News Roundup

Musicals: Washington DC has become a hot bed for new musicals as of late with runs of Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage before it made it’s way to Broadway, and Freaky Friday which just opened at the Signature Theatre. Now there is news that Mean Girls the musical based on the Tina Fey movie from 2004 will be coming to DC in fall of 2017. There hasn’t been confirmation about where it will be but Arena Stage, Signature Theatre and Ford’s Theatre have all denied involvement, however it could just be too early for an announcement or something?

Disney movies: It has been announced that Disney is making another one of their animated film into a live action movie. This time around it is Mulan that is joining the ranks of the live action remakes like Pete’s Dragon, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and The Little Mermaid. Mulan is a  wonderful story and is based on the legendary woman warrior Hua Mulan. The Ballad of Mulan recounts her tale. It is a wonderful story and according to the article it will combine aspect of the ’98 film and the Ballad along with perhaps other stories of Mulan from the ages to make the best adaptation of the story. Disney is in the process of finding some Chinese actress to play the legendary character.

In similar news there is work going on for a film based on Deborah Sampson one of the women who fought in the American Revolutionary War. This seems like a story that would be great at a time like this in the United States. I hope that it gets made, and that they include the stories of other female fighters as well.

Zootopia (2016)

The latest Disney animated film Zootopia is a decent kids movie with the message that you can be whatever you want to be, and touched on the topic of prejudice and stereotypes. Spoilers to follow.

In Zootopia we follow the story of Judy Hopps, the first bunny police officer in Zootopia as she joins the force. Judy is given as her first assignment parking duty, but she as valedictorian of her class at the police academy feels this is beneath her. On her first day she gets hustled by Nick Wilde, a fox con artist. The next day when Judy see the opportunity to chase criminals she goes for it and before she can be fired for insubordination she is given two days to solve one of the biggest cases to face Zootopia or resign. There are several missing animals who are all predators and Judy is looking for Mr. Otterton. Judy enlists the help of Nick to help her solve the case as he was the last person to see Otterton, she blackmails Nick to help. When all leads dry up and we think Judy might have to resign but she’s got ten hours left to solve the case and they don’t result in anything spectacular. Judy resigns and goes back home and it is here where she makes a big break on the case and she goes back to Zootopia and finds Nick to solve the case.   It does hammer the bigotry points a bit as well as the you can do anything, the big song in the whole movie is called “Try Everything”.

It like all Disney films is pretty good and most people will enjoy it.

News Roundup

Gawker Media: With the bankruptcy that stemed from the Hulk Hogan sex tape. Univision is buying Gawker and all their blogs in a diversifying move. Univision, best known as the place for Spanish-language television also owns The Root, an African-American culture e-mag as well as has a stake in The Onion and A/V Club. It’s great that the Gawker sites will be around a bit longer and perhaps have a bit more money to do thing in case they get sued again.

Disney: It seems like Disney is now just going around and making live action adaptations of their classic movie musicals. With The Little Mermaid being just the latest in line, this time around Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken will be working on it. Apparently they will be mixing some of the classic songs from the movie and perhaps stage show with new songs. It will be adapted from The Little Mermaid by Hans Christen Anderson and hopefully we will get the actual story this time around and not just a live-action adaptation of the 1989 Disney film.

World War II: Since the end of the war there have been rumors of a hidden train full of Nazi gold. Well in Poland treasure hunters have started to dig into the tunnels and look for this hidden train. According to local legend an armored train carrying gold from what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw as the Soviet army closed in was hidden in the tunnels of a secret military complex which was never completed. It would be cool if they find something.

Home on the Range (2004)

Home on the Range is one of the last traditionally animated films Disney has ever produced. It didn’t get that good of reviews when it came out nor did it really make a splash at the box office. It is a musical western comedy and this is the reason why I think it didn’t do as well as it could have. Since Westerns aren’t as popular as they were up till the 1960s. The film also has a predominately female cast the three main leads are all female cows, Mrs. Caloway (Judi Dench), Grace (Jennifer Tilly) and Maggie (Roseanne). Spoilers are bound to follow so read with caution.

