Tag Archives: Disney

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014 movie)

Marvel Studios

My rating: 3.5 of 5

An unlikely band of misfits and unsavory types is thrown together–mostly by their own greed and/or hatred of each other, surprisingly enough. And in the midst of their joint efforts at prison breaks, selling of stolen goods, and running for their lives, they somehow manage to go from being at each others’ throats to having each others’ backs. Which is good, because they might just be the only thing standing between the galaxy and total destruction.

I’ve probably stated this before, but I’m generally not a big fan of superhero/comic-based stories–and Marvel ones in particular. I actually mostly watched Guardians of the Galaxy because Karen Gillan is in it. That was a bit of a disappointment; I felt like her character ended up being pretty flat. *cries* But I did enjoy other aspects of the story and characters. It was weird to me that the entire main group of characters are really not what would typically be considered good people–thieves, bounty hunters, traitors, and individuals bent on revenge. But they made for an amusing and sympathetic group, I have to admit, and the tension between the characters is a big part of the enjoyment of the film. Obviously, Rocket and Groot are the best (and funniest) part of the whole story. But with that, I also have to give fair warning that this is PG-13, and it shows in the humor–as well as in the language and the violence, although it’s not particularly bloody or anything. I think one of the things I loved the most is how integral music and dance are to the story throughout. Plus, it’s an origin story of sorts, which I generally enjoy, so there’s that. Overall, the whole film has a funky, off-kilter flair that feels almost indie, although that’s immediately belied by the impressive visual production, which is quite attractive and fun. While it will probably never be my favorite movie, I think Guardians of the Galaxy was a funny, quirky tale that I did enjoy and will likely watch again sometime.

Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman/Directed by James Gunn/Produced by Kevin Feige/Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Music by Tyler Bates/Starring  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, & Benicio del Toro

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Galavant (2015 TV Series)

ABC Studiosgalavant

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Once upon a time, our hero Knight Galavant had it all: fame, success, the love of the fair Madalena. That is, until King Richard kidnapped Madalena and she chose fame and fortune over true love. So, our hero did what any good hero would–lost himself in drink and self pity. Which is where the spunky Princess Isabella found him when she brought him a quest to save her family and win back Madalena’s love. But the road to true love and success is never as smooth as it first looks, especially for the music-loving Galavant.

I think that Galavant is the sort of show to be extremely polarizing–some will adore it while others will think it’s utter rubbish. And I should say at the outset that, if you don’t like musicals, you should avoid this show, for sure. I have to compare it to a Disney movie in that regard; at any given moment, the cast is liable to burst out in song. Plus, you know, Alan Menken is hugely involved in the writing of the music, so there’s a strong Disney feel to it there also. Also, the whole focus on true love and basically the whole story line follow that feel as well. But in a more adult way (well, at least with more innuendo and language) that is oddly combined with a middle-school boys’ locker room flavor (with all the bodily noises and awkward sexuality that goes with that). Actually, looking at the story objectively, it sounds kind of awful, but in the moment, it’s kind of enjoyable. There’s a lot of humor, some of it actually funny. Plus a great deal of fourth wall breaking and commentary on current events. And the cast is actually well-picked for their roles. Personally, my favorite is Timothy Omundson, whose character is kind of pathetic and despicable both at the beginning but who grows wonderfully over the course of the two seasons. Also, he’s just a great actor, and it’s fun to get to hear him sing. So yeah, Galavant is definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy musicals and Disney–and are interested in a more adult-focused story in that style–it might be worth trying.

Created by Dan Fogelman/Executive Producers  Dan Fogelman, Alan Menken, Glenn Slater, Chris Koch, Kat Likkel, John Hoberg, &  John Fortenberry/Produced by Marshall Boone & Helen Flint/Music by Alan Menken, Christopher Lennertz, & Glenn Slater/Starring Joshua Sasse, Timothy Omundson, Vinnie Jones, Mallory Jansen, Karen David, & Luke Youngblood/Narrated by Ben Presley

Note: This series consists of 2 seasons with a total of 18 episodes.

 

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Frozen

Walt Disney Studiosfrozen

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Two sisters separated by a secret. A stunning power. A storm that could destroy the kingdom. An epic quest through the snow. The promise of true love. . . . Oh, and an adorkable snowman who dreams of warm weather.

