Disney’s ‘Nutcracker’ Adaptation Fails To Live Up To The Legacy Of Its Source Material

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

More than two centuries ago, famed composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky first premiered his now beloved musical work, “The Nutcracker.” In the almost 220 years since it first premiered, it has been adapted into the famed ballet “The Nutcracker Suite” and countless other adaptations on the big and small screen.  Some have been okay while others, not quite so.  Walt Disney Studios’ latest adaptation — The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ­— premiered in theaters nationwide late last year and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.  The roughly 90-minute update, which also incorporates elements of author E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is one of the more forgettable takes on the timeless tale of The Nutcracker, even in its home release.  The one real positive to this movie is the pacing in its story.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s pacing makes it at least bearable, the positives end there.  The movie’s story and its look collectively do a lot to detract from the movie’s presentation.  They will be discussed a little bit later.  The bonus content included in the movie’s upcoming home release can be considered a positive, but it is also a negative to a certain point in itself.  It will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.  All things considered, they make this presentation worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more than that.

Walt Disney Studios’ adaptation of author E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s beloved composition that is The Nutcracker is one of the least memorable takes on the noted works.  It is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more than that.  One of the movie’s saving graces is its pacing.  Not counting end credits, the movie clocks in at approximately 90 minutes, and from start to finish, that run time moves along at a relatively stable speed.  Audiences are never left behind nor are they ever left feeling at any point like the movie is dragging.  That is a boon for the movie’s presentation, as it does a lot to ensure viewers’ maintained engagement from start to finish.  The movie’s creative heads should be thankful for that insurance, considering that audiences will, sadly, be able to get out of the movie faster than slower, especially considering how little the story has to offer them.

Speaking of the movie’s story, this is where The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ultimately fails.  This adaptation of Hoffman’s classic tale is a pale shadow of Hoffman’s work, and is formulaic to say the absolute least.  It attempts to make up for that approach by incorporating classic Disney elements – throwbacks to Fantasia and the equally disappointing Babes in Toyland are thrown in – in an effort to play to older audiences’ nostalgic tendencies.  Adding to the problems, it doesn’t take long for audiences to realize who is the realms’ real villain.  One key scene reveals the truth very quickly and blatantly.  As if all of this is not enough, the schmaltzy message of finding one’s strength within one’s own self and the whole coming-of-age theme at the very heart of it all, creates a story that is anything but original or even memorable for that matter.

While the story exhibits plenty of problems, it would be unfair to ignore the positives that it exhibits alongside those problematic elements.  The presentation of a young female lead who is quite smart, and is driven towards S.T.E.M.-related items is something which audiences (specifically female audiences) will appreciate considering the country’s current gender climate.  Having a strong African-American male as the co-lead opposite the intelligent, driven white female will do just as much to make the story appealing to audiences.  The use of these elements goes a long way toward making the movie bearable along with its pacing, even considering all of the other problems presented by the story.  This is just one more way in which the movie makes itself worth at least one watch.  The work of the movie’s costume department – at least in regards to star Keira Knightley – is another positive worth noting.

Knightley is nearly unrecognizable, thanks to the work of the movie’s costume and makeup department.  Comparing her look as the Sugar Plum Fairy here to her turn as Elizabeth in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, one would not even realize it was her playing the fairy if one did not know it was her playing the role.  That is a credit, again, to the noted departments’ work.

While the work of the noted departments on Knightley’s look in this movie is to be highly commended, the rest of the movie’s look is another problem.  Those who are familiar with Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, its Alice in Wonderland adaptations and its take on Oz The Great and Powerful will find quite a striking similarity in the look of this movie to those works.  As a matter of fact, the costumes – which are part of the look – could just as easily be likened to those of Disney’s take on A Wrinkle in Time.  On a side note, that movie was quite a disappointment, too, for many reasons.  This is important to note because that close similarity creates a feel that little effort was taken to try to give Clara her own world.  Clara’s dress and hairstyle strengthen that argument even more.  A close look reveals  Clara’s blu-ish dress to look quite similar to that worn in Disney’s recent update on Cinderella and even the look of Alice’s dress in Disney’s take of Alice in Wonderland.  The blatant near mirror-image of this look to so many of Disney’s other movies – save for Knightley’s look – does little to nothing to enhance the movie’s presentation.

Staying on the item of the movie’s look, the bonus featurette “Unwrapping The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” will generate at least a little bit of appreciation for the time and effort put into the live action/CG world that is that of the Four Realms.  The thing is, considering all of that time and effort, the only real standout element other than that of Knightley’s look is the set used for famed ballerina Misty Copeland’s presentation.  This featurette will at least create appreciation for the work put into that element.  Other than that, it does little else to the positive.