Maggie is a cow from the Dixon Ranch which had all the cows stolen numbering near 500 all stolen by Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid). So Mr. Dixon is forced to sell his ranch and he sell Maggie to another small farm Patch of Heaven. As it turns out Patch of Heaven is facing 750 dollars in bills that need to be payed in three days. As it turns out the prize for capturing Alameda Slim just happens to be $750 and Maggie has the big idea to go after Slim and get the reward money to save the farm. It’s a Disney film so we know how it’s going to end. There are several side characters who are great as well, Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the sheriff’s horse who idolizes the big bounty hunter Rico (Charles Dennis).

The film itself is pretty funny and I enjoyed it. This isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be, sure it isn’t the best film Disney ever made but it’s definitely not the worst, they have made dozens of direct to video sequels and the first CG film by Disney Chicken Little is really pretty bad. It would be interesting to see Disney or some other big name studio released a good traditionally animated film like every other year or something that would be cool. Come into the film not expecting much and you will end up being happy about what you get out of the movie.


News Roundup

The Wachowskis the siblings behind The Matrix are in the news again as Andy, now Lilly has come out as transgendered. This means that both siblings are transgendered, Lana came out years ago and perhaps we will have a film by the Wachowski sisters in a few years. Sure people will claim that The Matrix trilogy is now the most widely known work by transgendered directors but it would be a whole lot better if they could consistently make decent films. Since the last Matrix film (Revolutions) was arguably the last good movie they made and that was way back in 2003.

Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometime Young) have officially broken up. I am sure that many of us didn’t know that they weren’t broken up before reading this or that they were still a group

Star Wars: According to The Sun Disney is in talks about making five more Star Wars films after the current slew (Rogue One, Episode VIII, Han Solo, Episode IX and Boba Fett) are made. If these are more anthology films that would be real unique as hopefully they will be able to flesh out part of the story not covered by the movies or cartoons. It seems like this won’t be confirmed until after Rogue One opens in movie theaters. The only thing that I am not that happy about is that Star Wars might become like those Marvel/DC Comics movies where there are just too many coming out that we get fatigue from all of them, although with Star Wars there are many different stories to be told about a multitude of characters.


Inside Out (2015)

Over Christmas my niece got Inside Out and decided that the whole family needed to watch it. So we watched it and I can say that it is nice to see Pixar make a non sequel film  every once in a while. Spoilers to follow.

Inside Out tells the story of Riley and the emotions in her head, joy, fear, anger, sadness and disgust. Joy and Sadness get lost and have to find their way back to headquarters after a move across the country and an embarrassing first day at school for Riley. The lost of Joy and Sadness  causes great trouble in Riley’s life as everything that make her who she it means nothing to her since Joy is gone. It is a unique look into the mind and reminded me of the thing at Epcot where it’s more the body parts, like brain, lungs, heart, bladder, stomach, etc. It seems like there could be more and more stories to tell in the world but it would only be interesting if like they tackled puberty or something several years in the future.

The idea was cute in several things I’ve read about the film they compared it with the show from the early 90s Herman’s Head. The biggest problem I have with the film is that if we look at most of Riley’s memories they are mostly joyful, sure it could just be that as a youngster Riley can only handle these simple emotions since as the film end we have a new core memory that is both joy and sadness and then see more memories that are combinations of the other emotions as well.  All in all it was a return to form for Pixar, especially after the last couple of films have been disappointments. If you haven’t seen it the film is a fun afternoon or so.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

Finally went to see the new film and can finally say that it’s done for a while at least. Next new film comes out next December and isn’t a part of the saga, so I won’t be doing a great watch through before Rogue One comes out. I will try to be as vague as I can be but be warned spoilers are to follow. My biggest complaint about the film was that before the actual film began we had to sit through like a half dozen trailers and most of them I had already seen.

