Friday, November 26, 2010

Tangled: A True Return to Disney Classics

 Tangled continues in Disney's animation legacy of timeless classics. Being Disney's first fairy tale outing done in CGI, it's easy to have doubts. The marketing for this film didn't really do Tangled any favors either. Originally titled Rapunzel, the name change to Tangled and the shift of focus onto the male co-star Flynn Ryder in the merchandising was done as a way to try to get more boys into the theater. Despite this faulty marketing move, Tangled is very much Rapunzel's story and Rapunzel is the star of this instant classic. Sticking very close to the roots of the original German Rapunzel fairy tale, Tangled's story is one about overprotective parental figures and the need to want to break free. Mandy Moore voices Rapunzel and sings for her. Yup, this a musical. This is a big grand musical in the classical Disney style with songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. Alan Menken was the one who brought Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and Enchanted to life; to name only a few. Moore really gets to the heart of Rapunzel and truly owns the part, but the real surprise is Donna Murphy as our main villain Mother Gothel. A true hero is measured by it's main villain and Mother Gothel does not disappoint.

Every great Disney classics needs supporting characters. What would Mary Poppins be with Bert and the Banks' Children. What would Belle be without the enchanted objects. Snow White is just a lost girl in the forest without those dwarves.

An amazing supporting cast of characters that include Rapunzel's color changing chameleon companion Pascal, the scene stealing horse Maximus, and the main male co-star Flynn Ride accompany Rapunzel in her quest. Pascal and Maximus are animal companions but have more in common with Meeko and Percy from Pocohantas than Sebastian and Flounder from Little Mermaid for the fact that they don't talk. While they are without speech, they are fully fleshed out characters and you know exactly what they are trying to convey with their sometimes hillarious reactions. Maximus was especially a personal favorite of mine. Zachary Levi from the TV show Chuck voices and sings for Flynn Rider and it's easy to see why Disney would choose to up sale him in the TV ads. I would have to say that he's one of the most fleshed out Disney heroes since Aladdin.

Tangled is a big grand epic Disney musical done in the classic sense with the modern rendering of CGI animation. This is for sure to be seen for years and years to come and I can't wait to include Tangled in my Disney Collection. I highly recommend this one.

If you like this article, check these links out:

Tangled [+Digital Booklet]
A digital copy of the awesome soundtrack for just 3.99

Tiana and Charlotte: Princess Evolution
A look at the friendship of these two new favorite Disney Women.

Disney's The Little Mermaid: Gay Allegory
A cautionary tale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Harry and his Friends in the World

After all these years, the grand finale of the Harry Potter series is here. Well, the first part of it is at least. Wanting to make sure that these characters get a proper send-off, the finale has been split into two movies. Part 2 will be released July 2011. The Harry Potter series has always been it's strongest when it dealt with the humanity of these characters. The story no doubt takes place in this fantasy world version of our own, but it's believable because the characters are believable and the three main players, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, have always played up the humanity of these characters.

In the first outing of this two part movie conclusion, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint take center stage. Unlike the previous films, this movie takes place out in the world, away from the familiar cozy setting of Hogwarts. Our young child stars are now young adults and they're on a quest to full adulthood. That's at least the underlining. The plot of this movie, aside from subtext, involves our three young heroes locating lockets that they need to destroy in order to defeat The Dark Lord Voldemort who has previously killed Harry's parents, and is out to kill Harry Potter.

The movie has a chase element to it that brings up memories of the original Terminator movies. This really helps the story push along as there is always a need for even the characters in the film to want to keep things moving from location to location. A very refreshing element indeed in what was originally a movie franchise that took place primarily in an ancient castle.

Being a 3 hour movie I was surprised to find that the film doesn't drag. The movie's pacing is perfect and I wish they didn't feel a need to have two separate movies to adapt one book to film. I would've stayed another 3 hours. True story.

If you like this article, you should check these out:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
Harry Potter Years 1-6 Giftset [Blu-ray]
The Twilight Saga - Eclipse: It's Not Modern It's Ancient

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Burlesque - Christina and Cher Still Got It... Do You Want It?

Before I begin my review on the movie Burlesque, starring the great Christina Aguilera and the even greater Cher, let me tell the story of how I ended up in the VIP section of the special advanced screening I was invited to.

