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Disney

Spider-Man Trailer photo
Here comes Marvel's Spider-Man
After his debut in Captain America: Civil War, we've all been itching to see more of Tom Holland's take on Spider-Man. Being an unprecedented co-operative effort from Sony and Marvel, we're finally going to see what Marvel wa...

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Duck Tales teaser promises summer 2017 return


Dec 08
// Rick Lash
Long live the king. Move over Aflac Duck, there's a new (old) richest duck in town. Sure Scrooge McDuck has been on hiatus since 1990, but the nostalgia effect is in full force for children of the 80s and 90s and as such cont...
Chinese Rogue One trailer photo
Chinese Rogue One trailer

Chinese Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer features an intro with Donnie Yen & Jiang Wen


Another final Rogue One trailer
Dec 06
// Hubert Vigilla
There will never be a final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There was the final trailer a little while ago. And then a second final trailer last week. And now here's a Chinese trailer for the film. It's like one of ...
Rogue One creatures photo
Rogue One creatures

Featurette showcases some practical effects creatures from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


It's a trap! And a mask! And a trap!
Dec 06
// Hubert Vigilla
While I've been anticipating Rogue One: A Star Wars Story all year, I'm sort of glad that the marketing blitz for the film has been mostly concentrated into this last few weeks. Maybe I've just been avoiding all of the market...

Rogue One and Ep 8? photo
Rogue One and Ep 8?

New Rogue One clips, and a possible connection to Star Wars: Episode VIII


Curiouser and curiouser
Dec 05
// Hubert Vigilla
Rogue One opens next week. Can you believe it? I'm legitimately getting more excited for this movie as the release draws near. Over the weekend, two new clips for the film surfaced, as well as some indication that Rogue One w...
Rogue One 60-minute Q&A photo
Rogue One 60-minute Q&A

Watch a 60-minute Q&A with the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cast and director


More questions and anwers with the team
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
The 30-minute Facebook Q&A with the Rogue One cast and director Gareth Edwards wasn't the only appearance the team made in the Bay Area. There was a 60-minute Q&A/panel with the same talent in San Francisco. Twitter, ...
Rogue One 30-minute Q&A photo
Rogue One 30-minute Q&A

Watch a 30-minute Q&A with the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cast and director


Facebook employees getting all the perks
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Last week, the cast members of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and director Gareth Edwards dropped by Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA for a Q&A and special 28-minute preview of the film. A video of the Q&A session was post...
I AM GROOT VOL GROOT photo
We are Groot
All right, a-holes, here it is. The official trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has arrived. Everyone's back, it sounds like we've got a new track from the second Awesome Mix, and Groot's a baby. (Which means Vin Dies...

Star Wars: Rogue One photo
Star Wars: Rogue One

Korean Star Wars: Rogue One TV spots and a new poster bring the hope


Less than two weeks to Star Wars 3.5
Dec 02
// Hubert Vigilla
The hype train for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is now in full effect. A second final trailer was released last weekend as advanced tickets went on sale. A behind-the-scenes featurette with Diego Luna also showed up recently,...
Star Wars: Rogue One clip photo
Star Wars: Rogue One clip

First clip from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has rebels taking out jabroni storm troopers


Rebel rebel, you've torn your dress
Dec 01
// Hubert Vigilla
We're just two weeks away from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While the reshoots stoke a little worry in me (according to reports, composer Michael Giacchino only had four and a half weeks to write the score), I remain hopeful...
Doctor Strange 8-bit photo
Doctor Strange 8-bit

Marvel's Doctor Strange gets the 8-Bit Cinema treatment, looks a little like Mega Man


By the sprightly pixels of Capcom!
Nov 30
// Hubert Vigilla
I really liked Doctor Strange. While lots of the MCU tends to blend together visually and tonally, Strange had tilty fractals and psychedelic wonder, and on the whole the film felt more like a kung fu movie than just a s...
Star Wars: Rogue One vids photo
Star Wars: Rogue One vids

Watch a new TV spot and behind-the-scenes video for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Diego Luna and a bit of Darth Vader
Nov 29
// Hubert Vigilla
Tickets are now on sale for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which means the hype is now in full force. The movie looks like it might be sort of like The Dirty Dozen in space, and I'm totally fine with that. (I can only ass...
Moana  photo
Moana

Watch the fantastic "You're Welcome" from Disney's Moana


Thank you indeed
Nov 29
// Nick Valdez
If you didn't get to catch Disney's newest dynamo Moana over the Thanksgiving holiday, Disney has helpfully (and awesomely) given a little preview. Although I didn't get to gush about it as much as I wanted to in our review, ...
Star Wars: Rogue One photo
Star Wars: Rogue One

Final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story mentions the odds and raises the stakes


May the Donnie Yen be with you
Nov 28
// Hubert Vigilla
I know, I know--we already said there was a final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now we have two final trailers. You can blame Disney and Lucasfilm for wanting to hype the movie one last time now that the public can buy their advanced movie tickets. Go buy tix already, duders. Check out the second final trailer for Rogue One below.

