Zootopia (2016)

I’m a big Disney fan, but I never find trailers for new Disney animated films particularly appealing. Maybe it’s because the trailers are more marketed towards kids and I’m still mentally stuck in a place where I’m trying to be highbrow enough to understand crazy “art” films like Knight of Cups. (Probably won’t happen…) I still remember the first trailer I ever saw for Wall-E, one of my favorite Pixar films of all time, and being pretty bored and turned off by it, because it was a one-minute clip of Wall-E collecting trash. And that was the whole trailer.

So, when a Disney animated feature film comes out, I usually don’t get particularly excited until afterwards, when the adults get hyped. In the case of Zootopia, I didn’t know much about it before the movie came out except that it was about a rabbit cop voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin and a fox voiced by Jason Bateman. Basically, everything I knew about Zootopia came from that first teaser about anthropomorphic mammals and that DMV sloth scene.

BUT, when Disneybound founder Leslie came back from an early screening raving about the amazing message behind the movie, I was really curious. All Disney movies have a good message behind them, but people don’t usually come away from watching them thinking, “Man. What a GOOD message.” However, that seemed to be the consensus after watching Zootopia, so I took Ben to see it when we had a free evening last week.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/zootopia-movie-poster.jpg

Read More »

Cinderella (2015)

My first early screening of the year was for Disney’s latest live-action adaptation, Cinderella.

I’ll be honest with you: I was not that excited for this movie. We’ve seen a few live-action Disney fairy tales and they haven’t done very well. And while Maleficent was a villain backstory, I couldn’t discern any actual new twists, and well, I own the original 1950 animated movie so I know the story? What is this new movie bringing to the table besides Cate Blanchett and a bunch of other actors that I don’t actually know very well.

ALSO, I’m not going to lie, I was a little salty about how bright blue the new dress is. Cindy’s dress was this silvery white that looked just barely blue in the light. It’s a beautiful dress, don’t get me wrong, but I just felt miffed by the color.

That is not a silvery blue. That’s an in your face, blue-as-blue-can-be kind of blue. Still pretty.

Also why does the shoe look so weird and polygonal? It just didn’t bode well for the movie, for me.

Sigh… Not sure what to expect from Disney live action adaptations anymore, but I tried to go into it with an open mind… and a themed DisneyBound of course!

Bored Prince Charming at the ball
Bored Prince Charming at the ball

Now, on to the actual review.

You know what’s kind of awkward… is when the movie ends and people want to know how it is. But they phrase it like this:

“Did you like the movie?”
“Well-”
“I loved it, it was amazing right??”

No. I did not think it was amazing, I’m sorry. I found it, basically, exactly as underwhelming as I thought it would be. That being said, I think I went into it with the expectations that this was a movie for adults. It’s not that it’s a movie for children, per se, but it’s also not quite a movie for adult Disney fans either…

Let me back it up and talk some of the things I liked about this new adaptation:

  • Costuming was exquisite. Seriously, it was pretty glorious. My cavorite costume of the  film is Lady Tremaine’s first that we see in the film, with a spectacular black and gold color scheme. Most of her later costumes have green, and I don’t like green, especially wearing it, but I loved this first costume.

    PLUS THAT HAT. Oh man, dream outfit. I would wear this. Complete with a grumpy cat.
  • Set design was beautiful. Oh man, it was really gorgeous. When Anastasia and Drizella are making fun of Cinderella’s house, it totally baffles me because uh, the house is beautiful. The Prince’s castle? Wow.
  • Action scenes are best in live-action. The scene where Cinderella is fleeing the castle as the clock strikes twelve is well-done in live-action. That kind of tension-building doesn’t come across as well in most animations, so this was done pretty well.
  • Scoring was also done really nicely. Although I will talk through some of my issues with it in a bit.

Essentially, my takeaway from this movie was that it took the fairy tale feeling that was conveyed by the animated 1950 films and translated that fairy tale magic through the aesthetics. Gilded everything, soft sunlit scenes. The movie was so nice to look at. But beyond that, I really found it lacking a lot.

