A Subatomic Spoiler-Free Look At Ant-Man

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Big things come in small packages, and that’s something that’s always been true for the hero Ant-Man. The movie adaptation of the hero’s origin, Ant-Man, opens in theaters today,  is a definite treat for the Marvel Cinematic Universe fans who might not have been as impressed with Avengers: Age of Ultron, but were huge fans of Guardians of the Galaxy.  It is the final film in “Phase 2” and as staunch fans will catch on this is with good reason, as Ant-Man will be heavily connected to many aspects of the MCU going forward – some that might not come to any fruition, and others that are going to take us to DEFCON 1.

This is a story about Scott Lang, who in comic books was the 2nd Ant-Man, and the movie sticks with that theme.  He is a self proclaimed “cat burglar” who has just gotten out of prison, and through a series of events ends up breaking into a home where he comes into possession of a suit that he can use to shrink down to a size where he can ride an ant like it is a horse.  Hence his name… get it… Ant-Man.  In a way similar to the comic book also, he is doing this for his daughter… though the circumstances are a bit different.

Comic book fans like myself, those who are familiar with the history of the Avengers have been wondering just how Ant-Man would fit into the MCU.  After all in comic books, the original Ant-Man was Hank Pym, and he was one of the founding members of the Avengers, before Captain America, Hawkeye, or Black Widow were ever members.  In comics he is the guy who created Ultron, not Stark. He has also been several superheroes including Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, Wasp, etc.  So the big question for this group was just how were you going to fit this diverse a character back into the mix?

In short, this is handled extremely well.  The pieces of Pym’s story are brought in piece by piece and at just the right times.  In this way you can see the parallels between the growth of both Lang and Pym in the movie.  One thing that this movie helped me with is the Ultron that was presented in Age of Ultron – as I struggled with that interpretation.  Missing was the psycho-drama element of the Pym vs. Ultron struggle – and Ultron was turned into all the worst elements of Tony Stark instead.  Here, in place of Ultron, we have Yellowjacket – who unlike comics is NOT Pym (no spoiler here, this was all over the trailers), and as is true to the MCU is different yet analogous to his Earth-616 (soon to be zero?) counterpart.  As a result he takes on many of the personality traits of Ultron from the comic books.

There is the contingent of people who have been wondering why they should care about a dude who can shrink and talk to ants.  Well because when a dude with a bow and arrow or a gal with a guns and martial arts can stand tall against the likes of a Hulk, everything else in between can work, and a tiny dude can stand tall too. However, in case that’s not enough there are elements added to this movie that are there to help you through this particular issue.  Each a piece of the puzzle to set up so much of what will be “Phase 3” of the MCU.

While I’m sure you’ve already been taking your kids to see the MCU movies, I wanted to say that for younger, even Pre-Teen audiences, this might be the most approachable of all the films to date.  Cassie Lang being the differentiating factor there.  Because there are a lot of elements of the story that are there to make a young girl work within its context younger kids may relate better and understand more of the story.  That said, there are still guns, stuff gets blown up, crimes occur, and people die.  Overall this is a super fun movie, full of a lot of what makes comic book drama great.  MCU fans are going to want to see this.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Peek Inside Inside Out

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For countless centuries humankind has strived to unlock the mysteries of the mind, only to discover is that while we can speculate and conclude, we may never truly know what goes makes us all tick.  That’s not to say we don’t have an idea of how we work, after all we’re the ones who live this life and somehow we get through just fine without truly knowing how we do it.  What we generally find is that, at the end of the day, the cliche is true, “we’re all human”.  Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up) takes all these swirling notions, and… emotions and turns them into the beautifully clever movie Inside Out.

In Inside Out, Docter sets out to answer for us that ageless question of, “What’s going on inside that head of yours?” Great effort was made by Docter to take concepts by both Freud and Jung and combine them into something easily digestible by audiences, as their concepts are often quite convoluted, conflicting, and complimentary at the same time.  That’s not an easy task, some people spend their entire thesis trying to sort such things out.  To do this he reached back to one of his earlier works that many might be familiar with Cranium Command.

To do this the movie is set inside the mind of Riley, an 11 year old girl (based on both Docter himself and his daughter) whose life is drastically changed when her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco.  Much like Cranium Command, Riley’s mind, and similarly those of her parents, dogs, cats, etc. are all controlled from a control room, Headquarters, by her emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.  In fact, even the teaser poster for the movie resembles the logo for the closed attraction. Their job is to help define and maintain Riley’s personality.  They do this by creating and storing core memories which drive the aspects of that personality.

Unfortunately, after moving, Riley’s once “perfect” world starts to fall apart under her and she has to learn to cope with the changes and learn to incorporate them into who she is, rather than let them ruin her life.  As Riley’s world starts to fall apart, so do the core aspects of her personality, depicted as floating island “lands” from a theme park, including a familiar “hub & spoke” design where Headquarters is the Hub.  Those lands crumble, and fall into an abyss of lost and forgotten memories.

The emotions look to Joy, their leader and Riley’s first emotion, to solve the problem.  From there things start to go wrong as Riley’s core memories are rejected by the system in Headquarters and through a series of mishaps both Joy and Sadness are whisked off with those core memories to long term memory with no way back to Headquarters.  Leaving Fear, Anger, and Disgust in control.  From there things turn sour for quite a bit for both groups, and this reflects to Riley in the real world.  Thankfully with the help of one of Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong things eventually get fixed, and Riley learns to accept, and move on.

