Monday, April 30, 2012

Sky High Review by Briana Alessio

Lots of content this week on the site, including this review of last week's podcast film, Sky High, by the one and only Brie!  - Ryan

Superheroes?  Check.  A flying bus?  Check.  Kurt Russell?  Check.  I never thought these three would ever be associated with one another in a film.  It looks as though only Disney could make that happen.  Sky High from 2005 is about the son of a superhero couple who does not think he has inherited any power of his own.  Much to his happiness, he certainly has.

This is a very enjoyable film.  It is obviously a bit cheesy, but rightfully so.  It was awesome to see Russell back in the Disney brand as Steve Stronghold aka The Commander.  From The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes to this, he has come a long way, but in such a wonderful manner.  Kelly Preston stars as Josie Stronghold aka Jetstream.  They work very well together onscreen, especially during one of the first scenes where they take down a huge robot attacking the city.

Michael Angarano stars as the lovable Will Stronghold, the son of Steve and Josie.  He did a great job in this film, as well as Danielle Panabaker as his best friend turned girlfriend Layla.  I knew I recognized Zach (the dude who glows), and sure enough, it was Nicholas Braun who I loved in the Disney film Prom!  Mary Elizabeth Winstead provided the shocking turnaround role as Gwen Grayson.  Steven Strait delivered a standout performance as Warren Peace, who was the enemy turned friend of Will’s.  It was also shockingly interesting to see Dave Foley as Mr. Boy (I watched NewsRadio all the time growing up) and Cloris Leachman as Nurse Spex.  And of course, what would a super cool Disney film be without the voice talent of Patrick Warburton?  He voiced the evil Royal Pain.

Sky High was directed by Mike Mitchell.  The music in the film was brilliant, composed by Michael Giacchino.  He composed songs for Disney films John Carter, Cars 2, Up, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles.  He also supplied music for a film I personally love, Super 8.

I need to take a quick moment here to say how very cool it was to see Lynda Carter as Principal Powers in this film.  I pretty much screamed “WONDER WOMAN!!!” at the television when she appeared.  Her first appearance with the music in the background reminded me of Warburton’s instructions before boarding Soarin’ in WDW.  Oh, and I immensely enjoyed hearing her say “I’m not Wonder Woman, you know.”  Okay, done geeking out now.  Actually, I’m never done geeking out but this is beside the point.

On the IMDb website, I found a fantastic piece of information to share with you all.  The number on the Stronghold Realty sign is 1-800-656-1482.  When you call the number, a message comes on saying, “Thank you for calling ABC, the number you have reached is a fictional non-working number used for motion picture, and television production.” 

My favorite character in the film is the bus driver, Ron Wilson.  I do not feel he had enough screen time, but his moments were priceless.  The fact that he did not have powers himself made his character endearing.  Wilson’s effort throughout the film was so enjoyable.  Kudos to Kevin Heffernan for his sweet portrayal.  My favorite scene was during the part where Steve Stronghold/The Commander found out that Coach Boomer called Will a sidekick.  He broke the phone accidentally, and opened the kitchen drawer to find a handful of additional replacement phones.  That was brilliant writing!  I also absolutely loved when Magenta turned into a guinea pig.  So cute!

To be completely honest, I was unsure as to what to think going into this film.  I figured it would be overly silly and that I would not enjoy it.  The complete opposite happened.  I enjoyed the film immensely and am looking forward to the day I watch it again.  Sky High is 100 minutes of pure fun and laughs.  Many thanks to the Disney name for giving us such a wonderful family film!

My Rating: 4/5

There is no smoking on school grounds. Or freezing, or bursting into flames.

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 69 - Condorman

This week the DFPP team and their friend Jeff Chaney head off to meet the writer and artist of the most realistic comic book they’ve ever read, only to realize that he’s a secret agent with a penchant for birds in the 1981 superhero adventure Condorman.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


There was a moment when I sat down to watch Cinderella when I knew that I would be in for a treat, even though I had seen the film many times before.  That moment was when I saw the credits roll before the film, and saw the names of the people involved.  First, there was the list of background or color artists: Mary Blair, Don DaGradi, Claude Coats – titans of the industry.  Then, the directing animators came up, and it was literally a list of the Nine Old Men: Ward Kimball, Marc Davis, Woolie Reitherman, Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, John Lounsbery, Milt Kahl and Les Clark, with Norm Ferguson thrown in for good measure.  This is an unrivaled collection of talent.