Let me talk about the music really quickly. I was pretty dismayed that the songs from the 1950 movie weren’t used in this film, even in the scoring. The only song I recognized from the original soundtrack was when Lily James briefly sang “Sing Sweet Nightingale”. By briefly, I literally mean she sang the line “Sing sweet, nightingale” once while doing her chores. I didn’t hear the motif throughout the rest of that scene. I did not hear “So This is Love” as a motif in scenes with Richard Madden. I did not hear “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” at any point. And no “Bippidi Boppidi Boo” for our fairy godmother scene.

I didn’t love the casting of Helena Bonham Carter for the fairy godmother. It added to the confusion of what this movie was trying to be. After all, it wasn’t trying to be a super faithful live-action recreation because Helena’s fairy godmother is nothing like the matronly wise old woman archetype that we had in 1950. She is also not likely popular among children. So she’s cast in this film for adults and yet her role was so campy that I don’t understand what the larger goal was for this casting choice. And when you have so little screentime but are so heavily advertised (kind of like Johnny Depp in Into the Woods) you have to make THE MOST out of it and I just felt that her performance, much like many of the non-Blanchett performances, fell flat.

In fact, that was my major problem with the entire film. Overall, it seemed like it was aiming to just be a highly romanticized period film with some magic. But I felt so overwhelmingly uncharmed by it. What was it trying to be? It was not a faithful adaptation of the original animated movie, as it needed to do something original. (Didn’t love those twists, but I’ll talk about those in my spoilers.) It wasn’t innocent and light enough to be a children’s movie, but it was too campy to be an adult movie.

I definitely had an issue with the dialogue. Most of it was cringe-worthy. It was not natural, maybe because of this lofty romantic fuzzy daydream vision they were going for? BUT THEN explain Helena Bonham Carter’s character? The goofy fairy godmother? Goofier than Whitney Houston’s. I mean, she’s HBC. We know what to expect from her, and she deliver that, but it seemed so out of place in this film.

Awkward meet-cute…

 

You know, let’s go back to talking about the actors for a minute. Cate Blanchett can do no wrong, but they gave her such odd lines to work with. Lady Tremaine as a character is just kind of cruel because she can be. They weakened that in this film, and I don’t understand why they did this. She did what she could, but even she couldn’t salvage the awkward dialogue. There’s nothing WRONG with the actors in this film, but the performances were just all so flat and lacked depth. Richard Madden? Lily James? YAWN. I do find casting Richard Madden as Prince Charming odd. He’s not handsome in the conventional Disney way of casting men who look young and dashing and charming? He’s more handsome in that John Stamos way, if that makes sense? It seemed odd. He was also one of the more expressive actors in the movie, and that’s saying something. The stepsisters were comical, as they’re supposed to be, but were they actually much more animated than everyone else or did they just seem so much more lively relative to their costars? True, their funny moments were pretty funny. The comic nature of how ridiculous the sisters are was maintained in this movie, thank goodness. Those two made the most of their time on screen.

Oh, but Cate Blanchett really was brilliant. Truly an amazing actress, and the little things sh did really reminded me of some of the great actresses that have graced the silver screen. She already is in their company. Amazing.

I’m going to cut to a trailer before I rip into this some more, but I’m going to rip into this some more after the trailer:

Cinderella is out in theaters March 13. Spoilers to follow:Read More »

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Last week, I was able to see Disney’s newest animated feature, Big Hero 6 early in theaters.

Me and Baymax! I’m dressed a bit like Gogo Tomago and worked hard to get her makeup look down, which you can’t see at all in this photo but it came out pretty well, lemme tell ya.

Basically, it was amazing fantastic awesome spectacular. This is kind of a longer review, but it gets a full 5/5 100% recommend you watch it for the following reasons:

  • Fantastic characters
  • Beautiful animation
  • Great promotion of the sciences
  • Fun story and funnier lines

I have been waiting for this movie for over a year now. No, really. (It’s not easy being a Disnerd. The wait for Moana is agonizing as well.) This is Disney Animation’s first go with a Marvel property and it’s pretty great.

Let’s look at our cast of characters first, because that’s really where this movie just comes alive.

