Tag Archives: Disney Film

MOVIE NEWS: Miley Cyrus Next Movie Now in Production

miley_cyrus

While I was out Cruising the Bahamas, Disney announced Miley Cyrus’s next project is now in production. I really like Greg Kinnear so this should be interesting. “THE LAST SONG,” a coming-of-age drama starring multi-talented singer/songwriter/actress Miley Cyrus, Kelly Preston and Greg Kinnear, begins production in Savannah, Ga., this week. The film is based on best-selling novelist Nicholas Sparks’ forthcoming novel.  Hitting bookstores on September 8, 2009, Sparks’
“The Last Song” is the 15th book published by the novelist whose other books include “The Notebook,” “Message in a Bottle” and “Nights in Rodanthe.” Though several of his books have been adapted to film, “The Last Song” is the first to make it to the big screen within the first year of publication.  “THE LAST SONG” is set in a small Southern beach town where an estranged father (KINNEAR) gets a chance to spend the summer with his reluctant teenaged daughter (CYRUS), who’d rather be home in New York. He tries to reconnect with her through the only thing they have in common—music—in a story of family, friendship, secrets and salvation, along with first loves and second chances.

Julie Anne Robinson makes her feature-film directorial debut with “THE LAST SONG.” Robinson has been twice nominated for a BAFTA (Best Single Drama, “Coming Down the Mountain” and Best Drama Serial, “Blackpool”) and received a Golden Globe® nomination (Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, “Blackpool”). Her credits include a variety of television series, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Weeds” and “Big Love.”  Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot, the duo behind “17 Again,” “Hairspray” and “Step Up,” produce; Dara Weintraub (“Superbad,” “Pineapple Express,” “17 Again” is co-producer. Jeff Van Wie co-wrote the script with Sparks.

MOVIE REVIEW: UP – Reserve a Spot on Your Top Five List for Pixar’s 10th Wonderful Movie in a Row!

up_one-sheet

When the Disney rep asked me what I thought of UP at the conclusion of the screening, my immediate response was, “Several million points out of ten!” Yeah, I know. Douglas Adams. Zaphod Beeblebrox. What can I say – I only steal from the best. The thing is, UP is going to make more top ten, top five and top three lists than almost any other film to be released this year. Why? Because it is Pixar’s biggest risk and most fully realized motion picture.

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: UP – Reserve a Spot on Your Top Five List for Pixar’s 10th Wonderful Movie in a Row!

MOVIE REVIEW: Race to Witch Mountain – Galaxies of Fun!

I have fond memories of the Witch Mountain movies of the seventies [though not so much for the TV version from 1995 – despite the presence of such cult icons as Vincent Schiavelli and Brad Dourif], so I approached this update/re-imagining with no little trepidation. Nostalgia can be a terrible thing.

Race to Witch Mountain

Race to Witch Mountain is not as whimsically charming as those films, but it has a charm that comes purely from the performances of AnnaSophia Robb as Sarah; Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman, and Gary Marshall as eccentric conspiracy and UFO theorist [as if there’s any other kind in movies], Dr. Donald Harlan.

The kids appear in ex-cons Jack Bruno’s [Dwayne Johnson] cab seconds after he emphatically suggests to a couple of goons that he has gone straight, and give him a huge wad of cash to take them “that way.” The kids, Seth [Alexander Ludwig] and Sarah, are not from around here as they demonstrate when they pick up a convoy of tails. The two have come to Earth to obtain something that might rejuvenate their dead homeworld [injecting a glossing of relevance into the film that is pretty much forgotten forthwith].

The U.S. government wants them and it’s the team of Henry Burke [Ciaran Hinds], Matheson [Tom Everett Scott] and Pope [Christopher Marquette] that is closing in on them. To make matters worse, there’s a Siphon Warrior [Tom Woodruff Jr.] that wants to kill them [their planet’s military thinks it would be easier to just invade Earth and start fresh]. Friedman is a scientist who tries to bring science to a UFO convention [!] and Dr. Harlan is a fringe scientist who keeps track of government and UFO stuff from a foil-lined motor home.

