A Vision of Avengers: Age of Ultron

age_of_ultron

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

cinderella-landscape

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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Sofia The First: The Curse Of Princess Ivy Review

DISCLOSURE: I received a copy a copy of Sofia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy for review. All opinions are my own.Sofia The First: The Curse Of Princess Ivy Disney DVD

Sofia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy

Features a Full-Length Adventure with Special Appearance by Rapunzel!

Plus Three Additional Episodes and a FREE Exclusive Color-Changing Butterfly Necklace!

Sofia The First: The Curse Of Princess Ivy, available now on Disney DVD, that features a full-length adventure featuring a special appearance by Rapunzel, 3 additional episodes (The Amulet of Avalor, and Princess Butterfly & The Emerald Key)

I was afraid that Zoe was going to say she was ‘too old’ for Sophia the First, but she totally loved The Curse of Princess Ivy!

The revelation of a spellbinding secret sets in motion the most thrilling adventure in the history of Sofia the First! After learning that the Amulet of Avalor is magical, Amber snatches it while Sofia is sleeping.  Unfortunately, she unwittingly unleashes a curse that summons evil Princess Ivy, who threatens to destroy the amulet, seize the crown and turn the entire kingdom black-and-white!  Amber and Sofia soar through the skies on a flying dragon – aided by special guest Rapunzel – as they embark on a daring quest to defeat Ivy, break the curse and save Enchancia.  Packed with high-flying excitement, plus three more song-filled episodes, The Curse of Princess Ivy shows how love, trust, and unselfishly putting others’ needs first can truly work magic!

In Sofia The First: The Curse Of Princess Ivy, the cast is joined by some amazing guest stars!  

Mandy Moore reprises her role as Rapunzel from Disney’s “Tangled.” Anna Camp (“The Help,” “Pitch Perfect”) guest stars as Princess Ivy, along with her “Pitch Perfect” co-star John Michael Higgins (“Pitch Perfect,” “Yes Man”) as the self-appointed leader of an all-dragon a cappella group, and Oliver Platt (“The West Wing”) as Enchancia’s oldest-living dragon, Everburn.

I love that Zoe still enjoys Sophia the First, because I love how she has patience and a gentle demeanor is so wonderful to see!

We really enjoyed Sophia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy, and hope that you and your Royal Court will, too!

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Doc McStuffins: Cuddle Me Lambie Available on Disney DVD

Doc McStuffins Cuddle Me Lambie Disney DVD

Doc McStuffins: Cuddle Me Lambie Available Now on Disney DVD

Help Lambie Get Over Her Broken Heart and Realize 
That There is Enough Love to Go Around to Everyone!

DISCLAIMER: I was given a copy of Doc McStuffins: Cuddle Me Lambie for this review. All opinions are my own.

Doc McStuffins: Cuddle Me Lambie is out now on Disney DVD, and it is chock full of episodes and love!

Doc McStuffins Cuddle Me Lambie My Huggy Valentine

Cuddle Me Lambie is a compilation of five Doc McStuffins episodes that add up to 120 minutes of Lambie goodness!

No one gives better cuddles than Doc’s warm and fuzzy best friend! She’s a princess and a ballerina, and she’s always there for toys that need an extra helping of tender loving care. Just say three little words: “Cuddle Me Lambie.”

Doc McStuffins Cuddle Me Lambie My Huggy Valentine 2

Join Doc and the whole gang as they laugh, play and have a ball fixing boo-boos and discovering great ways to stay happy and healthy. Celebrate the power of true friendship as new, sparkly heart toy Val shows Lambie there’s plenty of love to go around. Meet Donny and Alma’s monster creation Charlie – who turns out to be very sweet and not scary after all. Then, see how Lambie gets out of a super-sticky jam! Bursting with five song-filled episodes and cuddles galore, this “hug-stravaganza” is magical fun your little one will adore!

Also included in Doc McStuffins: Cuddle Me Lambie are a pair of adorable Lambie hair clips that are perfect for even the youngest fan.

