‘The Lion King’ (2019) REVIEW

Recently director Jon Favreau defended his remake of the animated classic, The Lion King, to USA Today saying it is ‘not completely a shot for shot remake‘. Upon hearing this, I became hopeful that this remake might be similar to his version of The Jungle Book, which had its flaws but took a new approach to Mowgli and to the ending that I appreciated. Now having seen new remake, I am quite baffled by Favreau’s words because aside from the visuals, I saw no noticeable story differences between it and the animated classic. It’s as close to a shot-for-shot remake of a film as I’ve ever seen (Critic David Ehrlich compared it to the remake of Psycho by Gus Van Sant, and he’s absolutely correct.) Of course, the new version of The Lion King will make boat-loads of money but if you are asking for this critic’s advice I would give it a definite skip.

lion king3

Let’s start off talking about the film’s greatest strength, the visuals. Despite Disney’s reticence to use the term, they are an incredible achievement in ANIMATION! (The reason I believe they haven’t wanted to use the word is because it is one thing to remake an animated film with live action but to remake an animated film with another animated film feels like even more of a copycat than all the others!). Particularly in wide shots the photorealism is impressive. It seems hard to believe that everything down to the smallest blade of grass is fabricated on a computer and yet that is the reality. If people want to see this film for the visuals alone I wouldn’t fault them, but I guess I was hoping to have more to recommend given the original film is such a favorite of mine.

There are other positives like the voicecast is all competent and the music/songs are well executed. However, I was a little disappointed only one song from the Broadway musical is included as a song over the credits and the one original song ‘Spirit’ is just an accompaniment to a transitional scene when the characters are walking. I was hoping it would be part of a new narrative for Nala but that is not the case.

The only song I did not like was their rendition of ‘Be Prepared’, which felt like such an after-thought. It’s one of my all-time favorite Disney villain songs and it came and went without making any impact. There was no spectacle or gravitas, which made Scar a much less interesting villain.

lion king7

The best part of the film character-wise is Timon and Pumba (Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen). Their scenes, while identical to the original, have the most energy and life to them. They are also the closest to being believable as actually talking and singing animals. With the lions and other characters, their mouth movements never quite worked, with their faces not matching the words/lyrics in a natural easy way (maybe because real animals make individuals sounds like a purr or a roar rather than formulating whole words).

There’s also a problem with the photo-realistic character’s inability to emote in the way a 2D animated character can. Little Simba in the original can have big tears well up in his eyes, and his whole face can be full with the emotion of losing his Dad. That’s not possible with a photo-realistic lion; thereby, rendering the scenes one note and flat.

lion king6

Coming out of the film I felt it might actually be a better choice for young children (under 5) than the original for this very reason. The tense scenes feel more clinical when realistic; therefore, they aren’t as devastating to the viewer. If a child can handle a nature documentary where animals are in peril, they should be able to handle what they see in this remake.

I know when my brother used to watch the original he would get very upset at the dramatic scenes, and I don’t think that would be the case here. (My friend disagreed with me and felt it might be scarier to young kids because it is more realistic so I suppose it depends on the child). It is less emotionally manipulative than the original but that also means it is less impactful.

Unfortunately this lack of emotional investment strips The Lion King of what makes it special. It becomes an exercise in checking off boxes for the story we know and love instead of anything remotely memorable. The recent version of Dumbo had lots of problems but at least there was some attempt to offer a new take, with different visions for the characters. This is just bland. There are no two ways around it. It’s bland, bland, bland.

My advice is save your money. Stay home and watch the original classic film!

frown

Advertisements

Lion King Remake

lion-king34As a Disney blogger I feel somewhat compelled to say something about today’s announcement of a Lion King remake. I wish I could say I was surprised but come on guys we all knew this was coming.

So, what do I think about live action Lion King? Well, my feelings on fairytale retellings are mixed at best. Even in books they just aren’t my thing. When it comes to the movies I have loved 2 of them- Pete’s Dragon (which is a remake in name only) and Cinderella (which there are so many versions it’s not really an animated remake). I liked Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians but didn’t love them like some.

Three of them are awful- Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. They are bad for different reasons but mostly they just aren’t very well made movies, with badly written scripts and boring characters. When this is done to a remake of a classic film it feels insulting because you know that Disney could have done better. They have the better version staring them in the face and they settled for junk (yes, I realize that is strong words but I think those 3 movies are that bad).

As far as my recent outcry over Beauty and the Beast. I have hated everything I’ve seen out of that movie. People ask my opinion and that’s how I feel. Could the movie be great? Sure but things like the new Lumiere and Cogsworth? Peeuw! And then when I heard the director claim the reason to do the remake was they finally had the technology to fully realize the original vision that angered me. That vision was fully realized. If Disney is going to insist upon making these remakes could they please stop downgrading the original in an effort to puff up the new film? Please!