From L to R: Fred, GoGo Tomago, Baymax, Hiro, Honey Lemon, Wasabi

These are our 6 heroes. Let’s meet them, shall we?

Hiro Hamada in full hero gear

Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is the protagonist of our film. He’s 14-years-old and a casual robotics prodigy. We get a really good feel of his personality in the opening scene, where he’s at an [illegal] underground robot fight. As a character, there is a lot of depth to Hiro that I really really loved. Seriously classic example of how to put a character through hardships and see him pull through. He’s a teenager at the cusp of puberty, so he’s awkward and sassy and kind but selfish. He’s many things and that complexity is SO delicious because it makes him more real without making him too real. (I tend to dislike characters who are TOO realistically flawed.) I also really want to talk about his family, but just know that Hiro’s relationship with his brother and his aunt are really special.

Baymax in battle gear

Meet Baymax, our adorable squishy character. THIS is how you do a non-human sidekick. (Note: I hate Olaf from Frozen.) Baymax is squishy and chock full o’ comic relief because he is a robot and doesn’t understand our zany human ways! I’ll admit, I was skeptical of Baymax because it seemed like an Olaf-esque ploy to just push out merchandise and have a recognizable character for the franchise. But he’s completely terrific.

Gogo Tomago (voiced by Jamie Chung) is one of my favorite characters in this movie. First of all, I’m always thrilled when more Asian characters are added to the Disneyverse and Gogo Tomago is everything we could have asked for. She’s a no-nonsense butt-kicker who is, as with the rest of the team, also really smart. She works with electromagnetic disks (that you see her wearing above) and chews gum. Also PURPLE. She’s awesome, everything about her just screams cool.

Wasabi (No Ginger?) (voiced by Damon Wayans Jr.) is also a really fun character. He’s the biggest hero of the team (besides Baymax, of course), but he has this really funny neuroticism that makes him maybe too relate-able, personally speaking. He seems like the most real-world-esque character. He gets freaked out flying over the city, he is scared of creepy abandoned warehouses, he doesn’t like his workspace being disturbed because he has a system goshdarnit! He’s also wicked awesome with lasers.

Honey Lemon (voiced by Génesis Rodriguez) is a bubbly and cute character (although her accent was inconsistent in a way that I found slightly distracting). She is also really kind, and that is not really shoved down your throat too much, which is great. She’s just an overall sweetie and her love for chemistry is adorable.

Oh Fred Zilla (voiced by T. J. Miller) is easily one of the most fun characters in this entire movie. The only hero in our group who is not a genius student at SFIT, he is the mascot and dreams of being a fire-breathing dragon. So the team uses science to make that a reality. I usually don’t like characters like Fred too much (think Shaggy from Scooby Doo) because they’re a little TOO laidback and TOO silly. But BH6 did a really great job of making him likable for me.

Tadashi Hamada (voiced by Daniel Henney) (“I thought he sounded hot!” – my friend) is Hiro’s lovely older brother. Like brother like brother, he is the robotics specialist in the group of nerds at SFIT and built Baymax to be a healthcare robot and help people. His powerful desire to help other people is, again, not overdone but it really does affect everything he does. He saves his brother from an illegal robot fight, he gently encourages to use his genius for more noble pursuits, and more. It’s difficult not to really adore his character, I think because I’m just such a sucker for really beautiful families.

Speaking of beautiful families, this is Aunt Cass (voiced by Maya Rudolph) (but Tumblr says she looks like the animators used Tina Fey for a reference model). It’s not really explored much in the movie, but Hiro and Tadashi’s parents are dead and she is their guardian. She does the best she can and it really shows, just how much she loves her two boys. She works really hard to support them in their endeavors, runs a cute cafe, and is just such a cute and fun and loving character. She’s easily one of my favorite characters in this movie.

There are so many things I love about this movie. One is how appealing it makes getting a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education. The heroes are all engineering geniuses, more or less. They attend a “nerd school” where they are changing the world. One of my favorite moments in this movie is when Tadashi, Hiro’s older brother who is a student at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, shows Hiro what he can be doing with his genius. I really think that Big Hero 6 will inspire so many children to look into studying science and engineering. It’s going to be amazing and I’m so happy that Disney has really been pushing this with lots of innovation-themed contests for kids. Amazing.

