Disney’s Frozen Is A Warm, Entertaining Story

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Officials with Walt Disney Studios told audiences in 2010 that when it released its most recent fairy tale based movie Tangled that that movie would be the last of the studio’s “princess movies” for a while. Apparently, that didn’t last very long, as Disney introduced a new princess last year in its hugely touted movie Frozen. Walt Disney himself had wanted to do a movie based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Snow Queen during his life, according to one of the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release. Taking that into consideration, it would have been interesting to see how his adaptation would have looked had it ever come to fruition. In the absence of that potential imagining, audiences have been given Frozen. This take on Andersen’s fairy tale is not the worst of Disney’ s movies. On the other hand, it is also not one of the studio’s best, either. There are just as many positives about this movie as there are negatives. The combination of the good and bad make Frozen a movie at least worth a single watch with the family, but not much more.

Frozen is neither Disney’s best nor its best. There are just as many positives about this movie as there are negatives. So we’ll start with one of the positives. The main positive that Frozen boasts is its writing. Writer/Co-Director Jennifer Lee and her staff of writers—Chris Buck, Shane Morris, and Dean Wellins–crafted in her script a story that is a surprisingly refreshing breath of fresh air in comparison to Disney’s past fairy tale adaptations. So much can be noted of the writing behind this story. Audiences that enjoyed Disney’s last princess movie, Tangled, will enjoy this movie much for the same reasons as that story. It boasts a strong, self-confident female lead and nonstop laughs from the buddy comedy between Kristoff and his loyal moose Sven. More than anything though, audiences will appreciate the message of sisterhood and the surprise twist included in the story’s dual underlying romance subplot. Lee and company lead viewers to think they know what will happen with the romance subplot only to throw the proverbial monkey wrench in the works near the end. All of these elements collectively would have made Mr. Disney proud. It proves that Lee and he writers really thought about what they put into the story. They didn’t want to just make another princess movie. They wanted to make something that stood out. And it definitely does thanks to that attention to detail.

The attention to detail on the part of Frozen’s writing staff and lead Writer/Co-Director Jennifer Lee make this a movie worth at least one watch with the family. It makes the movie stand out in a good way. While their work makes the movie stand out in a good way, it also stands out in a not so good way. It stands out in a not so good way because of its musical numbers. It’s not so much the musical numbers that are at issue here. Rather, it is the number of musical numbers and the pace at which they come that is at issue. It seems like there is a musical number every few minutes or so. By comparison to Disney’s past musical adaptations, the amount of musical numbers in this movie and the pace at which they come is astounding. It’s very Broadway style. The obvious argument here is that some of Disney’s best movies have been turned into Broadway musicals. This is true. But those same musicals that were translated to the stage also didn’t have near as many musical numbers as this movie. So again, it becomes the story’s one central issue. Luckily, it is the only real noticeable negative to the overall presentation.

The musical numbers incorporated into Frozen and the pace at which they come are collectively the only truly noticeable negative to the movie’s overall presentation. That is a good thing for this movie. That means that the positives outweigh the negatives, and make the movie more worth the watch if only once. Now that it has been released on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, there is one more positive worth noting about this movie. That positive is the bonus featurette outlining the history behind this movie and how Walt Disney had actually wanted to craft a movie based on The Snow Queen even some seventy years ago. The comparisons of the original concept art for that proposed movie to what was crafted for this movie are quite eye-opening. There are even discussions on the ride that would be spawned as a result of the originally proposed movie. There is much more in-depth material that comes from this central bonus feature. And audiences will get to find out just how much more when they purchase the movie for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack. That central bonus feature along with the movie’s central story, are enough to make up for the movie’s one glaring negative. And because of that, they make Frozen worth at least one watch, if no more.

Frozen can be purchased now in stores and online via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/frozen-blu-ray-collectors-edition/mp/1349621/1000316/. More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios and http://twitter.com/disneypictures. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Disney Earns Its Own Wings With Cars Spinoff

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

Disney’s Planes is not as terrible as many critics (this critic admittedly included) had previously considered it to be.  However, it is also not one of the year’s best.  One has to take into account the comments made by co-writers Klay Hall and John Lasseter in the movie’s bonus material to fully appreciate what Planes actually offers audiences.  Their comments play directly into the movie’s overall plot.  The resultant effect is that Planes’ story comes across more as its own story and less of a rip-off of Pixar’s Cars.  The end result is a movie with just enough heart to make it worth at least one watch.

