Archive for Disney

Review: Beauty and the Beast

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

What is there to say about Disney’s latest live action remake, other than it’s basically very very faithful to the original 1991 animated classic. And that makes it, disappointingly ordinary for such a magical film.

Don’t get me wrong, This film is a solid gold hit – the box office numbers prove that. But unlike The Jungle Book, which based its plot slightly more on the Rudyard Kipling stories and striped away all but two songs to make it stand apart, Beauty and the Beast doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself, much like Cindarella.

It’s quite possible that a child who has never seen the animated version will adore this version and I’m of a generation that can’t un-see the 1991 original – I was six years old when it came out, prime Disney age – because there’s an awful lot to like.

The  Beast (Dan Stevens) is scary, and in this case has been given a proper back story that makes you understand the curse put upon him and his household, although the facial design is somewhat ‘off’.

Emma Watson turns in a fine performance as Belle, although she has more of a girl-next-door vibe about her, rather than a classic Disney Princess. Also, the autotuning of her voice detracts from her musical numbers somewhat, especially the iconic ‘Provincial Life’.

The supporting cast is incredibly strong, especially Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice. The voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Haydn Gwynne and the unrecognisable Stanley Tucci are perfect as are the animations of each character.

The absolute show-stealers though are Luke Evans and Josh Gadd as Gaston and LeFou. Originally the casting of Evans was a little underwhelming, but he really throws himself into the role of this brash, alpha male ad although much was made in the media about LeFou being Disney’s first overtly gay character, there was only very subtle evidence of this on-screen. Gadd’s comedic chops more than make up for this however. Their slightly-more-than-bromance is a delight to watch.

The songs are largely indestructible and feel required rather than shoe-horned in and the updated compositions and minor changes to some of the lyrics are brilliant, especially the additions to Gaston’s song. Even the added song that the Beast sings is a good addition, as are the scenes added to give a bit more depth to the characters. It all largely works. The problem is that nothing feels like it’s added overall.

If the original didn’t already exist this would be brilliant, but because it does and this adds nothing of substance it just feels ordinary. Still very much worth a watch though.

Review: The Jungle Book

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

the jungle book

When Disney let Tim Burton reimagine Alice in Wonderland, little did we know that success of that film would kick-start a slew of live-action remakes of their entire back catalogue, but here we are. When the plan to do this with The Jungle Book was floated a few years back, it was met with trepidation; how could it work? Surely it’ll be rubbish, right?

Wrong.

This film is a triumph. Director Jon Favreau has pulled off something truly magical. The seams between the – minimal – physical sets and the first-time actor, Neel Sethi, who is pretty much the only actual actor in the whole film, and the computer generated animals and sets are invisible. There are times where Sethi, as Mowgli, touches the face of the wolf pack mother, (Lupita Nyong’o ), and it looks like he’s interacting with a real wolf. The fur moves so convincingly it completely convinces you that what you’re seeing is actually happening.

In fact, the trailer gave the impression that the animals may come off slightly cartoon-y. Far from it. The animators have made sure  the faces and mouths of the animals only move to the restrictions of that particular animal’s face would move. This adds to the ease in which you can suspend your disbelief.

It has something for everyone: fantastic special effects; a brilliant voice cast; a couple of classic songs from the original, animated movie; humour; threat; and a really strong core message.

The only criticisms to be found come in the shape of small niggles, such as Idris Elba’s performance of Shere Khan is basically Luther. Which isn’t a problem really, but it is strange to hear a tiger speaking in a cockney accent! The other is that Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) is used quite sparingly. Finally, the ending is quite different from that of the Kipling stories and the original animated film. That said, the Kipling versions are short stories, so there’s nothing to say that Favreau’s film ends before the final chapter of these, but it would have been nice to see the conclusion we’ve all grown up with, and is inevitable.

The positives hugely outweigh the negatives though. Bill Murray steals the show as Baloo, it seems as if he was allowed to go off-piste in a way none of the other voice actors as his dialogue is a lot more casual and contemporary. Hearing Christopher Walken deliver lines (and a song) as King Louie – now a Gigantopithecus rather than an Orangutan, as they don’t live in India – was something that will stay with you.

Watching The Jungle Book is a magical experience you don’t experience too often. It’s most definitely worth a watch in the cinema if you haven’t already.

Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Star Wars The Force Awakens

The long and eagerly awaited seventh episode of the Star Wars saga picks up around 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, so all the original cast didn’t have to go through any post-production de-aging that made people in The Hobbit look so strange. So that’s one good thing… among many more good things.

JJ Abrams was on a hiding to nothing directing the first Star Wars film since the almost universally panned prequels. Also, Disney needed to make a decent return on the $4billion investment it made buying the franchise from George Lucas.

The idea seems to be: The best way to make a ton of money from this film is to give the fans what they want. What the fans have been clamouring for since it looked like episode seven was on the cards was another film like the original films. And that’s exactly what they’ve got.

