A magical movie that will cast a spell on you: BRIAN VINER Encanto reviews

Charm (PG, 99 min)


Referee: A true magician

A Boy Called Christmas (PG, 106 min)


Verdict: Early crack

Here’s a not-so-good pub quiz question: If Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is first, what is Encanto?

Answer: It is the 60th feature film produced or distributed since 1937 by Walt Disney Animation Studios, and despite such classics as Snow White, Pinocchio, and The Jungle Book, it is one of the best.

Keep in mind, times have changed since Jiminy Cricket explained to Pinocchio the meaning of the pronoun.

In those days, there were one or two moral messages in every animated movie.

Welcome to the Madrigal family where every child is blessed with a unique magical gift.  Everyone, except Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz)

Welcome to the Madrigal family where every child is blessed with a unique magical gift. Everyone, except Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz)

Now, there are dozens of, wearables out there, but when they’re wrapped in a great entertainment package like the Encanto, with original songs written by the indefatigable Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s so much better.

It’s set in the mountains of Colombia, where the Madrigal family has settled after decades of escaping some kind of massacre where Abuela Alma’s husband (in English, Grandma Alma) is murdered (not quite Disney, I know, but he was sensitively portrayed).

Her performance was cast by Colombian actress Maria Cecilia Botero, and Abuela is now a wonderful mother, head of a clan with special powers who live in a charming house in the heart of an enchanted town.

A magical candle that kept her and her baby triplets safe from violence, and the candle flame that always seemed to be the source of magic or witchcraft remains.

But the story is told from the perspective of her granddaughter Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), the only madrigal not to be ritually anointed, at a traditional fifth birthday party, with magical powers.

One sister can make flowers bloom anywhere, and to Mirabel’s indignation “never a day has gone by with bad hair.” Another has superpowers. Aunt can control the weather.

Encanto presents the Madrigals, a compelling, complex extended family who lives in the wonderful and magical setting of the mountains of Colombia.

Encanto presents the Madrigals, a compelling, complex extended family who lives in the wonderful and magical setting of the mountains of Colombia.

But the bespectacled Mirabel has no special gifts. She is just a nice jolly. Gradually, her “jealousy” draws her to her uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), a Madrigal outcast (“the family’s weird birds sometimes get a rap,” she notes).

Bruno can see the future, but that’s not fun as a superpower because there’s a problem with fermentation, which threatens the enchanted flame.

However, this is Disney, so it’s hard to reveal that Mirabell comes on her own when the family is threatened, and it all ends happily and honestly.

Directed jointly by Jared Bush and Byron Howard (their credits include the fantastic 2016 Zootopia and not to be confused with all those films by Ron Howard), Encanto unfolds with the gorgeous elan.

Above all, computer animation is fun, especially the way the house is given its own personality, reminiscent of the furniture characters in 1991 Beauty And The Beast.

And as with Pixar’s glamorous Coco in Mexico (2017), any straight grumbling about Hollywood’s so-called cultural appropriation really should be dismissed… This movie is yet another glorious celebration of Latin family and folklore, and deserves a 60th birthday celebration. Disney.

The original Father Christmas story has been reimagined in Jill Keenan's live-action A Boy Called Christmas

The original Father Christmas story has been reimagined in Jill Keenan’s live-action A Boy Called Christmas

a boy called christmas It is another fun, aimed at kids too, although it will snuggle up the whole family in a warm cinematic hug.

Adapted from Matt Haig’s book and narrated by Mrs. Maggie Smith, who plays the imaginary aunt of three cute children whose mother has died, the book also carries powerful messages, mostly about bereavement.

“Sadness is the price we pay for love,” says the great lady, which in some contexts might be a vulgarity but it fits this beautiful movie perfectly.

Truly, it is a story of Santa Claus’ origin, and any objections to its non-religious content will surely be overwhelmed by the abundant intelligence and sheer charm of the tale that Mrs. Maggie Roth’s aunt tells to children, about a boy named Nicholas (Henry Lovol) in long ago in Finland, who was searching for a kingdom Elfhelm mystical.

There’s a flying reindeer, a talking mouse, a silly king, a shark, adorable special effects and every other element you might want to see this holiday season, including a top-notch crew that also includes Jim Broadbent, Sally Hawkins, Toby Jones, Kristen Wiig and Stephen Merchant. Directed by Jill Keenan, who co-starred with Ol Parker, it’s an early Christmas cracker movie

Sassy Gaga can’t save Gucci

Lady Gaga as Patricia Reggiani in Ridley Scott's House of Gucci (15, 157 min)

Lady Gaga as Patricia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci (15, 157 min)

House of Gucci (15, 157 minutes)


Verdict: Fashion disaster

Ridley Scott’s lavish new movie has split critics, and I’m sure it will cheer audiences up.

From where I was sitting (at least 30 minutes longer than I would have liked), it was too long, muddled in narration and tone, uncertain in its occasional attempts at comedy, and unnecessarily burdened with the distraction of English-speaking actors who spoke English with Italian accents.

As you’ll probably realize by now, it tells the undoubtedly fascinating true story of how Patricia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) married the heir to a fashion empire, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), how their marriage fell apart, and how, in 1995, he killed him.

Much of the publicity focused on Gaga’s teenage sexual assault experience, which she used to inform a performance so deeply committed that she stayed in the character, in the starting position, for nine months.

She wears her Gucci beanies for that, and I won’t join those laughing at her Italian vocal icons either.

She does nothing better or worse than anyone else, and in fact doubled her stature, which she founded in 2018’s A Star Is Born, as a gorgeous, charismatic actress.

Among the other co-star names, Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino also did a great job, playing the elderly Gucci brothers Rodolfo and Aldo, who divided the empire between them.

But as the son of the latter’s idiot, Paolo, the unrecognizable Jared Leto is more than a pantomime, delivering moments of fun but also a sense that Scott and his writers force humor into a film that needs more urgently therapeutic action in other areas.

It’s all a shame, because, as you’d expect, it looks great.

Realistic drama as a medical staff fights Covid in the first wave of the pandemic…

For anyone who treats cinema as an escape from the heartache and headache of everyday life, I can’t honestly recommend first wave (★★★★ ✩ 15, 93 min). It’s a harrowing documentary that follows staff and patients at a beleaguered New York City hospital, during the devastating first wave of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

But Emmy Award-winning director Matthew Heinemann has made a wonderful film, deeply moving and hugely inspiring. Sometimes he and his camera get a startling arrival, where lives are lost and families are grieved. None of this is for the faint of heart.

His focus is on Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, and specifically on one incredibly dedicated doctor and a pair of critically ill patients, one of whom is a nurse, both with young children. Anyone who believes that the epidemic has been inflated in some way, or even invented as the most extreme conspiracy theorists believe, should watch and learn.

A famous conspiracy theorist, director Oliver Stone, also made a documentary this week, timing it not so much with the 58th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, as with the release of his controversial political movie JFK 30 years ago.

JFK Revisited: By Looking Glass (★★★ ✩✩ 15, 118 min) expands on that drama, using then unavailable evidence to reinforce the thesis (and indeed the thesis is how you feel, during some of the film’s many serious interviews) that Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, did not act alone.

As for who knew a lot more than they ever let them in, Stone unequivocally points his finger at CIA Director Allen Dulles, whose spot on the Warren Commission investigating the crime, as this documentary points out, carefully calculated not To reveal the truth, but to hide it.

Both films are in cinemas.

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