Beauty and the Beast

Bill Condon’s live action remake of Disney’s animated classic is recreated with true loving care

BeautyandtheBeastPosterBravo Disney! Take a bow. If you’re going to make a shameless, expensive remake of one of your all time classic animated films, do it as well as this new “Beauty and the Beast.” Make it as explosively colorful, graceful and charming as Bill Condon’s film.

The new “Beauty and the Beast” lovingly and painstakingly recreates the original as though it were a shot for shot fan video. That may sound like a step down from the animated film’s originality, but Condon devotes such loving care that it’s not hard to get caught up in the magic. Continue reading “Beauty and the Beast”


movie_poster_zootopia_866a1bf2I raised an eyebrow when critics were declaring that with “Zootopia,” Disney had made a triumph of a film tackling racial biases. This is a movie about talking animals after all. But whereas “racial” may not be the right word, it addresses very clearly what it is to be prejudiced, to assume the worst about a person based on their upbringing, their skin or their biology.

And it’s not just a running theme but a core tenet of the plot. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a bunny rabbit from the country who dreams of becoming a police officer in the metropolis of Zootopia, despite the knowledge that no bunny has ever matched up with the lions, tigers and bears of the world fit for law enforcement. You could even say she’s very much a girl trying to force her way into a boys’ club that doesn’t believe she has the stuff. She’s diminished as figuratively and literally small time and again, and directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore aren’t shy to remind you of Judy’s failures and struggles in pursuit of her dreams. She’s so exuberantly positive and yet even the Zootopia radio is against her.

The moral of needing to remain optimistic in order to achieve your goals would’ve been enough of a life lesson for any other Disney film, but the prejudice subplot of predators going “savage” serves as an added carrot. When Judy meets up with Nick (Jason Bateman), a sly con-artist of a fox, “Zootopia” plays on children’s built-in knowledge of predators and prey, foxes and rabbits, and anything else within the animal kingdom, and then challenges those assertions. Continue reading “Zootopia”

Big Hero 6

Disney and Marvel’s kids movie comic book adaptation is exploding with color and imagination.

With apologies to Captain America, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-man or any of the X-Men, “Big Hero 6” is the best superhero movie of the year. No film in the genre this year was as exciting or as colorful as this charming kids adaptation of yet another Marvel comic.

It’s a film that takes the genre back to its roots of training, imagination, possibility, heroics and best of all, fantasy. The space opera visuals of “Guardians of the Galaxy” or the gray doom and gloom of Zack Snyder’s Superman pale in comparison to this new Disney classic, in which the fantastical story, the diverse cast of characters and the charm really do feel ripped from a comic book. Hey, even Stan Lee gets his quick cameo. Continue reading “Big Hero 6”


Angelina Jolie is the only plausible actress to recreate Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” villainess

“You poor, simple fools, thinking you could defeat me. Me! The Mistress of All Evil!” – Maleficent, “Sleeping Beauty” (1959)

With her boastful, grandiose poise, her fiendish cackling and her hateful, sarcastic and sly mocking of her own minions, Maleficent is Disney’s truly great villain. She is the only one who could be seen as completely sadistic. Free of irony or humor, Disney created a movie monster capable of pure, well, maleficence.

And within just moments of Disney’s latest spinoff and CGI, live-action reboot/reimagining, “Maleficent” manages to erase all of the character’s iconography and bravura.  Continue reading “Maleficent”


“Frozen” is the best Disney movie in nearly two decades.

Disney has been trying to recapture the magic of their early ‘90s Golden Age for so long now that it didn’t seem like they had it in them. “Tangled” and its classic princess fairy tale has its ardent supporters, as does the hand-drawn animation and musical charm of “The Princess and the Frog.”

But now “Frozen” has done it. It’s not just big; it really is the biggest sensation to come out of the studio in near 20 years. And they’ve made it work because for once they’ve made a movie for the 21st Century. They made a movie not for the ‘90s kids but for the grown up ‘90s kids and the kids of the coming generation.

Yes, “Frozen” is big, beautiful, funny and cute, but it’s also quirky, awkward, progressive and dark. It’s everything a millennial kids classic should be.  Continue reading “Frozen”

Ebertfest Review: Escape From Tomorrow

“Escape From Tomorrow” may just be the most talked about movie you’ll never get the chance to see. Is it brilliant, or is it a mess?

Credit should be given where it’s due: “Escape From Tomorrow,” which may just be the most talked about movie you will never get a chance to see, was a near impossible film to make.

