THE CAT RETURNS

title

Ladies and gentlemen, all this snow has really done a number on me.  I mean, the subways are running with delays, schools and businesses are closing, and there’s a salt shortage in the city!  Now, I’m not saying my actual schedule of get up, eat, sleep, walk, sleep, sleep, walk, play with things on strings and wires, eat, sleep has changed much, but boy, that guy shoveling the sidewalk outside sure is keeping me up.  Just stop it, already – you’re scaring all the birds on the fire escape away!

Anyway, with all this free time I had not being able to sleep as soundly as I would like, I decided to take in a foreign film.  I chose THE CAT RETURNS, a 2002 Japanese film put out by Studio Ghibli.  Although not directed by Ghibli’s founder, Hayao Miyazaki (best known for SPIRITED AWAY and the like), it still has Studio Ghibli’s stamp all over it.

The story concerns Haru (voiced in English by Anne Hathaway doing an Anne Hathaway impression ala Mia from THE PRINCESS DIARIES), a clumsy high-schooler who just can’t seem to get anything right.  One day she saves a cat from getting hit by a truck with her lacrosse stick, although I’m not sure why she bothered since the guy had eight lives left.   Anyway, we find out that the cat she saved is Prince Lune, heir to the throne of – wait for it – The Cat Kingdom.

(Disclaimer: I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of said Cat Kingdom. To do so would be a felony in Cat Kingdom law.  Whoops.)

cat king

The Cat King – a delicious Tim Curry – offers her repayment (read: RETURNS…!) in excess.  The returns, however, come in the form of extra lacrosse sticks, a field of cattails in her front lawn, live mice in her school locker, and a pack of cats following her all over town.  This does not help her awkwardness at school, and she is appalled at what her life has become.

Not to fret, says an employee of the Cat King.  We’ll take you back to the Cat Kingdom and you’ll marry the Cat Prince.  She says yes.  This will solve all of my problems.  I agree.  Poor girl.

(Kids – do not think that marrying the first cat that comes along with solve all of your problems.  We may be the best creatures on the planet, but that doesn’t mean we’re a fix-all.)

The employee leaves to spread the good news.  He’ll be back later to pick her up, he says, and leaves.

Haru has a change of heart.  She doesn’t want to marry a Cat Prince.  But what can she do?  That guy has already left!  Gah!

Then a disembodied voice tells her to seek out The Cat Bureau.  They’ll help her.  Of course.

Here’s where we meet the sidekicks of the tale.  The Baron (a dashing Cary Elwes), Muta (a curmudgeonly Peter Boyle), and Toto (Elliot Gould as a crow) all join her cause.

baron

But then the Cat Kingdom cats come and take her away.  Rats!  Muta is able to steal a ride on the backs of a herd of stampeding cats (like ya do) and follows her into The Cat Kingdom.

Once there, such strange happenings occur!  In preparing for the wedding (which she has to do – she agreed to it!), she brings up a good point.  She’s not a cat.  Not to worry, the dastardly Cat King says.  You’re well on your way.

And just like that – OMG SHE’S TURNING INTO A CAT!  It’ll take full effect at the end of the day.

turning into a cat!

It’s a good thing the Baron comes in to save her!

With pluck, determination, and comedic happenstance, they save her from marrying Prince Lune (who turns out to be a really nice guy and had no idea what his dad was up to) and deliver her safely home, where she does not end up turning into a cat.

going home

She finds herself, learning to be happy with who she is, and doesn’t even care that her crush broke up with his girlfriend.  She doesn’t need some boy to be happy.  (Get it, girl!)

All in all, it was a lovely film.

Filled with cats.  Did I mention the cats?

So now it’s time for the score.  And this film gets a score of……………………………

cat returns pawprint plot

Holy kittens!!!!!  A perfect 100!!

Caveat: This film is animated, so I can’t say you’re going to see real, live cats acting their faces off.  So, a modified 100, we’ll say. 🙂

With that, I’ll see you next time, folks.  I’m going to enjoy myself another snow day.  Meow!

– Franny

photo

Advertisements

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Meow. It’s been a long time.

1625454_10201731630993298_125276479_nHowever, I feel that when there is snow outside, it is absolutely imperative that I do NOTHING. I have to preserve my precious body heat. I’m a cat, not a snow leopard!

