Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Beauty and the Beast (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Belle (Emma Watson) takes her father’s place as the prisoner for the Beast (Dan Stevens).  The Beast hopes to win Belle’s heart and break the spell that has been placed on him, his castle, and its inhabitants.

Review
Disney is currently going through a phase of remaking its animated films as live action films.  There have been a few of their lesser (although no less loved) classics already made and now they are stepping up to remake one of their most popular films, one that even holds the honor of being the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  Disney’s previous live action remakes have gone in several different directions.  Maleficent retold Sleeping Beauty’s tale from the titular fairy’s point of view, whereas last year’s The Jungle Book, told a similar story to their 1967 classic while incorporating more of the original book’s source material, making it feel new yet familiar.  Where does Beauty and The Beast stand? Well, knowing that their Disney Renaissance film is such a well known and well loved film, it follows very closely to the original. Maybe a little too close.

Beauty and the Beast‘s biggest strength comes from its cast.  Emma Watson, to no surprise, is an absolute gem.  Her Belle is every bit as gentle yet strong as her animated predecessor.  Watson mentioned many times in interviews that Belle means a lot to her on a personal level and that love for the character really shines through.  Not only that, she has great chemistry with Dan Stevens, who plays Beast, which seems like a silly thing to say since Beast is a CGI character. However, Stevens’ emotion is still felt through the computer animation, leading to several touching moments throughout the film.

Besides Watson as Belle and Stevens as Beast, I thought the other characters were well cast also.  Luke Evans’ experience in theater made him a perfect fit as Gaston.  He brings the same charisma we’ve come to expect from his animated counterpart.  Josh Gad’s short and stout stature fit the character of LeFou perfectly, and I’m sure his experience as Frozen’s Olaf helped with the musical numbers as well. Kevin Kline was a more composed, less village-crazy-man incarnation of Maurice, Belle’s father, than the 1991 version.  Ian McKellen embodied the character of Cogsworth flawlessly. While Ewan McGregor’s French accent is a little dodgy, it never bothered me too much and he was still fun.

What surprised me the most about this film was how humorous it was! The original had plenty of laughs, sure, but I don’t remember it for its comedy.  This time, however, there were multiple times the entire theater would burst out laughing.  It definitely kept the mood light.

The set and costume design for this movie undeniably gorgeous. The majority of this film takes place within Beast’s castle and the ornate designs and decorations give it a breathtaking appearance. Everything is extremely detailed and well thought out and designed. It all deserves some recognition, from the castle’s furniture and stone towers, to the characters’ 18th century outfits, even character designs for the living objects, such as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts.

My biggest flaw with Beauty and the Beast is that it doesn’t expand on, or do anything new with, the 1991 classic. Instead, what it does do is fill in and clean up the story.  For example, Gaston is painted in more of a villainous light, Belle’s family is given more of a background, the movie’s timeline is tightened, and more is revealed about the Enchantress’ spell. Disney’s other live-action remakes they have done so far have each told their own story using characters we were acquainted with, albeit with varying success.  This film, on the other hand, hits the exact same beats and the characters go through the same motions as before.  In essence, all this film is what the 1991 Beauty and the Beast would look like with live actors.

I thought Beauty and the Beast was GOOD 🙂 If you are a fan of the Disney Renaissance classic, you will more than likely enjoy this remake since it follows it very closely.  However, that is also its biggest weakness, in that it simply fills in some story points but never does anything wholly original.  It does make up for it though, with fantastic casting all around and great chemistry between Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bill Condon – Director
Stephen Chbosky – Screenplay
Evan Spiliotopoulos – Screenplay
Alan Menkin – Composer

Emma Watson – Belle
Dan Stevens – Beast
Luke Evans – Gaston
Josh Gad – LeFou
Kevin Kline – Maurice
Ewan McGregor – Lumiere
Ian McKellen – Cogsworth
Emma Thompson – Mrs. Potts
Nathan Mack – Chip
Audra McDonald – Madame Garderobe
Stanley Tucci – Maestro Cadenza
Gugu Mbatha- Raw – Plumette
Rita Davies – Old Woman
Hattie Morahan – Agathe / Enchantress

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Disney and a Beer: Beauty and the Beast

The Beer
Palmetto Pale Ale – This is an American pale ale that I picked up in Charleston, South Carolina. The first time I tried it, I wasn’t a huge fan but I think it was the food I paired it with because very time I have drunk it after that, I have liked it more and more. It’s pretty strong on the hops but there is a little bit of orange taste to balance it out. Verdict: Enjoyed it.

