4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Cruella: Sympathy for the de Vil

Can the neutering of Old Yeller be far off?

Cruella: unusual punishment from Emma Stone.
Cruella: unusual punishment from Emma Stone.

A haughty fashion designer (Emma Thompson) and the seamstress most likely to dethrone her (Emma Stone) wage battle in this, the third live-action attempt on the part of the studio to ransack the Disney Vault, cancel originality, and in doing so, defile a classic. And what could be crueler than stretching what little story Cruella contains over 134 minutes?

Poor Estella (Stone). Rather than viewing her tousled duochromatic coiffure as a style statement as delectably unique as a black and white cookie, all the playground bullies see is a skunk, making her the school’s leading spitball target. Recognizing her daughter’s cruel side, it’s adoptive mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) who dreams up the Cruella handle. It’s also Catherine’s decision to pack her recently expelled daughter and move to London. En route, she makes a pit stop at the castle of Baroness von Hellman (Thompson) to hit her ex-boss up for a charitable donation. Rather than the old lady tossing a little cash her way, the Baroness’ three rampaging dalmatians toss Catherine over a cliff. It was Estella who initiated the pursuit, and in her eyes, the blame for her mother’s death lands squarely on her shoulders.

In order to keep a low profile, and also to give the screenwriters and director Craig Gillispie (Fright Night, I, Tonya) an opportunity to later press into service her eponymous secret identity — Estella eventually becomes Cruella so that the Baroness won’t recognize her — the young woman dyes her mop red. Stowing away in a moving van (a nod to One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the 1961 original), Estella arrives in London, where she takes up with a pair of young Fagans who age into Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). Longing to be a runway influencer, not a runaway, Estella designs costumes for their capers. This is the only point in the film where we got a glimpse of Estella’s flair for fashion.

The boys arrange for Estella to take a job with London’s luxurious Liberty department store. Alas, she is hired to wash windows, not decorate them. One night, with a carafe of booze acting as inducement, Estella strikes out on her own and designs a window. No sooner does her boss, a martinet of a store manager, let her go than the Baroness, sensing something extraordinary in her silhouettes, hires herself a youthful protege. Some are quick to liken the story to The Devil Wears Prada, but Project Runway is a more likely corollary. Nothing here comes close to reaching the level of acerbic bitchery struck between Streep and Hathaway. The only way we come to know that Estella is a designer of merit is through the Baroness’ approval, and she hates everything. Cruella is also being compared favorably to Joker, but nothing in this comes close to matching the preening pretentiousness of Joaquin Phoenix’s pay-attention-to-me performance.

Instead of Hollywood know-how, this effort is steeped in Broadway camp. How much of the film’s $200 million budget went towards paying music royalties? The movie has more needle drops than a heroin den. It’s one thing for a song not to fit the action it underscores, but the filmmakers frequently can’t even match the music with the year it came out. And besides the rather understandable desire to avenge her mother’s death, not once did I feel anything disturbingly evil about either Estella or Cruella. How convincing a puppy-skinner can Cruella be when Estella’s love for her pet pups is clearly established early on? This PG-13 Cruella can no sooner smoke one of her trademarked pink cigarettes than peel a pelt.

The actresses keep it alive, but in the end, this is little more than a shameless attempt on the part of the Disney brass to reconform one of its properties to fit the Evil Queen mold. Can the neutering of Old Yeller be far off?

