Tag Archives: disney

Cinema Dispatch: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Rian Johnson

And we’re back for our yearly song and dance to the empire George Lucas created and Disney is rebuilding!  Not that Star Wars ever really went away (nor did its fans who were perfectly willing to still spend money on it), but the last few years have been just the shot in the arm the franchise needed in order to make it more than a nostalgia artifact that won’t go away into something that will resonate with audiences today and maintain its throne as KING OF THE BLOCKBUSTERS.  Now that we’re at the second installment of the new trilogy, will it be yet another example of Disney getting this formula right, or have we already started hurtling head long into the dark side… by which I mean the movie is not very good?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up not long after the events of the first film where The First Order is understandably peeved over the destruction of the Star Killer Base and are on a warpath to hunt down the remnants of The Rebellion; more or less whittling them down to a single flagship desperately trying to find a place to hole up until the heat dies down.  Unfortunately for them, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) along with his own flagship are right on their tails and are blasting away at the Rebel ship’s shields until they can get a shot in and blow the whole thing up; effectively killing the resistance and all the loveable characters onboard.  Said characters include Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who’s having trouble ceding to the Rebel Leadership which is primarily General Leia and Admiral Holdo (Carrie Fisher and Laura Dern), Finn (John Boyega) who’s all fixed up after the fight against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the engineer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) who’s sister recently died in an attack and wants to help Finn in saving everyone who’s left on the flagship.  While Finn, Pie, and Rose are working out a way to save the ship while subverting the Rebel Leadership, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is off on Planet Nowhere with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) trying to coax the latter into going back to The Rebels and giving her Jedi lessons, while Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo)… well he’s keeping the Millennium Falcon warm in case either of them needs it.  Need it they might though considering how dire the situation is with The Rebels and Rey can’t exactly wait around for Luke to stop being a grumpy pants; especially with Kylo Ren growing more and more desperate to prove himself which only makes him that much more dangerous of a blunt tool for Snoke’s greater ambitions.  Will The Rebels find a way to survive this unceasing onslaught by The First Order?  Will Rey find her place in this conflict and become the Jedi Master that everyone can look up to in these trying times?  Will Luke teach her all those lessons he kinda sorta learned from Yoda and Obi-Wan!?

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“Do, or do not.  There is no try.”     “What do you mean there’s no try!?”     “Huh. You know, I never really understood that part either.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Coco

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Coco and all the images you see in this review are owned by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

I’m far from the only one to have Pixar fatigue, but it has been WAY too long since I’ve gotten excited for another animated film from them.  Even the prospect of Incredibles 2 only fills me with a mix of ennui and meh, so what hope does this film have to bring me back around on the studio?  Well it’s not a sequel for one which is a good sign and its premise, while not what I would call unique (*cough* Book of Life *cough* Grim Fandango *cough*), at least appears to be fleshed out (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk) as all the trailers show an immense level of detail and craftsmanship in every frame as well as an amazingly diverse cast that looks to bring an underrepresented culture to the big screen.  Hey, after the mostly positive reception and commercial success of Moana, it makes sense for Disney to stick with the formula; though hopefully we haven’t reached the point of diminishing returns just yet.  Will this be the standout animated film of the year like we’re in the golden age of Pixar, or has ship already sailed for one of the biggest giants of the industry?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins by telling us the history of the Rivera family where Imelda Rivera (Alanna Ubach) was stuck raising little Coco as her husband walked out on them to live out their dream as a world famous musician.  She didn’t let that get her down that she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and spent the rest of her life making shoes and teaching her family to make shoes; all the way to the present day where SHE may be dead and gone, but Coco is still around (Ana Ofelia Murguía) as the oldest living relative of the Rivera family and the great grandmother of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez).  Now despite Imelda more or less banning music in the Rivera household which is a tradition that has carried to this day, little Miguel can’t help but want to be a musician like his hero Ernesto de la Cruz who was a famous musician long ago and is still fondly remembered in Mexico to this day.  In fact… maybe there’s a connection between the guy who walked out on Imelda to become a famous musician, and this famous musician that Miguel is obsessed with right now!?  Maybe he’s the long lost great great grandfather and the only one in his family that would understand his love of music!?  Well Miguel is certainly convinced of this after finding some photographic evidence and decides to… rob Ernesto de la Cruz’s grave so he can use his guitar to win a talent competition?  Okay… seems a bit extreme, but whatever!  THE KID’S GOTTA PLAY!!  Too bad that robbing a grave gets you a one way ticket to the afterlife as Miguel finds himself more or less a ghost to those in the living world and eventually finds himself in the city of the dead where all the people who died are now skeletons; including Imelda Rivera and the rest of his extended family!  Will Miguel find a way to get back home before his brief vacation among the dead turns into a permanent residency?  What will he be able to learn about himself and his family during his treat; including the elusive Ernesto de la Cruz who may be able to help Miguel live out his dreams as a musician?  How the heck is a human supposed to survive in a city of the dead anyway!?  It’s not like any of the residents have lungs, so do they even have oxygen there!?