It makes a huge difference, because the story of Cinderella is nothing original, at least not for Disney.  A young girl becomes a scullery maid in her wicked stepmother’s castle, only to discover true love with the aid of some small friends and become a princess.  Sound like Snow White?  It should.  This film follows many of the same roads that Walt Disney’s first animated feature did, right down to the conversations with the animals who help her perform household tasks.

I had never watched the two films closely before to see how similar they are, but that is a good thing in this instance, as years after Snow White, Cinderella advances the medium in numerous ways.  The story is somewhat together here, the animation is much more fluid, the characters are deeper and richer and the colors are vibrant and beautiful.  Everything about the film leaps off the screen, making it extremely engaging.

Typically, I don’t care for large diversions from the main story, and in Cinderella there are quite a few of them, mainly centered on Jaq and Gus, the two mice, dealing with Lucifer the cat.  In this film, they are done so well that although they do detract from the main story, they don’t bring the proceedings to a stand still as many other Disney films have done.  Plus, Jaq, Gus and Lucifer play key roles in the climax of the film, so taking time to know how they interact is important.

The key to the entire film, though, is Cinderella herself.  Voiced by Ilene Woods, the character becomes real as you watch the film.   Her troubles mount by the moment, yet she never lets them overwhelm her until just the precise moment the narrative calls for it.  It’s an endearing trait, and one that stands in stark contrast to the cynicism we see in so many non-Disney animated films today.  Cinderella is a story of hope against all odds, which is so much a part of the Disney legacy.

If there’s any criticism of the film, it’s that it moves slowly, but so do most movies of this era.  Before the emphasis on plot and story became so pronounced in Hollywood, films had time to breathe and explore the world they had created, so the Disney filmmakers do so in Cinderella.  The main conflict in the film isn’t really introduced until 20 minutes in, when the King pops on screen.  In today’s world, that would be unacceptable, but in the 1950s, it worked, and continues to hold up today.

Cinderella, when she finally becomes the princess, is merely fulfilling the promise that the audience saw in her from the moment she appears on screen.  It’s the little moments with her and the mice and birds that show her character, leading to her transformation by the Fairy Godmother.  In the end, it makes for a satisfying conclusion to the film.  This may be an old story, and this may be an old film at this point, but everything about it feels fresh and invigorating, like a blast from the past that is well needed in this cynical age of animation.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Development of Cinderella

It would be hard to overstate the importance of Cinderella to the Disney Studios of 1950.  If the movie had failed, it would have been the end of the studio, according to many people who worked there at the time.  While we can’t know the financials with any certainty, it was absolutely the biggest gamble that Walt had taken with the studio in many years. 

After all, as the post-WWII era rolled on, Walt had established quite the niche for himself in Hollywood.  Between the educational and wartime shorts that he had begun producing for the government, the continued shorts program primarily focused on Donald Duck and Pluto, and the package features that combined short subjects into a feature film, Walt had made a profitable if not particularly ambitious slate of projects to keep the studio humming along.  Why, then, would he risk all of that to produce Cinderella – an ambitious and expensive attempt to re-enter the features market?

It seems fairly obvious in retrospect that Walt was not enthralled with what his studio was doing during the World War II and the years immediately following.  While you can see his guiding hand through the Good Neighbor features of Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, there’s obviously less of Walt’s influence on package features like Fun and Fancy Free or The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  Compare those films to the epic artistry of Bambi or the gags and details of Snow White, and you’ll see what I mean.

Still, Cinderella had to be a change in mindset for the artists as well as Walt.  There were still costs that had to be incurred but they could not be on the level of previous features.  The margins just didn’t work out.  So on Cinderella, unlike previous animated features, there was extensive live action reference.  Nearly all of the human interaction in the film was filmed with live actors then the animators drew based on that. 

That gave Disney an advantage, but even more than that was the assemblage of talent that was hungry for the artistic challenge.  Although they had all been around and been working on Disney films for years, Cinderella was the first film that the Nine Old Men worked on together.  The assembled talents on this film and future features is probably still unrivaled in animation. 