The Force Awakens opens roughly three decades after the fall of the Empire with the death of the Emperor and explosion of the second Death Star. Luke Skywalker has gone into hiding and General Leia has been trying in vain to find her brother, her last hope lies on the planet of Jakku. Where an old contact has a fragment of a map that will show the way to Luke. Leia send out a crack team of Poe Dameron and BB-8 to obtain the map but the First Order arrives before they can take off and Poe entrusts the map to BB-8 and sends BB away from the action to keep the map safe. Poe is captured by Kylo Ren and brought to Starkiller Base, but is rescued by a Stormtrooper with a conscience FN-2187, later called Finn. They steal a TIE fighter and head back to Jakku to get BB-8 but they don’t get real far as they crash land back on Jakku. Finn runs into Rey a scavenger who has come across BB-8 but the First Order sends an air assault to capture BB-8 and Finn. Rey, Finn and BB make their way into an abandoned ship the Millennium Falcon, the escape Jakku but the Falcon breaks down and they are captured by none other than Han and Chewie. They all eventually run into the Resistance and eventually they attack Starkiller Base. The film has it’s moments but so much of it seemed similar to A New Hope. Overall it was a fun film and is a whole lot better than the prequels, mostly since the talk of politics and trade negotiations is not there. However it does simply set up the second installment, we’ve met all the new characters and what bad thing is going to happen to them in Episode VIII.

As a fan of Star Wars I had an inkling that some things were going to happen and who the villian would be in this trilogy. In the newly dubbed Legends books after ROTJ, Han and Leia got married and had three children twins (Jacen and Jania) and Anakin. In the books Jacen became the a Sith Lord, Darth Caedus. His twin sister Jania is then the one tasked with taking him out.  It’s a gripping story and if you want to explore the Expanded Universe it is worth the read, but that’s a whole lot of reading to get through.

Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland is that movie that George Clooney stars in that got mixed reviews. This is the latest film by Brad Bird, it has a screenplay by Damon Lindelof, that guy from Lost. It’s not that bad of a movie it just takes a while to get the plot moving. Spoilers to follow.

The film begin with funny scene with Frank Walker (Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) telling the story to us. Frank want to take it the dark route, the future is scary but Casey continually interject some positive light about the future. We then are transported to Frank’s childhood, he traveled to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Frank brings his invention, a jet pack with him, to enter an invention contest. David Nix (Hugh Laurie), is the head of the contest but isn’t impressed since it has no purpose. Later on Athena (Raffey Cassidy) gives Frank a pin with a “T” on it and tells Frank to follow them. the pin brings Frank to a transport and he is transported to Tomorrowland where his jet pack get fixed and flies around landing in from of David and Athena. This is one of the problems with the film to many characters and it takes to long for anything to actually happen.

So the film go back to the present with Casey sabotaging the machines taking down a decommissioned NASA launch pad, she get arrested and gets a pin like Frank had when her Dad (Tim McGraw) bails her out, actually he call in some favors. Casey is memorized by the pin and wants to go to Tomorrowland. The battery on the simulation dies and Casey wants more so she looks for a pin online and there a place in Houston that knows about the pin so she leaves Cape Canaveral and travels to Houston. At the memorabilia shop she runs into Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn who are robots from Tomorrowland this is a great scene. Athena shows up and rescues Casey and they set off for New York where Frank lives. This starts a journey which leads to Paris where there is a rocket that  Gustave Eiffel, Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison built as a way to get to Tomorrowland. They blast off and when they get to Tomorrowland it is nothing like we saw it earlier.

The basic theme of the film is that we need to have more people hopeful about the future then those who can only see the doom and gloom that we currently like to hype. As Bird said “We set out to make a fable or a fairy tale about what happened to the positive view of the future and how can we get it back and pursue that idea.” This positive look at the future is something has been lacking for a while now in film and on television since everything it seems is set in a dystopian world. We need to be able to see the future in a positive light everyone in awhile.