Also, can I just say WOWOWOWOWOWOW to the animation team? The animation in this movie was absolutely beautiful.

image

image

I can’t find too many examples online but I remember, even as I was watching, just being stupendously impressed with the attention to detail and the framing and WOW. Just visually, this is SUCH a stunning film.

I also think this is one of Disney’s funniest movies of late. I just found myself laughing so much because the screenwriters made such good use of awkward silence, omission, physical humor, puns, etc. You’ve probably seen scenes like this online already, and it is definitely one of the moments that shows you how funny of a character Baymax can be right here in his introduction:

Too good. Toooooooo good.

Please please please please go watch this movie, I promise it will be well worth your time.

Spoilers below the trailer! (SRS SPOILERS)

Read More »

Saving Mr. Banks

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0d/Saving_Mr._Banks_Theatrical_Poster.jpg

I watched Saving Mr. Banks during the week of Christmas. It was a highly anticipated film for Disnerds like myself. I was excited for a few things:

  • The first on-screen portrayal of Walt Disney ever
  • By none other than Tom Hanks
  • 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins
  • Great cast
  • DISNEY MOVIE

I was a little concerned that this movie would be really biased. PL Travers infamously hated what Disney did with Mary Poppins and, when the musical version was made, refused to allow anyone who was involved with the Disney film contribute AND refused to have any Americans, only British contributors. Disney did a few things that went directly against what she wanted and some things that were rude, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they actually included many of these things in the film.

Needless to say, this was an extraordinarily touching movie, especially if you really loved Mary Poppins and/or if you’re interested in Walt Disney the man himself. I started tearing up at the very beginning when they played the vintage Walt Disney Pictures opening screen.

I want to say this before I forget to mention it, but Colin Farrell was fantastic in his role as Travers Goff. He was such an endearing character, the father who loved his daughter so much, so kind, bringing so much magic into her life. The promos really focused on Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, and for good reason, but I really wish that Colin Farrell got some more credit for the amazing job that he did. I loved his portrayal of his character, and I became really emotionally attached to Travers Goff, which I knew was dangerous since I already knew going into he film that he was an alcoholic. So of course, his character made me cry.

I was surprised by how much I liked Paul Giamatti‘s character in this movie. He played Ralph, Pamela Travers’s chauffeur while she was in California. I don’t love the roles that he usually plays, but I really liked him here. Again, very endearing. You kind of understand why Pamela is annoyed by him, but you want to like him, too. The friendship that blossoms between the two of them is beautiful and, of course, made me cry.

Emma Thompson played Pamela Travers, um… perfectly. She was absolutely wonderful. She played this very difficult person in a way that made you still like her. Even as she put Mickey Mouse in a corner (the horror!) you still loved her and kind of shrugged and nodded like, “Yeah that’s understandable if you don’t love Mickey, sure”. She is so great and the emotional ride you go on with Pamela Travers, who doesn’t show too much emotion throughout the film, made me — you guessed it! — cry a lot.

It would be rude for me to talk about this film without mentioning Tom Hanks, who played the first portrayal of Walter Elias Disney in a mainstream film. He plays the Disney that, of course, Disney the company wants you see: he’s charming and there’s a magical air about him. He sees the world differently. He is a man shaped by a cruel childhood, and he found solace in a mouse, who helped him prevent other children from having quite as cruel childhoods. Tom was a great choice for this role and he played it so well. (Yes, I cried at Tom Hanks also.)

I was rather surprised with the casting choice of BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman as the Sherman brothers, but I really liked them in their roles. I’m so used to seeing them in comedies so this was refreshing to see. They stepped up and did well in their roles.

I’ll wrap up this post with a bulleted list of things I loved about this film. There are some spoilers, so please be forewarned. Another spoiler alert: a lot of these things made me cry.

I highly recommend this film. It was beautiful and, yes, made me cry tears of joy and sorrow and nostalgia and oh there were so many feelings. A must-see for any fan of Mary Poppins, Walt Disney, and Disney films.Read More »