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Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Review | GDT Wins the Year of Pinocchio

2022’s battle of ‘Pinocchio’ adaptations has a clear winner.

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32 years ago, two films about the life of Henry Hill were made. The first was Martin Scorsese’s classic, Goodfellas — one of the very best films in the legendary filmmaker’s career. The other was a film called My Blue Heaven which was directed by Herbert Ross and written by Nora Ephron and starred the trio of Steve Martin, Rick Moranis and John Cusack. It’s strange to think that two films with the same subject matter came out just over a month apart (My Blue Heaven opened on August 17, 1990, and Goodfellas opened on September 19, 1990), but 2022 has had a similar scenario with everyone’s favorite wooden boy, Pinocchio. 

Just a few months ago, Robert Zemeckis brought his adaptation fo the 1940 Disney animated film to DIsney+ in a rather lackluster attempt at retelling the classic tale. It was a by-the-numbers adaptation of Disney’s previous adaptation that brought very little to the table outside of a second horrid Tom Hanks performance this year. Given that Pinocchio is public domain, anyone can tell their own version of the tale. Enter, Guillermo del Toro, who’s coming off of a stellar retelling of another classic in Nightmare Alley. Instead of opting for a full CGI doll, del Toro has added his own unique twist to the story: stop-motion. 

And boy, this just puts other versions of this story to shame. While I, myself, am not a particularly avid fan of stop-motion, I couldn’t help but be enthralled in this world del Toro has created. Plus, this isn’t an adaptation of the Disney version of the story that most are aware of (or at least I was) and is far grittier than any version I’ve seen of this fable (look no further than the fascism going on in the backdrop of the film). It’s a technical achievement and a masterclass in storytelling — a phrase I hate and don’t throw around lightly. 

Pinocchio begins by showing us the relationship between Geppetto (David Bradley) and Carlo — something I don’t remember being more than a footnote of other adaptations of this fairytale. We all know that Geppetto mourns the loss of his son, but this adaptation shows the pair as they work on the crucifix sculpture — a shape that the film is fixated on throughout — in the town’s church. On one specific night, Carlo and his father are working on the sculpture when they hear fighter planes above. After making it out, Carlo realizes he left something inside and becomes collateral damage of the bombs dropped on the town.

Naturally, Geppetto mourns the loss and is surprised when one of his wooden puppets comes to life thanks to Wood Sprite (a brilliantly-cast Tilda Swinton), a fairy that oversees Pinocchio (Gregory Mann)’s life. While Carlo is what most parents would consider a “perfect son,” Pinocchio has a harder time adjusting to the world and is constantly causing trouble with a government official named Podestà (Ron Pearlman) and his son Candlewick (Finn Wolfhard) and gets looped into being a geek to Count Volpe (Christoph Waltz)’s carnival in a way that only the director of last year’s Nightmare Alley could understand enough to nail. 

“You may have no strings, but I control you,” says Count Volpe to our titular character. This whole subplot is by far the creepiest that the film gets (it doesn’t help that the design of Count Volpe himself will send shivers down your spine). The “selling your soul” plot has been done countless times in Pinocchio adaptations and other films alike yet you feel even more trapped in this film. Seeing the strings attached (pun intended) to Pinocchio’s deal clear as day are made even more heartbreaking because of his naivety — much credit to Mann’s vocal performance. Seeing him on that stage while not even comprehending what he has done makes you wish you could reach through the screen and save him yourself. 

A still from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. Photo courtesy Netflix.

If you’re like me and haven’t read the original Italian novel that Pinocchio is based on but have seen Disney’s adaptations, you’ll likely be in for a surprise in de Toro’s version. Stop-motion can inherently be creepy, and this darker version of the tale really shines when it leans into the weirdness of it all. Take Pinocchio’s various trips down to Death (also voiced by Swinton) as an example. The slums of this abyss are filled with Black Rabbits (Tim Blake Nelson) who play cards until it’s your time to meet with Death. The town’s priest (voiced by Burn Gorman) is straight out of a Martin Luther-era painting. 

