A pair of recent Blu-ray releases spotlight the challenging lives of the creators of two classic pop culture characters.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated R, 108 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $34.99) — Director Angela Robinson offered a window into the complex life of Wonder Woman’s famed creator in a theatrically underappreciated biographical drama now available in the Blu-ray format.
Loosely based on psychologist William Moulton Marston’s (Luke Evans) polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and teaching assistant Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) in the early 1900s, the film highlights the taboo sexual shenanigans of the trio and the real-life inspirations for DC Comic’s female superstar.
Specifically, Marston, after failing to find fame for his human interaction theories, takes on the pseudonym of Charles Moulton and crafts a comic book character based on the two loves of his life, hoping to show the world a super heroine that could offer hope and empower young girls to control their destines.
Wonder Woman fans will notice the origins of her bulletproof bracelets (Olive wore silver jewelry bracelets); her golden lasso of truth (the Marstons actually invented the first lie detector that needed a band wrapped around the subject); and her costume, inspired from Olive wearing burlesque-style gear from famed fetish purveyor Charles Guyette.
Ultimately, his efforts got sharply criticized and temporarily censored during the comic book witch hunt in the 1940s.
However, viewers should decide on the pulp content after getting plenty of looks at the actual comic book panels during the movie.
Did Marston help create a comic book featuring a loving lesson in respect, truth and woman power or, according to censors, a subversive lesson in lesbianism, torture and sadomasochism?
Either way, Miss Robinson offers an eye-opening, mature film for fans of Wonder Woman.
Best extras: A pair of promotional featurettes offer a 14-minute look at the making of the film, the director and the origins of Wonder Woman, including plenty of interviews with the principal stars and Miss Robinson.
I would have preferred a documentary on the evolution of Wonder Woman who over the years was very different form her original concept.
Also, an unusual extra offers a 3.5-minute-long narrated, motion-comic-style biography of Marston and his ladies that pretty much encapsulates the highlights of the movie. The art style is very reminiscent of the Golden Age era of comics.
Goodbye Christopher Robin (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG, 107 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $34.99) — The origins of Winnie-the-Pooh and struggles of the creator and his post World War I family come to light in this slightly heavy-handed, very British biographical drama.
Director Simon Curtis highlights a key part of novelist and playwright A.A. Milne’s intricate life in early 20th century England, covering his return from the “Great War,” his difficulty with post-traumatic stress disorder and finding inspiration from his son for his most memorable work.
After a move to the Sussex countryside looking for some peace and quiet with his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and his newborn son Christopher Robin (played as a child by Will Tilston), Milne struggles for a creative spark.
He finds it with help from an imaginative spouse, a collection of stuffed animals and walks with his son through multi-acre woods.
Despite finding inspiration to write about a certain legendary bear and this silly friends, Milne is stuck dealing with drama and angst as his absent socialite wife, a son attached to his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) and overwhelming success of his children stories take a toll on his family.
Christopher bares the brunt of his dad’s success, being held as a pop culture icon and dealing with a tough life in the spotlight and his parents’ streaks of narcissism.
Viewers will learn, between the emotional moments, about the youngster’s introduction to a black bear named Winnie in the London Zoo and about the origins of his collection of stuffed animals that included a donkey named Eeyore, a pink pig nicknamed Piglet and the kangaroos, Kang and Roo.
It’s pretty amazing to watch how such an unhappy family could create a magical fictional world that brought so much joy to so many.
Besides top-notch performances throughout (Master Tilston will break a parent’s heart), the high definition, screen filling transfer to Blu-ray shines with the film’s other co-star, the beautiful landscapes of the Hundred Acre Wood (based on part of Milne’s country estate) — especially through a fictional winter scene with flakes moving upwards and fall foliage.
Also, the sketches of Ernest H. Shepard are shown melded with the boy’s action, a rotoscope-style effect (think the A-Ha video “Take on Me”) that looked beautiful on the full-screen presentation.
Best extras: A welcomed optional commentary track with director Simon Curtis and co-screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce has the pair quietly dive into the movie mainly reacting to what is happening onscreen, offering some historical context to the characters and telegraphing many of the plot points.
Suffice to report, watch the movie first before listening to creators’ deconstruct the poignant effort.
Also, eight featurettes, labeled “promotional” offer about a 20-minute brief overview of the project with quick hit interviews with the stars and key production personnel.
I would have much preferred a longer documentary on the legacy of Winnie-the-Pooh and the world’s fascination with this beloved character.
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