D23 Updates and Excitement

I’m officially so jealous of anyone who got to go to Disney’s Comicon celebration D23.  I got to experience some of the fun panels watching on periscope (thanks awesome periscopers!) and I can’t even imagine seeing them in person.  Let me try and sum up all we learned from D23.

The biggest announcement was Star Wars Land!!!  Disneyland and Disneyworld are going to expand to add whole new lands with an immersive Star Wars experience . I love Star Wars so this is so exciting.  Evidently all the park personnel and everything you see at Star Wars land will be in character and part of the Star Wars world. The land will be “14 acres each. Guests will be able to ride the Millennium Falcon, sample blue milk and hang out at the cantina”.  Sign me up!

star wars2We also found out that Space Mountain is going to be redesigned to Hyperspace Mountain Star Tours will be updated to include the Force Awakens characters.  Sounds like a Disneyland trip will be in my future!

In other Disneyland news they announced a new Toy Story land with a slinky dog roller coaster.  So far the Toy Story attractions have been amazing so this should be great.

Star Wars Movie News

Continuing on the Star Wars vein we got new information on the Rogue One movie which looks awesome.  Director Gareth Edwards has started shooting and we should get the movie next year.  It will be the first stand alone Star Wars movies and looks like it will take a darker tone about resistance fighters who are trying to steal the plans for the Death Star.

The cast looks great with  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed,  Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk.   With some Chinese action stars it could provide a really visceral feel to the action of the movie and universe which they are trying to keep as real in feel as possible.

We also got this really cool cast photo

rogue oneWe also got to see the Force Awakens young cast and Harrison Ford introducing a new poster that looked amazing.  I am so excited for that movie!!!

Harrison Ford, seen as Han Solo in new 'Star Wars'

Marvel News

Marvel of course had some big announcements at D23 the biggest are lots of info about next years Captain America Civil War.  If you don’t know this plots superheroes against each other and evidently they showed a new trailer with Black Widow and Hawkeye fighting.  I can’t wait to see this new trailer!

Kevin Feige of Marvel also announced Doctor Strange and evidently Benedict Cumberbatch spoke to the crowd from London.  I’m a huge Cumberbatch fan and don’t know anything about Dr Strange so the movie looks like a fun addition to the MCU.

Animation News
Now for the main star at D23- the animation panels and news.
From Pixar there was a panel on Finding Dory where Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson and Ellen DeGeneres were all announced. We of course knew about DeGeneres and Albert  Brooks but Ty Burrell who does great voice work and Ed O’Neill are wonderful additions to the cast.

We also learned a little more about Toy Story 4. We knew it was a love story but John Lasseter elaborated it was a romance between Woody and Bo Peep who was missing in the 3rd movie.  Evidently Woody and Buzz go on an adventure to find Bo and it is very romantic.  Lasseter said:

“Each of the stories is a different genre,” Lasseter said, “and Toy Story 4 is a love story. It’s a love story between Woody and Bo Peep. Bo’s returned for Toy Story 4. Woody and Buzz head out to find Bo. It’s a very, very emotional story, and it’s very fun doing a story about [those two characters].”

It’s really true about the Toy Story movies.  Each one has a different feel and is in a different genre.

bo peep and woodyThe much talked about Coco project was officially announced by Director Lee Unkrich.  This is going to be a day of the dead story where they ask the question What if you could meet your long dead family members? (Pixar loves those what if questions!).  The only thing about it which makes me a tiny bit sad is I am sure nobody will remember Book of Life after this which was so artistically beautiful but lacked Pixar’s great storytelling.

coco

 Disney Animation News

The biggest news from Disney is their new film Gigantic which will take on the Jack and the Beanstalk story.  I believe this will be the first time Disney has retold a fairy tale they have previously animated? Fun and Fancy Free is okay but the new take on it seems very inventive.

giganticIn this version the giant is an 11 year old girl which I think could be really interesting and I love the concept art.  I think it could work really well with the current WDAS CG animation style.  Also Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez from Frozen are doing the music (Yay!).   Evidently they sang one of the songs and it was a huge hit.