Inside Out great, if not fantastic.  While I wouldn’t consider it Pixar’s best work it is near the top.  It’s extremely clever, with some amazing throw away lines mostly at Jung’s expense.  Everyone who has grown up, become a teenager, lived through a life altering change, etc. should relate to this movie.  In other words, pretty much everyone on the planet.  Something so relatable is really the pinnacle of every artist, and this might come to be known as Docter’s pinnacle work.  Go see Inside Out, you’re going to enjoy experiencing these emotions.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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Give Kids The World Village Auction Items Available

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Exciting Auction Items Available

Friends and supporters of Give Kids The World Village, an exciting selection of auction items have been donated and are available for bidding! This is a great opportunity to treat yourself or a loved one, while also benefiting the children and families we serve at the Village.

To participate, please go to Give Kids the World Auction Site and bid online through Friday, June 12 at 5:00 p.m.

Here are a few things you need to know:

  • To bid, go to “My Bids” and click “Register here” in the bottom right corner. Please have your name, telephone number, address, email, and credit card information ready, as they are required for bidding.

  • All winning auction items will be available to pick up at Give Kids The World Village. If you are not local to GKTW, shipping is available.

Please feel free to share this information with friends and family and encourage them to participate. Thank you for your ongoing support of Give Kids The World Village! Good luck and happy bidding!

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A Look At Tomorrowland

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Walt Disney was always looking toward the future, and it showed through in so much of what he gave to the world.  He designed the original Tomorrowland in Disneyland to allow guests to be able to participate in a glimpse of what the future had to offer in order to provide them a positive outlook on what was to come.  His goal being simple, inspire hope.  In the movie Tomorrowland, Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof have taken that goal and weaved it into a modern tale where hope and despair are at odds, the world is losing, and it needs to be saved.

You can’t look at the world today and deny the underlying statement of the movie that we live in a very negatively driven society.  The movie does paint that view very dark for much of the movie, basically stating that there is no hope, as the world marches ever forward to it’s end.  They even go so far as to put a Doomsday Clock into the movie that counts down toward that end, one which defines the dark side of the movie and providing it a voice that ever counts down.

With that said, the negativity of things as shown in the movie, and the impending doom of the Earth, as mentioned above, despair is not the message of the movie.  The message is actually hope.  The message of the movie is provided to us through the main character Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) who is intended to be that embodiment of hope.  This is in stark contrast Frank Walker (George Clooney) who is a man who has become so obsessed with the impending doom that he is lost in despair.

This dichotomy carries through the movie from it’s opening where Frank and Casey are shown to be telling us the story of the movie, right until it’s speech at the end.  The message is simple, despite all the darkness there can be hope.  The interplay between the concepts built into Casey and Frank carries much of the movie.  Casey keeping it fun in a way, while Frank is keeping it real – despite all the unreal things he’s doing on screen.

With a plethora of science fiction themes like alternate realities, killer robots, and a steampunk trip to the moon the movie really does carry well throughout most of it.  There’s actually a point in the special effects where I got goose bumps because so much crazy awesome was happening on screen that it was hard not to sit back and think “Wow!”.  Cool concepts when well executed really do help me enjoy a movie more.  You don’t have to really understand how they do X or Y or Z in Tomorrowland, and they don’t take the time to explain it to you.  These combined help the movie not get stuck in exposition, despite that the entire movie is a flashback.

Parents should know that this movie does have quite a bit of in your face violence.  Almost at time for the sake of violence rather than having a purpose.  So this might not be a great film for younger viewers, but keep in mind we’re talking something along the lines of Men In Black or Revenge of the Sith.  The movie is honestly not for everyone, even families may be split. There are some definite lull points that may actually bore some viewers.

That said, I really enjoyed the core story of the movie.  I love the idea of a group of scientists that have, for quite some time, toiled away in another reality so they can expand and grow their knowledge freely for the good of mankind.  It does work to inspire hope, and that’s a good message to put forth.  On the downside it does suffer from the same problem that Damon Lindelof works generally have, the journey through the movie is way better than the end game of the story ever is.  But, I had expected that going in.  It also is a very well constructed story that is both entertaining and fun.  For a more in depth view of Tomorrowland, check out episode 234 of the Disney Film Project Podcast in a few weeks.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

 

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A Vision of Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Welcome to a new age, a new rage, a child’s cry in the darkness – welcome to the Age of Ultron, the latest Avengers movie to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  While on it’s surface the story of Ultron, which has been going on in comics since 1968, appears simple tale of Artificial Intelligence gone awry, in actuality it is so much more.  There are so many aspects to the story, many not even covered in the movie: life, death, rebirth, hate, rage, a child lashing out against it’s father, passion, desire, love, loss, oedipal complexes, jealousy.  But most of all it’s about a story about how life, despite being broken at times, can persevere.  These are the aspects that have brought to life this mad-crazed machine, Ultron, over the years.