Adding to the problems for the movie’s bonus content is that it is featured only on the Blu-ray disc of the DVD/BD/Digital combo pack.  One cannot help but wonder why exactly Disney would go this route if the movie is presented the same way on all three platforms.  Why not just feature the same bonus material on all three platforms instead of just the one?  This leaves one scratching one’s head.

When one takes into consideration the positives presented by The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and its negatives, the end result proves to be a presentation that leaves audiences wanting so much more, and not in a good way, either.  The story is anything but original or memorable.  The movie’s look lifts liberally from that of so many previous Disney live action/CG hybrid flicks, presenting the image of a severe lack in original and effort in creating the movie’s world.  The largely lacking bonus content, which for whatever reason is presented only on the combo pack’s Blu-ray detracts from the movie’s home presentation even more.  Ultimately, these negatives, along with its very limited positives, make The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, the movie in whole proves to be a movie that is worth at least one watch, but likely will not prove to be among the pantheon of the most memorable Christmas movies.  The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will be available in stores Tuesday.  More information on this and other titles from Walt Disney Studios is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://movies.disney.com/the-nutcracker-and-the-four-realms

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DisneysNutcracker

Twitter: http://twitter.com/thenutcracker

 

 

 

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Disney Announces Release Date, Specs for ‘The Nutcracker And The Four Realms’ Home Release

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Disney’s updated take on the classic ballet The Nutcracker is coming home.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is scheduled for release Jan. 29 on digital, Movies Anywhere, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray and DVD.  Inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic story and the timeless ballet, this re-imagining of the Nutcracker follows 14-year-old Clara (Mackenzie Foy — InterstellarThe ConjuringThe Twilight SagaBreaking Dawn) into a magical land, that features performances from famed ballerina Misty Copeland, lots of soldiers, mice and snowflakes.

Clara follows a golden thread at Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman — The Shawshank RedemptionSevenDriving Miss Daisy) to a magical, one-of-a-kind key that opens a magical musical box.  When the music box is open, Clara is swept into a parallel universe, wherein she meets a Nutcracker soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight — Ready Player OneMickey and the Roadster RacersMowgli), a group of mice and a trio of “Realm Regents.”

Clara also meets the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley — Pirates of the CaribbeanCurse of the Black PearlPirates  of the CaribbeanDead Man’s ChestPirates of the CaribbeanAt World’s End) before finally meeting the evil tyrant, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren — RedHitchcockThe Queen), and battling her to recover the magical key and return harmony to the magical world.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms‘ home release features a handful of bonus items, such as a discussion with Misty Copeland, a look behind the scenes of the movie and deleted scenes.  The movie’s complete list of bonus features is noted below.

Bonus features include*:

BLU-RAY:

  • On Pointe: A Conversation with Misty Copeland – Copeland shares the thrill of portraying one of her favorite characters in a whole new way.
  • Unwrapping “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” – Dive into the production design, sets, costumes and more that helped transform a beloved ballet into an adventurous movie.
  • Deleted Scenes –
    • The Stahlbaums Arrive– As the Stahlbaums enter the Christmas Eve ball, the butler attempts to announce them to the assembled guests.
    • Follow Your Ribbon- Drosselmeyer encourages a reluctant Clara to go find her gift.
    • Deleted Scene: Clara Asks About Her Mother– Sugar Plum gives Clara a tour of her mother’s bedroom.
    • Left, Left, Left, Left, Left– Wandering lost in the forest, palace guards Cavalier and Harlequin quarrel about which way to go.
    • Out with the Old– Sugar Plum makes sweeping changes to the palace decor.
  • Music Videos –
    • Fall on Me” Performed by Andrea Bocelli Featuring Matteo Bocelli– Experience superstar tenor Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo Bocelli performing their first duet together in this uplifting song.
    • “The Nutcracker Suite” Performed by Lang Lang– Get swept up in a series of images from the movie, set to Tchaikovsky’s music and featuring world-renowned pianist Lang Lang.
ON DIGITAL:
  • Unwrapped: The Visual Effects of “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”– View a reel that explores the layers of effects in sequences of the film.

