Posts Tagged ‘Channing Tatum’

If bending to the will of North Korea wasn’t bad enough, it looks like Sony also likes bending over backwards to appease the male movie-going audience of crybabies who see an all-women cast for the Ghostbusters reboot as a threat to the time-honored tradition of busting ghosts. Clearly the lady-folk donning unlicensed nuclear accelerators is most unorthodox and ghostbusters-castcannot be tolerated by polite society.

As reported by Deadline, Sony has given the greenlight for director/writer/producer Ivan Reitman and actor/writer Dan Aykroyd to form a subsidiary production company, Ghostcorps, that will focus explicitly on developing Ghostbusters related properties and merchandising. First on the docket is another Ghostbusters movie slated to immediately follow director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids) 2016 reboot staring Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. This sequel (?) already has Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Solider) on board to direct following their first-look deal with Sony as well as Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Mission: Impossible 5) tapped to write the script and Channing Tatum on board to produce and, most likely, star per the pitch uncovered during the Sony hack.

Reitman further explained how the films will kick off the new Ghostbusters franchise to Deadline:

Paul Feig’s film will be the first version of that, shooting in June to come out in July, 2016. He’s got four of the funniest women in the world, and there will be other surprises to come. The second film has a wonderful idea that builds on that. Drew will start writing and the hope is to be ready for the Russo Brothers’ next window next summer to shoot, with the movie coming out the following hear. It’s just the beginning of what I hope will be a lot of wonderful movies.

Ghostbuster-Lady-ThumbThe key to comedy is (pause for effect) timing. So it’s really mind-boggling that Reitman and Aykroyd, two people known primarily for their comedic ventures, would have the inability to understand how poorly timed their deal with Sony truly is. Look, I’m all for expanding the Ghostbusters world. The premise is solid regardless of the cast, but I’m not the only one who sees how suspicious it is that Ghostcorps was announced in conjunction with the film following the all-women cast. World building is important to a burgeoning franchise, especially one with a 30-year gap, but this announcement feels exclusionary to Feig’s Ghostbusters. It also reeks of panic in response to the vocal minority of dudes who took to social media with their complaints about the reboot and the female leads while the tiniest violin played in the background. Not helping is the fact that Reitman and Aykroyd’s involvement lends greater legitimacy to the film starring Tatum and puts the movie-going audience in the position of creating a gendered dichotomy between the films. The kicker being that Feig’s Ghostbusters will most likely be referenced in the news as the all-female Ghostbusters while the Russo Brothers film will just be referred to as The Ghostbusters because Hollywood is stuck in the male-as-default mentality.a886df9e392dba27a9dd27225c748b56

Seriously, I wouldn’t be opposed to a Channing Tatum, and possibly Chris Pratt, starring followup if the studio had either announced Ghostcorps along with Feig’s reboot or waited until maybe the film was further along in production before throwing another one into the mix. It sends a message that the studio lacks confidence in Feig’s film and it’s disappointing that, as it stands, Wiig, McCarthy, Jones, and McKinnon won’t get to just be The Ghostbusters. It’s always going to come with the caveat of the female Ghostbusters despite the fact that women hold the same love and nostalgia for the original movies as men. Women cosplay as Ghostbusters, read the comics, and watch the cartoons, but you know what women haven’t really had in regards to busting ghosts? Representation on film. That’s what it all comes down to. Sure, a team of men and women would be great in future films, but having a full team of women in an action/horror/comedy sends another message about who can lead a film, the openness of multiple genres, and the strength of thoughtful world building.

Like I said:

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Oh, Jupiter Ascending, you had such high aspirations and yet you failed so badly at achieving anything short of “so bad it’s good” status as a movie. It’s unfortunate too when you consider the latest high-concept space-opera wannabe movie from the Jupiter AscendingWachowski siblings is the only main stream release film to come out this year that isn’t an adaptation, sequel, or reboot of an existing property. Unfortunately, originality is the only thing going for it as the movie slogs around from beautiful set piece to beautiful set piece with no rhyme or reason given to the actual plot or developing any of the characters beyond their archetypal role. But I can tell you right now it’s the most fun you’ll have at the movies until Age of Ultron comes out in May!

