Monday, December 30, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 156 - Saving Mr. Banks

This week the DFPP team finds themselves embroiled in the mystery of some missing Oscars when they are reminded about their fiduciary responsibilities regarding spoonfuls of sugar in the 2013 drama Saving Mr. Banks.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 155 - Frozen

This week the DFPP team heads to Arendelle for some ice fishing where they learn a whole lot about the export of opened doors that are fixer uppers, but learn to let it go and just build a snowman in the 2013 animated adventure Frozen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Muppet Treasure Island & The Great Muppet Caper Blu-ray Combo Pack Review

Recently released on Blu-ray the “Of Pirates & Pigs Collection” contains the movies Muppet Treasure Island and The Great Muppet Caper. Right now The Muppets are very popular since the success of their 2011 self named movie, and their upcoming release of Muppets Most Wanted has a trailer that is getting a lot of television ad time. And it stands to reason that people are going to be searching for other Muppets movies this holiday season.

There’s not a lot of additional bonus content in this set, but there is Frog-E-Oke Sing-Along - now regular feature of Muppet movie Blu-ray releases. In this set you’ll get 3 songs: “Cabin Fever” from Muppet Treasure Island, and “Steppin’ Out With a Star” and “Happiness Hotel” from The Great Muppet Caper. The latter being one of my all time favorite Muppet movie songs. There’s also a music video of Kermit and all the pirates from the Hispaniola singing “Let the Good Shine Out” that was part of the Muppets Sing Alongs video for Muppet Treasure Island.

“The Tale of the Story Beyond the Tail” is a behinds the scenes for Muppet Treasure Island short hosted by Gonzo & Rizzo. You watch Brian Henson, Kirk Thatcher, Jerry Juhl talk about the film. There’s an interview with actor Brian Connolly where he talks about the scenes he did with Gonzo and how it was hard to act and not laugh while he was holding Gonzo’s nose. And we are reminded by Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire that when you’re onstage with Muppets it’s all about upstaging each other. At the end of the piece there is a sort of tribute to Jim Hensen.

Whether you’re looking to update an old release of either or both of these movies, filling a gap in your collection, or looking for a good holiday gift for a Muppet fan that you know then this is a great release. Both of these movies are fun, enjoyable, and great for the whole family.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Lone Ranger Blu-ray Review

Icons are the sort of thing on which Disney is built. Whether they’re making them, transforming them, or building them. It is no surprise that Disney would pick up the reins of a legend like The Lone Ranger to create a classic Western tale in a time when such movies have all but escaped the consciousness of moving going audiences. If you missed this one in the theater, now’s your chance to see it as The Lone Ranger has been released on Blu-ray.

A lot of money was spent to make this movie and when you watch a feature line Armie’s Western Road Trip you can see just where some of it went. In this piece Armie Hammer narrates about his travels through the Southwestern United States while making The Lone Ranger. Seeing things like riding motorcycles through Monument Valley reminds me how fortunate I was to spend a summer touring the US when I was younger. Also depicted are the Canyon De Chelly, Creede Colorado, and Valles Caldera - all areas where parts of the movie were filmed.

In Becoming a Cowboy you can see how all the film’s actors spent a month training at a cowboy boot camp. There they learned to rope, ride a horse, and properly handle and shoot guns. The goal of this training was to achieve an authentic look and feel of men and women living in the Southwest in the 1800s. It allowed for them to become comfortable in their roles. It is well known that throughout the movie, Armie did many of his own stunts. And as a result of his training and practice, he became as good a rider as many stuntmen in the movie.

Do you like trains? Well, Riding the Rails of The Lone Ranger is something you’ll really like. It talks about how in the middle of the desert they movie crew built 5 miles of railroad track from scratch and by hand. This provided them the ability to control the rails for the movie rather than share live tracks with regular trains. While the famous “movie train” Sierra No. 3 was used for some shots they actually had to recreate real working trains that could be used, abused, and destroyed for the movie. You’ll also learn that in addition to trains on tracks they also built trains on the back of flatbed trucks that were driven on roads to film certain scenes with the tracks added digitally later. This allowed them to get an authentic feel they couldn’t get on a soundstage.

There’s also a deleted scene about a Locust Storm. It is part storyboard, and part rough computer graphics. There is music, but there is no other sound - only subtitles. In it, Tonto and The Lone Ranger look more like they do in the color episodes of the old TV series. It is about how the pair are saved from being strung up by the townsfolk by a swarm of locusts that attacks and destroys the town. In addition there is also a series of Bloopers available to watch from during the filming of the movie.

I can understand that you may be one of many who avoided this movie in the theaters. However that’s really no reason to avoid it in your home. It is in my opinion a very good movie and one that while you might not want to own, you should definitely rent. So take the reins and enjoy the ride. If you’d like to hear more about what I and my co-hosts thought of the movie you can listen to Episode 133 of our podcast.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 154 - Prep & Landing

This week the DFPP team head to the North Pole to help with modifications to Thrasher’s stealth transport when they discover a disgruntled elf who might have just ingested some bad eggnog in the 2009 animated short Prep & Landing.

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of what is considered by many the magnum opus of Walt Disney, Mary Poppins. It is without a doubt one of the most timeless movies ever made that is capable of crossing generational gaps and bringing people closer to each other. It’s touched so many over the years, that few have not heard of it, seen it, or sung its melodies. In preparation for this momentous event, Disney has released the Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray.