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 Disney had a presentation on their upcoming film Moana and Dwayne Johnson proved his charisma once again.  They also announced all the music talent behind the film, which I am super pumped about- Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the The Heights and is incredible,  composer Mark Mancina (“Tarzan” “The Lion King”), and Opetaia Foa’i who is in a Polynesian band called  Te Vaka.  John Musker and Ron Clements are directing and so there is every reason to be excited about this movie (I love anything Polynesian!).   And it is so cool to see how important the project is for Johnson.

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The last animated film they talked about is Zootopia.  We learned some interesting things about it.  First of all, that it is going to be a musical or at least have original songs which I didn’t know about.  They announced a character named Gazelle who will be played by Shakira which honestly I doesn’t do much for me but should be a good outreach to the Latino Disney fans.  I’m not a fan of her outfit which seems very slinky. I’m still a little nervous about this project but the team they’ve got is great and it’s cool to see Disney doing something different.  I’m sure it will be great.

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Poster for 'The Jungle Book.'

The last thing I thought was cool in the footage was the response to The Jungle Book trailer.  Director Jon Favreau introduced it and I guess everyone loved it!  And then the entire cast was on stage which looked really cool.  Ben Kingsley, who voices Bagheera, said “There is a saying among actors: Never work with a child or animals. I work with a child, and I play an animal.”  I just hope they change the ending.  Fingers crossed.  It sounds like they are using some inspiration from the book and the movie so that sounds great.   I was glad to hear that it will be a musical and they will be singing Bear Necessities!

And evidently they watched a trailer for Jungle Book which I can’t wait to see.
So I know that was an insane amount of information but if you are a movie fan and especially a Disney fan you are probably eating it all up like I did.  (And there is even more but I had to stop somewhere).
What excites you the most?  I think Star Wars Land may be the biggest news because I had no idea that was coming but it is all great.  Let me know your thoughts about any of it in comments.
It’s a great time to be a movie fan and especially a Disney fan!
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Imitation Game: A Review

imitation game7As I said in my American Sniper review I saw it and Imitation Game on the same day and they are more similar than you might at first think.  They are both about unusual men who saved lives in time of war.

The Imitation Game is about the mathematician Alan Turing who invented an early computer that helped the British to solve the enigma coding machine the Germans used.

At the end of the movie they say Christopher (Turing’s machine) saved 14 million lives and helped end the war 2 years sooner.  That is pretty amazing especially for someone I’ve never heard of before this year.

THE IMITATION GAMEThe reason why we haven’t heard of Alan Turing is his untimely death in 1954 and the fact the entire code breaking enterprise was kept secret for 50 years.

In a lot of ways The Imitation Game is a lot like The Theory of Everything.  Both about geniuses who aren’t appreciated at first but end up making great contributions.  Both have personal struggles that make it even harder for them to be accepted- Stephen Hawking his disability and Alan Turing being gay at a time where it was illegal to do so.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing with Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game.Both are good movies but I would say The Imitation Game is better although it falls into some of the same standard biopic formulas we’ve seen before.

Of the 4 biopics nominated for best picture I’d rate them- Selma, American Sniper, Imitation Game and Theory of Everything. And they are all good movies just Game and Everything are a little predictable and formulaic.

Benedict Cumberbatch is very good as Alan Turing and I thought Keira Knightley was pretty good as his fiance and friend.  The rest of the cast is good with the exception of Charles Dance playing the obligatory stick in the mud boss who doesn’t recognize genius we’ve seen in a million other movies. I could have also done without the cop interviewing Turing narration throughout that felt extremely phony. I don’t think anyone had to tell a gay man in 40’s England to keep quiet about their homosexuality. This is a genius we are talking about.

imitation game4Matthew Goode and Allen Leach (from Downton Abbey) take small parts as members of the code breakers and all the sets and costuming is very well done. Alexandre Desplat’s music is also very moving and not over the top like so many biopics.

imitation game10The movie ends on a very sad note that is necessary as it is the real events but I couldn’t help but wish the movie had been a little less formulaic to help absorb that sadness- it kind of came out of left field.  But it was tragic for sure.

