Short Takes: Saving Mr. Banks, Anchorman 2 and More


Saving Mr. Banks- A Disney propaganda film intent on making the definitive statement on how Walt came to pry the movie rights for Mary Poppins from the claws of its author, P.L. Travers.  It’s surprisingly nimble and entertaining propaganda, though, leaning heavily on the dry wit of Emma Thompson, who plays Travers, and the natural charm of Tom Hanks, whose casting as Disney is a huge indicator of the movie’s slanderous intentions.

Despite the sour taste the movie’s historical rewrite leaves, there are many funny and well-directed sequences involving Travers combating the Disney crew over the Poppins film adaptation.  I felt like I was being forced not to identify with her, though.  Like director John Lee Hancock did in The Blind Side, he overplays the fairly decent hand the story and actors gave him by suffocating it with Disney sugar.  Thompson is fantastic here, but the movie never misses an opportunity to make her seem like a shrew who needs taming. Grade: C-


Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues- For a movie that tries desperately for two hours to elicit laughs at any cost, Anchorman 2 isn’t nearly funny enough.  Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) goes global on a CNN spinoff with the rest of his news team, played again by Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner, and their idiocy is a natural fit.

The script gets a few good jabs in about the ridiculousness of the 24-hour news cycle, but most of the jokes that don’t involve the comedic anarchy of Carell’s weather guy Brick are just stale.  It exists more as an SNL episode with a bunch of celebrity cameos than a movie.  Grade: D


Upstream Color- Shane Carruth’s second feature is a wondrous creation.  Unlike his first, Primer, it thrills more on a sensory level, and he surpasses what’s in the script instead of just presenting it.  The story focuses on a woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz) who is subjected to mind control and stripped of her identity, but he keeps the narrative in constant limbo by being more interested in examining the experience than stopping to explain it.

Kris meets a man (played by Carruth) who also seems to have undergone the same procedure as her, and the two fall in confused love, their identities and memories eventually clashing but not getting in the way.  Describing the movie’s story does little justice to the spontaneous beauty Carruth sustains throughout.  Its meaning unfolds for the audience at the same time as the characters, though to apply any concrete meaning trivializes the breadth of its power.  Grade: B+


Movie 43- I’m offended that this movie exists.  Grade: F


Directed by: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
Written by:Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi (screenplay), Brenda Chapman (story)
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly and Julie Walters

Pixar has swept up diverse audiences of children, adults, film critics and casual movie watchers on fantastical journeys to their fully realized animated worlds.  That unparallelled run in quality, box office gross and awards has made them an unstoppably positive influence on modern movies.

Until now, men have dominated the spotlight in Pixar’s movies just as they often do in most others.  As the big studio “female” paradigm (very) gently shifts away from romantic comedies toward raunchier fare like Bridesmaids and action blockbusters like The Hunger Games, it only makes sense that the Mrs. Incredibles, the Jessies and the EVEs would start to occupy the center of Pixar’s spotlight.

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