For the curious: Jupiter Ascending is about the titular Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Russian-born immigrant working as a cleaning lady in Chicago, who finds out she’s the genetic reincarnation of the deceased matriarch of the Abraxas family – an intergalactic dynasty and corporation of millennia old humans who’re responsible for “seeding” the Earth. The discovery of her new-found regality, which comes with ownership of the Earth, puts Jupiter in the middle of an economic power play between the three children of the late mommy Abraxas with Earth serving as the brass ring for all parties involved. The oldest of the siblings, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), however, is more than ready to “harvest” the Earth – cull the population to make a goo-like regenerative serum from human genetic material – if it means keeping the planet, and it’s profits, out of everyone else’s hands. Oh, and Channing Tatum plays a human/wolf hybrid named Caine who’s basically there to continually save Jupiter and fly around on his fancy gravity-defying boots.

jupiter-ascending-_23-jpgSo where did the movie go wrong? Well, just about every aspect of the film is problematic. Some of these problems are clearly the result of the film’s delayed release by Warner Bros. from July 2014 to February 2015 for reshoots and an extended post-production schedule. It’s understandable that the studio might be concerned with another high-concept science fiction movie from the Wachowskis considering their last foray, Cloud Atlas, was only saved from being a financial bomb by the international box office. Add to that the popularity of recent sci-fi action hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and, to a lesser extent, Edge of Tomorrow, and it’s not surprising that the studio would set aside pseudo-philosophical exposition and world-building in favor of what’s proven popular to audiences. That’s what Hollywood does.

The result of such late demands and changes, however. is a movie that’s edited within an inch of its life. The first act suffers the most from these edits. The choppy exposition and lack of transitional scenes only serve to introduce characters quickly and push the plot forward so they can get to the next action piece. For example, Jupiter, in need of money to buy an expensive telescope, decides to sell her eggs to a medical facility. While she’s in the waiting room fidgeting nervously, the nurse calls her name and the immediate scene following is Jupiter being put under anesthesia and fighting against the nurses while groggily 1401886372_jupiter-ascending-467saying she’s changed her mind. There’s no scene of Jupiter getting prepped for the procedure or watching as the nurses set out their instruments, nothing that would make her uneasy and lead to doubts. It’s a lazy cut from nervous to full on fighting against the overly insistent nursing staff all for the explicit purpose of getting Caine into the operating room to save Jupiter from assassins faster. I’m not kidding that the movie hinges on Jupiter being kidnapped or handed off from one crazy Abraxas sibling to the next so she can be put in a position where Caine has to rescue her, which means pew! pew! pew! BOOM! and scene. Rinse and repeat. When all is said and done, Jupiter is nothing more than the film’s maguffin, or more accurately, the sexy lamp.

Not that anyone in the cast comes off that much better. Perhaps there were deleted scenes that fleshed out the characters more, but studio meddling can only be blamed for so much when there are significant structural and character problems that had to have been in the script from the get go. The Wachowskis have previously been criticized for favoring style over substance and it definitely shows in this case. Jupiter is the damsel in distress with no significant wants, needs, or motivation after learning she’s essentially Queen of the Universe. Not even the bare minimum of effort is put into making her remotely interesting and it doesn’t help that Kunis’ go-to reaction to everything is just “meh”. Presented with a new dump of exposition or yet another inconvenient kidnapping, Jupiter takes it all in with about the same amount of emotional heft you’d find from Twilight’s Bella Swan.

Jupiter marriageUnlike Edward and Bella, Caine and Jupiter at least have some chemistry, which is mostly due to Tatum’s natural charm since he’s given very little to work with as a the brooding, tortured, and misunderstood hybrid soldier with a chip on his shoulder where royalty is concerned. SO TORTURED! All of this so there can be some sort of class conflict to serve as romantic tension between the literal dog soldier and the low-born turned royal special snowflake. The three Abraxas siblings don’t have much to offer beyond what you’d expect from warring elites with mommy issues. Redmayne’s Balem rasps and whispers his dialogue in an attempt to be more interesting than his cartoonish, Oedipal tyrant role will allow; Douglas Booth’s Titus is the hedonist looking to steal some of the profits from his brother; and Tuppence Middleton’s Kalique, though the least threatening, is perfectly happy to play Glinda the Good Witch to the whole proceedings by using Jupiter as a proxy saboteur. The only believable relationship in the entire movie is between Caine and Stinger (Sean Bean), and that mostly consists of punching, betrayal, and motivational speeches – though not necessarily in that order.

