Archive for November, 2007

Silver Screen Review – ‘Enchanted’

November 23, 2007

The latest Disney Princess flick combines live-action and traditional 2-D animation to blend together a simply wonderful film, and an immediate classic.

By Blake
Originally posted November 23, 2007.

Disney fans everywhere rejoiced Wednesday, November 21, 2007, when the highly-anticipated new film Enchanted debuted in theatres. And they’ve got good reason to celebrate: the movie marks the first time Disney has implemented 2-D hand-drawn animation on the big screen since early 2005 and the first time award-winning music team of Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz have collaborated since 1996. So . . . this flick had pretty high hopes. Fortunately, these anticipations weren’t hogwash. The film delivers what fans expected, and goes over the top to provide audiences with the next Disney masterpiece production.

The film opens with about 15 minutes of 2-D traditional hand-drawn animation, where we’re introduced to Andalasia, a storybook land where a young woman named Giselle (Amy Adams) dreams of true love. However, she is thrust into the real world (rather abruptly) by Andalasia’s Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who doesn’t want Giselle to live happily ever after. Giselle winds up in New York City, where the pace of the film slows down a bit (and everything is reverted to live-action) as she’s kindly taken in by a man named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his six-year-old daughter, Morgan. In an attempt to save Giselle, her fiancé Prince Edward (James Marsden) rushes to New York along with a few other storybook pals in a desperate search for her. Thus, mayhem breaks out as the fantasy characters rather comically struggle to fit in to the strange and bizarre ways of the real world, often confusing technological devices as magical creatures and breaking out into song whenever they feel like it.

So, that’s the premise for Enchanted, and the formula works out beautifully, because for the first time Disney actually gets to makes fun of their own previous films. The film is brimming with comedy and it is simple hysterical to see sissy storybook characters getting bashed in the real world. The movie is abundant with inside jokes, hidden “Easter Eggs”, and a plethora of other goodies that Disney fans will just have a field day trying to locate. Some are quite obvious, while others are rather subtle and call for a sharp eye.
The characters also strike personalities similar to previous Disney favorites. Giselle seems to be a combo of Snow White and Belle – Snow White because of the major storybook aspects, Belle because of her courage and bravery. Prince Edward seems to be a blend of all the princes, save Aladdin. And Queen Narissa seems to be Lady Tremaine (from Cinderella) and Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty) wrapped up into one.
The music is also a major plus. Alan Menken (known for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules) has composed the music and score, while Stephen Swartz (Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) has written the lyrics. The songs are filled with homage to other Princess films, and are easily toe-tappable. “Happy Working Song” has hysterical lyrics and Carrie Underwood belts out “Ever Ever After” quite brilliantly. And “That’s How You Know” is simply an absolute showstopper. Give the music a sample and you’ll easily be reminded of the early 90’s “golden age” of Disney animation – simply spectacular music accompanied by brilliant lyrics.

As for appropriate age appeal, it’s pretty much a well-rounded family film. I’d probably say the tween boy age group would enjoy it the least. Otherwise, I think you’re fine – younger kids will enjoy it, all girls will enjoy it, and adults will enjoy it. The film is rated PG for “some scary images and mild innuendo.” The “scary images” are mainly due to the villain Narissa, and even then it’s not too bad. If your kid can handle the other scary villains in Princess movies, then they can handle this. The “mild innuendo” label might raise your eyebrows at first sight, but it’s just slight mere humor.
Enchanted is classic Disney at its very best. Hilarious characters, a flood of puns, and sensational music, plus that touch of supreme Disney magic, are all components that make up this superlative film. Enchanted is sure to be placed on the shelf alongside some of the company’s most cherished works as the next Disney masterpiece.
How do I rank Enchanted? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Enchanted will most likely please: Disney Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-8) – Older Kids (ages 9-10) – Young Adults – Adults

By Blake; originally posted November 23, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

Advertisements

Blake’s Picks – Top 12 Disney Animated Heroines

November 17, 2007

In preparation for ‘Enchanted’, let’s take a peek at some of Disney’s most memorable leading ladies.

By Blake
Originally posted November 17, 2007.