Doc McStuffins Cuddle Me Lambie Disney DVD

Zoe is a big Doc McStuffins fan, and we really enjoyed Doc McStuffins: Cuddle Me Lambie! These episodes are full of love and hugs that is just in time for Valentine’s Day!

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A Cinematic Journey Into The Woods

into_the_woods

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

big-hero-6

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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Bring Home Maleficent Today

Maleficent DVD Blu-Ray

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of Maleficent for this review. All opinions are my own.

Disney’s beautiful and wicked Maleficent is available today on Disney Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, Digital HD, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand platforms.

Maleficent is my absolute favorite Disney Villain, and when this movie was announced I was beside myself. I was even more excited when I had the chance to meet her this year at Disney’s Social Media Moms!

Maleficent Disney Social Media Moms

If you haven’t had a chance to see Maleficent, here is a quick synopsis.

Explore the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain in this wickedly fun twist on the classic “Sleeping Beauty.” In an unforgiving mood after a neighboring kingdom threatens her forest, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) places an irrevocable curse on the king’s newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. But as the child grows, Maleficent finds herself becoming fond of the girl. And as the conflict between the two realms intensifies,Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land. Journey beyond the fairy tale in this soaring adventure that is “visually arresting, brilliantly designed” (Andrew Barker, Variety).

httpv://youtu.be/_pgmFAOgm5E

The Maleficent bonus features are amazing! I especially enjoyed “Building An Epic Battle” where we get a glimpse into how King Henry and Maleficent‘s opening battle scene was created using gigantic wire rigs and elaborate choreography. 

The bonus features differ based on which release you purchase of Maleficent, so here is a quick comparison of what you will find!

Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital HD/SD & Disney Movies Anywhere

  • From Fairy Tale to Feature Film – Reimagining Maleficent for a new generation
  • Building An Epic Battle –Creating the clash between Maleficent and King Henry’s Forces
  • Classic Couture – Examine Maleficent’s spellbinding head wraps and jewelry.
  • Maleficent Revealed – Explore the layers of extraordinary special effects.
  • Aurora: Becoming A Beauty – Elle Fanning reveals her lifelong love of Disney’s original animated classic.
  • Deleted Scenes:

– “Stefan In King’s Chamber”

– “Pixie Idiots”

– “Diaval asks about the Curse”

–  “Pixies Seek Asylum”

–  “Suitor”

  • And More!

*Digital bonus offerings will vary per retailer

DVD 

  • Aurora: Becoming A Beauty

Maleficent is an interesting and visually stunning retelling of a story that we all love with the villain we all love to hate, and if you haven’t seen it yet I would definitely give it a viewing!

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Planes: Fire & Rescue Has An On-Time Arrival For The Holidays

Planes: Fire & Rescue

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of Planes: Fire & Rescue for this review. All opinions are my own.

Planes: Fire & Rescue releases today on Disney Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital HD, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand platforms and you are going to want to fly out and grab one! Planes: Fire & Rescue features action, comedy, memorable characters, and never-before-seen bonus features.

In this installment, Dusty Crophopper, the world famous racer, has joined an elite fire and rescue unit and learns what it takes to be a true hero. 

PLANESFIRE & RESCUE” is a new comedy-adventure about second chances, featuring a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from raging wildfire. When world-famous air racer Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of aerial firefighting. Dusty joins forces with veteranfire-and-rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (voice of Ed Harris) and his courageous team, including spirited air tanker Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (voice of Wes Studi), ex-military transport Cabbie (voice of Captain Dale Dye) and a lively bunch of brave all-terrain vehicles known as The Smokejumpers. Together, the fearless team battles a massive wildfire and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero.

httpv://youtu.be/Vr2yt5_X9ro

Each release of Planes: Fire & Rescue is a little bit different, so here is some information on what you can expect to find on your copy.

Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital HD/SD & Disney Movies Anywhere

  • Exclusive Animated Short – “Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular”
  • “Welcome to Piston Peak! – This mock-umentary promotional piece shows off all the highlights of the acclaimed Piston Peak National Park and its aerial firefighting team.
  • “CHoPs” TV Promo – An in-world TV promo with announce.
  • Air Attack:  Firefighters From The Sky – This high-energy, music-driven behind-the-scenes piece takes an inside look at the real smoke jumpers and firefighters who attack wildfires from the air as Director Roberts Gannaway and Producer Ferrell Barron take us through their journey in making the film.
  • Spencer Lee Music Video “Still I Fly”
  • Deleted Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions:

– “Honkers”

– “Dusty’s Dream No More”

  • Animated Shorts:

– “Dipper”

– “Smokejumpers” 

*Digital bonus offerings will vary per retailer

DVD 

  • Spencer Lee Music Video “Still I Fly”

Exclusive DMA Discover Content:

  • Animated Shorts:

– “Blade Ranger”

– “Piston Peak”

Zoe and I really enjoyed Planes: Fire & Rescue! I thought that this movie had a better feel than the first movie, which doesn’t happen often, and the bonus features were a lot of fun!

For little ones that love cars, planes, trucks, and more this is a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer!

 

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

Alexanderand-600x889

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

Hundred-Foot-Journey

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

gotg

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

gotg_handout_imax_1000x1463

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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Darby O’Gill and the Little People

Walt Disney and Sean Connery on the set of Darby O'Gill and the Little People - image copyright Disney
Walt Disney and Sean Connery on the set of Darby O’Gill and the Little People – image copyright Disney

How many of you have seen the 1959 Walt Disney Productions film Darby O’Gill and the Little People? This gem features a young Sean Connery as Michael McBride along with Janet Munro as Katie O’Gill and Albert Sharpe as the title character. If you haven’t seen this classic yet, let me tell you a bit about it.

For those who aren’t aware, I have a slight affinity (read: obsession) with Sean Connery. He is my favorite actor hands down, the celebrity I’d most like to meet, and the lock screen on my phone. He is James Bond to me, and many others. I will revisit that character in a bit. I discovered this film existed, thanks to a Disney cd box set I bought in the mid 1990s. I made it my mission to track it down and eventually got it on dvd when it was re-released a few years back. The cd had Sean Connery singing a lovely ditty from the film called Pretty Irish Girl.

Darby O’Gill is the caretaker in Ireland for Lord Fitzpatrick at the beginning of the film, but is shortly thereafter replaced by Michael McBride. Darby has a habit of spinning tall tales at the pub over several pints of whiskey, so it isn’t surprising when nobody believes him that he is friends with little people and their King Brian. Quite a bit of hilarity ensues throughout the film while O’Gill tries to convince others that he now has three wishes since he’s captured the leprechaun. There are definitely some darker elements to the story as well that younger children under 6 or 7 might find frightening. Without spoiling too much, it is safe to say this is a family friendly film that is filled with comedy, a bit of drama, action, and even romance. Peter Ellenshaw and his crew did an amazing job with the special effects of this film.

While Darby O’Gill and the Little People may not be the best known live action Disney film, it is definitely entertaining. It also helped launch Sean Connery into superstardom. It is because producer Cubby Broccoli’s wife Dana saw Sean Connery in this film that he was even considered for the role of James Bond a few years later. The dvd even includes an extra called Mr. Connery Goes to Hollywood. There are also two other fun bonus features called Little People, Big Effects showing how trick shots were used to imply the size difference, and I Captured The King of the Leprechauns, which was a segment on Walt Disney Presents the Disneyland TV show. If you are looking for a fun way to spend a couple of hours with the family, I highly recommend checking out this underrated classic. Darby O’Gill and the Little People is available through iTunes, Netflix and to rent through Amazon Instant Video.

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Maleficent Review With Gail

Maleficent

Maleficent, from Walt Disney Pictures, is out in theaters now, and I got to see an early showing in 3D. While this review is relatively spoiler-free, but there are bits of pieces of plot here and there so be warned!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-XO4XiRop0&list=PLTnR43JTLNs8AKNpJ4KFI6SSdpTzkcXjw&feature=share

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first thought about seeing Maleficent, and had toyed with the idea of watching Disney’s 1959 classic movie Sleeping Beauty again before I went to refresh my memory on the original story in order to appreciate this re-imagined screen play.