So, the Lion King…the first obvious difference between it and these other films is no humans. It is basically an animated film but because it is photo-realistic it is perceived as live action. And they could use motion capture to get eye movements and other facial expressions on the lions.

I have no interest in this project at all. Does that mean it couldn’t be good? Of course not but I’m not excited or anticipating it in any way. I’m open to them being good or bad but don’t expect me to be eagerly anticipating any of these remakes.

I’m not in general opposed to remakes. I just don’t like bad movies and for a long time these remakes were terrifically bad movies.

There are a few spots where the Lion King could be improved on such as the intro to Can You Feel the Love Tonight, which I’m sure will happen as this will be a dark and grittier version like in Jungle Book. I’m not sure I need a dark and gritty version but whatever…

I don’t know what else to say. There’s a difference between totally writing something off and being expected to be excited about it. For some reason I was expected to be excited about a teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast that was shots of the set and some music but everyone expects me to be full of wrath at this announcement.

I don’t hate the remakes as some form of protest. I genuinely look at the films/promotional images and either like them or don’t like them. It’s as simple as that. I actually liked the Jungle Book trailers so it’s not just some knee jerk, hate everything reaction from me. So far everything out of Beauty and the Beast I haven’t liked and have frankly been surprised that other people were so accepting of them. I mean Lumiere and Cogsworth you can’t see their faces! And the new Belle dress…Ee gads. It’s like they are actively trying to make her ugly. Don’t even get me started on Mrs Potts…

If I had it my way these remakes would take the Pete’s Dragon approach. Take indie directors with bold artistic approaches, small budgets and lots of heart. However, these big loud bloated films seem to be the typical Disney choice. Shrug. Too bad.

I guess my only real question will be if they use the music or not? Most of the films have not used the music (Jungle Book I didn’t really care for the music in it. We will see on Beauty and the Beast…). Also, will they bring the original voice cast back? Who knows?

When it comes down to it I wish they weren’t making any of them but am open to them being good movies. I guess that’s all I have to say.

More ramblings on my youtube channel

The Lion Guard Premiere Review

lion guard5I’m not sure who asked for a Lion King animated series for small children but we have gotten it with Disney Jr’s The Lion Guard.  I recently watched the 1 hour premiere and had mixed feelings about it.  I love Lion King and had it in my Top 50 Animated Films, but am not quite as high on it as many who have it as their favorite animated film ever.  I’m not sure what those fans will think of this addition, so if you are let me know!

lion guard3

PROS

Let’s talk about the things I liked in the premiere.

The most important stand-out is the animation.  Disney has been doing an amazing job with their 2D and CG TV offerings.  Whether it is Star Wars Rebels, Wonder Over Yonder, Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Gravity Falls, the TV animation is on par with the film animation.  It really is and Lion Guard is no exception.  While perhaps not the masterpiece quality of the original it still looks great.

I haven’t seen the sequels for some time so I can’t compare the animation in those but Lion Guard I thought looked smooth, bright, colorful with beautiful backdrops.

lion guard4I also thought the mythos behind the Lion Guard and Scar losing his roar was pretty good.  The group of 5 in the guard should be fun for small kids to follow on adventures protecting the Pridelands from villains.

The voice casting was solid with Rob Lowe voicing Simba and Gabrielle Union Nala. I also liked Atticus Shaffer from underrated show The Middle as the voice of Ono the egret of the Lion Guard.

The score by Christopher Willis and Beau Black is excellent even if the songs were very lame.

Here is the trailer

CONS

lion guard81

I am not a fan of the sarcastic, hip tone we got from lead Kion but there was admittedly some of that in the original with Simba wanting to be king and all.  For some reason, I found it more grating here.  Also the character of Bunga, a honey badger that reminded me of Terk from Tarzan, was very annoying.  He’s supposed to be Kion’s snarky friend but most of the time it came across as forced and obnoxious.

THE LION GUARD - "The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar" - The epic storytelling of Disney's "The Lion King" continues with "The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar," a primetime television movie event premiering SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22 (7:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel. (Disney Junior) TIMON, TIIFU, KIARA

I also didn’t like the way the females were all either insecure  or arrogant divas.  In a way I kind of wish that Kiara would have been the lead of the story but she is relegated to being rescued in the premiere. I particularly didn’t like Zuri who complains about her nails and getting dirty.