There are several aspects of this movie that change the story, and some with very good reason.  Some I’m actually happy to see go because they are actually more violent and invasive than any supervillain rampaging through a city will ever be.  And others… well I now have concerns that we’ll never see two of my favorite heroes, Wonder Man and Adam Warlock, ever appear on screen.  Don’t worry, it isn’t as sad as it may sound, and it doesn’t mean they won’t exist, it just means their tales will have to be different. That sacrifice leads to a great adaptation of what I imagine was a difficult character to envision, The Vision.  One of the five most central characters to any Ultron story, his portrayal by Paul Bettany is remarkable, and it serves to properly portray the morality of the story.

You may just think you’re going to watch a group of ten, yes 10, superheroes on the screen battling a bad guy, saving the day.  And yes, there is much action you shall see because roughly 80% of this movie is action, and that is huge.  However, despite that you will want to see The Avengers fight and win, you will probably find yourself rooting a bit for the quirky, genocidal Ultron.  Voiced by James Spader who is well known for playing both crazy dudes and evil doers, a new aspect of Ultron comes, one not provided in comic books, humor.  And I don’t mean irony.  Ultron himself has a sense of humor, and it’s both amazing and terrifying at the same time.

What about “The Twins”? In comic books you might know them as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, the Mutant children of the master of magnetism himself, Magneto.  However, even when this movie closes its unclear if they’ll ever be known by their superhero names.  And we already know that due to business dealings they won’t ever be Mutants, and Magneto won’t be a part of their story.  Overall, I think their story as told in the movie is done well enough because it requires less foreknowledge, which is important for audiences who many only ever know these characters from the movies.

War Machine fans will be happy as there is a lot of Rhodey in this film, and his look is now closer to comic books than it has been before.  And fans will love that.  The biggest win though is Hawkeye, as fans of both the character and Jeremy Renner will get a lot of great character development as he is one of the driving forces in this story.  In other words, fans wanted more of both of these characters, and now they’ve got it.  Oh yeah, and a certain love story starts to take a lot of strides forward, even though it seems to go the same way as Captain America: The First Avenger at the end – that last statement is both vague and intentionally misleading so as to remain spoiler free.

My feelings about this movie are a little mixed.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s was utterly amazing to watch and made me shudder with joy at times.  But I’m about one of the biggest comic book geeks on the planet.  This story is all for folks like me.  It’s a lot more like reading a comic book than any other Marvel movie ever.  And I can therefore see where it won’t appeal to many who are not comic book fans.  The story is hard to follow, the motivations of the villain are not well defined without taking into account foreknowledge.  That won’t stop people from going to see this movie, it’s projected to cap $2 billion dollars when all is said and done, and it’s already made more than $250 million dollars before it’s official US opening.

There are a lot of questions left on the table with this movie.  The face of the Avengers changes a lot more than was expected even by a fan like myself.  But that’s in sticking with comic books, an Ultron story is always a game changer.  You don’t have to stay past the credits for this one folks as there is no post-credits scene, but don’t think that you’re being stiffed.  If you count carefully enough you’ll notice there are 4 equivalent scenes at the end of the movie.

Comic book fans, especially long time Avengers fans like myself will love this movie.  Marvel movie fans, will love this movie as well, though likely not as much as the first Avengers film.  It’s important to note there’s very little backstory here, it is expected that you know what’s gone before to watch this one – it is not self standing film.  It’d be like starting a 30 chapter book at chapter 16.  Go back watch at least some of the others, including the first Avengers if you haven’t.  Parents might have to explain some things to children, as there is a lot of graphic violence and scary events in this film.  This one will end up being the second biggest movie event of the year, and only because this year we get a new Star Wars film.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Colorful Look at Cinderella

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Although Cinderella is a centuries old folklore tale, it was originally popularized in the 17th century by Charles Perrault.  In this version, titled Cendrillon, were added certain features of the tale well known in modern times: glass slippers, the pumpkin coach, and the fairy godmother.  It’s easy to see how, in the late 1940s, after enduring bad box office numbers due to World War II that Walt Disney himself turned to this version of the tale to create his next great animated movie Cinderella in 1950.  Now here we are in 2015, and Disney, as it moves toward a litany of live action remakes we get a new version of Cinderella.

This movie is brings in a mix of up and coming and seasoned actors and actresses like Lily James (Cinderella), Richard Madden (The Prince), Cate Blanchett (Lady Tremaine), and Helena Bonham Carter (Fairy Godmother).  In doing so it is clear that they are trying to attract a broad audience of both old and young adults.  To bring in a still younger audience to see the movie they have attached the new short Frozen Fever to the movie.  It’s not quite the Frozen sequel that people are looking for, but it will appease Frozen fans with a look at Anna’s birthday and what happens when Elsa gets sick.

At 30 minutes longer than it’s animated namesake, we get a lot more background into the story of Cinderella’s (simply Ella at the beginning of the movie) parents.  We also get to see the downward spiral of Ella into becoming Cinderella as her stepmother and stepsisters press her ever down until we find her at the bottom.  Her lowest.  Thats when Helena Bonham Carter comes onto the screen and works her ever quirky magic for viewers as she works magic on the screen as Cinderella’s fairy godmother. And from there it’s pretty much the story you already know, with no twists, turns, or deviations.