In addition, in order to create better revenue models and artistic creativity, Walt began looking for new ways to think about the music in his films.  He reached out to the musicians of Tin Pan Alley, known as a musical hot spot in New York City.  This would soon become a staple of his films, but for Cinderella it was all new.  In addition, rather than licensing out the rights to the music, Walt created his own label, which paid off handsomely when the soundtrack became a big hit, especially “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”

Released in February of 1950, Cinderella would go on to be a big boon to the studio, and usher in a new era.  But at $3,000,000 budgeted, not everyone was so confident as it began to roll out.  Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the film itself and see how it panned out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Spoiler-Free Look At Marvel's The Avengers

Keeping quiet about having seen The Avengers more than a week ago hasn't been easy.  And as much as I've wanted to just dive right in and talk about the movie that I saw, I thought long and hard about a way to do this post without talking about the actual plot of the movie.  You see this is the movie that proves you can do a big budget superhero film that isn't based on a single character.  This is the movie that is going to make Warner Bros. rethink every aspect of their proposed Justice League movie - because this movie raises the bar so high on the concept of a multiple superhero movie that to make something less would be an epic mistake.

I can say with the utmost confidence that I am a huge superhero fan.  Those of you that listen to the podcast or happen to know me beyond that probably know that I'm about as geeky as they come.  And my knowledge and love of superheroes is something I pride myself on.  This movie brings me back to my childhood in ways that it's hard to describe.  There are moments that I dreamt of all those years ago, moments I never for a moment thought I'd see on the big screen, and there they were before my eyes.  And those moments brought tears of joy to my eyes.

If you think you've got the whole movie figured out from the trailers, or prior tellings of the tale this movie sets out to tell then I'm sorry to say, but you're probably wrong.  I was wrong. I went into this movie with extremely high expectations - setting myself up for a huge disappointment.  Instead what I got was something above even the bar I set.  Those trailers tell you nothing.  They spoil nothing.  The moments in them are both great and meaningless to the whole.  It's the moments before and after what you see in them that matter.

You will learn why this team of comic book heroes is considered to be one of the greatest teams ever assembled, and you will understand not just who they are, but why they work.  The character dynamics are true to the source material right down to the tiniest of details that pay homage all the way back to their very first comic book story.  All the actors reprise their prior roles with amazing success, and in a way where none of them take away from the others.  A greatly architected work.

The only change to the cast that bears mentioning is Mark Ruffalo who plays both Bruce Banner and the Hulk.  His take on the character is amazing bringing in aspects originally brought to the character by John Byrne, while also bringing us back to the days of the old Bill Bixby version of Banner seen in The Incredible Hulk television series.  He then takes the whole Hulk package, turns it on it's side, kicks it a little, and serves it back to us in a way that can only be described as finally getting the Hulk right on the big screen.

The heroes of this movie are not those they resemble in the Ultimates or the Avengers comic books. They instead take the best qualities from both sources and transcend them to become something more. The Man. The Monster. The Knight. The God. The Archer. The Spy. An unlikely group brought together with a common goal, learn together to become a team, and save the day.

"And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born..."  

That day is May 4th 2012.  Yea Verily!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 68 - Sky High

This week the DFPP team and their friend Megan visit their good friend Ron Wilson, Bus Driver, while on the job only to discover that a funny thing happened on the way to the Hero of the Year Awards in the 2005 superhero adventure Sky High.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pluto and the Gopher

Do you think Pluto ever gets tired of being the guard dog for darn near everything in Disney shorts?  I mean, he has guarded sheep, other dogs, bones, cars and now flowers in Pluto and the Gopher.  Does the guy ever just get a day off to rest and enjoy the spoils of his work?  I'm guessing not, and I don't think we would have it any other way.  

In Pluto and the Gopher, he is guarding Minnie's flower beds from the titular gopher, and hilarity ensues.  This could have easily played out exactly the same way as every other Pluto short, with him taking on another animal in a series of vaudeville style gags, and for the most part it does.  That's not to say that formula is a bad thing, as it served to make Pluto the star he was.  But in this short, there's a nice twist that freshens things up a bit and makes this slightly more memorable than other Pluto shorts.  

Rather than have Pluto chase the gopher through the gardens and demolish them, as I was expecting, we get the gopher going inside the house, which leads to fine comedy in the tradition of Tom & Jerry.  That was what I kept coming back to as I watched, was how much this was like those MGM cartoons.  Instead of a cat, though, it's Pluto and instead of a mouse, it's the gopher.  But the rest of this is very similar, with Pluto chasing the gopher down hallways, knocking things over, and generally causing chaos.  

