled into following Walt's death. This entailed a storm of creativity with artists being ridden ruthlessly by cold-hearted businessmen. By all rights it shouldn't have produced such wonderful results... but it did. 

The Little Mermaid is a story of a human girl born as a mermaid, who just never feels right down under the sea, looking up longingly at our world. The emotional arc of the movie is the barely-seen King Triton getting over his overprotective desire to see his child stay down aith her family, culminating in him letting her go for her own happiness. 

Plus it has a Jamaican crab. 

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits and Extra Histories joins us again and you will hear the music of Alan Menken and the late, but indescribably great Howard Ashman. 

School of Movies is funded not by advertising, but by Patreon. It's you guys who keep this show going, help us pay our bills and buy more stuff to watch and talk about. So if you get a major kick out of these shows consider throwing a few dollars per month our way: https://www.patreon.com/alexandershaw

Guests:

Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits

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