Speaking of snow leopards.

While in the great state of Idaho with my humans, we visited the zoo. It sounds like a great plan until you realize that January in Idaho means SNOW. And COLD. Most animals in zoos don’t like that.

Except the snow leopards.

Two baby snow leopards and their dad snow leopard were out in FULL FORCE. The baby snow leopards were running, playing, punching, chewing, and thoroughly irritating their dad snow leopard. It was glorious. I told my humans that I thought I might be part snow leopard and that they should permit me to join this herd. They told me that I was the size of these snow leopard’s paws. I stood down.

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

Speaking of snow leopards, my humans and I just saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Why is this related? Well, to not give too much away, there is a scene that has a snow leopard.

I must admit that the trailers for Walter Mitty got me all aflutter. I love cool music when it plays alongside hyper-realistic and creative running and jumping. Yet a whole movie can’t just be that, and this one isn’t, which is almost too bad.

the-secret-life-of-walter-mitty-poster1

The basic plot is this: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is the photo editor for TIME magazine. As a kid, he dreamed of traveling the world, but instead has worked a bunch of boring jobs and lived a super boring life. At the start of the movie, new management, led by Ted (Adam Scott), takes over TIME and announces that it will publish its final issue before transitioning to an only-online version. The cover of that final issue will be a photograph by famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Unfortunately, in the roll of negatives O’Connell sent to Walter, that photo’s negative is missing. This begins Walter’s epic journey of self-discovery and world travel, where he learns that life is crazier than daydreams!

Oh, there’s also a love story with Kristen Wiig, but it’s not that important.

The good: the music is great, there are some gorgeous vistas of Iceland, Greenland, and the Himalayas, and there are a lot of sweet moments. Unfortunately, on the whole, Walter Mitty fails to coalesce into the sweet, magical movie it wants to be. It’s neither as funny nor as romantic as it thinks it wants to be. This is disappointing. Ben Stiller is a consummate actor, though, and he’s so easy to watch and love that, on the whole, Walter Mitty is a really enjoyable way to spend two hours.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTYThe snow leopard is the sole cat in the film, but considering my current snow leopard obsession (I WILL JOIN MY PEOPLE), it was a highlight. Below is the PawPrint Plot. I gave it a generous score of 20 points. Not great, but SNOW LEOPARD.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 12.53.08 PMStay warm out there, fellow snow leopards!

xoxo
Franny

1535006_10201668261089090_67874563_n

AMERICAN HUSTLE (and Greetings from the Rocky Mountains!)

Dear loyal blog readers,

I have been out of touch because I am currently ensconced in my grandparent’s home in the Rocky Mountain West.

It is heaven.

They give me wet food AND dry food, have a huge house with a bunch of different beds I can sleep in, and windows where I can watch squirrels anytime I want. The only thing I have to do is occasionally wear themed pajamas. We all have a cross to bear.

1509693_10201519156081558_552164167_n
But let’s jump right into it– I’ve seen a couple of movies recently but have been too lazy to write. Till now!

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this year at the movies .

Gravity left my hindquarters sore from clutching them with tension.
12 Years A Slave was simultaneously a feast for the eyes and unbearable to watch.
Wolf of Wall Street was an adrenaline rush of disgust and delight.
Captain Phillips was an action movie with a big brain and one of the strongest single scenes of the year.
Short Term 12 was unbelievably simple and if you haven’t seen it, find a way.
Inside Llewyn Davis starred a cat.

There’s still much to see (and Inside Llewyn Davis does require a full review), but I need to preface this review with some of the year’s best to convince you that I can afford to be a little picky here. So let’s move on to tonight’s picture: American Hustle.american-hustle-poster-636-380
Despite what you may have been told, American Hustle is not a mob movie, or a con movie, or a sting movie.
In fact, it’s not a movie that cares much about plot or narrative at all.
This movie is about really great art design and unbelievably complex, stunning performances.
Which, frankly, disappointed me.

Look, I’m a cat. I prefer my movies to focus less on humans and more on cats. I mean narrative.

Essentially, American Hustle focuses on the Abscam scandal of the late ‘70s. Two con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to team up with an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to try and take down a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) and some other top dogs.  It’s a great story and I wanted to know about it! Unfortunately, after seeing the film mere hours ago, I’m not quite sure I could provide more detail about the plot than I just did.