Now if you’re looking for a review of the movie you can listen to Episode 9 of our podcast or read a review by Ryan. Looking back the 40th Anniversary DVD set was a fantastic set in it’s own right that it’d be very hard to beat. It’s clear from this Blu-ray edition that Disney recognizes that. Other than the upcoming film Saving Mr. Banks, there has been very little new content put out surrounding the movie in these last 10 years. That is why the content on the Blu-ray consists primarily of everything you found in the 40th Anniversary DVD collection. The big plus is that all of it has been digitally enhanced in some capacity, and is now subtitle capable.

The one piece of new content is a piece called “Becoming Mr. Sherman” that is narrated by Jason Schwartzman and Richard Sherman. It is a discussion about how Schwartzman collaborated with and learned from Sherman in order to understand how to play the role of Richard Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks. Together they listened to original recording sessions from the movie. What I found most important was how positively Richard Sherman speaks very about the movie. He was there as a consultant for most of the scenes shot in the script planning room. Some of which he mentioned touched him emotionally as they recreated a part of his life that is very important to him.

The other new content is called “Mary-Oke” which consists of karaoke versions of some of songs from the movie. In these the lyrics are animated as they have been for similar karaoke pieces done for other Disney Blu-ray releases. This leads me to my one disappointment for this Blu-ray, there is no Disney Intermission feature - something you’d expect to be on such a momentous Blu-ray release. And these karaoke pieces would have been the perfect choice for the content for that feature as it’s been done for prior release of other movies.

I could write a summation telling you how much you’re going to love this Blu-ray and want it for your collection. But the truth is, if you’ve spent the time to read this you’re probably already planning to purchase it or already have. Having the movie in HD will allow you to watch it in the best possible quality you ever have over any television or theater. And having already seen Saving Mr. Banks twice, I can tell you that you’re going to want that available to you as soon as you get home from the theater.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2 Movie Collection of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Blu-ray Review

Containing two movies from the Disney Vault is the recently released 2 Movie Collection of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. These two movies cover adventures of Ariel that take place both before and after The Little Mermaid. Inside the set you’ll find DVDs of both movies complete with the original DVD content as well as a Blu-ray disc that contains both movies and most of the DVD bonus features.

Fans who have not seen these movies may be excited to learn that for both of these movies Jodi Benson reprises her role as Ariel. In Ariel’s Beginning we are told a tale about how Ariel brought music back to the her home of Atlantica. And in Return to the Sea we follow an adventure where Ursula’s sister Morgana is seeking both revenge against Ariel and control of Atlantica. She does this by coaxing Ariel’s daughter Melody into becoming a mermaid. Talk about role reversal!

There’s no new content on the Blu-ray other than a new top level menu that allows you to pick which of the two movies you’d like to watch. Most will consider Morgana from Little Mermaid II to be a stronger villain than Marina Del Rey from Ariel’s Beginning, though neither is more well liked or appreciated than their predecessor Ursula.

Folks who have the original DVD versions of these movies will be missing some of the content found in this collection - the additional content had been added in subsequent releases - and may be looking to upgrade their collection. As these are two of the more popular sequel / prequel movies in the Disney collection, if you’ve not seen these now might be a good time to see them whether buying or just renting.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 153 - A Very Merry Pooh Year

This week the DFPP team heads to the Hundred Acre Wood for the holidays when they find themselves stalked by a creepy honey seeking burro while trying to help deliver a letter to Sandy in the 2002 animated A Very Merry Pooh Year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Review of Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United

Today marks the release of Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United slated to the be the first in a series of computer animated Team-Up movies released by Marvel. As the title implies this movie centers around an adventure where Iron Man and the Hulk are placed in a situation where they need to team up in order to defeat a powerful enemy. The dynamic between the two characters is well known to comic book fans, and strong attempts are made to reflect that in the movie.

To keep these characters on familiar grounds, Marvel brought in the voice talents of Adrian Pasdar and Fred Tatasciore who are already well known by animation fans as the voices of Iron Man and Hulk. Rounding that out are the ever prevalent voice talents of Dee Bradley Baker as the primary villain Zzzax and David Kay who animation fans will also already recognize as the voice of Iron Man’s artificially intelligent computer system Jarvis.

Overall the story is okay, but it seems to bring in a number of diverse elements that probably could have been left out to make the movie a bit more short and the story a lot more tight. For example, the beginning has Hulk battling the Abomination, and somewhere in the middle it has Hulk and Iron Man fighting off a horde of Wendigo. Throw into the mix that the whole reason the problem the heroes have to solve together exists is the terrorist organization HYRDA, and well, as I said, the story goes all over the place when it really didn’t have to.

That said, it’s not terrible, and fans of Hulk, more so than Iron Man, will probably like this movie. My biggest complaint though has to be the animation itself. It’s just too inconsistent. There are some things that look really good, like the electricity effects and Zzzax itself. But then looking at Iron Man and Hulk I just feel then end up looking like painted computerized lumps of clay. After looking at the awesome graphics found in a movie like Frozen, it’s hard not to see the graphical flaws.

Fans should take notice that after the end credits there is the usual Marvel added scene, this one setting up the Red Skull, who runs HYDRA, as the protagonist in an upcoming Iron Man and Captain America Team-Up sequel. The Blu-ray also contains a number of shorts from the DisneyXDMarvel Mash-Up” series. They are included both as a Bonus Features and as part of the extended pause feature called “Marvel ‘Inter-Missions’”.

The movie is an okay diversion, and, like myself, fans of the current animated series like Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. will enjoy taking the time to watch this movie.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 152 - The Muppet Christmas Carol

This week the DFPP team heads to London to investigate some ghostly activity when they find that with some awkward dancing, cheerful songs, and a generous heart you can redeem yourself in the 1992 comedy The Muppet Christmas Carol.