Thursday, June 28, 2012

Blu-ray Trailer for Marvel's The Avengers

On September 25, 2012 the third highest grossing movie of all time, Marvel's the Avengers, is coming to Blu-ray, and the marketing campaign to go with that release has begun.  And while there are a lot of rumors spinning about regarding a director's cuts, and the pre-order sales of a 10-disc 6-movie collectors edition have already begun - the release that Disney is pushing with the video below is the Blu-ray Combo Pack.  Prior information has told us that there will be versions released: a 4-disc Combo Pack containing a 3D Blu-ray Blu-ray, a DVD and a Digital Copy, and a 2-disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack.  There will also be a standalone DVD version of the movie.

Enjoy the following Marvel's the Avengers info here at the Disney Film Project:

Enjoy the trailer:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Beaver Valley (1950)

It’s been quite some time on the blog since we discussed the True Life Adventures features.  Seal Island, the first of Disney’s nature films, was such a huge success that Disney immediately green lit more films to follow.   The first of those is In Beaver Valey, which premiered to the public in July of 1950. 

James Algar, who directed Seal Island, retained his entire team from that production, including the Milottes, who had camped out with their cameras to capture the footage that became Seal Island.  This time, the subject would be the Northwestern United States, focusing on a valley that Algar chose to name Beaver Valley through the narration of Winston Hibler.  The film tracks the life of the animals in the valley through the changing of the seasons from winter to spring.

The problem is that there is no flow or story to catch your attention, so the film suffers from a lack of something to grab onto and pull you through.  The idea is to latch on to the main beaver as an example, and follow his travails throughout the film.  Unfortunately, there is nothing given that makes you want to do this.  He has no name, isn’t faced with any particular struggle or conflict that makes you care about him and the situations he is involved in are rather mundane.

The beaver goes through contortions to court a female, fend off predators like a wandering fox and build a dam in the river to withstand the rushing waters.  While all of that is possibly intriguing, in a 30 minute or longer film, it is not compelling.  The problem is that this film is treated like a short subject, where plot is not as big of an issue and it’s all about the next gag.  Here, the gags are reliant on what happens to the beaver or other animals around him.

It’s no secret that Disney “arranged” for things to happen on these shoots, so the fact that these gags don’t come off as especially entertaining is a disappointment.  Especially when you consider that the cinematography and the camera work on display is simply amazing.  Just as in Seal Island, the Milottes do an incredible job of capturing nature as it lays out in front of them, and then relaying that to the viewer.  The vistas of the valley are breathtaking. 

The connective tissue, though, is what’s missing from Beaver Valley.  The overall film lacks the focus that Seal Island had, and there is not a central theme that ties things together.  It causes the narrative to wander about, creating more of a pastoral effect.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in this film, it tended to keep me from latching on to any of the animals and made me less likely to care how it all ended up.  If you’re looking to start your True Life Adventure stories, I would look to Seal Island first.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hercules Review by Briana Alessio

Check out Briana's review of this week's film, Hercules, then listen to the podcast for more.  

Friends have tortured me for a long time about seeing this film and I’m happy to say that I finally did!  Released in 1997, Hercules is centered around his life and how being turned into a mortal kept him from living an immortal life.  Like every true Disney film, this has a solid symbolic story of finding yourself and what you need to do in order to be happy.

This film is visually beautiful.  The bright colors are bound to catch anyone’s eye and were well placed throughout.  Hearing “Go the Distance” in the background of select scenes is enough to put a chill through the heart of any Disney fan, as this tune is recognizable during the Wishes fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World. 

The bond which Hercules and Pegasus form is absolutely heart-warming.  I love how the little head bump which baby Hercules began became a trend for Pegasus upon meeting new people, or accepting them as in Megara’s case.  Was baby Hercules not the most adorable creature ever?!  Disney has a way of making animated animals and babies to be the most precious objects on the screen.