Walt Disney Studios was lambasted by audiences and critics alike (this critic included) when the studio announced that it would be releasing a spinoff of Pixar’s hugely successful Cars franchise.  The very fact that Disney would simply title the new spinoff Planes was to thank for that reaming of the studio. The instant reaction was to say that this movie was just Cars in the air.  While it largely is that, the movie is also worthy of at least some defense.  In its defense, the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release help it to earn at least a slight respect.  Pixar head and Planes co-writer John Lasssetter discusses the movie in a sit-down interview.  He explains in his interview that there had been a proposal to spin off Cars with a movie about trains.  Yes, a movie about trains.  All they would have needed were Steve Martin and someone to take the place of the late John Candy.  Anyone that gets this reference should stand up and take a bow right now.  Getting back on the subject, Lasseter explains wisely that a movie centered on planes instead of trains made more sense.  He explains in his own wording that a movie on planes obviously gave more story options, which makes sense.  That sentiment alone makes the movie more bearable.

Lasseter’s Planes co-writer Klay Hall is also interviewed in the movie’s bonus features.  He explains in his bonus interview that the idea for a story centered on planes was largely thanks to his own late father being a Navy pilot.  The result was a lifelong love for all things aerial.  He explains in depth how his love for all things aerial led to the precise details used throughout the movie, too.  He explains that he wanted to make the movie as factual as possible.  And he did just that.  Anyone that has ever watched the likes of the Red Bull Air Race World Series will appreciate the shots down the long axis of the planes during the qualifying sessions for the big round-the-world air race.  They will also appreciate the technical jargon tossed about throughout the movie’s run time, which barely tops the ninety-minute mark.

The interviews with both Lasseter and Hall earn Planes a new respect that without which, it might not have earned.  Also worthy of note is the plot behind this continuation of Pixar’s Cars franchise.  The writing team of Lassetter, Hall, and Jeffery M. Howard have crafted in Planes, a standard underdog story complete with underlying romance subplot.  This is not the first time that such a story has been done, just as Pixar’s Monsters University was hardly the first college based comedy ever crafted.  In Planes’ defense though, it didn’t directly rip off either of the Cars movies.  It actually does have its own story.  To that extent, it develops even more its own identity.  Add in the fact that comedian Dane Cook has proven that he can actually handle more mature—anyone that has seen Cook’s standup act understand how immature and boring he comes across as being—material, and Planes actually proves that it has not only its own identity, but also has heart.  All of this being noted, Planes proves to be a movie that while hardly one of Disney’s best or even one of 2013’s best, is worth at least one watch with the family.

Planes is available now on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It can be ordered online direct from the Disney online store at http://www.disneystore.com/planes-3d-blu-ray-2-disc-combo-pack/mp/1346514/1000316/?cmp=OTL-Dcom&att=Dcom_FS_Planes3DBluRay_Home_BuyMovie and http://www.disneystore.com/planes-dvd-digital-copy/mp/1346520/1000316/.  More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios and http://www.waltdisneystudios.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Another Welcome Re-Issue From Disney

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is one of the most popular of all of its fairy tales.  The story, which centers on the romance between a human and young mermaid, originally debuted in theaters almost twenty-four years ago.  November 17th will mark the twenty-fourth anniversary of the film’s debut.  And until this year, the last time that Disney had re-issued to the movie for home release was seven years ago in 2006.  Considering all of this, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that Disney decided to go ahead and re-issue the classic story well over a year ahead of what will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of its big screen debut.  That aside, it’s still a welcome addition for any fan of Disney’s princess franchise.  The most important aspect of this movie’s success (as with any movie) is its script.  Considering that well over thirty years had passed between the original debut of this movie and Disney’s last fairy tale feature before it, Sleeping Beauty, this movie actually has so much more depth than most viewers might see.  It is more than just a romantic drama.  It actually boasts plenty of comedy, too.  It also has both a coming of age story of sorts within its bounds as well as an allegory about acceptance and tolerance.  The movie’s new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack re-issue makes it even more interesting a watch.  That’s because of a pair of bonus features included in the package.  All of this together makes Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid another of Disney’s most memorable movies in its modern era.

When Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid premiered on November 17th, 1989, well over thirty years had passed between that premiere and the premiere of Disney’s last fairy tale feature, Sleeping Beauty.  Disney established its reputation on the back of not only that movie, but also the likes of Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Those features made Disney a leader in the movie business.  So much time having passed, it would have been easy for the people at Disney to slip up with The Little Mermaid.  But as the final product revealed, the studio did anything but slip up.  The script behind the movie is on the surface, a standard fairy tale story.  On a much deeper level though, it also includes a strong coming of age storyline.  Princess Ariel is a teenager.  She is sixteen years-old to be exact.  So it could be argued that her youth and naivety is what feeds the romantic drama that is to follow.  It also is what leads to her personal growth and love and respect for her father.  To that extent, it actually makes The Little Mermaid more than just another one of Disney’s princess movies.  It gives the story a certain amount of depth.