News Roundup

Pope Francis: The Vatican has confirmed the announced that Francis will be making his way to Mexico in 2016. Not much is really known about the trip other than a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 2016 looks like a busy traveling year for Francis, he will be going to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Poland (World Youth Day), Malta and Armenia along with the newly confirmed Mexico. That’s a lot of countries to visit and there has already been confirmation about a trip to Fatima in 2017. Pope Francis will be a busy since he also will be writing some sort of Apostolic Exhortation about the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which is focusing on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.

ABC Family: After years of being some sort of “family” network ABC Family will be rebranded in the New Year as Freeform. Not much else will change with the network, just the name and it will be a break from the ABC/Disney naming conventions, Freefrom will still try to build up it’s own network shows and I can only assume that the Harry Potter marathons and the classic 25 days of Christmas programming blocks will stay the same.

The Splat: As I speculated back when it was first announced it’s like an Adult Swim on Teen Nick, the one big problem that I have with the network is that it is not in HD at this point, but at least there is now a place where I can watch some of the classic shows from the 90s.

The Black Cauldron (1985)

This weekend I finally got around to seeing The Black Cauldron, one of the few Disney animated movies that I haven’t seen yet. This film wasn’t released on VHS until 1998 and is from that period of Disney when was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. In 1979 because of stagnation in the animated studio they hadn’t released a film in 2 years, Don Bluth and several animators jumped ship to form their own studio (they went on the do American Tale, and eventually Anastasia). So there were a whole new group of animators. Black Cauldron was an attempt to make a film for the older children but the folks at Disney were looking into building their live action film and theme parks at this time. So there wasn’t a big emphasis in animated films.  This eventually lead to the Disney Renaissance of the 90s so there is some good that came from the film as well as many of the animators who worked on the film including Tim Burton and John Lasseter. Please be warned that spoilers are bound to follow.

The Black Cauldron is roughly based on the first books of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, which in turn are based on Welsh mythology. This film is forgotten since it is dark (earning it a PG rating) and some people claim that it is the fill Disney tried to kill as Jeffery Katzenberg cut out 12 minutes of the film. Many people online think that if these cut minutes were returned to the film it would have been a much better film. The Black Cauldron is about an assistant pig farmer, Taran who is sent off on a quest to prevent the Horned King from getting his hands on the titular cauldron which can be used to summon an army of the undead. Taran get captured trying to rescue his pig who happens to have oracle abilities, and is thrown into the Horned King’s dungeon. While in the dungeon he is rescued by Princess Eilonwy who is also a captive, they stumble into a wandering bard who is also a captive and the three of them set off to escape. Taran finds a sword which is imbued with magic and Taran lives his hearts desire to be a hero. After they escape they run into Gurgi, a small pest who bothered Taran earlier while he was looking for his pig. This time Gurgi is helpful and leads them along the path that pig took and they stumble into a whirlpool which leads them into the fairy kingdom.

From the fairy kingdom they are quickly brought to the place where the Black Cauldron is located it is owned by three witches and they make a deal the cauldron for Taran’s sword. After the deal the witches tell the Taran, Eilonwy and the bard that the cauldron cannot be destroyed and the only way for it to lose it’s power is for someone to willingly climb into the cauldron under his\her own free will. As soon as they get the Cauldron the Horned King’s men are there and capture and take the cauldron with them.  For the ending you’ve got the rough idea of how it will end, and you have to watch it to find out or read about it online.

The film itself is dark for an animated film which is one of the hard parts of watching the movie, you get some moments of levity notably with Gurgi, but it is a heavy film. A unique thing about the film is that the music was done by Elmer Bernstein. Critic call this film ambitious but flawed and I agree there seems like there could be some more character building as well, perhaps some of this was in the 12 minutes which were cut. If you haven’t seen this film it is worth watching if you want to see all of Disney’s animated films. Black Cauldron is a decent film and explores the world of Welsh mythology and that is a unique world to explore but it’s not the type of film that you want to watch with someone under the age of like 12.