Tag Archives: movies

‘Zootopia’ Review

4 Mar

Before seeing Zootopia: Disney, I can relate to bookish princesses, pixelated anti-heroes and even a tiny blue alien experiment. But how on earth can you make me sympathize with a rabbit in a weird cop outfit?

After seeing Zootopia: *wiping away tears* Disney, you did the thing.

The story begins with Judy Hopps (Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny aspiring to go where nobunny has gone before — the police academy. Much to the chagrin of her parents, Judy becomes the first bunny officer thanks to the Mayor’s mammal initiative (think Affirmative Action). Judy gets assigned to the heart of the area, the thriving metropolis of Zootopia. However, upon arrival, Judy realizes she’s the only one fighting for her dreams.

Judy gets a chance to move from meter maid to true cop when a missing mammal case comes her way. She teams up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist who lives up to the title ‘sly fox.’

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but with Jennifer Lee involved in the writing, there has to be a twist ending. This one isn’t as shocking as Hans’s betrayal of Anna, but it’s handled better by the protagonists than a simple *gasp! What are we to do?*

The humor surprised me most during the film. Sure, I’d seen the clip of Flash the Sloth in the DMV, the all-too-real commentary of how painfully slow government agencies can be. Maybe that’s where the humor gets its punch: as you laugh, you realize you’ve experienced the exact scenarios before and never in the best of situations. Early on, Judy’s parents attempt to simultaneously discourage and encourage their daughter to follow her dreams. “Settle! Settling isn’t so bad! Look at us, we settled!” Judy’s dad says. “Yeah, I settled hard,” responds her mother. One of the best moments is an incident with Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) where he tells Judy “This isn’t an animated fantasy where you sing a musical number and watch your problem dissolve into thin air. So, let. it. go.” My theater full of Cast Members guffawed at that point.

As with most Disney films, the true beauty lies in the message. “Zootopia” goes beyond a cute adaptation of “utopia” but ultimately looks to define “utopia” for an advanced society. Despite having evolved from their primitive states, the animals of Zootopia still expressed and experienced prejudices both outright and subtle.

In their attempts at crafting a modern utopia, Zootopia‘s writers offer more than a ‘lack of conflict’ definition. Their utopia becomes a moment where we recognize our own limitations, and in those limitations, we find unity. Once we realize the flaws of not only ourselves but how we categorize ourselves (predator/prey), the better we understand how to aid others. The representations of prejudice throughout the movie could be mix-and-matched with any contemporary issue.

How dare there be rabbits in the police academy? Females on the front lines of combat?

Don’t trust a fox (insert minority of choice here); they’re ruining Zootopia this country.

The movie leaves viewers with more than the high-flying adrenaline of Star Wars or the fuzzy warmth of Frozen (something Zootopia‘s writers poked fun at consistently). It gives a sense of urgency, a need to recognize our faults, and unite rather than continually degrade each other.

If you want your kid to be a better global citizen human being, take them to see Zootopia.

I give the film five pawcicles out of five. Zootopia hits theaters today, March 4.



Review: A Great Big Beautiful ‘Tomorrowland’

25 May

“Man has a dream and that’s the start. He follows that dream with mind and heart, and when it becomes a reality, it’s a dream come true for you and me!” – Carousel of Progress

After two years of PR-hype and mystery, Tomorrowland soared into theaters giving a lack-luster box office performance and receiving mediocre reviews. While the movie’s chrome isn’t as shiny as the company hoped, it still retains a solid message and visually intricate scenes sure to engage audiences, especially the younger set. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Hugh Laurie as Nix (left) and George Clooney as Frank (right)

The movie, directed by Disney and PIXAR legend Brad Bird (The Incredibles), chronicles Casey Newton –a science-minded teen who discovers the magical Tomorrowland. However, things are not as perfect as they appear and she must team up with fellow genius Frank Wagner (George Clooney) to save the world from impending doom only 58 days away. Tomorrowland’s Governor Nix (a perfectly cold Hugh Laurie) is “blamed” for the self-fulfilling prophecy, and the robot who brought Casey and Frank back to TLand, Athena, must be sacrificed in order to stop the transmission of this doomsday fortune.

