Mulan Worth A Second Watch In New Multi-Disc Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

The history of Walt Disney Studios is rich with beloved adaptations of some of the most well known stories ever written and passed down from one generation to the next.  Among some of Disney’s most beloved tales are fairy tales the likes of: Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast.  These movies have become perhaps some of Disney’s most iconic big screen adaptations of classic literary tales.  They have become the cornerstone of Disney’s “Princess” genre over the course of the studio’s history.  As famed and beloved as Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle are to this day, audiences saw Disney take a chance on a new brand of Princess in 1992 with the release of Aladdin.  Princess Jasmine was much more independent and strong willed than Disney’s other princesses that audiences had come to know.  She would be the first of her brand for female audiences to look up to.  But it wouldn’t be another six years that audiences would see an equally strong and independent figure in Mulan.

The character presented in Disney’s Mulan is based on the ancient Chinese legend of Hua Mulan.  The story stays the same in its translation in that this Mulan also takes the place of her father in the Chinese army.  That’s where the similarities end.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  In comparison to the previously mentioned movies, what audiences get in Mulan is a female lead that is both independent and emotionally and physically strong.  She is a positive role model for young female audiences today, just as Merida is in the more recent Disney feature film, Brave.  Mulan, as a figure, proves that whether in China’s past or in the twenty-first century, women can do anything that men can do.  Sometimes they can do what men do even better.  What’s more even when her secret is revealed late in the movie, she doesn’t get pushy.  She simply remains a strong leader, instead of forcing her inner strength down the throats of her male counterparts.  This too is something from which young women can take away from Mulan.  It is good to be a strong person.  But being as good as the boys and men doesn’t mean pushing it in their faces and down their throats.

That Mulan serves as a positive role model is just one part of the success of the movie centered on her.  It is her strength and her dedication to her family that leads her to do what she does.  This seems somewhat inconsequential at first glance.  But in the bigger picture, her dedication to her family (and especially to her father) continues Disney’s long-running tradition of offering the theme of family first.  Mulan did what she did for her family.  And in the end, it was her own family that shoed its love and respect for her for having saved not just her father, but her entire nation.  This in itself serves a secondary theme.  That secondary theme is of strength in personal belief.  One person—male or female—can make huge difference whether it is on one person or a whole nation. It just takes belief in one’s own self.

The themes of family and self belief are wonderful for viewers of all ages.  The same can be said of Mulan serving as a positive role model for young female viewers.  Already, one can see how underrated this movie is in comparison to Disney’s other “princess” movies.  Audiences will also appreciate the movie’s writing.  There is more than enough physical comedy to make both male and female audiences laugh.  A prime example of this comes when Mulan first comes into the warriors’ camp and sees how they interact.  Her attempt to pass as one of them will leave any viewer laughing.  And early on when Mulan is learning how to be a “proper wife”, her lesson leads to a moment of great physical comedy that again the whole family will love.  They are just a tiny portion of the whole movie’s impressive writing.  Viewers that take the time to watch the entire movie will find many more funny moments for themselves. 

Just as important to the movie as its writing, and positive themes is the bonus features in the new Blu-ray/DVD multi-disc re-issue of Mulan/Mulan II.  Viewers that pick up the new Mulan/Mulan II multi-disc set from Disney will gain even more appreciation for both movies after watching the roughly fifteen bonus features spread across both movies.  Audiences learn in large part via the movies’ bonus features is the balance attained in partnering both hand drawn animation and digital (computer generated) “animation.”  The balance is so even that it’s nearly impossible to tell what is hand drawn and what is created digitally.  So what importance does this have, one might ask?  The answer is simple.  This is important in that it shows digital animation is not the do all, end all.  It is a tool, and should be used as such, rather than a replacement for hand drawn animation.  This is a discussion that has been raised in the bonus features of previous Disney re-issues.  In a time when so many studios are relying increasingly on digital animation, the discussion of how digital and hand drawn animation were merged to make this final product shows that it is possible to make a movement back toward hand drawn animation.  One can only hope that studios will take heed to this message.  Until or unless they do, audiences at least have Mulan as proof that the past and future of animation can be crossed.  That bridge, combined with everything else offered by this new re-issue, makes Mulan a work that while it may not be one of Disney’s most well known features is one that offers more than just what’s on the surface.  It’s a movie that’s worth more than just one watch.  And it’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/mulan-15th-annniversary-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331589/1000316/ and via the Disney DVD store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/mulan-two-movie.html

