In July of 2003, the unthinkable happened. Disney Pictures released a film based on a theme park ride that was not only a smash hit, it was also pretty darn good. Telling a fanciful tale of cursed Aztec gold, wicked undead pirate scallywags, a reluctant hero straight out of Joseph Campbell, the love of his life, and Johnny Depp wearing eyeliner, this was a movie that captured the imaginations of audiences around the world. Being a young impressionable high school student at the time of its release, I found myself returning to the theaters to see it numerous times. I was living in a beach town for the summer, working a shit job, and the old moviehouse that showed one movie a night kept bringing it back due to its popularity. It was the first movie I can recall going to over and over because of how much fun it was. It had set out to turn a theme park ride into a movie, but in reality they had just made a movie that was like a theme park ride in how it moved. It had ups and downs, twists and turns, and at the end left you wanting to do it all over again.
Disney is no dummy when it comes to making money, so when the film was clearly a huge success; it was clear what had to be done. Sequels, and plenty of them. Disney green lit two sequels almost immediately, and after some discussion, it was decided that these two entries in what would be a trilogy would be shot back to back. This would be one of the few Hollywood franchises to do this (along with Back to the Future and The Matrix)
To most, I am a film nerd. I go to film school, I work at an art house theater, I am often seen taking in the latest big movie at the local megaplex, and I write for a few movie sites, including this fine establishment now. This however isn’t the full picture of me. If you were to ask anyone who really knows me, they might tell you that I am also a Theme Park nut. It’s true. I prefer the term “enthusiast” but I digress. Since my first trip to Walt Disney World at the age of six, I was hooked on the concept of a place you could go and escape into highly themed lands of entertainment and adventure. My main passion is for Disney World, because you never forget your first, but since then I’ve come to enjoy places like Universal Studios and others as well.
Of course, these days, movies and theme parks go together like cookies and cream, especially at movie themed parks like Universal, Disney’s Hollywood Studio, WB Movie World, and parts of Six Flags, so it’s no wonder my two hobbies come together in such wonderful style. This has inspired me to take a look at movies that are inspired by theme parks. I am going to start with probably the most popular and famous of all, the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
Categories: Cinema Articles, Good, Movies Tags: Adventureland, Alan Silvestri, Disney World, Disneyland, Geoffrey Rush, Gore Verbinski, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Hans Zimmer, its a small world, Jay Wolpert, Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp, Klaus Baldet, New Orleans Square, Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean, Stuart Beattie, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Walt Disney
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Written by Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
Directed by Benh Zeitlin
It may not be the best film of the year (though close!), but Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of those films that makes loving cinema great. An epic quest set against a backdrop of a unique and dying culture that exists outside but alongside our modern world, Beasts evokes wonder, tragedy, poverty, desperate struggle, and hope.
Beasts builds a believable world, sets up a culture of people and a believable lifestyle. The Cajun bayou living off the land is a way people do live in remote Gulf areas. Heck, some of them even have reality shows like Swamp’d! The denizens of the Bathtub live in an area full of life. Living things are all around them, the swamp is full of critters and plants, everyone has animals (dogs, chickens, pigs…) and there is always a harvest of shrimp or crab or fish freshly caught just a few seconds ago.
But the Bathtub exists with the Sword of Damocles dangling overhead. The whole area is below sea level, and on the other side of a huge levee built to keep out the water. The constant reminder is the ice caps are starting to melt, and eventually the Bathtub will be underwater. Part of why the residents are so carefree and celebratory is the spirit that the world may soon be gone. But the other reason is they have little else to do but get drunk and party. The houses are all run down and crumbling away, the clothes are all raggedy, and most people speak with slurred speech while clutching a bottle. As we see things as Hushpuppy sees them, we see her joy and her fun and the firecrackers, we hear the music and it makes us feel free and fun. But you also see the grit behind the shine. The joy in the music helps give things a lighter air, the songs lifting things up, they are as full of life as the film, as the Bathtub.
Let the Bullets Fly
aka 讓子彈飛 aka Rang zidan fei
Written by Jiang Wen, Jue So-Chun, Shu Ping, Guo Jun-Li, and Wei Xiao
Directed by Jiang Wen
An Eastern Western set during the 1920s warring states period of China, where greed, exploitation, and violence were all too common. But it is dark times as those where heroes emerge, heroes that don’t fit the spandex-wearing definition of the word, but heroes that are real people who come in to solve big problems. Let the Bullets Fly sets the hero loose, with his own set of morals and convictions, and he pushes back against those who would stand in the way of his freedom.
Based on a book by Ma Shitu, Let the Bullets Fly features action, adventure, and revolutionary language. It is a minor power struggle against the backdrop of larger power struggles. We see how the struggles of life affect all levels, from important businessmen to government officials to the criminal underclass to the village peasants.
After a train robbery, Pocky Zhang’s band of “noble” bandits con their way into an unsuspecting town posing as the new appointed governor. But the town is controlled by a ruthless businessman who is used to running things his way as the townspeople suffer. Zhang isn’t about to take crap from anyone, setting into motion a war between to different types of criminals with two radically different philosophies.
So the Apocalypse happened back in 1999. I know, you probably missed it; I know I did. But it happened, and Los Angeles split from the continent by the fault line and was hit by a plague. By some strange voodoo, this resulted in the remnants of the city becoming entrenched in a mix of medieval pageantry and ninja violence.
Well, if any post-apocalyptic city is going to devolve into a bad action movie, they’re right, L.A. would be the place.