More information on The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is available online now at:

 

Website: http://movies.disney.com/the-nutcracker-and-the-four-realms

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DisneysNutcracker

Twitter: http://twitter.com/thenutcracker

 

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‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Saved By Its Aesthetic Elements

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios score a major hit almost 55 years ago when it premiered its musical, Mary Poppins.  Based on the novel by author P.L. Travers, and starring actress Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music, Victor Victoria, The Princess Diaries), the movie went on to be one of the studio’s most respected productions.  Now 54 years after its debut,  Disney has revisited Travers’ beloved nanny with a big-screen adaptation of another in that series of books, Mary Poppins Returns.  The movie is an entertaining watch, but is not the runaway success that the studio would have people believe it to be. One of the positives that keeps the movie afloat is its musical numbers.  This will be discussed shortly.  For all that the musical numbers do for the movie, its script does just as much to detract from its presentation.  It will be discussed a little later.  The sets and animation work with the musical numbers to make up a little more for the script problems.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of Mary Poppins Returns.  All things considered, they make the movie a work that is worth at least one watch, but few, if any, *ahem* returns.

Walt Disney Studios’ new Mary Poppins sequel, Mary Poppins Returns is a respectable new offering from the studio, but is not the best work that it could have been.  That is not to say that it is a total loss.  It does have some positives, one of which being its collective musical numbers.  The musical numbers throw back to the movie’s predecessor, stylistically speaking.  They are just as bombastic as that movie’s numbers, with the full choruses, choreographed dancing and Broadway style sets.  Given, some of the musical numbers, such as the one in which the men sing about tripping a little light fantastic is one of the numbers that probably could have been cut, in hindsight.  Also, considering the plot hole created in the script (which will be discussed a little later) by Mary’s visit to her cousin, that number likely could have been cut, too.  The two numbers together, could have saved the movie at least five minutes if not more.  They could have been saved as bonus features for the movie’s home release.  That aside, the fact that the songs, their choreography and sets sound and look how they do, they will appeal to fans of Disney’s  days gone by and of Broadway musicals in general.  As a matter of fact, one could even argue that the sense that they collectively create in audiences’ minds makes it easy to see them being translated to a live stage setting.  That appeal is in itself reason for audiences to see this movie at least once.  It is not the movie’s only positive.  The other positive will be addressed shortly.  Before that positive is addressed, one must address the movie’s clear negative, its script.

The movie’s script does just as much to detract from Mary Poppins Returns’ presentation as its positives do to make it worth the watch.  The script is based very loosely on Travers’ 1935 novel Mary Poppins Comes Back.  The initial scene in which Mary makes her first appearance is true to the source material, but so much other material was changed.  For instance, Mary declares in the movie that she will leave “when the door opens.”  That is different from the novel, in which she states that she will leave when ‘the little chain to her locket breaks.”  Adding to the issues with the script is that for all intents and purposes, this movie’s script is a rehashing of the first movie.  Once again, the banks family is in turmoil as it deal with the city’s bank.  This time around, it’s Michael, all grown up, dealing with the evil bank head, and trying to save the family home from said villain. This is not the first time that a sequel has basically gone back to its predecessor for a story, either (E.g. Tron and Tron Legacy – another Disney pairing – and Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000).  What’s more, it certainly is not the first time that a movie’s script has centered around an innocent land owner facing off against an evil banker/landlord figure to keep his or her land.  That is a plot element that goes back to the golden age of cinema, when so many Westerns saw their protagonists having to save their land from said bad guy.  As if all of that is not enough, there is an unmistakable plot hole involving Mary’s cousin Topsy.  While Mary and the Banks children visit Topsy in order to have the vase fixed, that story line is never re-visited (not to give away too much).  Why have that element in there if it is not going to be addressed again?  It’s almost as if it was included just to give justification for the studio bringing in veteran actress Meryl Streep.  When one considers all of this along with the movie’s pacing issues, which can be traced at least in part to the overabundance of musical numbers, it becomes impossible to argue in support of this movie’s story.  Considering this, the movie’s script does a lot to detract from the movie’s overall presentation.  Luckily though, the damage that it does to the presentation is countered again, by another of the movie’s positives, its collective sets and animation.

The collective sets and animation incorporated into Mary Poppins Returns is more proof of the movie’s creative heads trying to establish a certain sense of nostalgia in audiences’ minds.  The animated scenes, which take place when Mary and the Banks children jump into the China vase, look almost identical to those used in Mary Poppins.  This is important to note because in an age when so much animation is clearly CG or flash, the work put into those scenes makes it next to impossible to tell if it was crafted by hand or on computer.  That is a testament to the time and effort put into those scenes.  That in itself is worth its share of applause.

The sets that were crafted for the movie, as previously noted, give the movie a look that makes it easy to see the movie translated to the stage.  Again, kudos is in order for those behind the scenes in this case, too.  From the scene with the lamp lighters singing and dancing, to the exteriors of the Banks’ home to the finale in the park, the sets look just like something that could easily be presented on stage.  Even the set for Topsy’s shop, with its ability to go upside down, is something that certainly some set designer(s) can build.  The positive created from this element and that of the animation combines to make them just as important to the movie’s presentation as its musical numbers.  When these aesthetic elements are considered together, they make clear that while Mary Poppins Returns is hardly the return that many fans will expect, it does prove that there is at least still a place in today’s entertainment industry for musicals.  Simply put, they prove that this movie is worth at least one watch, but few if any, more returns.