The Movie

Beauty and the Beast movie posterSynopsis
Belle (Paige O’Hara (voice)) takes her father’s place as the prisoner for the Beast (Robby Benson (voice)). The Beast hopes to win Belle’s heart and break the spell that has been placed on him, his castle, and its inhabitants.

Review
I have expressed numerous times my love for the Disney Renaissance films. When I was younger, I had Beauty and the Beast on VHS but I did not watch it nearly as much as I did some of the other films from the era, like Aladdin or The Lion King. I think that was because it is a “princess” movie and I was more interested in movies with male main characters. In any case, over the years as I have watched it, I have grown to appreciate it much more.

The main reason why Beauty and the Beast is so popular is because of Belle. Her character is so well written and developed. She isn’t like any of the previous Disney princesses. A defining characteristic of the Disney Renaissance is how the princesses (or women in general) were portrayed. Starting with The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel, the women are less focused on finding a husband for finding a husband’s sake and more on pursuing their dreams and passions and simply being themselves. Belle likes to read, she has a vivid imagination, she is adventurous, she helps her father with his inventions, and she has dreams of her own that do not fit in with the others in her village. She is one of the first princesses to feel fully developed and that her happily ever after came from the result of her actions, not the actions of the prince.

To go along with Belle, Gaston is not a typical antagonist, at least in appearance. He is a physical embodiment of what this movie, and Disney in general at that time, is trying to move away from. He has similar features to what you would expect from the typical Disney prince. He’s tall, muscular, has a strong chin, and is pursuing the most beautiful girl around for her hand in marriage. But this is the movie’s villain, not the apple of Belle’s eye; This is the guy we are supposed to be rooting against but he looks like the love interest we are typically used to root for. Gaston’s actions and personality part of the movie’s message about judging a person’s characteristics from their appearance. He is handsome on the outside but a beast on the inside.

On the flip side of Gaston is the Beast. Unlike Gaston, his physical appearance is hideous, more fitting of a typical villain than love interest. This is what really pushes the film’s story and message forward. Belle isn’t quick to judge the prince on his appearance or beastly attitude. Instead, she see’s the good in him and works to bring that out of him so he can see for himself that his looks do not define him.

The townsfolk and mob are a third part to the movie’s message about not keeping an open mind and judging others quickly. They follow Gaston, the towns hero despite having a narrow and nasty attitude, and fear the Beast, although they know nothing about him. There is a lyric in “The Mob Song” that perfectly sums it up: “We don’t like / What we don’t understand / In fact it scares us / And this monster is mysterious at least.” Their fear is used by Gaston to lead the crowd into attacking the Beast, using them towards killing the Beast in an effort to still try and win Belle’s heart. Their suspicions and inability to think for themselves allowed them to be easily manipulated.

Speaking of “The Mob Song,” Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman work together (in what would be Ashman’s final film before passing away) to create the score and songs. And once again, it is absolutely wonderful. My personal favorite is “Be Our Guest” but “Belle” and “Gaston” are just as catchy and do a phenomenal job of character building. Of course, you can’t talk about this movie without talking about its title song, “Beauty and the Beast,” easily one of Disney’s most popular ballads. I’ve heard it at weddings, dances, and our high school band often played it for homecoming. It is a very moving and romantic song that has become the definition of a timeless classic.

The art style of Beauty and the Beast looks like something out of a picture book. The colors are bright and vivid, especially during the opening prologue. Even when the colors are more muted, like in the woods, there is still a vibrancy to them. The picture book feel reminds me a lot of Sleeping Beauty where everything just pops off the screen.

This movie is chock full of fun supporting characters. My favorite, hands down, is Lumiere and Cogsworth, voiced by Jerry Orbach and David Ogden Stiers respectively, the first two enchanted inhabitants Belle meets after entering the castle. Although they may be animated, they are just as great as any comedy duo in other movies. Other great characters are the motherly Mrs. Potts, voiced by the sweet Angela Lansbury, and her son Chip, voiced by Bradley Pierce, and the wardrobe in Belle’s room in the castle, voice by the energetic Jo Anne Worley.

