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January 20, 2012

Beauty and the Beast in 3D: A Review

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When I first heard about Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" hitting the theaters in 3D I wasn't sure if that tease would motivate me into spending the money to see a film I had first seen in theaters 21 years ago and that I own on DVD.

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It did, and I am glad it did.

First let's talk about what has become a Disney tradition for full length feature films, the short. I would go as far as to say that the short that was shown before Belle and Beast may have been the most entertaining short I have ever seen.

It was called, "Tangled Ever After" and you might say it's the sequel to "Tangled." The short focuses on the marriage of Flynn and Rapunzel,but the stars of the show are Pascal, Rapunzel's pet chameleon Pascal, and Maximus, the soldier horse. According to Byron Howard, a Disney animator, who, along with Nathan Greno, worked on and co-directed both "Tangled" and "Tangled Ever After", these two characters were based on Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton. Chaplain and Keaton are known for their slapstick comedy from the silent film era and the facial expressions they used to express their emotions.

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Since I'm not into delivering spoilers, I'm not going to tell you everything about the short, but I will tell you that it is one of the few Disney shorts that had me laughing out loud. The animation is outstanding and the humor is outright genius.

As for the featured 3D film, it was like seeing the movie for the first time.

There is 3D and there is 3D. The quality of the 3D effect in this film, in a word, WORKED. I don't know where to begin, so let me ramble on regarding where I think the 3D effects were most, well, 3D effective.

There are portions of the film which Disney fans know by heart, however, scene details are more enhanced with 3D because some portions seem closer. Such was the case when walking through the hallways in Beast's castle. Early on the scenes take on an ominous look that is definitely due to the depth given the scenes by the 3D effect.

The portion of the film where Beast saves Belle from the wolves is very intense, and the 3D effect adds to the intensity. I still have an issue believing Belle has enough strength to lift Beast onto Philippe (her horse) after he collapses from the battle with the wolves, but that's a topic for another blog.

Another memorable set of sequences in the film and how the 3D effect enhanced these scenes occurs whenever it is raining or snowing. The raindrops and snowflakes appear so real that you want to reach for your umbrella or gloves...yes it is that good...more on this later.

The song sequences are very much enhanced with the 3D effect with the film's well known song, "Be Our Guest" being the recipient most rewarded by the inclusion of 3D. The song is entertaining enough but with all the components appearing closer than ever before, it was a home run among home runs. For those familiar with Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom's "Mickey's Philharmagic" attraction, be prepared for a little deja vu.

Before leaving you I need to point out that the transformation scene where Beast is brought back to his princely state along with the castle and everyone in it. Remember how Belle sobs and expresses her love for Beast just before the last rose petal falls? Watch how the raindrops or snowflakes, or whatever, as I had mentioned earlier, makes this portion of the film wonderfully enhanced.

Finally, if you're into reading film credits then you must promise me you will take the time to do so with "Beauty and the Beast 3D." It's very much a reminder of the talented folks who worked on this film, including those like Howard Ashman (lyricist) and Jerry Orbach (voice of Lumiere), who is no longer with us. The rolling credits also present images that add an elegance to the film, something richly deserved.

I guess this is a recommendation to see this film as "Beauty and the Beast 3D" truly lives up to it's name. It was delightful, divine, and well, Disney!


November 28, 2011

What Would Jim Think?

I have heard reports that Disney's latest movie, “The Muppets” cost the Walt Disney Company some $30 million dollars or so to produce. After seeing the movie I am convinced that investment may have been one of the wisest decisions the company has made in years.

Where do I begin? The screenplay, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller was topnotch, with classic comedic touches only found when the Muppets are present.

Without giving too much away, allow me to give you a taste of what this long overdue movie had for its audience.

The premise is that Jason Segal's twin brother Walter is pretty much the Muppet's number one fan and Jason and his girlfriend, Mary, played by Amy Adams, decide to go on a trip to Hollywood and take Walter with them for a tour of the Muppet Studios.