It really sunk in when I saw the gopher using a glove to point the way to Pluto as our favorite dog rolled past in the direction he thought that the gopher had gone.  I could easily have seen the same thing happening in a Tom and Jerry short.  It's that sort of different twist that makes Pluto and the Gopher different from the other Pluto shorts.  Let's be honest, after a while it's hard to come up with new ways to torment the poor dog.

Early on in his career, Pluto had some more inventive shorts, like Pluto's Judgment Day, where the torment was not based on other animals but more on the circumstances around him.  While Pluto and the Gopher is not formulaic, it's still in the same vein as the other shorts by Pluto we have seen in the late 1940s and now 1950.  If I were watching the shorts at this time, it would have seemed that Disney was a little bit out of steam.  But they were about to change things competely with a feature film that would revive the studio.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Incredible Hulk Tweetwatch - Tonight at 8:30p ET - Avengers Assemble!

Ed Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt in a movie about a misunderstood scientist who suffers from jealous rages and quiet moments of introspection, trying to find his place in the world.  No, it's not a small indy film, it's The Incredible Hulk, the latest Marvel super hero film!  This one takes place concurrent with our last Tweetwatch, Iron Man 2, and holds some clues to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Plus, a great end credits sequence.  Join us tonight as we continue to get ready for AVENGERS!

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.
4. 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.

And while you're getting ready for the Tweetwatch, you need to make sure that you are planning for our very first Disney Film Project meet!  That's right, all four of us will be at Walt Disney World on Saturday, May 19, and you can join us to go see Avengers at Downtown Disney.  Check out all the details here on Plancast and book your trip now.  It's the first weekend of Star Wars Weekends as well, so you don't want to miss this!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Underdog Review by Briana Alessio

Have no fear, Underdog is here!

This lighthearted comedy is one which brings many chuckles throughout.  The opening scene had me captivated right away, narrated by Jason Lee (who voiced the one and only Underdog himself), which gave a retro throwback to the 1960s cartoon. 

For such an underrated Disney film, I thought the cast was pretty stellar.  In one of the first scenes we see Jim Belushi, Peter Dinklage, AND Patrick Warburton.  Mind blowing!  Belushi has appeared in a few TV shows, also starring in his own, According to Jim.  Dinklage is one of my favorite current actors, who stars on HBO’s Game of Thrones (not recommended for young audiences).  And we all love Warburton for voicing the lovable Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove, and for telling us how to prepare for our flight on Soarin’ in Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Also in this film we have the aforementioned Jason Lee who starred in the quirky TV show My Name Is Earl.  The delightful Miss Amy Adams voices Polly, the female pooch who captures the eye of Shoeshine (although Polly admires Underdog) and is unaware that this is the same canine.  Do I make sense? 

Looking back at the cartoon, it seems like a very well cast film.  Dinklage and Warburton were absolutely believable as Dr. Simon Barsinister and Cad.  Although I did not have the privilege of witnessing the cartoon when it aired, I can see that director Frederik Du Chau did the best job he possibly could in casting the right actors.  Also must give props to young actors Alex Neuberger and Taylor Momsen, who portrayed Jack and Molly.

I also must make mention of the adorable reference to Lady and the Tramp, when Polly goes on a date with Underdog (she does not realize it is Shoeshine, as I explained above).  They have a plate of spaghetti in the front of them and there is an absolutely endearing scene where Polly and Underdog/Shoeshine roll the meatball with their noses, back and forth on the plate. 

With almost every film, there is a negative.  The issue I had with it was how they circled around the plot of the film.  After all, there is only so much you can do with a live action film based on a canine superhero.  I love dogs with every bit of my soul, but when you are given a live action film where the dogs’ mouths are going to move, you cannot expect much of the storyline to be taken seriously.  And maybe the original cartoon was not to be taken seriously?  I’m used to human superheroes, so this was a whole different style for me.  And even this is not much of an issue.  I find the film to be completely enjoyable. 

Only 84 minutes long, this film is not too short or too long.  It is the perfect length.  Some of the scenes are laugh out loud, thanks to the humorous tone which Lee gave to Shoeshine/Underdog throughout the film, as well as Warburton’s many hysterical moments.  I would definitely recommend it.  Three paws up!