Review: Moana

Nov 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221047:43203:0[/embed] MoanaDirectors: John Musker and Ron ClementsRelease Date: November 23, 2016Rating: PG Moana follows the titular Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), a teenager who's always dreamed of traveling the seas beyond her island village, but is next in line for village chieftain and must stay home. When darkness begins rotting away her home, brought on when the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) steals the heart of the ancient goddess Te Fiti, Moana must journey across the sea, find Maui and ask him for help, and return the Heart of Te Fiti from where it came. From its core, Moana is much different from Disney's other princess films. Choosing instead to follow Moana on a hero's journey, rather than a quest for love, the film allows for individual character development thanks to its simplicity. While this simplicity may mirror Disney's previous films a bit too much, it is honestly what makes Moana work as well as it does.  Directors Musker and Clements have experience creating lasting Disney legacies with the two of them directing hits like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Great Mouse Detective. Basically, these two are responsible for a good deal of your favorite Disney moments and it's the same with Moana. The film may share too many structural similarities with previous films because of their choices, but it's also sure to make up for that simplicity with a complex emotional through line and culture. It's what previous Disney Princess films had lacked, and it's what Frozen experimented with. With a simplified tale, the film allows the characters to add layers of depth. Instead of growing as a character in relation to another person, i.e when Ariel changes herself for Prince Eric, for example, Moana's tale is all about self-improvement. It's not complicated with extraneous plot like a third act twist villain or jokes from a cartoon sidekick, Moana instead sticks to its heart with its two central characters and builds everything around them.  Being a character first type of fairy tale, Moana trusts in its two stars to make it work. Thankfully, Dwayne Johnson and the awesomely talented newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho more than hold their own. Johnson as Maui is energetic and as charming as he ever is, but, coupled with Maui's slightly mischievous character design, now has a slight edge missing from some of Johnson's work. His song, "You're Welcome" is also fantastic. His single is definitely a standout with a blend of humor and musicality. But I don't think I'll ever be able to fully express how impressed I am by the young Auli’i Cravalho. You would never be able to tell, but as her first major starring role, Cravalho is an absolute delight. Once again marrying character design and performance, Cravalho makes Moana a believable kid. Moana is astonishingly the first Disney Princess to act like an actual young girl. She's awkward sometimes, but has an endearing moxie that characterized classic princesses like Mulan, Ariel, and Tiana. But unlike the other Princesses, Moana is allowed to have non-romantic flaws.  You're probably a bit worried since I keep comparing Moana to previous films, but it's entirely intentional. Musker and Clements intended to recapture the spirit of the 2D films. Every part of its production fully embraces nostalgia, while making sure to change enough to keep the film from repeating the past too much. Thanks to the phenomenal soundtrack from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina, every scene has just a bit more punch. The opening, for example, is kind of incredible. As the film introduces its setting and unique culture (as the Oceanic island culture is far more three dimensional than cultures seen in films past), its punctuated by an incredible chant-like song mirroring The Lion King's now prolific opening. While I'm not sure if its lead single's, "How Far I'll Go," contemporary style will outlast the Broadway appeal of its predecessor, it's still heart-opening. Jemaine Clement's surprise song performance is pretty great too, as it plays to his creepy wheelhouse. Also, the most beautiful song and performance overall is the ancestor song. I don't want to spoil it, but just trust that it's fantastic. But none of this character work or music would succeed without Moana's unbelievable visuals. Moana has Disney's most exemplary animation to date with its luscious landscape and gorgeous ocean animations. The setting itself is a main character, and somehow feels fantasical yet attainable. It's an island paradise capturing the mythical nature of its fairy tale, but also looks grounded enough to exist in our world. There's no skirting the Pacific Islander culture here, unlike the other Princess' films dilution of ethnicity. The character body design is diverse, with Moana herself looking less plastic and moving more fluidly than humans seen in Tangled or Frozen. Thanks to its full embrace of what makes it different, the story's complex emotion and culture seem simplistic. See? Full circle. It's simplicity by design. Blending its depth so well and sneaking in character development through song, I didn't realize how much I had experienced until I started writing this review. The only real problem I had with Moana overall was how some of its contemporary jokes and song arrangements (There's a Twitter reference and other meta jokes) betray the timeless quality of its setting, but honestly it's not that big of a deal. Moana is definitely one of the better theatrical experiences of 2016, and in a year full of strife, it's what we need right now.  Its nostalgic quality may turn some off of Moana, but the film is still incredibly fresh despite these parallels to the past. It's a Disney Princess film taking the successes of the past, fixes their problems, and injects a breath of life into Disney they haven't had for quite some time. Moana is for the child in you, your children, and even their children. And who knows? Moana may just go down as a "classic" years down the line. 
Moana Review photo
Hawaiian roller coaster ride
Disney Animation has had one critical success after another since they're in the middle of a new creative renaissance. Fully embracing CG animation, Disney has produced hits like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, and most im...