The characters were great in this film.  Not sure if I would go so far as to say they were well-rounded and thorough, but definitely enjoyable.  Tate Donovan voiced Hercules, who stars in the TV show Damages, as well as the former teen soap The O.C.  He continues to provide the voice for Hercules in the Kingdom Hearts video games.  The much recognizable Danny DeVito supplies the voice for Philoctetes, who is rough on the exterior but a gushball on the interior.  I was racking my brain trying to think of the voice of Hades, and it finally hit me…when I saw the credits, that is.  Ahem.  Kudos is given to the remarkable James Woods for the wonderfully evil Hades.  Woods has appeared in a countless number of films and television shows.  Woods, similar to Donovan, continues to provide Hades’ voice for Kingdom Hearts, and provided it for the wonderful Disney Channel show House of Mouse as well (am I the only one who misses that?).  The delightful Susan Egan voices hard hitting Megara in the film.  Egan has also collaborated with Disney in other areas, including a performance in Gotta Kick It Up, a Disney Channel Original Movie, as well as the anime film Spirited Away.  Additional credit must be given to the truly awesome Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Frewer for the voices of Pain and Panic, and to Rip Torn for providing the strong voice of Zeus.  Speaking of strong voices, did you wonder who the narrator was?  That would be the epic man himself, Moses.  Er, Charlton Heston, I meant to say.

Ron Clements and John Musker were the directors of Hercules.  Clements and Musker also directed The Princess and the Frog, Treasure Planet, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and The Great Mouse Detective.  (Being that they directed The Little Mermaid, this automatically makes them two of my favorite people.)  They also took a part in writing said films, including The Black Cauldron

The music is great as well.  To be honest, “Go the Distance” is one of my top five favorite Disney songs, so to actually hear it in the film was outstanding.  And as I mentioned above, it gave me a chill.  The words are very touching and hit close to home for anyone who has had difficulty in finding out who they really are and what they are meant to do in life.  The lines “down an unknown road, to embrace my fate, though that road may wander” speak tremendously to my heart, as I’m sure it does to many others who have heard these words being sung.

I noticed a couple of references to other films.  Hades’ line “Mr. Zeus, Mr. ‘Hey you, get off my cloud’” brought an outward chuckle, and was a nod to The Rolling Stones’ song.  At one point in the film, Megara mentions Hercules making an offer she had to refuse, which is an often used tribute to the first film of The Godfather.  My personal favorite is when Pegasus rolls an apple out of a tree, which hits Hercules on the head, and Pegasus quietly whispers the tune of Steamboat Willie’s memorable song.

The only thing which startled me about the film was their ideas of how the underworld would be.  Their revealing images would disturb many children.  Hopefully, kids will not quite understand the depths of its meaning, especially toward the end during the classic Disney fake death scene.  It disturbed me to a small extent, but perhaps because I understood what they were saying.  Again, maybe children will not.

My favorite part of this film is when the mortal couple find baby Hercules.  Pain & Panic transform themselves into snakes and are about to attack, when the baby ties them up and lunges them into the air.  The stunned look on the parents’ faces says it all.  My favorite character in the film is absolutely Pegasus.  I always go for the endearing animal/pet in a film.

All in all, I enjoyed Hercules.  I cannot go so far as to say I love it, because I do not.  The film is well made and has some great scenes, but it is not entirely my cup of tea.  I will happily sit down to watch it again in the future, but the only thing which truly touches my emotions in this is the song, “Go the Distance.”

Happy 15th Birthday to this film!!!

My Rating:  3.5/5

I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this.  Have a nice day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 77 - Hercules

This week the DFPP team heads to Tartarus remembering their old friends the Titans only to discover that they’d all gone to Mount Olympus to pay the gods a surprise visit and deliver a gift from Hades in the 1997 animated adventure Hercules.

Listen, download, etc.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Secretariat Review by Briana Alessio

Have you listened to our Secretariat episode yet?  You should!  Go check it out, and read below to see Brie's thought's on a Disney film starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich.  If that's not enough to intrigue you, I don't know what would be!

Before I begin talking about this film, let me get one thing clear with you wonderful readers.  I adore horses.  I do not adore horse racing.  I will admit to not being well educated on the art of horse racing, but I’m not a fan of pressuring animals to do something they do not have a voice to make an opinion on.  However, for this post, I’m willing to look past my feelings on the matter and focus on the film.

Secretariat from 2010 stars Diane Lane as Penny Chenery Tweedy, a woman who had to make a difficult decision between raising her family and raising a horse.  Not just any horse, however, but one which is the fastest known to mankind, of all time. Without giving much away, challenges arise during the duration but this heartwarming film will melt just about any soul.