Director Andy Fickman keeps things moving well enough that the holes in the scripts are virtually invisible – and peppers the film with quotes from/homages to any number of science fiction classics [two of which, Marvin the Martian and 2001 are even included in the trailer] to give the proceedings another layer. There are plenty of good moments for Johnson, too, but he really shines when he interacts with Robb and Gugino. I still haven’t figured out why he isn’t the biggest action star in history – he’s got tons of charisma and is an infinitely better actor than Arnold.

Even in a medium budget SF film, the effects have to be solid to let the audience buy into the proceedings and they are very good here. The suit and prosthetics for the Siphon Warrior are also cool – and the climactic fight between it and Bruno is a good one. The kids from the original movies, Ike Eisenmann [credited as Iake, here] and Kim Richards, have delightful cameos as a small-town sheriff and a waitress in the town diner.

In short, then, Race to Witch Mountain is an action-packed ride that will likely have kids spellbound and adults consistently amused. It may not be an interstellar epic, but it is definitely galaxies of fun.

Final Grade: B+

MOVIE REVIEW: Bedtime Stories – The Kinder, Gentler Adam Sandler Kinda Works!

Adam Sandler in a Disney movie… what’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, as it happens. Well, nothing major. Adam Shankman [Hairspray] directs Bedtime Stories and – except for the usual Rob Schneider cameo [which sucks the life out of the film for a few moments] – gets a solid performance out of Sandler as handyman Skeeter Bronson, who works in a towering hotel that sits on property where his father [Jonathan Pryce, who also narrates] once had a charming little hotel. The terms of the sale to future hotel magnate Barry Nottingham [Richard Griffiths] included a verbal promise that Skeeter would one day run the new hotel [and verbal promises are worth the paper they’re printed on].

bedtime_stories

In the kind of sequences of events that exist in a whimsical tale such as this, the hotel is run by an obsequious twit – here called Kendall [Guy Pearce] and his simpering second in command, Aspen [Lucy Lawless] – and the hotelier’s plans for an even bigger hotel are situated on a piece of land upon which sits a school. That school is where Skeeter’s eco-warrior sister, Wendy [Courteney Cox] is vice-principal – not to mention the school attended by his niece and nephew – and where a pretty teacher named Jill [Keri Russell] works. Because of the plans for the hotel, Wendy has to look for work out of state and asks Skeeter to help Jill look after the kids.

When Kendall’s plans for a unique approach for the new hotel turn out to be in use elsewhere, Nottingham gives Skeeter a shot at running the new hotel. All he has to do is come up with a better theme than Kendall. Meanwhile, Skeeter’s bedtime stories for Patrick [Jonathan Morgan Heit] and Bobbi [Laura Ann Kesling] start coming true – though it takes him a while to figure out that it’s the kids’ improvised additions to his stories that are coming to pass.

So, can Skeeter be a good uncle, beat Kendall, and win the fair maid [Jill, of course]? And can he do it without relying overmuch on Sandler’s usual brand of humor. Almost. The humor is kinder, gentler and G-Rated, but the genuine whimsy of the fantasy is, for the most part, winning and well done. Sandler gets to use some of the chops first unearthed by Paul Thomas Anderson in Punch Drunk Love, and the rest of the cast seems to be having a pretty good time.

The effects vary in effectiveness, but by having one story element come true through what looks like a real life coincidence, Shankman gives the more far-fetched bits more punch – and makes Skeeter more relatable. The pacing occasionally falters [and grinds to a sudden halt during Schneider’s two scenes], but overall, Bedtime Stories is a fun diversion that will be enjoyed in theater and mostly forgotten by the time you get to your car.

Final Grade: B-

MOVIE REVIEW: Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Kids’ Flick Is Smart Enough For Parents to Enjoy!