What they find is a broken down shell of what once was and the rest of the movie is devoted to the need to get the Muppet gang together to save the theater and the Muppet name from the clutches of a greedy oil tycoon, Tex Richman, portrayed deliciously by Chris Cooper…remember this line, “Maniacal laugh!”

If you think you can predict how this adventure ends, well guess again because Segel and Stoller's screenplay talents not only make for an entertaining and hilarious journey throughout the movie, but also treats us to a very satisfying and not so expected ending.

There are surprises throughout the movie, and I am not here to start listing the spoilers, but needless to say, I am not the only person who will say, “I need to see that movie again, because I may have missed something.”

The movie has a very contemporary feel to it, with the musical and cameo components inserted in just about the most perfect spots.
I don't know what it is about Muppet songs, but for some reason, all the songs in this film work amazingly well. I found myself tapping my foot to the songs and not wanting them to end.

There is one song that got a huge reaction by the audience, and it was because of the cameo that came with the song. When you see the film, you will know what I mean…heck I would see the film again just to be there to witness the audience's reaction again.

The only criticism I have is that one song seemed rushed, and I wanted it to last longer and build more, but the song did manage to bring a tear to my eye and others in the theater as it will make you think of Muppet creator Jim Henson…you will understand once you see the movie.

Steve Whitmire (Kermit, Beaker, Statler, and Rizzo) is a treasure as a Muppett performer and he seems to be channeling Jim Henson throughout the movie.

The other Muppet performer that receives kudos is Eric Jacobson who brings personality to Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, and Marvin Suggs. Jacobson did Frank Oz proud.

There is so much to say about this movie that I would be at fault not to mention the number of celebrity cameos throughout, some of which drew some incredible reaction from the crowd with whom I watched the movie.

In some cases the celebrity cameos were appearances and some were by voice only…either way once I realized there would be sight gags and a celebrity cameo possibly waiting around every corner, my ears and ears were glued to the screen. My guess is that there were at least 30 to 35 cameos throughout the film, and I may have missed some along the way.

This movie, no doubt, is a great investment by Disney and as I left the theater two thoughts crossed my mind.

The first was my questioning Disney's partnership with James Cameron and the Avatar land project and why not instead, invest in a proven product like the Muppets, who have been around for generations (I watched the film with my daughter and grandson). With so many characters and so much material, it would have been a no-brainer to create a Muppet land in Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios theme park and in the California Adventure theme park in Anaheim.

The proof is in the pudding…fans are flocking to the theaters to see this film…there was a line forming almost one hour before this film, and that line had Muppet fans of all ages with middle aged men wearing Beaker shirts and teenagers with Animal shirts on as well…when was the last time you saw a “Na'vi” shirt?

My reaction to the film, along with the chatter as the crowd left the auditorium, convinced me that if I was in charge and, assuming I had a choice to put my efforts into either a Muppet land or Avatar land, that my head and my heart would lean towards those fuzzy, friendly puppets who have been in our lives for years.

Oh, and that other thought that was swimming around in my head as I left the theater was, “What Would Jim think?”

We know that wherever he is…he's smiling!

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November 11, 2009

Review: Disney’s “A Christmas Carol" Movie

I was concerned about going to see Disney's “A Christmas Carol.”

There is a reason why I don't order eggplant parmesan when I go into an Italian restaurant. It's that no one makes it the way I like it…the way I make it. Thus I don't want to open myself to disappointment so...I don't order it.

For the same reason, I tread very lightly anytime I approach watching a movie made from my favorite author Charles Dickens…no less my favorite story of all time, “A Christmas Carol.”

So this past weekend as I sat down to watch this latest attempt at recreating the message that Charles Dickens wanted to get across in his timeless classic, I really can't say I had any expectations.

After the first five minutes of the movie however, I had a sense as to what I was going to witness.

This film is best described as being extraordinary and nothing less. It may very well be perhaps the best rendition of Dickens' tale yet to hit the big screen.