Cars 3 photo
Cars 3

This Cars 3 teaser trailer is short and awesome


It looks...good?
Nov 21
// Nick Valdez
Cars is overall the worst Pixar series to date, but maybe Pixar is pulling a Toy Story 3 with the third film? This teaser trailer for Cars 3 is short, but it hits quite harder than I'd expect. It's already better than the first two, but I'm waiting for the comedy shoe to drop.  Cars 3 releases June 16th next year. 
The Inhumans on IMAX/ABC photo
The first TV show to debut via IMAX
The fate of Marvel's The Inhumans seemed uncertain this year. It was taken off the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three schedule last spring after being pushed back from 2018 and 2019. Now Marvel is taking an unprecedented s...

Review: Doctor Strange

Nov 02 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221002:43178:0[/embed] Doctor StrangeDirector: Scott DerricksonRating: PG-13Release Date: October 25, 2016 (UK); November 4, 2016 (US) There's a philosophical template to many martial arts stories: an arrogant, inherently talented person becomes an unruly disciple to wise master, trains in a martial art, confronts their weaknesses (typically the ego), and unlocks their better self through discipline and mastery. Many times the student will surpass their master through an act of invention--combining or creating fighting styles, for instance, constructing a new weapon, or some higher-level use of the imagination. Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch doing his Benedict Cumberbatch shtick) starts the movie as a hotshot neurosurgeon who's fame-obsessed and failure-averse. A near-fatal car accident causes severe nerve damage to his hands. He's got the shakes now. That's the end his lucrative career. Strange hears rumors of a monastery in Nepal that may be able to heal him. He travels to the east where he gets thrown into a world of sorcery, one at war with a former student named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Like most Marvel villains, Kaecilius is sort of a non-entity--just a bad guy doing bad guy things. Tilda Swinton plays The Ancient One, the master of the monastery who teaches Strange the ways of sorcery and opens his eyes to the world and its possibility. Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) offers an assist as a trainer, emphasizing strength and force. The only top-billed Asian actor is Benedict Wong who plays the stoic keeper of the arcane library. There's been a lot written in the last few months about the whitewashing of The Ancient One. I also foresee a lot of thinkpieces about cultural appropriation given how much of the movie feels like a kung fu film. I wasn't bothered by any of this, but everyone's mileage varies. There's enough that works in the film for me, and I think Swinton's air of otherworldliness and oddness fits with her character. When Doctor Strange is at its best, it's a fast-paced martial arts adventure that fills the screen with Escheresque imagery. Some moments have the vertiginous feel of Christopher Nolan's Inception or the finale of Interstellar, and others remind me a little of Alex Proyas' Dark City. There's an exhilirating chase through New York City streets in flux, where buildings and roads become a maddened, tilting, shifting clockwork world. When not spinning mandalas and fractals on screen, Doctor Strange recreates the blacklight psychedelia of Steve Ditko's comic book art. Director Scott Derrickson gives Doctor Strange its own visual grammar to differentiate it from the rest of the MCU. The film even finds a cool way of marrying the martial arts, the somatic components of spells, and the way magic manifests itself on screen. Unfortunately, Doctor Strange is a martial arts movie with badly shot fight scenes. The magic battles and traditional action is competent, allowing viewers to follow the actors on screen as the mirror-like gears of reality spin around them. Yet aside from one satisfying and inventive battle of astral projected forms (!), the fights are shot close up and with shaky cam, obscuring the choreography. It's a waste of Scott Adkins, who plays one of Kaecilius' goons. For all the philosophical lessons taken from Shaw Brothers movies, Doctor Strange ignores the practical lessons of quintessential Shaw Brothers directors Chang Cheh and Lau Kar-Leung. Derrickson could have easily pulled his camera back, kept it steady, and allowed the performer's in-camera movements and rhythms to define his shots and the editing. Characters in martial arts movies communicate who they are through their fighting style, and so action filmmakers should allow their characters to describe themselves in combat. And of course there's a not-too-good romance subplot between Strange and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). It's there, it's not particularly engaging, and it's short enough. McAdams isn't given much to do, and there's not much reason to feel anything between Chrinstine and Strange. What is it about perfunctory love in movies? Does six minutes of a sketched romance really matter much? Platonic on-screen relationships are more satisfying than a forced romance, and they tend to be more dynamic. Stop trying to make romance subplots happen--it's not going to happen. Strange, The Ancient One, and Kacelius are so obsessed with time, its limits, and how it can be used. It drives their search for power. And on that note I felt like Doctor Strange could have benefited from an additional 10 minutes. (Maybe they could have shaved off some of that love stuff.) So much of this world is built up and breezed through that there's little time to breathe it in and appreciate what's there. Perhaps they wanted to keep the movie just under two hours, and yet that 10 minutes of breathing room could have opened things up a bit more. There's a major action sequence before the film's finale that occurs off-camera, which was a wasted opportunity for a classic martial arts set piece. Then again, given how they filmed the rest of the fight scenes, maybe it's for the best. There's a surprisingly good breather in the film between The Ancient One and Strange. The Ancient One ruminates as Strange listens, and the world around them achieves a gorgeous stillness. It's an unexpectedly thoughtful moment in the movie, thematically tied to characters and the overarching story and yet its own thing. Punching robots is fine, I guess, but I wouldn't mind more movies like Doctor Strange in the MCU. Good tea.
Review: Doctor Strange photo
Whoa--I know magic fu!
My favorite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far have been the ones that don't feel like standard-issue superhero movies. The Avengers was basic, and Avengers: Age of Ultron was a bigger, dumber, basic-er redux of t...