The part-animated, part-live-action Disney feature Enchanted is being released this week, and along with it comes a new Disney princess: Giselle. So, in preparation for this highly-anticipated film, I’m counting down the top 12 Disney animated heroines (I say “heroines” because not all of them are true princesses).

12.) Ariel, from 1989’s The Little Mermaid, voiced by Jodi Benson
Ariel is curious, insecure, and in love – the typical aspects of a teenage girl. However, there’s one trait Ariel has that makes her at the bottom of this list: spoiled. Don’t get me wrong, I think The Little Mermaid is a fantastic movie with an intriguing plot and wonderful music, but the main star herself is just downright pathetic. She’s already a royal princess, daughter of King Triton, yet she doesn’t appreciate the perks of a royal life and instead comes across as being bratty when you really analyze her personality. She’s willing to give up all her friends and family just because she has a crush on some guy (not to mention that that guy’s not even the same species as her).

Ariel

11.) Jasmine, from 1992’s Aladdin, voiced by Linda Larkin (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Jasmine shares several similarities with Ariel, but has a little more passion in her story than the mermaid’s. She is already a princess, and has all her needs. Though, the law states that she must be married to a prince by her next birthday. Jasmine, however, disagrees with the law and wants love to find her, not be forced upon her. To me, Jasmine seems semi-spoiled, but at least she, unlike Ariel, has a logical reason for feeling trapped.

Princess Jasmine

10.) Bianca, from 1977’s The Rescuers, voiced by Eva Gabor
Probably the littlest-known heroine on this entire list, Bianca is a Hungarian mouse that is a member of the Rescue Aid Society, a group that helps rescue needy children. She proves her bravery as she helps save a kidnapped little girl, Penny, from the clutches of the hideous Madame Medusa and her fiendish pet crocodiles. Bianca seems wealthy, but certainly isn’t haughty because of her riches. And when she has her pick of any dashing male critter to accompany her on the voyage to save Penny, she chooses plucky janitor Bernard.

Bianca

9.) Jane Porter, from 1999’s TARZAN®, voiced by Minnie Driver
Adventurous and very curious of her surroundings, Jane Porter journeys from England to the jungles of Africa to explore animals. Jane is intelligent, resourceful, and, when you think about it, a lot like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She falls in love with Tarzan, who isn’t your average Prince Charming. Jane, also like Belle, isn’t intimidated by haughty, stuck-up male contenders (only she turns down Clayton, not Gaston 🙂 ).

Jane Porter

8.) Megara, from 1997’s Hercules, voiced by Susan Egan
Megara, often called “Meg”, is confident, tomboyish, and is not fazed at all by the many males who constantly beg for her attention. Meg works for Hades, the leader of the Underworld. When ordered by Hades to attract the attention of muscleman Hercules to lure him to a fatal trap, Meg (after much ambivalence) eventually lets love conquer her contract to Hades and settles down with once-enemy Hercules. To me, Meg is one of the heroines on this list that has gone through the most out of anybody. Poor Cinderella, she has to do chores. Poor Ariel, she can’t have species change. Just look at poor Meg, who (as far as the audience knows) has no parents, and is forced against her will to do the work of Hades, one of the harshest bosses one could ever have.

Megara . . . you can call her “Meg.”

7.) Princess Aurora, from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, voiced by Mary Costa
Up next are three heroines in harsh and depressing situations, though they each have dreams they wish upon. The first is Aurora, also known as “Briar Rose” and “Sleeping Beauty”, who would be depleted a little more in my list, except Aurora doesn’t actually know she’s a princess until well into her story. Betrothed to a prince, she refuses to marry her suitor because she claims she’s already found someone else. Little does she know that that “someone else” is the one she’s betrothed to! Aurora has had a simple life until her love game enters the scheme of things and, of course, the nasty Maleficent shakes things up by attempting to kill the young maiden.

Princess Aurora dances with Prince Phillip.