I also did not like the constant winks to the original.  It felt very lazy to me and forced.  Like they sing instead of Hakuna Matata, Zuka Zamba.  Why not have a reprise or new arrangement of Hakuna Matata?  I mean would Timon and Pumba have gotten a new word/philosophy to life?  Plus, Timon and Pumba are still living by the no worries philosophy?  Wasn’t that kind of proven wrong in the whole ‘it allowed Scar to take over and ruin the pridelands?’

lion guard8Plus Hakuna Matata was not about not working.  It was about not worrying.  That’s not exactly the same thing. It’s about not having problems and Simba realized it was wrong and certainly wouldn’t have been teaching his son some new version of it called Zuka Zamba.

It just felt kind of like a bargain basement rip off of a highlight from the original film.  There are also lots of jokes and puns about the original, which got a little old.  Even Rafiki saying ‘it is time’ and then Kion singing ‘It is Time’ song made me roll my eyes! Couldn’t they have thought about something else for Rafiki to say?

lion guard19I also did not care for a scene where Mufasa visits Kion with the voice of James Earl Jones.  In the original film when Simba see’s his father in the vision of the clouds it is an emotionally powerful moment.  Here it’s like ‘oh hi Grandpa…’

lion guard6I was also disappointed to see the hyenas as the main villains.  They are so stupid that I don’t think they will be tough for the Lion Guard to defeat.  I understand it is a show for very small children but why not have a child of Scar be the main villain?  That would be really cool. You’ve got to imagine as King he fathered cubs? Scar is possibly my favorite Disney villain so this seems like a serious downgrade.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Overall, I think it is an all right animated series that small children will probably enjoy.  The animation is good quality and the voice work I liked.  It’s basically Lion King fan fiction so its appeal will partly depend on how open you are too new properties in that world.

However, I felt many of the attempts to tie back into the original felt lame and generic.  The attempts at potty humor, songs like Zuka Zama annoyed me.  They don’t show any growth on the part of Timon and Pumba from the original film.  The songs in general were mediocre.

I also didn’t care for the way the girl characters were portrayed and Bunga I found very annoying.

That said, not a bad watch and will be curious how the series works out.

If you have seen it put in the comments section and let me know what you thought- especially if you are a big Lion King fan.

Overall Grade- C+ (good animation make it just a hair above average Disney fare)

Disneynature 6: African Cats

african catsNext up in my review of the Disneynature films is African Cats.  It marks a change in the canon on how the films are told.  The previous films have been more standard documentaries.  In African Cats we get an attempt at a narrative with character names ascribed to the animals and a supposed story they are telling.  If you read my review of Monkey Kingdom which I did out of order they totally describe a social structure, conflict and personality to the monkeys.  I don’t know how much of that is hogwash but it does make the films more accessible for the average moviegoer that does not like documentaries.

African Cats tells the story of 2 families of ‘cats’ a single mom Cheetah named Sita with 5 cubs, and Mara and her mother Layla who are lionesses part of a pride. Like with the monkeys they attempt to show a contrast between the lonely isolated cheetahs and the pack of lions that do everything together.

african cats3Most of the movie is both cheetahs and lions trying to get food.  As both species are carnivores this means it is the most bloody of any of the Disneynature films I’ve seen to date.  Many animals are hunted and eaten with blood on the faces of the lions and cheetahs.  This might be upsetting to very small children but I asked my friends and they all agreed their kids can handle it.

The little cubs are so cute that it helps with those scenes.  Plus, the lions face their own foe that wants to eat them when they have to cross a river filled with crocodiles.  As my friend said “they get the whole “circle of life” thing”…

Speaking of circle of life I am a little surprised there wasn’t more analogies made to the Lion King.  I think James Earl Jones might have been a cool narrator instead of Samuel L Jackson.  Since they are doing a narrative it might have been fun to have a few winks at Lion King or maybe some of the  music thrown in?

african cats4Let’s start with the many positives of African Cats.  It looks amazing.  How they were able to get some of these shots I will never know.  You are watching these lions tear apart a zebra from limb to limb or a cheetah chase down an antelope or jackle and wondering how the filmmakers aren’t completely terrified?

african cats5The vistas of the African safari are stunning.  You get these amazing panning shots of herds of wildebeests and the cheetah sprinting at an insane pace.  Practically every shot I was left wondering ‘how the heck did they do that?’ and it almost looks fake it is so good.

african cats7 Also the question of the pride over the cheetah being solo has an interesting dimension for talking with kids about being self-reliant vs relying on others.  Working together vs being strong on your own.  Both have value and can be a functional part of nature as we see with the cheetahs and the lions.