A lot of hype was built around Walt Disney Studios’ new Mary Poppins offering Mary Poppins Returns ahead of its theatrical release late last year.  Sadly though, the movie does not entirely live up to that hype.  It is not a complete loss, though.  Its musical numbers – overly abundant as they are – its sets and its animation go a long way toward making the movie worth at least one watch.  That is especially the case among fans of musicals and Disney’s own golden era.  The movie’s script does as much to detract from the movie as its aesthetic elements, though.  Keeping all of this in mind, Mary Poppins Returns is, again, worth at least one watch, but few, if any, more returns.  More information on this and other titles from Walt Disney Studios is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.waltdisneystudios.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DisneyStudios

 

 

 

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PBS’ Richard Sherman In-Studio Concert Will Leave Audiences “Singing” Its Praises

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

John Williams. Hans Zimmer. The Sherman Brothers. One thing connects each of these names: each name is among the movie industry’s great musical minds. Each has composed some of the most well-known and beloved themes that audiences have ever heard. This past September, PBS and Public Media Distribution brought audiences a very special profile of one of those names with the release of Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime. Released Sept. 5, this in-studio performance by its title figure, is a wonderful musical profile of one half of the famed Sherman Brothers creative musical team. That is due in no small part to the songs that Sherman performs for audiences. The stories that he shares along the way are just as entertaining as the songs, and in turn will be discussed later. The program’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements. Each noted element is important in its own right to the recording’s whole. All things considered, they make Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime a release that will leave audiences “singing” its praises.

PBS’ recently released Richard Sherman musical documentary Songs of a Lifetime is a special new “live” recording from PBS and Public Media Distribution that is certain to leave audiences “singing” its praises. That is due in part to the recording’s songs. The songs that Sherman performs throughout the program are not limited to just his Disney compositions. Also included in this intimate setting are songs from Tom Sawyer (1973 — MGM), Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang (1968 — Pinewood Studios), Charlotte’s Web (1973 — Paramount Pictures/Hanna-Barbera Productions), Snoopy Come Home (1972 — Cinema Center Filims/Lee Mendelson Film Productions/Bill Melendez Productions/Sopwith Productions/United Features Syndicate), a Christmas tune that he composed with Joe Van Winkle titled ‘Christmas in New Orleans,’ (which was made famous by Louis Armstrong) and even his own heartfelt composition that he wrote for his wife (who is there to enjoy the song at his side) among so many others. There is even a brand new song included at the recording’s end titled ‘A Kiss Goodnight’ that is certain to move viewers of any age.

In regards to the Disney tunes featured throughout the recording, the movies featured through those songs include: Winnie The PoohMary Poppins, The Happiest Millionaire, The Jungle Book, Summer Magic, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, The Parent Trap and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Needless to say, even though “only” ten movies are on that list, that is still a healthy cross-section of Sherman’s time with Walt Disney Studios. That is especially considering that some of those movies get more than one nod. Mary Poppins gets a handful of nods with the likes of ‘Feed The Birds,’ ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite,’ and ‘Through The Eyes of Love.’ Winnie The Pooh received three nods through a medley of tunes early in the performance while The Jungle Book receives its own share of representations, too. Considering the number of Disney flicks represented in this in-studio concert and the songs used to represent those movies, it goes without saying that even at “only” nine movies, the concert presents a healthy dose of Disney.

When that healthy dose of Disney is coupled with Sherman’s non-Disney compositions, the whole the recording proves quite impressive. Counting the single songs and the medleys, it is safe to say that the recording boasts at least 30 songs. Considering that the performance’s run time is roughly one hour, that is a lot of material pushed into that space, and quite well at that. Staying on that note, while the material in whole is impressive, one cannot ignore the lack of a program guide inside or outside the box printed or physical. The only program guide that does exist is in the scene selection option on the disc’s main menu. The songs are not even listed with their respective movies. Sure it seems on the surface like a not so important aesthetic element, but is in fact very important to the box’s presentation. That is especially in connection to the songs themselves. It would have been nice to have had that listing. Luckily though, as much as it detracts from the recording’s whole, it is not enough to completely ruin the program’s presentation. It just would have been nice to have had that element.