I have to be honest, I was not excited to be seeing this movie.  It’s not the sort of fare I tend to enjoy or that attracts me to the theater.  So I went in with low expectations.  And I personally could not bring myself to connect well with the movie.  My primary problem revolves around the main character.  Maybe my own personal feelings are too wrapped up in the animated version of the movie, but Lily James, to me, simply doesn’t evoke the elegance or grace as shown in Ink & Paint.  All the other characters to me are fantastic, and it’s not that James acts poorly… just to me, that’s not Cinderella up on the screen.  So I did not enjoy it.

That’s not to say it not worth seeing the movie.  It, like Maleficent, is a cleverly pretty movie.  It’s use of color, camera, space, and depth are fantastic.  If you watch closely during all of the ballroom scenes you will understand what I mean.  I suspect that overall critics will be split on this movie.  It’s well written, well directed, well shot, and even well acted.  But it lacks the quality and magic of the animated version.  Disney fans will want to see it.  Cinderella and Frozen fans will be there too.  Game of Thrones fans may go to see Madden.  But, if you love and are nostalgic about the animated Cinderella, you might find yourself seeing things my way.

 

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A Cinematic Journey Into The Woods

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Based on the Stephen Sondheim play of the same name, Into the Woods is Disney’s big holiday movie for 2014.  The play itself is a tale about morality, vice, desire, and virtue.  Based on the concept that each fairy tale is supposed to teach us or our children a lesson to help them in life.  However the twist here is that several fairy tales collide to create the pillars of a whole new story where the object lesson is centered around the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”

I have to be perfectly honest here, before seeing this movie I knew very little to nothing about it.  Having never seen the play before or read much about it, never having heard the songs, I was going in blind.  There had been some brief discussion with my Disney Film Project Podcast co-hosts which contained a great deal of excitement from our own Rachel Kolb, who happens to be a huge fan of the play and knows a great deal about it.  When I’m in this situation I try not to come in with too many preconceptions.

The core story is about a Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) and their desire to start a family.  However they quickly learn that they have been cursed by their next door neighbor who happens to be a Witch played by Meryl Streep who really steals every scene she’s in.  Wanting to break the curse, and be able to have a child, the Witch assigns them to retrieve 4 seemingly normal items and bring them to her in 3 days time.  The trick however is that this sends them on a collision course with the fairy tales Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. 4 items.  4 stories.

The problem however is that the wishes of each of the major characters – the Baker, his Wife, the Witch, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, and Rapunzel – have consequences.  Each of their stories plays out somewhat as you know them, but it’s what happens after this that matters.  But the wishes themselves are just allegorical wrappings for the choices the characters continue to make throughout the story.  And how they have to learn to take responsibility for those choices.

There is a lot of commentary that discusses the difference between the musical and the movie, from the removal of songs, to the changes of plot elements.  While not having seen the play, I’m guessing this serves 2 purposes; the shorter time a movie has to tell a story, and that some things that work on stage do not work as well on film.  While this is a somewhat dark story that has some moments that you may need to either explain or gloss over to your children, this is still a family film.  I might consider the age and maturity of any pre-teen children before seeing this film with them.  This is a very solid movie, based on a well constructed story, that I greatly enjoyed watching.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Heroic Look At Big Hero 6

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It’s become evidently clear that the purchase of Marvel by Disney has turned out to be a huge win for the company, especially when it comes to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  One of the tasks set by Bob Iger upon purchase was to search through the Marvel catalog to find out what else might be available for adaptation.  Don Hall discovered Big Hero 6 and ended up pitching it to John Lasseter.  Some of the characters had to be dropped due to their movie rights being owned by Fox, and many aspects of the characters were adjusted, but the focus remained on the relationship between Hiro and Baymax.

Due to some contention about live action vs. animation it was decided that Big Hero 6 would be set in its own universe rather than be part of the MCU and thus was born the amalgam city of San Fransokyo.  It’s nice to see creativity on this level and a step toward taking ownership of characters that, while interesting, never really integrated well into the Marvel Universe in the first place.  Each of the characters was reborn as something rooted in their original version, yet they were all now joined together with a common origin instead of having the diverse backgrounds they have in comics.  And they’re all better for it.

The movie itself is a really interesting and enjoyable take on the superhero origin story.  It has a flair to it, much the same way that Wreck-It Ralph did 2 years ago.  Disney is showing a very gratifying trend that takes them away from their “safe zone” of animated movies and starts to etch out new and exciting concepts and creations. And that’s a good thing – diversity of design shows an ability to grow and adapt that once once thought lost to the company.  One thing to look for is that at least 2 of the characters, Aunt Cass and Honey Lemon, look like modified models of prior characters Helen Parr and Lucille Krunklehorn.

I will say that while really great and enjoyable mind candy to a huge superhero fan like myself that Big Hero 6 does not have quite the “Wow!” Factor that Wreck-It Ralph did.  But it does make up for that with a very solid and well engineered story.  So instead of the wild ride that was Wreck-It Ralph at times, what you get is something a bit more grounded.  And that serves the story well, and makes the movie better for it.

The characters in the movie are really strong.  Hiro is a stereotypical teenager – sassy, smart mouthed, quippy, mopey, angsty, etc.  It’s all in there.  He suffers a lot of classic “superhero origin story loss” both on and off screen.   And when he loses his footing in the world he lashes out, and his super friends (see what I did there?) have re-ground him.  The story itself is very procedural, much like any TV crime drama where, and thus it has an endgame that very easy to piece together.  But that doesn’t make it bad, because the intricacies of getting to that point aren’t as obvious as the point itself.  So the fun is the journey in between.