I thought Beauty and the Beast was GREAT 😀 It is not hard to see why this became the first animated film to be nominated for a best picture Academy Award. Belle is a strong heroine and the movie’s message about not judging others quickly and letting fear blind you is enduring. Often referred to as the crown jewel of the Disney Renaissance, Beauty and the Beast is a special film that has been loved for over twenty-five years and will remain a beloved favorite for another twenty-five and more.

Favorite Quote
Beast: I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I want to do something for her! But what?
Cogsworth: Well, there’s the usual things: flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.

Trivia
Angela Lansbury, the voice of Mrs. Potts, was unsure of her singing ability and thought that another character might be better suited to sing the song “Beauty and the Beast.” The directors convinced her to record it anyway in case nothing else worked out. She sang the version that made it into the movie in one take.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gary Trousdale – Director
Kirk Wise – Director
Linda Woolverton – Screenplay
Brenda Chapman – Story
Chris Sanders – Story
Burny Mattinson – Story
Kevin Harkey – Story
Brian Pimental – Story
Bruce Woodside – Story
Joe Ranft – Story
Tom Ellery – Story
Kelly Asbury – Story
Robert Lence – Story
Alan Menkin – Composer
Howard Ashman – Lyricist

Paige O’Hara – Belle (voice)
Robby Benson – Beast (voice)
Richard White – Gaston (voice)
Jesse Corti – Lefou (voice)
Jerry Orbach – Lumiere (voice)
David Ogden Stiers – Cogsworth / Narrator (voice)
Angela Lansbury – Mrs. Potts (voice)
Bradley Pierce – Chip (voice)
Rex Everhart – Maurice (voice)
Tony Jay – Monsieur D’Arque (voice)

My Disney Mix Tape (Featuring Film Music Central)

Hey, readers!

By a show of hands, how many people here remember cassette tapes? I certainly do.  And I remember making my own mixes that way I could listen to all my favorite songs at once.  I still enjoy making mixes today, although on CDs, especially for use in my car because sometimes the radio just doesn’t cut it.  This works well for songs not common on the radio, such as Disney music.  There is a subtle art to creating a mix tape that I think many people have forgotten about or didn’t realize was there, so it is always an adventure trying to create the “perfect mix tape.” I thought I would share what I have come up with for my Disney mix with all of you.  I didn’t want to have all the fun by myself, so I invited Bex (Becky) from Film Music Central to create her own mix as well. Bex posts reviews and about a variety of film related news and topics on her site, with a particular focus on music in film (hence the name!). She even is a co-host on the Talking Stars podcast that I was recently a guest on. Be sure to go give her site a look once you finish here. Now, onto our mixes! In proper gentlemanly fashion, ladies first.

I’m actually a little too young to remember when mix tapes were all the rage, but it is fun to imagine the mix tapes I could create. If iTunes didn’t exist, I would definitely create a mix tape consisting entirely of Disney songs. What would go on this tape? Well, in no particular order…

Side One

  1. Frozen “Let it Go” (2013): For me this is the ultimate “Be yourself” song, and for a time I had this song eternally on repeat. Anytime I’m feeling upset, I put this song on and by the time it’s over I feel much better.
  2. The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989): Yea, this is a villain song, but I love listening to this one, Pat Carroll’s voice makes this song an electrifying experience every time.
  3. Moana “How Far I’ll Go” (2016): It’s true, every Disney film has a song exactly like this one, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a great song. I think we all have times when we feel confined by routine and we want to break out.
  4. Tarzan “Son of Man” (1999): For some reason, listening to this song just motivates me.
  5. The Jungle Book “I Wanna Be Like You” (1967): Louis Prima just makes me want to get up and dance every time I hear this song.
  6. Beauty and the Beast “Belle” (1991): I listen to this song because how the villagers describe Belle is basically how I was viewed growing up (though less kind words were used). It just reminds me of me when I was a kid.
  7. Beauty and the Beast “Tale as Old As Time” (1991): If I ever get married, this song will play at my wedding.
  8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame “Out There” (1996): When I was younger, I was obsessed with wanting to be “normal”, and when I put on this song, I would imagine I was asking for one day “out there” to be “normal.”
  9. Hercules “Zero to Hero” (1997): I just like this song to be honest 🙂
  10. Hercules “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” (1997): It’s funny, the older I get, the more I feel like Meg in her initial views toward love (she’s over it). When I’m in a really cynical mood about life, this song goes on.