Ariel’s coming of age story is only part of what gives The Little Mermaid depth.  It could also be argued that the feature’s script hides in plain sight, an allegory about acceptance and understanding.  The allegory works in more than one way, too.  The allegory about acceptance and understanding comes in the form of King Triton having to learn to accept that his preconceived notions about humans are not entirely right.  Prince Eric proves that.  He eventually has to come to accept that despite being from another world of sorts, humans are not as bad as he had always led himself and his people to believe.  If viewers can allow themselves to take into consideration both of these story elements, they will see that The Little Mermaid in fact has more going for it than being just another princess movie.  It becomes even more worth watching at least once if not adding to one’s home library.

The subtle story elements tied into The Little Mermaid’s primary romantic drama storyline add a whole new depth and appreciation for the classic adaptation.  Now that the movie has been re-issued on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, viewers have even more reason to appreciate it.  That’s thanks to the inclusion of a pair of bonus features included in the new Blu-ray disc.  One of those features centers on producer/songwriter Howard Ashman.  “Howard’s Lecture” focuses on Ashman and how his experience with and love for musical theater helped make The Little Mermaid a *ahem* splash with audiences (bad pun fully intended).  The vintage footage of Ashman discussing the film’s different aspect add to the movie’s value because of the figure it portrayed.  Audiences see in Ashman someone who is the total antithesis of the stereotypical Hollywood type.  He comes across as having been down to earth and entirely humble.  Those that knew Ashman best also share their insights into the type of person he was.  And it corresponds perfectly with the figure presented in the lecture.  The fact that one of his friends would tear up in speaking about him shows just how valued he was not just to the movie but as a person.  That emotion and the feature as a whole make “Howard’s Speech” an invaluable addition to this new re-issue.  It makes the presentation in whole that much more impressive.

“Howard’s Lecture” is an invaluable addition to the bonus features included in this latest re-issue of The Little Mermaid.  There is one other feature included in this re-issue that audiences will agree makes the movie even more worth watching.  The feature in question explains in depth how those behind the movie maintained Disney’s long standing tradition of basing its animated features on live action actors.  It explains how just as with Alice In Wonderland, Snow White, and others those behind this movie based their storyboards on live action “models.”  This was done to get the most realism possible out of the animation.  This is something used to this day by Disney’s partner studio, Pixar.  Add in the fact that the movie was crafted entirely via hand drawn animation instead of computers makes this an even more important addition for viewers to check out.  And together with “Howard’s Lecture” and the subtle extra story elements tied into the story, it all comes together to make this twenty-fourth anniversary re-issue of The Little Mermaid that much more worth adding to any family’s home library or that of any true film buff.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Disney’s online store at http://movies.disney.com/the-little-mermaid and http://www.disneystore.com/disney-princess/little-mermaid/mn/1000031/?searchRedirect=1&searchTerm=the+little+mermaid&catalogFromSearch=10002.  More information on this and other Disney releases is available via both websites, too.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Disney Re-Issue Was Well Worth The Wait

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Walt Disney Studios’ home entertainment division has been very busy this year.  The company’s home division has released no fewer than ten of its classic and more recent movies to Blu-ray/DVD combo packs this year so far.  And even more are planned for release before the year’s end, including a handful of holiday themed features.  That makes for a very crowded field in terms of re-issues from Disney.  Families are thus left wondering which of the current crop of re-issues are the most worth adding to their home libraries.  One that is definitely worth adding to any family’s home library is the brand new re-issue of the 1977 classic, The Many Adventures of Winnie The PoohThe Many adventures of Winnie The Pooh is one of Disney’s most timeless works.  Taken from author A.A. Milne’s series of children’s books, this collection of stories is perfect for the entire family.  And it looks even better than ever now that it has finally been re-issued in high definition.  The quality of the footage hasn’t lost anything in the transfer from its most recent DVD release to its new Blu-ray release.  In connection, the movie’s animation style stands out as some of the most impressive of any true animated feature rooted in hand drawn animation.  Along with the beautifully hand-drawn animation, audiences will appreciate the inclusion of the fourth of the stories in the Winnie The Pooh franchise, A Day for Eeyore as a bonus feature.  Also included as bonuses, are a handful of mini-adventures and even the standard “Making of” featurette that adds more insight into how this feature was brought to life.  All of this taken into consideration, it all works hand-in-hand to make The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh a must have for any kid and kid at heart.