If the scenes of carnage are a little much it could also be a chance to discuss nature with your children which is a good learning opportunity.

african cats2The downsides to African Cats is at 89 minutes it is definitely too long.  It could have had a good 15 minutes cut and not missed a beat.  There were sections where I started to lose interest- maybe we have one hunting sequence too many?

african cats6My other flaw is the narration can feel a little forced and heavy handed.  You can tell they were just testing out the adding a story to nature thing and there were segments I wished I could turn the narration off and just watch the animals.  I was not emotionally invested in the story like I was with the flamingo movie (still the best of Disneynature by a considerable margin) Crimson Wing. Samuel L Jackson is fine as the narrator but I don’t know if he has the gravitas needed for a project like this.  He sometimes seemed a little bored.

But flaws aside it is a beautiful film about some of God’s most amazing creatures.  The power of the lion and the speed of cheetah are awe inspiring.

Overall Grade- B

What about you guys?  Do you get upset seeing animal-on-animal hunting and killing?  Do your kids get upset by that kind of scene?  Any of you seen African Cats?  It’s a pretty good movie.

Bracket Fun

So I found this bracket download and have been having fun with it tonight. I was just goofing off so please don’t take it too seriously.

Here we have a tournament of Christmas Carol versions
christmas carol bracket

Next is the worst of my Disney rankings.  Turns out Bolt is the bad movie I would most least mind watching again. It’s my favorite of the bad. I’d say that’s right on.  It’s an entertaining if forgettable little movie.

worst disneyThis I’m sure will cause all kinds of controversy but there you go.  My top 16 battling it out.  I did rank Big Hero 6 higher than Lion King but today if I had to pick I went with Lion King.  Maybe tomorrow I will feel differently.  They are all good!

disney bracketHere we go with my favorite holiday films battling it out!

tournamentA little 2014 Movies competition!

2014 movies

So this is just silly fun but I had a great time doing it.  It’s different than making a list because you are just making a choice over 2 movies.  If I had a top 8 holiday films Die Hard wouldn’t be on there but in the tournament it was, so that’s just kind of entertaining

If you want to make your own brackets go to http://www.printabletournamentbrackets.net/preview/16_Team_Single_Elimination_Bracket

Best Disney Villain Songs

Disney-Villains-ReelGood1

I already did Best Villains  so in honor of Halloween it seemed appropriate to talk about some villain music.  Particularly my favorite villain songs.  Actually there aren’t as many as you’d think.  Classic villains like Lady Tremaine and Maleficent don’t have a villain songs.

Special Notice- Hellfire-  I could not put this on my list but I know everyone will ask about it.  I just can’t support a song that is openly supporting the rape and murder of a woman.  I’ve talked about it so much on the blog.  It crosses a line I am not comfortable with.  That said, it is very well sung and the animation is haunting, so for that reason I am honoring it as separate from my list.

So that said- my list.

10. Trust in Me- One of the first villain songs in any Disney film and it is close to an Adam and Eve type villain as Disney gives us.  Like the serpent in the Biblical story, Kaaa oils and slithers his way around the jungle, hypnotizing his victims with his beguiling song.  It is made all the more creepy by the fact it is Sterling Holloway, the voice of Winnie the Pooh claiming to be Mowgli’s best of friends.

9. Gaston- Perhaps the funniest villain song.  It’s a big pep talk for our town hero.  The fact that we know he wants to make our heroine unhappy at whatever cost gives it an eery undertone.

8. Heffalumps and Woozles- One of the spookiest moments of Disney.  We’ve got a true nightmare with all the minor chords and inflections of a haunted house song.  There is also always something creepy about toys like jack in the boxes.  Plus, they want to steal Pooh’s honey!   This song is especially effective when you think it is aimed at toddlers. It’s in every shape and size, size, SIZE!

7. Prince Ali Reprise- While a reprise and not a complete song it is very effective.  A joyous number from earlier in the film is now used to control and manipulate.  At this point in the story Jafar has total control of the Genie and everything else.  It all looks very bad for our heroes.

6. Mob Song- An extremely chilling song because it’s an entire town taking on our heroes that are basically household items.  How is this going to work?  As the music escalates the tension gets tighter and stronger until we feel real panic, like a mob would feel.  The animation is striking and captures the darkness and increasing madness of Gaston and the crowd.

5. Savages- Perhaps the most thoughtful Disney villain song and it is the redemption of Pocahontas which made my bottom 10 Disney movies.  It is a cliche ridden historical travesty but in this song they reach some emotional truth.  Some criticize it for the way it stereotypes people but that’s the whole point of the song.  Both sides have rationalized why the other is the villain and needs to be done away with.  It’s very profound and beautifully drawn and sung.

4. World’s Greatest Criminal Mind- Brought in a series of villain songs in movies that would go nearly uninterrupted for the next decade of Disney movies.  Ratigan is a hilarious villain with Vincent Price as one of the best voices ever. The fact he kills a mouse for calling him a rat when his name is Ratigan is so funny.  Kind of like Gaston it is a funny villain song but very effective.  Ratigan is the closest Disney has ever gotten to an over-the-top Bond villain and I love it!