While the extensive list of songs and movies that makes up the body of Songs of a Lifetime are clearly critical to the recording’s whole, they are collectively not the DVD’s only important element. The stories that Sherman shares throughout the recording are just as important to its presentation as those songs. One of the most interesting stories that Sherman shares during his time at the keys is that of the creation of the song ‘Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love),’ which was made famous by country legend Gene Autry. Sherman tells audiences that the song came about after the Sherman brothers’ father (who was himself a well-known and respected musical mind) jokingly told his sons that the pair, even with their college degrees, “couldn’t write a song that a kid would give up his lunch money to buy.” He also notes that the song was the Sherman Brothers’ very first published song, and was written because country western music was big at the time. Another interesting anecdote that Sherman shares in the program tells the story of how Louis Prima and his band ended up as King Louie and his apes in The Jungle Book. He explains that Walt Disney himself sent Sherman and company to a Las Vegas night club where Prima and company were performing, showed them the movie and convinced them to star. There is a little more to the story here, but that will be left to viewers to discover. It goes without saying that the rest of the story (as a certain radio announcer used to say) will leave audiences laughing happily. As if that isn’t enough to get viewers interested, Sherman also shares a moving story tying the creation of the song ‘It Changes’ (from Snoopy Come Home) to how he and others felt when Walt Disney died in 1966 from lung cancer. While the story is short, it is a story that, when coupled with the emotion of the song, will deeply touch audiences as it illustrates expertly that story. When this and the stories featured throughout the concert are joined with the recording’s featured songs, the whole of that material gives audiences more than enough to appreciate here. Even with this in mind, that whole is still not all that audiences will appreciate. The program’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material included in Songs of a Lifetime is so important because of what it adds to the program’s overall presentation. Audiences learn through this roughly four-minute discussion from 2015, Sherman’s thoughts on PBS’ Walt Disney profile American Experience: Walt Disney. Audiences learn that Sherman approved of that doc, even as it didn’t just sing Disney’s praises, but instead showed both sides of Walt Disney — the good and bad. He also discusses his emotion at holding the interview in Disney’s office, the very place where he, his brother and Walt Disney crafted so many hit tunes. That revelation will capture audiences just as much as anything else in his interview. Audiences also learn that the guest performers included in the recording were hand chosen for the program by Sherman himself. They weren’t just random selections by some faceless person or group. This is all just a sample of what is presented in Sherman’s bonus interview. When it is coupled with the rest of the interview’s discussions, the whole gives audiences even more to to appreciate. The behind-the-scenes photos montage adds one last touch to the whole as it couples the songs from the main feature with the noted photos for an experience that, as simple as it is, is certain to entertain audiences, too. When this is set alongside Sherman’s short but in-depth interview and the program’s main feature, the whole of those elements makes Songs of a Lifetime a presentation that will most certainly leave audiences “singing” its praises.

PBS and PBS’ Distribution’s recently released Richard Sherman “live” recording Songs of a Lifetime is a work that is certain to impress audiences. That is due in no small part to the recording’s featured songs. The songs featured in the program include not only Sherman’s work with Disney, but with other studios and even his own compositions. All in all, they paint a vivid picture of his career, showing why he remains today such a respected figure (along with his brother). The stories that Sherman shares throughout the performance add even more interest to the program’s whole. At times funny and at others emotional, Sherman’s stories are just as certain to keep viewers engaged and entertained as his songs. The bonus material included in the program puts the finishing touch on its program thanks to its own information. Each noted element is critical in its own way to the program’s whole. All things considered, they make this presentation one that will most certainly leave audiences “singing” its praise. Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

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“POTC 5” Is A Welcome Return to Form For Disney’s “Pirates Of The Caribbean” Franchise

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

More than 14 years ago, Disney brought to audiences what was one of the company’s biggest and best movies of its rich, decades-long history when it released Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. That nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, based on a ride at one of the company’s theme parks, proved to be its own enjoyable and successful action packed cinematic ride. In the years since its July 9, 2003 theatrical debut, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has become less enjoyable with each entry. It fell so far from the glory of that first movie that when it was originally announced that Disney would make the franchise’s fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, much speculation was raised along with plenty of eyebrows. Every bit of that speculation was justified considering the problems with the franchise’s second through fourth installments. The reality of the franchise’s latest (and hopefully last) installment is that it proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable addition to the series. that is due in part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note in examining this movie as the story itself. It will be discussed later. The work of the movie’s cast puts the finishing touch on its presentation. Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation. All things considered, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales proves itself a treasure in its own right even with its problems.

Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Men Tell No Tales is a treasure of a movie, looking at the overall picture of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. That is because in comparison to the franchise’s second through fourth installments, its story brings the franchise full circle while also wrapping up the loose ends created over the course of the series’ previous entries. That includes its very first offering. This time out, Jack Sparrow has to evade yet another high seas villain who he wronged years ago all while trying to locate yet another powerful treasure. All the while, young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites — Maleficent, Oculus, Gods of Egypt) is trying to lift the curse on his dad, Will Turner, much as Will tried in previous movies to lift his dad’s curse. Henry ends up meeting his own love interest Carina (Kaya Scoldelario — Moon, The Maze Runner 1 – 2) very much in the same fashion in which Will and Elizabeth met in the franchise’s first movie). The twist that the writers put on Carina’s back story is a positive because it doesn’t just outright repeat Will and Elizabeth’s love story, but gives it new life so to speak. Henry trying since his childhood to lift his father’s curse is just one of the loose ends that this movie’s writers wrap up this time out. It is directly connected to the reunion of Will and Elizabeth, which is also addressed in this story, in turn bringing the entire franchise full circle. What is truly interesting to note in those attempts to tie the franchise together, the writers even acknowledge, albeit briefly, the events of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. That very brief mention of that movie is actually a good thing considering how…well…strange it was.Considering all of this, the story at the center of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales forms a relatively solid foundation for the movie’s presentation.

Relatively is emphasized because there are some issues with the story that cannot be ignored. First and foremost is the fact that in the original trilogy, it was hinted that anyone who controlled Davy Jones controlled the seas. Yet in this story, anyone who wields Poseidon’s trident also controls the seas. It’s kind of misleading to have two separate ways to control the seas. Also of note is the number of scenes that likely could have been cut without harming the movie’s overall story. There was a handful of scenes throughout the two-hour, nine-minute movie that could have been cut, not only cutting down the movie’s run time, but also keeping the movie’s pacing from slowing at those points, too. The dual presentations of Salazar’s back story not once but twice is a prime example of material that could have been cut back. It would have made more sense to tell how Jack lured Salazar into the Devil’s Triangle when he was initially introduced rather than introducing him initially and then later telling his back story. Some of the early interactions between Carina and Henry could have been trimmed back, too. Given, two hours and nine minutes is not a bad run time for this installment of the POTC series, but the material that could have been axed made the movie feel almost two and a half hours, which became the series’ standard run time. Cutting the noted material would have easily cut the movie back to about two hours flat, but considering as quickly as the story already manages to progress, it would have progressed that much faster without losing anything along the way. Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story is not perfect, obviously, but it also is quite an improvement over the stories at the center of the series’ previous entries. To that end, this story forms, again, a relatively solid foundation for its presentation. It is not the movie’s only key element. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note as its story.

The stylistic approach taken in this movie is so critical to note because it takes audiences back to the very first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The action is there throughout along with the comedic timing, prat falls and more that made Pirates of the Caribbean so surprisingly enjoyable in its first outing. The over-the-top drama of the franchise’s second and third films were largely absent this time out, too, making this stylistic return to form quite welcome. Jack’s unlikely re-introduction and the early island fight sequence between Jack, his crew and the British soldiers are prime examples of what makes the movie’s return to form so welcome. The big high seas battle scenes between Salazar’s ship and crew and those of Sparrow also show how this movie stylistically returned to the franchise’s roots. There are also the liens traded between Jack and Henry as well as other dialogue that returns to form just as much. Between the lines and scenes noted here and so many others not noted directly, viewers will find that the movie’s creative forces went to great lengths to stylistically take viewers back to POTC‘s roots in a new setting and story. Those efforts paid off greatly here, strengthening even more the movie’s overall presentation. When those efforts are coupled with the work of the movie’s cast, the movie’s presentation proves even more why it is worth the watch.