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“Does he count as contraband, or should we sign him in as a pet?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Taika Waititi

After the rather disappointing Thor: The Dark World (HOW DO YOU WASTE THE BEST DOCTOR WHO IN SUCH A BLAND VILLAIN ROLE!?) I wasn’t really looking forward to what they’d do with this character in his solo films and was more interested to see if he’d show up in a bunch of the other movies instead.  Once those initial trailers hit with the heavy emphasis on fantastical Jack Kirby inspired designs and the rocking Led Zeppelin soundtrack, there seemed to be hope in this franchise digging itself out of the pit the sequel left it in.  At the very least, it LOOKED a lot pretty with much more vibrant colors, and it even manages to drag Jeff Goldblum into the MCU which in and of itself would make this movie worthy of existing even if everything else ends up being awful.  Does Thor’s third chance at the plate end up being one of the best films in the entire MCU, or did they just throw a lot of flash and money at a franchise that is just unable to find its place after telling the origin story?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to find out what the heck Ragnarok is which was hinted at ALL the way back in Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Remember when he left the team to take a bath and saw some visions?  Yeah, apparently it was all foreshadowing of the destruction of Asgard in a calamity known as Ragnarok, so Thor is basically trying to find a way to stop it… whatever it may be.  In the meantime though, he manages to find out that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has taken the place of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who is actually alright as Loki basically stuck his ass in a retirement home on Earth, but when Thor goes down there to bring him back to the throne it turns out that he’s all out of time and disappears in a cloud of energy or something.  If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that one of the things he was doing when he was alive was keeping a hereto unknown daughter of his named Hela (Cate Blanchett) in some sort of magic prison which breaks as soon as he’s dead and so she’s come back for revenge against her family and all of Asgard.  Both Loki and Thor are dealt with rather quickly with the latter losing his famed hammer Mjolnir and landing on some mystery planet where he is captured by a mysterious woman (Tessa Thompson) and dragged to the planet’s ruler known as THE GRANDMASTER (Jeff Goldblum).  The once mighty God of Thunder and son of Odin is now put in chains and is forced to fight in gladiatorial matches in order to somehow earn his freedom and eventually find his way back home before Hela puts it inextricably under her vengeful thumb.  Can Thor find a way to escape the barbaric society run by the most fabulous of dictators?  What familiar faces will he find on this planet that can hopefully help him on his journey home?  How the heck is Thor gonna get around now that he doesn’t have his magic propeller hammer!?

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“THE GOD OF THUNDER DOESN’T NEED A HAMMER!  I JUST NEED TO FLAP MY ARMS REALLY FAST!!”     “Okay… well good luck with that!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Spider-Man: Homecoming and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures

Directed by Jon Watts

So after a decade of crappy reboots and custody battles, Spider-Man is finally gonna start living with BOTH his parents; sticking with Sony but being able to visit Disney on the weekends.  To celebrate these two studios begrudgingly working together to make a lot of money, we have the third reboot of the Spider-Man franchise getting a whole move all its own with a little from column Sony and a little from column MCU.  Considering how bad things had gotten for the character with the two Amazing Spider-Man movies and how reliable the MCU is when it comes to making above average blockbusters, it’s unlikely that this will end up a disappointment for anyone who’s been hoping to see a Spider-Man movie with the official Marvel stamp of approval, but if it can ONLY manage to be better than the previous iteration… well I can hardly think of a more textbook definition of Damning with Faint Praise.  Does this manage to stand on its own as a great film, or has Marvel finally met its match by having to work with another studio for once!?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up right after Civil War where Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is spending his day doing his Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man thing, but is getting antsy over the fact that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) won’t return his calls.  Neither will Happy (Jon Favreau) who’s supposed to be keeping an eye on him and is clearly doing a poor job of it since even a LITTLE bit of attention might have kept him from doing something stupid!  Said stupid thing is when he starts tracking down a group of alien gun smuggles head up by Adrian Toomes who played by Michael Keaton (Oh hey!  I guess he DID live long enough to become the villain!) and soon finds himself in over his head.  Not only does he have to deal with REAL tough guys instead of street thugs, he also has to deal with the problems of being a teenager such as having a crush on a senior named Liz (Laura Harrier) trying to sneak around Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and having to deal with his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who accidently found out his secret identity.  Can Spider-Man stop the bad guys AND get his math homework done?  Will Tony Stark eventually notice him once he takes down such a dangerous criminal, or will that only make things worse between them?  Oh I’m sure he can handle all this!  He’s a super hero, right!?