3. Mother Knows Best- As far as straight singing this is probably my favorite Disney villain song and one of my favorite songs.  Donna Murphey is amazing as Mother Gothel.  It is Sondheim level quality.  It takes the nurturing of motherhood and uses it to control and manipulate a child.  Is there anything colder than that?  It’s so effective.  I just love it!

2. Poor Unfortunate Souls- One of the most brilliant voice casting in Disney history.  Pat Carroll gives Ursula a mix of a truck driver and a drag queen.  She is on full saleswoman mode and uses every sweet and conniving method she can muster to tempt Ariel into her web. She would have said she’d cured cancer if it would have gotten her the ending she wants.  That’s my kind of villain.  The animation is brilliant and funny and I love that ursula is the only octopus we see aside from a brief glimpse of one in Under the Sea.  There is nobody who looks like her.  She is blackness, overweight, with red lipstick.  Got to like that!

1. Be Prepared-  In a movie where almost nobody did their own singing (even Broadway star Matthew Broderick didn’t),  it is especially compelling Jeremy Irons sang Be Prepared.  It is as close as Disney gets to a Hitler villain.  He even has Nazi hyenas.  He oils and defines his plan dripping with disdain for everyone including his brother.  He is a sociopath who has no guilt throughout the movie for any of his choices.  All he cares about is himself to the detriment of the entire kingdom.

The Best Disney Villains

Disney-Villains-ReelGood1

I  tried to whittle the list down to 10 but I ended up with 16 and I figured why not include them all?

So, here goes- the 16 best Disney Villains as determined by me.

16. Man with the Bowler Hat (Meet the Robinsons)- This was such a creative villain.  Everything about him surprised me.  I love his look and that he is a reminder even the most innocent of us can turn to a life of villainy if we aren’t careful (and get enough sleep!)

Bowler-Hat-Guy-Goob-disney-villains-2321212-320-20915. Yzma- Emperor’s New Groove– One of the funniest villains.  She’s got style and is a spazz.

yzma14. Prince John- (Robin Hood) It kind of pains me to have him so low but there are so many great villains.  This is another funny villain who is constantly sucking his thumb and crying for Mommy.  And yet he’s incredibly ruthless to all the people.  He’s probably the villain who does the most harm for the greatest number of people (Gaston, for instance, pretty much only hurts Belle and The Beast).   He’s also got that great English dry wit

prince john and hiss213. Shere Khan and Kaa (Jungle Book)-  Really the success of these villains has to do with the voice talent.  Sterling Holloway plays against type as the hypnotizing Kaa who oils his way around the room and Shere Khan voiced by George Sanders is very creepy and deeply voiced villain.

shere khan and kaa12. Evil Queen (Snow White) Another one that pains me to see it so low because she is so great but there are 11 I like even better.  Her transformation is amazing and she is so vain even being queen isn’t enough for her.  She isn’t content until she is better than everyone else in every way.

SW_Queen11. Ratigan- (Great Mouse Detective)-  the most James Bondlike villain of any of the Disney villain.  Not satisfied with a simple solution he makes everything as complicated as he can.  Amazing voice performance by Vincent Price, one of first great villain songs and hilarious to have a villain named Ratigan who becomes enraged when called a rat.

ratigan list

10. Devil (Fantasia)- I know the devil should be higher because he’s the Devil! But it is a short sequence so I thought 10 seemed a good spot.  The artistry in Night on Bald Mountain is amazing.  The demons and spirits that the Devil rules over are gorgeous especially compared with the light and peace of the Ave Maria section.  It’s as stunning a depiction of good vs evil as in any Disney movie (or any movie for that matter).

on bald mountain

9. Captain Hook (Peter Pan)-  Another funny villain. The slapstick with the crocodile is the highlight of the movie but Hook steals every scene he is in.  He is sniveling, snide and extremely manipulative.   The way he interrogates Tinker Bell is intense.

peter-pan-1953-peter-pan-and-captain-hook hook and smee

8. Coachman, Stramboli, Monstro (Pinocchio)-  For my money the Pinocchio villains are the scariest because there is no sense of justice or retribution.  There is no humor or lighter side to them.  Just despicable, greedy, awful, terrifying people.  For the morality tale it is, they work perfectly.  I certainly wouldn’t want to sin if I knew they were at the end of every bad choice.  I mean the coachman turns little children into donkeys to work in salt mines for money?  Does it get more evil than that?