The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh is a must have for any kid or kid at heart.  It is a perfect piece from Disney to add to any family’s home library.  The first and most important reason for that is how the collected stories were culled for the overall presentation.  Instead of the current trend by film makers to try and pull a bunch of different stories for one presentation, this presentation clearly separates Pooh Bear’s adventures.  They did so expertly, making the transitions completely smooth.  Audiences will love how the directing team of John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman had Pooh (and later Tigger–voiced then by Sterling Holloway and Paul Winchell respectively) break down the fourth wall in interacting with the narrator (Sebastian Cabot) at different points in the story.  It’s a cute moment for the family, but also quite an ingenious way to separate the stories, too.  Just as ingenious was the manner in which Lounsbery and Reitherman had their animation team incorporate Pooh and company into the story, showing the text on the pages with the characters acting out everything being read.  This would eventually go on to be a staple for the features based on Milne’s books, and a welcome one at that.  It doesn’t necessarily break down the fourth wall.  But it adds a certain charm and individuality to the story.  That’s because no other studio at the time was doing this.    It’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what audiences will appreciate in this new re-issue.  This is especially the case for those seeing it for the first time or even the first time in years.  Audiences will appreciate just as much, the original hand drawn animation throughout the feature.

The man for whom Walt Disney Studios was named died in 1966.  That was eleven years before this adaptation of Milne’s works had even been considered by anyone at Disney.  Many critics agree that the quality of Disney’s releases went down after his death.  However, had he been alive to see that his legacy had been carried on in The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, he would have been very proud.  That is because the previously released movies that comprise this presentation—Winnie The Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!—were each features in which Disney had a direct hand.  So seeing his previous works combined into one larger feature serves as a fitting memoriam to Disney’s legacy.

The animation and the writing in the stories culled for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh work hand-in-hand to make this feature a truly fitting memoriam to Walt Disney’s legacy.  The brand new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes another feature that serves as just as much of a memoriam in the form of Eeyore’s Day Out.  The fourth release in the series of stories about everyone’s favorite bear follows the same formula as the stories culled for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh.  There’s the fourth wall being broken down, the solid writing in general, and the equally impressive hand drawn animation.  The story of Eeyore’s Day Out centers on the eternally depressed donkey on his birthday.  Pooh, Rabbit, Piglet and the others had all forgotten, making Eeyore even sadder.  Of course, everything turns out just fine and will leave any viewer with that warm, fuzzy feeling that the previous Pooh tales so wonderfully do.  Making it even more enjoyable is its lessons of friendship and forgiveness.  It serves to make this a wonderful addition to the whole set that is the brand new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh.

The inclusion of the bonus Pooh tale is a great addition to this newly released re-issue.  There is still one more factor in this set that audiences will appreciate.  That final factor is the standard “Making of” featurette.  This bonus feature goes into full depth about how The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh came to life.  From the animation to the music and even the work of the voice cast, “The Story Behind The Masterpiece” shows just how much work went into making sure Walt Disney’s wish of making this feature happen was honored.  Audiences will love hearing the legendary Sherman Brothers discuss the feature’s musical numbers, including everyone’s favorite song about Tiggers.  Who out there knows the best thing about Tiggers?  The explanations of the old school animation style used to create every single movement of each character shows how much work used to go into making these works of art.  And it is sure to make any art lover and general viewer appreciate that work and its end result versus the far drier and sterile CG pieces that are created by every animation studio out there today.  It is the icing on the cake that is this deliciously wonderful new re-issue from Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.  Both the standard DVD and double disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack are available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online at http://movies.disney.com/the-many-adventures-of-winnie-the-pooh and http://www.disneystore.com/the-many-adventures-of-winnie-the-pooh-2-disc-combo-pack/mp/1341260/1000316/.  More information on this and other re-issues from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios.

To keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Iron Man DVD A Solid Season Closer, Lead-In To Iron Man 3 Movie

Courtesy:  Marvel Animation

Courtesy: Marvel Animation

Marvel Animation releases the latest in its “animated” series, Iron Man: Armored Adventures next Tuesday, April 23rdIron Man: Armored Adventures Season 2 Volume 4 follows the continuing journey of the teenage Tony Stark and his friends as they face the forces of evil.  This time out, Tony finally discovers that his father is actually alive only to have to save his life again.  Also in this finale to the show’s second season, Iron Man and his friends also have to face off against the evil Dr. Doom, and Pepper Potts even gets her own suit of armor.  And what action series would be complete without an alien invasion?  The season closes out with an epic battle against the Makluans.  All of this and more spans eight episodes in one more disc that finishes off the second season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures.  The show’s cg-based “animation” continues to stand out from the rest of the crop of CG-based kids’ shows, continuing to help maintain its identity.  This is especially the case considering that the recent Hot Wheels animated series and Stormhawks have gone by the wayside.  Both of those shows used very similar cg based animation.  Together with the packaging and the action packed episodes, audiences get another set of episodes that makes for a nice lead-in to the upcoming theatrical debut of Iron Man 3.

Iron Man Armored:  Adventures Season 2 Vol. 4 succeeds as a continuation of the season’s previous volumes and as a lead in to the upcoming theatrical release of Iron Man 3 thanks to its writing.  This final portion of Season Two leads up to an epic faceoff with the Makluans.  The faceoff in question is a result of actions by the teenage Mandarin in his search for the tenth ring.  Viewers get an origin story not of just The Mandarin, but also of the rings.  According to the legend presented here, the rings are actual alien in descent, and were used by an evil alien warlord to enslave other alien beings.  In the process of everything, Pepper plays a role and is introduced as “Rescue” having gotten her own armor in the buildup to the battle with the Makluan.  Keeping this in mind, the writing of the episodes included in this set, and the timing of its release will really help to build hype for the latest upcoming big screen feature.  All involved with the series and its release are definitely to be commended for all of this.

The writing and the timing of this set’s release make it a success.  This goes without saying.  Its form of CG-based “animation” adds to its success.  There have been few modern “animated shows” that have used and use the form of CG-based art that this show uses.  Two that come to mind immediately are: Stormhawks and Hot Wheels battle Force 5.  Both shows have gone by the wayside.  By comparison, the current success level of Marvel’s properties would seem to suggest that this program still has some life left in itself.  And if that truly is the case, then fans can expect even more adventures from Tony, Pepper and Roady set against this largely unique CG-based animation style art.  Until then, fans can check out all the adventures from this final quarter of the show’s second season when it hits stores next Tuesday alongside, Iron Man: Armored Adventures: The Complete Season 2.  And for all things Iron Man and Marvel, fans can get all the latest when they “Like” Marvel on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Marvel or check in at the official Marvel website at http://www.marvel.com.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Oz Is Good, Not Great

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Oz The Great and Powerful is one more example of why Hollywood has got to break away from its seemingly unending trend of churning out sequels, prequels, and remakes.  It is a good movie in its own right, thanks to the set design, special effects, and costume/makeup department.  But in terms of its story, it suffers to the point that it largely becomes memorable only for those factors.  The combination of special effects, set design, and costume design are more than worthy of applause in their attempts to bring older audiences back to the world of Oz after nearly seventy-four years since that world first appeared to the masses.  They are just as laudable for introducing younger audiences to the world of Oz for the first time.  For the positives, there are two noticeable negatives to the overall presentation.  Those negatives are the intertwining of lead actor James Franco’s acting and the overall story.  In weighing these factors together, Oz The Great and Powerful becomes more a movie that will be remembered less as one of Disney’s standout greats, and more as just another in the ongoing mass of prequels, sequels, and remakes constantly being churned out by Hollywood.

The combination of set design, costumes, and special effects goes a long way toward the success of Oz The Great and Powerful.  The set designers did an impressive job of balancing actual physical sets and CG backgrounds.  One can really tell that a lot of thought and work went into bringing back the world of Oz.  As hard as the set designers tried though, it lacks a certain something that the sets from the previous movie had.  Perhaps the problem with the sets in this movie was that those who crafted them tried too hard to pay tribute to the original work.  The result is that it didn’t feel as….pure.  They felt “spit-shined” for lack of better wording.  Though, the special effects make up for that.  That is especially the case late in the movie when it is revealed how the Wizard’s famous floating head originally came to be.  That effect alone is worth the wait.  It’s really the best special effects moment in the entire two-hour plus story.

The sets and special effects play their own role in the overall outcome of this story, as has been noted.  They are only part of the movie’s positive side.  Just as impressive as the sets and special effects are the costumes and makeup.  While Disney wasn’t behind The Wizard of Oz, those behind the creation of this work are to be commended for creating costumes that throw back to the original movie, right down to the guards’ uniforms.  And while some might have their own thoughts on the witch’s costume, one must take into account that this is a prequel.  Therefore, the costume had to fit the person and personality.  Of course, speaking of the witch, this is where things get bad for Oz The Great and Powerful.

