Blu-ray REVIEW: Disney's Cinderella (2015)
Posted on Oct 07 2015 by Greg
The ongoing motto of the spectacular, shiny new Cinderella
-- a reimagining of the 1950 Disney animated classic. It's a richly detailed extravaganza that incorporates into its script elements of the earlier film, but adds more spunk to Cinderella
-- the ending scene with her Stepmother and Stepsisters was much needed in the original. But it also actually tones down some of the most dramatic and intense moments in the 1950 film.
Most notably, the Disney-created "mother's new dress" sequence is downright horrifying as depicted by Walt and his artists. The abject cruelty is so deeply felt, the evil is more demonic that many of the other Disney villains, like Maleficent or the Evil Queen. It's physical and psychological abuse. In the new film, the actions are less pronounced and a little less dark, but it does produce the same emotional effect nonetheless. Maybe it was too intense to be done with live actors.
Speaking of the actors, they are hand picked for perfect roles. It's clearly Cate Blanchett's movie to dominate, and she is a slam dunk, adding a twisted, bitter reason for her evil -- a counterpoint to Cinderella's way of handling adversity. The stepsisters are still comical, and the mice are there, too.
I would have loved it if we could have heard Helena Bonham Carter sing "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo" and Lily James sing "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" on the soundtrack. But the background music by Patrick Doyle is sweeping, elegant and just as magnificent as the scenery.
The castle is the visual centerpiece. Interestingly, the digital graphics are so convincing that one wonders just how elaborate the set had to be. Never mind -- they filled Pinewood's James Bond stage with grandeur.
One major story change was introducing Cinderella to the Prince early. This also happened in The Muppet Special, Hey Cinderella
, in which she thought he was the palace gardener. Cinderella also encountered the prince early in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version. It's a fine way to work the prince into the story more than he is in the animated film (princes were notoriously difficult to animate). It also comes as a bit of a relief to the viewer, as the opening sequences are filled with tragedy.
It must be pointed out that there is one other live-action Cinderella
that compares favorably with this version, in that it opens up the story, adds political intrigue and actually takes the tale beyond the shoe fitting. This is the Sherman Brothers' exquisite musical, The Slipper and the Rose
. Featuring one of their most sophisticated scores, this isn't quite as elaborate as the 2015 version, but it is highly recommended.
Blu-ray is a welcome medium to capture all the filagree, ephalets and taffeta and curliques.. There are also a few generous behind the scenes bonus features but no audio commentary (good grief!)
BOOK REVIEW: We Can Be Who We Are: Movie Musicals from the '70s
Posted on Oct 07 2015 by Greg
This is a large book
but it's remarkably swift and "digestible" to read. I chose to read
about the movies I liked best, but could not resist reading about the
ones that were so-so. But author Lee Gambin writes with such enthusiasm
and conviction, every chapter is fascinating and entertaining, whether
the film is familiar of not. Some of the reviews are combined in a
single section and others are given more lengthy examinations.
The obvious '70s films are here, like Grease, Saturday Night Fever,
Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, even Willy Wonka
and the Chocolate Factory. What is truly marvelous is that a lot of
films that are usually tossed aside or barely acknowledged in most film
books are included--like Pufnstuf, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Journey
Back to Oz, Raggedy Ann & Andy and Sherman Brothers musicals like
Charlotte's Web, The Magic of Lassie, Snoopy Come Home, Tom Sawyer and
Huckleberry Finn--and are discussed with a respect and sense of
importance rarely if ever afforded to them.
Gambin also considers TV specials as valid musicals of the '70s and why
not? He reviews several Rankin/Bass classics like Santa Claus is Comin'
to Town and The Easter Bunny is Comin' To Town, plus TV versions of
Broadway shows like Applause and It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's
Superman!. You'll even find the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, The
Paul Lynde Halloween Special and Hanna-Barbera's KISS Meets the Phantom
of the Park!
Gambin often puts the subtexts and messages of the films under a
microscope, much as a college professor would in a film class. It's his
book and his valid opinion, but some might be taken aback by some of the
things he interprets. The book covers material from A to Z and from
G-rated to X-rated, so the reader will be exposed to very mature subject
matter and politically incorrect verbiage inherent in films that are of
The book does, however, have misspellings, errors and grammatical issues
here and there. The interviews are presented unedited, which means that
repetitions and extraneous phrases are intact. That's great from an
historic point of view, but it makes the reading somewhat tedious and is
not a favor to the interview subjects (from my experience, they don't
mind a little gentle editing). It would have also been helpful if the
table of contents included the titles of the films covered. However, the
interviews are pure gold and the overall book is so thorough on so many
points that it is still recommended.
DVD REVIEW: Miles from Tomorrowland
Posted on Oct 07 2015 by Greg
Miles from Tomorrowland (a very clever title, I must say) is a Disney Junior CG animated series about the futuristic Calistos family. A nuclear family with a mom, dad, son and daughter, they bring to mind several recent and classic TV shows. They remind me of The Jetsons, of course, to begin with, using phrases like “blastastic” and “astrolutely”. only they take a more active role in helping in the galaxy.
And as on Star Trek: Voyager, mom is the Captain (just like in my house). Like Thunderbirds, they receive assignments to assist and rescues, using their combined talents. Like Handy Manny, the family helps others and fixes things in their community of space. And like The Donna Reed Show’s Stone clan, they’re attractive, pleasant and free of serious dysfunction.
Olivia Munn voices Mom, Larry (Spongebob) voices Leo, the dad, with Cullen McCarthy as Miles and Fiona Bishop as Loretta, Miles’ sister. Miles rides around on a space ostrich named Merk (the amazing Dee Bradley Baker).
