Pocahontas – Review

Pocahontas was released in 1995 and was Disney’s first attempt at animating a “true” story since 1948 (The Legend of Johnny Appleseed in Melody Time). That being said the truthfulness around the events of this film have been heavily modified and have only been written by John Smith himself years after the time the events were to have taken place.

Whether the story is true or not aside, is Pocahontas a good film? Not really. The songs are quite nice and sweeping and the animation is pretty good despite the fact that most of the Native Americans in this film seem to have the same lack of nose condition that afflicted Voldemort. But that is where most of my praise stops, the characters are two-dimensional and uninteresting (especially the two leads) and that is poorly covered up by the overused sidekicks. Don’t get me wrong, Meeko the Racoon is cute, but he, Flit the Hummingbird and Percy the Pug are so overused that I would imagine even some kids would get bored of it.

Without going in to the lacklustre effort Disney put in to correctly portraying the way the British treated the indigenous people of America and their attempt in saying maybe it was all a misunderstanding (it wasn’t) I will instead look at the film as a film. It’s not that much better.

The tone of the film is pretty off with the story of John Smith (Mel Gibson) and Pocahontas (Irene Bedard, and Judy Kuhn providing the singing voice) being whittled down to a conversation or two where they kind of get to know each other, while we find out how boring they both are. The rest of the film shows Pocahontas’ tribe and the British Colonials in a Romeo and Juliet sort of manner where they are both considered to be in the wrong and a sub-plot in which the parts of the story that might go over the heads of children are explained through a dog chasing a racoon. The story can be split almost equally with the ‘love story’ of Pocahontas and John Smith slightly getting some more screen time over Meeko vs Percy. At lease the film isn’t slow. Watching the 82 minute film doesn’t feel like a trial or anything, it skips through the story beats reasonably well with out losing too much momentum during the musical numbers.

The even more uninteresting supporting cast included the voices of Christian Bale as Thomas, David Ogden Stiers as Governor Ratcliffe and his manservant Wiggins, Russell Means as Chief Powhatan, Linda Hunt as Grandma Willow (I know I haven’t talked about the talking tree), Michele St. John as Nakoma, James Apaumut Fall as Kocoum and Joe Baker and Billy Connolly as two settlers, everytime Billy speaks it pulls you out of the movie – something these older films were not known to do as much as nowadays. Good on all these people for being in a film. Also a quick shout out to the two directors; Mike Gabriel (who had previously co-directed The Rescuers Down Under) and Eric Goldberg (who went on to direct parts of Fantasia 2000).

Disney had planned for Pocahontas to be their next Best Picture Academy Award winning film, it failed in that regard but they did pick up two for Best Original Song (Colors of the Wind) and Best Musical or Comedy Score. They tried to cater to as wide an audience as possible and ended up creating something that appealed to no one. It’s visual gags from the side characters aren’t enough to distract from the boring love story between two dull and undeveloped characters.

Rating: Below Average

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Tangled – Review

To preface why I’m reviewing Tangled: This year, 2018, I have set myself a goal to watch and review as many of the 56 (57 by the end of this year with Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2 being released in November) Disney Animation Studios films as I can.

Tangled loosely retells the fairy tale of ‘Rapunzel’. A story of a beautiful girl with long magical hair who is locked in a tower and rescued by a prince. In this iteration it is Rapunzel who is royal, a kidnapped princess, who possesses long, blonde, magical hair that can grant youth and heal injuries. She meets a thief whom she convinces to take her out of the tower she has been locked away in so that she can see the world and the floating lanterns she sees one night every year. The film features a few songs but I wouldn’t consider it a musical.

Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is an eighteen year old who longs to see the world outside her tower despite what her mother says about it being full of evil. She sees floating lanterns at night every year on her birthday and is convinced that the world cant be all evil. Eugene Fitzherbert, who sometimes goes by the moniker, ‘Flynn Rider’ (Zachery Levi) is a thief who barely scrapes through life while trying to be someone he isn’t. While Flynn Rider wold most likely rat Rapunzel out to the highest bidder it’s Eugene who begins to care for the lost princess. Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) is a twisted old woman who after kidnapping Rapunzel uses her to grant herself eternal youth and beauty. Once she discovers Rapunzel has escaped she does anything and everything she can to get her back and reclaim her power. I like these characters, Rapunzel is fun and Eugene can be suave and dorky at the same time but the real stars of this film are the two non-speaking sidekicks, Pascal the Chameleon and Maximus the Horse. Their characters have some much life and depth despite not having a single line but the way the animation is done, these characters steal most of the scenes they are in.

While we’re on the topic of animation style, this film has a nice flowing 3D animation similar to the style they would go on to use in Frozen. The animation of Maximus and the way the horse moved was scaled back a little when creating Sven in a similar style. I preferred the scaling back but I’m sure the way Maximus moved and acted in the film was loved by kids. Tangled was directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, both have been working with the company since the late 1990s, the latter of which has co-directed on recent Disney animated features like Bolt and Zootopia.

Tangled is one of my favourites of the ‘Revival’ era of films because of it’s fun and light-hearted approach to adapting a fairy tale.