Lane gives a revealing and wonderful performance of Penny, continually proving how she brings consistent depth to each character she portrays.  The brilliant Margo Martindale plays Miss Ham, Penny’s father’s personal assistant.  Also, huge credit must be given to Nelsan Ellis, who played Eddie Sweat, the wonderfully charming caretaker of Big Red.  This film briefly stars James Cromwell (as Ogden Phipps), one of those actors whose face you know from many films but never receives the credit he deserves.  Scott Glenn portrays Chris Chenery, another actor we all love, who is normally so kind and compassionate in his roles.  There is one actor I’m leaving out, as this person deserves a separate paragraph for delivering such an amazing performance.

This is directed by Randall Wallace, who also gave us 2002’s We Were Soldiers and 1998’s The Man in the Iron Mask.  He has not had the opportunity to direct many films, and although he may be no Joss Whedon, he is certainly a talented individual.  Hopefully he will have the chance to direct more films based on true stories, as they may prove worthy as this one is.

The music in the film is also quite beautiful, some of which was written by director Wallace himself.  “It’s Not How Fast, It’s Not How Far” and “I Am Free” are both brilliantly written songs for this film which added to its sincerity throughout.

Remember my mentioning someone being in this film who deserved a separate paragraph due to their performance?  This honor belongs to the one and only John Malkovich.  As I like to do, I saved the best for last, who was my favorite character of the entire film.  Malkovich’s line delivery is, as always, out of this world.  We saw him recently in 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon; he also portrayed Humma Kavula in 2005’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a recently reviewed Disney Film Project film.  Despite fantastic performances in these films in addition to countless others (many of which require parental guidance), his role as Lucien Laurin was top notch. 

This was the first time I had ever seen Secretariat, and I was honestly putting it off because animal films normally make me cry.  Although I did get choked up during various scenes, a sob fest was not to be had.  In fact, laughter took over more so than tears.  This is an absolute must-see for the entire family.  Everyone will enjoy this as it has a wonderful cast, superb acting, and a solid storyline.  I’m seriously considering purchasing this on DVD.  I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see this fantastic film!

My Rating:  4.5/5

You never know how far you can run unless you run.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WALL-E Tweetwatch - Tonight, June 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET

It’s a busy summer here at the Disney Film Project, with new podcasts, blogs about the 1950s (stay tuned for Beaver Valley, Treasure Island and more) and Tweetwatch!  So, tonight, we get to WALL-E, the Pixar film directed by Andrew Stanton about the end of the world!  Or is it the beginning?  We can have that philosophical debate later.  For now, make sure you join in the fun tonight as we watch WALL-E together and comment about all the weird, wacky stuff in the film.  Plus, it’s a great way to get ready for the next Pixar masterpiece Brave, which opens Friday, June 22.

If you've never joined Tweetwatches before, it's super easy to do. Here's the plan:

1. Get the DVD or Bluray so you can watch with us. Netflix, Redbox, whatever you need to do.
2. Tonight at a little before 8:30, head over to our Friendfeed room.
3. At 8:30p ET, I'll tweet out the signal to push play, and we'll watch the movie together, while I fill you in on some of the little known facts about each film.

It is tons of fun, and I really enjoy doing them, so make sure you join the fun tonight at 8:30p ET.  Look forward to seeing you all there!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 76 - Secretariat

This week the DFPP team heads to the track to catch a glimpse of the most amazing race horse that ever lived, but what they discover is that behind every great horse there is a great owner in the 2010 drama Secretariat.

Listen, download, etc. or find us on iTunes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sister Act Review by Briana Alessio

This cute film from 1992 stars Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier, a Las Vegas singer.  After being indirectly (or perhaps directly, depending on the way you look at it) threatened by her Italian boyfriend in the mob, she flees to the police for protection.  However, the protection she was expecting was not the kind she received.  She was placed into the nunnery as Sister Mary Clarence alongside strict Mother Superior, played by Maggie Smith.  From here, we see interesting confrontations and discussions among the two, as well as delightful performances by “sisters” of the nunnery.