All you’ll be able to be fixated on after viewing Pinocchio is what a technical achievement it is. There’s so much care in the production of Pinocchio. The landscapes just gorgeous to look at and are so easy to get lost in and the lighting is just fantastic and adds a whole level of realness to what you know is a contained world being that it’s stop-motion. Once Pinocchio escapes the carnival, he gets dragged into something he cannot escape as easily: boot camp. This boot camp is a juxtaposition to the usually-sunny world of Italy that we see and is closer to the cold and unwelcoming colors of Death’s lair. It’s like watching a kid’s toybox come to life. I had a friend in school who would make these amazing landscapes to place his Star Wars action figures in front of. Obviously, Pinocchio blows that out of the water, but it has this child-like whimsey that is just magical.

A behind-the-scenes still from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

And there is detail in Pinocchio down to every strand of hair on Geppetto’s head. It’s truly astonishing to see the way it has a personality and moves with the wind. Sure, films like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs share similar attention to detail, but Pinocchio is simply different and scales so much more than the other films mentioned. If you don’t believe me, you’ll have to just see it.

Mann and Swinton are the voice-acting standouts, but I don’t want to overlook the rest of the cast. Ewan McGregor is quite good as Sebastian J. Cricket — Pinocchio’s moral compass — and David Bradley as Geppetto was brilliant casting. Sometimes it can be hit-or-miss when actors have to act with emotion. Bradley doesn’t have any issues with that at all whether he’s portraying shock when he sees Pinocchio for the first time or yelling at his wooden son. It’s also fun to see Cate Blanchett go from Lydia Tár — a role that will likely win her an Oscar — to having the time of her life and letting loose as Spazzatura, Count Volpe’s abused monkey assistant.

I’m just at a loss for words with how good Pinocchio is. Again, I’m not a stop-motion fan or a fan of the original story. Heck, I’m not even a avid del Toro fan — though Nightmare Alley was one of last year’s best and continues to grow on me — yet this hooked me from the opening shots and through every song. This is the clear winner for 2022’s battle of Pinoccchio, and it could very well become the quintessential adaptation of the classic fable. 


Pinocchio is in select theaters now and streaming on Netflix on December 9. 

FILM RATING

Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Review | The Final Serve: ‘Federer: Twelve Final Days’ Offers an Intimate Look at a Tennis Great’s Goodbye

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Federer_Roger
Roger Federer in a still from 'FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS' (Prime Video)

We have seen a lot of legendary players in the game of Tennis, but only a few have ever matched the charisma of Roger Federer. Apart from winning Grand Slam tournaments, he went on to win people’s hearts every time he stepped inside the court for a game. However, when the Swiss Tennis great announced that he would be taking retirement from the sport, everyone felt it and knew that one of the greatest Tennis players of all time was bidding farewell to the game that he loved so much. So, in the final 12 days of Federer being a Tennis star, directors Asis Kapadia and Joe Sabia followed the sporting icon and witnessed how Federer prepared himself for his last set of matches. Now, the moments captured by the duo have been turned into a documentary called ‘FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS’ in which fans get to see how the legend said goodbye to the game of Tennis.

(Photo Credit: Prime Video)

From the very beginning, you get to know that you are going to see something special. One of the documentary’s greatest strengths is its unprecedented access to Roger Federer during the pivotal moment in his life. The filmmakers follow him closely and offer viewers an insider’s perspective on his thoughts and feelings as he prepares to bid adieu to something that has defined his life for over two decades. Meanwhile, the candid interviews with Federer reveal an honest man, and at times, vulnerable. His love for the game, his insights into his career, and his contemplation of what comes next are both enlightening and deeply moving.