Snow White photo
Snow White

Disney is working on a live-action Snow White too


All live-action everything
Nov 01
// Nick Valdez
Since Disney figured out we're willing to spend the same amount of money on retreads (i.e. Maleficent, Cinderella, Pete's Dragon, and The Jungle Book) as we do on original ideas, the newest wave of giving every one of their a...
Lion King photo
Lion King

Disney working on live-action The Lion King remake


Nasaawhenya
Sep 28
// Nick Valdez
As pretty much everyone guessed after seeing Jon Favreau's technical marvel, The Jungle Book, Disney is indeed moving forward with a live-action adaptation of the animated classic, The Lion King.  Confirming on their web...
Moana Trailer photo
Oh my gosh.
With as good of a roll Disney has been on lately, I've seen many people joke along the lines of "I will push children out of the way to see this" and for the first time, I completely agree. While this newest trailer gives awa...

Captain America quits photo
Captain America quits

Russos say Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe


Russo swerve!
Aug 27
// Hubert Vigilla
Captain America: Civil War was a solid MCU entry--not as good as The Winter Soldier, but an entertaining beat-em-up that touched on the difficulties of foreign intervention in the Obama era. The film didn't have a hug-it-out ...
Sam Mendes photo
Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes possibly tapped for live action James and the Giant Peach


Next up in Disney's live action crusade
Aug 26
// Matthew Razak
As we all know Disney is on a relentless quest to turn their animation adaptation into live action movies. And considering that the likes of Maleficient, The Jungle Book and Cinderella all did gangbusters it makes s...
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We came for Phelps gold. We stayed for Star Wars gold. Or was it the other way around? For some, I'm sure it was. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stole the evening from a series of memorable 2016 Rio Summer Olympics moments by f...