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Diney Pixar’s New Princess Movie Is A “Brave” New Effort

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Disney Pixar’s new cg based feature, Brave is a classic coming-of-age story for the twenty-first century.  This princess tory (yes, despite what Disney execs said about Tangled, this is another princess movie) isn’t just another princess story, though.  Rather, it’s both a coming-of-age story and a story that incorporates an element that has been standard to Disney features for ages.  That element is the element of family.  There is no denying the movie’s similarity to a certain much older story with a similar plot.  But that similarity is loose at best.  This movie took the former movie’s plot and altered it for a movie that the entire family will enjoy.  And now that it has been released to DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, families will get even more enjoyment and appreciation for this twenty first century princess movie.

When Disney stated in 2011 that its CG based feature, Tangled would be the last of its princess movies for the foreseeable future, that statement was obviously met with quite a bit of resentment from audiences.  So rather than fight its audiences, Disney (along with Pixar) gave audiences what they wanted.  The final product is BraveBrave is at its most basic level, a princess movie.  But it’s not Disney’s standard princess movie.  There’s no romance subplot holding the story down.  Rather, it’s a new classic coming-of-age story for young viewers everywhere.  The whole story focuses on young princess Merida, who is very much the stereotypical Tomboy.  Yes she’s feminine.  And she’s also very headstrong and not like the other girls out there.  This is something to which so many female audiences can relate even now in the new era of movies.  She rides horses and shots arrows.  But she still has a certain level of femininity in that she is the classic daddy’s girl.  It is her inability to balance the two that leads to her conflicting relationship with her mother and eventually her self-realization and coming-of-age.  That coming-of-age and self-realization make for a story that the entire family will enjoy and appreciate just as much with every watch.

Anyone who has already seen Brave in theaters understands how entertaining this new movie is for the whole family.  Now that it has been released on multiple home formats, that enjoyment is increased thanks to the abundance of bonus features on the first pair of discs in the Ultimate Collector’s Edition of the movie.  Audiences see that not only do Disney and Pixar stick to Walt Disney’s emphasis on family in Brave, but it also sticks to the tradition of maintaining the story’s believability.  The bonus features included in the first disc of the set take viewers behind the scenes of the movie’s creation.  Audiences will discover that yet again, rather than just make up some fantastical world, the people behind the story went into full depth to make it as believable a story as possible.  They even went as far as to go to Scotland and take in the region, drawing regions that they toured so as to best present the world of Brave.  This is nothing new for Disney or Pixar.  And that this tradition of sustaining belief for audiences makes the movie that much more worthy of respect.

Along with going to Scotland to document it firsthand, the crew behind the movie also got a first hand sword fighting demonstration so as to best present believable action on screen.  There is also a point in which the crew discusses details as minute as making the tapestry which Merida rips with her sword look as real as possible.  Yet again, audiences see the dedication to believability by those involved in the creation of this movie.  These are just some of the bonus features that make this new home release of Brave that much more enjoyment and worth a second watch.  There are even more features that audiences will enjoy as they go through each one.  Audiences will see just how much dedication went into making this movie the best that it could be for everyone to see.

The special features are just one part of what makes this brand new Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Brave enjoyable and a welcome gift under the tree this holiday season.  This five disc set includes not only the movie in Blu-ray format complete with bonus features, but also in standard def DVD format and 3D Blu-ray format.  There is even an extra digital disc that will allow users with mobile devices such as tablets to watch the movie anywhere they go without having to actually take the movie with them.  Or for those without tablets, the DVD option allows viewers with in vehicle DVD monitors and players to play the DVD for kids on those long family trips.  That’s especially helpful now in the holiday season as families are making their annual pilgrimages to see family.  And even when families get to their destinations, it can still be viewed on any of the formats included in this set.  So while it may be the most expensive of the presentations, it also presents the most value for families.

The overall value of the Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Brave alone makes this a set worth checking out for any fan of the movie.  Add in solid writing and bonus features that make for even more appreciation and enjoyment of the story, and audiences get a set that really is the Ultimate Collector’s Set for this new modern classic princess flick from Disney and Pixar.  Brave is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/brave-5-disc-set-ultimate-collectors-edition/mp/1323109/1000316/.