Shot on the fly and on the run in both Disneyworld and Disneyland, two places where the use of cameras for commercial use is strictly forbidden, first time Director Randy Moore has made a daring, stylish and damned strange film that ties the Happiest Place on Earth to sexual perversion, fatherly trauma, conglomerate conspiracy and personal psychosis. Moore should be applauded for finding a way against all odds to put Disney’s head on the chopping block.

And yet in another way, Disney is something of an easy target. The legacy left by Walt has such an oddly glowing reputation that they’ve always seemed like they have the farthest to fall. Even institutions like “The Simpsons” have recognized the almost surreal annoyance brought on by “It’s a Small World After All” and “Zip a Dee Do Dah.” If you’re going to make a Lynchian mind-bender, you’d better have immensely strong imagery that can go beyond the Disney gimmick, and you better know exactly what movie you want to make so that people aren’t just amused by the novelty of it. Continue reading “Ebertfest Review: Escape From Tomorrow”

Off the Red Carpet: Weeks of 10/24 – 11/7

I took a week off last week, despite there being at least one piece of gigantic movie news, perhaps not Oscar relevant, but enough to make nerds on Twitter (myself included) flip out for better or worse.

But with the election now firmly behind us, I can focus on a race with just one president running (“Lincoln”).

President Obama defeats Mitt Romney in Presidential Election

Hey! Guess what? Now funding for “Sesame Street” and PBS won’t be cut and young kids will still like the movies and art for future generations!

Disney buys Lucasfilm for $4 billion, plans to make “Star Wars Episode VII”

“Star Wars” is now coming back in 2015, and I couldn’t be more disappointed. Even if “Star Wars” has become something of a joke since the prequels and having the “Star Wars” name on your product in fact makes it worse, the “Star Wars” series, with George Lucas’s muddy fingers and all, had become bad but never boring.

For Disney, who also owns Marvel, to plan to release “Star Wars VII” in the same year as “The Avengers 2,” is to make it into another tentpole blockbuster and popcorn movie that will be instantly forgotten as soon as people walk out of the theater.

Rumors are now spilling in that Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”) is in talks to direct, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer are all interested in reprising their roles, and George Lucas is supposed to still be a “consultant,” whatever that means. These are telltale signs that this is not going to be an interesting film that takes the franchise in a new direction but one that is sheer fanboy baiting. (via Collider)

21 films eligible for Best Animated Feature

The number of animated movies considered eligible each year for the Best Animated Feature Oscar dictates the number of nominees the category will have, three or five, and five will definitely be the winning number this year based on 21 films meeting the Academy’s requirements. This says to me that Disney could very well have three potential nominees this year with “Brave,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frankenweenie.” Expect buzz for “Rise of the Guardians” and one of the Gkids (“The Secret of Kells,” “Chico and Rita”) distributed entries. (Full list via In Contention)

Box office numbers bode well for “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Flight,” “Argo”

In a big surprise, Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” trounced the weekly competition by raking in nearly $50 million on its opening weekend, double that of Robert Zemeckis’s “Flight,” a number that’s really nothing to scoff at. “Argo” also performed well in its third week by making $10 million, proving that this is a movie generating money by word of mouth that has the legs to go all the way to a Best Picture prize. Doing less well was “Cloud Atlas,” which in two weeks has only brought in $18 million of its over $100 million budget. (via Box Office Mojo)

“Hitchcock” premieres at AFI Film Fest

Film buffs are eagerly awaiting the movie “Hitchcock,” for obvious reasons, and early reviews of the movie say that although Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren provide their characters with range and depth, first time feature director Sacha Gervasi’s film is a lightweight entry that feels clunky at times and goes against the grain of what people actually know about Hitch. They also now have HBO’s “The Girl” to compare it against, which likewise received poor reviews by painting Hitchcock as little more than a peeping tom.

European Film Awards and British Independent Film Awards announce nominees

“Amour,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “The Intouchables,” and “The Imposter” are all among the nominees in two of Europe’s smaller award races, the European Film Awards and the British Independent Film Awards. The former nominated films that won’t get an American distribution this year and the latter nominated films that got American distribution last year. See the full lists here and here. (via In Contention)

Week 4 Predictions Chart

This week I’m adding in some preliminary Screenplay predictions since the rest of the field is unchanged in my mind.

Continue reading “Off the Red Carpet: Weeks of 10/24 – 11/7”