Check out these beautiful ”portraits” of the main characters from Pixar’s latest film Toy Story 4. And if you haven’t seen the film yet, go! It’s really terrific.
Images ©️ Disney/Pixar
Reviews and commentary about current and classic cinema. Curated by Stanford Clark.
Check out these beautiful ”portraits” of the main characters from Pixar’s latest film Toy Story 4. And if you haven’t seen the film yet, go! It’s really terrific.
Images ©️ Disney/Pixar
This review is spoiler-free. #DontSpoilTheEndgame
After Thanos’ sinister snap in Avengers: Infinity War, our remaining heroes are left to deal with the aftermath in Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame.
This film is actually the second half of last year’s cliff-hanger Avengers: Infinity War along with being the culmination of the 21 films so far in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (MCU) from Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics’ in-house movie studio which began 11 years ago. The 21 Marvel Studios’ films are listed below (in order of release date).
As we’ve learned throughout the 21 films, and particularly in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos (voiced again by Josh Brolin) is one bad dude. After collecting all six “infinity stones” and placing them in his “infinity gauntlet” glove, the already powerful villain got even more power and was able to make his “inevitable” wish come true—the complete elimination of 50% of the galaxy’s population with just the snap of his finger.
The original six MCU Avengers—Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansen), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—along with James Rhoades/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who all survived the snap decide to join forces, find Thanos, and make the universe right again, “whatever it takes.”
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo (aka The Russo Brothers) are no strangers to the MCU, having expertly directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War along with the first part of this film, Avengers: Infinity War. Their ability to weave together multiple storylines with many characters and make it seem effortless is truly, well, a marvel. The Russo Brothers are at the top of their game in this film, which not only has to bring together so many characters, but also has to bring a 21-film storyline to a satisfying conclusion.
And satisfying it is. I had a great time watching this film. It’s exciting, emotional, and supremely entertaining. Its three-hour running time is definitely epic length, but it’s worth it. The film made me feel like a kid again reading a great comic book series that’s full of imagination, adventure, surprise, wonder, and goodness. It’s a fitting end to an incredible run for this story arc in the MCU and I can’t wait to see what Marvel Studios is going to do next.
Avengers: Endgame is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.”
My score: 5 out of 5 stars
As an added bonus, check out all of the cool Avengers: Endgame posters from Marvel and Poster Posse. And below is the IMAX exclusive poster.
Images ©️ Marvel Studios
In the latest film from the nature documentarians at Disneynature, Penguins gives us an up-close look at the challenging and interesting life of the Adélie penguins in Antarctica.
As with most of these Disneynature films (not to mention the classic Disney True-Life Adventures series of the 1950s and 60s), the filmmakers have created a narrative into this particular corner of the natural world by following a penguin they named “Steve.”
Steve the penguin has just come into adulthood and it’s time for him to find a mate and hopefully have offspring to carry on the species. Steve does indeed find a mate (her name is “Adeline”) and Steve and Adeline end up having two baby penguins that they now hope to raise into adulthood themselves.
Narrated by actor Ed Helms (Andy Bernard from the U.S. version of The Office), the filmmakers give a deft tone to the truly taxing life of these Antarctic penguins. The penguins have to deal with the extreme weather of the location, they co-parent (meaning both mother and father take turns finding food for their young ones and they both keep the eggs and the hatched baby penguins warm), they have to combat the local predators (in this case, the skua birds and the leopard seals), and have a difficult migration path.
I saw the film in IMAX and was completely wowed by the gorgeous cinematography of this icy landscape and its inhabitants. It’s so amazing what these filmmakers are able to accomplish and how close they are able to get to all of the wildlife. (Stay through the end credits to see how some of the shots were actually done—again, amazing.) This film has lots of shots above ground as well as under water and they’re all remarkable and beautiful, just like the subject matter.
I found the film to be an impressive, compelling, and entertaining look into this part of our natural world. And I applaud Disneynature and their production partner the National Science Foundation for carrying on the important work of helping us all to better understand and care for our planet.
Make sure to check out the official Penguins website for additional educational materials as well.
Penguins is rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America.
