Pick of the Litter – May 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Godzilla: King of Monsters

(Warner Brothers) Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins The awakening of Godzilla has led to a return of other titans, many thought to be myth. Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidoreh all vie for supremacy opposed by the mighty Godzilla with the fate of the human race hanging in the balance. May 31

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

(Netflix) Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Angela Sarafyan, John Malkovich. The story of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy as seen through the eyes of his girlfriend Liz Kendall. This was one of the big pick-ups at this year’s Sundance and it also played Tribeca this past month. May 3

Non-Fiction

(Sundance Selects) Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Christa Thėret. A Parisian author details his marital infidelities in a new book in an effort to re-energize his career, including an affair with the actress wife of his editor. The French excel at sexy comedies and this bright and breezy concoction is directed by Olivier Assayas, one of the finest directors working in France currently. May 3

Ask Dr. Ruth

(Magnolia/Hulu) Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer. In the 1980s, a tiny German woman, a survivor of the Holocaust, became a household name because she spoke frankly and openly about all things sexual. She essentially became America’s sex education teacher, letting people know it was okay to ask questions about such a natural yet taboo act. Even today when she is in her 90s, Dr. Ruth remains first and foremost an educator, preaching the gospel of good sex. May 3

Tolkien

(Fox Searchlight) Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Derek Jacobi. Author J.R.R. Tolkien changed literature and indeed the entire world with his tales of Middle Earth. This film explores his formative years as the orphaned outcast makes a fast group of friends in school, then undergoes the horrors of the First World War that would later inform his work. May 10

The Professor and the Madman

(Vertical) Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Natalie Dormer, Ioan Gruffud. The compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary was a mammoth job that many felt was impossible; the language was changing at a faster rate than the researchers could keep up with. Salvation though came from an unlikely source; an inmate at the Broadmoor Prison for the Criminally Insane. May 10

The Serengeti Rules

(Abramorama) Greg Kriek, Ashlyn Jade Lopez, Jonathan Newport, Mary Power. In the 1960s, a group of scientists set out into some of the most remote places on Earth to examine how nature works. Their discoveries turned our understanding of ecology upside down and may hold the key to saving our planet in the wake of climate change. May 10

Mosul

(Gravitas Ventures) Ali Mula, Anouar H. Smaine. The incredible story of local militias, international forces and uneasy allies who banded together to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city of over a million people, from the clutches of ISIS amidst rumors of sectarian violence among the ranks. May 14

Trial by Fire

(Roadside Attractions) Jack O’Connell, Laura Dern, Emily Meade, Jason Douglas. Cameron Todd Willingham is accused of the most heinous crime imaginable; of deliberately setting his house on fire and burning his three daughters alive inside of it. He proclaims his innocence but the forensic evidence points to his guilt, so he’s convicted and sentenced to death. Nobody believes his protestations until he befriends a writer who begins to suspect that the evidence might not be pointing in the right direction. May 17

Echo in the Canyon

(Greenwich) Jakob Dylan, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Michelle Phillips. In the 1960s a group of musicians found a home in Laurel Canyon near Los Angeles. The music that they made would change the direction of rock music forever, influencing even the Beatles themselves. This played the Florida Film Festival in April. May 24

Funny Story

(Blue Fox) Matthew Glave, Emily Bett Rickards, Jana Winternitz, Reginald VelJohnson. A dad in the midst of a raging midlife crisis decides to reconnect with his estranged daughter by visiting her at her Big Sur cabin. Along the way there he offers a ride to a young woman in the midst of a crisis of her own and ends up bonding with her in ways that will upset the lives of everyone around them. May 24

Deadwood: The Movie

(HBO) Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif. The critically acclaimed revisionist Western returns in a movie that brings back together the denizens of Deadwood, Montana as a corrupt senator seeks to take over the town.. May 31

Free Trip to Egypt

(Kindness) Adam Saleh, Ahmed Hassan, Jenna Day, Tarek Mounib. An Egyptian-American seeks out random Americans who harbor a fear of Islam and offers them a free trip to Egypt to get a better understanding of the people who live there. May 31

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Delgo


Delgo

A Lockni village on Jhamora...no I don't understand what it means either.

