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CRUELLA: 3 ½ STARS

“Cruella,” now available in select theaters and on Disney + with Premier Access, is an origin story that explains why one of Disney’s greatest villains hates Dalmatians.

An eventful day defined the life of Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland). In less than 24 hours, the precious preteen with the distinctive mop of black and white hair, got kicked out of an upscale private school, snuck into a fashion show, and thought, “for the first time. times in my life, I feel like I belong, “and developed a lifelong hatred of Dalmatians. I won’t say why, but she has good reason to harbor animosity towards spotted dogs. More tragically, she lost her mother the same day.

Dropped and alone, she landed in London in 1964. Falling down with petty thieves Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), Estella (now played by Emma Stone) forms an impromptu family, pulling off scams while using disguises designed and made in her own hand.

Yet she is not satisfied. “I want to be a professional designer,” she says. “Not a thief.”

By getting an entry-level job at an upscale department store, she catches the eye of the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a cruel and imperious clothing designer who says things like “Gratitude is for losers. “. She is the undisputed matriarch of London fashion and will crush anyone who gets in her way.

As Estella moves up the ranks, she realizes a connection between the Baroness and her mother’s death. Until then, Estella believed she was responsible for her mother’s death and had gone through the five stages of mourning. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Now she adds a sixth step, revenge.

“I’m starting to remember you have an extreme side,” says Estella’s old friend Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).

Determined to ruin the baroness, shatter her spirit, her confidence and her business, Estella creates an alter ego, the disruptive Cruella. In a series of staged public stunts, Cruella humiliates the baroness and becomes the darling of the fashion world. “Some call him designer,” reports a breathless TV talker. “Some call her a vandal.”

As Cruella’s “crazy, bad, and just a little sad” antics escalate, Estella’s personality weakens. “I’m not nice Estella, try as I can. I’m Cruella.”

“Cruella” has a lot to offer. Great costume design, a heart-wrenching soundtrack, and an arched attitude, but as the end credits roll, it’s all about the Emmas duel; Pierre and Thompson.

“Wow,” Cruella said. “You really are a psychopath.” It’s nice of you to say it, “retorts the baroness.

The two deliver flamboyant performances that capture the wickedly humorous tone of the story.

Stone’s performance straddles the line between her two characters as Estella’s attempts to fit into the mainstream world fade, and bits of Cruella’s “anything goes” mentality filter through until she becomes a full-fledged villain. Glam punk rock inspired clothing helps with the transformation, but the heart comes from Stone, who does something difficult; bring a tragic heart to a villain.

As Baroness, Thompson is the Queen of the Side Eye. It’s a wonderfully comedic performance, with equal parts disdain, evil and ridicule, it redefines arrogance. Think “The devil wears Prada” with a sharper edge. It’s the kind of job you want to watch – at least twice – to grab all the little things she weaves into performance.

Powered by performances and a music-rich soundtrack featuring everything from Doors and Nina Simone to Tina Turner and Iggy & The Stooges (this has to be the first Disney movie to feature the proto-punk melody “I Wanna Be Your Dog “),” Cruella “swings on a clip until it loses momentum towards the end as he prepares for the sequel.

So far, however, “Cruella” is the boldest of recent live-action reimaginations of a classic Disney character.

MOBY DOC: 4 STARS

moby doc

“Moby Doc,” now airing on Hot Docs virtual theater, is a raw, surreal look at the life of EDM musician Moby superstar. Whether it’s living in a squat and battling drugs, animating the car crash that claimed his father’s life, and standing up for animal rights, it goes beyond warts and anything to reveal an artist who says his greatest hits have corrupted him.

Narrated and hosted by Moby and directed and edited by Rob Bravler, the film is a fairly linear look at the musician’s life, from his troubled early years in Harlem, NY, to the conversation with death – à la Ingmar Bergman – that wraps up the movie.

In between is the kind of honesty that is usually not found in authorized music biographies. The details of the debauchery that followed her biggest hit, the 1999 double-platinum album “Play”, are as sordid as anything you might find in a Motley Crue reveal. For example, he woke up after group sex covered in poo, but it’s not the usual stories of groupies and dangerous drug use that make “Moby Doc” convincing.

Using re-enactments – from Childhood Trauma Players, nothing less – interviews, animation and stock footage, the film peels off the glossy varnish of most musical documentaries to reveal a quest for happiness that lies within it. has always escaped. It’s a kind of road movie; a journey through a troubled childhood, punk rock, world success and the finery of money. What seems to be missing is the destination, a place far removed from the trauma that shaped and animates it.

“The reason we try to get people to see us in exalted lights,” he says, “is because deep down we don’t love each other. We are ashamed of ourselves. We assume that if someone looks too close, they are going to be pushed back. “

If that’s true, Moby doesn’t seem to care. Honesty and self-mockery are his goals here. Reports of suicide attempts sit alongside tales of excess and family histories, coming together to create a surreal, self-aware film that is as close and personal as it gets in terms of a celebrity film portrayal.

BLUE MIRACLE: 3 STARS

Miracle Blue

The story of “Blue Miracle,” an unexpected new movie currently streaming on Netflix, sounds too good to be true, but it is based on actual events.

The story begins at Casa Hogar, a boys’ home in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Hard hit by Hurricane Odile in 2014 and in desperate need of money, goalkeeper Omar (Jimmy Gonzales), accompanied by the orphan boys he takes care of, participates in the Bisbee Black & Blue tournament, a fishing competition with a huge cash prize. With no boat or fishing experience, Omar teams up with a crisp local Wade (Dennis Quaid), the captain of a charter fishing boat called the Knot Enough. Wade has won the tournament in the past and, after experiencing some bad times, reluctantly agrees to allow Omar and the kids on board.

In order not to reveal any twists and turns, I stop here. Just be aware that there aren’t really any twists and turns and “Blue Miracle” plays out pretty much the way you think it would, which is heart-heavy with a dollop of family conflict.

What he lacks in surprises, he makes up for in inspiring messages. From the title – the word “miracle” reveals the game – the film threatens to be swept away by a tidal wave of good feelings. And that’s OK. The motivations behind “Blue Miracle” are pure. He wants to publicize Casa Hogar, still there, but not financially benefiting from this film, and to offer 90 minutes of entertainment to the whole family.

Edgy, it isn’t, although Wade’s version of Quaid is crispier than a piece of freshly fried cod. He’s the stereotypical cantankerous old man with a heart of gold often found in movies like this and while Quaid doesn’t reinvent the grumpy character of Gus, he at least seems to enjoy being on the water in the sun.

“Blue Miracle” is a new story, but her insistence on sticking to a wellness formula feels like déjà vu.

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