My score: 4 out of 5
As an added bonus, check out these cool posters for Penguins from the folks at Poster Posse.
Images ©️ Disney
Tim Burton takes Disney’s beloved flying pachyderm on a new and somewhat dark journey in Walt Disney Studios’ latest live action+photo-realistic CGI remake Dumbo (2019).
This film merges the familiar narrative of the 1941 animated classic with a newly created circus-themed story. As in the original animated feature, the plot is set within a traveling troupe of circus and side show performers along with a menagerie of animals that travel from town to town by train (Casey Jr., of course). In this film, the year is 1919, the circus is the Medici Bros. Circus, and the ringleader is Max Medici (expertly played by Danny DeVito).
In addition to Max, we meet a slew of characters that are new to this story—most importantly the World War I veteran Holt Farrier (played by Colin Farrell) and his two children Milly (played by Nico Parker) and Joe (played by Finley Hobbins). Before the war, Holt and his wife had a successful circus act with horses. But when Holt goes away to fight in the war, he loses a lot—his wife dies, the horses get sold, and he loses one of his arms.
Although the circus is one big happy family, it is in financial straits; so much so, that Max bets the farm (or circus) on an exotic new elephant named Mrs. Jumbo. It also turns out that Mrs. Jumbo is pregnant. Since the horses are gone, Max puts Holt and his kids in charge of the precious elephants.
The first act of the film is basically the original Dumbo movie but with these additional characters. Once the original story is out of the way, it takes a wild turn into a brand new direction over the next two-thirds of the film. “Dumbo” (as the baby elephant gets nicknamed) the flying elephant is an instant hit and brings a much needed financial boost to the Medici Bros. Circus. The newfound success piques the interest of circus magnate V.A. Vandevere (played by Michael Keaton) who owns a destination circus attraction and amusement park called Dreamland. Vandevere offers to purchase Medici Bros. Circus and makes Max an offer too good to pass up. But once everyone arrives at Dreamland, things just might be a bit too good to be true.
Tim Burton is able to put his distinctive stylistic stamp on the film, which I mostly liked. His early 20th century circus aesthetic has just the right combination of nostalgia and charm along with his trademark quirkiness.
Other than Danny DeVito (and possibly Colin Farrell), I just didn’t feel like the acting was particularly strong from much of the cast. Also as previously mentioned, the two-thirds of the film that delve into this original new story take Dumbo the character into an unexpected and rather unpleasant place for my tastes. While a newly added animal rights subplot is a timely and important theme, and Dumbo himself still has the same motivations (he just wants to be with his mom), it just didn’t come together in a harmonious and cohesive fashion.
Ultimately, the film is less of a remake and more of a new story and adventure that Dumbo gets plopped into. I kept thinking during the film that it should have had a different title (maybe “Dumbo’s Adventure in Dreamland” or, jokingly, “Free Dumbo: A Dumbo Story”). I respect Tim Burton’s talent and creativity and you all know how much I love the Disney, but this latest “remake” is definitely one that makes you want to run away from the circus rather than to join it.
Dumbo is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language.”
My score: 3 out of 5 stars
As an added bonus, check out some fun Poster Posse Dumbo posters (on the blog) and this cool IMAX poster (below).
All images ©️ Disney
Check out these fantastic poster designs for Mary Poppins Returns from the cool folks at PosterPosse.com. The film opens in theaters on Wednesday, December 19.
All Images ©️ Poster Posse, Disney
And another by Doaly that is an homage to Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2…haha.
Video game buddies Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz venture into the big city of the internet in Walt Disney Animation Studios‘ new animated comedy adventure Ralph Breaks the Internet.
A sequel to Disney Animation’s 2012 animated feature Wreck-It Ralph, the film picks up six years after the original. Ralph (again voiced by John C. Reilly) and his BFF Vanellope (again voiced by Sarah Silverman), who are both still active players in their respective video games (Fix-It Felix, Jr. for Ralph and Sugar Rush for Vanellope), are in a pretty set routine in Litwak’s Arcade. Every night after the arcade closes, the two of them meet up for a root beer at Tapper’s and then go hang out in some of their other favorite games in the arcade (including a 1980s Tron video game!). While Ralph feels perfectly content with the way life is, Vanellope is wondering about if there might be something more to her existence than racing on the same tracks in her game every day.