My Rating:  3/5 stars.

Right, I’m going to learn manners from a guy who pees in my white porcelain drinking bowl.

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 67 - Underdog

This week the DFPP team and their friends Marc and Megan determine that they are neither birds, nor planes, nor even frogs as they investigate reports of illegal animal genetic experiments in the 2007 superhero comedy Underdog.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lion Around

Donald Duck and his nephews have provided the fodder for many shorts over the years, mostly with Donald warring with the boys over some sort of privilege or item.  In Lion Around, Huey, Dewey and Louie appear again but they take a back seat to a mountain lion as the main adversaries for Donald.  It’s a nice bit of misdirection that makes for a more entertaining story than we have seen in recent shorts.

The set up and follow through here are quite nice.  We open with one of the boys venturing forth into the forest to stalk what appears to be a mountain lion, but is in fact his brothers dressed in a mountain lion costume.  Once they are through playing around, they get the chance to go after Donald, who has apparently decided to start baking pies en masse in the midst of the mountains.  The pies are an irresistible lure for the boys.

Donald figures things out rather quickly, though, and it’s at that point that things take a left turn.  The boys encounter a real mountain lion who then stalks into the forest and takes up the pursuit of Donald’s pies.  These must be really good pies, because no one can resist them.  You can probably tell where this is headed.  Yes, Donald thinks the mountain lion that heads over to his house is actually the boys in disguise, but it’s not. 

This is by no means the most original short I have ever seen, but this little twist on a predictable formula was pretty fun.  The design of the mountain lion makes him more of a comedic figure, while still allowing for some sense of danger from the chomping jaws.  The scenes with Donald trying to escape while the lion charges and bites his way through a table then dresses up in another animal’s head are both laugh out loud funny.  It’s this kind of quick gags that make animation so much fun.

In the end, we’re left with Donald having to feed pies to the lion to keep him at bay, trapped in a tree by the savage beast.  It’s good that the boys try to help him out, reversing course from their normal attitudes.  This is the rare Disney short that manages to take a well trod path and slightly deviate in order to deliver something different.  That’s not easy to do when the studio had done so many shorts at this time.  Like I said, it’s not the most original thing ever, but it’s enough of a change that it makes things feel fresh.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pluto's Heart Throb

It’s hard to believe, but with Pluto’s Heart Throb, we have officially entered the 1950s on the blog, moving into the years where things get a little nuts for the Disney company.  Sadly, it seems to show as watching Pluto’s Heart Throb feels like a rehash of previous Pluto adventures, not something new.  It’s something that has become a bit of a pattern with Disney in the late 1940s and now the 1950s.

Pluto’s Heart Throb is merely a new way to get into the story of Pluto fighting with Butch the Bulldog over Dinah the Dachshund.  While there had not been a short prior to this where the two competed, the bottom line is it’s a combination of shorts where Pluto and Butch have fought over other things, throwing Dinah in the mix as the object of contention.  The way this happens is frankly just bizarre.

A little cupid/demon looking thing manages to grab Pluto’s ears as well as Dinah’s, and pushes the two of them to fall in love.  It’s not really clear why this happens, what powers the little creature has or what it’s purpose is other than kicking off the action.  Regardless of this, when the deal is done, and the two are smitten for some odd reason Dinah introduces Pluto to Butch, and makes some sort of overture for the two to get along.  It’s not really clear why she does this, nor why it happens in the story of the short.

The rest of the short plays out with Butch and Pluto fighting with each other.  There’s no real way to say it other than that.  Pluto tries to sabotage Butch and give Dinah a bone, Butch beats up Pluto and throws him against a tree.  There’s no real rhythm to the short, no flow of the story and no way that someone would become invested in what is happening here.  It just feels like a collection of gags that someone threw together to put these characters in a short together.

I hate to be negative about a Disney short, because I tend to love watching them, hence this blog.  But Pluto’s Heart Throb shows a distinct lack of focus on storytelling.  The little cupid/demon creature doesn’t show up again after the start of the short.  Why was he there?  And why did Dinah want Butch and Pluto to get along?  There are no answers coming, so it makes it difficult to enjoy the short and follow what’s going on.  Hopefully, the new ideas will start showing up as we progress into 1950.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Toy Tinkers

It seems like Disney made a tradition of having Donald and Chip and Dale mix it up around the holidays.  In 1948, the chipmunks tried to steal Donald’s breakfast in Three For Breakfast.  In 1947, they made their first appearance while trying to disrupt Donald’s sleep in a log cabin.  And now, in 1949, we get the most overt holiday short of all in Toy Tinkers, as Donald faces off with his arch nemeses over the Christmas bounty.