I am glad that I chose not to do that, because despite the comparisons this movie really stands by itself and flips whatever you expected of it.

Maleficent is the first 3D movie I have seen in the movie theater, and I’m glad it was as the effects were amazing and the scenes just beautiful!

Maleficent

When we first see Maleficent, she is a young girl, queen of the fairies (played by Isobelle Malloy & Ella Purnell) and despite animosity between their kingdom and the humans, she befriends a young boy who wanders into their land. Their love blossoms over the years, yet it was not meant to be. Soon his drive and passion to one day be King takes over, and their bond is broken.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the link between the animated Sleeping Beauty and this re-imagined story, cross over at the christening of the King and Queen’s daughter, Aurora. Yet here we are given a more plausible and heart wrenching reason as to what motivates Maleficent to curse Aurora in the first place.

It is at this point that Maleficent places that curse on Aurora, that on her 16th Birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a coma like sleep. The only thing that can awaken her is true love’s kiss.

The King, in fear of his daughter’s life, sends her off to a secret location in the woods to live with 3 flying pixies who are to raise her and bring her back to the kingdom one day after she turns 16 and no sooner. Maleficent, with her sidekick Diaval, a raven she saved from being killed earlier in the story that she changes from raven to human and other forms, find the house Aurora is hiding in and they begin watching from afar.

Maleficent

Eventually they end up meeting in the forest, and the moments between them as Aurora grows up, are some of my favorite parts of the movie. Aurora at 5 is actually played by Jolie’s daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt. The interactions between them are both beautiful, yet chilling, marred with the knowledge that Maleficent put this curse on Aurora years earlier.

The final part of the movie I will let readers experience first hand, as the twists and feelings of the scenes were visually and emotionally stunning. I wasn’t expecting quite the array of emotions that I experienced watching this movie, and I really feel like Angelina Jolie did a wonderful job as Maleficent! Jolie reportedly hand-selected Lana Del Ray to cover the original film’s song “Once Upon A Dream” (based on Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz).

There are some fight scenes within this movie and strong imagery within the characters of the story, so while I recommend parental advisory for young or sensitive viewers, I do think families will enjoy discussing the comparisons and differences between Maleficent and the animated Sleeping Beauty Classic.

Maleficent selfie

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Disney Horses for Derby Day

I don’t know how many of you knew I used to live in Kentucky, or that I grew up riding my cousin’s horses. Even, as a child, I would always watch the Kentucky Derby, hailed as the most exciting two minutes in sports. This weekend, the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. I always try to pick out my favorite based on the names, not the odds, and I’ve done pretty well in the last few years. While I would love to make it to the Derby at some point in my life, this is not the year. However, I will partake in a mint julep, if I can get together the ingredients, or if I can make it over to the Turf Club at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. This all got me thinking about the horses that can be found in Disney animation. So, if you will indulge me once again, I’ll take you back to visit some of the horses in Disney movies.

 

Melody Time (1948)

In the Pecos Bill short, Bill’s horse Widowmaker is his sidekick. He accompanies Pecos Bill on his adventures and his love story with Slue Foot Sue.Widowmaker

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

For anyone who has seen this short package film before, you may have noticed in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow story that two horses have prominent roles. One, unnamed in the short, but named Gunpowder in the Washington Irving short story, is the horse Ichabod Crane borrows to travel to go to the Van Tassel farm and back home. The second, is the horse ridden by the Headless Horseman. This horse can be seen in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World before the beginning of the Boo To You Parade during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on select nights in September and October.

Ichabod's horseThe_Headless_Horseman

 

 

Cinderella (1950)

In Cinderella, she has a horse named Major who was given to her as a gift from her father before he died. During the scene with the Fairy Godmother, Major is turned into a footman who drives Cinderella to and from the ball to meet Prince Charming. The four mice, Bert, Luke, Jaq and Gus, are turned into horses who draw the carriage for Cinderella.