So . . . I’ve been avoiding this movie for over two years now, mostly because I hate the whole hype. But my brother finally made me actually watch it, and I have to say that I enjoyed Frozen for the most part–certainly more than I have liked most Disney princess stories. The characters were a huge part of that; Elsa and Anna felt like real people with personalities and quirks (Elsa with a fantastic bad-girl vibe and Anna with a more funny/adorable feel). They work well together, as characters. The pacing of the story works well also, and it’s not quite so cookie-cutter Disney Prince Charming of a story–much more a girl-power and nice-sensible-normal-guy sort of story, which is great. Supposedly, this movie is based on Andersen’s The Snow Queen; I’ve only read one retelling, but as far as that goes, there’s almost no resemblance at all. Visually, Frozen is very nicely done; the CG is very attractive, with nice color schemes, great character expressions, and some absolutely stunningly gorgeous shots (most notable the whole “Let It Go” ice-castle scene). Which brings me to the music: over all great compositions that are musically attractive and that contribute a lot to the story lyrically. I really appreciated that the music was used as a story-telling element so much. And of course, the voice actors did a great job both in the acting and the singing; superb choices for the roles (I especially love Idina Menzel’s work as Elsa). There were a few minor negatives that kept this from being a full 5 stars, however. First of all, although I loved Olaf as a character, he seemed off in relation to the rest of the story–and how does a snowman created by a princess in a fairy-tale setting know about sunglasses and beach umbrellas? It just doesn’t fit. And I just don’t like the trolls, although I realize they’re a necessary storytelling element. Still, Frozen was a very enjoyable movie with a nice modern fairy-tale feel that’s great for all ages.

Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee/Produced by Peter Del Vecho/Screenplay by Jennifer Lee/Story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, & Shane Morris/Based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen/Starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, & Santino Fontana/Music by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Christophe Beck, & Frode Fjellheim

 

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Big Hero 6

Walt Disney StudiosBig Hero 6

Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams/Produced by Roy Conli/Screenplay by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, & Robert L. Baird/Music by Henry Jackman/Based on the graphic novel by Steven T. Seagle & Duncan Rouleau

My rating: 5 of 5

Fourteen-year-old Hiro Hamada has a great brain, but he’s not exactly motivated to put it to use . . . until some well-placed encouragement from his brother Tadashi and four of Tadashi’s “nerd friends” inspires him to join them at their college’s robotics program. Hiro seems set on a course for great success when the unthinkable happens: an accidental fire at the school kills his brother Tadashi and destroy’s Hiro’s robotics project as well. Overwhelmed with depression over his brother’s death, Hiro again finds himself completely unmotivated to do anything with his life. That is, until he accidentally activates Baymax, a nurse-robot that his brother had been working on. With Baymax, Hiro discovers that the fire at the school may not have been as accidental as it seemed–and so, Hiro, Baymax, and Tadashi’s four college friends team up to find the truth and bring justice where it’s due. True superhero style.

Big Hero 6 was one movie that I was actually excited to see from the time I first saw the previews, although it didn’t work out for me to see it until it came out on DVD. I wasn’t disappointed when I watched it either. Unlike many of Disney’s movies recently, I felt like this one came together extremely well. The characters were great; you could definitely tell that they were, well, based on stereotypes of sorts (probably because that worked better with their superhero transformations later), but they were also full of personality and individuality. Hiro himself is adorable in a punk sort of way . . . I think the first few minutes of the movie give a very good idea of his general character, but he also is someone who grows a lot during the story. (On that topic, the “hugging and learning” aspect of the story might be a bit much, but I guess we know it’s that kind of story going in to it.) Not that she shows up particularly much, but I really think Hiro and Tadashi’s aunt is an awesome character–I wish we saw more of her. I really appreciated the balance that was found in a lot of areas here: the combination of Japanese and American (especially in the architecture–wow), the meld of science and “superhero” tradition. It’s neat that this is based on an actual comic-book series (one I haven’t read, but it sounds interesting) by the same title . . . it sounds like the movie is almost something of an origin story from what I can tell. In any case, the use of science to explain/create the hero capabilities is fun. Also, bonus points for pretty art–I know CG has come incredibly far in just the past few years, and that’s not really even what I’m talking about–more like, the creators intentionally made pretty stuff (cloud patterns, incredible architecture, cool carp-kite wind machines, etc.) even when it wasn’t necessary. I appreciate that. So yeah, I would definitely recommend Big Hero 6 to anyone, say, elementary school and up who enjoys a solid, fun action movie with, yes, some hugging and learning mixed in.

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Wreck-It Ralph

Walt Disney Studios

Director: Rich Moore/Executive Producer: John Lasseter/Producer: Clark Spencer/Screenplay: Phil Johnston & Jennifer Lee/Story: Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, & Jim Reardon/Music: Henry Jackman

After 30 years of wrecking the same building all day, every day–only to have Fix-It Felix, Jr.,  repair it with his magic hammer and be the hero, Wreck-It Ralph is tired of being the bad guy. In an effort to prove his worth, he sneaks from his own game into the new arcade game, Hero’s Duty, where he manages to grab a hero’s medal–leaving no end of chaos in his wake as he manages to do what he does best: wreck things. Part of that chaos involves rocketing himself in an escape pod right out of Hero’s Duty and into a saccharine sweet racing game, Sugar Rush . . . along with a nasty little hitch-hiking virus insect. While in Sugar Rush, Ralph encounters a rather bratty little girl by the name of Vanellope. Surprisingly, Vanellope can relate to Ralph’s outcast feelings, and the two become friends of an odd sort. But when the candy hits the road, will Ralph be able to put his own interests aside, or will he be willing to sacrifice her dreams in order to be recognized.

I enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph, probably more than most Disney movies I’ve seen recently (Disney usually isn’t my favorite; sorry). It has an almost Pixar flavor, but the feel is just slightly different. In particular, I think the characters have a slightly more . . . maybe gritty. . . feel? I definitely enjoyed the characterizations, and not only of the main characters–there was a lot of personality and individuality in this movie. Another plus for me was that–since this is a video-game movie of sorts–there are a ton of references to games. I probably missed a lot of them, but those I did recognize certainly added to the movie. On the flip side, if you don’t game at all and aren’t familiar with video games, you’re going to miss a lot if you watch this–it’s still a fun movie, but definitely not as fully appreciable. On the complicated side, the plot challenges the traditional oversimplifications of “good” and “bad” as character absolutes, while still providing a clear-cut “bad guy” in the end. I don’t think the story brings in inappropriate moral uncertainties, but it might be a good jumping-off point for a discussion if you’re watching this with younger children. Overall, I’d say that Wreck-It Ralph was a good movie; I definitely enjoyed it, and I think others (particularly gamers) will likely enjoy it as well.

Note: On a musical note, it was fun to hear some of my favorite bands–Owl City and AKB48–playing for the credits!

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Monsters University

Pixar Animation Studios

Written by Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, & Dan Scanlon/Directed by Dan Scanlon/Produced by Kori Rae/Music by Randy Newman

Being an expert scarer providing energy for the community–and looking awfully cool while doing so–has been Mike Wazowski’s dream ever since he was the little kid being wowed by how cool the current scarers were. After years of hard work, the young monster has finally gotten into his dream school, Monsters University. Exuberant and studious, Mike plows through his studies, impressing his teachers with his knowledge and technique. But when it comes down to it, he’s faced with the hard reality that sometimes enthusiasm and hard work just aren’t enough. Another student, James P. Sullivan, seems to be the embodiment of this unfairness as he does well without even trying by relying on natural skill and a reputable family name. But when an unfortunate accident gets both of these two kicked out of the scare program, they are forced to decide: work together, however unpleasant that may be, or fail separately and live miserably for the rest of their lives. . . .

To be honest, Monsters University probably doesn’t need my review at all–it’s popular enough that most everyone has seen it, with good reason. This movie is classic Pixar: a good solid story about teamwork and friendship, nice visuals, a liberal sprinkling of humor, and nothing too controversial to gum up the works. It’s definitely not a serious, thought-provoking story, but it’s not supposed to be. More like, it’s a fun and funny movie that’s appropriate for elementary-school kids, but would also be enjoyable for adults. Probably one of the aspects that stands out most to me is the color; seriously, the entire campus is vivid, and the students are even brighter . . . which could be garish, but is actually rather beautiful. And as is typical with Pixar, the random little observations about people–as magnified through the lens of monsterdom in this case–is both amusing and revealing. I don’t really remember the music much even after having seen this twice, which means it’s probably not outstanding, but it isn’t bad either–it just works with the story enough that the story itself stands out the most. One last note: Monsters University is definitely a prequel to Monsters, Inc., and should be seen after seeing the original . . . if you don’t, you’ll probably be really confused.

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Brave

Pixar Animation Studios

Written by Brenda Chapman/Directed by Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman/Produced by Katherine Sarafian/Music by Patrick Doyle

Merida is exactly like her mother the queen–strong-willed, stubborn, and sure she knows best–so of course, they’re bound to butt heads. Frequently. However, when the queen invites the other member nations of their united kingdoms to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage, Merida feels her mother has taken things too far. . . . And decides to take her fate into her own hands.

Brave is a beautiful, touching story. It’s classic Pixar, with the strong family focus, “follow your heart” theme, and widespread spattering of comic (sometimes slightly crude) relief. The characters–particularly Merida and her mom–are well developed and carry the story well. I really love the setting–historic Scotland–and the animation brings out the rugged beauty of the setting to great effect. (Plus I must say, I adore Merida’s hair and the dresses.)The music is also gorgeous–intentionally tear-jerking at parts, but that’s Disney for you. All told, I’d say Brave is an enjoyable, relatively family-safe movie that I’d generally recommend for most audiences.

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