Of the three, Toy Tinkers is probably my least favorite, since it really doesn’t introduce any new dynamic to the back and forth between Donald Duck and Chip and Dale.  That does not mean, though, that this is a bad short.  All the Chip and Dale shorts are fun if not groundbreaking.  This is not the series where Disney applied animators to creating a new art form, but that is not the point.

The gags in this short are definitely a nice touch, providing the chipmunks with more props to play with as opposed to their standard nuts or trees.  I was particularly amused with a sequence where Dale dons a hat and cane while playing with the toys, bowing to dolls, getting caught in a crossfire between two hat wearing mechanical gents and generally wreaking havoc.  That is just a warm up, though, to the main event between Donald and the boys.

It becomes all out war between the two during the last couple minutes of the short, with both taking refuge behind a stack of presents and firing away at each other.  That’s right, it’s trench warfare in Donald’s living room.  That is as cool as it sounds, and probably the highlight of the Chip and Dale vs Donald wars.  The issue is that outside of that sequence and the hat gag, the rest of the gags are pretty standard compared to previous shorts.

Lots of nuts being pursued by Chip and Dale leads to lots of Donald trying to steal them back.  That’s nothing new.  We’ve seen it in most of the other shorts these characters have been in, and it doesn’t add anything to the story in this one.  If you trot this one out at Christmas time each year and watch it as a stand alone piece, it’s pretty fun and a worthwhile addition to the festivities.  If you view it as part of the Chip and Dale oeuvre, though, it’s another edition that does basically the same thing.  Regardless, it’s worth checking out and enjoying.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Briana Alessio

So…I’m not going to mince words on this one.  This film is painful.  The cast is pretty cool, but the plot is empty and this is basically just filled with corny jokes and confusion throughout.  Zooey Deschanel always warms my heart, but even she could not save this film for me.  Martin Freeman was great in the brilliant comedy Love Actually.  Even John Malkovich appears in this…in quite a disturbing role.  Mos Def and Sam Rockwell had their funny moments, but it still was not enough to bring any joy to this.

Hitchhiker’s Guide is directed by Garth Jennings, who has not had much experience in the entertainment world.  I’m sure he is a great guy and he tried to make this likable, but failure took over instead. 

The humorous beginning of the dolphins singing “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” made me think this would have a Monty Python sort of flair, but sadly, it did not.  However, the music on the menu screen of the DVD was cool.  It reminded me of Space Mountain’s Star Tunnel.  The actual guide to the galaxy was neat, and also gave me a bittersweet Disney moment.  It was like a mix of the interactive video on Spaceship Earth infused with Journey Into Imagination with Figment.  The newer version, that is, not the original Dreamfinder that we all miss so much.

The Vogels looked like a horrible mix of Boss Nass from Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace and a rhinoceros.  The robotic spider legs on John Malkovich were completely disturbing and cause me to wonder if they will haunt my dreams tonight.  I understand that this film was meant to be silly, but they went over the top with the silliness factor.  It borders on near absurdity.  There was no true objective or motive on the part of any of the characters besides Arthur and Trillian being in love.

Sadly, I did not have a favorite scene in this film.  I did enjoy the depressing comments from the spaceship’s butler robot, Marvin, voiced by the fantastic Alan Rickman.  He starred in Love Actually alongside Freeman.  Rickman also appeared in many other films including the Harry Potter series and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

As I’ve said in the past, when there is a film I do not enjoy, I do have to give it some credit for what they attempted, as well as for the time which all gave up in order to make this.  I seriously hope the novels made more sense than this film.  Please save yourself the time by never watching it.  You would be far better off watching and enjoying Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

My rating: 1/5 stars.

He’s got a TOWEL!

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 66 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This week the DFPP team and their friend Matt Hochberg grab their towels and head into space only to find that no matter how improbable a result the answer will always be 42 in the 2005 Sci-Fi comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tweetwatch Tonight! - Iron Man 2 - 8:30p ET

The Avengers countdown continues tonight, as we get the first Marvel sequel - Iron Man 2.  This one really starts laying some groundwork for the Avengers (coming May 4, 2012) with the introduction of the Black Widow and some great work by Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark.  Grab your copy and join us.