Stromboli-from-Pinocchio

coachman

7. Mother Gothel- (Tangled)- A woman willing to manipulate her ‘daughter’ and basically ruin her life for her own greed.  Make her a prisoner and brainwash her into believing she is doing her a favor.  That’s pretty bad.  I love Mother Knows Best because it takes the nurturing maternal nature of mothers and turns it on its head, uses it for bad not good.   It’s perfect.  She’s the closest Disney has come to having a true sociopath as their villain

tangled__mother_gothel_by_frie_ice-d6va25s

6. Gaston- (Beauty and the Beast)–  It seems to low but again there were simply 5 I like even better, but I love Gaston.  He is an interesting villain because in the minds of most people he’s the hero.  But like the Evil Queen in Snow White his lack of control over one person causes him to descend into madness.  He probably has the funniest villain song; although World’ Greatest Criminal Mind is a close second.  It’s not even really a villain song.  It’s just everyone telling him how great he is.  No wonder he thinks he should have his way!

5. Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)–  Otherwise known as The Wicked Stepmother, Lady Tremaine, gets 5th spot from me because she is so duplicitous even to her own daughters.  She plays the part of genteel and kind and then proceeds to make Cinderella’s life a living Hell.  She locks her up when she worries Cinderella’s foot will fit and she encourages the girls to rip off her dress, despite pretending to keep her side of the bargain.  She is like that women at work who makes your life a nightmare but then always tries to claim the high ground.  I love how her eyes are yellow with disdain.  She also has a cat named Lucifer!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4. Cruella De vil (101 Dalmatians)- I love how her name has both cruel and devil in it but I still love her.  She is perhaps the most shallow villain.  All she cares about is looking good with her dalmatian furs.  That’s just hilarious and over-the-top but it feels believable in the story.  Her driving, the way she throws her hands in the air and even yells through the phone are all totally chilling and funny. I’m no animal lover but anyone who wants to kill 101 puppies just for her wardrobe gets top honors on the villainy tribe in my book.  Such a funny character and I love how she mocks Roger ‘Roger’s songs…’

crazy cruela

3. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)- Aside from the Devil, Maleficent is the closest Disney got to a pure evil character.  She has horns for goodness sakes!  She is basically a She-Devil with all of his powers to create thorns, thistles, demons and pronounce curses on people who don’t invite her to parties.  That’s got to be the best part of Maleficent is that she curses Aurora to death for getting snubbed at the christening.

There are arguments for subtle villains who have good and bad but there’s also a case for going all the way in a fairytale.  Make your characters, the heroes, stand up against the ultimate evil.  That’s what made Harry Potter so good is there was no chance of redemption for Voldermort.  That bridge had already been crossed and he was evil.  I haven’t seen the new Maleficent yet but am highly skeptical.  By softening her it could take away what is the most special about her.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2. Scar (Lion King)-  I remind you I gave Lion King #13 spot on my final rankings but Scar is a fantastic villain.  He’s smart, disdainful and murders his own brother with glee.  He may actually be Disney’s 2nd sociopath.  He’s convinced what he is doing is right even though it clearly isn’t.  He is completely selfish and has surrounded himself with people he can control.  (How brilliant to make hyenas who laugh his cronies).

What puts Scar so high though is Jeremy Irons voicework.  It is dripping with disdain as if he is condescending to talk to everyone at all times. His villain song, Be Prepared, is one of my favorites, both the actual song and the animation.  It’s the best part of Lion King and completely gripping.

mufasa and scar

1. Ursula (Little Mermaid)-  As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog Little Mermaid was my favorite movie growing up and Ursula is a big part of that . She is so unique.  In a movie full of fish and mermaids, she’s an octopus with tentacles that cover the screen with their blackness.  She’s overweight and speaks like a chain smoker and is perfect.  I love how she looks like a combination of a drag queen and a truck driver.

And her villain song is brilliant.  Poor Unfortunate Souls is funny, manipulative and the perfect song to trick a 16 year old lovestruck girl.  She also equally villainous when she turns into Vanessa and for no good reason, she just is evil with those yellow eyes!

She also has a dishy motive of revenge on Triton.  She’s been banished and when the two spare off it is classic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Movie 44: Brother Bear

poster

I’ll just give a warning before reading this review.  If you like Brother Bear you probably don’t want to read further because I did not.  It had such potential but everything about it was a failure.  So, if reading a review of someone who dislikes something you like is an unpleasant experience for you than STOP READING NOW!

Brother-bear-disneyscreencaps.com-8924

In 2003 I went on a mission for my church so for 2 years I didn’t see any movies and with new movies coming out when I came home I never really got to play catch up.  Sure I watched the 3rd Harry Potter movie, The Incredibles and Return of the King but that was about it in the 2003-2005 era.  If one had a bad reputation I skipped it and moved on.  Brother Bear was one of those films and I hate to say it but I’m glad I did.