Above all things, nothing is free. I didn't have to pay a penny for the awesome seat I obtained (right in the middle), but I had to deal with traffic, parking and people wondering why my rag tag group of dancers got special seating while everyone else had to wait in line. 

We got special seating (right in the middle of the theater) because Coco, the director of our burlesque team, Pixie Stixx, got in the finals of MTV's Burlesque Dance Contest. We sat right behind the people from Sony and the members of IDK who were there with Robin (not Antin), another finalist from the contest.

We felt like Burlesque Royalty.

Now onto the movie Burlesque. Imagine Chicago and Cabaret with none of the social commentary but all of the sexy, flashy fun. This movie is "almost" that.

All great musicals have songs that help to push the story forward. This is not one of them. This movie has a lot more in common with Coyote Ugly and Flashdance. Flashdance especially. Not saying I didn't enjoy myself. On top of the 4 songs that actually do push the story forward, there are really some awesome pieces that just need to be seen to be believed. When the camera isn't cutting away from the dances, some real magic happens. Even Cam Gigandet gets to do a little striptease that has to be seen to be believed. Some of the lead-ins to the musical numbers were very unnecessary. When a movie opens with Christina Aguilera wailing away to cut away scenes burlesque dancers she has yet to meet, and follows with Cher wailing away with those very dancers, I think it's safe to say that if anyone is still in the theater, they get that these two ladies will sing and dance. 

Christina Aguilera plays Ally who escapes from her small town life to Hollywood and finds herself in a club called "The Burlesque Lounge" which has an exterior that resembles a gay youth center I used to frequent as a teen. There she meets the owner of the club Tess (Cher), her gay companion Sean (Stanly Tucci), a sexy metro bartender (Cam Gigandet) and the star of "The Burlesque Lounge," the villainous yet redeemable Nikki (an  underused Kristen Bell).

There should be no doubt about Cher's acting ability. This woman went through Moonstruck, Mermaids and Tea with Mussolini. She's an actor people. Christina Aguilera really surprised me with her portrayal of Ally. I thought what she did with the character was very real and honest and I can only imagine how hard that is to do with all the flashy set pieces and costumes flying about. 

Director and writer Steven Antin (Robin Antin's brother) really has to be praised for just diving into this material. Musical movies can be really tricky and this movie in particular straddles a fine line between movie musical and movie with music in it. A weak script full of cliches, one too many montage scenes and a rushed third act really might put a damper on this movie, but the little homages to Cabaret (Alan Cummings in a featured cameo for example) and the awesome choreography really help lift the movie past mediocre.

Definitely watch if you love the burlesque style of dance, Christina and Cher, and if not... well you read this far, I think you can safely decide. Or...... you can buy the Burlesque - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mary Kay Berman: June 5, 1961 – November 11, 1999

Today, 1999 (so that's like what, 11 years ago? I was never good at math), one of the most talented  female voice actors in the whole world took her own life. When I heard the news, I didn't think too much about it, people die all the time, but when I saw her body of work, I couldn't help but feel saddened that this talented woman was no longer with us.

Her two biggest gigs couldn't have been more contrasting. She was the official voice of Disney's Snow White, the original Disney Princess; and she voiced almost every female character in the show South Park. As Snow White, you can hear her most prominently in the deleted scenes in the now out of print DVD. 

She also gave new life to Daphne Blake in the Scooby Doo animted films of the late 90s. What was once a bland character was now all of a sudden full of layers and depth and that's all because of the dimension that Mary Kay Bergman put into the character. Scooby Doo in Zombie Island marks the debut of Bergman voicing Daphne and it is awesome.

Voicing Batgirl in the straight-to-DVD feature Batman: Sub-Zero, one of the Silly Girls in Disney's Beauty and the Beast andSpider-Man fan favorite Gwen Stacy in the Fox Animated series Spider-Man: The Animated Series are also very notable and unforgettable roles. She will be missed greatly by many and all.

In the following song from the South Park movie, Bigger, Longer and Uncut, take note on how she portrays each of her characters with a unique take. She's the voice of all of the mother characters, and what an awesome singer she was.

Forever Inspiring