Tag Archives: Disney

Movie Review: Cinderella (3 *’s or 4 ½ *’s) (2015)

All right. I admit it. I broke down and went and saw Cinderella. Mostly for this blog. But I was also curious. Anyway, the film is by Disney, of course. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh and starred Cate Blanchett (the cruel stepmother), Helena Bonham Carter (the fairy godmother), and a number of lesser well-known names.

It tells the story of Cinderella. And just so. I haven’t seen the original Cinderella animated film nor read any of the stories for a number of years, but this version added nothing new. It kept to the original storyline and at times seemed to move swiftly through it, ticking off story details as it went. Which is fine. I was kind of hoping that there would have been some additional “meat” to the story, but there wasn’t. It was basically (as far as I can remember), the animated version told with real people with little variation. It is a far cry from the film Ever After (starring Drew Barrymore in 1998) which is a Cinderella story with real content that I highly recommend.

Anyway, Cinderella is a young woman whose life takes a turn for the worse when first her mother dies, and then her father (after remarrying). The stepmother and her two daughters treat Cinderella awfully, making her basically an oppressed servant in her own household. Then, through a freak chance she meets the prince and the romantic legend begins to bloom.

Strengths: it was put together fine; the acting was fine; the special effects were spectacular, of course (but that goes without saying … I mean it’s 2015 and it’s Disney); the plot, although somewhat thin, made a coherent whole. Weaknesses: probably the only major weakness was that the romantic relationship was built on virtually nothing … a couple chance meetings, and that was it. But the film was made for children, so that’s probably not a fair criticism. Anyway, it was okay as far as Disney children films go. Not sure it needed to be rated PG; it might have gotten away with a mere G.

Anyway, I’ll give Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella three stars if you’re an adult, but four and a half if you’re a little kid looking for a classic romantic fairy tale.

Movie Review: Into the Woods: (4 stars) (2014)

Into the Woods is the latest musical released into theatres by Disney. It follows the tradition of many animated features, but is a live-action film with lots of singing. It showcases a lot of talented actors and actresses in it. The most significant are: Meryl Streep (as the witch), Emily Blunt (as the Baker’s Wife), Johnny Depp (as the Wolf), James Corden (as the Baker), and Anna Kendrick (as Cinderella). The tale told incorporates four famous Fairy Tales into a single tale woven around a Baker and his wife.

The Baker and his wife are childless. At the beginning of the movie, they learn that this is the result of a curse. A witch offers to reverse the curse, if the pair obtain four special items integral to four concurrent fairy tales: a cow white as snow, a golden slipper, yellow hair like corn, and a cape red as blood. The cow, of course, belongs to Jack (Jack and the Beanstalk), the slipper belongs to Cinderella, the yellow hair belongs to Rapunzel, and the red cape belongs to Little Red Riding Hood. Desperately, the Baker and his Wife enter the wood in search of the four items, items with which the owners may not easily part. Each tale interweaves with the others creating a tapestry of mystery and magic.

Strengths: it was a musical, so the acting qua acting (love that word) was minimal, but what there was was very good. There was lots of singing, and the singing was well-performed as well. The special effects were good, and the plot was engaging. The dialogue, via song and sometimes not, was also good. Weaknesses: the movie was dark at times, possibly too dark for the very young. However, it was rated PG, not G, so I would think that parents should be cautioned against bringing the very young to the film. My biggest complaint comes at the end. And it has nothing to do with plot, acting, or dialogue. One of the last musical numbers played in the song had questionable lyrics. There was a lot of “There is no right or wrong,” or something to that effect. Disney did the same thing briefly in Frozen, an animated film I richly enjoyed. I just do not think it is a good idea to try to instill in our children that there is no moral truth. Yes, I get the notion that we all make mistakes. But you can only understand a mistake through a moral lens. The music itself was fine … it was just the words were not appropriate, I think. Also of concern to parents, I’m sure, was when the Baker’s Wife and Cinderella’s prince (married prince, at that) had a brief tryst in the woods.

Despite its flaws, it was still an enjoyable film and I’ll give Disney’s Into the Woods a full four stars out of five.

Movie Review: Maleficent (2014) (4 *’s)

Disney’s Maleficent is the latest reimagining of a Disney children’s tale as a rated PG film—more palatable for adults, but not quite as intense as a PG-13 or higher film. It is based on the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, my favorite as a young child (I mean, it has a dragon! What more do you want?) Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie in the title role, Elle Fanning as the Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Sharlto Copley as King Stefan.

 

The story begins with the younger years of Maleficent, a female human-sized fairy living in the fairy moor right next door to the human kingdom. One day she finds a young human boy who is trying to steal a small gem from fairyland. She makes him give it back and the two of them become friends. As time goes by, their relationship deepens. When Maleficent turns sixteen, Stefan gives her what he says is true love’s kiss. Unfortunately, things don’t last and he becomes an infrequent visitor lured away by the honors, riches, and desires that dominate the human world. Maleficent is hurt, of course, but she survives. She goes on with her life. But soon the king of the human kingdom turns his eye toward her moor and conflict ensues. This conflict forms the backdrop of the entire Sleeping Beauty story. But it’s Sleeping Beauty with a twist. Maleficent is set up as a sympathetic character for the movie.