The plot’s exposition spends too much time on minute details that ultimately get repeated later, and that time should have been used to get to the crux of the problem sooner. We get it: Athena is a robot. Frank is sad about it. But let’s go back to that whole “world is ending bit” please. Viewers who enjoy tidy endings will be a bit disappointed as well. Despite the ending implying that the world will be saved by future and present dreamers, we can’t help but wonder if decades worth of impending doom can magically dissipate into hope in a matter of days or even a year.

It’s easy to leave Tomorrowland and immediately find it too preachy. Fans of Bird will recognize it’s more upfront with a central message. In fact, Hugh Laurie’s character spells out his motivation toward the end of the movie, leaving little room for audience interpretation. However, its preachiness is in the sense that all classic Disney attractions (especially Carousel of Progress, which makes a small cameo) are preachy.

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

I feel connected to Tomorrowland for a number of reasons. I worked in Tomorrowland when the film’s crew shot several scenes using CoP. I freaked out when I saw Space Mountain’s outline in the skyline of Tomorrowland itself. It embodies what Walt Disney would have wanted the world to look like with EPCOT (which, in case anyone forgot, stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). The film’s portrayal of TLand seems true to Walt’s style, especially if you look at his old dioramas, one of which is conveniently located inside the PeopleMover as “Progress City.”

However, this accuracy creates one of the homage’s biggest hypocrisies. Walt always had his brother Roy to firmly plant his feet on the ground. Without Roy’s supervision, the Disney company could have easily bankrupted itself chasing after Walt’s dreams. Tomorrowland lacks what made Disney ultimately survive: the Roys. The movie’s theme fails to acknowledge that we need the skeptics and level-headed types just as much as the dreamers. We need them like Walt needed Roy and vice versa. Who is there to get these brilliant ideas out of Tomorrowland and functioning in the real world? The film never answers this crucial question it also poses, leaving a rather one-sided portrayal of creativity and innovation.

Overall, it’s a good movie. If you have young kids who dream of becoming Walt or Roy, go see it. The visuals are stunning, and they throw in some really neat little historical and Disney bits just for the super-geeks (like myself). I left feeling my creative juices had been refreshed, but I wasn’t completely satisfied.

Live-action ‘Winnie the Pooh’ announced, gets writer

2 Apr

No, this isn’t an extended April Fool’s Day joke. I wish it was.

Deadline reported early this morning that Winnie the Pooh is set to be the next live-action feature film from Disney. Alex Ross Perry, writer-director for Listen Up Philip, is set to pen the script based on A. A. Milnes’s classic.

Image courtesy of Disney

UGH. I adore Pooh. Don’t even get me started on how much The Tigger Movie made me cry (“He is the only one!”). Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, and Owl — how can we not adore this crew? The most recent Winnie the Pooh movie (2011) was fantastic, the perfect balance of sentiment and laughter for all ages.

BUT WHY DO WE NEED ANOTHER ONE? Also, can this technically qualify as “live-action” if the main characters will be CGI? If the Academy doesn’t count Andy Serkis’s work as live-action, I don’t think CGI stuffed animals (even with a motion capture suit) would qualify.

The upside? This proposal actually has a unique plot! The focus won’t be on Christopher Robin as a boy but as an adult. Hopefully, we’ll find Christopher suffering through a midlife crisis and looking to his beloved playthings for wisdom.

For those of you who’ve lost track of every single live-action reboot the company scheduled, here they are:

1) The Jungle Book

2) Dumbo

3) Mulan

4) Pete’s Dragon 

5) Beauty and the Beast

6) and now Winnie the Pooh.

And, as with all adaptations, there’s the question of casting. Will vocal talent genius Jim Cummings voice both Tigger and Pooh as he does currently? Or will casting look toward bigger names to fill his shoes? What of Christopher Robin? For such a serious topic, will they grab a comedic actor or a more dramatic choice?

More importantly: what will the terrifying Heffalumps and Woozles look like?

So many questions, so few answers.

“Pete’s Dragon” Remake

12 Feb

Production has begun in New Zealand of a remake of Pete’s Dragon, Disney’s classic 1977 animation/live-action combo.

Photography for the film started this weekend to retell the story of an orphaned boy, Pete (played by newcomer Oakes Fegley) and his best friend, Elliott the dragon. It’s scheduled to hit theaters in August 2016.

