Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Frozen (2013)

Image is property of Disney Animation Studios

Frozen – Film Review

Cast:  Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk

Directors:  Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

Synopsis: When Elsa, the Queen of Arendelle, flees in panic after the people discover her magical icy powers, her fearless sister Anna ventures after her in a bid to prevent the Kingdom from being trapped in an eternal winter…

Review: No one really does fairytale stories quite like Walt Disney Animation Studios, they certainly are the Queens (and Kings) of this particular genre of animated movies. Every time they sprinkle some of that Disney magic, especially when it’s a story focusing on a Disney Princess, or in this case a pair of Disney princesses, it’s usually a surefire winning formula and one that will resonate with audiences the world over, and maybe melt their hearts along the way.

This icy tale from the Mouse House is inspired by inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” Focusing on sisters Anna and Elsa, the latter of whom has magical icy powers. When they were growing up, a childhood accident forces the girls’ parents to erase Anna’s memory of her sister’s powers, causing the two of them to spend much of their lives growing up apart. As Elsa is about to be crowned Queen, an incident at her coronation triggers Elsa’s powers and turns their home of Arendelle into an unforeseen winter, causing Elsa to flee in panic. Needing Elsa to ensure Arendelle doesn’t get trapped in this eternal winter, it falls to Anna to go after her sister to save their homeland.

So often with these princess stories, there is usually a man involved. Therefore to see that cliche be flipped on its head, is extremely refreshing to see. Though it certainly wasn’t the first time that Disney has created a strong female protagonist, Elsa is nevertheless a very strong willed woman. She is firmly in charge of her own destiny, with her magical powers to help her along the way. Anna might not be as strong willed as her sister, but she is a good hearted soul determined to do whatever she can to help Elsa, and both ladies are voiced tremendously well by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell respectively.

In terms of the supporting cast, Josh Gad gives a very memorable performance as the extremely sentient snowman Olaf. A character that could have been very hit or miss, he’s thankfully the former, as he gives the film the bulk of its laughter. The film has plenty of positive and celebratory themes, most notably about its empowerment of women, which are definitely worth celebrating. However, even when the film has really hit its stride, it cannot help but venture into some formulaic plot points. Nevertheless, as one would would expect from the Mouse House, the animation is of a very high standard. The sheer level of detail on certain items of clothing, most notably Elsa’s icy dress are extremely well detailed, not to mention Elsa’s very impressive icy powers.

Even if you had somehow never seen this film, chances are good that you would have heard the monster hit that was”Let it Go.” With its undeniably catchy tune and powerful lyrics, sung superbly by Menzel, it’s little wonder that the song scooped the Oscar for Best Original Song. Though “Let it Go” is the most popular song from the film’s soundtrack, it is just one of the many catchy songs sprinkled throughout this film that one would expect from a Disney fairytale. People the world over were struck by Frozen Fever, as it swept all before it on its way to becoming one of the highest grossing animated films of all time and it ensured that the Mouse House added another ice-solid entry to its fairytale collection.

Splendid animation but even with a strong collection of strong characters, a solid but formulaic plot prevents Frozen from melting your heart completely.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Aladdin (2019)

Image is property of Disney

Aladdin (2019) – Film Review

Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen

Director: Guy Ritchie

Synopsis: A live action retelling of the 1992 animated classic in which a street urchin is sent by a nefarious vizier to retrieve a magical lamp that contains an all powerful genie…

Review: In many ways, it feels like someone at Disney was almost given the powers of a magical genie themselves. One of their wishes would have been to make the studio lots of money, simply by remaking all their animated back catalogue. Hence, the Disney live action remake train magic carpet has now flown its way to the world of Agrabah and to the story of everyone’s favourite kind hearted street urchin.

With their first live action adaptation this year, Disney was forced into making a few significant alterations. Here though, they have taken the decision not to tamper with things too much. We meet Aladdin (Massoud) an orphaned street urchin who routinely steals items to get by. Though when he meets the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Scott) he falls head over heels in love and strives to win her heart. All the while the villainous Jafar (Kenzari) sends Aladdin to capture a magical lamp in which an all powerful genie will grant its master these wishes three, which Jafar plans to use for nefarious purposes.