Sister Act is directed by Emile Ardolino, who also directed 1987’s Dirty Dancing (parental guidance required, folks) and 1990’s 3 Men and a Little Lady.  The two nuns who stand out the most are Sister Mary Patrick played by Kathy Najimy and Sister Mary Robert played by Wendy Makkena.  Najimy has had a few other Disney collaborations including 1993’s Hocus Pocus, as well as lending her voice to the character of Mary in 2008’s heartwarming Disney/Pixar film WALL-E.  Makkena has appeared in many TV shows, including the pilot episode of Chuck, an incredibly awesome show on NBC which lasted five seasons.  A shoutout must be given to the incredible Harvey Keitel who brought out his mafia skills as Vince LaRocca, Van Cartier’s boyfriend.  Keitel was in the Nicolas Cage film National Treasure, but I remember him most from the ABC show Life on Mars, a US version of the UK series which sadly only lasted one season.  However, Keitel is normally best known for hard hitting performances.

The music is one of my favorite things about this film.  You hear some great classics such as “Rescue Me”, “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave”, “I Will Follow Him (Chariot)”, and “Shout.”  The nuns perform a fabulous routine of these songs, transforming them into religiously based versions.  For instance, “I Will Follow Him” represents following God.  The way they patterned these songs into their own was truly delightful.  My favorite performance was Makkena’s portrayal of Sister Mary Robert.  I felt that her character brought the most depth to the screen throughout the duration of the film.

I think this may have been the first time I saw this film in its entirety.  I recall the last half hour, but did not remember anything previous to this.  This was probably just as well, since I would not have understood the concept of the film at the age I was when Sister Act was released.  This is an enjoyable storyline, but the script feels as though there is much to be desired.  The plot lines are well understood and I’m glad to have seen it, but for some reason, this just feels a bit empty to me.  It has its fun moments but it is surely not a favorite.  Still a fun watch though.

My Rating:  3/5

This is a sin, it’s a wicked indulgence.  Didn’t they have any butter pecan?

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 75 - Sister Act

This week the DFPP team flies to Vegas to find their favorite lounge singer who’s recently gone missing, but what they discover is that sometimes bad habits need to be broken in order to reach a high note in the 1992 comedy Sister Act.

Listen, download, etc.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pests of the West

Pluto sure does get around.  He’s been a suburban house dog for much of his recent past, but Pests of the West finds him back out on the prairie, guarding a very poorly placed henhouse.  In fact, Pluto’s not even really the star of this short.  Instead the focus is on two coyotes who are trying to raid that very same henhouse.  Hence the main conflict of the short. 

I have to say that the design of the coyotes and the way they act on arrival is incredibly appealing.  It’s a large coyote and a small one, presumably father and son.  The interaction between the two of them is a classic example of how to do visual comedy with animated characters.    The younger coyote is a bit of a dimwit, and that comes across without either of them making a sound in the entire short.

I’ve written before that Pluto’s shorts are all about figuring out ways to make the main dog more interesting without having him speak.  That’s quite the challenge, but it is pulled off excellently here because Pluto is secondary to the main event.  These coyotes trying to push their way into the henhouse is the main story, and Pluto is the obstacle they have to overcome.  Sure, you don’t want to root for them because they are trying to eat innocent chickens, but they are so loveable that you can’t help it.

The gags here are not all that inventive, but they’re executed well.  I particularly love when the older coyote leaves the younger hanging in the air, because he’s too dumb to know that he’s supposed to fall.  There’s more there, like the two of them hiding in the roof of Pluto’s doghouse or the main coyote stealing a “chicken” that turns out to be his son in a basket.  All of them are familiar gags from other shorts, but they are still funny here because the animation works so well.

There’s nothing in Pests of the West that is new or different, but it still is one of the better Pluto shorts of this era.  The inversion of the typical formulaic Pluto encounter with another animal is enough to make things more interesting.  If you like some of the obscure Disney characters, you might as well make time to watch Pests of the West and familiarize yourself with these rather fun coyotes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cars Tweetwatch - Tonight at 8:30p ET

June is a huge month for Pixar.  Next Friday, June 15, Cars Land opens at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, signalling the new version of that park.  Then, the following Friday, June 22, it's the opening of Brave, the all new film starring Merida, the Scottish princess.  

To get ready for both, we are Tweetwatching Pixar films that involve Mark Andrews, the director of Brave, back when he was a story supervisor.  This one, Cars, has a great double value because it will prepare you for all the great visuals and gags you'll see coming out of Cars Land next week.  Join the fun as Lightning McQueen and the gang take to the streets of Radiator Springs.  This film is PACKED with little bits of trivia, so make sure you join in and get the full enjoyment of CARS. 

