Tag Archives: Disney movie

Throwback Thursday- Smart House (1999)

In our technological driven age, a fully automated house seems like a dream come true. But dreams and reality don’t always mix.

In the 1999 Disney TV movie Smart House, Ben (Ryan Merriman) and his family have just won a fully automated house. The computer, known as Pat (Katey Sagal) seems easy enough to control. But when Ben starts tinkering with Pat, whatever plans Ben had go out the window.

Smart House is one of those TV movies that is meant for a specific audience. The problem is that unless your part of the desired demographic, this TV movie is neither memorable or entertaining.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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The Lion King Movie Review

Twenty five years ago, The Lion King hit theaters. To say that it was a hit was an understatement. It is a masterpiece that to this day is loved, treasured and referenced.

Yesterday, the reboot was released. Directed by Jon Favreau, the new film follows the narrative of it’s animated predecessor. Simba (voiced by Donald Glover as an adult and JD McCrary as a child) is the son and heir to Pride Rock. His parents, Mufasa (James Earl Jones, the only holdover from the original film) and Sarabi (Afre Woodard) are King and Queen, respectively.

As a young cub, as many young are, Simba is energetic, curious and doesn’t exactly follow his parent’s instructions. Unfortunately, he gets his best friend Nala (voiced by Beyonce as an adult and Shahadi Wright Joseph as a child) in trouble as well.

Neither knows that Simba’s Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a chip on shoulder. Scar’s plan to remove all obstacles to the throne nearly succeeds as Simba runs from fear and shame. He is befriended by Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), a couple of misfits who only know freedom and a boundary-less life.

Then Simba is reminded of who he is. Can he step and be King or will he continue to run from his past?

If I had to rank all of the live action reboots that Disney has released over the past few years, this film would easily rank as #1. Favreau and his creative team had a herculean task on their hands: create a new film while showing deference to the 1994 animated film.

In my opinion, they succeeded. I felt a chill down my back as the opening number started. The animation, if it can be described as that, looked more like a documentary on the National Geographic channel than a film with a fictional narrative. I loved the cast, who, like the creative team, were able to put their own spin on their characters while showing deference to the actors who lent their voices to the 1994 film.

If I had to choose my favorite things about this film, I would choose two. The first is Nala and Sarabi. In the 1994 film, Sarabi is a glorified background character. In this film, Sarabi is more prominent and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Nala is the power behind the throne and a warrior in her own right.

The second is Timon and Pumbaa. These characters bring a lightness and a comedic element to a narrative is full of psychological symbolism and heavy with the ideas of fate and responsibility.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Lion King is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts On the Mulan Teaser Trailer

In 1998, Disney broke ground with the release of Mulan. Based on the myth of Hua Mulan, the movie told the story of the eponymous character who dresses as a boy and takes her elderly father’s place during wartime.

The teaser trailer for the live action reboot was released today.

Back then, Mulan (Ming Na-Wen) was a revolutionary character, especially among the Disney Princesses. Unlike other Disney Princesses, her main goal was not men, marriage and eventual children, in spite of the message that was shoved at her in every form possible. Her journey was that of a warrior who was defending her country while trying to figure out who she was.

It is that message, that I think, then and now still resonates with audiences.

This new live adaptation is directed by Niki Caro, whose previous films have featured strong women making tough decisions. Three of the four screenwriters are female. The cast is made up of Asian actors, properly reflecting the world that the characters live in. And yes, there will be some musical elements, but those details are being kept under wrap for now.

As expected, Disney is keeping certain information under wraps until the film is released in March of next year. These live action adaptations straddle a fine line. They have to honor their animated predecessor (and the original fairy tale, if there is one), while reflecting the cultural changes that have occurred since the original film was released.

We can only wait and see when the film is released next year.

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Toy Story 4 Movie Review

When a sequel or a prequel to a beloved franchise is released, the hope is that not only will it live up to the original work, but it will expand the story.

In 1995, the original Toy Story was released. It was an instant success and revolutionized animated films. 24 years later, Toy Story 4 was released.

The 4th film in the series picks up just after the 3rd film ended. Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), the young girl who inherited the toys is starting Kindergarten and is not feeling it. During orientation, she creates Forky (Tony Hale) and immediately adopts him as one of her toys. But Forky is not immediately convinced that he is a toy.