Cumberbatch is great as Turing.  He is basically playing the same role as he is in Sherlock so if you like him there you will like him here. He is vulnerable and awkward yet still likable in a way few actors could pull off.  The parts with the codebreaking were new and I learned something.  And like I said the rest of the performances are great.  Overall a very entertaining enlightening film.

It is also nice that it tells the story of a gay man without an agenda or vulgarity being shoved at the screen.  It’s just his story.  I love that and think it is perhaps more impactful than some films that are more blatant and heavy-handed in their messaging.  I certainly was moved by it.

As far as content it is pretty clean.  There is a little bit of PG-13 level profanity and one sexually explicit joke I’m surprised they could slip by with but other than that a film appropriate for middle school and up and a worthwhile message and story to learn about.

Overall Grade- B+, Content Grade- A

Penguins of Madagascar Review

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So I have made it my mission to watch all the major animated theatrical releases this year and as we are nearing December there were only 2 left in the docket- Penguins of Madagascar and Song of the Sea (which hopefully will play by me in December).

I debated whether to see Penguins because I actually have not seen any of the previous Madagascar films.  The first one came out when I was just home from my Mormon mission and wasn’t really in a movie-going mode yet.  Then I didn’t hear great things and so I never bothered to see any of them.  (I am not a big Chris Rock fan and I really dislike the Shrek movies so not much appeal.

But I had set the goal to see all the animated movies and my favorite critics over at What the Flick said they laughed their heads off so I decided to go and check it out.

And you know what? It’s actually really funny.  It reminded me of the first Naked Gun movie. Just one joke after another and they all made me laugh.

It’s not as inventive or creative as Lego or Mr Peabody and Sherman which also made me laugh but I was thoroughly entertained by the film and the kids around me were laughing long and hard.

Like I said, it is a spoof on spy movies with the penguins Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) on the case to track down an Octopus named Dave (John Malcovich) who is trying to kidnap the penguins because all the zoo patrons think they are so cute.

octovious dave

Our intrepid crew is aided by a band of high tech super spies called the North Wind led by a wolf named Classified who is voiced brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch (not that many celebrity voices in this, which was refreshing).

The-Penguins-of-Madagascar-North-Wind-Headquarters-Clip-3They go through all kinds of hijinks but the plot is really secondary as is the animation, which does the job it needs to do.

With a movie like this you either think it’s funny and laugh or you don’t.  Everyone has a different sense of humor, so all I can say is that I laughed a lot. So job well done!

It also doesn’t have any of that cheeky ‘wink wink’ tawdry humor other Dreamworks films have (like Shrek).  I really hate that.  Most of the jokes are word humor like when they make fun of Dave’s ordinary name for a super-villain or when Dave skypes in and his audio doesn’t work.  It’s a very tightly written funny script.

I’d be curious to know if you all found it funny. Like I said, humor is so subjective and there isn’t a ton else to recommend this film.  Let me know what you think!

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Overall Grade- B (I’d give Peabody and Sherman a B+ and Lego Movie an A+ because both made me laugh a lot and were more visually inventive than Penguins but they are all great fun!)

This makes it the 12 animated film I’ve seen out of 2014 and so far I’d rate them- Lego Movie, Tale of Princess Kaguya, Big Hero 6, Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Mr Peabody and Sherman, Book of Life, Penguins of Madagascar, Rio 2, Planes: Search and Rescue, The Nut Job, Legends of Oz.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the year! Only 2 I didn’t enjoy on some level. Hope you have too.