The awesomely awful final product, however, is still one of the most entertaining movies to come out amid the Oscar-baiting drudgery in theaters right now. Even when it’s trying to be super serious, Jupiter Ascending comes off as goofy craziness and I love it for that! The smallest detail, like character names, produces a loving groan of “Really?” from me. Bean’s Stinger is a human/bee hybrid, get it? Caine is part dog, Get It? There’s a human/elephant hybrid named Nesh, GET IT?! Obvious names are obvious! The dialogue is either overly heavy-handed or so amazingly cheesy you’re not sure how the actors managed to say their lines with a straight face. It’s a movie that wants to be grandiose in its execution but for every huge effects shot of a space ship riddled with decadent golden statues there’s an obvious green screen moment of Channing Tatum trying to make faketerry gilliam skating with Kunis riding piggyback look cool. It’s not cool, it’s hilarious especially if you think about Tatum miming skating while making faces for the slo-mo shot. Even as I typed that sentence I started laughing to myself. And the Brazil-inspired bureaucracy sequence (complete with Terry Gilliam cameo) was priceless in its complete disregard for what the film had previously established in tone and style. Oh, Jupiter Ascending, never change!

Actually, I’d like to see the shooting script for Jupiter Ascending or, at the very least, I hope the Wachowskis put out a Director’s Cut of the film. I’m curious about what was so obviously cut from the movie and whether or not it would make the story better or add to the insanity. I know the Wachowskis don’t like to put out alternate cuts, or do commentary, but I think Jupiter Ascending would only benefit because to say that that the film is a hot mess is a bit disingenuous. For all of the special effects and fast-paced action sequences, there are some interesting ideas and valiant attempts at world-building going on throughout the film. Maybe the Wachowskis were too ambitious or overreaching, but I’d rather filmmakers were too ambitious and failed than played it safe and succeeded. Hollywood, unfortunately, doesn’t see it that way. I’m confident though that despite its poor performance in theaters, Jupiter Ascending will reach cult status when the DVDs and Blu-Rays come out. And I look forward to the movie nights that follow.

So, have you seen Jupiter Ascending? What did you think?

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This year marked the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, which first premiered on June 1, 1984. Strangely enough, this is also the year that’s seen the most traction on the much rumored, only dreamed about, and highly divisive continuation of the 212992-ghostbustersfranchise. While many fans of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, have longed for a third installment in the supernatural undertakings of New York’s finest paranormal experts, getting the movie off the ground has been a long and arduous process. The biggest hurdle in getting a third film made was the apparent lack of interest on the part of co-stars Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as well as director Ivan Reitman. Considering the cast and crew were essentially pressured into making the sequel by Columbia Pictures in 1989, it’s not surprising that there would be some hesitancy in making a third.

Plans to revive the franchise have been bandied about for over two decades with interest waxing and waning depending on popular trends in Hollywood and the state of the film industry itself. The project appeared to be moving forward in 2010 when Reitman announced he’d be directing and that Murray, Ramis, and Aykroyd would make cameos in order to pass on the torch to the next generation of Ghostbusters. The death of Harold Ramis in February of this year, however, followed by Reitman dropping out of directing a month later seemed to be the last straw for the franchise. With the need for nostalgia-fueled movies running high, was a third film even worth attempting if Ramis was gone, Murray a probable no-show, and Reitman backing off to produce rather than direct?

ghostbusters3The fact that Ghostbusters III is now a highly anticipated reality speaks to the franchise’s viability. With Reitman taking a back seat as the director, it was announced in October that Paul Feig would take over those duties, adding that he intended to make the next movie about an all-female team of Ghostbusters with screenwriter Katie Dippold. Neither Feig nor Dippold are strangers to projects with hilarious women – the two worked together on the buddy cop comedy The Heat (2013) starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Prior to that Feig gained critical acclaim with Bridesmaids (2011), featuring an all-female cast of comedic actresses, while Dippold cut her writing chops on MADtv and Parks and Recreation. Their comedic backgrounds in sketch, improv, film, and television make them highly qualified to take over the reins of a huge comedic franchise that includes cartoons, video games, and comic books.