Other notable cast members include Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace, a park ranger who stumbles upon Elliott; Wes Bentley as Jack, a mill owner; Karl Urban as Jack’s brother Gavin; and Robert Redford as Grace’s father.

Courtesy Disney, 1977

Pete’s Dragon will be directed by David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), who’ll also be assisting Toby Halbrooks with the screenplay.

WETA Digital, founded by Kiwi filmmaker Peter Jackson, is the visual effects company tasked with digitizing Elliott.

The biggest question left unanswered: Who will cover “Candle on the Water,” the movie’s tear-jerking ballad?

“Tomorrowland” Arrived TODAY

9 Oct

It’s HERE. The long-awaited first glimpse of the mysterious Tomorrowland flick with George Clooney dropped a few hours ago.

Someone page Mr. Tom Morrow, because this trailer looks great.

In the teaser, we meet Casey Newton, played by Britt Robertson. Given the cold prison setting in which we find her, I’m assuming she’s a character constantly on the verge of trouble.

As she recollects her belongings from Security, she finds a mysterious pin. (Calling it now: Disney will start selling those pins right before the movie drops and THEY WILL FLY OFF OF SHELVES. Pin Collectors, brace yourselves for Limited-Time Magic prices…)

Also, is it just me or does that logo look eerily familiar…?

Upon touching the (PeopleMover) pin, Casey finds herself transported into the world of Tomorrow, which looks initially looks like an empty field until the second pan outward.

The latter portions of the teaser include a fabulous George Clooney voice-over, inviting Casey (and us) to imagine a place where we could change the world. Pan up and BOOM; we’re treated with the skyline of a glittering Tomorrowland.

Most of the hype surrounding this movie comes from its overdone secrecy. When crews came to Tomorrowland during my CP tenure in T-Land, we were told very little about filming. I saw plenty of extras walking around in 1960’s era garb near Carousel of Progress, so I’m assuming that Walt Disney’s animatronic darling will make a cameo. However, rumors have swirled around the screenplay regarding inventors ranging from Tesla to Edison. (Could Casey’s last name of Newton be a reference to dear Sir Isaac?)

With Brad Bird at the director’s helm AND penning the screenplay, Disney fans know this movie is in capable hands. Given Disney’s not-so-hot record with recent live-action films, Tomorrowland could improve upon Maleficent‘s foundations and restore the studio to its Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl – era glory.

And as for the teaser trailer, I’m salivating more than if a Frontierland turkey leg was dangling in front of my face.

Tomorrowland hits theaters May 22, 2015.

All Things “FROZEN”

25 Oct

As it finally starts cooling down here in Orlando, the widely-anticipated FROZEN premier date draws nearer (okay, it’s widely anticipated if you’re me who has been anticipating this movie for nearly two years…).

Anna and Elsa dresses are now sold in the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique and in several merchandise locals throughout the parks. New clips keep popping up from Walt Disney Studios left and right, including Demi Lovato’s version of “Let it Go,” a song that will be sung by Idina Menzel’s Elsa in the film. This version will undoubtedly be a part of the ending credits.

But most importantly, the picture book has been released. Why am I freaking out over a kid’s picture book? THAT MEANS THEY HAVE REVEALED MORE OF THE PLOT THAN WITH ANY OF THE TRAILERS. Essentially, I spoiled the movie for myself when I read the book in Mouse Gears last night, but it was worth it.

So, with that being said, here’s what audiences can expect from FROZEN, according to what I remember from the picture book:


Of the two sisters, Elsa is the oldest and Anna is the youngest. Growing up, the girls were quite close, but the family had always realized Elsa had a power to control ice and snow and in the sunny kingdom of Arrendelle, snow was quite unheard of. One day while playing, Elsa accidentally hit Anna with a chunk of ice she couldn’t control. Anna was fine, according to a wise troll who said Elsa hadn’t hit Anna’s heart, just her head. The girls’ parents didn’t think it was okay, so they locked Elsa up and out of sight. Fast forward many years to Elsa’s coronation (and with it being a Disney movie, yes the parents have mysteriously disappeared somehow). Anna meets dashing Prince Hans at Elsa’s coronation and they fall in love. Hans asks Anna to marry him, but when Anna asks Elsa for permission, Elsa’s all “Girl, what are you thinking? You literally just met the guy. Cool your jets. You can’t marry him.” This causes Anna to be pretty upset, which causes Elsa to get more flustered, which causes Elsa to lose control of her powers. She bolts from the kingdom, ready to establish her own icy hideout. Anna, instantly feeling sorry, mounts a horse and sets off after her sister.