Side Two

  1. James and the Giant Peach “Eating the Peach” (1996): Disney silly songs are some of my favorite songs, and this is no exception.
  2. The Aristocats “Scales and Arpeggios” (1970): I’ve been involved with music in some way since the 4th grade, so this song basically describes my mindset as a child where music was concerned (I was the human version of Marie).
  3. Mulan “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (1998): No lie, this is a great song to listen to while you’re training (ANY kind of training).
  4. Peter Pan “You Can Fly!” (1953): What kid didn’t dream of being able to fly? I love listening to this song and pretending I’m the one flying off to Neverland.
  5. Star Wars “Main Theme” (1977): Since Disney owns Star Wars, that technically makes all Star Wars music “Disney music” so naturally I’m going to include this.
  6. Tarzan “Strangers Like Me” (1999)
  7. Sleeping Beauty “Once Upon A Dream” (1959)
  8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs “Whistle While You Work” (1937): Best Disney work song EVER.
  9. The Jungle Book “The Bear Necessities” (1967)
  10. Robin Hood “The Phony King of England (1973)

And that’s what my Disney mix tape would look like 🙂 Thanks to Drew for coming up with the idea for this cool post 🙂

You’re welcome Bex! Now here is my mix tape, in this particular order:

Side One

  1. I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” (Mulan) – Gotta start with a strong one. This is easily my favorite song from Mulan.  My sister and I have killed this as a duet.
  2. Under The Sea” (The Little Mermaid) – Whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but dance around. It has created some awkward situations…
  3. Be Our Guest” (Beauty and the Beast) – Another one of my top Disney songs.  I love the dip in the middle of the song before it builds up again.
  4. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” (The Lion King) – I love the colorful animation that occurs during this song. I can always see it in my head whenever I hear it.
  5. You’re Welcome” (Moana) – I mentioned in my review of Moana that I didn’t thing the soundtrack was a strong as other Disney soundtracks but this stands out as my favorite song from it.
  6. Colors Of The Wind” (Pocahontas) – For a song just over three minutes long, it sends a powerful message about not judging others quickly and to look at something from multiple points of view.
  7. Bare Necessities” (The Jungle Book) – I had a sing-a-long that had this song on it. Ever since, it has been one of my favorite Disney tunes.
  8. Friends On The Other Side” (The Princess and the Frog) – The tape moves into the villainous song territory, starting with the voodoo witch doctor Fracilier. I like the bass line that plays throughout most of the song and the spirits that sing back-up. I’m a simple man.
  9. Poor Unfortunate Souls” (The Little Mermaid) – This might be the most underrated song from the Disney Renaissance.  Pat Carroll as Ursula is down right ghastly.
  10. Be Prepared” (The Lion King) – Easily one of the best villain song ever written. Jeremy Irons is menacing as Scar, even when he sings.

Side Two

  1. A Whole New World” (Aladdin) – My cousins would kill me if I made a Disney mix tape and didn’t include this song. It is such a classic and so easy to sing along with, especially if you’ve go company.
  2. I See The Light” (Tangled) – Another great duet tune.
  3. You’ll Be In My Heart” (Tarzan) – This song always gets me emotional, especially when thinking about the lyrics.
  4. How Far I’ll Go” (Moana) – I didn’t expect to have two songs from Moana on this mix but Auli’i Cravalho absolutely nails it.
  5. Let It Go” (Frozen) – This is the perfect song to transition from the more mellower songs that start this side of the tape to the quicker ones that follow. Not to mention it had to be on here because I have literally listened to this song for hours.
  6. Why Should I Worry” (Oliver and Company) – Billy Joel is one of my favorite singers so I absolutely had to include one of his songs on here.
  7. Zero To Hero” (Hercules) – This song makes me want to have a gospel choir follow me around like the Muses do Herc.
  8. Friend Like Me” (Aladdin) – Hands down my favorite song from Aladdin. Perfect penultimate song for the mix.
  9. You’ve Got a Friend In Me” (Toy Story) – Great mellow tune to conclude with. I like to close my eyes, lean my head back, and relax when I listen to this song.