6.) Cinderella, from 1950’s Cinderella, voiced by Ilene Woods
Cinderella, probably the most publicized and popular heroine on this list, is forced to do tend to her selfish stepmother and stepsisters. But her truly evil relatives don’t deter from her passion of her dreams. She gets through the day by singing happy melodies with her animal pals. Eventually Cinderella’s wishes are granted true when her Fairy Godmother comes to save the day and send her to the ball, where she experiences the power of her dream and the love of her life. To me, Cinderella is very deserving of her happy ending.

Cinderella

5.) Snow White, from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, voiced by Adriana Caselotti
The “fairest one of all,” Snow White has a high-pitched voice and, apparent by her name, seriously needs to hop in a tanning bed. Snow White’s evil queen stepmother threatens to kill Snow White, just for the satisfaction of being fairest in the land. In my opinion, the queen seriously needs to get a life if her existence revolves around being prettier than a girl nearly half her age.

Snow White

In all seriousness, though, Snow White really does deserve something nice to happen in her life. Not only does she have to do chores for her stepmother like Cinderella, but her stepmother actually plans to kill her! Snow White longs for her prince to come rescue her from her misery. However, unlucky for Snow White, she has no Fairy Godmother or friendly mice friends to help her.

4.) Mulan, from 1998’s Mulan, voiced by Ming-Na Wen (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Now we enter 3 heroines who are courageous because they choose to be, not because they are forced to be. The first of these is Mulan, who desperately does not want her father to have to fight in the mandatory war. To resolve the issue, Mulan disguises herself as a male and enters the army, striving to honor her family with every move she makes. To me, Mulan is a very powerful individual who puts others way before herself, and will stop at nothing to please her family’s wishes.

Mulan

3.) Pocahontas, from 1995’s Pocahontas, voiced by Irene Bedard (speaking)/Judy Kuhn (singing)
Pocahontas is determined to settle the rift between her Native American family and the Englishmen that have suddenly begun to take over the Native Americans’ land. With the help of John Smith, an Englishman, she is able to conquer the disagreements between the two sides by following her heart and listening to the “colors of the wind.” Like Mulan, she puts others before herself, but still follows her personal internal conflicts, as well.

Pocahontas

2.) Nala, from 1994’s The Lion King, voiced by Niketa Calame (cub Nala)/Moira Kelly (adult Nala)
Betrothed to prince Simba at birth, Nala goes from a very fun, carefree, “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle to a troublesome and distressing one when the evil Scar forces prince Simba to run away forever. Seeking help after the kingdom is put into misery under Scar’s rule as king, Nala eventually finds the long-lost Simba, and stops at nothing to bring Simba back to restore peace to the kingdom. Nala is dedicated, determined, and heroic, making her #2 on this list.

Nala

1.) Belle, from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, voiced by Paige O’Hara
The ultimate Disney heroine in every sense of the word, Belle dominates all other competitors by a long shot. Not only does her story tell of bravery and courage, but also of true love conquering all. Belle, to me, is really the only princess that truly shows that anyone can be loved. I mean, really: Snow White and Aurora have a soul mate because a random guy smooches them to wake them up, Cinderella gets her prince by having a lucky shoe size, Ariel gets hers by having a species change, and Jasmine gets hers by falling in love with some guy in disguise. Belle falls in love with a hideous beast and, even when all her peers and friends turn against Beast, Belle sticks by his side to the end, breaking the spell on the Beasts’ castle. Wow.

Beast and Belle dance the night away.

So, with this look into some of history’s most endearing Disney animated heroines princesses, we can only hope that someday Princess Giselle will find her place among them. Enchanted is in theatres Wednesday, November 21, 2007.

By Blake; originally posted November 17, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

DVD Review – Ratatouille

November 11, 2007

Pixar’s latest feature is an elaborately spectacular concoction, though the DVD’s lack of supplemental material questions its worthiness.

By Blake
Originally posted November 10, 2007.

When moviegoers think of animated motion pictures, children often come to mind because animated films are generally aimed to please a younger audience. Not often does one come across a blend of story, characters, and artistic wonder that actually appeals more to adults than it does youngsters. Though, Ratatouille does just that. The film itself is clever and spectacular, but the bonus material in its new DVD release certainly has some plenty of elbow room in its disc space.

