Disenchanted Movie Review

Most fairy tales end with the words “happily ever after”. While this is certainly a satisfying conclusion, there is always room for more.

The new DisneyPlus movie, Disenchanted, was released last weekend. The sequel to Enchanted, it has been fifteen years since the first film ended. Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and Giselle (Amy Adams) are happily married and have a baby girl of their own. Robert’s daughter Morgan (played by Gabriella Baldacchino) from his previous marriage is now a teenager and dealing with what we all went through at that age.

The story starts when the family leaves New York City for the suburbs of upstate NY. The nice way of describing their new home is that it is a fixer-upper. While Giselle tries to make friends with Malvina (Maya Rudolph), the town’s unofficial social queen, they are visited by Edward (Jason Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel).

The gift they bestow leads Giselle to make a wish for her previous fairy tale life. As usually happens when this kind of yearning, it all goes to h*ll in a handbasket. It is up to Giselle and Morgan to save the day and return their world to what it was before.

I loved the movie. It was entertaining, funny, and the perfect follow-up to its predecessor. The easter eggs are fast and furious in the best way possible. As with Enchanted, Disney is lovingly mocking itself while recreating a narrative that fans know and love. My favorite character is Malvina. Rudolph is clearly having fun with the role, hamming it up to the nth degree.

All in all, it was a blast to watch and well worth the fifteen-year wait.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also not be surprised if it was on any top ten lists at the end of next month.

Disenchanted is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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RIP Angela Lansbury

There are some performers whose career is so indelible that we believe that they are immortal. The truth is that no one lives forever and we all go at some point.

The legendary actress Angela Lansbury passed away on Tuesday. This star of stage and screen (big and small) has been in our collective cultural lives for as long as many of us can remember.

Most notably, she played Jessica Fletcher in the iconic 1980s television show Murder, She Wrote and was the voice of Mrs. Potts in the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast. I remember watching both as a child and feeling as if she was just a natural who spoke to the audience, regardless of the role she played.

She was 96. May her memory be a blessing. Z”L

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Thoughts On the Disenchanted and The Little Mermaid Trailers

It’s easy to be cynical in an adult and complicated world. Then you put on a Disney movie and you become the child believing that anything is possible.

Last week, the trailers for Disenchanted (the sequel to Enchanted) and the live-action reboot of The Little Mermaid were released.

The premise of Disenchanted is as follows: It’s been ten years since Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) had their happily ever after. But when Giselle starts to question that happiness, things go horribly wrong.

When it was announced some time ago that Halle Bailey was taking over the role of Ariel, I was not sure about that casting. To be perfectly honest, it was simply about the hair color, nothing more. If it came off as racist, I apologize. That was not my intention. Ariel is such an integral part of my childhood that she is a part of my essence. I just feel very protective of her.

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Though it is only a teaser trailer, I have seen enough to be excited. Bailey has a beautiful voice and I look forward to seeing the film when it comes out next year.

Disenchanted will be released on DisneyPlus on November 24th. The Little Mermaid will be in theaters next May.

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Throwback Thursday: Moana (2016)

Ancient myths make for great stories. They are human stories about human characters going on extraordinary adventures that challenge both the protagonist and the audience.

The 2016 animated Disney movie Moana tells the story of a young lady named Moana Waialiki (Auli’i Cravalho). She is the daughter of a Polynesian chief who must save her island and her people. For time immemorial, her people have traveled the seas. But now the crops are dying and the sea is not yielding fish to the fisherman.

Believing the myth that the g-d Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is responsible for this curse, she goes on a journey to find him and force him to return the heart he carries to its rightful owner.

This movie is really good. It is charming, entertaining, and completely adorable. The Rock is at the top of his game and Cravalho is a lovely addition to the Disney princess line. Moana is determined, independent, fearless, and perhaps a little naive about the expedition she is about to go on.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Moana is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

Raya and the Last Dragon Review

Emotional growth and maturity does not appear out of the blue. It requires us to step out of our comfort zone and be willing to go on a journey that by definition is never easy

The new Disney movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, premiered earlier this year. In the ancient realm of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. When the Druun threatened it’s inhabitants, the dragons stood between the invaders and humanity. But as much as they tried, the dragons were not able to protect themselves or their human neighbors.

