By October 19, 2014 Read More →

MovieView: “The Book of Life”

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The Book of Life, produced by Guillermo del Toro, written and directed by Jorge Gutierrez (with fellow screenwriter Doug Langdale), voiced the talents of Channing Tatum (Joaquin), Zoe Saldana (Maria), and Diego Luna (Manolo).

Although marketed as a children’s movie, adults of any age will enjoy it, too. It is full of laughs, life lessons and love. The three lead characters certainly have relateable problems. Each has their own dreams to pursue, but are pressured to follow the paths their parents have paved for them. They must discover their own destiny by determining how they can make their families proud, while finding their own happiness.
This movie is visually magical. To say it is “alive with color” is an understatement. Oh, it’s colorful alright! It will take you to a place so enchanted, it nearly puts Disney to shame. The characters are intricately fashioned CG marionette-esque dolls, dressed in beautiful clothing reminiscent of ancient Mayans and Aztecs. The cities come to life on screen, and become a character in their own right. The Land of the Remembered looks like a quinceanera cake gone crazy, decorated with cakepops on top of cupcakes, on top of balloons and corporeal love, while the Land of the Forgotten looks like a dried-up and deserted Alice in Wonderland Tim Burton style.

This movie isn’t just pleasing to the eyes, but also the ears. The talented Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams collaborated to re-make the popular “Creep” by Radiohead, “I will wait” by Mumford & Sons, and “Can’t help falling in love” by Elvis Presley. This is easily my favorite rendition of “I will wait”, with its acoustic banjo being plucked energetically but a lovesick Manolo. The Williams-Santaolalla version of “Creep” comes in as second favorite for me, followed after SadKermit’s version. (You can find it on sadkermit.com.) But Santaolalla and Williams don’t just re-write beloved songs in this movie, they have written some snappy new tunes for you as well, such as “The Apology Song”.

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La Muerte and Xibalba

At first I considered this movie a crash course in the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, which takes place between October 31st and November 2nd. I enjoy any movie that sends me on a Googling spree to learn something! After some time researching, I discovered this movie isn’t really about the Day of the Dead. I learned more on the internet in the last hour about the Day of the Dead than I did in 4 years of college. The character La Muerte, who rules the Land of the Remembered, would appear to be a cross between the goddesses and patron saints Santa Muerte and Catrina, deities worshiped in some parts of Mexico and South America. Xibalba on the other hand, who in the movie rules over the Land of the Forgotten, would appear not to be based on a deity, but rather a location. The Mayans believed in a “place of fear” called Xibalba, a hell with several levels. The character The Candle Maker, voiced by Ice Cube, appears to have been created out of thin air (or rather candle wax and clouds) to bridge the gap between the two Lands and Earth, simply for the storyline. Who better to guard the bridge than a hilarious quasi-Mr. T mash-up of the Marshmallow Man? Ice Cube should continue to explore voice acting. He’s pretty good at it.

I’m a big fan of writers who can take creative liberties with a well-accepted story, turn it on its head, and bring to the table a new interpretation of events. (The new “Maleficent” or “Once Upon a Time”, anyone?) The Book of Life did just that, while igniting my interest to learn more about the Mexican, Mayan, and Aztec cultures. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Always up for trying something new. Obsessed with coffee. Loves to sleep. Bring on the rain, and a bottle of Wonky & Wry's Honey Braggot Ale.