Tag Archives: new movie

‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Gets Release Date

31 May

Looks like December 2018 will have another jolly holiday.

Disney announced its Mary Poppins revival will hit theaters Christmas Day 2018. They also released the title: Mary Poppins Returns.

Emily Blunt (Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods) will star as the practically perfect nanny. Lin-Manuel Miranda, star/creator of the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton” and currently crafting music for Disney’s next animated feature Moana, will star opposite Blunt in a Bert-esque role.

The movie will follow a grown-up Jane and Michael Banks in depression-era London. The nanny will revisit the Banks family after a tragedy that deprives the family of happiness, according to the Company’s announcement.

Keep your calendars clear, as Christmas day releases will no doubt start piling back up as 2018 draws nearer.

 

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‘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.

 

‘Inside Out’ an emotional rollercoaster

22 Jun

Disney PIXAR’s latest film Inside Out offers one of the most heart-wrenching, emotionally charged creations to date.

Which I should’ve expected seeing as the movie is literally about an 11-year-old girl and her emotions.

Very little about Inside Out‘s plot was ever divulged to the public, and writer/director Pete Docter helped keep a majority of the details under wraps. Several characters and plot details were completely withheld from any trailers or teasers. When I walked into the movie, I expected to cry but not the flood of tears I sobbed multiple times during the film.

Joy  (voiced by the always perfect Amy Poehler) loves her job as acting chief of pre-teen Riley’s “headquarters.” The audience is treated to the beauty of seeing Joy be the very first emotion and core memory that Riley feels in the movie. Shortly joining Joy, however, is Sadness (Phyllis Smith of The Office) who serves as Joy’s foil. Duh, they’re opposites. Anger, Fear and Disgust (Lewis Black, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling, respectively) round out the Headquarters crew. When Sadness accidentally threatens the safety of Riley’s happy core memories (and Joy’s proudest accomplishments) the two get sucked into a vent and tossed into the rest of Riley’s brain, leaving Anger, Disgust and Fear to rule over Riley’s emotions until Joy and Sadness return. The plot thickens when Anger suggests running away from home to help Riley cope with a new city. If her happiest memories were made in Minnesota, why stay in San Francisco? Joy and Sadness then race against the clock to stop Riley and the remaining emotions from doing something she’d completely regret, an action that would emotionally bankrupt Riley.

What makes the movie so spectacular is that it forces introspection of its audience. A film about the human mind, adolescence and feelings would have to induce some form of self-evaluation for viewers. However, Inside Out never once becomes preachy with its message that Sadness –like Joy– has its place at times, and ultimately, our lives are constructed of moments of mixed emotions.

Visually, the movie is STUNNING. The emotions are crafted with hazy, soft edges. Riley’s brain is constructed with the creativity that Inside Out’s subject demands. The scene in Abstract Thought was easily the most enjoyable, as artists rendered actual cognitive theory in a visual format. So. Incredibly. Brilliant.

Inside Out serves as the pinnacle (for now at least) of Pete Docter’s writing and directing skills. Yes, that means Inside Out is better than Up. It’s even more tear-jerking than Toy Story 3, a feat I never thought possible. The script engages all ages, which is one of the most profound aspects of its inherent relatability. The dialogue never seems too hokey for the respective characters, which is impressive given that Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear are characters literally founded on basic emotions. Each character finds development while still staying true to their namesake emotion.

This might just be PIXAR’s best film to date. The concept is fresh, stunningly original and poignant in ways few other animated movies have been in recent years.

Verdict: GO SEE INSIDE OUT. Now. What are you still doing reading this? Seriously. Leave and go see it. Bring tissues. And once you’ve had your fill of emotional wreckage for the year, get ready to buy the movie as soon as it hits DVD. It truly is a PIXAR classic.

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.

‘Mulan’ to get live-action treatment: Too far?

31 Mar

When reports surfaced late yesterday that Disney’s 1998 Mulan would become the next live-action film after Beauty and the Beast, I instantly felt conflicted.

I lacked the words to eloquently articulate the confusion, anxieties and frustrations I had upon reading the announcement.

I’ve now found the word:

Dishonor. 

Dishonor on your whole family. Dishonor on you. Dishonor on your cow.

Disney, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? You have animated upcoming films that you need to market (ahem, Zootopia). You have older films you could reinvigorate with re-releases with anniversaries coming up.

And you pick MULAN.

Before I get too carried away, let me explain something: I love the movie. Mulan is a sassy, independently-minded princess (yes, Disney categorizes as her as such. Let’s not debate semantics) who saves China with style. Eddie Murphy’s Mushu rivals the Genie in his balance of humor and heart. And who could forget Grandma Fa, arguably one of the most underrated secondary characters in the film? It warrants attention, sure, but a reboot?

I have faith that Disney would find a good Li Shang (Days of Our Lives Christopher Sean, anyone?). They could probably find a decent Mulan. There are tons of talented actresses of color who would rock the role. But unless you’re going to get Eddie Murphy to reprise the role, don’t bother.

My deepest fear with these upcoming remakes — Beauty and the Beast included — is that they won’t deviate enough from the original story to make the tale fresh. Maleficent featured the villain, giving a new spin on a classic tale. Cinderella offered character development (and a name) to a Prince and Princess who’d been written off as bland. What will Beauty and the Beast give? All signs point to a celebrified live-action retelling. Effectively, we might be getting a glorified musical version, and I would’ve much rather seen the Guillermo del Toro/Warner Bros./super-dark interpretation.