So when you head out to see Big Hero 6, prepare yourself for a little slice of awesome. Your entire family is very likely to find something to make them both laugh and cry in this movie.  The same can be said for it’s opening short Feast which every dog lover on the planet will “totally get”.  Vinyl is in again. Fah-la-la-la-la.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Look At Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Let’s face it we’ve all had bad days.  Some terrible.  Some horrible.  Some just plain no good.  And others still very bad.  But what if one day you were faced with a day so awful that all those things got combined together and it was a day that just kept getting worse and worse.  That’s the basic premise behind the 1972 children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  A movie adaptation of the film by Disney opens in theaters today, October 10, 2014, and it provides us with a look at not one, but rather two very bad days in the life of Alexander.

This really turns out to be a smart move, as in the past others have tried to focus solely on the bad day described in the book.  However writer Rob Lieber, and indie superstar director Miguel Arteta choose instead to quickly move past that bad day and instead focus the movie on the day after – which also turns out to be Alexander’s birthday.  While there’s no actual magic portrayed in this movie, at the end of his really bad day as it becomes his birthday Alexander makes a wish that his family could know what it’s like to have a bad day also.

From there you can only begin to imagine some of the mayhem that ensues.  It’s clear from watching the movie that the comedy direction was provided by Steve Carell who plays Alexander’s father in the movie.  That works out really well as because while the gags are fairly redone as far as “bad luck” movie gags go, many of them play out with a renewed vigor as a result. While Jennifer Garner, playing the mother, is also great in her role, it’s a shame that she has nowhere near the chemistry with Carell as she had 2 years ago with Joel Edgerton in The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

The strongest factor about this movie is that it’s a solidly constructed family film.  You see, in strong contradiction to the lesson that the Joker tries to teach Batman in The Killing Joke, one bad day doesn’t have to lead to ruin.  Rather it’s how you approach that day, and the things that happen to you in it, and who you survive it with.  In this case Alexander chooses to help his family make it through their day, see his point of view, and they all become stronger for sharing the experiences together.  Fans of the book will like this movie, as will parents looking for a movie to share with their children, and even new fans like myself who now needs to go read a book.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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The Hundred-Foot Journey Is Simply Delightful

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It’s fun when a story that is well off my radar becomes a movie and it ends up being both delightful and enjoyable to watch.  The Hundred-Foot Journey is definitely one such movie.  It is the story of an Indian family that is displaced from their home due to political unrest.  As such they begin a journey through Europe to find a new home.  After a near death experience the family inadvertently finds that home in a town in the French countryside.  The family patriarch “Papa”, played by Om Puri, becomes enamored with and purchases a dilapidated restaurant for his family to start anew.

The fundamental problem is this restaurant is across the street from a high class French restaurant operated by Madame Mallory, played by Helen Mirren.  A mere 100 feet from door to door.  She is not amused by this at all, and a feud begins between the two restaurants.  However, that’s hardly the grand sum total of the movie.  Instead it becomes something so much more… in a very unencumbered way that really helps to make this shine.

At the core of the movie is the story of Papa’s son Hassan.  From a young age Hassan was trained by his mother to be a chef.  His true passion for the works is shown throughout the movie.  Early on in the movie this is shown through his tasting of some raw sea urchin, and again later in a scene involving an omelet.  Along the way he meets and falls in love with a woman, Marguerite, who also happens to work for Madame Mallory.

Much of this might all seem like spoilers, but really this movie doesn’t hold a lot of surprises.  That is not to say that it’s predictable, but it has no sudden turns or suspenseful moments.  As the story about the survival, growth, and evolution of this family are portrayed on the screen it’s very easy to be drawn in.  Though initially the characters seem a little over the top, as time goes on you realize that’s by design.  Over time it helps drive them toward a more realistic feel.

I’m entirely sure as to the appeal of this movie across a wide range of audiences.  It’s definitely not a movie made for children.  Much of the theater goers were of the “Above 50” crowd.  That’s not a bad thing at all, not all movies are for everyone.  As I said I found this movie to be both unexpected and enjoyable.  If it seems at all interesting to you, it’s worth going to see.  My one concern is the choice of release date – it doesn’t feel like a summer movie and would probably have been better served being released in the fall.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Is An Awesome Mix #SpoilerFree #YoureWelcome

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I want to welcome you to the end of Act 2 and beginning of Act 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Guardians of the Galaxy (yeah I know technically Age of Ultron ends Phase 2, but this one is an Act change). Having just seen the movie for a third time, I want to let you know that it holds up very well across multiple viewings.  My only real regret at the moment is that these were all previews. That means there was no not-so-secret end credits teaser scene, and that I’ll have to see Guardians again just to catch that part.  Sorry, that’s a lie, I don’t regret having to see this movie again at all.

Know that Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that is designed to appeal to a much wider audience than prior Marvel films.  Why? Because it’s not a movie about Superheroes, it’s a movie about heroism forged through sacrifice.  It’s also about murderers, thieves, bounty hunters, assassins – and that’s just the stars and heroes of the movie.  Don’t worry though you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover.  In comics, the desire and ability to do good often comes with missteps.  You’re just going to see the worst of them, become the best of them and save the universe.