Suicide Squad v Guardians of the Galaxy: A Tale of Two Soundtracks

Aug 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220753:43036:0[/embed] Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is an actual artifact that exists in Guardians of the Galaxy. The Suicide Squad soundtrack is just a soundtrack. This difference cannot be emphasized enough. The Awesome Mix is a mix tape from Peter Quill/Star-Lord's dead mother made just for him. A mix tape means curation, careful consideration, that time was taken to make something, and that something personal is trying to be communicated to someone else through an arrangement of songs. In short, mix tapes show someone you care. It's also important that the Awesome Mix is era-specific, with songs from the '70s and '80s, mixing a bit of AM radio kitsch--"Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," "Hooked on a Feeling"--with some Top 40/punk/glam favs--"Moonage Daydream," "Come and Get Your Love," "Cherry Bomb." This marks a time that Star-Lord will never know, lived by a parent he'll never see again, from a planet he was taken from. Sure, the songs are loads of fun, but there's an underlying sadness to a simple little cassette tape: Quill's last connection to his home planet is an antiquated bit of technology and (since few people make physical mixes these days) a dead cultural practice. By contrast, there's nothing curated about the Suicide Squad soundtrack (aka The Basic Bastich Playlist). It doesn't exist in-story and there's a general willy-nilly-ness to all of it. Looking at the tracklist, it doesn't feel like a mix tape made for anyone but rather for everyone and in the blandest way possible. The soundtrack feels like a bunch of songs some Warner Bros. studio exec downloaded on Napster when he was in college, plus three new ones. Those three new songs are relegated to the closing credits, by the way. That's probably where Skrillex & Rick Ross belong, but a shame to waste a Grimes track. [embed]220753:43037:0[/embed] The choices are so obvious, from "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "The House of the Rising Sun" to "Super Freak" and "Sympathy for the Devil." I couldn't help but think of better movies that made better use of these songs (e.g., Wayne's World, Casino, Little Miss Sunshine, Interview with the Vampire). On that note, The Basic Bastich Playlist even has a song from Awesome Mix Vol 1 ("Spirit in the Sky"). That may explain the general been-there-done-that quality to much of Suicide Squad. The movie does things that other movies have done, but it fails to distinguish itself or excel at anything uniquely on its own. The pop songs come frequently in Suicide Squad. The film's turgid, repetitive prologue feels like three different intro scenes in 20 minutes, with a new pop song creeping up every two minutes. Rather than carefully doling out the needle drops to punctuate a scene or create a character leitmotif, Ayer and his editors feel like cheap wedding DJs looking for a quick reaction from the crowd. "Want some tension and attitude in a scene lacking both? Here's 'Seven Nation Army' and 'Without Me.' Now get ready for the dollar dance." I'm surprised they didn't play "We Are Family," "I Will Survive," and "The Macarena" at some point. The overuse of licensed music is probably the result of the reshoots and subsequent re-edits of the film prior to release. Warner Bros. suits felt like audiences wanted a movie like the first Suicide Squad trailer, so they added more comedy and hired a company that specializes in editing trailers to rework the movie. Consequently, Suicide Squad feels more like a series of trailers than an actual cinematic story. Coming back to the Awesome Mix, I think it just emphasizes the main problem with Suicide Squad, and perhaps even WB/DC as they try to rush their own cinematic universe. The Awesome Mix is a compelling component of a story in which lonely characters join to form a surrogate family. The Basic Bastich Playlist is something a studio used to distract audiences from a story that barely even holds together.
Squad v Guardians photo
Basic Bastich Playlist v Awesome Mix
As Matt pointed out in his review, Suicide Squad feels like two movies clumsily stitched together. One movie (the better movie) is a grim Dirty Dozen/Wild Bunch homage about bad guys fighting even worse guys. That sounds righ...

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Poster for new Ducktales series full of ducks and tails


Life is like a hurricane, full of remake
Jul 21
// Matthew Razak
Ducktales is coming back because there's nothing original anymore. In fairness, if there is any Disney property I'd like to see back in from the heyday of their Saturday morning cartoon glory it's probably Ducktales, and...
Darth Vader VR photo
Darth Vader VR

A Darth Vader VR project is in the works


Will probably be impressive
Jul 19
// Hubert Vigilla
The storytelling potential of VR is pretty fascinating, as I noted with Allumette during the Tribeca Film Festival. A virtual headset can give you this unique feeling of immersion that allows you to interact with the story. I...
Moana Trailer photo
Moana Trailer

Here's the first trailer for Disney's Moana


Favorite film of 2016, calling it now
Jun 13
// Nick Valdez
Disney's animation studio has been on a Pixar like roll lately with Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia netting huge critical and financial success. Their newest princess film Moana already blows those films out of the water.&nb...
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Disney casts Emily Blunt in lead in Mary Poppins sequel


Jun 01
// Rick Lash
Back in September, we let all our readers that love strange bag ladies who hand out drugs to kids know that Disney had heard their pleas and decided to release a 2nd "Marry Poppins." (I mean, seriously, she's been Poppin' pil...
Beauty and the Beast photo
What? You gotta admit it's catchy.
I'm still weirded out by the fact that Disney is making adaptations of their adaptations of famous fairy tales, but so far they've been pretty good or even revolutionary so let's roll with it. The next one up is Bea...