Now, a great story does not a great movie make. You’ve also got to have great characters and great actors to play them. Here, Russell hits a home run. Each of his stars are scene-stealers, and there are a few scenes that nearly steal the entire movie (the club scene with Adams and Cooper, Renner and Bale singing together in a bar, Robert DeNiro’s excellent cameo). Unfortunately, the actors are SO good, SO honest, and SO bold in their work, that nothing else felt important. When Jennifer Lawrence, who played Bale’s wild wife, was onscreen, I was smitten, but when she wasn’t, I didn’t quite know why the character needed to be so important. The stakes of the heist were low, and the consequences of each character’s actions didn’t feel risky. I felt enormous empathy but very little danger.

Perhaps David O. Russell likes his characters like I like my morning dry food—a little bit too much, a little bit too fast, and then vomited. (Maybe that’s just my food.)

It’s a good movie, but it’s not a great one.

As far as cats go, not to fear, cat-lovers!! We’ve got a few felines to feast your eyes upon (albeit briefly, and albeit in 70’s-era polaroids). One of the people who the schemers work with is a woman who controls the wires (which wires and for whom? Therein lies what I was saying about narrative holes). Anyway, in order to get on this woman’s good side, they give her fancy liquor and tea, and talk to her about her cats. She has lots of photos, and they all have names.

I know we’re supposed to laugh about the cat lady, but she and her photographed felines (one of whom was definitely named Barnaby and “likes to play the piano”) get a passable 30 points.Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 11.03.28 PM

I’m back to watching squirrels. G’night!

–Franny

1503837_10201519187882353_276545611_n

CLOUD ATLAS

Hello again readers.
As you know, I don’t make it out to the cinema often.  I am, however, a Netflix fiend.  So when my humans went and saw a crazy flick called CLOUD ATLAS and raved about it, I thought I should put it on my Netflix queue.  That way I could take a look at it when it was released on DVD.  This past week, I saw it.  And what a trip it was.

Cloud_Atlas

CLOUD ATLAS, with a budget of over $100,000,000, is one of the most expensive independent films ever.  Based on the novel by David Mitchell, it interweaves six separate story lines that take place between 1849 and 2321.  Using crazy makeup that sometimes turned Hugh Grant into a passable Asian and Halle Berry into a not-quite-as-passable Jew, the film uses the same core cast to portray different characters in each story.  This highlights the film’s underlying themes of universal connective tissue and global cause-and-effect.

hanks_berry_cloudatlas_faces

Since there are six separate stories, I shan’t go into each one here.  Suffice it to say, though, that the cast handles the odd material with finesse, and the cinematography is spell-binding.  Each setting, ranging from a 19th-century slaving ship to a 1970’s San Francisco warehouse to a futuristic South Korean city with flying cars and laser guns, has its own feel, its own palate, and indeed, its own director.  Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski shared the screenwriter, producing, and directing credits in this behemoth, and I think the collaboration paid off in spades.

But really though, Franny, what’s the deal with the cats?  Where can we find them?  Ahh, dear readers, this film is – unfortunately – not cat-heavy.  The one instance of cat takes place in the story of Henry Cavendish.  Played in spectacular fashion by Jim Broadbent, Henry Cavendish is a book publisher living in London, 2012.  Due to some unforeseen events (having somewhat to do with a rough-neck author version of Tom Hanks with a giant prosthetic nose pushing a critic over a balcony), he finds himself examining his life and what he has made of it.  He dreams of yesteryear and muses on his salad days, when he was courting a young woman named Ursula.

cloudatlas_4

There is a flashback scene with a young attractive couple canoodling naked under some bed sheets when Ursula’s parents walk in.  Young Henry Cavendish leaps up and grabs the closest thing he can find to cover his genitalia – a cat.  Oh, that my species should be used in such a manner as this is thoroughly unbecoming of our inherent high status, but these things do happen sometimes for the sake of comedy.  The cat meows and scratches at the boy’s nether regions, distressed by the prospect of being a human’s underwear (the finest bit of acting in the entire film), and Henry Cavendish falls out of the window in a panic.

All in all, although the cat presence in this film leaves something to be desired, the film is quite good.  It’s so good that it makes me want to cuddle up on the couch with my humans and read the original novel.  I’ll make them hold it for me, though.  No opposable thumbs, you know.