 

Strengths: the acting was good, the plot good, and the special effects were quite remarkable. I couldn’t find any logical holes in a single viewing. The life lessons were decent; the message about love well-taken. Weaknesses: my biggest problem with the film is that since it is based on Sleeping Beauty it would likely draw a very young crowd in spite of the PG rating. It’s not as bad as a PG-13 rating, but even so, redefining Maleficent as a misunderstood heroine will likely be confusing to the very young who are familiar with the original tale. Further, I felt that Disney missed an opportunity to reconcile King Stefan with Maleficent—such would have made a powerful tale of forgiveness that would have been very instructive. As it was, the ending was okay, but perhaps a little dark for the very young.

Anyway, I’ll give Disney’s Maleficent four stars out of five with a warning that some of the plot may be too mature for the very young. Still, it was a good movie.

Movie Review: Frozen (2013) (4 1/2 *’s)

One of the latest Disney flicks to hit the big screen is Frozen. It’s an animated film starring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, and Jonathan Groff. None of whom have I heard of. Still, it’s a Disney film, kid-friendly … so, I decided to review it for my blog.

 

The story is unusual in that there really isn’t a really bad guy up until the very end. The plot revolves around a misunderstanding, or perhaps, a foolish fear that separates two inseparable sisters at a very young age. The sisters are Anna and Elsa both princesses of the kingdom. Elsa is the older sister, so she is the heir. But she has a secret. Ever since birth, Elsa has had the power to summon cold and frost, to conjure ice from thin air. Unfortunately, though, she can’t control this power. At a young age, she injures her sister in an accident. As a result, with the encouragement of her parents, she swears off using her powers ever again, hoping she will learn to control them. Well, her reasoning is clearly flawed, because if you never use your powers, you will never learn to control them. But neither her nor her parents realize that. In any event, her parents eventually die and leave her the kingdom. On the day of her coronation, her sister, Anna, meets and falls head-over-heels in love with a visiting young nobleman named Hans. They decide to get married. But Elsa, having a much cooler head, will not give her blessing because the two “lovers” have only known each other for less than a day. In a sisterly spat, Elsa’s powers are revealed to Anna and the whole kingdom. Feeling upset and vulnerable, Elsa flees into the mountains. But the incident plunges the kingdom into eternal winter. Now, Anna must venture into the mountains after her sister in the hopes she can lift the terrible spell.

 

Strengths: it’s a classic Disney flick, so it’s good family entertainment. There’s an interesting little twist on the standard “love will break the spell” trope. Despite the lack of a bad guy for much of the movie, there was good tension, plot, and dialogue and I found the movie quite interesting. Part of me wishes that they’d done the whole movie without a serious bad guy, just to see if it would have worked out well. Weaknesses: I kind of liked the character that turned into the bad guy prior to the transformation, so I don’t quite know how to feel about that. Other than that, I don’t recall any major weaknesses. Well, maybe the love story was a bit too complicated and its nuances might be lost on the young audience to whom the movie was targeted. There was lots of song, but that’s to expected from a Disney flick. In the end, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit.

 

Overall, I’ll give Disney’s Frozen a whole four and a half stars out of five.

Movie Review: Wreck-It-Ralph

Yes, my inner child once again seized control of my body and dragged me off to see another kiddie movie: Wreck-It Ralph. It was your typical Disney animated film, geared towards children, but with enough parent-appeal to be enjoying to adults; particularly adults like me who grew up spending countless quarters and hours in video arcades throughout your hometown playing god-knows what game.

The story is a basic hero questing type of story, although in this case, the hero is a villain. Well, to be more specific: the hero’s JOB is to be a villain in the fantasy world in which computerized arcade characters inhabit. According to the film, all those arcade characters actually inhabit their respective games; and when the arcade closes, they are allowed to commute, hang out in other character’s games, and generally socialize amongst themselves amongst the wires of the arcade. The name of the villain-turned-hero is Ralph, and he wants to earn a golden medal, and thereby earn the respect of the “good characters” in his game. So, he leaves his own game and goes game-hopping. This, of course, leads to nothing but chaos.

The other main character is Vanellope von Schweetz who is a “glitch” in a kind of candy-land racing game. Ralph and Vanellope start out antagonizing each other, but through the course of the story become true friends (yeah, Disney!) Difficult choices are made, battles are fought, and friendships are tested. It’s a good story.

Unlike most kid movies, I don’t think there is much to complain about in this one (I know, I usually complain about something!). There’s the Hero’s Duty joke which is a poo joke, but a tastefully done one, I guess. I missed one or two scenes, but I don’t think there was anything that was really inappropriate for young children. The whole pretext of it is that it takes place inside the inner-workings of an arcade; so the fantasy aspect is firmly established. I take that back; I seem to recall (sort of—I don’t remember the specifics) that there was a “technology joke” inappropriate for children. I wish I could remember what it was, but it was one of those “Yes, we’ll turn the hairspray into a flamethrower to entertain the kids”-type of scenes. I’ve mentioned such things in other movie reviews for kids movies: I just think Hollywood forgets its target audience, and they just might try something easy-to-do like that.

On the plus side: the movie had a certain internal logical consistency. Everything tied together and flowed together well. Some standard story motifs could be identified; the foreshadowing of the true villain, and the miracle solution to the bug apocalypse, etc… etc… Overall, it was a good movie; it even had a little bit of romance thrown in.

All right, I’ll give it four stars out of five.