Monday, July 5, 2021

Capsule Reviews - July 5, 2021

Alice (1988)

This 1988 Czechoslovakian film is a unique take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Combining live-action with stop-motion animation, director Jan Svankmajer weaves the extraordinary tale of Alice (Kristýna Kohoutová), a young girl whose farmhouse transforms into an amazing, bizarre, sometimes dangerous world before her very eyes. Alice is incredibly imaginative, with some darker elements that are in line with the source material (at one point, Alice has to fight off skeletal creatures, and is even briefly transformed into a living doll). Alas, the film’s more disturbing moments might prove a bit much for younger audiences, to whom the movie was clearly aimed (I can see this giving some kids nightmares). Still, it’s a fascinating watch.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Maiden (2018)

An inspiring documentary that centers on Tracy Edwards, who in 1989 assembled the first ever all-female crew to sail in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, which takes its competitors on a 33,000 mile, months-long journey to practically every continent. Featuring interviews, archival footage (Edwards had a video camera mounted on the back of her boat) and contemporary news reports, Maiden takes us on one hell of a journey, and we experience all of the highs and lows (not to mention the dangers) that Edwards and her team encountered on the open seas. It’s really an uplifting motion picture, and you root like hell for this amazing group of ladies from start to finish.
Rating: 9 out of 10

The Substitute (2007)

Boy, did I have fun with this movie! The story of a group of school kids who believe their new teacher (Paprika Steen) is an alien from outer space, director Ole Bornedal’s The Substitute is a sci-fi / horror / comedy that plays like a mash-up of The Bad News Bears and Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty. The kids in this class - and there are a fair number of them (we get to know a dozen or so quite well) - have their own distinct personalities, and actress Paprika Steen, who plays the teacher / suspected alien, is extraordinary (there are moments you despise her, especially when she’s pointing out the weaknesses of each kid in front of their classmates). In addition to its characters, The Substitute has some very strong scenes (one in particular, where the kids are being forced by their parents to go on a school field trip, had me laughing out loud), and delivers both the comedy and the horror (with some nifty special effects to boot). I can’t recommend it enough; The Substitute is one of my favorite new discoveries!
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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