So, the final score for CLOUD ATLAS is………………………………………

Cloud Atlas Pawprint Plot

50 points!!!!!!!!

Wow!  That surprised even me!

Well done, CLOUD ATLAS!

Until next time, readers, I remain yours in reviewing.

– Franny

2013-11-07 22.15.20

HOCUS POCUS

Boo!

It’s Halloween, my feline followers, which is one of my least favorite holidays. First of all, it gives us cats—particularly those of us with a slightly darker fur tone—a bad reputation. Second, I live in New York City, and Halloween in New York isn’t fun if you are a normal person. My mom-human hasn’t gone out on Halloween since her freshman year of college, and her stories about the subway down to the Village make me claustrophobic. And I sleep in boxes.

So tonight I snuggled in for a Halloween classic, ‘cause a cat has to celebrate somehow! Hocus Pocus, here I come!

1341831695_hocus_pocus2-ff I assume all of you know the basic plot of Hocus Pocus. The film opens with a young man in Puritan-era Salem, Massachusetts discovering that his sister has been kidnapped by the town’s three witches, who intend to use her for a spell to make them younger. The young man, Thackeray Binx, fails to rescue his sister, and instead is turned into… you guessed it… A CAT! From there, we fast forward to the present (1994), where some erstwhile younguns—teens Max and Allison (Omni Katz and Vinessa Shaw) and Max’s young sister (Thora Birch)—release the witches from their graves for one night only—Halloween, 1994. While the witch sisters attempt to find more small children to devour to retain their youth, the three kids, along with Binx the cat and Billy Butcherson the zombie, fight against time to make sure these witches are destroyed before the sun comes up.Hocus-Pocus_20Things_9As anyone who has seen Hocus Pocus knows, though, the plot is not really what makes this film great. What makes this film great is Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the amazing animatronics of the 90s (i.e. Binx the cat). It is anachronistic nonsense, which, if you read my reviews, you know is my cup of shredded chicken in pumpkin broth (wait… that was just my dinner tonight).

Onto serious matters, though, I need to share something very, very special tonight on Franny’s Feline Film Forum. The last few reviews I’ve done had fairly low ratings on my Pawprint Plot.IMG_2831

Tonight, though, after much notetaking and some very important fact-checking, I was excited to award Hocus Pocus THE FIRST EVER 100 PAW-POINT FILM ON FRANNY’S FELINE FILM FORUM! That’s right, ladies, gents, and felines, Hocus Pocus got a full 100 points. You didn’t think it was possible, but see below for proof.

And in the meantime, please enjoy what’s left of your Halloween. Myself, I’ll be watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch trying to determine whether Binx and Melissa Joan Hart’s cat, Salem, were played by the same cat-actor.

Meow,
Franny

Pawprint Plot Hocus Pocus

Happy National Cat Day! (and THE SECRET LIFE OF CATS)

In honor of National Cat Day, I’ve gone back to the core of my interests—myself. Also other cats.

This evening, after a delectable dinner of chicken bits in gravy and some running around pointlessly, I settled in to watch the National Geographic documentary from 2008, The Secret Life of Cats.

The film begins with an examination of cats’ nature and history of domestication, which features some of the most incredible cat re-enactments I’ve ever seen. I have to share some screen grabs.Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 5.58.14 PM

 Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 5.58.47 PM

Nothing too new to report from this section of the film—we are told that cats generally have the upper hand in every situation. We are “a marvel of engineering.” Tell me something I DON’T know.

However, after the playful opening, The Secret Life of Cats took a turn for the worse.

After learning about an abandoned cat community in Florida, we are treated to an incredibly disturbing scene of these cats being captured, anesthetized, tested for feline AIDS and leukemia, and spayed or neutered (I, for one, don’t remember being spayed, and I don’t care to). I had to look away more than once.

We then turn an eye on the problem of outdoor cats hunting where they shouldn’t. Some very sad small children show the camera injured baby bunnies: “The cat bit it here, on its foot.” An ornithologist shows us the tattered carcass of a bird: “We have about a 50% survival rate in wildlife here, mostly due to cats.”

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

Um, excuse me, but weren’t we just talking about how we’re still wild and supposed to be hunting? Am I crazy?