First and foremost I am ready to hand over whatever awards Jim Carrey would be eligible for in his voice portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge as well as the other voices he gave life to in the film, especially all the ghosts.

Carrey captured the essence of Old Ebenezer and my only regret is that I would have loved to have seen Carrey in the recording studio, to see his countenance, to see his expressions as he gave his amazing talents to this film.

The screenplay was very true to the story, and let's face it, there is no secret here as to how the story goes and ends.

Thus I have no reservations in pointing out some points in the film which to me showed outstanding and original creativity and that I want you to take note of and be sure to look for when you see this film.

The authenticity of the setting in London was in a word, breathtaking. The animators surely did their homework. The mood of the film, especially early on, was more than enhanced by the dark imagery throughout.

This is best seen in Scrooge's business, his home, and Bob Cratchit's cottage. All three scenes had these settings lit by candlelight and the candlelight was just enough to allow the audience to make out everything…it was so realistic and metaphoric at the same time.

The appearance of Jacob Marley's ghost was the first indication to me that this film would not be for our typical five, six, or seven year old Disney fan. In fact I strongly recommend that you refrain from bringing your child to see this film unless he or she is at least 10 years old and is also familiar with the story.

The entrance and exit scenes of Marley's ghost we very well done and very original…Dickens would have been proud. There is a bit of humor in Scrooge's first encounter with the ghost of his long gone partner but it does not completely counter the frightful appearance of this ghost.

The three ghosts, voiced over by Carrey himself, were not your typical "Christmas Carol” ghosts as portrayed in versions past.

The Ghost of Christmas Past had a haunting aspect to its appearance...fleeting is a good way to describe the sight of a ghostly flame head and face and haunting voice.

The Ghost of Christmas Present was portrayed in an amazing scene and his ever changing appearance was something to behold. One of the most extraordinary and breathtaking scenes in this movie was this ghost's exit which comes just after Scrooge makes his observation of something lying beneath this apparition's robe.

I don't know if you can even call it an exit.

I would be doing you a disservice if I described to you the transitional portion of the movie in which the Ghost of Christmas Present leaves us and the ominous Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come makes its appearance.

The portion of this film with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come may be quite frightening to young children. The dark imagery and ominous foreboding is truly intense and the interaction between Scrooge and the ghost, especially at the graveyard scene, is the most intense treatment of Dickens' classic as you will have ever witnessed.

As I had mentioned, the film was very true to the story and I looked for those important moments in the book that I felt were essential and not to be overlooked.

I was not disappointed.

The most important of these that I was most gratified to see was Scrooge's interaction with his housekeeper Mrs. Dilbert on Christmas morning. She of all people knew Scrooge for what he was and she would be the person to be most taken by his transformation…and she was.

The film of course took on a lighthearted change on Christmas morning and Carrey's transition of Scrooge from a curmudgeonly old miser to a kindhearted and generous man was well felt in his voice.

One more thing; kudos to director Robert Zemeckis.

A director's contribution to an animated film is sometimes much unappreciated.

There are special moments in this film where Zemeckis was very subtle with camera angles.

For instance, during the Christmas Yet to Come segment we are in Bob Cratchit's house and Bob has returned from mass and he breaks down talking about Tiny Tim….we may not realize early on but while Bob expresses his remorse we slowly realize that Scrooge is observing this through some slats on the stairwell…and we see Scrooge's concern...watch the eyes.

So in summary, if you are a fan of Dickens' classic you must see this movie…in either 3D or IMAX….and you will be taken by the imagery and how faithful the screenplay is to the book.

Also, as I have seen every portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge from Alistair Sim to Mr. Magoo to George C. Scott, they all pale in comparison to Jim Carrey's unbelievable capturing of the essence of Scrooge's personality as written by Dickens.

But also, make no mistake about it. This is not your basic Disney film and the imagery and dark and foreboding scenes are not for youngsters…they may not find it so pleasing.

I know Dickens would be pleased.

I was.

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About Disney Movies

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The View from Scopa Towers in the Disney Movies category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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