So much went right for Oz The Great and Powerful in looking at the sets, costumes, and special effects.  What went wrong with the movie was the script and the acting of one James Franco.  The whole story of Oz The Great and Powerful is an origin story of sorts.  It tells not only of how the Wizard came to be the famed figure that he was, but also of how the Wicked Witch came to be wicked.  Not to give away too much, but the two stories play together as they are centered on a figure who is a completely immature young man and three sisters who throw themselves at him just like the women back in Kansas.  Oz plays all three of the sisters just as he played the women back in Kansas.  One of those sisters ends up becoming the now infamous Wicked Witch of the West.  Even as the movie nears its finale, it is difficult to believe Oz has any sincerity as he faces off with the Wicked Witch.  One wants to root for Oz, but it’s next to impossible as at every chance he has to grow, he instead maintains his cocky nature right up to the end.  Yes, he’s a young character, being that this is a prequel.  But it would have been nice to see some personal growth and humility as the Wizard at least showed in The Wizard of Oz.  But that doesn’t happen.  Because of that, there’s no real moral lesson learned here.  There is not even an actual romance story so to speak.  In the end, what everything boils down to with Oz The Great and Powerful is that this movie will be more memorable less for its story or acting than for its production values.  Keeping this in mind, it will largely be one of Disney’s less memorable movies in its decades long list of much better movies.  Because of that, it is a movie that is worth at least one watch, but really not much more.

Peter Pan Diamond Edition Another Welcome Re-Issue From The Disney Vaults

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Peter Pan is one of the greatest of Walt Disney’s original classic animated features.  This animated take on Sir James M. Barrie’s classic literary work may not stay entirely true to the original.  But what movie ever adapted from a book ever does or has?  Considering that, one is left wondering what exactly it is that makes this adaptation of Barrie’s classic story so timeless on screen.  The very first aspect of the movie’s success is a simple one that is echoed in the 2004 movie, Finding Neverland.  Johnny Depp plays Barrie in the movie.  At one point in the movie, he notes that once a person loses their childhood, their innocence, it’s gone.  Peter Pan really shows that Walt Disney was perhaps himself just a big kid in an adult’s body.  Thus audiences got the final product of fourteen years’ work that so many still love today.  Wendy’s father states before she goes off to Neverland that everybody has to grow up.  Sure, everybody has to grow up.  But that doesn’t mean that in growing up, everybody has to lose at least some sense of their childhood.  It’s that element of childhood after all, that helps establish the suspension of disbelief that makes this story timeless.

Peter Pan is the embodiment of the belief that while we all have to grow up, we should never completely lose our childhood.  That is the most important aspect of Peter Pan’s success.  It’s an excellent reminder both for kids and their parents across generations.  That aspect is but one part of what makes it timeless.  Another aspect that makes this adaptation such a success is its animation.  As is the case with Disney’s other early animated features, this feature stands out because of its entirely original hand drawn animation.  The colors used throughout the feature are so rich and vibrant.  They make the story feel “alive.”  By comparison, so many of today’s “animated” features are crafted through computers.  In turn, they all feel sterile and look alike.  Animation through this venue takes away any identity from said features.  But true hand drawn animation gives classics such as this one its own identity and life.  It’s a stamp of originality so to speak.  And it’s something that once again is examined in the bonus features included in the brand new triple disc Diamond Edition of Peter Pan.

The new triple-disc Diamond Edition of Peter Pan offers a whole new generation the same joy that was offered to their parents and grandparents.  The inclusion of the bonus features will also offer a whole new appreciation to parents who originally watched it as kids themselves.  It discusses the importance of the hand drawn animation through the new feature, “Growing Up With Nine Old Men.”  This feature is a culmination of sorts from bonus features on previous Disney re-issues.  It offers a glimpse at the lives of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” from the vantage point of those who were closest to them; their own children.  Their children discuss the hard work and long hours put into making Disney’s classic films, Peter Pan included.  Audiences will appreciate learning that one of the “Nine Old Men” was not just an illustrator, but a true artist.  He was a painter outside of his job.  His daughter explains his attention to detail in his paintings just as he did with his art for Disney’s films.  It’s just one of the bonus features that audiences will appreciate with this latest re-issue.