You’ve probably seen the trailers with the ancient Aztec ruins and the Esther Williams-like production number performed by Chihuahuas. The movie lacks the production number but the ruins play a crucial part in the proceedings. What’s really surprising is that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a kids’ flick that will entertain the kids but has some gags that will work only for the parents.

beverlyhillschihuahua_poster2

Chloe [voiced by Drew Barrymore] is the queen of the Beverly Hills canine scene. Spoiled rotten by her owner, Vivian [Jamie Lee Curtis], Chloe is shallow, selfish and haughty – not to mention rude to Papi [George Lopez], the landscaper’s Chihuahua who loves her. That all changes when Vivian heads off to Europe for ten days, leaving Chloe in the irresponsible hands of her niece, Rachel [Piper Perabo] – who heads off to Mexico to party, dragging Chloe along.

More concerned about partying and meeting guys, Rachel lets Chloe get away from her and the poor thing is dognapped for a floating illegal dogfight enterprise. Because this is a Disney film, the dogfight never happens as Delgado [Andy Garcia], a noble German Shepherd, rescues her just before her opponent, a vicious Doberman named Diablo [Edward James Olmos] can rip her to shreds. The rest of the film is the story of Chloe and her new friend try to get her home – all the while Rachel, Papi and his owner, Sam [Manolo Cordona] are looking for them.

Director Raja Gosnell [Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months] keeps the pace up, giving the film the feel of a romantic farce. The voice cast is extremely good [big names are joined by animation veterans like Grey DeLisle], though Cheech Marin does a little scene stealing voicing a rat con artist who works with a dim iguana. While the film is mostly light and frothy – darkening only for brief periods [and kids love a good scare, so it’s not an issue] – it is not unintelligent. The characters are well [and sometimes cleverly] drawn and the relationships that form along the way feel very natural.

Off course, we’re taking about a talking animals film [though the animals are only understood by each other], and no one does them better than Disney. The CG work that makes the animals appear to be speaking is very good, and the practical effects are right up there, as well.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua may not quite be inspired, but it is definitely good fun – good enough to not embarrass the parents whose kids drag them along to see it.

Final Grade: B

MOVIE REVIEW: Miracle at St. Anna: Great Moments Do Not a Movie Make!

Spike Lee’s latest joint, Miracle at St. Anna, has a number of incredibly good moments. Unfortunately, the movie as a whole sucks big. The film, which is intended to show how black soldiers figured in World War II [and every war the U.S. has fought], has several plot threads and character arcs – enough to fuel two – or even three – sleek, ninety minute films that could make his point with benefit of sledgehammers or piledrivers.

Miracle at St. Anna

Of course, Lee has never been known for his subtlety, but sitting through Miracle at St. Anna is somewhat akin to being hammered by a sack of flying mallets. The plot twists and turn are many and varied [there’s even a flashback in the middle of a flashback], but just in case that’s not enough, we get three different tones for each piece of this unnecessarily large puzzle. The one main theme – the treatment of blacks, even in the armed forces – is hammered home time and again. If the Buffalo Soldiers aren’t been treated like imbeciles by their prejudiced commanding officer, they’re commenting on how they’re being treated like real people by the citizens of the Italian village where they spend a few days hiding from the Nazis.

Then there’s the shining hypocrisy of a character called Axis Sally [Alexandra Maria Lara] – a version of the infamous Tokyo Rose, only she aims to sew dissension among the Buffalo Soldiers so that they will turn on their white officers and join the Nazis – who would kill them outright. You need a major appliance to cut the irony – it’s that thick.

The only really compelling arc in the film is the bond that develops between the somewhat slow Private Samuel Train [Omar Benson Miller] and an orphaned Italian boy named Angelo [Matteo Sciabordi]. The two mange to figure out a way to communicate the basics, and give each other strength.

An arc that’s meant to be compelling is the triangle developed between a village woman, Renata [Valentina Cervi], Private Hector Negron [Laz Alonzo], who is falling in love with her, and Sgt. Bishop Cummings [Michael Ealy], who just wants to get in her pants. It is clichéd and trite and again, badly handled. And let’s not forget the framing device for the film, in which the postal employee kills a customer – it was in the trailers, and in the actual film, it’s just preposterous.

