Encanto (PG, 99 min)
Verdict: A real charmer
A Boy Called Noel (PG, 106 min)
Verdict: An early cracker
Here’s a not-so-good pub quiz question: If Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first one, then what is Encanto?
Answer: It’s the 60th feature film made or distributed since 1937 by Walt Disney Animation Studios, and despite classics like Snow White, Pinocchio and The Jungle Book, it’s one of the best.
Notice how times have changed since Jiminy Cricket explained to Pinocchio the meaning of consciousness.
At that time, there were one or two sharp moral messages per animated film.
Welcome to the Madrigal family where each child is blessed with a magical gift unique to them. Everyone, that is to say, except Mirabel (voiced by Stéphanie Beatriz)
Now there are dozens of them, which can wear out, but when they are wrapped up in an entertainment package as beautiful as Encanto, with original songs written by the indefatigable Lin-Manuel Miranda, it gets even better. .
It takes place in the mountains of Colombia, where the Madrigal family settled after decades earlier fleeing some sort of pogrom, in which Abuela Alma’s husband (in English, Grandma Alma) was murdered (not very Disney , I know, but it’s portrayed with sensitivity).
Voiced by Colombian actress Maria Cecilia Botero, Abuela is now a formidable matriarch, presiding over a clan with special powers who live in an enchanted house in the heart of an enchanted city.
A magical candle has kept her and her triplet babies safe from violence, and the seemingly eternal flame of the candle is still the source of “encanto” or enchantment.
But the story is told from the perspective of her granddaughter Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), the only madrigal not to be ritually anointed, in a traditional fifth anniversary ceremony, with magical powers.
A sister can make flowers bloom anywhere, and to Mirabel’s indignation, “never even had a bad hair day.” Another has superhuman strength. An aunt can control the weather.
“Encanto” presents the Madrigals, a fascinating and complicated extended family who live in a wonderful and charming place in the mountains of Colombia
But Mirabel à Glasses has no special gifts. She’s just very sweet. Little by little, his “otherness” attracts him to his uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), the outcast of Madrigal (“sometimes the crazy people of the family are satisfied with a rap ass,” she observes).
Bruno can see into the future, but it’s not much fun as a superpower as there are issues brewing, threatening the Enchanted Flame.
Still, it’s Disney, so it’s no spoiler to reveal that Mirabel really makes sense when the family is threatened, and all ends well and healthy.
Jointly directed by Jared Bush and Byron Howard (whose credits include the wonderful 2016 movie Zootopia and should not be confused with all of those “Ron Howard” movies), Encanto unfolds with tremendous momentum.
Above all, the computer animation is a joy, especially the way the house has a personality of its own, reminiscent of the furniture characters in Beauty and the Beast from 1991.
And, as with Pixar’s charming Mexican film Coco (2017), any blame about Hollywood’s so-called cultural appropriation should really be dismissed … this film is another glorious celebration of family and Latin folklore. , and a 60th Disney.
Santa’s origin story is reimagined in Gil Kenan’s live-action A Boy Called Christmas
A boy called Christmas is another delight, also aimed at children, although it will hug the whole family in a warm cinematic hug.
Adapted from Matt Haig’s book and narrated by Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the deceptively stern aunt of three cuter-than-cute children whose mother has passed away, it also conveys powerful messages, primarily about grief.
“Mourning is the price we pay for love,” says the great Lady, which in some contexts can be considered a platitude but fits this sweet film perfectly.
Truly, this is a Santa Claus origin story, and any objection to its non-religious content will surely be overwhelmed by the abundant wit and sheer charm of the tale Lady Maggie’s Aunt Ruth tells the children about. ‘a boy called Nikolas (Henry Lawfull) in Finland long ago, who set out in search of the mystical elven kingdom of Elfhelm.
There’s a flying reindeer, a talking mouse, a silly king, a cackling old woman, fabulous special effects, and just about any other ingredient you could want to see this holiday season, including a cast. Top Notch also starring Jim Broadbent, Sally Hawkins, Toby Jones, Kristen Wiig and Stephen Merchant. Directed with a lot of panache by Gil Kenan, who co-wrote with Ol Parker, it’s a Christmas cracker in advance
Sassy Gaga can’t save Gucci
Lady Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci (15, 157 min)
Gucci House (15, 157 min)
Verdict: a fashion disaster
Ridley Scott’s lavish new flick has divided critics, as I’m sure audiences will.
From where I was sitting (for at least 30 minutes longer than I would have liked) it was way too long, confused in both narrative and tone, uncertain in his occasional attempts at comedy , and unnecessarily burdened with the distraction of English speakers. English speaking actors with Italian accents.
As you probably know by now, it tells the true and undoubtedly compelling story of how low-born Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) married heir to the fashion empire Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), how their marriage fell apart and how, in 1995, she had him murdered.
Much of the publicity focused on Gaga’s experience of sexual assault as a teenager, which she used to inform a performance so intensely engaged that she stayed in character, on set, and apart, for nine months.
Gucci canvas hat for that, and I won’t join those who chuckle at his coditalian vowels, either.
She does no better or worse than anyone, and in fact worsens her status, established by A Star Is Born in 2018, as a fine, charismatic actress.
Among the other star names involved, Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino also do a magnificent job, playing Gucci’s elderly brothers Rodolfo and Aldo, who divided the empire between them.
But as the latter’s silly son, Paolo, an unrecognizable Jared Leto is little more than a pantomime trick, providing moments of fun but also the feeling that Scott and his writers are forcing humor in a film that needs more urgent corrective work in other areas.
This is all a shame, because, as you would expect, it looks great.
Real-life drama as medical staff battle Covid in the first wave of the pandemic …
For anyone who treats cinema as an escape from the heartaches and headaches of everyday life, I honestly cannot recommend The first wave (★★★★ ✩ 15, 93 min). It’s a heartbreaking documentary that follows staff and patients at a besieged New York City hospital, through the devastating first wave of last year’s coronavirus outbreak.
But Emmy-winning director Matthew Heineman made a superb film that is both hugely moving and hugely inspiring. He and his camera sometimes have surprising access, as lives are lost and families are in mourning. None of this is for the faint hearted.
It focuses on the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, and more specifically on an incredibly dedicated doctor and a pair of critically ill patients, including a nurse herself, and both with young children. Anyone who thinks the pandemic has been somehow exaggerated, or even invented as the most extreme conspiracy theorists believe, should watch and learn.
A famous conspiracy theorist, director Oliver Stone, also released a documentary this week, scheduled to coincide less with the 58th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, than with the release of his thriller 30 years ago. controversial policy JFK.
JFK revisited: through the looking glass (★★★ ✩✩ 15, 118 minutes) expands on this drama, using evidence not then available to strengthen the thesis (and indeed a thesis is what it feels like, during some of the film’s many serious interviews. ) that Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, did not act alone.
As for those who knew much more than they ever hinted at, Stone unequivocally points the finger at CIA Director Allen Dulles, whose place on the Warren Commission investigating the crime was, this documentary implies, carefully calculated not to reveal the truth, but to obscure it.
Both films are in theaters.