If the discussion on Disney’s “Nine Old Men” wasn’t enough to earn new appreciation for Peter Pan, perhaps the short feature on Tinkerbell, “Tinkerbell: A Fairy’s Tale” will do the trick.  Audiences get a glimpse into the woman who was the original inspiration for Tinkerbell as well as Tinkerbell herself being an example of a progressive woman.  As is noted, she represented a very independent, strong and strong willed woman who would eventually become the basis for so many of Disney’s modern princesses.  As short as this feature is, had a person not watched it before, then watching it now with the movie’s new re-issue will show just how far ahead of everything this movie is simply through this factor.  And hopefully it will develop a new appreciation among audiences who had otherwise never considered Tinkerbell’s overall importance before.  It’s just one more of so many features included in the new re-issue that exemplify why Peter Pan always has been and always will be a timeless family film both in the world of Disney and in the movie industry as a whole.

The brand new triple-disc diamond edition of Peter Pan will be available next Tuesday, February 5th.  It will be available in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Disney’s online store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com

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Cinderella III A Good Finisher For The Cinderella Franchise

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Cinderella III is a good finale for Disney’s Cinderella franchise.  This franchise closer follows a tried and true formula but switches it up a little bit with an interesting twist that ties directly into the franchise’s second movie.  It proves once again that true love will always overcome all obstacles.  That includes an evil stepmother who would go to absolutely any length in order to get what she wants.  Thus is the story behind Cinderella III.

Cinderella III returns to the conflict between young Cinderella who is already married to Prince Charming, and her evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine.  When Anastasia (voiced once more by Tress MacNeille—The Simpsons, Futurama) discovers how Cinderella won over the prince in the first place and gets her hands on the fairy godmother’s wand, Lady Tremaine proceeds to use it to turn back time and try to keep Cinderella from ever being able to try on the fabled glass slipper that led to her happily ever after.  The irony of the whole story comes from Anastasia.  She ultimately plays a direct role in the final outcome of the story.  Now on the surface, this goes completely against the final segment of Cinderella II.  To that extent, some audiences may complain about an issue with continuity, since she was the one who caused Cinderella’s predicament in this story to begin with even after having found love in Cinderella II thanks to Cinderella.  But the final credits of this story do at least make the attempt to tie everything back together.

The final credits provide more than just an attempt to tie the first two movies in the Cinderella franchise together.  There is a final, funny moment that is tied in to the final moments of this story that will leave both parents and kids laughing.  It’s a moment of two characters getting what comes to them.  Who those characters are will be left to audiences who have yet to see this story for themselves.  It’s a good finish to everything and makes amends for a story that would have made more sense had it been Cinderella II instead of the franchise’s third movie.  Had this movie come second and Cinderella II come last, the entire franchise would have been near perfect because of how both sequels end.  Nonetheless, it still is a good story for a sequel and a good watch for parents and kids alike both during the holidays and throughout the year.

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Cinderella II One Of Disney’s More Underrated Sequels

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Cinderella II is an interesting work of a sequel.  It’s a sequel that both is and isn’t a sequel at the same time.  There are those who have already had their say with this feature.  And while many of the opinions on it have been anything but kind, it really isn’t that bad of a sequel.  Perhaps the reason that this feature was surrounded by so many negative opinions was its setup.  Rather than being a typical movie, Cinderella II was openly separated into three distinct acts.  From the very get-go, the separation of the story into three distinct acts likely threw viewers for a loop.  That’s not to defend the audiences who complained.  Rather, it made it come across as just a grouping of three different shorts, instead of an actual movie.  Take away the segment separation though, and audiences get what turns out to be exactly that.

While the first and third acts of Cinderella II work quite well together, the story’s second act seems to have no link to either the first or third on the surface.  This also likely threw off audiences and in turn, made them not enjoy it.  However, a deeper look at the story shows that its second act actually does indeed play a role in the near ninety-minute feature.  It ties the story’s first and final act in that dreams came true even for the little mouse, Jaq.  He found romance and learned a very valuable lesson at the same time.  In connection, even Cinderella’s now not so mean step-sister learns how evil Lady Tremaine was.  She even tried to keep Anastasia (voiced by veteran voice actress Tress McNeille—The Simpsons, Futurama) from having any romantic connection to a commoner.  Through help ironically from Cinderella, Anastasia finds love with him and even learns her own valuable lesson.  At the same time, even Cinderella herself learns another lesson in that now that she was gone from that house, both the sisters had seen for themselves how Lady Tremaine was.  It put things into perspective for Cinderella, which led her to be so willing to help Anastasia.  So it makes for a good conclusion to this story.