When Bonnie’s parents take her on a road trip before school starts, Woody (Tom Hanks), makes it his business to ensure that Forky does not escape. But inevitably, he does, separating Woody from Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys. Before reuniting with the rest of the crew, Woody meets up with Bo Peep (Annie Potts), his unrequited crush who has become a bad-ass. They have to rescue Forky from the hands of potentially psychopathic Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) with the help of Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves).

Upon release of the trailer, some may have asked why this film was necessary. The previous film tied up the narrative strings so perfectly that this film may seem like an easy cash grab by Disney.

It’s not. It expands the narrative in new and different ways. I loved the expansion of Bo Peep as a character and the message that it sends to women and girls of any age. I also loved the narrative of coming to the realization that things and relationships change. When we come to that point, we can either stay where we are or have the courage to step into the unknown for an adventure that is not yet revealed to us.

This film has humor, has heart and speaks to both children and adults.

I absolutely recommend it.

Toy Story 4 is presently in theaters.

P.S. Stay past the initial credits. The post credit scenes are worth the wait.

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Thoughts On the Casting of Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

I am a natural redhead. When I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was hard to find on screen characters who looked like me. Among the handful who I could look to as inspiration was Ariel (Jodi Benson) in the 1989 film, The Little Mermaid.

Over the last few years, Disney has rebooted their beloved animated films into live action films. The newest addition to this trend is the live reboot of The Little Mermaid with Halle Bailey stepping into the fins of Disney’s first modern Princess.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this casting. While I applaud Disney for choosing an actress of color to play the role, my heart is still wedded to the idea that Ariel is a redhead. When your growing up and you look different from your peers, you look to film and television characters who look like you. When I was a kid, that was Ariel. As an adult, I don’t agree with her narrative, but her image and the impression she made back then are still with me to this day.

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the casting?

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Aladdin Movie Review

I will try to make this review as spoiler free as I can, but if you have not seen the movie, I will not be bothered if you only read this review after you have been to the movie theater.

Hollywood has been addicted to reboots since it’s inception. Over the past few years, Disney has added to the general idea of reboots by releasing live action versions of their classic animated films. The most recent film in this sub-genre is Aladdin.

Like it’s 1992 animated predecessor, the film is set in Agrabah, a fictional Middle Eastern city. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is an orphan who lives by the seat of his pants and whatever food he can steal. One day, he meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is Princess of Agrabah. Locked in the palace, she yearns for freedom and escapes to the anonymity of the Agrabah marketplace.

Aladdin is roped into Grand Vizier Jafar’s (Marwan Kenzari) plan to find a mysterious lamp in a mythical cave. But Jafar is less than honest and leaves Aladdin to die. Inside the cave, Aladdin meets Genie (Will Smith), who offers him the possibilities that he could have only imagined of before.

When the original film was released back in 1992, I was a child and had a completely different view than I do now as an adult. Director Guy Ritchie surprised me. I’ve never seen any of his previous films, but based on the trailers, I can’t say that any of them were aimed at or appropriate for the audience that typically sees a Disney film. However, Ritchie and his creative team were able to create a film that is an homage to its predecessor while standing on it’s own two feet.

Two major changes that from my perspective elevated this film from the 1992 animated film was the expansion of Jasmine as a character and the casting of actors whose ethnic background matches the ethnicity of the characters. Instead of just giving lip service to feminism, Jasmine is truly a character in her own right. Not only does she wear more clothes, but she is more than arm candy to the man who she will potentially call husband. In the casting for this movie, the actors who were ultimately chosen are of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. The specific choice of actors adds a level of authenticity that is lacking in the 1992 film.

Speaking of changes to the film, I was very impressed with Will Smith’s version of Genie. Robin Williams’s performance a quarter of a century ago can never be duplicated. However, Smith is able to put his own spin on the character while showing respect to Williams’s Genie.

Though the film is over two hours, it does not fee like it is over two hours. The narrative has a nice pace and the musical sequences fit in nicely with the overall story.

If I had one takeaway from this film (as was the same takeaway from the 1992 film), it was that being yourself is the most important thing and you should never change who you are to please someone else.

I recommend it.