Rating: Above Average

Wreck-It Ralph – Review

Wreck-It Ralph is a movie produced by Disney Animation Studios that looks and feels like it was produced by Pixar (it even has an animated short before the film starts). Whatever the arm of Disney this film comes from, the film is brilliant.

Wreck-It Ralph is set in Litwack’s Arcade, a simple neighbourhood arcade filled with games from all generations. One game that has stood the test of time in the Arcade is Fix-It Felix Jr. a game that features our titular character, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) wrecking an apartment building and the game’s titular character, Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) (you’ll never see this coming) fixing the building.

When the arcade closes and everybody goes home the game characters can take a well deserved break. Some visit other games like Pac-Man, where Clyde (one of the Pac-Man ghosts) holds the Bad Guy Support Group or Tapper (a bar-tending game from the 80s) where the game characters go to blow off steam. However it’s in the support group that we realise that Wreck-It Ralph, after 30 years of wrecking, has grown tired of being the bad guy and for once in his life, just wants to be appreciated. And so begins Ralph’s search for a medal which he thinks will give him the respect he desires.

Game Jumping through Hero’s Duty (a First-Person-Shooter) and Sugar Rush (a candy-coated racing game) and simply moving through the bustling Game Central Station, Ralph meets many original and classic game characters. The world of the arcade and the way the games are all connected is beautifully constructed. Even the subtleties like the way cake splashes on a wall is done in an 8-bit video-gamey way. I especially liked the way the citizens of Fix-It Felix Jr. moved, with a slight jerkiness you would expect from a game developed in the 80s. The film is also filled with little homages to so many video games its a rights acquisition departments nightmare.

Wreck-It Ralph also has these very cute moments and towards the end of the film you’ve found that you have bonded with these characters so when it comes to the crunch you tend to feel something for them especially the cute brat Venellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who in my opinion stole the show as Ralph’s pseudo side-kick. The other main character, Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun of Hero’s Duty (Jane Lynch, who seems to only be able to play one character these days) I found interesting at times but out of the four protagonists she was my least favourite. Rounding out the cast is King Candy the ruler of Sugar Rush (Brilliantly voiced by Alan Tudyk) as the films main protagonist.

This movie really has a sweet story and loveable characters and despite getting a tad convoluted sometimes, is a perfect film for the whole family. Kids will love the characters and the colour, and the older generations will love the homages to the arcade games from the 80s and 90s. A film definitely worth seeing these school holidays.

Wreck-It Ralph: Above Average

Brave – Review

Disney and Pixar create a new Disney Princess in the new movie, Brave.

Its a different take on Pixar films – similar to Up, its set in a slightly more real world than Toy Story, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc. with Humans being (mostly) the only talking, intelligent creatures.

In Brave, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a princess of the DunBroch clan, daughter of Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Elinor (Emma Thompson). She is a bit of a tomboy growing up. Preferring riding, exploring and archery to more ‘princess worthy’ pastimes. She and her mother have never really seen eye to eye, but the final straw for Merida is to be married off to one of the sons of the other three clans. What to do? Follow the Disney rule… “Got a Problem? Go see a witch!”

The animation is, as always, beautiful. Merida’s wild red hair and the fur of the bears (I know there are no bears in Scotland but it all makes sense in the film) flows and moves as if it was real. Pixar just make things one step more beautiful every film they make. Only flaws in this film I could point out is that the story seems a little forced at some points or even sped up for very little reason. It can sometimes seen a little obvious at points.

Bottom Line: Brave is a really nice take on Scottish legend and is a great film for the whole family. It provides a strong female role model for young girls as well as some very good comedic moments usually from Fergus or Merida’s three younger brothers.

Brave: Average

 

La Luna

La Luna is the Pixar short that is attached to Brave. It is a lovely little film perfectly executed with very little dialogue that isn’t even dialogue it’s mumbling gibberish. The film is about Bambino and his first outing with his father, Papa and grandfather, Nonno as they go to clean up stars that fall on the moon.

Bottom Line: La Luna is Sweet and Mesmerising.

La Luna: Above Average

Brave is in cinemas now. La Luna appears before the main feature.

Steve Jobs Dies, Aged 56

Former CEO and founding member of Apple died today at the age of 56. Steve Jobs was not only a technology expert, he was the CEO of Pixar Animation Studios and a member of the Board of Directors of Disney. He was also an executive producer on 1995’s Toy Story.

Apple released the following statement… Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

Walt Disney Company president Bob Iger said… Steve Jobs was a great friend as well as a trusted advisor. His legacy will extend far beyond the products he created or the businesses he built. It will be the millions of people he inspired, the lives he changed, and the culture he defined. Steve was such an “original,” with a thoroughly creative, imaginative mind that defined an era. Despite all he accomplished, it feels like he was just getting started. With his passing the world has lost a rare original, Disney has lost a member of our family, and I have lost a great friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Laurene and his children during this difficult time.

Finally, visionary filmmaker Steven Speilberg stated the following about the founder of Apple… Steve Jobs was the greatest inventor since Thomas Edison. He put the world at our fingertips.

The world has lost a true visionary and a very talented man in Steve Jobs. His entrepreneurial skills allowed him to drastically change the world of technology and animation. Macs make the world go round.

Steve Jobs

1955-2011