What will Mulan give? Hopefully, much more than a Kevin Hart performance and yet another remix of “Reflections.”

‘Beauty and the Beast’ adds Mrs. Potts, LeFou and Maurice

17 Mar

It’s not one lump, it’s two three for Disney casting news!

Emma Thompson will join the live-action Beauty and the Beast as Ms. Potts;

Kevin Kline will play Belle’s father Maurice;

and Josh Gad announced via Twitter he’ll join in as Gaston’s henchman, Lefou.

Talk about a busy day for Disney fans!

The release date is still being withheld by Disney production, but the movie will kick off in May at Shepperton Studios in London, The Hollywood Reporter noted.

The trio of award-winning actors will join Emma Watson’s Belle, Dan Stevens’s Beast and Luke Evans’s Gaston.

With the last two live-action fairytale reboots being musical-less, will Disney make its superstars sing for this adaptation? All signs point to yes, as Alan Menken is set to score the film and Sir Tim Rice (Lion King) will pen several new songs.

Stay tuned for more casting news!

‘Cinderella’ enchants on opening day; ‘Frozen Fever’ warms the heart

14 Mar

No need to run from the palace here; Cinderella is a real treat.

The incomparable Lily James (Downton Abbey’s Lady Rose) steals the show as the titular princess, but she is surrounded by excellent company. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) plays off James’s light yet genuine Cinderella as an equally charming and surprisingly developed Prince Kit. (Prince Charming finally gets a real name!)

The chemistry between the two shines brightest in the ballroom scenes, despite Madden’s struggles with ballroom dancing and not tripping over James’s spectacular blue gown.

Cate Blanchett’s Lady Tremaine endures a dip into attempted sympathy before embracing the deliciously wicked character fans of Disney’s 1950 original know and love.

The costuming and set design take on characters of their own. The wicked Tremaines are robed in the finest and gaudiest clothing a designer could possibly create, and it brilliantly displays the personalities of the actresses. Blanchett’s own wardrobe seems like a more timeless collection of 1940s Chanel: beautiful yet too formal to really be loved and comfortable.

James’s blue gown is breathtaking, and props to visual effects for making her transformation just right. I know some critics hesitated at the butterflies on the neckline; however, five minutes into the story, the butterflies are explained and serve as a crucial thematic tie throughout the film.

The sweeping landscapes and sets, paired with well-framed wide shots, sell the audience immediately as to the grandeur of the whole film. I’d expect nothing less from director Kenneth Branagh.

My only critique (nay, suggestion) would be the credits song (and who stays around for that?). Maleficent boasted a fantastic rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” by Lana Del Rey. Where was a take on “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes?” I appreciated James sneaking “Sing Sweet Nighting Gale” as she walked through the garden, but it just wasn’t the same without the undercurrent of those classic scores.

What overwhelms the most from this film isn’t the scenery, costumes, or Maddens’s stellar blue eyes. It’s the message sent out to audiences: “Have courage, and be kind.” That mantra introduced by Cinderella’s mother** (Agent Carter‘s Hayley Attwell) provides Cinderella with the ability to survive a torrent of abuses from Lady Tremaine, at least until Helena Bonham Carter can step in as the Fairy Godmother and give our heroine a taste of the justice she deserves. Of the rich themes Disney has put out to young children in recent years, the belief that kindness shines through despite the horrible things going on in life might be one of the strongest.

In recent years, Cinderella receives a lot of flack because she’s not as fiery and outgoing as modern princesses like Merida and Tiana. However, Branagh reminds audiences something Walt Disney always believed about Cinderella — being good and having a giving heart does not make one weak, it makes one strong. That strength is where Cinderella finds her beauty throughout the film, as she overcomes obstacles with compassion that Elsa would’ve simply frozen in a rage.

Walt Disney once said of Cinderella: “She believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn’t come along, she went over to the palace and got him.” And in this adaptation, that’s exactly what she did. I firmly believe Walt Disney would be very proud.

Now, onto something a bit colder…

Frozen Fever is one of the cutest little shorts Disney has done in a while, but I left feeling a twinge of disappointment. (Ugh, I hate typing those words.)

The bright spots: Elsa’s GREEN DRESS. I need it. Now. Shut up and take my money, Disney merchandising. I love the song. I found it just as catchy as “For the First Time in Forever.” Love the throwback to Hans and the snowball planting him firmly in a pile of horse crap. Kristoff’s accidental confession of love makes me smile. So sweet, and clearly it was Anna’s first time hearing those words! I wish they’d hung on that frame a second longer just to let the weight of those words sink in. And whatever those adorable little baby sentient snow creatures were blew me away. SO CUTE (and soooo marketable as plush toys. Mark my words, people…).

The whole thing felt a bit…rushed. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck openly admit to struggling with a story for the short, yet this feels like the “oh well, we gotta have something so this will do” option. Granted, the characters created by Lee and Buck are so complex that a short film wouldn’t do a proper story justice. I found Frozen Fever an excellent short to one of the biggest movies in animated history, and the story is impressive considering how little turnaround Lee and Buck had to craft something. Geez people, they won the Oscar last year! Give them time to breathe!

**A fair warning to parents of young children: there are several deaths throughout the film, though none are particularly gruesome or gory. They are, however, very emotionally charged. Please note this isn’t anything overdone from the original (her parents still die in the 1950 animated version too), but the deaths occur after you’ve become attached to the characters.

All in all, Cinderella will lead to a magical night. Enjoy!