500 years later, Kumandra is now split into five different kingdoms. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is daughter of Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), who is chief of the Heart kingdom. He believes in peace and is eager to return to the days when everyone lived together, but his dreams are just that. Benja brings together the leaders of the other four kingdoms, hoping that it will generate some sort of good will towards one another. What starts out a lovely afternoon turns into terror.

Years later, Raya is searching for a way to fulfill her father’s dreams. She has become a cynic, unwilling and unable to trust almost everyone she meets. On her journey, she releases Sisu (Awkwafina), the only dragon to have survived the massacre. Sisu has an open heart and believes in the good of humanity. This odd couple will have to work together to undo the past and return Kumandra to what it was.

As Disney movies go, it was pretty good. Raya is a real and relatable heroine. Her story, unlike her Princess sisters, is of self discovery and learning to trust. There is not even a mention of a romantic relationship. The closest parallel, if there is one, is the love between Raya and Benja. In most fairy tales, the father of the female protagonist is either dead or emotionally absent. It was lovely to see a parent who loves and supports his daughter beyond the traditional “find a man and settle down” narrative. I also loved that the filmmakers let Awkwafina be her full comedic self and that it felt authentically Asian without pandering to anyone.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Raya and the Last Dragon is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

Snow White & Fox News: Nothing More Than a Distraction

Have you ever gone to a magic show and closely watched the magician while they were doing card tricks? The real trick is in their left hand, but they are distracting you by making you focus on what is in their right hand.

The latest brouhaha to come out of Fox News revolves around the updates made to the Snow White’s Enchanted Wish ride at Disneyland. Their claim, as ridiculous as it sounds, is that cancel culture is again rearing its ugly head. The target of the moment is Snow White.

These people need to get over themselves. Instead of dealing with the real issues like Covid-19, the economy, the still prevalent race issues, etc., they talk about nonsense. Its as if these people purposefully put their heads in the figurative sand. They hear and see what they want to hear and see. If it doesn’t interest them or directly support their point of view, it is wrong or bad somehow.

No wonder this country is going to Hades in a handbasket.

Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

Mulan Review

Back in 1976, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich made the following statement:

“Well-behaved women seldom make history”

Among the myths that exist in Chinese history, the story of Hua Mulan is one of the most well known. In 1998, Disney released an animated film based on her narrative. In September, the live action adaptation premiered on Disney Plus.

Mulan (Yifei Liu) is not your average young woman. Girls in her world are expected to be meek, mild, and subservient. The highlight of her life is her future as a wife and mother. But Mulan is the opposite. She is a tomboy who would prefer to be active rather than submit to the path that is prescribed for her.

When the kingdom is invaded, a decree is sent out. Every family must send one man to fight. But Mulan has no brothers and her father is partially crippled from the last invasion. Disguising herself as a boy, she joins the army, knowing full well that the revelation of her gender is a dangerous one.

Among the live-action updates of Disney’s animated films (Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast), this is the best of the three that have so far been seen by audiences. It is darker and grittier than its predecessor, enhancing what was already there. I also loved the addition of Xianniang (Li Gong). Though she is initially introduced as the typical Disney villain, there is more to her than meets the eye.

One of the updates that I think makes the movie is the question of how gender is perceived. Though the subject was threaded into the screenplay in the 1998 movie, it is much more prevalent in this version.

If there was one takeaway from this film, it is to thine own self be true, even if the revelation is a difficult one to process. Given the changes in our culture in regards to gender, sex, and sexuality, the message comes through loud and clear.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Mulan is available for streaming on Disney Plus.

HOW WILL YOU VOTE? – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

In only a short few days, Americans will know who will be leading the country for the next four years. While millions have already made the choice known, others will be going to the polls on Election Day.

Randy Rainbow released his newest video on Friday. Entitled HOW WILL YOU VOTE? – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody, the song is based “That’s How You Know” from the 2007 movie Enchanted.

I loved this video. Over the last week or so, the reminders to vote have come at us in all directions. Though we are told every year that that year’s election is the important, this year’s election is critical. If we do not vote you know who out, the United States as it exists today may not be there tomorrow.

#BidenHarris2020

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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