When Ralph tries to help Vanellope feel better, he instead causes a major problem with the Sugar Rush game, leading to the breaking of the console’s steering wheel (he is Wreck-It Ralph, after all) and prompting Mr. Litwak to unplug the game. With all the citizens of Sugar Rush now homeless, the other characters of the arcade that we met in the first film, including Fix-It Felix, Jr. (again voiced by Jack McBrayer) and Sgt. Calhoun (again voiced by Jane Lynch), come to the aid of their fellow video game neighbors. Ralph and Vanellope then decide that they will try to get the required part to fix Sugar Rush and to restore things back to how they were in the arcade by traveling to the internet via the arcade’s newly installed internet connection.
Here’s the latest trailer that shows the film’s setup.
What follows is a classic small town kids traveling to the big city sort of story, just amped up a bit by turning many of the familiar websites we know and love (Google, eBay, Amazon, etc.) into places within the giant electric “city” of the internet. Ralph and Vanellope get in way over their heads, Ralph continues to, well, wreck stuff, and the two have a grand adventure of experiencing new things and figuring out what they want out of life.
New characters introduced in the film include the stylish tastemaker algorithm Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson), tough-as-nails race car driver Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot), know-it-all Knowsmore (voiced by Alan Tudyk), and dark net gangster Double Dan (voiced by Alfred Molina). And in one of the funniest segments of the film, all of the Disney (and Pixar!) princesses are in the same scene at the same time and are voiced by all of the living actresses who voiced them in the original films: Ariel (Jodi Benson) from The Little Mermaid, Belle (Paige O’Hara) from Beauty and the Beast, Jasmine (Linda Larkin) from Aladdin, Pocahontas (Irene Bedard), Mulan (Ming-Na Wen), Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) from The Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) from Tangled, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) from Frozen, and Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) along with the OG Disney princesses Snow White, Cinderella, and Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. Oh, and Merida (Kelly Macdonald) from Pixar’s Brave is there, too. Also making cameo or brief appearances in the film are some popular real-life YouTubers and internet celebrities, including Colleen Ballinger (aka Miranda Sings), Dani Fernandez, GloZell Green, Tiffany Herrera (aka Cupquake), and Flula Borg.
Director Rich Moore is back for the sequel. This time he is joined by co-director Phil Johnston, who also co-wrote the screenplays for this film as well as the original Wreck-It Ralph. The film is loaded with their trademark and witty humor, which I love. I admire so much how they are able to make situations and things funny without being cynical and without just dumping in jokes for the jokes’ sake. Rather, the humor, while extremely topical, always helps to propel the story and character development and it never feels out of place.
This is not only a great sequel, but an endlessly clever and entertaining film. With its compelling story, interesting characters, amazing visuals, and witty interpretations of how the internet might work if it were an actual place, huge kudos are due to all of the artists at Disney for creating something so beautiful to look at and so fun to experience. Taking this journey to the big city with Ralph and Vanellope is a total joy from beginning to end (and make sure to stay through the end credits, too).
Ralph Breaks the Internet is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some action and rude humor.” It opens in theaters on November 21.
My score: 4.5 out of 5 stars
As an added bonus, here’s the poster for the exclusive Real D 3D screenings of the film.
And here’s the official one-sheet for the film.
All Images ©️ Disney
The story of the British rock band Queen and their front man Freddie Mercury gets the Hollywood treatment in the new bio pic Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox, 2018).
Named after one of Queen’s iconic songs, Bohemian Rhapsody is told mostly from the point of view of Freddie Mercury, expertly played by actor Rami Malek in the film. Born Farrokh Bulsara in 1946, Mercury and his family (who are of Parsi descent) moved from India to England when he was a teenager. The film picks up where Mercury meets soon-to-be Queen band members Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon for the first time in the London club scene.