Review: The Jungle Book

Apr 15 // Matthew Razak
The Jungle BookDirector: Jon FavreauRated: PGRelease Date: April 15, 2016 [embed]220509:42914:0[/embed] As a property it's hard to believe that one could bring something new to The Jungle Book. Mogli's (Neel Sethi) story has been told so many times in so many different ways that retelling it again seems a bit redundant. This seems especially true since this version is part of Disney's ongoing effort to remake or reimagine their animated classics as live action films (see: Cinderella or Maleficent). Yet despite the fact that this new version of The Jungle Book once again finds Mogli raised by a pack of wolves and the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), hunted by the villainous tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) and eventually hanging out with the laid back bear Baloo (Bill Murray), it feels dramatically different from previous tellings of the story. The plot may be mostly the same as Disney's animated classic, but striking visuals and Favreau's surprisingly fluid direction make it an entirely new experience. Those visuals, though. You will spend half this movie wondering what is real and what isn't while marveling at the individual hairs on Baloo's back or how Baheera moves perfectly or how the fat on King Louie (Christopher Walken) is disturbingly realistic. If ever a film has crossed the uncanncy valley it is The Jungle Book. Yes, there are still some parts that get stuck in the low end of that valley, but overall it is a visual masterpiece. The most impressive part is that they did it all while featuring talking animals in situations that are sometimes entirely human. Everything feels real and yet is somehow full of the magic and wonder that more traditional animation brings. It is this combination of reality and magic that make The Jungle Book work so well. Hats off to Favreau for being able to pull this movie together. His direction is often striking and far more than you'd expect from a traditional children's film. Some shots seem to be pulled from an art house independent while others are pitch-perfect horror moments (still suitable for children). Most impressive though is the fluid way he moves Mogli and company through the jungle. Taking advantage of his almost entirely digital setting, Favreau stitches together fluid shots that make you feel like you're there. It helps that the IMAX 3D is simply breathtaking on the big screen and that digital animation always looks better in that setting. Though Favreau may miss a few beats here and there, they're mostly because he's playing towards a crowd of children who expect certain things from their movies.  The only truly inconsistent thing about the movie is Sethi, who, in all fairness, had an incredibly daunting task before him since he's the only actual person in the entire film. It's clear that he became more comfortable with that fact as shooting went on as his performance varies from absolutely stellar (banging out a rendition of "The Bear Necessities") to horribly awkward (being hypnotized by the snake Kaa, played by an utterly wasted Scarlet Johansson). Still, he performs admirably overall, and it's his animal counterparts who steal the show anyway. Murray's Baloo is both perfect casting and the chance to hear him sing Baloo's classic song would make any movie worth the price of admission. Throw in a rollicking scene with King Louie that has Walken delivering a mafia routine and a chilling rendition of "Be Like You" and it's hard not to be drawn in by the performances not to mention stopping your foot from tapping. Much of their performance can be chalked up to the stellar animation, especially Elba's Shere Khan, who lurks around the screen fearsomely while the actor's silky voice drips with menace.   This is a children's movie overall, however. In the end Disney wants kids to be pretending they're hanging out with Baloo, and the movie plays like that. It's almost a contradiction as they hyper-realism of the film means the darker parts have that much more impact and the scary parts are that much scarier. Often the look and tone of the film don't jive with each other, though that's probably only a complaint an adult would have.  That look is so good, however, that it almost doesn't matter if the tone feels off sometimes. This is a major step forward in what we should come to expect from our CGI, but more importantly to that target audience, it's actually fun. 
Jungle Book photo
More than the bear necessities
At this point in my jaded film critic life it takes a lot to actually impress me with special effects. We've seen Transformers and giant blue aliens and everything in between on screen by now, and great digital effects are al...

Jungle Book photo
Jungle Book

Jungle Book character posters full of actors


Idris Elba is sexy with a tiger
Mar 21
// Matthew Razak
When you've packed your movie full of famous people but none of them are going to be seen there's only one solution: take dramatic photos of those famous people and put their animal characters with them. Clearly Disney knew t...
10 more Star Wars movies photo
10 more Star Wars movies

Disney is planning 10 more Star Wars movies, leading to state of perpetual war


Perpetual Star Wars
Mar 07
// Hubert Vigilla
Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012 for $4 billion, and they're going to make that golden goose keep giving until it's spent (at which point they'll make Star Wars foie gras). An inside source with the company said that th...
Finding Dory photo
Finding Dory

Newest Finding Dory trailer just keeps swimming


Mar 03
// Nick Valdez
I know I'm supposed to look at sequel announcements with some kind of critical eye, but I just can't do that with Pixar. I've been waiting for a Finding Nemo sequel right after the first one ended, so every bit of Finding Dor...
Star Wars VIII photo
Star Wars VIII

Watch a few seconds of Star Wars Episode VIII in this official production announcement video


Laura Dern & Benicio Del Toro join cast
Feb 15
// Hubert Vigilla
Though the release date of Rian Johnson's Star Wars Episode VIII has been pushed back several months, Disney has announced that production is now under way. They did so with a brief video, which seems to pick up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off. Give the announcement video a look below.
Star Wars 8 pushed back photo
Star Wars 8 pushed back

Star Wars Episode VIII release date pushed back to December 2017, Rian Johnson doing rewrites