However, some of the most fascinating things take place in the documentary when viewers get to see Federer’s wife Mirka talking about him and his love for the sport. She is poignant and offers a glimpse into the personal sacrifices and shared experiences that have marked their journey together. On the other hand, the interviews of his chief rivals – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray – add depth and richness to the story, providing a multifaceted view of Federer’s impact on the game and the people who watch him play. Their stories tell you how much they respect each other and the camaraderie they share while being fierce competitors. Kapadia and Sabia, known for their masterful storytelling and ability to delve deep into their subjects’ psyches, have crafted a documentary that transcends the boundaries of a typical sports film. They capture not just the athlete, but the man behind the icon, providing a holistic view of Federer as he navigates the emotional terrain of retirement.  Visually, ‘FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS’ is stunning. The use of archival footage, and blending it seamlessly with new material to create a compelling story. The scenes, especially, from the Laver Cup are really powerful and beautifully capture the intensity of Federer’s final games.

But not everything about this film is celebratory. Certain moments would make you cry because there is a sense of melancholy as Federer tries to grapple with the fact that he indeed is stepping away from the game that gave him so much. Even with so many positive things, some moments do feel like melodramatic. There are moments when the pacing slows, and the narrative feels somewhat repetitive. Nevertheless, these are minor speedbumps in what is otherwise a beautifully crafted documentary.

Overall, ‘FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS’ is a captivating documentary that chronicles the journey of one of the greatest athletes of all time. Even if you are not a fan of Roger Federer, you should see this documentary to feel why he was and will always be a LEGEND.

‘Federer: Twelve Final Days’ premiered on Tribeca and will stream exclusively on Prime Video on June 20.

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‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ Review | A Heartfelt Exploration of Love and Friendship with Outstanding Performances by Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson

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Tell That to the Winter Sea
Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson in a still from 'Tell That to the Winter Sea' (Kaleidoscope)

It takes time to understand that life is all about learning, growing, and changing. It’s about heartbreaks and dealing with them. Every stage brings new challenges and makes you think if you’ll ever reach your desired destination. In Jaclyn Bethany’s reminiscent drama, Tell That to the Winter Sea, this sentiment is distinctly captured through the touching journey of two characters, Jo (Greta Bellamacina) and Scarlet (Amber Anderson), who find themselves grappling with unresolved pasts.

There have been several movies around female friendships or relationships, but only a few have captured their essence, and Tell That to the Winter Sea is among them. The profoundly moving film starts with bride-to-be Jo (Bellamacina) reading a book while waiting for her school-time friend and first love, Scarlet (Anderson), on a girls’ trip to a country manor. Soon, we get to know that this trip is meant to celebrate Jo’s upcoming marriage. However, as soon as they meet, this trip becomes a moving journey of emotional discovery and unresolved feelings. Even with the festive atmosphere created by the rest of the group, Jo and Scarlet can’t help but deal with the lingering feelings from their shared past.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Greta Bellamacina as Jo in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

Directed by Jaclyn Bethany, the movie does a magnificent job of navigating the delicate terrain of past and present emotions through the eyes of its central characters. One of the primary reasons why this movie feels so personal is because of how authentic it looks. In many ways, we have endured heartbreak in love. Sometimes, we move on, but other times, we keep looking for answers by revisiting those moments. In Tell That to the Winter Sea, both central characters try to show that they have moved on, but in reality, it’s just the opposite and Bethany shows that with utter precision. Meanwhile, the script is a delicate blend of heartfelt dialogue and introspective moments. It’s fair to say that the script is the soul of this powerful drama. The writing shines in its ability to convey the unspoken and unresolved feelings between Jo and Scarlet. Their interactions are loaded with a glaring sense of nostalgia and unspoken yearning, capturing the beautiful essence of what it means to reconnect with your first love after years apart.

Another stunning aspect of the movie is its mesmerizing cinematography. The beautiful frames wonderfully complement the emotional landscape of the story, making the viewers feel like they are a part of the characters’ journey.