Of all the directors in the world Disney could have hired to direct a live action Aladdin film, Guy Ritchie right away feels like an odd choice. The direction Ritchie takes is so unremarkable that it feels like almost anyone could have directed this film and no one would be any the wiser. Stylistically, there’s no risks taken, it’s all very colourful, but nothing stands out. It’s all very unremarkable, which, like with Dumbo feels like a mistake, as there could have been an opportunity to utilise the director’s talents to give these live action films a voice of their own and to really justify their existence. Otherwise, it just feels like the sole purpose of these live action remakes is to just make the studio money.

He might have been the source of much ridicule and scorn in the build up to the film’s release, but to his credit Will Smith actually does a decent job in the role of the Genie. Though Robin Williams’s take on the character will always be iconic, Smith’s efforts to make the character his own are valiant. He’s by far and away the main source of laughter in the film as he tries to get Aladdin to be a suitable match for Princess Jasmine. Though he is basically playing himself, he’s, by far and away, the main source of laughter in the film. Naomi Scott holds her own as Princess Jasmine as she makes an effort to assert herself from the constraints that the society places on women. Though, her chemistry with Massoud’s Aladdin isn’t the best and unfortunately Massoud doesn’t have the charisma required to be a leading man, likewise for Kenzari’s portrayal of Jafar, who is just extremely one dimensional and bland.

The dialogue can feel a little bit wooden at times. There is a decent attempt made to recreate the wonderful songs of the original, and though they are well done, they just don’t live up to the quality of the music that the animated film captured. No expense was spared when it came to the production design, nor the costumes as both are lavish but unfortunately this is just isn’t enough to breathe new life into this story. You could have all the wishes in the world but not even the most powerful of genies would be able to prevent this live action remake from failing to live live up to its animated predecessor.

Splendid production design and costumes, and the Genie was thankfully not the horror story we feared it would be, but a poor villain and some stilted dialogue ensure that this is not a whole new world you’ll want to revisit any time soon.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Ralph Breaks the Internet – Film Review

Cast:  John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill

Directors: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston

Synopsis: When her game Sugar Rush becomes at risk of being unplugged, Vanellope and her best friend Ralph must journey to the vast world of the internet in order to save her game…

Review: The great wonder of film-making, particularly when it comes to animation is that the possibilities are endless. There is no limit to what you can or cannot do, this is also very much applicable to this rather marvellous invention known as the internet. It is also a world of endless possibilities and a place where you can do literally just about anything you so desire. It seems fitting then that after a film that explored what video game characters get up to after their games close for the day, to go up a notch for the sequel and explore the crazy world that is the internet.

A few years have passed since the events of the first film, with Ralph (Reilly) and Vanellope (Silverman) enjoying a solid friendship hanging out together when their gaming duties for the day are done. However, for Vanellope, something is just not fulfilling enough, she strives for something more. When her game suffers a malfunction that puts its immediate future at risk, she and Ralph must journey to the centre of the conglomerate of the internet in order to save her game.

Sequels should always aim to broaden the scope of their predecessor, and so to make the jump from the inner workings of something as small as an arcade, to the never-ending maze that is the internet is a bold move on the part of Disney, but it turns out to be an inspired one as it makes for a very intriguing adventure. Given that the world of the internet offers users so much to explore, the way that the filmmakers concoct the internet is really quite clever. To be expected, there are a fair number of jokes centred around the internet and various phenomenons that have gone viral because of the internet, which provide plenty of humourous moments.

Furthermore, given the vast array of properties that Disney now owns, there’s a vast array of Disney “Easter Eggs” to be found. The most notable example of this would be the appearances of all Disney’s most popular princesses. This could be problematic as it could have come across as egotistical on the studio’s part. However, their appearances provide the film with some of its best moments (including a rather ingenious Brave gag).