Wrong minded people might not want to see a movie where 2 of the stars are a vocabulary challenged floral colossus named Groot and a bipedal, gun-toting procyon lotor with anger management issues named Rocket.  It’s a shame really because what they’d see on the screen are creatures that are so well engineered (more-so in Rocket’s case) that it’s almost hard to believe they are not living things.  That and Groot is in so many ways one of the most beautiful things you’ll have seen on screen in a very long time that you will cry.  And if that still doesn’t convince them about this movie then, to quote said racoon, “They’re d’ast idiots!”

From everything I saw on the screen, I can only say that despite all the changes from the comic books this is actually superb bit of silver screen magic packaged in a way to keep even the staunchest of comic book fans happy.  There are a number of things I’m pretty sure I saw with my only regret so far being no sign of a mane of red, white, and blue.  I can’t wait to get this film home in a few months so I can pause and study to my heart’s content.  And note there’s a Hidden Mickey that I didn’t see until my third viewing.

Right minded people will notice that this movie is far less like Avengers, and far more like Star Wars or even Firefly. As I indicated above that gives us a movie that more people can in a lot of ways more easily consume.  It’s a strong showing for Marvel as they push to keep this freight train moving ever forward (at least through 2019), and Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be in theaters for many months to come.

* Now read the first word of each paragraph

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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Team Building 101 With Guardians Of The Galaxy

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With the 10th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy, being released in less than a month (August 1, 2014) it’s no surprise to see that the marketing push for the movie is in full force.  There have been several trailers and featurettes released that give you a glimpse of characters that probably leave many who are not too familiar with the Marvel Universe wondering how this clearly science fiction film has any connection to superheroes in general.  For that I’m sure many will have to wait until the movie is released, but what about these characters themselves?  How does a team of a “thief”, two “thugs”, and two assassins come to be a team that is capable of doing anything together, let alone saving the universe?

That’s where the movie scene shown during the Guardians of the Galaxy IMAX Sneak Peek comes in.   Not all friendships and bonds are simply found.  Often, at times of dire circumstance, they are thrust upon you in unexpected ways.  Without specifics, what we saw on screen was a demonstration of that.  Five individuals placed into an unfamiliar location and circumstance working together to achieve a common and mutually beneficial goal… saving their own keisters.

As a comic book fan, and someone who is familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy, here’s what I felt I saw.  Four out of five characters amazingly on point for how they are in comic books, and one I’m not too sure of yet as I’m trying to figure out how much of his past has been changed for the movie.  It’s a scene central to the formation of this team and to do that it harkened back to an event and location in comic books that pre-dates their formation during Annihilation: Conquest.  There are quite a few “name drops”, and references to things that will also make fans quite happy.  All this plus lots of gunfire and some awesome mayhem in the span of 17 minutes.  Sadly though, no new songs from the Star-Lord’s Mix Tape were in this preview.

What does this mean for moviegoers?  Simply put, only good things.  From what I saw this movie could quite possibly exceed the high bar set by The Avengers 2 years ago.  These characters are removed enough (though integral to) the whole of the Marvel Universe that this movie will be an excellent jumping in point for someone who has not yet seen any or all of the other MCU movies.  And it will be well received by existing fans.  The only downside may be that this movie may be a lot for some viewers to absorb and understand clocking in at only 122 minutes (according to IMDb).  Or to quote Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, “Something good.  Something bad.  A little bit of both.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Non-Spoilery Look At Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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When it comes to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there are two types of people who will be watching over the coming months.  Those that are comic book fans and those that are not.  This is an important point, because what many believe to be the big reveal is, in fact, not the big reveal for many who will watch it.  Either way, that reveal is to me, an avid (rabid?) comic book fan, is about the fourth most important thing you should have picked up from watching this movie.  My point being this, when you’re watching keep an eye out for some of the smaller things because in a movie about subterfuge, subtlety is often key.

As I mentioned in Disney Film Project’s 2014 Preview Episode, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a movie drawing on a number of key things.  To start with you have to remember that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a spy agency, and in modern culture due to certain events, such things aren’t looked at favorably or heroically.  So it became necessary for the creators of the film to roll with that in order to create a story that will, I promise, lead to a better, stronger, and more heroic organization then what you’ve already seen.  To be more specific would be spoiling this movie and a bit of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Winter Soldier was a character introduced to comics in 2005 by Ed Brubaker as part of what was considered to be another revival of Captain America himself.  Pretty much right off fans were excited despite that they knew the “big secret”, because the journey was about Cap discovering it for himself and then working to track down The Winter Soldier and help him to regain his self and sanity by regaining his memories.  In comic books, this involves a Cosmic Cube (movie fans will call this the Tesseract), and is going to be the basis for Captain America 3: The Hunt For The Red Skull (okay I made that title up, but that’s what I want it to be).  By the time you get up from your seat, you’ll know what related device will be the Chekhov’s Gun for that film when it happens.

Also in 2005, as part of the Ultimate Universe from which much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe derives, came a story called Ultimate Nightmare created by Warren Ellis.  In it Nick Fury pulls together a strike team including himself and three superheroes: Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon.  Sound familiar? It should, this is the same team that was picked for this movie.  This team is one of my absolute favorites to come from the Ultimate Universe, and it made me extremely excited to know they would be at the core of this movie.  Seeing them on screen, the buildup of absolute trust that they accrue toward each other throughout, and watching their character growth in this movie is one of the major reasons this movie is enjoyable.