And that’s it! It was hard to narrow it down to enough to fit on a tape. Those that (barely) didn’t make the cut include “Cruella de Vil” (101 Dalmations), “Everybody Wants To Be A Cat” (Aristocats) “Prince Ali” (Aladdin), “Hakuna Matata” (The Lion King), “Won’t Say I’m In Love” (Hercules), “Reflection” (Mulan), “Perfect World” (The Emperor’s New Groove), and “I’ve Got A Dream” (Tangled).

Thank you Bex for joining me in this project! I had a lot of fun putting this together and I hope you did, too. 🙂

What songs wold be on your Disney mix tape?

Until next time, cheers!

If you are interested in participating in the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself, you can find all the information here.

Tron: Legacy Review

Tron: Legacy movie posterSynopsis
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), computer programmer and president of Encom, disappeared twenty years ago. When his son Sam (Gerret Hedlund) receives a mysterious message from his father’s old arcade, he finds himself transported to the Grid, a world inside the computer. With the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam goes on a search for his father and a way to escape back into the real world.

Review
Tron is a cult favorite from the 1980s. It comes as no surprise that with the trend of bringing back old and favorite franchises, particularly over the last decade or so, that Tron would get its own sequel, nearly thirty years later. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original but I still understood its significance in cinema. In 2010, Tron: Legacy takes audiences back inside the computer with an updated look to match the updated times.

My biggest issue with Tron was the characters. There wasn’t much to them, or the story even, so I didn’t care much about Flynn, Tron, or Crom. This time around, I would say the characters are the strongest part about this film. From the beginning, we learn about Sam’s close relationship with his father and he how distraught he is when his father disappears. As the film goes on, we learn more about their relationship and them individually. Their relationship is fleshed out. By the end of the film, I cared more about either them than I did any of the characters from the previous film.

The costumes from Tron were pretty interesting, with lines running along the outfits differently and in random patterns for each character. This design element is brought back for Tron: Legacy but better realized than it was before. The rotoscopic techniques used in Tron to add the color were distracting and not very crisp. With today’s computer imaging technology, the lines are sharp, creating an effect that is probably more in-line of what Lisberger imagined in 1982. Although the scenes set inside the computer are in color as opposed to the black-and-white of Tron, they do have a gray tone to them that gives it a similar feel without becoming distracting.

When Sam first enters the Grid, he is taken immediately to the Games, an arena reminiscent of what was seen in the previous film. This creates a lot of confusion for both Sam and the audience. I liked this feeling because I didn’t get all the information right away. I was trying to figure things out, just as I’m sure Sam was, and it had me excited. The film gave a burst of excitement before getting to the characterization scenes between Sam and his father. And it gave a glimpse that this was the same world as before but updated, just like an actual computer would be.

For a film called Tron, there is an obvious lack of the character in the film. Hints are dropped throughout the movie as to where he is (and eagle-eyed fans might figure it out based on some visual clues). However, when Tron is finally revealed, it felt anticlimactic. Given his history with Kevin Flynn, I was expecting more. I’ll just leave it at that because going into it any more would wonder into spoiler territory.

De-aging in film has been happening longer than I have realized. I knew it has been used to some effect before, such as in films like X3: The Last Stand and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but I didn’t think it wasn’t until more recently that it was used to the degree it was used here. A de-aged Jeff Bridges is used for Clu (since most programs in the Tron universe resemble their programmer) back in 2010. Flash forward six years and the process is used again to resurrect Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I mentioned in my review of that that the effect looks great except for when Tarkin talks. Now knowing this de-aging effect has been around since at least 2010, it is a little more disappointing that this is a problem in Rogue One because that is the same flaw in this film. There is something off with Bridges’ mouth as Clu when he speaks and it removed me from the film.