Just as the story ends solidly enough, its opening segment is a nice continuation of the original Cinderella, too.  What critics of Cinderella II have overlooked with this story is that despite being separated into three separate segments, it really does continue the original story.  What’s intriguing about the opening segment is that it shows Cinderella’s life after happily ever after.  The lead older woman of the house comes across as another evil stepmother type.  That is until Cinderella gets her and the King to loosen up.  In turn, even her dreams of living happily ever after come true.  So overall, dreams do come true for not just Cinderella, but for everyone in this largely underrated sequel to one of Disney’s most classic princess tales.  Now that it has been re-issued in a triple-disc blu-ray/DVD set, perhaps those people who criticized this story before will have a different view on it and give it another chance.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via the Disney store and at the official Disney DVD website at http://www.disneystore.com/cinderella-ii-and-cinderella-iii-3-disc-set/mp/1324153/1000316/ and http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/cinderella-ii-and-cinderella-iii-special-edition-2-movie-collection.html#48097.

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The Muppets Bring More Joy And Heart To The Holidays With New Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Jim Henson was without a doubt, one of the most creative minds in both television and movies during his life.  So it goes without saying that in his death, the world lost both a great person and a great mind.  Considering the success of movies such as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Muppet Show, following up the success of those features while paying tribute to the Henson’s memory at the same time would not be easy.  However, Disney and Henson’s son made a valiant effort to accomplish both tasks with the release of The Muppet Christmas Carol in 1992.  Now twenty years after the original release of that story Disney has re-issued it onto a new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack for a whole new generation of audiences to enjoy. 

The Muppet Christmas Carol is just one of any number of renditions of Charles Dickens’ classic literary tale.  There are so many different takes on the classic tale that it would seem that one needs a program to tell them all apart.  This modern take on the classic tale is enjoyable first and foremost for its general structure.  Rather than trying to be just another take on Dickens’ story, it comes across as a stage play on screen instead of a movie.  The sets and musical numbers alone give it that feel.  And the cast’s acting adds to that feel, too.  Veteran actor Michael Caine (Secondhand Lions, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises) does an expert job leading the cast as the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge.  While Caine does an extraordinary job as Scrooge, it’s The Great Gonzo and Rizzo who take the story’s other light.  Unlike other versions of A Christmas Carol in which the narrator is only heard and not seen, Gonzo takes on the mantle of Dickens, helping to guide viewers through the story on screen.  In its own manner, this is actually a visual aid of sorts for viewers.  It’s a very valuable aid, too.  The comic turns between Gonzo and Rizzo add for even more entertainment for viewers, as well.  Audiences will enjoy the pair’s physical comedy throughout the movie.  At one point, Rizzo falls down a chimney with rather warm results.  And the pair gets knocked off more than one window sill as it attempts to help viewers follow the story.  These are just a handful of examples of how the cast’s acting makes The Muppet Christmas Carol enjoyable for the family.  The acting aside, there is at least another aspect that makes this two decade old story enjoyable even today.  That aspect is the movie’s general presentation.  

The acting of both Caine and the puppeteers does a lot to make The Muppet Christmas Carol a believable and enjoyable story.  But it’s not all that contributes to the movie’s success.  The on-screen stage presentation is what really puts The Muppet Christmas Carol over the top.  As noted already, there are so many renditions of A Christmas Carol out there that it’s tough to keep them all straight.  Among that mass of different takes are movies that are obviously take offs of that story, just with different titles.  The Muppet Christmas Carol does the exact opposite of those adaptations.  Rather, it opted to pay homage to the original in its own way.  Instead of trying to be another movie adaptation of the original story, it takes the avenue of being a stage play complete with enjoyable musical numbers and sets that make audiences feel as if they’re watching a play on screen.  Combined with the acting, the musical numbers and sets will pull audiences in with ease and keep their attention throughout the near hour and a half story.  And for those audiences who perhaps might have to get up during the movie for any reason, they are treated to something very special courtesy of the bonus “Intermission” feature.  The “Intermission” feature allows audiences to pause the movie and enjoy extra musical numbers courtesy of other members of the Muppets cast.

Speaking of bonus features, the bonus features presented in the previous DVD presentation of The Muppet Christmas Carol are carried over to this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack along with a pair of new additions.  The “Intermission” feature is one of that pair of new features.  The other new feature is an interview with Jim Henson’s son Brian Henson, who helmed this new take on the holiday standard.  The manner in which the interview was conducted is worth its own share of laughs.  That’s because Henson shares the moment with Gonzo and Rizzo.  The three discuss different aspects of the film and behind-the scenes stories that will keep the entire family especially entertained.  It’s just one more part of the whole that makes the new 20th Anniversary Edition of The Muppet Christmas Carol fun for the whole family this and every holiday season. 

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