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Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falon, is done fantastically in the film.  He’s always been a hard character to present well, but also since 2005 he’s really come into his own as a solid character who no longer feels like a tag along / second fiddle.  He is after all the second most important Captain America partner (the term “sidekick” doesn’t fit him. Keep in mind too that in comic books he’s not only teamed with Cap, he’s actually put on the uniform and been Captain America, and is actually an Avenger.  He also got awesome mechanical wings and guns which make for some of the best action moments in this film.

After you get up from the film you’ll probably want to look up these names as they most likely play into future Captain America movies based on the way things are going (hint: you’ll already have seen 3 of them):

This movie is just extremely solid for the first part of a storyline that took more than 5 years to tell in comic books.  It is designed in the same magical way that Marvel has created all their movies from Iron Man forward: appealing to movie fans, and appeasing the comic book fan at the same time.  It’s a mix that other movie and comic companies simply haven’t yet, and may never, figure out how to deliver on.  Will everyone like this movie? No, overall a lot of Avengers fans didn’t like Captain America: The First Avenger.  But plenty will love this movie and it is going to rock a lot of socks, and the box office.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k0kkSHiiPE

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Marvel Review: Wolverine: Old Man Logan

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This time around I thought I’d discuss a story a little bit outside the mainstream norm, yet still using some of the more familiar characters.  The story Wolverine: Old Man Logan is just such a story.  Written by Mark Millar who moviegoers might not know specifically but may recognize some of his works that have been turned into movies like Wanted and Kick-Ass.  His stories are a bit more dystopian in nature.  Borrowing a theme from Wanted, he places Wolverine 50 years into the future where the villains have defeated all the heroes, and divided up the United States of America into controlled territories.

The introduction to the story is a brief and not very fact filled introduction to just what happened to all the heroes.  It tells us that Wolverine still survives, but unlike many of his friends who were outright killed, “they hurt him like no one ever hurt before”.  Now he lives on a farm in what was once Sacramento, CA with his wife and children in a territory that is now controlled by the Hulk.  When he can’t pay his rent, descendents of the Hulk come by and beat him up for it.  He doesn’t fight back, we learn that he’s become a pacifist.  He no longer goes by Wolverine, just Logan.

At this point an old and blind Hawkeye shows up at his home to offer him a job.  Not of a “legal” nature, but it will pay his rent for a long time to come.  He accepts the offer and the two head off in the Spider-Mobile, only Hawkeye is driving.  Remember that he’s blind.  Wolverine is there to help him stay on course and for protection.  After heading through some devastated areas, they end up in Hammer Falls, a place where people come to pray for the return of the Heroes – also formerly Las Vegas.  It happens to be where Thor died.  There we find out the daughter of Hawkeye and his third wife, who happens to be the youngest daughter of Spider-Man has assumed the role of Spider-Girl.

They set off to rescue her, but things don’t go very well as we learn she didn’t need rescuing, and they end up inadvertently helping her overthrown the current Kingpin (not the one you’re used to), making her the new Kingpin.  At this point we learn that being blind is barely a handicap for Hawkeye who can still hit any target that he can hear.  And again some reminders about Wolverine now being a pacifist with slowly more and more reveal into just what happened to Wolverine.  The two stop in a bar, and Wolverine tells the full story to Hawkeye.  Revealing a gruesome about how the villains broke Wolverine’s will.

From there we get to see his transformation from Logan back into Wolverine.  The pair try to complete their task, which doesn’t end well, and Wolverine is brought before President Red Skull as a trophy.  He eventually wakes up, and the two face off in the Red Skull’s trophy room that contains all the various gadgets, gizmos, weapons, and costumes of various familiar heroes who were defeated long ago.  Eventually Logan makes it back home only to find that the Hulk Gang got bored and killed his family anyway.  This leads to the story culminating with a battle between Hulk and Wolverine, which is always a good show.

This story is really strong on plot, even though it feels a little too loosely stitched together at times.  This is more because there’s 50 years of story here crammed into 8 issues of comic book.  I’d love to see a one-shot some day of the “Fall of the Heroes” story that is hinted at where we can see things like the Baxter Building being used as a weapon.  The reveal of just what happened to Wolverine is extremely tragic, and entirely plausible.  Overall I really liked it, but I can’t say that it’s something everyone will enjoy.  It is extremely graphic at points, and not a typical superhero tale.  But is is a solid story about a morphed dystopian landscape that is both creepy and intriguing with lots of nifty elements for comic fans to consume.

Reading List:

  • Wolverine (vol 3) #66 – 72

  • Wolverine: Old Man Logan: Giant-Size (vol 1) #1

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Marvel Review: World War Hulk

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World War Hulk is one of those mega-crossover events that Marvel puts out regularly. As such, it jumps through a number of titles – many old, some new – to tell it’s story.  On at least one occasion you’re bound to see your favorite heroes helping out.  This story continues where we left off after reading Planet Hulk.  The big green machine is madder and therefore stronger than he’s ever been.  His planet has been torn, his capital city destroyed, his wife killed, and his unborn child along with her.  Along with his Warbound he sets off in his stone spaceship for Earth.  His goal is simple: revenge on those who sent him into space.

