Category: Reviews – New Releases

Image courtesy of GKIDS.

**** (out of 4)

At first glance, Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner – the latest release from Ireland’s underappreciated Cartoon Saloon – might just look like a secondhand version of Disney’s Mulan. Like Mulan, Breadwinner’s protagonist, an Afghan named Parvana (Saara Chaudry), is a young, strong-willed woman who doesn’t hide her distaste for traditional gender mores. Like Mulan, moreover, Parvana lives with a family that happens to be short on able-bodied men: her father (Ali Badshah) is crippled, and her younger brother is still an infant. And just as extraordinary circumstances forced Mulan to cross-dress, Parvana decides to disguise herself as a boy after her father is suddenly, inexplicably arrested. Thanks to the Taliban, women in Parvana’s community can’t leave their homes without being whipped and beaten; for Parvana, becoming a guy is the only way she has even the slightest chance at keeping her family alive and whole.

These many apparent similarities, however, eventually make the differences between Mulan and The Breadwinner all the more meaningful.

Reviews - New Releases

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

** (out of 4)

Almost every single Pixar movie features some version of what I like to call a “sentimental family scene” – namely, a scene in which the characters either fondly reminisce of good times gone by (Toy Story 2, Cars, Up, Inside Out) or engage in an extremely emotional reunion or parting (Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Toy Story 3, Brave, The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory). Once upon a time, these moments came on the heels of well-developed stories, and they consequently felt like genuine tributes to the importance of love and companionship. But as the quality of the Pixar brand has declined in recent years, these scenes have gradually grown more repetitive, heavy-handed, and forced. With Toy Story 3, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and Finding Dory, it got to the point where these would-be heartfelt moments simply came off as formulaic, manipulative attempts to make audiences cry.

Without going into spoilers, one can safely say that Pixar’s latest movie, Coco, plays host to multiple sentimental family scenes.

Reviews - New Releases

Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

*** (out of 4)

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

This year’s award for Most Misleading Movie Marketing Campaign goes to whoever was put in charge of publicizing Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. If you were just going by the trailer, you’d think you were in for an inspiring “social justice” movie about a sassy, badass woman (played by the redoubtable Frances McDormand no less) who takes on a group of racist, image-obsessed cops who don’t care about her daughter’s murder. Thanks to the apt insertion of a few images of burning buildings, fistfights, and defenestrations, moreover, McDonagh’s work almost comes off looking like an only slightly less flamboyant spin-off of Kill Bill.

The real Three Billboards is many things – but badass and inspiring certainly aren’t among them.

Reviews - New Releases