I’m sorry guys but this movie stinks.

Literally every choice I would have advised them to reconsider.  Everything from the yogi bearish 2D characters on top of the deep canvas which looked strange, the odd voice cast, the underwhelming songs, the uber-predictable story,  the painful attempts at humor and the incredibly unlikable lead character made it a very unpleasant experience. Honestly I’m struggling to find anything I like about this one.

bears8
Just look at the way these characters look? It’s enough for me to know the movie is not for me. I would rather watch episodes of the Gummy Bears and notice our lead character scowling as he does the whole movie...

Unfortunately I’m not the most witty writer in the world (at least I can admit it unlike the writers of this movie…) but my friend over at Disney Movie Year wrote a very funny review of Brother Bear.  He liked it about as much I did…

https://disneymovieyear.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/week-44-brother-bear/

The Production-

It is obvious from the start of the movie Brother Bear tries to recycle themes, characters even whole scenes from Lion King, Pocahontas, Tarzan, Treasure Planet, and more.  One article I read (information was fairly sparse on this one) said

“Michael Eisner informed the animation department that he wanted a movie about bears. What about bears? The fact that they are readily marketable, in Stepakoff’s estimation. Various ideas were kicked around – “bear King Lear”, “bear Antigone”, none of which came to fruition, surprisingly.

I mean, by God, if “the CEO wants to sell teddy bears” isn’t going to inspire writers to do their best work, what on Earth possibly could? (http://antagonie.blogspot.com/2009/12/disney-animation-well-and-truly-im-on.html)

Well said but even a commercial cash grab can turn out interesting as Disney has proven many times (think Robin Hood) but the choices they made are so strange.

Movie Review/Conclusion

brother_bear_09-1
I wish I could get rid of the cartoonish bears and just look at pretty Alaska… I mean look at the bear with the bangs? It looks so strange

Everything in the movie looked odd to me.  The way the characters are designed on top of the Deep Canvas background always felt off.  Also the voice casting never seemed to fit.

The songs are super lame and who thinks ‘Intuit bear story’ and then ‘I’ll hire Tina Turner’?  I don’t get it?   That makes no sense?  There were so many strange choices like that.

The story is so predictable. Every time it took the obvious turn I groaned at the screen. And the sentimental moments are not earned by the characters.  I don’t believe the journey they are on or even understand why it is completely necessary.  I mean does every teenager who mouths off and acts in anger get turned into a bear in the world of this story?  Even if you accept his punishment, I saw no change or growth and the events on their road trip are so obvious and so predictable they bored me to the point I kept checking the time left on the netflix stream….It wouldn’t speed up but seemed to have a half an hour left for 3 hours….

Just bad choices all around.  The dialogue is awful.  The script feels childish and a lot of times we are introduced to characters and then we never hear form them again.  Something usually isn’t  funny if we have just met a character.  Honestly the script left me aghast at it’s stupidity.  I expect better from Disney! (No wonder this only has 32% on Rotten tomatoes…)

For example, there is a line in the movie where the two moose are playing ‘I spy’ and they go back and forth spying things and I kept waiting for the joke.  There was no joke!!  It was just a 2 minute bit of dialogue playing I spy and I guess that’s supposed to be funny?   And I guess talking ‘Canadian’ and saying hosier a lot is also supposed to be funny?  It certainly didn’t make me laugh.

bears11

There were so many befuddling moments like that?  Why attempt to treat the Intuit culture so carefully at the beginning and then have modern voices speaking the way modern teens would speak?  That was so distracting.  There’s one scene where some billygoats who are introduced and forgotten about in like 2 minutes, say shut up 7 times.  Is that supposed to be funny characters saying shut up a lot?

bears5
Again look at the banged bear. Doesn’t that just look so badly designed?

Aladdin could get away with modern voiced characters because there was no attempt to be authentic to Arabic culture.  Same with Hercules.

The other huge problem is the lead character is so unlikable.  I started to watch after a while (I was so bored) to see when we finally get a smile from Kenai.  Literally 1 hr 2 minutes before a smile.  He is so winy and for things that don’t seem so bad.  It’s not like they are stuck in terrible weather or life is miserable?  And at the beginning, so he got a love totem?  Is that really such a shameful thing?  What a cliche for the male character to hate love and kindness.  Groan…It seemed so immature for someone having been officially made a man to be continually harping on it.

bear
Kenai the most unlikable Disney hero I’ve seen so far that’s for sure. Get used to this facial expression you are going to see a lot of it.