Just as most great Disney heroes/heroines when they set off on a horse, the horse gets lost along the way, leaving Anna stranded in the snow. She meets Kristoff, a mountain man with a moose-friend, and they set off together to find Elsa. Kristoff and Anna meet Olaf, a talking snowman who was created by Elsa. The three (four if you count the moose) set off and reach Elsa’s kingdom. Anna finally gets to Elsa’s palace and pleads with her sister to come back to the kingdom. Elsa isn’t convinced, believing she’ll just be locked up again like she was in her childhood. In a fit of frustration, Elsa loses control and hits Anna in the heart with ice (not piercing her heart, but it looks like a solid blow to the chest). Elsa throws Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf out of the kingdom and makes Super-Frosty-the-Snowman to guard her castle.

Anna and Kristoff consult the same wise troll from the beginning of the story, who tells them only an act of true love can bring Elsa back and save Anna, whose hair is slowly turning white due to Elsa’s hit to her heart. If nothing is done, says the troll, Anna will turn into a block of ice. Anna immediately thinks “Oh hey, Prince Hans! True love’s kiss! The traditional stuff! He can break this curse” and they set off to find him.

Meanwhile, Prince Hans finds his way to Elsa’s kingdom and begs her to return the kingdom to normal. She swears she can’t because she doesn’t know how to control her powers. In a moment of Elsa’s self-doubt, she is taken captive by Hans and his men and locked up.

When Anna returns to her palace, she begs Hans to kiss her and save the kingdom. He refuses, saying at this point, Elsa is better off dead and she cannot be saved. Anna is appalled and realizes Hans never loved her at all but only wanted to separate the sisters and gain power (I ain’t saying he a gold digger…). This causes Anna and Kristoff (who at this point is madly in love with Anna but only Olaf can see it) to scour the palace for Elsa. Hans goes to Elsa’s prison to tell her Anna is dead, frozen solid, and it’s all her fault. Elsa despairs and is ready to give up her life when BOOM Anna bursts through the door to block Hans’s sword. As his sword comes down, it shatters into tiny pieces because Anna has turned into a solid block of ice. Elsa, seeing this final act of courage and love, hugs her sister tightly to avoid any further blows from Hans.

That act of love breaks Anna’s curse and everything is happily ever after from there on out. I assume Anna and Kristoff get together and Elsa takes her place as rightful ruler of the kingdom.

Very little is said about Hans’s fate, and nothing was ever mentioned about the Duke (who I’m assuming is Hans’s father and mastermind behind all of this treachery). However, when the Tangled coloring book came out with the plot, very little was said about the depth of deception Mother Gothel used and the final sequence between Flynn/Gothel/Rapunzel was very vague. Needless to say, I was wrong in my plot predictions about most of the film.

That’s the beauty of Disney: once they think they’ve got you going in a pattern, they completely break the mold and leave you astounded. My excitement levels are off the charts.


Bye, Bye, Bruckheimer

22 Sep

The Walt Disney Company and director/producer Jerry Bruckheimer are parting ways after nearly 20 years of collaboration.

Best known for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Bruckheimer worked with the studios for 27 feature films, including National Treasure, Con Air, and Armageddon (Disneyland Paris still has a simulation attraction based on the film).

The move comes after the (rather dismal) box-office flop of The Lone Ranger reboot, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger. Some estimates suggest Disney could lose $190 million on the long-anticipated summer blockbuster.

Disney said in a statement it will continue to work with Bruckheimer on the fifth Pirates installment. However, the release date has been removed from the company’s distribution schedule. It had been listed to launch in the summer of 2015.

With Disney’s acquisitions of MARVEL and Lucasfilms (on top of studio projects from both Walt Disney Studios and PIXAR), the company has plenty of material to produce. However, Bruckheimer’s next projects are not as predictable.

What will happen to the franchise once expected to churn out three more movies after its initial trilogy? Critics and fans of the Pirates franchise wondered how the plot could continue after losing two leads (Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom), but how will it fair with this news?