Cinderella's horse MajorCinderella's horses

 

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Prince Phillip’s trusty steed, Samson, helps him get around the forest where he first meets Briar Rose/Princess Aurora. Samson is also integral in transporting Phillip to fight Maleficent. Samson seems to emote quite a bit, which to me is a precursor to some of his later counterparts in Hercules, Mulan and Tangled in particular.

Samson

 

101 Dalmatians (1961)

In the Twilight Bark sequence, a horse named Captain helps out along with Colonel, a dog, and Sergeant Tibbs, a cat, in passing along the message to help find the missing puppies.

Captain

 

 

The Aristocats (1970)

Frou-Frou is the horse belonging to Madame Bonfamille, who is friends with Duchess and her kittens. When Edgar the butler confesses to Frou-Frou that he was the one who catnapped Duchess, Berlioz, Toulouse and Marie, the horse teams up with Roquefort the mouse to help get the kittens home and capture Edgar.

Frou-Frou

 

 

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

In Beauty and the Beast, Maurice and Belle’s horse Philippe plays an important part in bringing them into the Beast’s world. If Philippe had not been frightened by wolves, Maurice never would have stumbled upon the castle. It was also Philippe who brought Belle to the castle to find Maurice. Later Philippe also helps Belle return to Beast when the villagers are attacking the castle.

Phillipe

 

 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Captain Phoebus’ horse’s name is Achilles, but at times the equine seems to act more like a canine. Phoebus, on more than one occasion, commands Achilles to sit, which the horse does obligingly.

Achilles

 

 

Hercules (1997)

Pegasus is one of my favorite “horses” in Disney animated films. He is especially adorable as a baby, and is always found right by Herc’s side. These two buddies grew up together and nothing can tear apart their bond and loyalty to each other.

baby pegasus

 

Mulan (1998)

Khan is one of Mulan’s sidekicks, along with Mushu and Cri-kee, that helps her as she goes off to battle in her father’s place to defeat the Huns. Khan is definitely one of the most expressive of all of the Disney horses in my opinion.

khan

 

Toy Story 2 (1999) and Toy Story 3 (2010)

Bullseye is probably one of the most loyal horses on the list. He is definitely up there as one of my favorites, and the Roundup Gang with Woody and Jessie wouldn’t be the same without him.

Bullseye

 

Home on the Range (2004)

This movie is about a trio of cows who are in danger of losing their farm to the highest bidder if they can’t raise money to save it. The cows team up with a horse named Buck to help capture a cattle thief named Alameda Slim, and the reward money is just enough to save the farm, literally.

Buck

 

Tangled (2010)

Now we come to my favorite horse on the list, and one of my favorite non-speaking Disney sidekicks of all time, Maximus. This horse of the Royal Guard appears to be part bloodhound, and only out for Flynn Rider’s blood … at first. Eventually, the two pair up to save Rapunzel and the kingdom can live happily ever after with Maximus wielding his frying pan. Who knew?

Maximus

 

 

Brave (2012)

Angus is Merida’s horse who acts almost like her confidante. He tries to help lead her to the right decision when it comes to the strife between Merida and Queen Eleanor. Angus always seems happy to take Merida on her ride when she doesn’t have her princess lessons.

Angus

 

Frozen (2013)

Two horses play important catalysts in the plot of Frozen. First, the horse belonging to Prince Hans of the Southern Isles is there to save Anna from falling into the fjord when she bumps into him. This provides the meet cute for Anna and Hans and later plot developments (grr). The second horse belongs to Anna. The princess follows after her sister on horseback, Queen Elsa, after the whole freezing the town thing. Anna’s horse is startled and throws Anna, who then falls into a creek and snow falls on her. This causes her to find Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post … and Sauna, where she meets Kristoff (yeah!).

Hans' horseAnna's horse

 

 

I know that this is not a complete list, but it is fairly comprehensive. How many of these horses do you remember? Do you have any favorites? This was a lot of fun revisiting some of the lesser known horses especially. I hope you all have a great Derby Day tomorrow!

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