Star Wars may be a Christmas tradition
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Star Wars Episode VIII was originally going to be released on May 26, 2017, but now the film has been pushed back seven months. The new release date for Star Wars 8 is December 15, 2017. Rian Johnson is still set to begin pro...
Force Awakens/New Hope photo
Force Awakens/New Hope

J.J. Abrams talks Star Wars: The Force Awakens and similarities to A New Hope


In short: I meant to do that!
Jan 11
// Hubert Vigilla
Whether you liked The Force Awakens or not, there's one thing everyone can agree on: Episode VII is very similar to A New Hope and The Original Trilogy. As director J.J. Abrams recently explained, that was by design. "It was ...
Star Wars: Episode VII photo
Star Wars: Episode VII

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already made a billion dollars


S.W.R.E.A.M.
Dec 28
// Nick Valdez
To no one's surprise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens still dominated the box office over the holiday weekend. Some saw it for the first time, others their third or fourth outing, it's certainly made bank as it broke all sorts o...
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J.J. Abrams explains why [SPOILER] had to [SPOILER] in Star Wars: The Force Awakens


[SPOILER]
Dec 22
// Matt Liparota
Note: If it's not clear already, this post is going to have some heavy-duty SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you haven't seen it yet and want to go in clean, read ahead at your own risk. Seriously, though, we're ...

Is Star Wars: The Force Awakens Too Much Like A New Hope? (SPOILERS)