The film hits almost every beat from A New Hope; starts with a shot of a Start Destroyer floating across the screen; a droid is given instructions to keep safe; a masked bad guy clad in black; an orphan on a desert planet; an up-himself general; a grand master hologram; a Yoda-style alien figure; a kidnapped central female character; a Death Star/ice planet (I know this is Empire Strikes Back) for the main Jedi to sneak round; there are more, but you get the gist.

Luckily for Abrams, he decided to go mainly with physical settings and stunts, for the most part. So, automatically it looks like it belongs to the same universe as the original films. I don’t even think the amount of references is problematic, though there were slightly too many. The bits that really stood out and don’t work are the fully-CG monsters or characters. For example, the big ball-monsters on Han Solo’s freighter and Grand Master Snoke.

In fact, until it was made obvious that Snoke (Andy Serkis) is a hologram it made me angry that they had some weird giant that looks like a cross between Gollum and the leader of the orcs from The Hobbit. I still can’t get over the look of Snoke and can’t see why he couldn’t have been in prosthetics that were augmented by CG.

The new cast was great, John Boyega’s character, Finn could have had a more interesting arc from stormtrooper to resistance member, but was so charismatic it didn’t really matter. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is a great, strong lead female character, though how she progressed so quickly is a little beyond me compared to those who have gone before her. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was a strange one, his entrance was brilliant, but over the course of the film he became more annoying and weaker. Also, he probably should have kept his helmet on.

The best of the new cast, by far, apart from BB-8, was Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Issacs who is on a really strong role at the moment. He was massively underutilised, but it leaves you wanting to know more about him. He almost seems too good.

Some of the original cast were back, can’t say much about Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher has been through some really tough times since the 70s and I’m afraid it shows. It was a bit sad. R2-D2 and C3PO are back, but not quite as you might remember them, though C3PO has one of the funniest moments in the movie. Chewbacca gets a much bigger role in this film, but the greatest turn comes from Harrison Ford as Han Solo, he looks like he was having such a great time, though that’s probably because he knows there’s an end to his contract any he can go and be Indiana Jones again, history repeats itself!

I wasn’t at all bowled over by this film because, for each throwback to the original films it took away the option to create something new, but I think the balance was just about right. It was just a bit of a shame that the plot was so predictable as it stuck so rigidly to the skeleton of A New Hope. Compared to the prequels it’s a breath of fresh air and is exactly what it needs to be and the further away I get from the film the more forgiving I am of it.


I’ve avoided major spoilers until this last section, it’s very hard to know exactly what’s a spoiler and what’s not, which is why I’ve left it this late to post. But I may drop a spoiler in here now, because I need to call out the biggest gripe I have with the film: The treatment of Han Solo in this film.

At the end of Return of the Jedi he has gone through a change from being a rogue who is just out for himself to a caring person who has found a niche and people who care about him and vice versa. Between the sixth and seventh movies he and Leia have had a child (at least one) who has been trained in the Jedi arts by Luke, but turns against him. So, he’s lost his child, lost Leia and has gone back to smuggling, which he still sucks at. So much so that he loses the Millennium Falcon.

Meeting Rey and Finn at the beginning of the film reunites him with all these elements, apart from his son, things are starting to look up, but no. He is then killed by his emo son and thrown into an abyss. The abyss is then blown up, leaving absolutely no doubt that’s he coming back or could be saved. The upcoming Han Solo origin story will be tinged with sadness too as we all know his eventual fate.

 In fact, that there’s even still a dark side and empire that is so powerful casts a pall over the achievements of the first three films. It renders all the rebel victories completely pointless as it’s all just repeating itself, seemingly straight away.  Even the droid are sad! R2-D2 is so depressed that Luke ran away without it that it shut itself down and now lives under a duty tarp, leaving C3PO’s second line in the whole film – and one of its few – to be “I do miss him so.” This is not what I wanted from this film, it was supposed to be a bit more of a celebration.

It’s not a bad film, and I did enjoy it, I just think that the back story that we didn’t get to see is so sad. In a way, I’m glad we didn’t get to see it. The fans would have would have torn Disney’s castle down.

There’s way more to this, and the best thing you can do is to go listen to my podcast to get the full story.

Review: Inside Out

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Inside Out is the latest film by Pixar and takes place, for the most part, inside an 11-year-old girl’s head. And, quite frankly, it is brilliant.

Almost each Pixar film feels like it is better than the last, but there have been some real stand out films in the last few years; Toy Story 3, Wall-E and the first 10 minutes of Up pushed the bar of film, let alone animated film, to new levels of depth, story telling and emotion.

Inside Out visualises the emotions of a child, Riley, at a stage in her life where she is going through huge changes. Her family relocates from one side of America to the other, forcing her to leave her friends behind, join a new school, a new ice hockey team and get used to living in a crowded city rather than the more rural setting of her first home.

The main protagonists are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, all of whom are rendered beautifully in a command centre inside Riley’s head. The five emotions control how she reacts to the world and, on the whole, produce memories that are happy except for where she needs to learn about what to avoid or be afraid of. There is an entire world where certain memories are stored and make up Riley’s personality.