—Scott Marks

Video on Demand and New Release Roundup

American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally — Mildred Gillars, aka Axis Sally (Meadow Williams), was the Nazis’ answer to Tokyo Rose. Known throughout the world as the Berlin Babe and Hitler’s Girlfriend, the German-American radio personality was employed by the German Broadcasting Company to circulate Axis propaganda. During her trial in America, she stood second only to Hitler as the world’s most hated human being. Ostensibly hired to weaken morale, she was also applauded for alerting soldiers’ families as to the safety of their sons and fathers. She and her lawyer James Laughlin (Al Pacino) shared one thing in common: both were in their chosen professions in part based on the publicity it brought them. (She hoped to win the case and use her notoriety to crack Broadway.) It’s a story that demands to be told, and while it’s far from a washout, the majority of the action is confined to Sally’s jail cell, the recording studio, and the courtroom. The entire film is cloaked in darkness, a decision I’m guessing was made to try and cover up for the paucity of the sets. Forced to sign an oath to the Reich and repeatedly beaten and raped by Goebbles, Mildred Gillars was no more guilty of treason than Orson Welles was guilty of murder for his participation in The War of the Worlds. Williams’ performance gradually builds steam, but when she’s called on to sing, it becomes painfully clear that as a vocalist, she makes a perfectly adequate actress. It had been almost a decade since I’d lost track of Michael Polish (Twin Falls Idaho, Astronaut Farmer) and seeing his name (or that of his identical twin brother Mark) in the credits gave cause for hope. Pacino is his usual force to be reckoned with, and while the story is fascinating, Polish was strapped to the point where the movie can at times take on the aura of a filmed stage play. (Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Apple TV, etc.) 2021. — S.M. ★★

Spirit Untamed — Do not make the same mistake I did and watch Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook’s timeless tale of a young stallion separated from its herd, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), before checking in with this shoddy sequel. (If anything, this is closer in spirit to the video games and TV series the original spawned.) It’s a masterpiece of animation for so many reasons, none more impressive than its seamless fusion of 2D and 3D techniques to heighten naturalism. It also holds the distinction of being the world’s first animated feature about a No Talking! No Singing! No Dancing! horse. Fortunately for us, directors Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan Jr. stay faithful enough to the original to keep the horses mute. (Who needs Mr. Ed when the star of this show is a Disney-eyed hydrocephalic Q-tip stricken with a rare case of diarrhea of the mouth?) It’s set in the early 1900s, but one wouldn’t know it from the looks of Lucky’s (Isabela Merced) fresh-from-the-Galleria-threads. And what once passed for exceptional “pantomime acting” on the part of the animators now looks like something from the TV division of Dreamworks Animation. The one thing the films share are their presumptuous scores. Bryan Adams’ grumbling rock tunes in the original have as much place in the old west as Amie Doherty’s anachronistic talent-show ballads do here. If you have never seen the 2002 entry, I suggest you watch it twice before taking a pass on this. 2021. — S.M.

Wrath of Man — According to writer-director Guy Ritchie, armored car heists have become more common than convenience store robberies, so much so that it’s a wonder anyone would consider a career in money transport. Given the forced tenor of their chatter, there is little doubt that the two armored car drivers that greet us at the outset won’t live to see the opening credits. True to form for Ritchie, this is the first of three times we see the robbery play out, all from different points of view. And is there any doubt that Fortico Security’s smileless new hire Patrick Hill (Jason Statham) is a 100% kind of cash truck driver purposely performing at 70% capacity to eke past the required points to pass the training program? The job’s important to him. Without it, there would be no way for Hill to track down and gut the crew responsible for killing his son during the pre-credits stickup. The plot jumps around like a needle on cracked vinyl, but not once do we feel lost or confused. Before it’s over, the bad guys have a plan that involves knocking over all of Los Angeles’s bulletproof buses on Black Friday. Ritchie’s first two films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) suffered from a paucity of subtitles and, when it was possible to understand the dialogue, a plethora of unassuming exchanges. The devastating blows landed by the director’s Sherlock Holmes and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. gave me the just cause needed to sit out his last three movies. But the pandemic brought out aberrant behavior in this moviegoer, and I found myself in the big Grossmont, not so much to see the movie as to once again feel dwarfed in the presence of its immersive 60-foot screen. Two takeaways: Statham makes an adequate substitute for Bruce Willis, and I like Ritchie much more without the forced laughs. Right on both counts I thought as I left, brushing the half-eaten cake crumbs off my shirt. 2021. — S.M. ★★★

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

San Diego new county counsel Lonnie Eldridge from Reagan country

Mani Brothers and lawyers Finch, Thornton & Baird cough up for Faulconer
Next Article

San Diego new county counsel Lonnie Eldridge from Reagan country

Mani Brothers and lawyers Finch, Thornton & Baird cough up for Faulconer
Cruella: unusual punishment from Emma Stone.
Cruella: unusual punishment from Emma Stone.