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.
4. 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.

And while you're getting ready for the Tweetwatch, you need to make sure that you are planning for our very first Disney Film Project meet!  That's right, all four of us will be at Walt Disney World on Saturday, May 19, and you can join us to go see Avengers at Downtown Disney.  Check out all the details here on Plancast and book your trip now.  It's the first weekend of Star Wars Weekends as well, so you don't want to miss this!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review of That Darn Cat! by Briana Alessio

Hayley Mills and Dean Jones star in this film, based on the book Undercover Cat by The Gordons.  I absolutely love Mills in almost everything she is in, but this film does not do a whole lot for me.  My main issue with it was the length.  This approximately two hour film could easily have been an hour and a half.  Some of the scenes dragged out for an extended period of time and in my personal opinion, should have been shortened.

That Darn Cat! is directed by Robert Stevenson, who also directed a handful of fantastic Disney films such as Mary Poppins, The Love Bug (another Dean Jones connection here), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Darby O’Gill and the Little People.  That being said, it was not as if Stevenson had no idea of what he was doing.  And I’m not saying the film was bad either.  It just seemed to leave a lot to be desired.

A few of the main actors in the film seemed irritating to me.  Perhaps this was done on purpose so as to not be taken seriously.  For instance, Canoe (Tom Lowell), Ingrid (Dorothy Provine), Gregory (Roddy McDowall), Mrs. MacDougall (Elsa Lanchester), and Iggy (Frank Gorshin) all seemed annoying throughout the duration of the film.  On the other hand, Patti (Hayley Mills), Zeke (Dean Jones), Dan (Neville Brand), and Mr. MacDougall (William Demarest) were all fantastic.  I remember Demarest the most from a wonderful episode of The Twilight Zone.  And for those of you who do not realize this, Elsa Lanchester portrayed The Monster’s Bride in the 1935 classic The Bride of Frankenstein.

Credit must be given to the wonderful Sherman Brothers, who wrote the theme song, which is the same title as the film.  It appears as though Bobby Darin sung the version in the film and Bobby Troup sung the version on the soundtrack.  (Note: If anyone knows differently, please post a comment so I may be informed.  Thank you.)  This tune captured the film very well.  It was not serious or hysterical.  It was cute with a slight comedic edge which almost seemed to channel a bit of The Pink Panther theme.

A couple of quick facts thanks to the wonderful website which is IMDb…this is Dean Jones’ first Walt Disney film.  He starred in Disney films throughout the 1960s and 1970s including Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Love Bug, among many.  Another interesting fact is that this was Hayley Mills’ final Disney film; the re-make of this film, made in 1997, was Christina Ricci’s final Disney film as well.

My favorite scene in the film is the catastrophic events which take place at the drive-in theatre.  First of all, I have an unhealthy obsession with things of the past.  Although these theatres still exist, they are extremely unappreciated and rarely attended to anymore.  Therefore, to see individuals of the 60s enjoying their weekend at one is heartwarming to me.  The scene which takes place is purely laugh out loud fun, especially the raucous which unravels once Darn Cat (DC for short) is swatting at a moth which is silhouetted on the screen during the surfer film.  After much spilling of food and drinks, as well as bouncing on vehicles, it is film magic.

My favorite character in the film was the jewelry store owner, played by Ed Wynn.  Unfortunately, his screen time in this is very short but wonderful.  He is best known for voicing the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and starring as the lovable Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins.

A few friends asked me what I thought of this film and my answer was simply “Cute.”  It is not as if I will never watch it again.  That Darn Cat! is the type of film that I would not mind having on in the background while I go about my day.  It is not a horrible film.  It is pure 1960s cheesiness.  If you love Hayley Mills and scheming felines, I would say it is worth seeing at some point.

My Rating: 2/5 stars

You know, that fellow has the most attractive way of putting his foot in his mouth. 

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 65 - That Darn Cat!

This week the DFPP team and their friend Matthew Tice attempt to help the FBI track down some bank robbers only to discover that involving a cat can crack a case in more ways than one in the 1965 comedy That Darn Cat!

Show notes:
Enjoy the show!