Then, we travel down under to New Zealand, where cats are not a native species.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

Naturally, though, since we are the most popular animal anywhere, cats were brought to New Zealand, where they proceeded to disrupt the life cycle. Sigh. Haven’t you “naturalists” in your little hats ever heard of Darwin? Survival of the fittest? I’m rolling my eyes, and THEN:

Apparently they are now EATING CATS in New Zealand? And that’s not all: Nat Geo also thought it okay to show a cat being killed, having its stomach cut open and the contents investigated, and then eaten. WHAT IS THIS, A HORROR MOVIE?! WHAT IS THIS FILM RATED?!

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Frankly, that was about all I could take. I hung in there for the remainder, where Nat Geo finally decided to tell us what we “should” do. The best solutions to the cat hunting problem was demonstrated by two cats named “Tootle Loo” and “Diddles” respectively (I’m not joking, though I wish I were). Tootle has a curfew. No nightime hunting, little Tootle! Diddles has an outdoor cage where he can watch the birds at their feeders. Oh sweet Diddles, you will never know the wonders you are missing behind those metal bars.

I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to other cat lovers with less steely stomachs than I, but as far as my Pawprint Plot, The Secret Life of Cats managed a top score:    80 POINTS!IMG_0209

May you all celebrate your holiday with far less graphic depictions of cat-kind. I plan to curl into the shape of a cinnamon roll and sleep the whole thing off.

Regards,
Franny

Pawprint Plot secret life

MURDER FOR TWO

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears (and paws and tails). Allow me to tell you about one of my favorite plays in New York. (It’s not Julius Caesar, but I did see a great production set in a women’s prison last weekend at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn—no cats, though. Lame.)Murder for TwoMcGinn Cazale Theatre

My dad-human is an occasional cog in the machine at a local off-Broadway theatre. He wears nice slacks, sweater vests, and button downs that are great for sleeping on and leaving my fur. He tells me he is the “house manager.”

Recently, I was happy to accompany my humans to the final dress rehearsal of a show called Murder for Two, which had transferred from a run last summer at dad’s theatre to New World Stages in Midtown. Dad had gushed, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

In basic terms, Murder for Two is a musical murder mystery as enacted by two players (Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback) and a piano. The plot is set in motion with the murder of famed novelist Arthur Whitney. Ryback plays the investigator, Marcus, a young cop who is gunning for detective, while Blumenkrantz plays… everyone else. And by everyone, I mean everyone—Dahlia, Whitney’s resentful former-showgirl wife; Barrette, the beautiful ballet dancer with a penchant for murder; Dr. Griff, the friendly local psychologist who just wants a best friend; an entire boys’ choir, and many, many more. It’s a classic whodunit with a twist, or a couple.

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

Blumenkrantz and Ryback

The main twist, and one of the things that makes the show such a pleasure, is that Ryback and Blumenkrantz accompany themselves and each other on the piano. The piano becomes a third character—sometimes as a tool when Marcus wants to convice Dr. Griff to talk in a best-friend-song, sometimes as a nuisance (one character has to run from his deathbed to the piano so that he can “have some music while” he dies), and sometimes as the competitive playing field for impressive four-hand piano stunts (all three players—Ryback, Blumenkrantz, and the piano—have incredible chemistry).

The other element which elevates the show from the predictable is how funny it is. My humans are quick to laughter, which I find irritating since it makes their laps bouncy, but I’m a bit more serious. However, the witty lyrics and book, the impressive physical comedy, and most of all, the tongue-in-cheek, fast-paced, meta-theatrical humor feels very current, and had me about as close as I can come to cracking a smile.

As for the cats… Well. None appear onstage. It’s really a disgrace. I don’t know why a cat couldn’t have been a suspect. Blumenkrantz would have nailed it, considering the skill with which he inhabited around fourteen other roles. Alas, no one consulted me in the construction of this show, so we have to settle for two offstage cats. Two items are hurled offstage—after the first, we hear a pitiful meow, and after the second, a loud roar. I am told no cats (or lions) were hurt in the making of this show.

IMG_2664

Murder for Mew.

All in all, despite the lack of cats, Murder for Two is absolutely worth seeing. My humans have seen it three times (perks of working in the theatre, I guess), and enjoy it more each go.

As for the final Pawprint Plot, Murder for Two clocks in at…

30 points. Still, go see Murder for Two at New World Stages!

M42 plot