The only sticking point is Feig and Dippold’s plan to turn Ghostbusters III into a hard reboot, starting from scratch instead of building off of the first two films. Feig told Entertainment Weekly:PaulFeig_KatieDippold-585x424

I had lunch with [Sony Pictures co-chairman] Amy Pascal when I got back to town. She was just saying, gosh, nobody wants to do this. I said, yeah, it’s really hard to take that on, especially since it’s 25 years later. how do you come back into a world that’s had these ghosts and all this? It just felt too difficult. How do you do it and not screw it up? But then it was bugging me for the next few days because Ghostbusters is such a great thing and everybody knows it, and it’s such a great world. It’s a shame to just let this thing sit there. I want to see another one. My favorite thing to do is work with funny women. I was like, what if it was an all female cast? If they were all women?  Suddenly, my mind kind of exploded: that would be really fun. And then I thought, well, what if we just make it new? It’s not coming into the world that existed before. It’s always hard if the world has gone through this big ghost attack, how do you do it again? I wanted to come into our world where there’s talk of ghosts but they’re not really credible, and so what would happen in our world if this happened today?

 

gb33-ghostbusters-3-dream-cast-kristen-wiig-and-emma-stoneThere are pros and cons to this approach. On the one hand, I can totally see why rebooting the property and starting from scratch works to Feig and Dippold’s advantage. If the movie functions as it’s own thing, removed from the previous films, then it gives them the ability to establish their own rules as to how the paranormal works in a modern day setting. It also sets a new tone for possible sequels going forward that would allow them to do more world-building, making the movies as funny and scary as they want without having to stay true to what came before. Their Ghostbusters would be “spiritual” successors to Reitman’s in that the general premise would remain the same while giving them the freedom to branch out with their own brand of Ghostbusters.

On the other hand, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II never concretely established the mechanics of the paranormal, so it would still be possible for Feig and Dippold to establish their new team of Ghostbusters while building off of the first two films. Yes, the tone of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II was mostly lighthearted fun with a few freaky moments, but in the thirty years since Gozer tried to destroy the world and Vigo tried to possess a baby, there’s plenty of room to explore how the world has adjusted to ghosts being a thing and whether or not the Ghostbusters have thrived or faltered.

That’s why I feel like there’s more potential in at least keeping the next Ghostbusters film in the same reality as the first and second. One of the charms of the first film was the idea of treating ghosts like vermin, something that needed to be exterminated with the Ghostbusters taking on the role of blue collar working stiffs who just happen to take them out with highly unstable proton packs. The simplicity of the premise is how easy it would be to introduce new characters into the world.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Ghostbusters, in-universe, have expanded their business to other cities outside of New York, recruiting young, eager scientists, engineers, and your typical blue collar types in the same vein as police and fire departments. Depending on your team, there are plenty of ways to introduce the new characters. If Peter Venkman had a local tv show in New York, it’s not out of the question that one of the new Ghostbusters, or all of them, watched his show as children. cartoon ghostbustersRay owned a bookstore, so someone could have been a former employee. Maybe others took classes from Egon in college. Hell, Winston could have taken over the business himself, acting like the beleaguered captain to a bunch of newbie Ghostbusters. Or it could simply be a case of having characters who want to bag ghosts. Look at the plethora of “ghost hunting” reality tv shows; the paranormal is of definite interest to the viewing public and I could see a Ghostbusters parody of those reality shows, only this time the ghosts are proven to be real and the ‘Busters are cashing in on the trend.

Of course, the same parody could occur in a universe where the Ghostbusters are reintroduced via reboot. While trying to be “ghost hunters” a la the tv shows, a group of female scientists and enthusiasts discover real ghosts, which leads them down the path to becoming Ghostbusters. So, yes, it’s possible for in-universe and new universe explanations, but I still like the idea of one of the new Busters being such a fangirl for Venkman’s show that she went into paranormal studies because of him.

Ghostbusters is a franchise made to be updated as new teams are introduced. Dan Aykroyd definitely sees the same potential in the franchise, telling Dennis Miller on The Dennis Miller Show in 2011 that:

What we have to remember is that ‘Ghostbusters’ is bigger than any one component…The concept is much larger than any individual role and the promise of Ghostbusters III is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood.

enhanced-30907-1410210614-1The “new blood” in question may be actresses like Kristin Wiig, Emma Stone, Melissa McCarthy, Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Lawrence, and Amy Schumer. But the recently leaked emails from Sony reveals another possible spin-off starring Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt, with the Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) producing, that could turn the Ghostbusters franchise into a multi-movie spanning universe where various teams from around the country, or the world, join together to defeat a major threat.

