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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.



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. 


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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Disney’s Latest Star “Wish”



Ariana DeBose as Asha in Wish (Disney)


Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish” is an all-new musical-comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico—to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

Ariana Debose as Asha in Wish (Disney)

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The film is inspired by Disney’s centennial, which ties together a central theme across most of the Disney-related stories — of wishes and dreams coming true. One can view it as the origin story for the wishing star, albeit a funny star. Disney delivers a feel good story filled with humor and the occasional teases and links to other Disney-related works. Ariana DeBose braces the big screen as the hero, Asha who discovers a sinister secret about King Magnifico and his use of the wishes.

Ariana’s performance performance is amazing and I enjoyed listening to the songs she performed. I foresee “This Wish” topping the charts at Spotify soon.

This Wish by Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

Chris Pine plays the part of King Magnifico and delivers a good performance as the villain. We hear him sing a song alongside Ariana, At All Costs.

At All Costs by Chris Pine & Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

The story delivers the usual fun characters that Disney brings along in all stories, amazing graphics of a magical world, and an amazing song library for everyone to listen to. This movie is excellent for young and old, delivering a feel-good movie for all. Wish is yet another treasure in the world of Disney.

I’m really excited for the next 100 years of Disney magic. The movie Wish has the potential to become a sequel, or even provide potential spin-offs exploring the wishes and dreams of others in the magical Disney Universe.

My wish is for more many more years of movie magic from Disney. What is yours?

My rating is a 4 out of 5 for Disney’s Wish. Watch at a cinema near you and join in the Disney centennial celebrations!

Wish Official Trailer (Disney)

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‘The Holdovers’ Review | Paul Giamatti, Alexander Payne Reunite For This Year’s Most Beautiful and Poignant Comedy



Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa in 'The Holdovers' (Focus Features)

“They don’t make them like that anymore” is one sentence that we hear a lot when it comes to cinematic brilliance. Most of the times, it is used for titles that might be considered a classic. Sadly, this sentence is being used too often these days and even for those projects, that might not even qualify. However, Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers is undoubtedly one of the movies that deserves to be called an instant classic and I can wholeheartedly say: “They don’t make them like that anymore.”

The holiday season has arrived and audiences want to see movies that makes them feel that holiday spirit. Although it is very rare to see both these qualities in the movies these days, ‘The Holdovers’ has quietly gained popularity among cinephiles this holiday season, emerging as one of the year’s best films among audiences.

The movie is set in a boy’s boarding school in New England in 1970. Paul Hunham is a stern yet brilliant professor who refuses to give passing grades to rich students just because their parents are some of the school’s biggest donors. He is firm and doesn’t let these brats take advantage of him. On the other hand, we have Angus Tully, who is the son of wealthy parents attending the school who tends to ready the students for top universities. It’s Christmas time and everyone is going home, but things take a wild turn for Hunham when he is forced to babysit for children whose parents are unable to let them return home for the holidays. Eventually, Tully ends up being the only child in Hunham’s supervision. As the two begin to spend time with each other, they slowly begin to know much more about each other and understand why they are how they are.

Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Paul Giamatti in ‘The Holdovers’ (Focus Features)

There is no doubt that Paul Giamatti’s role as Paul Hunham is one of his most compelling roles. Make no mistake, Giamatti has given several amazing performances, but Hunham turns out to be a role that makes audiences realise how truly amazing he is as an actor. The way he insults people in this movie is hilariously brilliant. It seems Giamatti had a lot of fun while shooting this film and went down the memory lane to prepare for the role. Giamatti is just breath-taking in this role. On the other hand, Dominic Sessa is truly a revelation here and delivers a performance that touches everyone’s heart. In the beginning, you might not like his character but as the story moves forward, you understand why he is like this and Sessa completely nails it.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph delivers a deeply heartbreaking performance as a grieving mother in the film. Randolph gives a detailed performance showing both deep sadness and moments of happiness. It’s a portrayal of grief that feels very genuine and touching.

Even though there are moments that makes the film touching, ‘The Holdovers’ is hardly a serious drama. It’s a very welcoming holiday movie that doesn’t shy away from being funny and absurd. These characters have faced sadness, loss, and pain. However, the movie bravely allows us to laugh alongside them, as their humorous shortcomings transform a typical holiday stay at home into unexpected hospital visits and adventurous trips spanning multiple cities. For many people, it will be nostalgic to see this old-school sweet holiday movie that they must have seen in their youth and takes them to a time where people cared about feelings.

All in all, THE HOLDOVERS is a moving, bittersweet comedy drama that instantly becomes a Holiday classic. A story where you’d think how emotions don’t change even though life has.

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‘Nightingales In The Cocoon’ Review | A Captivating Tale Celebrating Hope and Joyous Shared Moments



Official poster of 'Nightingales in the Cocoon' (Unchained Pictures)

Nightingales in the Cocoon is a vivid and heartwarming portrait of transformation and connection in a bustling city. The short beautifully captures the essence of hope, resilience, and the power of shared experiences. In just five minutes, this story carries a profound message that transcends its simplicity. Dharavi, often characterized by its challenging environment, serves as the backdrop for the story’s beginning. It sets the stage for two children’s life-altering decision to break free from their past. This decision, in itself, is a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and the pursuit of a better life.

The symbolism of leaving behind what is perceived as “trash” is a powerful metaphor for shedding the burdens of the past. The discarded keyboard, seemingly insignificant, becomes a symbol of forgotten dreams and overlooked opportunities. As fate would have it, two young kids in Navi Mumbai stumble upon this abandoned keyboard, which becomes the catalyst for a heartwarming journey. The excitement and curiosity the keyboard sparks in them are relatable and heartening. It reminds us of the pure joy that simple discoveries can bring, especially to young minds eager for new experiences.

A still from ‘Nightingales in the Cocoon’ (MUBI)

The act of acquiring batteries to breathe new life into the neglected instrument is a moment of resourcefulness and determination. It’s a reminder that even in the face of challenges, a little effort can rekindle lost passions and unlock new possibilities. The transformation of the once-silent keys into a source of melodies that fill the air is a beautiful metaphor for the transformative power of art and creativity. The kids’ dance to these newfound tunes is a celebration of life’s simple pleasures and the joy of shared experiences.

This story serves as a reminder that shared moments of happiness can bridge the gaps between individuals and communities. In the bustling city where stark contrasts exist, the shared joy and rekindled dreams bring people together. It’s a testament to the universal language of music and the ability of the human spirit to find connections even in the most unexpected places.

Nightingales in the Cocoon beautifully captures the essence of hope, resilience, and the universal desire for connection and joy. It’s a brilliant and simple narrative that reminds us of the beauty in the everyday moments of life and the power of transformation and human connection.

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