At two hours and forty minutes, Miracle at St. Anna is more enervating than inspiring. I can’t put it any more plainly than that.

Final Grade: D

PIXAR’s Cars Spawns Multi-Channel Cars Toons Series of Shorts

Disney•Pixar’s Cars Toons, a new animated short series directed by Academy Award®-winner John Lasseter, and starring Lightning McQueen’s rusty but trusty friend Mater, will be presented on, Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC Family beginning Monday, October 27.

Mater

“Cars Toons” are directed by John Lasseter, (director on Cars, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life and Toy Story). Victor Navone (animator on Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.) and Rob Gibbs (story artist on Cars, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 2) are co-directors. Kori Rae (associate producer on The Incredibles and Monsters Inc.) is the producer.

The shorts premiere as follows on Toon Disney (all times ET/PT):

Monday, October 27 (6:56 p.m.)

“Rescue Squad Mater” — Mater is a fire truck that rescues Lightning McQueen from a burning building.  When McQueen is rushed to the hospital, he discovers that Mater is a doctor, too.

Tuesday, October 28 (6:57 p.m.)

“Mater the Greater” — Mater is a famous daredevil who does all kinds of stunts. And Lightning McQueen becomes an unwilling participant in Mater’s greatest stunt ever.

Wednesday, October 29 (6:57 p.m.)

“El Materdor” — Mater is a famous bulldozer fighter in Spain.  He’s so good, he’s able to fend off multiple bulldozers at once.  Lightning McQueen joins Mater in this Tall Tale just as things are at their worst.

Disney Channel will present all three shorts throughout the day on Saturday, November 1. ABC Family will present the shorts beginning Tuesday, December 23 during the network’s annual “25 Days of Christmas” programming event

MOVIE REVIEW” WALL*E Is Simply Dazzling!

With an A-story that features the love story between WALL*E [Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class] and EVE [Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator], and a B-story that involves humanity’s possible return to a post-apocalyptic Earth, WALL*E is more than a bit of a gamble on PIXAR’s part.

Neither WALL*E nor EVE has a large vocabulary [at least, in terms of actual words – he has a number of R2D2-like sounds that clearly express what he’s feeling, and she has her own electronic vocabulary as well] – and neither has what you could call a real face [he’s a pair of binoculars on a box and she’s a floating egg with occasional arms & hands] – and yet we always know exactly what they are thinking and feeling.

Their romance is a classic one – and simultaneously poignant and hilarious – even though the film goes almost twenty minutes before a word of English is spoken.

The B-story features humans who have, in 700 years in space, become obese figures on floating couches/chairs. They live on a gigantic starship called the Axiom, where they are waited on, hand & foot, by robots of all sizes, shapes and functions [there’s more than a bit of eco-satire here, and it’s quite sharp].

walle7

The appearance of EVE [and WALL*E] with a fragile little plant from Earth should signal a return to Earth, but there are problems…

WALL*E does pay homage to various classic SF films [he resembles ET more than Johnny 5, and the ship’s autopilot, Otto, will certainly remind one of Hal from 2001], but homages are only cool if the film is worth seeing.

WALL*E is, quite frankly, dazzling. Purely from a cinematography perspective, almost every frame of the film is a perfect composition – and yet not predictable, or in any way sterile.

Some of the best moments include the realization that the deserted city we first see is only partly man-made [you’ll see what I mean…]; the lovely moment from the trailer when WALL*E trails his hand through asteroid dust like a little boy trailing his fingers through the water as a motorboat zips across a lake [see photo]; the beautiful skyscapes that open the film, and so many more [including the fact that WALL*E is hooked on Hello, Dolly – and has a cockroach as his only friend!].

WALL*E is the best film of the year – let alone the summer – so far. Easily. It may be too intense or hard to follow for younger children [the lady and four kids, ages about three to six, who were sitting next to me got up and left well before WALL*E reached the Axiom], so you should be aware of that.

Grade: A+