Aladdin is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts On the 28th Anniversary Of The Little Mermaid

Friday was the 28th anniversary of the release of The Little Mermaid.

Loosely (and I mean very loosely) based on the story of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid the story of Ariel. Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) is 16 and the youngest daughter of the King Triton (voiced by Kenneth Mars). Rebellious and headstrong (as many teenage girls are), Ariel falls in love with a human prince, Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes). Making a deal with the sea witch, Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll), Ariel trades her voice and her tail for legs to hopefully be with Eric. But is it worth the trade-off and will she have her happy ending?

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, Ariel is is Disney’s OG Ginger. As a redhead, especially as a redhead of a certain generation, Ariel will always have a place in my heart. But that does not mean that I have issues with the character and the narrative.

  1. Ariel is a size 2. Most of us are not a size 2.
  2. How does she not have third degree sunburns? One of the cardinal rules of being a redhead is that sunscreen is a mandatory part of our morning routine.
  3. She willingly gives up her voice and her legs (i.e. her identity) for a man who she barely knows. Not exactly the message that we should be imparting to our daughters.
  4. When push comes to shove (i.e. Ursula tries to get in the way of Ariel and Eric’s happy ending), it is Eric that saves the day.
  5. Ariel wears a pink dress. I don’t know about other redheads, but it’s not a color that exists in my wardrobe.
  6. Ursula is old and fat. Ariel is young and skinny. Therefore, young and thin is good. Old and fat is bad.

Despite my concerns with this movie, The Little Mermaid will always have a place in my heart. I can’t believe it’s been 28 years.

 

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Flashback Friday-Beauty And The Beast (1946)

Many of us know have seen at least once the 1991 Disney adaptation of Beauty And the Beast.

But there is another Beauty And The Beast movie (based on the original fairy tale), which to me, is a far better movie.

In 1946, La Belle Et La Bete (translated to Beauty And The Beast in English) was released.

Belle (Josette Day) is the youngest daughter of a once wealthy merchant who lost his fortune when the ships carrying his cargo drowned. While her siblings keep spending money that they do not have, Belle has taken on the role of family servant.  Avenant (Jean Marais) is a friend of Belle’s brother, who would like nothing more than to marry Belle. But she is uninterested in him.

While crossing through a dark forest at night, Belle’s father is welcomed into a castle the seems empty. On his way out, he steals a rose, an act which angers the beast (also Jean Marais) that owns the castle.  Belle’s father has two options: sacrifice his life or send one of his daughters in his stead. Taking her father’s place, Belle rides to the Beast’s castle, not knowing what or who is waiting for her.

Unlike the Disney movie, which is a bit simple (I love that movie, but it’s oversimplified in terms of character), this movie is full of psychological symbolism and not for young children. One of the most fascinating elements of this movie is not the movie, but what was going on in the world at the time. This movie was released just after World War II, when Europe was relying on the Marshall Plan to help rebuild from the destruction that the war created.

I highly recommend this movie.

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Still The King Of New York- My Thoughts On Newsies after 22 years

Imagine if you will, The Bell House, a non-nondescript bar in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn in the summer of 2011. It’s Friday night, the patrons are having a drink, unwinding after a long week. They are adults, mostly women in their 20’s and 30’s. They are educated, mature and grown up.

Then the movie starts. It’s Newsies, the 1992 Disney movie musical starring a very pre Batman Christian Bale as Jack Kelly. Newsies is the story of the newsboys strike in New York City in 1899. Jack Kelly is the unlikely leader of the boys who are fighting for their rights as employees.

Imagine, this group of educated and mature adults,  returning, if only for a few hours, to their childhoods, singing along to a soundtrack that has been part of their lives for nearly two decades. Premiering on April 10, 1992, Newsies was not well liked among critics at that time.   But the critics are not always right.

I’ve loved this movie for over 20 years. To be honest, it is bit flawed. While we all know that Christian Bale is an incredible actor, when it comes to the singing and dancing, Gene Kelly, he is not. But there is a heart to this movie, a genuineness. It speaks to everyone who sees themselves as the little person, who believes that change is impossible.

It is a little corny at times and a tad predictable, but it is a Disney movie.  Despite all of that, it is still Newsies and it is as good as it was back in 1992.

 

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