The film then primarily focuses on Mercury’s relationships with the band, with the band’s management and record company, and with his girlfriend Mary Austin. Mercury’s well-known sex-drugs-and rock-and-roll and bi-sexual lifestyle is also clearly addressed, but kept within PG-13 boundaries.
Where the film really soars is with the scenes showing the creative process of the band as they make some of their best loved recordings, including “Bohemian Rhapsody” itself (pictured below).
Where the film really didn’t work for me was in its overly-melodramatic retelling of the events of Mercury’s life, with many of the facts and actual timeline of events being altered and moved for dramatic effect.
For example, the film has the band breaking up and then reuniting right before the 1985 Live Aid concert. In reality, the band never broke up. (Rolling Stone magazine has a great fact checking article about the film here.) To also add drama and gravitas to the Live Aid concert, the film portrays Mercury as receiving his AIDS diagnosis before Live Aid and then revealing the sad news to the band at a rehearsal before the show. This also didn’t happen (Mercury most likely received the diagnosis in 1986 or 1987, long after Live Aid; he died from AIDS-related complications in 1991).
I get it that some kind of artistic license has to be taken in order to condense things into feature film length and format, but the decisions made with the script turned the film into more of a standard bio pic that you might see on TV instead of something more artistic and special that’s worthy of Mercury’s talent, persona, and esteem.
Still, the film’s re-creation of the Live Aid concert which bookends the film is positively electric and is worth the price of admission alone. The filmmakers made a very smart decision by putting one of the band’s all-time great performances as the final thing you see in the film, viewing Mercury and the band at their artistic peak and giving Rami Malek and the rest of the actors and creative team a chance to bring to life again one of the great moments in rock history.
Bohemian Rhapsody is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language.”
My score: 3 out of 5
And as an added bonus, here’s a clip of Queen performing “Radio Ga Ga” at the actual Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London on July 13, 1985.
Clara has a big new (emphasis on new) adventure in Disney’s latest CGI extravaganza The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
“Inspired by” the short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King written by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) and The Nutcracker ballet by ballet master and choreographer Marius Petipa (1818-1910), the film tells an original story written by screenwriter Ashleigh Powell (this is her first produced screenplay). Co-directors Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston have taken Powell’s story and have given it a beautiful look, even if the actual contents of the story itself are a bit lacking.
The film, as in the ballet that we’re all so familiar with, is focused on a young girl named Clara, played by Mackenzie Foy (this is where the similarities with the traditional Nutcracker end). Clara lives in London with her father and her two siblings. Sadly, Clara’s mother has recently passed away and the family is experiencing their first Christmas without her. On Christmas Eve before the family departs for a big party, the father gives each of the children a sentimental gift from their mother. Clara receives a beautiful golden box, but it requires a key in order for it to be opened—a key which she currently does not possess.
At the party, which is at the expansive estate of Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer, played by Morgan Freeman (I guess using the Drosselmeyer character is also a similarity to the source material), each of the children in attendance receives a gift, but the gifts are attached to the end of a series of individual strings which have been strung throughout the home. For Clara’s gift, her string leads her outside of her godfather’s home and into a magical, mysterious parallel world. She spots a key in a pine tree, but she is quickly thwarted in retrieving it and thus begins Clara’s journey into the “four realms” as stated in the film’s title.
While in the four realms, Clara joins forces with a soldier named Phillip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight (who is about as close to a “nutcracker” that we get in the movie). She also meets the Sugar Plum Fairy, played by Keira Knightley, and Mother Ginger, played by Helen Mirren, who are both at war with each other. Clara and Phillip get caught in the middle of the ongoing battle and must navigate it while trying to stay on task to the find the key to unlock the golden box.
The film gets off to a promising and beautiful start, but what follows is a pretty simplistic (and rather boring, at least for this adult) story that never really gains much momentum. The production design is a real knockout, but without a compelling and interesting story, it all becomes an exercise into thinking about what might have been.
On the plus side, the original score by James Newton Howard along with components of The Nutcracker ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky are all lovely. The score was conducted by classical music superstar Gustavo Dudamel, who is currently the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel also makes a couple of brief cameos in a cool homage to Walt Disney’s original Fantasia. Here’s a tweet from Gustavo Dudamel himself about it.