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SYMBOLISM!!

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Jumping the Soapbox: Looking Back at Los Disneys

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Los Disneys is the work of artist Jay Kristopher Huddy

The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners

People who say to get politics out of video games are idiots.  Even if we take this talking point at face value (spoiler alert: it’s not “politics” they actually want out of video games), it’s a stance only taken by cowards and the ill-informed.  For video games to be seen as a legitimate art form it needs to be free to have thoughts and opinions because art is ALWAYS political to a certain extent, and some of our greatest pieces of creative expression exist to convey a message; not just to look or sound nice.  Now there are still arguments to be had about what constitutes hate speech, how much power platform holders should have in controlling the market, and making sure the wrong games don’t get into the wrong hands (i.e. effective rating systems), but we can’t even get THAT far into the discussion if everyone wants to deploy the ban hammer on the mere IDEA of having something to say.  Are we clear on that?  Good.  Let’s talk about the game where you blow up Disney World.

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Los Disneys of Former Florida!  Free, Independent, and Ever Expanding!

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I honestly couldn’t tell you how I came across this game all those years ago (I think I might have been on a Controversial Games kick in high school) but it’s managed to stick with me even now.  This mod of Bungie’s Marathon casts you as a spy infiltrating Disney World (now the capital of the state of Los Disneys) in order to destroy it before they have a chance to take over the world, and while the graphics and gameplay were somewhat archaic even when I first discovered it, the novelty of the well realized location is what drew me in and kept me playing.  On the surface, it’s not all that different from other shock art we’ve seen aimed at Disney (*cough* Air Pirates *cough*), but the narrative is actually quite compelling and the art direction is strong enough that you want to keep pressing forward just to see what you’ll find around the next corner.  Needless to say that Disney wasn’t too happy about all this which garnered a few headlines and only increased the game’s exposure at the time.

Now I always saw it as a merciless take down of Disney’s monolithic place in American (and to a certain extent, worldwide) culture, but then why would you take MY word for it when we can get the answers straight form the horse’s mouth!?  No, not Horace Horsecollar!!  I got in touch with the game’s creator, Jay Kristopher Huddy, and he was nice enough to answer a few questions about his career, the game, and its legacy!

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Cinema Dispatch: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg

Here’s the thing about the Pirates movies.  Other than MAYBE the DCCU, it’s probably the most frustratingly simple conceit imaginable that they keep managing to screw up over and over again, so while some people may have a seething hatred for them (I wouldn’t blame you if you did), I find myself disappointed more than anything.  Now credit to where it’s due.  The first movie is still good, I like a lot of what they were doing with the second film, and I even think the fourth film was a marked improvement over the nadir that was At World’s End.  In fact, the fourth film is the closest since the first film of what this franchise SHOULD be which is the cinematic equivalent of pulp adventure books like the Conan stories or John Carter of Mars; a universe comprised of interesting and diverse characters but with stories that can be enjoyed individually.  Where Pirates started to screw up (and then self-imploded with the third one) was in trying to focus too much on continuity, MacGuffins, and character motivations that spanned MULTIPLE films; all of which made it almost impossible to enjoy the second and third ones on their own and why the fourth one felt like an okay start to a new direction for this franchise.  Will they continue that trend with this new one?  Well… probably not considering that Will and Elizabeth are returning to the series which presumably means a whole lot baggage is coming along with them, but let’s find out!!