He is either angry, bitter, or complaining the whole movie.  This made his transformation at the end completely unbelievable.  The relationship between Koda and Kenai doesn’t feel earned as he goes from hating him to loving him in literally one conversation and musical montage.   I realize Tarzan kind of does this but the montage shows weeks of interaction and sharing.  This is literally a song and them frolicking in the woods.  There’s no sense of time elapsing or growth of characters.  And even when he finally smiles he is still kind of a grump.  I don’t know when I’ve disliked a lead character more in any movie, Disney or not ..

bears3
look how weird these bears look especially the one on the left.  They all look very out of place and off putting

I could keep going but really this movie sucks. I think Bongo is a better bear movie…

I’m sorry if I offend people who like it but I thought every choice they made was wrong.  Even the pretty scenery was ruined by the Saturday morning cartoons they placed on top of it. And that’s an insult to Saturday morning cartoons…

I’ll say it again but I really thought this movie sucked and it had such potential, so I’m not inclined to be easy on it.  Badly done!

Overall Grade- F

Just to show I’m not alone on this one Rotten tomatoes bottom 2 is Brother Bear and Chicken Little of the Disney Canon.  They are the only 2 movies in the 30 percentages (which is pretty amazing when you think about it).  Nearly every other Disney movie is pretty close to being fresh.  I don’t think any other studio could say that.  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/guides/best_disney_animated_movies/

Disney Renaissance Best and Worse

DisneyRenaissance

So I recently finished reviewing the Disney Renaissance and I know how everyone loves lists, so I will do my best at ranking these films (and I will try to not have everything be Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid.

Best Villain-

Gold- Ursula

Silver- Scar

Bronze- Gaston

Best Artistry-

Gold- Tarzan

Silver- Beauty and the Beast

Bronze- Hunchback of Notre Dame

Favorite Lead Character/Hero-

Gold-  Belle

Silver- Mulan

Bronze- Ariel

Favorite Side Character-

Gold- Genie

Silver- Sebastian

Bronze- Lumiere

Even More Minor Characters-

Gold- Wilbur, Rescuers Down Under

Silver- Mushu

Bronze- Zazu

Best Vocal Performance-

Gold- Robin Williams, Aladdin

Silver- Samuel Wright, Little Mermaid

Bronze- Pat Carroll, Little Mermaid

Honorable Mention- John Candy, Rescuers Down Under

Best Original Score-

Gold- Lion King, Hans Zimmer

Silver- Rescuers Down Under, Bruce Broughton

Bronze- Little Mermaid, Alan Menken

Best Song- (this is tough)

Gold-Part of Your World- Menken and Ashman

Silver- Be Our Guest- Menken and Ashman

Bronze-Friend Like Me- Menken and Ashman

Honorable Mentions- Out There (Menken and Schwartz),  Under the Sea (Menken and Ashman), A Star is Born (Menken and Zippel), You’ll Be in My Heart (Phil Collins), Reflection (Wilder and Zippel)

Best Villain Song-

Gold- Poor Unfortunate Souls, Menken and Ashman

Silver- Be Prepared, Elton John and Tim Rice

Bronze- Savages, Menken and Schwartz

Honorable Mentions- Gaston (Menken and Ashman),

Worst Villain-

Gold- Radcliffe

Silver- Clayton

Bronze- Shan-yu

Saddest Moment-

Gold- Mufasa’s death

Silver- Quasimodo getting mocked and tied up by gypsies

Bronze- Beast dies

Best Comedy-

Gold- Aladdin

Silver- Hercules

Bronze- Rescuers Down Under (not a comedy but the funny moments were so funny)

Scariest Moment-

Gold- Mcleach and the knife throwing, Rescuers Down Under

Silver- Mob Song, Beauty and the Beast

Couldn’t think of anything else scary in Renaissance.  That’s strange.

Cringe-worthy Moment

Gold- Burning down house with family in it, Hunchback

Silver- Hellfire, rape and murder song, Hunchback

Bronze- Pocahontas teaching John Smith about how gold is stupid, Pocahontas

Honorable Mention- Basically all of Pocahontas except Savages number

Underrated

Gold-  Rescuers Down Under

Silver- Mulan

Bronze- Hercules

Most Romantic Moment-

Gold- Belle and Beast dancing

Silver- Kiss the Girl

Bronze- Jasmine and Aladdin kiss

Grand Champions-

Worst- Pocahontas

Best- Beauty and the Beast

Co-Best- Little Mermaid (I love both so much!)

 

I just finished reviewing Dinosaur (oh my…) and here’s how we currently stand rating-wise

A+  we have 6 B+   we have 4 C+   we have 2 D       we have 3
A     we have 9 B      we have 1 C      we have 3 D-      we have 3
A-    we have 2 B-     we have 1 C-     we have 3 F        we have 1

 

What are your favorites from the Renaissance?  Please share.

Thank you to everyone for your comments.  We might not always agree but I enjoying conversing with all of you!