The series starts off telling us about what’s been going on since the Hulk left Earth.  The answer is “a lot”.  Civil War broke out in the United States over the Superhuman Registration Act and Captain America was shot and killed (not really, but at this point everyone thought so).  Tony Stark, is now the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he’s working behind the scenes to create a nanovirus that is able to shut down the powers of physiologically enhanced post-humans.  In simpler terms, he has already predicted that the Hulk will return and he’ll need a way to “shut him off”.

To that end we learn that he’s listed the aid of the Hulk’s cousin, She-Hulk.  Of course, she has no clue what she’s doing – he has her thinking that she’s just taking care of problems that the Hulk would have had he not been missing.  Yup, she doesn’t know that he’s been rocketed by Stark and the others – in fact, outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. no one seems to know.  What we learn is that her targets matter, and she becomes a test subject for the nanovirus when she learns of what they did.  That’s when she meets up with Amadeus Cho (who we are repeatedly reminded is the 7th smartest person on Earth).  He has a cure for her, but wishes to exchange it for her help.  He’s a friend of the Hulk (not Banner), and he knows about the Hulk, and his return.  She declines, but the Renegades are born.

What happens next is the Hulk first battles Black Bolt, outside their city of Attilan in the Blue Area of the Moon.  Why? He’s considered the most powerful of Hulk’s enemies as he has previously bested Hulk.  We don’t get to see the outcome of the battle, just it’s after effects.  The moon shifts a little, and the tides are affected.  Then the Hulk parks his stone spaceship over Manhattan and tells the entire world what was done to him.  He shows the defeated Black Bolt as proof that he means business, and then declares that in 24 hours he’ll destroy Manhattan if Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange don’t surrender themselves.

Then a lot happens (as if it didn’t already).  The Hulk pays a visit to the X-Men only to discover the ravaged remains of the Mutant community (another thing that happened while he was gone).  He sees that Xavier – who admits that had he been there he would have voted to launch Hulk into space – is already suffering greatly and leaves him to continue doing so.  There are also some very good battles where the Hulk and his Warbound take down and capture just about every hero on Earth.  Though a lot of it occurs out of panel.

There is a subplot where the Heroes for Hire end up having to stop No-Name of the Brood from hatching her children and having them take over the Earth.  If you read all the connected issues this one has a lot of play, and eventually ends with the teams dissolution.  Though they do succeed.  The other relatively interesting subplot involves the creation of a team of gamma enhanced individuals called The Gamma Corps who actually do manage to take down the Hulk during all of this, but only for a brief period of time.

A lot continues to happen, but the gist of it is this – it all comes down Sentry.  A character who was retrofitted into the Marvel Universe back in the early 2000s.  He didn’t exist before then, and that’s sort of his story in a nutshell (perhaps another time).  Basically he’s the Hulk’s best friend – the Hulk calls him “Golden Man” and his power has a calming influence on the Hulk.  He’s got some problems of his own including Schizophrenia and Agoraphobia.  Bottom line, eventually he steps outside, and they fight, and it’s the Hulk who has to stop him.

Then Rick Jones, the Hulk’s first friend, is stabbed with a spear, and Hulk goes beserk.  But he learns that he’s been mislead, and that while the Illuminati did fire him into space, they were not responsible for much of what happened after that point.  He basically at this point allows for Stark, Richards, and the others to defeat him.  And is placed into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.

This series is basically the story for which Planet Hulk is the prologue.  It has a serious amount of characterization that you might not otherwise have expected.  It does draw long at some points, but the battles are good payoffs for each of those periods.  Perhaps the most interesting takeaway is this, the Hulk has a secret power.  In all his rampages, in all his wanton destruction, he has never once killed anyone he didn’t mean to, and even then only for self defense.  Of course, that’s really the point.  Never judge a book by it’s cover.  Even if that book is a giant green man in purple pants whose favorite words are… wait for it… “Hulk Smash!”

Suggested Reading Order:

  • She-Hulk v2 #15 to #18

  • The Incredible Hulk #106

  • World War Hulk: Prologue: World Breaker #1

  • Heroes for Hire #10 & #11

  • World War Hulk #1

  • World War Hulk: X-Men #1 to #3

  • Ghost Rider #12 & #13

  • Heroes for Hire #12

  • Iron Man, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #19

  • The Irredeemable Ant-Man #10

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #1

  • World War Hulk #2

  • Avengers, The Initiative #4

  • The Incredible Hulk #107

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #2

  • The Incredible Hulk #108

  • Gamma Corps #1

  • Iron Man, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #20

  • Gamma Corps #2

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #3

  • World War Hulk #3

  • Avengers, The Initiative #5

  • Heroes for Hire #13

  • The Incredible Hulk #109 & #110

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #4

  • Gamma Corps #3 & #4

  • Heroes for Hire #14 & #15

  • World War Hulk #4

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #5

  • Punisher War Journal #12

  • World War Hulk #5

  • The Incredible Hulk #111

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #6

  • World War Hulk: AfterSmash!

  • World War Hulk: AfterSmash! Warbound #1 to #5

  • World War Hulk: AfterSmash! Damage Control #1 to #3

  • Additional: World War Hulk: Gamma Files

  • Additional: What If? Featuring Planet Hulk

Next time: Wolverine: Old Man Logan

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