Yes, I know it’s wishful thinking, but in the post-Avengers world of movie making, I guarantee you the thought has crossed the mind of at least one executive at Sony. Anything that can be turned into a franchise of movies with tie-in comics, tv shows, and toy lines is ripe for the picking. So, yeah, DREAM BIG! And much like J.J. Abrams taking on Star Wars VII, Ghostbusters will be in the hands of a director and writer intent on honoring what came before while still pushing forward. There’s also a whole generation of actors who are passionate about being involved in the project because they grew up with the movies. As daunting as the task is to “get it right”, it’s also not about reinventing the wheel. Ghostbusters lends itself to finding new angles of storytelling within a familiar setting. All you need is a team, cool gadgets, some humor, and a lot of ghosts!

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But what are your thoughts on Ghostbusters III? Should they work within the already established universe or branch out on their own? Who would be your dream team of female Ghostbusters?

The Book of Life

When you walk out of a movie, any movie, smiling it’s definitely a win, but after the end of writer/director Jorge Gutierrez’s The Book of Life not only was I smiling, I was practically vibrating with anticipation for a sequel because I honestly didn’t want to leave the world of San Angel. There’s a lot to be said for the cultural landscape of animation when you find yourself crying out, “Yes! More of THAT!” because The Book of Life shows us just how much we’re missing out on, how many stories have gone untold. It took Gutierrez fifteen years to get the film made, and those years worth of passion and love for his home country shows in the vibrant, kinetic, and joyous story that is unrelenting in its dedication to throwing the windows wide open on what it means to be Mexican. The Book of Life is Gutierrez’s – and by extension producer Guillermo Del Toro’s – love letter to Mexico and Mexican culture via the celebration of one of the country’s most revered holidays.

Celebrated from October 31st – November 2nd, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is the embodiment of Mexican culture as families gather in remembrance of their deceased loved ones by building altars and leaving offerings around their graves. But it’s not a somber affair by any means. Music, food, and colorful decorations ensure that death is not something to be feared but is a natural part of life. And it’s through the rituals of the holiday that Mexicans strengthen familial bonds and remain spiritually connected, keeping the memories of those they’ve lost alive. The Book of Life honors those themes while crafting a beautiful fairy tale that will most definitely cast a long shadow over subsequent animated films.

Reading the BookWhen a group of rowdy children show up at a museum, they’re greeted by the unfazed Mary Beth (Christina Applegate) who, in celebration of the Day of the Dead, shows them the Book of Life, which contains all the great stories of Mexico. She relates one in particular, using a set of carved dolls to tell the story of Maria, Manolo, and Joaquin. In the town of San Angel, the three children are playing among the gravestones during Dia de los Muertos when La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), ruler of the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba (Ron Perlman), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, make a wager about which of the two boys Maria will marry. If Xibalba wins and Joaquin marries Maria, he gets to rule the Land of the Remembered, but if La Muerte wins and Manolo marries Maria, then Xibalba will have to leave the humans alone.

Unbeknownst to La Muerte, Xibalba gifts a young Joaquin with a medallion that will make him invulnerable, which he realizes soon after when Maria frees a bunch of pigs from being slaughtered and he effortlessly defends her and the town from an angry boar. Manolo is no slouch either, revealing his gift as a matador to stop the beast and save the little pig Maria sought to free. Angered at his daughter’s feisty and unladylike sensibilities, General Posada (Carlos Alazraqui) sends Maria to Spain to be educated. Before she leaves, Maria gets a final goodbye with her friends, gifting Manolo a new guitar inscribed with the phrase, “Always play from your heart.” Manolo gifts her the little pig, Chewie (also Carlos Alazraqui), and promises to wait for her. Joaquin, lacking a present, vows to always fight for her as the train speeds away.

Years later, Manolo (Diego Luna) has been trained by his father, Carlos Sanchez (Hector Elizondo) to be a bullfighter like his ancestors before him, including his grandmother, though his true desire is playing guitar with his mariachi friends. Joaquin (Channing Tatum), thanks to the medallion, has become a great soldier and hero like his father before him, returning to San Angel the same day as Maria (Zoe Saldana) returns from Spain. The two men both vy for her love and her hand in marriage, but when Xibalba believes he’s losing the bet he makes sure Manolo isn’t even a contender. From there it’s a race for Manolo to return to the Concept Artliving world to be with Maria again and save the town from the dreaded bandit Chakal (Dan Navarro) who’s out to get his medallion back.