A haughty fashion designer (Emma Thompson) and the seamstress most likely to dethrone her (Emma Stone) wage battle in this, the third live-action attempt on the part of the studio to ransack the Disney Vault, cancel originality, and in doing so, defile a classic. And what could be crueler than stretching what little story Cruella contains over 134 minutes?

Poor Estella (Stone). Rather than viewing her tousled duochromatic coiffure as a style statement as delectably unique as a black and white cookie, all the playground bullies see is a skunk, making her the school’s leading spitball target. Recognizing her daughter’s cruel side, it’s adoptive mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) who dreams up the Cruella handle. It’s also Catherine’s decision to pack her recently expelled daughter and move to London. En route, she makes a pit stop at the castle of Baroness von Hellman (Thompson) to hit her ex-boss up for a charitable donation. Rather than the old lady tossing a little cash her way, the Baroness’ three rampaging dalmatians toss Catherine over a cliff. It was Estella who initiated the pursuit, and in her eyes, the blame for her mother’s death lands squarely on her shoulders.

In order to keep a low profile, and also to give the screenwriters and director Craig Gillispie (Fright Night, I, Tonya) an opportunity to later press into service her eponymous secret identity — Estella eventually becomes Cruella so that the Baroness won’t recognize her — the young woman dyes her mop red. Stowing away in a moving van (a nod to One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the 1961 original), Estella arrives in London, where she takes up with a pair of young Fagans who age into Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). Longing to be a runway influencer, not a runaway, Estella designs costumes for their capers. This is the only point in the film where we got a glimpse of Estella’s flair for fashion.

The boys arrange for Estella to take a job with London’s luxurious Liberty department store. Alas, she is hired to wash windows, not decorate them. One night, with a carafe of booze acting as inducement, Estella strikes out on her own and designs a window. No sooner does her boss, a martinet of a store manager, let her go than the Baroness, sensing something extraordinary in her silhouettes, hires herself a youthful protege. Some are quick to liken the story to The Devil Wears Prada, but Project Runway is a more likely corollary. Nothing here comes close to reaching the level of acerbic bitchery struck between Streep and Hathaway. The only way we come to know that Estella is a designer of merit is through the Baroness’ approval, and she hates everything. Cruella is also being compared favorably to Joker, but nothing in this comes close to matching the preening pretentiousness of Joaquin Phoenix’s pay-attention-to-me performance.

Instead of Hollywood know-how, this effort is steeped in Broadway camp. How much of the film’s $200 million budget went towards paying music royalties? The movie has more needle drops than a heroin den. It’s one thing for a song not to fit the action it underscores, but the filmmakers frequently can’t even match the music with the year it came out. And besides the rather understandable desire to avenge her mother’s death, not once did I feel anything disturbingly evil about either Estella or Cruella. How convincing a puppy-skinner can Cruella be when Estella’s love for her pet pups is clearly established early on? This PG-13 Cruella can no sooner smoke one of her trademarked pink cigarettes than peel a pelt.

The actresses keep it alive, but in the end, this is little more than a shameless attempt on the part of the Disney brass to reconform one of its properties to fit the Evil Queen mold. Can the neutering of Old Yeller be far off?