I thought Tron: Legacy was GOOD 🙂 It fixes the biggest reason I didn’t like the previous film: the characters. They actually get some development this time. There are plenty of Easter eggs and homages to the original classic. Although it doesn’t push the boundaries of CGI and animation as much as Tron did in the early eighties, it looks visually remarkable and has some impressive de-aging, albeit with some imperfections. Tron: Legacy is a worthy legacy of such a popular cult classic as Tron.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Joseph Kosinski – Director
Edward Kitsis – Screenplay / Story
Adam Horowitz – Screenplay / Story
Brian Klugman – Story
Lee Sternthal – Story
Daft Punk – Music

Garret Hedlund – Sam Flynn
Jeff Bridges – Kevin Flynn / Clu
Olivia Wilde – Quorra
Bruce Boxleitner – Alan Bradley / Tron
James Frain – Jarvis
Beau Garrett – Gem
Michael Sheen – Castor / Zuse
Anis Cheurfa – Rinzler

If you are interested in participating in the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself, you can find all the information here.

Tron Review

TRON movie posterSynopsis
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a computer hacker who was fired from the company Encom. When searching for proof that his rival in the company, Ed Dillinger (David Warner), stole his code, he gets transported to inside of the computer system. With the help of a security program called Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), Flynn must make his way to the Master Control Program to escape the system.

Review
With movies like Rogue One and Furious 7 literally reviving diseased actors on screen and recent visual marvels like Doctor Strange, it’s truly impressive to see how far CGI has come in cinema. Considering where we are today, it can be a bit jarring to see animation that was done with less computing power than the phone currently in my pocket. But as the old saying goes, it had to start somewhere. There is a lot to like and be fascinated with in Tron but it has its flaws, too.

Tron‘s director Steven Lisberger was ahead of his time when he wrote Tron, particularly in where he saw the future of computers. Being a programmer myself, I always enjoy when movies try to visualize and create a world inside of computer. In the early 80s, personal computers had just become a thing, with the Apple I and Apple II being released only a few years prior to this film’s released. Most people were in the midst of entering a world where computers were more than just an academic tool used in universities. For Lisberger to imagine this world inside this fledgling technology, as in-depth and detailed as he did, is impressive to me.

Now having geeked out about some computer history, I’m going to disappoint a lot of people. There is a very distinct feel to the world inside of the computer compared to the real world. Everything is monochrome with bright colors running through as highlights. I like the idea of the black and white color palette because it mirrors the binary nature of computer data and the color highlights could be imagined as data flowing through everything. Despite the uniqueness about it, I found it to be very distracting. Other movies have used this type of effect before with beautiful results, so I don’t think it was the idea of black and white with color highlights but rather its execution. It’s not very crisp here and it ends up being a distraction.

I don’t really know what it was but I couldn’t get into the story. With this featuring scientists and computer hackers, you would think this would be something I would be into. As flashy as the visuals are, they merely act as a distraction to catch your eye so you don’t notice the relatively flat characters and uneven pacing. The move is only an hour and a half long, so it breezes through the story quickly. With the two worlds, the computer world and the real world, it has two sets of characters to juggle. As a result, no one gets much development.

All the story focuses on is getting Flynn (Jeff Bridges) from point A to point B within the computer. It never stops to breathe, moving from one computer animated display to the next. This movie is more focused on showing off this new technology rather than using it to enhance the story. One of the reasons that Toy Story works so well is because although it was revolutionary in a similar vein as Tron, it told a story first then put the technology on top of that. I feel like I am watching an extended 1980s tech demo when I am watching Tron.

I thought Tron was OK 😐 At the time, films like Star Wars were pushing the boundaries of special effects while Tron was pioneering what was possible with the infant field of computer animation. It’s not hard to see it hasn’t aged well but to some, that turns into part of the film’s charm. I appreciate this movie for its historical significance and what it accomplished in computer animation but for me, I didn’t get into the story or behind the characters. It is quite the dazzling spectacle, unfortunately that isn’t enough this time to carry the film.

Also check out my review for the sequel, Tron: Legacy.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Lisberger – Director / Writer
Bonnie MacBird – Story Writer
Wendy Carlos – Composer

Jeff Bridges – Kevin Flynn / Clu
Bruce Boxleitner – Alan Bradley / Tron
Cindy Morgan – Lora / Yori
David Warner – Ed Dillinger / Sark / Master Control Program
Barnard Hughes – Dr. Walter Gibbs / Dumont
Dan Shor – Popcorn Co-Worker / Ram
Peter Jurasik – Crom

Moana Review

Moana movie posterSynopsis
On the island of Motunui, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho (voice)) is chosen by the ocean to receive the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess. When a curse caused by the missing heart reaches Motunui, Moana sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson (voice)) and return the heart to its rightful place to lift the curse.