Each episode features two 11-minute stories, in which a mission is set up, or a fun activity, such as surfing in space, is explored. Kids are presented with role models in the form of adventurous, important Miles, and brilliant, problem solving Fiona. It’s a great concept that works well for boys and girls equally. Unlike many other Disney Junior shows, there are no songs, perhaps to skew the show a little older.
The DVD offers episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 from the first season. There are no bonus features, but the box contains a complimentary “Blastboard Flashlight”. Perhaps the tight budgets of DVDs nowadays means that premiums are more affordable than video extras, or quite simply these prizes have proven to have more appeal to consumers.
** Please check out these recommended links:
Posted on Jul 20 2015 by Greg
Disney Music Emporium
The official site for the everyone who loves the very best of Disney music and recordings in the classic mold, with behind-the-scenes news, regular features by Disney historian, a monthly "Record Roundup" and exclusive offers on musical collectibles.
Official Disney Music Site
The official site for the latest Walt Disney, Hollywood and Buena Vista Records soundtrack and pop releases plus interactive activities and special features.
Bill Morgan's Disneyland Records Site
The closest an unofficial classic Disney vinyl records site comes to an official one. Instead of selling or giving away pirate downloads, it links to the many vintage Disney records on iTunes that many folks may not realize are available, plus extensive catalog listings, history and even who is auctioning what on eBay.
Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research
Animation historians offer regular features, articles, videos and rare images. Every Tuesday, please look for my "Animation Spin" feature exploring animation-related records from Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Rankin/Bass, Filmation, Warner Bros, Lantz and many others.
Didier Ghez's Disney History Blog
Renowned historian Didier Ghez (editor of the "Walt's People" series) shares interesting discoveries about Disney history, vintage Disneyana, Disney artwork, the Walt's People book series, and new books about Disney.
Jerry Beck's Animation Scoop
Indiewire's official animation site, offering reviews, industry news, preview, film critiques and DVD reviews.
Official Disney Parks Blog
The official site for Walt Disney World, Disneyland and all other Disney destinations. I provide regular articles with interesting facts, interviews and commentary.
Ed Robertson's TV Confidential
One of syndicated radio's most informative and insightful syndicated weekly programs. Host Ed Robertson presents celebrity interviews of today and yesterday, "This week in TV History", rare audio of TV moments lost on video forever. I do regular DVD reviews about the latest releases plus some DVDs folks might have overlooked when they were released. Each show appears a week after its broadcast on iTunes as a podcast.
Stu Shostak's Stu's Show / Jeanine Kasun's Baby Boomer Favorites
The ultimate talk show for lovers of classic TV and animation, with one-of-a-kind interviews from TV's greatest classics. Stu Shostak hosts these lively shows every week for live streaming at 7 pm Eastern / 4 pm Pacific, so listeners can email questions. Every show is archive for download at only 99 cents. Baby Boomer Favorites is a bi-weekly hour of music and talk from rock and pop's heyday, with celebrity guests sharing their personal favorites. (You can only download this show within the two-week window.)
Mark Evanier's News from Me
One of my everyday blog visits, this is an indispensable blog all about movies, TV, animation, theater, news and politics. Also raccoons. Mark wrote for animation, primetime and has a talent for storytelling, whether it's about the famous or the familial.
By Ken Levine
Multi-Emmy-winning writer/director of such landmarks as M*A*S*H, Cheers and Frasier generously shares his knowledge of writing for TV, backstage stories, reviews and generally engrossing reading that is also a daily click for me.
University Press of Mississippi
Find award-winning books, pop-culture bios, author works, art collection books and socio-political titles.
Hans Perk's A. Film LA
Acclaimed animator Hans Perk presents fascinating images, insights and information about Disney art and history.
DVD Review: TEEN BEACH 2
Blog, Movies, TV, Music
Posted on Jul 06 2015 by Greg
Before we get to Teen Beach 2, let’s go back to 1966, when there was a CBS sitcom called It’s About Time. Created by Sherwood Schwartz, the escapism-era series was about two astronauts who travel back in time meet a wacky stone age family. Later in the season, the premise was reversed, and the cave people ended up in modern times, adjusting to newfangled life in zany ways.
That sums up the twist in the sequel to the highly-successful (and highly entertaining) Teen Beach Movie, an unabashedly silly musical comedy TV movie in which two teens are transported inside a 1962 beach movie (for diehard fans of the genre, the first actual “Beach Party” film was released in 1963). They had tissue-thin romance problems and a tangle with a Vincent Price-like mad scientist.
The new sequel reverses the story and takes the two 1962 movie teens (and members of their cast, eventually) into a 2015 rendered in as gritty and cynical style as Disney Channel can muster. At the same time, our modern-day couple is having relationship issues. Things get “tense” when it becomes apparent that the 1962 movie might vanish entirely, along with the characters—and the 2015 couple will have never met and fallen in love!! Will it all turn out okay. Maybe I shouldn’t tell.
Teen Beach 2 is certainly chock full of comedy and excellent song and dance set pieces, but, perhaps because it takes place in “today’s real world”, it does not get as loose and campy as its predecessor. The songs, though, are just as good and eclectic. There is enough of all possible rock and pop tunes to satisfy kids and the parents and grandparents who love the earlier eras. The music alone is a strong reason these movies seem to work so well.
The DVD contains some rehearsal footage, and that’s about it for any bonus features. For parents concerned about questionable material, this being a Disney Channel movie, there is pretty much nothing of concern. It might be worth noting that the original beach movies, squeaky-clean as they were, had some nudge-nudge material in them. All of them are pure escapism that are so knowing about their silliness, they sometimes break the fourth wall to remind us that they’re in on the jokes with us.
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