(2008) Animated Fantasy (Freestyle) Starring the voices of Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Val Kilmer, Chris Kattan, Kelly Ripa, Michael Clarke Duncan, Eric Idle, Malcolm McDowell, Burt Reynolds, Lou Gossett Jr., Anne Bancroft, Sally Kellerman, Armin Shimerman, John Vernon. Directed by Marc F. Adler and Jason Maurer

Delgo is one of those movies that was on the radar for a very long time (it took more than six years to complete), and when it finally came it was kind of an anti-climax. Not a fitting final credit for the legendary Anne Bancroft.

The movie takes place in the world called Jhamora, where the winged Nohrin rule the skies and the reptilian Lockni live on the ground, utilizing the magic of the earth.  The peaceful Lockni once took the Nohrin in when their home country had been rendered uninhabitable but the Nohrin had betrayed them and tried to take what wasn’t theirs by force. Sedessa (Bancroft), who spurred on the massacre, is exiled by the Nohrin by their King Zahn (Gossett) and an uneasy peace is reached, both sides hating the other.

Delgo (Prinze), a young Lockni is tired of trying to learn the discipline of the magic stones and yearns to be a leader for his people. His friend Filo (Kattan) accompanies him everywhere like a puppy dog, his clumsiness usually getting Delgo in trouble as when they encounter a feisty Nohrin princess named Kyla (Hewitt).

Now I can go on and on about evil plots, wise sages, bizarre magic and heroic lizards but it mostly will just confuse you and get you angry. It’s a mishmash of stuff borrowed from Tolkien, Star Wars and The Dark Crystal among many others. There is a very elaborate backstory here but quite frankly, it kind of gets lost in the pretty pictures. Worse yet, it’s awfully confusing, which is not how you want to start off your animated epic.

Delgo and his Lockni look a lot like a cross between the aliens of Enemy Mine and the lizards of Dinotopia. The Nohrin add a touch of Shrek‘s ogres to the mix. I will say that the world that the filmmakers created for both races is imaginative and wondrous. This is a very good looking movie in a lot of ways.

What disappoints is the story (as mentioned above) and the characters, which are mostly cookie-cutter characters taken from epic fantasies of all sorts. There are generals and wizards and heroic young men and comely princesses, but nobody stands out in a good way. They all kind of blend together, other than Bancroft’s Sedessa and to a lesser extent, Duncan’s High Priest. Kattan’s Filo is particularly insufferable, clueless beyond endurance. I don’t mind comedy relief, I don’t even mind simpletons providing it, but there has to be at least a porch light on somewhere on the premises, if you get my drift.

This is clearly meant for kids but is also clearly meant to appeal to adults and fanboys as well. In the end it tries to be all things to all people and ends up not really appealing to anybody. There were some interesting concepts here, but quite frankly the backstory and mythology was a little too overwhelming.

It’s a shame that this didn’t end up better than it did. Some of the concepts worked rather nicely and the animation is pretty decent. However, it turned out to be too many ideas, not enough story and definitely not enough memorable characters to really make this the movie the filmmakers hoped it would be.

WHY RENT THIS: Beautiful to look at. Bancroft makes a terrific villain in her last movie. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The story is kind of bland and doesn’t go anywhere this genre hasn’t been before. Kattan’s character is immensely annoying, sort of Jar Jar Binks without the intellect.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some fantasy cartoon violence, nothing too over-the-top for most kids.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Anne Bancroft passed away during the six year production phase of the film and a voice double (Melissa Suzanne McBride) was hired to complete some of her dialogue.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s an animated short from the same production studio called “Chroma Chameleon” which is quite fun to watch.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $694,782 on a $40M production budget; the movie was a major bomb financially.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: The Rite