Review
With Zootopia having been released earlier this year, Moana marks the first time since 2002 that Disney has released two animated feature films the same year (Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet were that year for those who are curious). And man, what a year it has been for Disney animation. Zootopia is an extraordinarily hard act to follow, being what could be considered the best film of what has become known as the Disney Revival Era. At least until now.

First off, the voice casting is amazingly spot-on. First-timer Auli’i Cravalho does an astonishing job. The range of emotion that she is able to portray with simply her voice makes it hard to believe this is her first acting credit. You would think she was a seasoned veteran, just like Dwayne Johnson. Speakin of, I know that often animators will try to bring some part of the voice actor’s likeness to a character but Maui is the spitting image of Johnson. Pretty much a caricature of him. Not only does Maui look like Johnson but he moves like him too. He even does the eyebrow thing! And the “pec muscle thing” as my sister so elegantly put it. But besides his looks, Johnson has the perfect voice for Maui.

I am beginning to feel like a broken record when it comes to reviewing animated films. With every film released, the animation gets better and better and the gets more and more beautiful. The film takes place on the open water and on sandy beaches and in lush forests. The water glistens and sparkles and flows extremely life-like. This is probably the best water animation since Finding Nemo. One animation aspect that really surprised me was the characters’ hair. Given the characters are sailing on the water for most of the movie, they were bound to get wet eventually. The way it looks heavier and bunches together and shimmers is, again, very life-like. I give the animators big kudos for getting something that can be easily overlooked to look so accurate.

Like any Disney princess, Moana has her animal sidekicks. The one that steals the cake, however, is her dimwitted chicken Heihei, voiced by the versatile Alan Tadyk. When I say “voiced” I mean he makes sounds, he doesn’t actually talk. Heihei is much like Maximus and Pascal from Tangled, well like most animal sidekicks really, where his humor comes from his actions. In a movie that is already filled with a decent amount of humor, Heihei added a unique touch that garnered laughs from every scene he was in.

Like every Disney movie ever, there is a message to be found in Moana. What I like best about the message in this film is that both Moana and Maui deal with the same problem of doubt but they deal with it from different sources. Maui has self doubt, struggling internally with events from his past. Moana, on the other hand, deals with doubt from others, mainly her father, about whether she is truly ready to be chief of her tribe. They find strength in each other and both overcome those doubts. It was a crafty way for Disney to bring their message across.

In recent years, Disney has become more focused on releasing films containing messages of self-empowerment, as seen in movies like Maleficent and Frozen. But where Moana differs from something like Frozen is that there is no prince or male love interest at all. Moana focuses on exactly that: Moana. It is all about her and finding finding power and confidence within herself to complete her journey to save her people.

It wouldn’t be a Disney princess movie without some musical numbers. Two songs that stood out to me the most were “You’re Welcome,” sung by the surprising musical Johnson, and “How Far I’ll Go,” sung by Cravalho. As much as I enjoyed the soundtrack, I will admit it is one of the weaker soundtracks of late from Disney animation. I don’t think it will become as popular as some of their more recent films have become, such as Frozen, or have the longevity as several of Disney’s other classic animated features, like The Lion King, but I wouldn’t mind to be proven wrong on that.

I thought Moana was GREAT :-D. Although the score might not be as catchy as other Disney favorites, it fits the setting beautifully, the same way Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho completely embody Maui and Moana. I have really enjoyed the last several years of Disney animation, very reminiscent of the quality of films from when I was a kid. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the directors who brought me my favorite Disney animated film.

You can read my sister’s review of Moana here.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Director / Story
Jon Musker – Director / Story
Don Hall – Co-Director / Story
Chris Williams – Co-Director / Story
Jared Bush – Screenplay
Pamela Ribon – Story
Aaron Kandell – Story
Jordan Kandell – Story
Mark Mancina – Composer (Score)
Opetaia Foa’i – Composer (Original Songs)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Composer (Original Songs)

Auli’i Cravalho – Moana (voice)
Dwayne Johnson – Maui (voice)
Rachel House – Gramma Tala (voice)
Temuera Morrison – Chief Tui (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Tamatoa (voice)
Nicole Scherzinger – Sina (voice)
Alan Tadyk – Heihei (voice)