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Rom/Com update is worth its own load of laughs

Courtesy: IFC Films

How do you know when you’ve found the one?  When you look into their eyes and find yourself singing, ‘You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings.’

This is one of the key moments of dialogue between Katie (Kelly MacDonald–Disney’s “Brave”) and James (David Tennant–Doctor Who) in IFC Film’s recent rom/com take off of Cinderella, “The Decoy Bride.”  That single line of dialogue is so important because not only does it take off Cinderella, it also lifts at least somewhat from Bette Midler’s 1997 rom/com, “That Old Feeling.”  It also lifts, at least to a certain degree, from the 1990 Julia Roberts/Richard Gere rom/com “Pretty Woman.”  It’s pretty easy to see Macdonald attempting to emulate Julia Roberts throughout the movie.  “Decoy Bride” does lift from other rom/com classics, as noted.  But in its defense, the central plot of James and Lara trying to escape the papparazzi so that they can get married is a prime example of art imitating life, especially withthe recent case surrounding certain celebrities, who will remain unnamed here.  That it’s such a direct mirror of the world’s obsession with celebrities makes it worthy of its share of laughs.

The story behind “The Decoy Bride” is great fun.  Audiences who want a little more insight into the story will appreciate the cast interviews included in the special features.  Each cast member discusses being added to the film, and working together.  [David] Tennant even discusses the weather during filming.  While a rain machine was used at some points, Tennant points out how precise the people on the Isle of Man were in  predicting the weather.  Director Sheree Folkson advances that with her own discussionon how perfectly the weather played out for the entire movie. 

The Decoy Bride is in essence an update of the classic story of Cinderella.  And it does lift from other previous rom/coms.  But it still manages to make its own identity and life.  And keeping that in mind, it is worth at least one watch by any fan of the rom/com genre.

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Disney/Pixar’s Brave is anything but

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Once you reach the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.  Who hasn’t heard or spoken that old adage or some variant thereof?  It’s an adage that applies to so many avenues of life.  That also includes movies.  And it especially applies in the case of Disney/Pixar’s newest movie, “Brave.”

“Brave” is little more than another update of Disney’s classic 1976 movie, “Freaky Friday.”  That original starred Barbara Harris and a young Jodie Foster.  It was most recently updated with a reboot in 2003 starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in the shoes of the previous pair.  Now with “Brave”, the mother/daughter team has been filled by Emma Thompson and Kelly Macdonald.  The only thing that separates the previous pair of movies from “Brave” is that in the case of Merida and her mother, Elinor, they don’t switch brains.  Rather, in this update, Merida comes of age when she asks a witch to conjure up a spell that would “change” her mom.  After the spell turns her mom into a bear, she finally begins to realize things in a different light.

Merida’s not the only one who learns some valuable lessons, either.  Her mom learns some lessons, too.  Elinor realized that it was wrong of her to press her views on Merida.  She learns that needs to honor Merida’s decision on when or if she’s ready to marry.  Even the princes brought for the betrothal competition agreed with Merida and voice that opinion, too.  They state that they were all pushed into things by their fathers.

The story behind “Brave” is anything but brave.  It’s not the only problem with the overall presentation, either.  Being that it bears a “PG” rating, parents should be aware that the reasoning behind that rating is justified.  There is some partial nudity in the movie.  To be more exact, audiences get glimpses of some bare backsides at a couple points.  Those moments were really unnecessary.

“Brave” is not Disney/Pixar’s best work.  That honor goes to the companies’ 2009 movie, “Up.”  But while it’s not the best from the pair, it’s not the worst, either.  Merida is a wonderfully positive role model for today’s younger female audiences.  She’s a very confident, strong willed and independent figure.  That’s a big change from most of Disney’s classic princesses.  As much as Merida’s a great role model for today’s yougner female audiences, there’s no denying her link to at least two classic Disney princesses.  She has Ariel’s hair and Jasmine’s strong willed personality.  Keeping that in mind, and that it lifts liberally from Disney’s 1976 original “Freaky Friday” proves that as good as “Brave” may be, there is still no beating the classics.  Parents would be much better served sharing the original Freaky Friday with their children before blowing their money on this not so new movie from Disney and Pixar.