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Cinematic Releases: Cruella (2021) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1063 days ago on Entertainment - Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures As the Disney machine presses onward with their impetus to remake each and every animated property of theirs into a live action shot-for-shot repeat with absolutely no risks or new directions tried out, something strange happened with the arrival of I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie’s Cruella.  A prequel of sorts to the 101 Dalmatians films from 1961 as well as the live action films from 1996 and 2000 starring Glenn Close in the titular role of the villainess, comes as a shock from a company ordinarily known for committee meddling and wiping out any and all traces of an original personality behind the camera.   After delivering their divisive remakes of The Lion King and Aladdin, the Disney company alas has wisely kept out of the way and allowed Gillespie to fashion their boldest and most confident live action picture of the last decade, a film with a sharp fanged attitude, gifted central performances and a unique new look at one of the Disney machine’s most iconic supervillains.  Starring Emma Stone as the title character Estella Miller (Cruella de Vil her soon-to-be alter ego), a brilliant but rebellious pickpocket turned fashion designer who along with her partners in crime Jasper (Joel Fry from In the Earth) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) soon crosses paths with the conniving Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), the leader of an elite London fashion house who may or may not have had something to do with the death of Cruella’s mother. From start to finish, with the black-and-white company intro as the blood red Disney logo forms over the castle, Cruella like its feisty antiheroine is bold and means to shake things up.  Commanded by a striking central performance from Emma Stone who is likely to cop an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of one of Disney’s most cunning and frightening villains. Up against her is an equally dangerous Emma Thompson who poses the biggest challenge to Cruella’s upending of contemporary Britain with her increasingly flamboyant antics showing her fashion world up. Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures The first thing that catches the viewer is the soundtrack which consists of largely British pop and punk rock of the 1960s and 70s including but not limited to The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, The Clash, Deep Purple, Electric Light Orchestra, Queen and Blondie.  Yes it has an original score by Nicholas Britell but mostly it takes a backseat to the film’s use of preexisting rock and roll tracks.  Take for instance a standout sequence, shot in rough handheld photography, where Cruella literally comes out on display in a rock concert number.  It’s an electrifying sequence with a jagged edge unbecoming of most Disney projects but as such is a welcome breath of fresh air for the company.  You simply don’t get Disney movies that rock out like this one does. Then there’s the production design by Fiona Crombie coupled with the film’s brilliant costume design by Jenny Beavan and Tom Davies, recreating London, England from a bygone era as Cruella comes out again and again with an impossible array of stunning costumes which take Great Britain by storm.  Visually the film is brilliantly realized by I, Tonya director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis, capturing the gloomy yet romantic allure of London while also presenting a rougher than usual aesthetic which will surely remind some viewers of Todd Phillips’ Joker.   The first live-action Disney film in years to step outside of the box and dare to do something different for a change is one of the very best live action pictures the company has put out in a long time.  With a gifted leading performance from Emma Stone, a killer soundtrack and a whole new outlook on one of Disney’s most unforgettable villainesses, Cruella is fresh, bold and an absolute blast to behold!  Courtesy of Walt Disney PicturesAt a time when the Disney company began drawing criticism for stagnant nostalgic retreads of the past, here at long last is one which looks sharply in the opposite direction with footings in the past but with a whole new vision for one of Disney’s greatest characters, evil or not.  Films this good from the Disney machine are rare things of beauty.--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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