Johnny Depp and company entertain audiences throughout the course of POTC 5 with their performances. That includes funny moments such as Jack and Henry’s first meeting and even Barbosa’s men as they discuss Salazar’s escape from the Devil’s Triangle with Barbosa as well as so many other moments. What audiences will note in these interactions is that even these moments are themselves another stylistic return to form for the movie. The same can be said of the more emotional moments between Henry and Carina. Audiences familiar with the series’ history will agree very similar chops were shown between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the original trilogy. Thwaites and Scodalerio are just as impressive as the pair’s characters slowly fall for each other. Rather than just go over the top, the growth is gradual, keeping audiences fully engaged. That subtlety in the pair’s acting shows experience beyond its years, and shows the promise for each actor’s future. Even Geoffrey Rush deserves his own applause as he has to keep himself from being run through by Salazar. He shows a side of Barbosa that rarely had to be seen in any of the franchise’s previous entries, and did so professionally, too. It made those moments just as interesting as any other from himself and his fellow cast mates. Those moments in question, when joined with the moments noted here, make even clearer why the cast’s work in front of the cameras just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story and its stylistic approach. Speaking of those elements, when they are joined with the cast’s work, the whole of the noted elements keeps Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales afloat much more easily than its predecessors, and makes it honestly the series’ best entry since Curse of the Black Pearl. keeping that in mind, Dead Men Tell No Tales sees Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a positive final note to an otherwise doomed franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a positive final statement for Disney’s otherwise sunken high-seas series. It takes audiences back to the glory of the franchise’s first film both in terms of the cast’s acting and the movie’s stylistic approach. While the movie’s story does have at least one plot hole — which is more powerful, controlling Davy Jones or Poseidon’s trident? — and suffers from some minor pacing issues related to unnecessary scenes, it still is a fun story that easily allows audiences to suspend their disbelief. Each item noted here plays its own part into the movie’s overall presentation. Good and bad considered side by side, this movie sees thankfully, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a much-needed positive final note to the otherwise maligned franchise. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Walt Disney Studios is available online now at:

Website: http://www.waltdisneystudios.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DisneyStudios

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Voiceplay Releases New ‘Moana’ Medley Video

Fans of Disney’s hit movie Moana have new reason to celebrate.

A cappella outfit Voiceplay has just released a video of the group performing a medley of songs from the movie’s soundtrack via Yahoo! Music.  The group was joined by Broadway star Rachel Potter (The Addams Family, Evita) for the performance.

Courtesy: Reybee, Inc.

Voiceplay member Eli Jacobson discussed the new medley and its partnership with Potter for the video in a recent interview with Yahoo! Music’s Lyndsey Parker.  He said during the interview that developing its take on the songs and bringing Potter on for the project was natural.

“The music is just truly inspirational and we individually felt connections to the characters,” Jacobson said.  “We also all share the dream of providing music and voicing for an animated film and knew that Rachel would have a great take on Moana.  The fact that our kids and families love the music is just really just a huge plus.”

Potter said she was just as excited to work with Voiceplay as the group was to work with her.

“I was just so elated to get to do a Moana medley with these guys,” Potter said.  “It really captures the emotions throughout the entire film in just a few minutes and it’s something Jude (Potter’s son) and I can enjoy for years to come.”

Potter’s collaboration with Voiceplay on its new medley is not the first time that she has worked with the group.  She also worked with the quintet on The Phantom of the Opera and Charlie Puth’s Attention.   Voiceplay itself has already crafted a medley of popular Disney showtunes including numbers from The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Aladdin as part of Disney’s celebration of its 20th anniversary on Broadway.

More information on Voiceplay’s new Moana medley is available online now along with all of the group’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.thevoiceplay.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thevoiceplay

Twitter: http://twitter.com/thevoiceplay

 

 

 

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‘Moana’ Makes For An Enjoyable Occasional Watch

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios has gone to great lengths in recent years to attract young female audiences looking for something other than the standard damsel in distress stories.  New strong female leads such as Princess Elena (Elena of Avalor), Merida (Brave) and Elsa and Anna (Frozen) have proven those efforts have paid off.  The company’s take on Rapunzel (Tangled) could be argued either way.  Late last year, the House of Mouse brought its young female audiences another strong female role model in the form of Moana.  The Polynesian teen’s coming-of-age story proved to be a rousing success for Disney in terms of sales.  Now available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, the movie has proven to be just as much of a financial boon for the company.  As successful as it has performed, this latest teen-centric tale of self-realization and friendship is, in reality, not Disney’s best.  It is not a total loss, though.  That should be emphasized here.  That is due in part to its dual-pronged story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The story’s pacing does take away from the story, bogging it down more than once.  The movie’s bonus material should also be noted in examining its overall presentation.  That will be discussed at more length later, too.  Each element plays its own part in Moana’s overall presentation.  They show that while it is anything but Disney’s best, it is also not the studio’s worst effort either.  It is worth at least an occasional watch.

Walt Disney Studios’ latest animated adventure Moana is hardly the famed studio’s finest work.  To be fair, it is also not the company’s worst effort.  It is worth at least an occasional watch.  That is due in part to the movie’s dual-pronged story.  The most obvious of those two prongs is Moana’s own coming-of-age story.  After being told by her father not to go beyond the reef, she decides (on the advice of her grandmother) that she should make her own decision.  This leads her to strike out on her own adventure in an effort to save her island and its surrounding islands.  This story of self-actualization generates, in itself secondary messages about finding one’s own way in life, not being afraid to take chances, and so many other messages.  The movie’s writing staff is to be commended for the way in which they incorporated those messages into the central story without allowing them to overpower the script’s central story.  They are to be commended just as much for the balance of that central story with the secondary story of Maui’s turn from villain to hero.