The story itself is actually quite simple. While there’s a lot of window dressing with gods, realms, and world-shattering consequences, it really boils down to being true to yourself – a common premise in family films. But through the lens of The Book of Life being true to yourself, standing up for what you think is right and what you believe in – whether it’s defending your town from banditos or choosing the guitar over the sword – is what solidifies how we are remembered. Both Joaquin and Manolo live in the shadows of their family legacies and in trying to live up to those standards they ultimately set the stage for the chaos that follows. Maria, in contrast, is very aware of who she is and it’s her encouragement and love that leads the two friends down their desired paths. She too has a legacy to uphold and she proves herself to be every bit the leader the Posadas desire. Not only is this a hero’s journey, it’s the journey of an entire community.

The simplicity of the story allows for the film to revel in the culture of Mexico, using the bright colors, energetic music, and stunning art to build the worlds of the living and the dead. Jorge Gutierrez has been quoted saying that he wanted the film to look as beautiful as the art book for an animated film looks and my God did Reel FX Creative Studios deliver. The settings are grand and gorgeous and the designs of the characters are distinct and wonderfully original. Because Mary Beth is using carved figures to tell the story, the people of San Angel look like wooden figures, which shows in the angular build of the characters and the static movement of hair and clothes. The designs, however, don’t limit the characters or the settings. In fact, the choice to tell the story through doll-like figures allows for more detail. The many medals on Joaquin’s uniform, the intricate carvings in Manolo’s guitar, as well as La Muerte’s catrina visage and Xibalba’s Aztecan armor all invite closer scrutiny. You should want to press your face to the screen in order to take it all in.

La Muerte and XibalbaThe cast alone should be reason enough to see the film. Other reviews I’ve read have claimed Channing Tatum’s performance stands out the most and I’m inclined to agree. It isn’t hard to see where the story is going and who Maria will end up with, but Tatum’s Joaquin never lacks personality despite being the overconfident jock to Manolo’s sensitive musician. There’s a surprising amount of depth to his character and Tatum does a wonderful job of capturing Joaquin’s arrogance as well as his deep love and affection for Maria and Manolo. Diego Luna and Zoe Saldana aren’t slackers by any means. Luna’s Manolo is charming, mischievous, and lovable. There’s a believable earnestness and sincerity about the character that is entirely Luna’s making. And Saldana’s Maria is more than just the pretty love interest. She’s a capable woman with a mind of her own and she isn’t afraid to speak out when she’s offended. But she also knows how to have fun, sporting a laugh that’s delightfully infectious. However, I’d have to say that Kate del Castillo and Ron Perlman steal the movie for me as La Muerte and Xibalba. The characters and their actors have great chemistry, bickering like an old married couple (which they are) that just happen to be otherworldly gods. Both possess fiery tempers, literally, but both are just as easily soothing and calming. I mean, it’s Ron Perlman. C’mon! Filling out the cast are fantastic actors like Cheech Marin, Gabriel Iglesias, Danny Trejo, Grey DeLisle, Miguel Sandoval, Placido Domingo, and Ice Cube as The Candle Maker.

Like the designs and the brilliant color palette, the music in The Book of Life is just as important in telling the story and shows how specific cultural influences can affect songs and their meaning. The soundtrack to The Book of Life is mostly pop songs, sung by the actors, ranging from Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” to Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”. It’s an eclectic mix of songs with two originals written by Paul Williams and Gustavo Santaolalla. At first I was a bit put off by the jukebox musical unfolding and, to be honest, I’m still not certain Radiohead’s “Creep” was the most appropriate song for a film like this, but I give a huge amount of credit to Santaolalla for the movie’s score and the fusion of Latin American music and pop songs. Though the audience seeing the film may not be of Hispanic, Latin American, or Mexican descent, music is a shared language and many of us remember these songs, which gives audiences a THE BOOK OF LIFEcommon ground through which to relate to the story and the characters. There are also little pieces of music that show Santaolalla’s cleverness, like the nuns singing “Adios, Maria” in the style of “Ave Maria” or the use of Kinky’s “Más” whenever Joaquin goes into super soldier mode. It’s a soundtrack and score that has a distinct identity, something that other animated films tend to lack.

Hopefully The Book of Life will become a classic of the holiday season because it deserves the attention of children, parents, and really any fan of animation. It’s a cultural celebration of life and death, bringing families and friends together to remember the ones we love and giving us all permission to “play from the heart.”