Things are set to change. Joy and Sadness become lost and have to find their way back to the control centre through the maze of Riley’s long-term memories. This leaves Anger, Disgust and Fear to run Riley’s controls and perfectly explains the changes that take place in children when they are on the cusp of leaving childhood behind but before hitting puberty.

The film is more a study in child psychology than a kids animation, but it works on all-levels as all good Pixar films do. Only Pixar could have made this movie and the studio probably needed to have been around for over 20 years before it could attempt a film this complex.

The overarching message of the film is that sadness has a place and that it’s OK to cry, in fact it can make things better. Pixar are masters at pulling on the hearts strings in a powerful way and this is another example of how great its story-tellers are. Even the short before the main picture is heart-rending in a way most films fail at.

Inside Out is easily the most boundary-pushing project to date and is another great success for Pixar. It is a ‘must-see’ for everyone.

Anywhere But Here, Episode 117 – Star Wars, Daredevil & Batman v Superman

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Ant and Tom are back in the same room for this weeks podcast, not just in the same room but in the ABH Pod Pod!

After a bit of clearing up what’s been going on the last few weeks, where Tom finally gives Ant his Birthday present and a bit of a rant about his ex-employer.

Ant has been to see the live action version of Cinderella, which was good and we debate the slew of Disney live action remakes. In the last week there have been a lot of trailers and TV shows to talk about including the new Ant-Man trailer, the astonishing new Star Wars The Force Awakens teaser trailer and the less overwhelming Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice teaser trailer.

All 13 episodes of Daredevil were released onto Netflix last weekend and the boys have watched some of them and report back without spoiling it too badly. The fight scene at the end of episode 2 is the best piece of television either of them have seen in a very long time.

Tom tells the story of the ‘loneliest whale in the world’ the 52 Hertz Whale and the endeavours of scientists and documentary makers to find the whale with the speech impediment.

Ant finishes with the story of the American woman who tried to pay for her shopping with a $1 million dollar bill. We didn’t know this note existed, is it real? Find out by putting this podcast in your ear holes!

Tune in again next week for the first ABH Book Club, where Ant and Tom will be reviewing the first Goosebumps book: Night of the Living Dummy. Read along, if you dare!


Get in touch with us:

Twitter – @abhpod

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Youtube – youtube.com/abhpodcast

E-mail – abhpod@gmail.com

Anywhere But Here, Episode 50 – New Year, New You, Same Us

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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It’s the fist podcast of 2014 and Ant and Tom talk about what they got up to over Christmas and New Year. This includes Tom’s front door breaking on Christmas Eve right when he was letting in his family, And Ant’s family getting ill.

They talk about the films they saw over the break including a rant from Tom about The Hobbit, both Ant and Tom saw Disney’s Frozen as well and were a bit underwhelmed.

New Year’s Eve is discussed insomuch as they both stayed in and watched Jools Holland’s Hootenanny and the fireworks on the BBC. The acts on the Hootenanny are discussed in-depth including the ‘bass-face’ of Haim’s bassist, look it up, you’ll thank us!

The episode is left on a positive note with both Ant and Tom revealing how they plan to both be more positive and confident in their work lives which will impact their private lives… helped by playing Lego Batman!

And here, as ever is the video version of the podcast that you can ‘thumbs up’. If you like?

Review: Frozen

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Frozen

It’s been out for a while now, but I finally got round to seeing this Christmases big animated extravaganza, Frozen. Something is to be said for a film that manages to stick around in the cinema for over a month in recent time, but something about this film has kept it in the top ten longer than a lot of the sub-standard digimations that have been thrown together for the holidays this year.

This is a Disney film through and through. The plot focuses on two sisters, Anna and Elsa, who grew up in a castle together with loving parents. Elsa has a magical gift of being able to conjure ice and snow and they have lots of fun playing in the vast ballrooms of the castle building snowman and suchlike. This is, until Elsa accidentally hurts Anna who is revived and has her memory erased by a wise troll. Elsa locks herself away from the world – and Anna – as her powers grow, in fear that she will hurt her sister further.

A few years later, and after the obligatory tragic deaths of their parents  (a Disney trademark!), the palace doors are open to the world as the young princess Elsa is to ascend to the throne. This is the first time the sisters have seen each other in all this time and their feelings are mixed; Elsa (Idina Menzel) is fearful, but knows it has to be done and Anna (Kristen Bell) is full of joy at being able to meet people and especially her older sister. Both of their feelings are put to a classic Disney song where the themes are played out against each other in a glorious harmony.

Needless to say, things don’t go quite according to plan and Elsa’s powers reveal themselves in front of everyone forcing her to flee into the mountains and bringing a harsh Winter to her kingdom. This spurs Anna to go on a quest to talk to her sister and bring her back home with the help of an ice-cutter, his reindeer and an enchanted, talking snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad). Who is right up there, in terms of Disney sidekicks, with Donkey from the Shrek films.

All the Disney magic and clichés are in there as this is pure fairytale story telling and singing, which Disney are renowned for. It won’t win any major plaudits as it is a straightforward, nuts-and-bolts film, but when Disney are firing on all cylinders nothing can stop them. Frozen is well worth a watch