The movie picks up several years after the events of On Stranger Tides, though more importantly for the purposes of this story, after the events of At World’s End as we have the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner (Orland Bloom and Keira Knightley) named Henry (Brenton Thwaites) trying desperately to break the curse on his father that has imprisoned him as the Captain of the Flying Dutchman.  While working for the British Navy, the ship he’s training on crashes face first into THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE (wouldn’t you want to AVOID something named that?) and he’s left as the sole survivor of an attack by the ghostly crew of Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem).  Now Henry has been looking for Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) for some time to see if he has some insight into saving his father and Captain Salazar manages to suss this out, so on top of leaving him as the sole survivor in order to spread his legend, he ALSO want him to give Jack a lesson when he finds him; mainly that he plans on killing that guy the first chance he gets.  Now after that prologue, we jump to the Island of Massive Coincidences where Jack just so happens to be wasting his days away drinking rum and there also JUST SO HAPPENS to be a woman named Cariana Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who may have the answer to finding the GREATEST TREASURE OF THEM ALL and exactly what Henry needs to break his father’s curse.  Oh, and Henry JUST SO HAPPENS to be sent to this island after he’s found by the British Navy because why not.  I won’t spoil much more at this point (mostly to keep this mercifully short) but by the start of the second act, Jack, Henry, Carina, and a few salty sea dogs (including Joshamee Gibbs played by Kevin McNally who’s been a staple of this series since the beginning), are sailing towards this mysterious treasure known as The Trident of Poseidon which can possibly break Will’s curse.  They aren’t the only ones headed in that direction however as Captain Salazar is after Jack, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is KIND OF after Jack, and some dude from the British Navy (David Wenham) is after all of them so he can throw them in jail.  Will Jack Sparrow manage to find this treasure and also avoid the wrath of Salazar who just so happens to have a grudge against him?  What exactly did Jack do to Salazar in order to gain his ire, and how far will he go for revenge?  Do these movies REALLY need to be this complicated every single freaking time!?

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Oh look!  The series is literally jumping the shark!

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Jumping the Soapbox: Top Ten Revivals Netflix Hasn’t Made Yet

The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners

Considering that Netflix has already brought back Wet Hot American Summer, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Arrested Development, Full House, and even Mystery Science Theater 3000, they’re quickly turning into the streaming service equivalent of Peter Pan; collecting lost television shows and movies we don’t want to leave to the sands of time and will gladly pay $9.99 a month to keep on life support.  Now I’ve enjoyed some of the stuff that they’ve Frankensteined back into existence (the new MST3K was actually the first time the series really started to click for me), but where the heck is MY nostalgic revival!?  Yes, I was a fan of Bill Nye too, but there are so many things that they could bring back that will cause me to reflexively empty my wallet and try to shove it into my computer monitor that they haven’t even considered yet!  In fact, let’s just go ahead and name ten of them!  Now the ordering of this list is SOMEWHAT arbitrary as there are LOTS of factors to think about when trying to put these in any sort of order so it’s hard to quantify which one is more important to try and bring back than another.  How much did I like the original show or movie?  How much more can they do with the license if it was brought back?  Will Netflix even have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking this project off the license holder’s hands?  All of which I think makes this a rather interesting (if slightly convoluted) top ten list even if it seems to be somewhat random!  Let’s get started!!

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10) Jem and the Holograms

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Right off the bat, let’s start with a series I’ve never even watched.  I’ve never particularly cared for Jem and the Holograms as a television series, and I CERTAINLY didn’t care for it when Hasbro and Jason Blum put out that cheap and cynical movie that had nothing with the franchise in the first place!  The reason it’s on this list is because of the IDW comic book series created by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell.  Gorgeous artwork, interesting storylines, and believable updates for all the characters are just the tip of the iceberg as far as things this series manages to get right, and while there are some notable differences between the original cartoon and this comic (Jerrica doesn’t own or even co-own Starlight Music), it’s still a fantastic entry point for anyone who was interested in the premise but was turned off the extreme Late Eighties Toy Cartoon aspects of the show.  Now to be fair, Netflix’s history with exclusive animated series hasn’t been the STRONGEST part of their original content, but they seem to have a solid enough relationship with Hasbro already (pretty much all of their animated shows are on there right now) which doesn’t put this outside the realm of possibility.  If nothing else, Hasbro still hasn’t done enough to apologize for that terrible movie, so it’s the least they could do!

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