The secondary story of Maui’s turn from villain to hero is just as commonplace in the cinematic realm as Moana’s coming-of-age tale.  As the pair journeys to return the heart of Taffiti Moana eventually leads Maui to realize the error of his ways, leading him to make a tough decision about himself and about personal sacrifice, leading him to atone for his past wrongs and become a hero.  It is, in its own right, its own coming-of-age story, just more in the avenue of self-actualization.  This story of personal growth is just as commonplace in the cinematic realm as Moana’s coming-of-age tale.  Yet somehow the script’s writing team was able to make both stories work.  That ability to make both stories so entertaining makes the movie’s writing team deserving of its share of applause.  At the same time though, that applause cannot be too loud.  That is due to the problem raised through the story’s pacing.

Moana’s writers are to be commended for joining two common-place cinematic stories and somehow balancing them.  They are to be commended, too for somehow taking at least a somewhat original approach to the all-too-familiar stories.  While the writers are to be commended for the efforts taken to make those stories work collectively and alone, they cannot be applauded too loudly.  That is because their efforts also led to a pacing problem that clearly bogs down the movie.  That pacing issue is evident early on as Moana is given the heart, only to lose it when she is caught by her father.  The problem here is that it meant the story had to take a lot of unnecessary time building up to Moana getting the heart back from a somewhat expected source all while she is growing up and finding her way all before she even embarks on her epic journey.  Once Moana finally gets her voyage, things pick back up a little, only to get bogged down again as she and Maui get randomly attacked by a bunch of mutant-type living coconut pirates.  Yes, mutant-type, living coconut pirates.  Sounds like the premise for a really bad 1950s B-sci-fi flick, right?  Once they escape the creatures’ (which conjure thoughts of the goombas from the Mario Brothers video game franchise) clutches, the story does pick up again, only to be bogged down yet again later as Maui (at least temporarily) deserts Moana—not to give away too much—before things pick up again in the story’s final act.  Considering the constant back and forth of the story’s pacing, keeping audiences engaged in the nearly two-hour movie is not easy.  That could potentially chalked up to the fact that it seems like the writers just threw together elements of past Disney offerings such as Aladdin, Hercules, and so many others and hoped they would make this story work.  They made the story’s dual-pronged approach work.  But they clearly caused problems in the story’s pacing.

The pacing of Moana’s dual-pronged story is a problem that cannot be ignored in examining the movie’s overall presentation.  The constant back and forth of the movie’s pacing makes maintaining audiences’ engagement (especially younger audiences) problematic.  Luckily, the efforts of the movie’s writing team to balance the stories and somehow make them at least somewhat original makes enduring the pacing problems easier.  Another element that makes up (at least somewhat) for the movie’s pacing is the bonus material included in the movie’s home release.  The movie’s key bonus feature is the documentary “Voices of the Islands.”  The roughly half-hour program takes viewers along with the movie’s heads to the South Pacific as they studied the Polynesian people and their culture ahead of the movie’s creation.  Audiences will be surprised to see how much of the region’s culture—from the importance of family and community to the importance of the coconut to even something as minor as the people’s hair style—plays directly into the movie in this program.  All of these discussions exhibit just how much time and work went into making the movie believable and that it properly paid tribute to the people on which it is centered.  It creates a new respect for the work put in to bring the story to life and is yet another example of how bonus features can make an otherwise forgettable flick more memorable and not the last.  The bonus ‘Gone Fishin’’ short that features Moana and Maui adds its own enjoyment to the movie’s overall presentation.  When the movie’s bonus material and its story are coupled together, they make the one negative of the movie’s pacing bearable.  The end result is a viewing experience that audiences of all ages will enjoy even with just the occasional watch.

Walt Disney Studios’ new animated movie Moana is not the studio’s best effort, nor is it the company’s worst offering.  It is a movie that is worth at least an occasional watch.  That is due in part to the balance in the movie’s dual-pronged story.  The story’s pacing is problematic.  There is no denying that, but luckily it is not so problematic that it makes the movie unwatchable.  The bonus material that is included in the movie’s home release gives audiences even more reason to give it a chance; especially the movie’s companion 30-minute “Voices of the Islands” documentary.  That bonus documentary, when coupled with the movie’s balanced two-part story, the two elements do plenty to make up for the movie’s pacing problems.  That combination makes the movie worth watching at least once in a while.  More information on Moana is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://movies.disney.com/moana

 

 

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/disneymoana

 

 

 

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