The voice work of Reilly and Silverman in particular once again shines brightest as we watch these two, who seem the unlikeliest of friends, try to make their friendship work. Which, while heart-warming to see given how likeable they both are, is a very familiar premise and therefore doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of story-telling. Gal Gadot, though not herself a Disney Princess, is also a welcome addition to the cast. Despite that, you cannot help but feel, though her character and world are interesting, that the themes explored are somewhat clichéd and could have been a bit more innovative in light of the brilliantly clever concept of exploring the world-wide web.

Though the film is somewhat lacking in terms of a fulfilling narrative, some choices in particular do really feel completely out of the blue. It makes up for this with plenty of heart and (to be expected) some marvellous animation. However, the inevitability of sequels is they are going to be compared to their predecessors, and unfortunately Ralph Breaks the Internet is just not as clever as its predecessor. What’s more, the filmmakers really missed a trick with the title of the film, surely Ralph Wrecks the Internet would have been better?

Retaining the heart and vibrancy of its predecessor, Ralph Breaks the Internet offers up an imaginative look at the Internet, but doesn’t use the cleverness of its concept in a completely fulfilling manner. 

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

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Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Beauty and the Beast– Film Review

Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Michael Pierce, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti

Directors: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Synopsis: A young woman offers to take the place of her father who has been captured by a horrible beast who unbeknown to her, is a prince who has been cursed by a terrible spell.

Review: Walt Disney Animation Studios, synonymous with making the most magical movies that exist on Planet Earth, probably. How fitting then, that they would bring to life what is perhaps the most magical fairytale of them all, and what is perhaps the most well known adaptation. Based on the French fairytale of the same name, published in 1740, focusing on Belle, a beautiful young woman who lives with her father. When her father stumbles upon a dark and mysterious castle and becomes imprisoned by the beastly owner of the castle, she offers to take his place, and what follows is without doubt one of the finest animated movies to ever grace the silver screen, and one that despite being released over a quarter of century ago, has stood the test of time remarkably well.

The third film to be produced as part of the Disney Renaissance, it really in many ways set the benchmark for the films that followed it to reach in terms of making a Disney Princess movie that has had a lasting effect on pop culture, and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the coming years. What makes this film so great is not only its superb animation, which particularly for the time is remarkable. But even more than that are the characters, both leading and support, they are all just so memorable. Belle of course, clue in the name, is a beautiful princess but she’s also intelligent and compassionate, with a great singing voice. Gaston is in many ways Belle’s opposite, brash and rather arrogant who thinks he’s just the best, and that women should just fall at his feet, but of course Belle isn’t buying it.

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There are plenty of memorable tunes, right from the opening number to perhaps the most memorable tune, Be Our Guest, to the beautiful titular song, as performed by the great Angela Lansbury, which indeed won the Oscar for Best Song, which when you listen is easy to see why. The voice acting is flawless from everybody, and the singing too, every note that is sung is perfect, whether it’s Belle’s beautiful voice, or Gaston’s song about being the best man Belle could dream of, pompous to the maximum! Every song does its bit for the story, to move it along, and each of them have become some of the most iconic music, that’s perhaps ever been written for film. In addition, Disney’s films have become synonymous with producing magical fairytales, and this might just be the most magical of them all.

In addition to the Oscar for Best Song, a well deserved gong for Best Original Score, and the film also made movie history by becoming the first full length animated movie to get nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. It is a testament to the film’s quality that it was the first to achieve this honour, and this is before the Academy introduced a separate category for animated features, which is no mean achievement. Even more so that its legacy has endured for well over a quarter of a century now, and with the live action re-imagining shortly upon us, it should only ensure its legacy remains intact for generations to come, ensuring it will retain its status as a true timeless Disney classic, as if that was somehow ever in doubt.

Magical in every sense of the word, from story to characters to music. A truly wonderful piece of cinema that has been, and will continue to be adored for years to come. 

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