Turning Red (Disney Plus)
Ava Morse and Rosalie Chiang in Turning Red / Disney-Pixar
The coronavirus pandemic seems to be receding, but its effects still linger, and the movie business is not immune.
“Turning Red,” the latest film from perhaps the most creative and reliable of all Hollywood studios Pixar, should be opening in theaters today to cash in on spring break, but for whatever reason parent company Disney has opted for the movie to debut on Disney Plus.
While I like to save a buck like anyone else, particularly with the skyrocketing inflation we are experiencing for any number of reasons, I do prefer seeing movies on the big screen, and would rather have watched “Turning Red” in a theater than from my couch on TV.
As comfortable as my home may be, it’s just more satisfying for me to enjoy a movie in the theater than watching from home.
That said, “Turning Red” is a heartfelt coming-of-age story about 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl, Meilin, who is not only dealing with the onset of puberty but also also morphing into a giant but fluffy red panda at the most inopportune times.
Mei’s change is, of course, a creative metaphor, for the maturation process all young women go through, and while director Domee Shi, who also crafted the delightful Oscar-winning animated short “Bao,” does squeeze some humor from the situation, the movie is tastefully executed and refreshing.
Mei is a high-achieving handful for her overprotective and demanding mother Ming Lee (voiced by Sandra Oh), whose incredibly high standards have in some ways suppressed Mei’s social development in particular areas.
Mei has great friends, but she’s a bit boy crazy with the focus of her affections being a pop group 4-Town, much to the dismay of her mother.
The movie is about the push and pull we all felt as kids growing up and often experience as parents when we are no longer the primary focus of our children’s lives.
The movie isn’t as concerned with drawing laughs as most Pixar projects, which was disappointing, and the movie dips a little too deep into the “Tiger Mom” tropes with Ming Lee for my taste, but I still enjoyed the movie despite feeling a bit beat up by the the message.
“Turning Red” doesn’t rank among my favorite Pixar movies, but it is a solid family movie that was worthy of a theatrical release.
(PG) 1 hr. 40.
The Adam Project (Netflix)
Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell in The Adam Project / 21 Laps Entertainment
Ryan Reynolds has to be one of the most likable stars in Hollywood even if two out of three of his projects usually end up being mediocre or worse.
He’s just so likable, and funny.
We get plenty of Reynolds in his latest straight-to-Netflix sci-fi action/comedy “The Adam Project” which features Reynolds traveling back in time to team-up with his pre-teen self (Adam Reed) in order to save his fellow time-traveling love interest Laura (Zoe Saldana).
The plot borrows from a Who’s Who of 1980s sci-fi movies like “The Terminator,” “The Last Starfighter,” and “Starman,” but Reynolds with the help of a fine cast including Saldana, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner and Catherine Keener makes this retread with lackluster special effects work to a certain degree. Keener is particularly strong as the villain Maya Sorian.
Unlike “Turning Red,” this is the exact type of movie I would expect to debut on a streaming service rather than in theater. It’s not a great movie or even a particularly memorable one, but I did have a lot of fun watching because of the skill of the cast and Reynolds’ star power.
Watching it was like drinking a Mountain Dew with a bag of Doritos. Not a lot of lasting value, but it tasted good in the moment.
(PG-13) 1 hr. 46 min.
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Classic Corner – The Quiet Man
Director John Ford’s “The Quiet Man” isn’t about Saint Patrick’s Day, but if there ever were a movie to leave Irish eyes smiling, then 1952 romantic dramedy has to be it.
Nothing says Saint Patrick’s Day more than a film that features an epic fist fight that takes a break in the middle so the two combatants can down a couple of beers in a pub before they start whaling on each other again.
In celebration of its 70th anniversary, the classic John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara love story will play at the Malco Razorback Cinema at 1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Thursday, thanks to Fathom Events.
The two combatants are Wayne as Sean Thornton and Victor McLaglen as Squire “Red” Will Danaher who are at odds over Danaher’s refusal to hand over the dowry of his fiery sister Mary Kate, (O’Hara).
The fight scene that sprawls across the countryside near the town of Inisfree is gorgeously shot in Technicolor by cinematographer Winton Hoch, whose work earned him an Academy Award. The film won Ford his fourth Best Director Oscar in 1953.
The movie is truly a postcard for the lush Irish countryside, which offers the perfect setting for the film that features some of the finest and most subtle work by Wayne as an Irish-American who returns to his birthplace to reclaim his family farm.
Technicolor was made for actresses like O’Hara, whose natural beauty is stunningly caught by the color process that yields vibrant reds and lush greens. O’Hara’s auburn locks never looked more lovely than when filmed against the verdant hills of the film’s setting.
Thornton ends up on loudmouth Danaher’s bad side because the gentrified bully covets Thornton’s family farm for himself. Complicating matters is the fact that Sean and Mary Kate fall in love with each other almost at first sight.
Wayne and O’Hara, who starred in five films together, share one of the greatest onscreen kisses in Hollywood history midway through the film.
O’Hara wrote in her autobiography that she and Wayne loved each other like brother and sister. That may be so, but wow, is there chemistry between the two in this movie.
Thornton is a man with a past who attempts to avoid violence for a good reason, but his reluctance to fight Danaher for Mary Kate’s dowry troubles their marriage. Finally, Sean’s will breaks and the melee ensues.
O’Hara wrote that “The Quiet Man” is her favorite performance and included her best work. While she is excellent in many of the 60 films she made, I think she is right.
Wayne is also strong in the movie, which highlights a deft comedic touch that is often overlooked. I’d personally rate his performance third among his many roles, only behind his work in “The Searchers” and “Red River.” However, “The Quiet Man” is unquestionably his best performance as a romantic lead.
Wayne and O’Hara are aided and abetted by an outstanding supporting cast. McLaglen is a terrific foil for them as Danaher, but Barry Fitzgerald and Ward Bond turn in winning performances, too, that give the movie something extra.
Ford is one of the greatest directors of all time, and so many of his films are so strong that it’s hard to name an absolute best or even a favorite. But for me “The Quiet Man” is near the top. It features Ford still at the top of his game with his greatest leading lady teamed with his greatest leading man.