—Scott Marks

Video on Demand and New Release Roundup

American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally — Mildred Gillars, aka Axis Sally (Meadow Williams), was the Nazis’ answer to Tokyo Rose. Known throughout the world as the Berlin Babe and Hitler’s Girlfriend, the German-American radio personality was employed by the German Broadcasting Company to circulate Axis propaganda. During her trial in America, she stood second only to Hitler as the world’s most hated human being. Ostensibly hired to weaken morale, she was also applauded for alerting soldiers’ families as to the safety of their sons and fathers. She and her lawyer James Laughlin (Al Pacino) shared one thing in common: both were in their chosen professions in part based on the publicity it brought them. (She hoped to win the case and use her notoriety to crack Broadway.) It’s a story that demands to be told, and while it’s far from a washout, the majority of the action is confined to Sally’s jail cell, the recording studio, and the courtroom. The entire film is cloaked in darkness, a decision I’m guessing was made to try and cover up for the paucity of the sets. Forced to sign an oath to the Reich and repeatedly beaten and raped by Goebbles, Mildred Gillars was no more guilty of treason than Orson Welles was guilty of murder for his participation in The War of the Worlds. Williams’ performance gradually builds steam, but when she’s called on to sing, it becomes painfully clear that as a vocalist, she makes a perfectly adequate actress. It had been almost a decade since I’d lost track of Michael Polish (Twin Falls Idaho, Astronaut Farmer) and seeing his name (or that of his identical twin brother Mark) in the credits gave cause for hope. Pacino is his usual force to be reckoned with, and while the story is fascinating, Polish was strapped to the point where the movie can at times take on the aura of a filmed stage play. (Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Apple TV, etc.) 2021. — S.M. ★★

Spirit Untamed — Do not make the same mistake I did and watch Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook’s timeless tale of a young stallion separated from its herd, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), before checking in with this shoddy sequel. (If anything, this is closer in spirit to the video games and TV series the original spawned.) It’s a masterpiece of animation for so many reasons, none more impressive than its seamless fusion of 2D and 3D techniques to heighten naturalism. It also holds the distinction of being the world’s first animated feature about a No Talking! No Singing! No Dancing! horse. Fortunately for us, directors Elaine Bogan and Ennio Torresan Jr. stay faithful enough to the original to keep the horses mute. (Who needs Mr. Ed when the star of this show is a Disney-eyed hydrocephalic Q-tip stricken with a rare case of diarrhea of the mouth?) It’s set in the early 1900s, but one wouldn’t know it from the looks of Lucky’s (Isabela Merced) fresh-from-the-Galleria-threads. And what once passed for exceptional “pantomime acting” on the part of the animators now looks like something from the TV division of Dreamworks Animation. The one thing the films share are their presumptuous scores. Bryan Adams’ grumbling rock tunes in the original have as much place in the old west as Amie Doherty’s anachronistic talent-show ballads do here. If you have never seen the 2002 entry, I suggest you watch it twice before taking a pass on this. 2021. — S.M.

Wrath of Man — According to writer-director Guy Ritchie, armored car heists have become more common than convenience store robberies, so much so that it’s a wonder anyone would consider a career in money transport. Given the forced tenor of their chatter, there is little doubt that the two armored car drivers that greet us at the outset won’t live to see the opening credits. True to form for Ritchie, this is the first of three times we see the robbery play out, all from different points of view. And is there any doubt that Fortico Security’s smileless new hire Patrick Hill (Jason Statham) is a 100% kind of cash truck driver purposely performing at 70% capacity to eke past the required points to pass the training program? The job’s important to him. Without it, there would be no way for Hill to track down and gut the crew responsible for killing his son during the pre-credits stickup. The plot jumps around like a needle on cracked vinyl, but not once do we feel lost or confused. Before it’s over, the bad guys have a plan that involves knocking over all of Los Angeles’s bulletproof buses on Black Friday. Ritchie’s first two films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) suffered from a paucity of subtitles and, when it was possible to understand the dialogue, a plethora of unassuming exchanges. The devastating blows landed by the director’s Sherlock Holmes and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. gave me the just cause needed to sit out his last three movies. But the pandemic brought out aberrant behavior in this moviegoer, and I found myself in the big Grossmont, not so much to see the movie as to once again feel dwarfed in the presence of its immersive 60-foot screen. Two takeaways: Statham makes an adequate substitute for Bruce Willis, and I like Ritchie much more without the forced laughs. Right on both counts I thought as I left, brushing the half-eaten cake crumbs off my shirt. 2021. — S.M. ★★★

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

San Diego is not going to get rid of its coyotes

An evolutionary epic in front of our eyes
Next Article

Save Alonzo Culver’s Queen Anne Victorian mansion in Carlsbad

Built in 1888 “with the charm of a more genteel era.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close