Hello everyone and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today, I am suffering under the weight of an illness that I hope is not COVID, and can only pray that you all will have a much easier time this December. Luckily, I’ve been doing so many screenings of films and series over the past few weeks that our reviews are in no danger of slowing down; in fact, I’ve actually increased my review cache considerably, while continuing my journey through the year’s most notable animated offerings. This week I finished Pluto and immediately watched Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, a show that takes the inherently unnecessary nature of the Scott Pilgrim adaptation and turns it into a proud statement of purpose. I’ll have more to say about Scott next week, but for now, let’s take a look at Pluto and some of the seasonal new products for Week in Review!
With Christmas approaching, my house has been celebrating the season with some wildly entertaining holiday movies. The first of these is Dashing Through The Snow, in which Ludacris plays a father who hates Christmas since the holiday apparently instigated his parents’ divorce. His holiday hostility is tested when he and his daughter stumble upon the real Santa Claus (Lil Rel Howery), leading to a rambling adventure that takes them throughout most of downtown Atlanta.
And yes, I am like that. know that the plot description doesn’t actually suggest any meaningful conflict or story. That’s really the main problem with Dashing Through The Snow, which is largely built from disconnected scenes of Ludacris and Lil Rel Howery bickering while Ludacris’ daughter stares at the camera. “Ludacris and Howery drive sporadically around Atlanta” is a pretty flimsy scaffolding for a Christmas movie, and the fact that Ludacris isn’t actually a professional actor only exacerbates the film’s problems. Howery is a funny guy, but he has absolutely no chance of working here; even as a background feature, Dashing Through The Snow still feels Christmassy enough to be worth watching.
Luckily, our Christmas spirit was revived by the far superior Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. The film stars Forest Whitaker as the brilliant inventor Jeronicus Jangle, who is famous around the world for his interesting toys for children. However, when his invention book is stolen by his apprentice Gustafson (Keegan Michael-Key), he is unable to regain his spark, eventually losing his wife and turning his back on his daughter. Thirty years later, he works as a stern pawnbroker in the building where he once built wonders – until his niece Journey (Mdalen Mills) visits on vacation, starting a Epic and festive adventure.
Jingle Jangle’s origins as a stage play are suggested very clearly in the delightfully ornate set and costume designs. Every scene sparkles with details that combine Christmas staples with steampunk-adjacent clock toys, and Whitaker absolutely disappears as Jeronicus Jangle. I was used to a man exuding confidence and self-control, but here he was full of tension and regret, speaking softly and carrying the weight of a wasted life on his back. His performance gives the film a gravity that is gracefully tempered by Mills’s fiery passion and Michael-Key’s manic intensity; indeed, everyone is perfectly staged here, fitting together as neatly as Jeronicus’s horological masterpieces.
Oh, and it’s a musical! And the songs are really good! Jingle Jangle offers a rich and varied musical offering, tunes that span genres and gracefully avoid the clichés of Christmas tunes. All of that plus an unusually sharp exploration of potential and regret makes for an utterly superior Christmas movie, a holiday movie with the emotional weight and richness to spent.
Our next look is Jawan, the latest action vehicle for Bollywood Superstar Shah Rukh Khan. In fact, Jawan is enough film for two Shah Rukh Khans, in which he plays dual roles as a betrayed commando and the commando’s jailer’s son Azad, who must cooperate to face the Corruption is suffocating their society. What follows ranges from noble Robin Hood heists to brutal shootouts, as Azad uses a Charlie’s Angels-style prison squad to dispense justice in an unjust world.
Jawan is an open, pleasant and hugely entertaining film where every punch and bullet rings with an endorsement of civilian corruption that is dramatically overcome. Each of its major sequences serves as both a gripping thriller (train stoppage! prison invasion!) and a searing political indictment, as a parade of villains must accountable to those they are supposed to serve. And of course, Khan’s undeniable charisma keeps the film light despite its often heavy subject matter, with both father and son playing brave people’s heroes in their own ways.
Essentially, splitting Khan between two roles allows him to play two of his classic archetypes in the same film. While Azad appears conflicted and soulful in his fight for justice, his father is a pure action star, dispatching enemies with effortless grace and an ever-dangling cigar. on the lips. The film’s energy tempers somewhat the somewhat convoluted explanation of Azad’s childhood, but the constant twists, dynamic fight choreography, and consistency of oligarch takedowns with fists ensures that the film remains a pleasant, engaging picture until the end.
Besides all the feature films, I also continued my work through the impressive top anime list of 2023, devouring Naoki Urusawa’s Pluto adaptation with all the haste I could muster. The manga and show itself is a reinterpretation of the “Greatest Robot on Earth” arc of Astro Boy, in which the seven most powerful robots are hunted down and destroyed one by one. By framing this story from the perspective of robot detective Gesicht, Urusawa transforms Tezuka’s story into his own thriller, while also positioning it as a direct commentary on the war in Iraq. Of course, America’s colonial ambitions are an embarrassingly timeless subject of study; Though it feels ripped from the headlines of the ’00s, Urusawa’s story seems relevant to the massacres we’re funding today.
Like Urusawa’s original manga, Pluto’s adaptation is stately and reserved, prioritizing consistency of aesthetics and character acting over wild feats of animated presentation. Yet it’s still rife with absurd animation feats, from vivid renditions of close combat to beautiful renderings of moving storms, with only the occasional misguided CG implementation to bring it back to earth. There is simply no one who animates like Shinya Ohira, and it’s a joy to see his skills applied to such valuable source material.
As for the actual story, Pluto demonstrates Urusawa’s knack for rising from cliché to profound emotional catharsis, layering one vignette upon another until their collective impact resonates. rang like the bell of a great cathedral. Simple components like “fighting robot finds solace in music” are layered alongside various human expressions of post-war trauma, with the question “will robots learning to become human” quickly feels ridiculous and irrelevant. Can anyone who has been through war retain their humanity, or are we doomed to prolonged cycles of grief and resentment, driven by our scars in a political way? How exactly can any robot follow their programming? Or is it human nature – the ability to externalize our pain, through grief and hatred?
Urusawa often paints with broad strokes, yet conveys thematic ambiguity through repetition, each new variation on his story adding new wrinkles to his intention. Through half a dozen variations on grief and renewal, he explores the diverse ways in which “humanity” can be lost or regained, as well as the humanistic intentions that can be corrupted through through individual or institutional manipulation. Through his cast of sympathetic and doomed characters, he creates a sense of outrage in the audience as well as the characters, giving us the same burden of forgiveness that he asks of his heroes . The narrative details cut through the mystery and lock into thematic intent, with easy contrivances like the myopia of American empire or the cyclical nature of revenge ultimately proving to be just that. scaffolding, stepping stones on the path to less obvious questions regarding the application of justice and the sanctity of life. Gritty, far-reaching and deftly executed, Pluto is, overall, a near-perfect performance.