Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Busy Doing Nothing

Began a gloomy morning with Christopher Robin. The only human in the Hundred Acre Woods has barely said good-bye to Pooh and the others for the last time when he's packed off to boarding school. He does marry the lovely Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and has a daughter with her, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), but also goes through a harrowing stint in the Army in World War II. When he returns, he takes a job with Winslow Luggage that requires him to be in the office more than he's at home. He's considering packing Madeline off to boarding school, an idea she hates. His obnoxious boss Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss) insists that he has to cut his department by 20 percent by the end of the weekend. Stressed, he turns down a trip with his wife and daughter to do work.

Meanwhile, Pooh is upset when he can't find any of his friends and goes to London to look for Christopher Robin. Christopher is shocked when his childhood teddy bear turns up craving honey and begging him to return. He takes him back to Sussex and to the Hundred Acre Woods, where he does find the others and convinces them that he's really their old friend. He still has that presentation to make, though. When he accidentally leaves some important papers behind, Madeline and the stuffed animals go after him, determined to prove just how important childhood and "doing nothing" is.

This was such a sweet story. Maybe it's because I love the Winnie the Pooh franchise and teddy bears, but I really enjoyed this one. While the CGI Pooh and Hundred Acre Woods characters occasionally looked too uncanny, the visual effects were mostly handled very well - this movie was just nominated for an Oscar for its visual effects. Atwell, MacGregor, and Carmichael all play off them very well. Cummings reprises his Pooh and Tigger from the cartoons beautifully, and Brad Garrett makes an especially funny Eeyore. I just wish the story wasn't so cliched. The idea of a man rediscovering his childhood and his innocence has been done dozens of times before.

(In some ways, it reminded me a bit of Mary Poppins Returns. Troubled man who was once an imaginative child living in mid-20th-century London rekindles his creativity, revives his relationship with his family, and regains his home or job with the help of a fantasy character from his youth and the elderly owner of the company/bank, complete with elaborate special effects and a big action sequence in the finale. They're both based around Disney adaptations from the 1960's that remain beloved by Baby Boomers to this day. It also brought other semi-dark re imaginings of classic fantasy tales like the 2010 Alice In Wonderland to mind.)

If you're a fan of MacGregor or the Winnie the Pooh franchise like I am, you'll want to take a trip to the Hundred Acre Woods and check this one out - whether you're an adult, a kid, or a child at heart.

Headed out to work as soon as the movie ended. I got stuck in the register on and off all day. We were more steady than busy, but we were also short on help - there were three call-outs. The baggers are now supposed to take a big, wide broom and sweep around the store every hour on the hour, and log it in on the check-in system. I did it once, but when I tried to do it again, I was told they wanted someone else to do it. That was fine. I had no problems spending the rest of the day outside. While the carts weren't that bad, the trash and recycling were. At least it was much warmer than it has been, a far more normal-for-January lower-mid 40's.

Worked on some writing when I got home. As Han takes the carriage through Sherwood Forest, he finally asks Leia why Vader's willing to kill for the message on Artoo's collar. Turns out he delivered a note indicating that King Bail has been captured in Austria and Prince Palpatine refuses to pay a ransom. Han says that he won't get involved with any of it...just as they come across a group of people who won't let them pass over a bridge...

Ran two episodes of The Muppet Show as I made chicken stir-fry for dinner, both from the first season. The first was in honor of comedienne Kaye Ballard, who passed away today. She joined the giant Muppet monster Thog for a song and dance (in a ridiculous pink ruffled dress that was almost as big as Thog), but didn't appreciate Piggy's scene-stealing during her musical instrument number in the finale or that the Electric Mayhem walk out because they don't think the theme song is hip enough. Another famous stage star, Ethel Merman, appeared just a few episodes earlier. The Muppets may belong to a "Mutual Admiration Society," but Merman's more worried about dealing with Animal. She does help cheer up Fozzie after his short agent proves to be no help in negotiating his non-existent contract.

Finished the night with the story of another type of Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro. Tyrone Power is the famous Masked Avenger of California in this 1940 retelling, with Basil Rathbone and Eugene Pallatte once again playing the evil lawman and the jolly friar respectively. Montagu Love is Don Diego's father, who is disgusted with his son's seemingly foppish behavior. Linda Darnell is Power's love interest, gentle Lolita Quintaro; Gale Sondergaard plays her flirtatious mother. Power and Rathbone have a brief but exciting sword fight in the finale.

As much as I like Power's version, I'm even fonder of the silent Mark of Zorro from 1920. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. plays the dashing Masked Avenger maquerading as a courtly fop in his first of many swashbucklers he made in the 20's. Though it's shorter and less elaborate than his Robin Hood, it also moves faster and has far more action. Check out the sequence in the beginning where he fights a whole group of men at once!

The Mark of Zorro (1920 silent)

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