Acting-wise, both the film’s central characters are extraordinary in their respective roles. Greta Bellamacina as Jo is breathtaking as she brings a deep emotional resonance to her character and magnificently captures the complexities of love, friendship, and personal growth. One of the most striking things about her performance is how she makes viewers feel about her internal conflicts and struggles. It feels so real, raw, and authentic. She is truly one of the finest actors we have in the industry now. Meanwhile, Amber Anderson shows a wide emotional range and effectively portrays the complexities of her character’s feelings and experiences. Her performance feels deeply connected to her character’s past and present, making the audience empathize with her journey. The chemistry between both stars is mesmerizing, making their shared moments both powerful and poignant.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Amber Anderson as Scarlet in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

The supporting cast – Josette Simon, Jessica Plummer, Tamsin Egerton, and Bebe Cave – is equally compelling and adds depth to the story.

Overall, Tell That to the Winter Sea is a beautifully crafted film that offers a heartwarming and introspective look at love, feelings, and friendship. The film explores themes of the passage of time, and the bittersweet nature of moving forward is handled with a sensitive approach. It is a deeply affecting and memorable cinematic experience. For those who appreciate a thoughtful and emotionally resonant film, Tell That To The Winter Sea is an immersive watch.

Tell That to the Winter Sea will be released in UK theatres on May 31.

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X-Men ’97 Review | Nostalgic, Epic & Marvelous!

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X-Men '97 (Disney)

Get ready for action-packed adventure, many surprise cameos and a storyline that takes

Plot

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

Review

X-Men ’97 is a revival of the classic 1990s animated television series. The storyline picks up directly after the events of the original series, maintaining continuity and preserving the beloved elements that made the original a hit show back in the day. Many of the original voice cast members have returned, including Cal Dodd as Wolverine, Lenore Zann as Rogue, George Buza as Beast, Alison Sealy-Smith as Storm and Adrian Hough as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, which adds a layer of originality and contributes to the overall nostalgia of the television show​. Here I’m feeling like a little kid again, watching the show on a Saturday morning. I was 7 years old when it was on television in the early mornings, and it still brings back fond memories.

There were a number of new stars who joined the show such as Ray Chase who replaced Norm Spencer as Cyclops, Jennifer Hale who replaced Catherine Disher as Jean Grey, Holly Chou who replaced Alyson Court as Jubilee, A.J. LoCascio as Gambit, Matthew Waterson as Magneto, J.P. Karliak as Morph, Isaac Robinson-Smith as Bishop, Ross Marquand as Professor Charles Xavier and Gui Agustini as Roberto da Costa/Sunspot.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

The series starts off in a world where the X-Men grapple with the loss of Professor Charles Xavier. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, Magneto rises to the occasion and becomes the new leader of the X-Men. This provides additional drama and the team dynamics is frequently tested with the new leadership. While dealing with the new leadership dynamics the X-Men finds themselves still dealing with people who would stop at nothing to end all mutants. The storyline doesn’t hold back on the action sequences and themes such as grief, loss and acceptance are touched on throughout the series.

The trailer of the show doesn’t spoil anything for the viewer, and I highly encourage you to watch every intro and try to spot any new changes. The show provides many cameos and easter eggs, keeping my hopes alive of a potential crossover.

The story ends with a twist, leaving you hungry for the next season, and as any Marvel movie or television show would have it, a mid-credits scene to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you are new to X-Men you can still jump in and watch the television series, but I highly recommend watching the original series to get you up to date with most of the lore and history of the X-Men.

X-Men ’97 keeps the legacy of our favorite mutants alive with a well-written story that is filled with emotion, surprises and promises of more adventures.

Thank you Beau DeMayo for an eXcellent story! I rate this show a 5 out of 5!

Will we skip the intro song? No! I don’t think we will. Make sure to catch the show on Disney Plus!

https://youtu.be/mp1Pax-QHlA?si=-fFlVYBRIPnLQyVO
X-Men ’97 Final Trailer (Marvel Entertainment)

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