La La Land (2017)

Man, the publicity loves that one dance step.
Man, the publicity loves that one dance step.

“Here’s to the fools who dream.”

Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt

In LA, a series of chance encounters bring struggling actress Mia (Stone) and struggling Jazz pianist Seb (Gosling) into a relationship of towering love and passion. He introduces her to jazz and drives her to follow her dreams. She tries to convince him that his dream is in reach, if he can only let of of its trappings, and inadvertently drives him to compromise his artistic integrity by joining a band led by the non-specifically shady Keith (Legend).

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London Has Fallen (2016)

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“Prepare for Bloody Hell!” (Because that’s how the British swear, you see.)

Directed by Babak Najafi
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Alon Moni Aboutboul

After well-meaning, but entirely inept Western intelligence agencies drone-strike a wedding based on a single, uncoded text message and somehow spectacularly fail to kill any of their actual targets – arms dealer Aarmir Bakawi (Aboutboul) and his sons – Bakawi launches a spectacularly audacious plan for revenge which appears to begin with either infiltrating or radicalising the Coldstream Guards (should have pushed that Prevent training, Lieutenant General Sir James Bucknall, KCB, CBE) and coordinating a series of dazzlingly precise bombings and shootings during the State funeral of the surreptitiously assassinated British Prime Minister. Fortunately, US President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) has nails hard one-man-army and not-at-all-a-Scot, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) at his side.

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Assassin’s Creed (2017)

"What do you mean, watch your step?"
“What do you mean, watch your step?”

“It’s time to make history.”

Directed by Justin Kurzel
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams

In 15th century Spain, a group of Assassins set out to protect the son of the last Sultan of Granada, in order to prevent Torquemada, Grand Master of the Spanish Inquisition, extorting from the Sultan the Apple of Eden, which contains the genetic blueprint for free will. As their meeting is interrupted by the neighbours’ garage band rehearsing, we jump to 1986, where adventurous (we know this because he’s practicing some daredevil shit on his BMX) Callum Lynch finds that his father (Brian Gleeson) has murdered his mother. He flees as be-sunglassed goons converge on their home, and in 2016 is in prison awaiting execution.

We’re about five minutes in and we’ve already covered about five centuries.

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Rebourne: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

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“Some Secrets Are Too Big To Keep”

Directed by David Lowery
Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford

The Original

Pete’s Dragon is the tale of a young boy and his friendship with a magical dragon named Elliot, whose ability to become invisible makes most people assume he’s imaginary. Pete and Elliot stumble into a quaint little town, where Pete is taken in by the lighthouse keeper and his daughter, while being pursued by the violent redneck family who in some means purchased him and wish to assert their ownership. Meanwhile, Dr Terminus is in town, a quack doctor looking to go ‘legit’ by selling remedies made from slicing up Elliot. At the end, Pete has a family, and so Elliot goes off to help the next child in need, as magical friends in disney movies of the era were wont to do.

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A song, a smile and an indentured servitude.

Both the child slavery angle and the threatened violent dismemberment of a sentient being are, of course, discussed through the medium of jaunty, upbeat singing. It’s not terrifying like, say, Darby O’Gill and the Littel People is terrifying, but it is weirdly dark given the tone of the songs, or possibly vice versa. In particular the cheery tune of the number ‘We Got a Bill of Sale Right Here’, and the fact that no one seems to question the Gogans’ claim to ‘own’ Pete on any sort of legal grounds, worries me.

70s Disney; it’s its own brand of messed up.

 

The Remake

In 1977 a car crash kills a couple and strands their young son, Pete, in the forest. Six years later, Pete (Fegley) is living in the care of a displaced dragon he has named Elliot. As a logging operation moves into his home, he is spotted by Natalie (Laurence), the daughter of the foreman, Jack (Bentley), and soon after found by Jack and his fiancee Grace (Howard), a forest ranger. He is eager to get back to Elliot, but his discovery has already led Jack’s brother Gavin (Urban) to find Elliot.

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Ballerina (2016)

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“Never give up on your dreams.”

Directed by Eric Summer, Éric Warin
Starring Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler, Carly Rae Jepsen

The year is 1887 (or 1888; I’m working from how complete the Eiffel Tower is,) and plucky Bretton orphan Felicie (Fanning) dreams of being a dancer in the Parisian ballet. Running away from the orphanage in the company of fellow orphan, inventor and creepy nice guy Victor (DeHaan), she is promptly separated from her stalker, finds the opera and stumbles into a) helping the academy’s cleaner, Odette (Jepsen), and b) a place in the training class, the latter by stealing the identity of standard issue horrible rich brat Camille (Ziegler).

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