The film also has two really stunning ballet segments—one during the film and one during the end credits—featuring the renowned ballerina Misty Copeland. Misty, who is principal ballet dancer for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, talks about her experience in the featurette below from the Walt Disney Studios YouTube channel.
While I love a good Disney family movie, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ended up having more style than substance. Still, the little kids who attended the screening I was in enthusiastically clapped at the end of the film, which was a clear reminder that I’m probably not the target audience for this one.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some mild peril.”
My score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
As an added bonus, here are some cool posters for the film courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Poster Posse.
All images ©️ Disney
La La Land director Damien Chazelle and actor Ryan Gosling have teamed up again for a completely different type of film–this time, it’s the very personal journey of astronaut Neil Armstrong and the U.S.A.’s first manned mission to the moon.
First Man (Universal Pictures, 2018) focuses on the decade leading up to the historic NASA Apollo 11 flight in 1969 where Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) became the first man to walk on the moon. Told primarily through Armstrong’s point of view (the film is based on the authorized biography First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen), the story shows first-hand the sacrifices, the dangers, the successes, and the extreme personal costs of being a part of the “space race” in the 1960s.
I’ve heard comments about how slow the film is, and it’s true. If you’re expecting an epic, fast paced, feel good film, this isn’t it. Instead, Damien Chazelle and team give us a methodical and cerebral experience in an attempt to personalize what it must have been like to live through this. Armstrong and his wife Janet (expertly played by Claire Foy) both sacrifice a lot as Neil and the NASA team pursue this incredibly lofty and challenging goal, and the film made me, well, feel it.
The film also makes you feel the physical turbulence of traveling through the earth’s atmosphere into outer space, so much so that it’s made some movie goers feel ill. So, be aware of that if you’ve got a tendency towards motion sickness. Personally, I only felt awe and exhilaration in experiencing what it might have been like being on one of the NASA Apollo spaceships.
Probably what I liked most about First Man is just that–it made me feel something. As a movie goer, I felt the high stakes of the mission, the physical challenges, the emotional battles, and, ultimately, an interpretation of what it feels like to truly walk on the moon.
First Man is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language.”
My score: 5 out of 5 stars
As an added bonus, here’s an official trailer for the film.
All images ©️ Universal Pictures
The latest version of the romantic tragedy A Star Is Born (Warner Bros., 2018) opened in U.S. theaters a couple of weeks ago and I finally got a chance to see it.
Starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, this is the fourth Hollywood retelling of this classic story of love, sacrifice, and loss. Like the most recent version (the 1976 remake with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson), this 2018 version is set in the rock/pop music world. (Both the 1937 original and 1954 remake were set in the Hollywood film business.)
Here’s the official plot summary from Warner Bros. (just in case you’re not familiar with the story): “In this new take on the tragic love story, [Bradley Cooper] plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers—and falls in love with—struggling artist Ally [Lady Gaga]. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer…until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.”
The MVP award goes to Bradley Cooper, who not only starred in the film, but directed it (it’s his first feature film) and co-wrote the screenplay. The film also marks the first starring role in a major motion picture for Lady Gaga. Both are very credible in their respective roles as lovers and musicians with opposite trajectories. The film also has a stellar supporting cast with Sam Elliott, who plays the older brother and manager of Bradley Cooper’s character, Andrew Dice Clay, who plays Lady Gaga’s father, and Dave Chapelle, who plays Cooper’s friend and former bandmate.
It’s a well-made, high quality film that people are loving and I’m good with that. I really have only two beefs with it. I’m just not a big Lady Gaga fan and the up-close and personal time with her on the big screen did little to change that. And, I don’t see why this story needed yet another retelling. Sure, the music is good and Bradley Cooper and team did a nice job in their adaptation and “modernization,” if you will, of the storyline. Still, the film ends the same way as the other ones did and we’re left with the same sad results.
A Star Is Born is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.”
My score: 4 out of 5 stars
As an added bonus, here’s a clip and montage from the film, courtesy of the Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube channel.
All images ©️ Warner Bros.