If you've never joined Tweetwatches before, it's super easy to do. Here's the plan:

1. Get the DVD or Bluray so you can watch with us. Netflix, Redbox, whatever you need to do.
2. Tonight at a little before 8:30, head over to our Friendfeed room.
3. At 8:30p ET, I'll tweet out the signal to push play, and we'll watch the movie together, while I fill you in on some of the little known facts about each film.

It is tons of fun, and I really enjoy doing them, so make sure you join the fun tonight at 8:30p ET.  Look forward to seeing you all there!

Father of the Bride Review by Briana Alessio

Brie continues to work herself to death to raise the money to move to Florida.  But while she's not on the show, she's still watching the movies and doing reviews!  Here's her take on Father of the Bride, this week's podcast review. - Ryan

I recall seeing this film for the first time when I was five years old.  I also recall laughing hysterically at Martin Short, although I could not understand a word that came out of his mouth (and still cannot).  This sweet film from 1991 stars Steve Martin and Diane Keaton as George and Nina Banks.  The cast also features a young Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Annie Banks, and George Newbern as Brian MacKenzie.  Twenty-two year old Annie returns home from Italy to inform her parents that she is engaged to Brian.  Nina is completely fine with this, although George is nervous.  The film is basically based on his anxiety, as he narrates throughout its duration.

Charles Shyer directs, who also directed the lovable film Baby Boom from 1987, also starring Diane Keaton.  Shyer also produced the remake of The Parent Trap from 1998 starring Lindsay Lohan, among other films.  The music is composed by Alan Silvestri, a name which many Disney fans will be familiar with.  Silvestri composed the soundtrack for…wait for it...this year’s epic film The Avengers!  He also wrote the music for fantastic films such as Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), The Polar Express (2004), and Contact (1997).  And here is something rather amusing…Silvestri wrote the music for Reindeer Games (2000), which is a nickname Tony Stark gives Loki during The Avengers, a film which Silvestri provided the music for!  Boom.

Something which is intriguing about this film is that George breaks the fourth wall automatically.  This can usually either make a film, break a film, or simply leave it hanging for the audience to figure out.  For Father of the Bride, this actually worked as the narration provided the much needed comedy.  Although this film is not of top notch quality, it is enjoyable and provides many smiles.  The actors did an excellent job throughout the film.  At one point, Annie explains Brian to her father…”He’s like you, Dad…except he’s brilliant.”  This was an absolute laugh out loud moment.  The actors’ chemistry was solid, and the plot line followed through well.  The only thing I would have tweaked a bit is more screen time for Brian.  His character was not developed more, and I feel they could have done more to enhance this.

Thanks to IMDb, I found a few interesting facts to share.  The character of George Banks was actually named after David Tomlinson’s character in the brilliant Disney film we all know and love, Mary Poppins (1964).  George’s middle name, Stanley, pays homage to the original Father of the Bride film from 1950 starring none other than the amazing Spencer Tracy.  My favorite IMDb fact is that Kimberly Williams-Paisley and George Newbern were featured as a couple in Hallmark Card commercials.  I’m assuming this was during the popularity of the film.

My favorite character in the film was Matty Banks, the son of George and Nina, played by Kieran Culkin.  Although he was not in much of this, the scenes he did appear in were absolutely delightful and enjoyable.  My favorite scene occurred toward the beginning when George pretended to accept the fact that his daughter was engaged, and he asked her to play basketball, which she did.  Here she was, in a black dress and sneakers, happy as could be.  This was a great moment between the two of them.  I also love the fact that George had sequined white sneakers made for Annie to wear on her wedding day.

I have never seen the original film, so I cannot compare.  Father of the Bride brings me back to being a little girl and gives me fond memories.  That being said, it is one I would enjoy having on in the background.  However, it is not one which I feel the need to pay complete attention to.  There is much which I enjoy about this film, but as I had said, it is not one of my favorites.  Besides that, it is a sweet, lighthearted, family film which everyone should see at some point in their lives.

My Rating:  3.5/5

Do you think it's enjoyable to get a phone call telling you to come down to the police station because your husband's been arrested for stealing hot dog buns? 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 74 - Father of the Bride

This week the DFPP team head to see their good friend Franck the wedding planner who needs their help with a “dahlekit sihtuahtahn” with one of his clients who needs to grow up and let his daughter do the same in the 1991 comedy Father of the Bride.