In Ratatouille, Remy, an aspiring chef who just so happens to be a rat, is separated from his family and winds up in Paris at the home of his most admired restaurant, Gusteau’s. When Remy eventually puts some pizazz in a soup that a food critic loves, a custodian, Linguini, is mistaken for making the soup and is demanded to repeat his performance to please customers. This results in Remy and Linguini forming a humorous bond, Remy concealing himself in Linguini’s hat and directing Linguini how to cook everything.
The movie shines story-wise, scattered with multiple overlaying plots without getting overwhelming to comprehend. The characters are well developed and nurtured to, each with their own background story and distinct personalities that cleverly clash with each other. The animation is visually stunning: viewers feel everything they see and fully embrace the entire setting. You can actually feel Remy’s fluffiness, taste the beauty of each food dish, and sense the textures of the “architecture”, in a manner of speaking.

And, of course, there are the hidden Pixar references to search for, such as the appearance of the Pizza Planet truck and, as always, the voice of John Ratzenberger behind a character. If you look closely, you’ll also spot Luigi from Cars several times, as well.
While the bonus features somewhat satisfy for the time being, they are far from exceptional, and definitely leave viewers hungry for more.
Lifted (about 5 minutes) – An Academy-Award-nominated Pixar short, this entertaining silent, set-to-music segment features an alien attempting to pass an exam testing his ability to correctly abduct a human.

Your Friend the Rat (about 11 minutes) – Pixar’s longest short ever, this exclusive-to-DVD feature doesn’t fully extend the movie like Pixar’s epilogue shorts have done in the past, but instead includes Remy and Emile presenting a history of rats to viewers. It is almost entirely presented in 2D animation, save the brief areas featuring Remy and Emile. Although it certainly is different from what we’re used to seeing from Pixar, that doesn’t mean it lacks the same Pixar charm. Its humor and references to popular culture plus the hilarious-yet-mandatory disclaimer at the end make it one of the definite high points of the disc.
Fine Food & Film (about 14 minutes) – This feature includes interviews and behind-the-scenes footage dealing with two separate worlds that were combined to create Ratatouille: filmmaking and food. It includes interviews and biographical info about Ratatouille director Brad Bird and acclaimed chef Thomas Keller. It is a not-so-much interesting addition to the disc, and really deals more with the lives of its two interviewees than the actual creation of Ratatouille.
Deleted Scenes (about 15 minutes) – The only real feature on the entire disc having anything to do with the making of the film itself, the three deleted scenes are presented here in animated sketch drawings with introductions for each by either director Brad Bird or producer Brad Lewis (depending on which scene you’re viewing). One scene deals with the viewers’ first introduction to Gusteau’s restaurant; one features Remy accidentally slipping into Skinner’s hat instead of Linguini’s; and the last features an alternate version of Remy and Linguini’s first day working at Gusteau’s. The scenes were eventually dropped due to perspective issues, as well as tenderness to the length of the film.
Interestingly, unlike virtually all Disney DVD releases, Ratatouille does not offer a separate menu to select previews from, and instead the previews are only played preceding the main menu. No real big news is revealed in the commercials, however, other than the premiere trailers for 101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition and Snow Buddies, both of which have already previously been announced by Disney.
The menus throughout the disc feature portions of the animation used in the end credits and are easy to navigate using an underlined squiggle to highlight your selection on screen.
Wrapping It Up
Overall, Ratatouille is an exceptionally well-crafted film that combines story and art to create a fantastic end result. What would ordinarily be an obvious buy isn’t so obvious, though. The lack of bonus features depreciates its value and makes us wonder if sometime soon it will be re-released with more bonuses. The new short film and deleted scenes are among the disc highlights and for the time being will serve satisfactory. However, somewhere along the road, the film should certainly be upgraded to special 2-disc treatment like past Pixar features and given the proper praise it deserves.
How do I rank the Ratatouille DVD?
Very good movie + Good bonus features = (Bolded is my choice.):
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

The Ratatouille DVD will most likely please: Disney Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-8) – Older Kids (ages 9-10) – Young Adults – Adults – Older Folks

By Blake; originally posted November 10, 2007. All images (C) Disney/Pixar.