Dec 21 // Hubert Vigilla
We've seen a few soft reboots and sequels this year that take familiar elements from earlier entries in a series to move in their own directions. The better models of this are Creed, which builds off the Rocky movies to tell its own story, and Mad Max: Fury Road, which uses recurring elements like the other sequels in the franchise. Jurassic World was a middling model of this, albeit a highly lucrative one. The nadir might be 2006's Superman Returns, a sequel that was basically a joyless rehash of Richard Donner's 1978 film. The similarities between A New Hope and The Force Awakens are plentiful. Important information is stashed inside of a beep-booping droid (a distress message to Obi-Wan Kenobi in R2-D2, a map to find Luke Skywalker in BB-8). The droid wanders a desert planet (Tatooine, Jakku) and is eventually found by an unassuming person (Uncle Owen and Luke, Rey). They leave the desert planet in The Millennium Falcon. Both movies have their own cantina scene (Mos Eisley Spaceport, Moz Kanata's bar). Both movies have a weaponized planet (The Death Star, The Starkiller Base) that blows stuff up real good before getting blowed up real good. Both movies feature the lightsaber death of a fatherly figure (Obi-Wan, Han Solo) at the hands of a bad guy in black (Darth Vader, Kylo Ren). There are fan service-y moments throughout as well, from the hologram chess board to the remote training ball to mentions of a trash compactor. And yes, there is a Wilhelm scream, and someone has a bad feeling about something. I missed some, and there are loads of allusions to Empire and Jedi as well, but you get the picture. The Force Awakens follows a lot of A New Hope, which in some ways confirms many of the biggest fears fans had about Abrams being on board. His two Star Trek films were full of fan service and repeats of familiar ideas, and Super 8 was a riff on Steven Spielberg's early output and the misfit kid movies of the 80s. All creators are swayed by their influences, but the work usually suffers when slavish devotion to influences becomes more important than using those influences to create something new. It's why The Wrath of Khan (inspired in part by A Tale of Two Cities and Moby-Dick, among other works) will always be better than Star Trek Into Darkness (a joyless rehash of The Wrath of Khan)--Wrath of Khan gives itself room to play with its pastiche, which yields something new. There's always an underlying question of "How much is too much?" when it comes to homages, and with The Force Awakens it seems like the "too much" threshold is crossed in the second half once we see The Starkiller Base. As The Resistance plots how to blow it up (a rehash of the Death Star plan of attack in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi), one of the fighter pilots shouts out almost mockingly, "It's another Death Star!" Either Han or Leia then quips, "Where's the weak point?" Even the characters in the film seem to be saying, "Christ, a third time? Wasn't this freakin' silly enough when we re-used this plot device in Jedi?" Death Star 3.0 is lazy, sure, and it makes all the other original trilogy references seem glaring (it's a fish head in your soup--suddenly all the other ingredients taste like fish head), but maybe there's some meta-commentary on Star Wars here. The film seems to be aware of its role as a reintroduction to Star Wars for a new generation of viewers and a show of good faith to an older generation of viewers who suffered through the prequels. The Star Wars Trilogy became one of the primary models for rollicking cinematic adventure. It's an international cultural phenomenon, it's a point of comparison for other major films, it's an inescapable force in its own right. And here are some characters of a new generation who get to experience that moment for themselves. Lucas invented a model from previous models, while Abrams inherits and riffs on the ubiquitous influential model that Lucas invented and failed to improve upon in the prequels. (They seem to blow up Coruscant or an analog for Coruscant in The Force Awakens, as if to say, "Yeah, we're getting rid of that prequel stuff, guys.") Over at the AV Club, A.A. Dowd and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky had a brief discussion about The Force Awakens. Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Poe are new Star Wars characters who are aware of the legacy of Star Wars characters of the past. They know the stories, the players in the fictional history of the world they inhabit. These are Star Wars movie characters in a post-Star Wars cinematic world. Rey speeds by the husk of a Super Star Destroyer, and she eats lunch in the shadow of a collapsed AT-AT. It's like kids playing Star Wars in a Star Wars movie, or as Dowd put it: "We're essentially watching a bunch of Star Wars nerds in a Star Wars movie." Even when the fan service and repetition gets overbearing, there's at least something good to be found, and most of it involves the new characters. That may be a testament to how compelling and likable they are. Even though Poe Dameron is a supporting character who's only around for a couple of minutes, he makes such a great impression as the cocksure flying ace of The Resistance. His appearance in the mid-film cavalry scene is a fresh bit of derring-do--Finn looks on from the ground like an audience surrogate as Poe loops and dives and swoops to bring down TIE fighter after TIE fighter. It's a shame that the Starkiller Base sequence at the end doesn't offer any unique challenges for Poe and his fellow X-wing pilots. All they do is pew-pew-pew the hell out of a target and that's it. Finn offers loads of story potential as a First Order turncoat. He's raised from birth to be a fascist soldier (This. Is. Nazi-Sparta!), and not even given a name. He's a pawn and cannon fodder and an extension of another party's will. But despite that, he has a moment of conscience in which he breaks his programming to make a moral choice. He gets to be his own man and define his own identity rather than accept the one that's been forced upon him since birth. Maybe it's the sign of a mass defection of Stormtroopers in the next two films, but Finn's story is about being able to define who you want to be. It's free will as a part of asserting personhood. Rey might be the best of the batch, and she's a compelling anchor for this new trilogy. She's a hero with limitless potential--she's compassionate and strong, a force-savvy gearhead, a capable pilot and problem solver--but she's never had role models to show her the way or any reason to believe in herself. Think about it. Luke Skywalker wanted to leave home and be a great pilot like his father. Rey's never believed that she could be great at anything. She led a life of limited possibility, one without aspirations. She believes she's a nobody that no one wanted or cared about, and at various points of her adventure, even though she's in awe of what she's seeing, she keeps talking about going home. Yet there's nothing for her back on Jakku--no future, no hope. She so used to solitude and banality. Rey's story is about what happens when you're finally given an opportunity to dream and show your true worth as a person, and more importantly, she finds out what happens when someone says that they believe in you. Kylo Ren is a counterpoint to Rey and Finn. His parents are Han and Leia, the heroic couple of The Rebel Alliance; his uncle and trainer is Luke Skywalker, a Jedi trained by Ben Kenobi (Kylo's real name is Ben Solo) and Yoda; his grandfather is Anakin Skywalker, the Space Jesus. Kylo's got the genes and he's got the advantages of the family lineage, but he just can't live up to the legacy he's part of. I picture him as the child of two great musicians who gets weighed down by the pressure of being as good as, if not better than, mom and dad. He's a spoiled brat obsessed with outward shows of power, which seems like a mulligan for the botched characterization of Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. Like his grandfather, there's an expectation of greatness. I sense a kind of Salieri/Mozart rivalry emerging between Kylo Ren and Rey (i.e., the fictional trope of Salieri's resentful jealousy of Mozart's talent). In their force mind battle, Rey bests Kylo even though she hasn't had the same kind of training; she even identifies his fears of inadequacy. She beats him in a lightsaber duel, scarring his face in a manner not unlike Supreme Leader Snoke's. It's Space Daniel crane kicking Space Johnny, but she didn't even have a Miyagi-figure to show her how to wax-on and wax-off. (There's already been a backlash against Rey in some corners of the internet calling her a Mary Sue, but like Tasha Robinson wrote at The Verge: "She's a fantasy wish-fulfillment character with outsized skills, an inhuman reaction time, and a clever answer to every question--but so are the other major Star Wars heroes. Are they all getting the same level of suspicion and dismissal?") These three primary characters--Rey, Finn, and Kylo--are legacy-conscious individuals who are trying to assert their own identities and make their own futures. It's ironic (or maybe fitting?) that they're all held back to varying degrees by a plot with too many callbacks to the past. J.J. Abrams might have been given the least interesting Star Wars sequel to direct and co-write. (Actually, the young Han Solo spin-off movie is probably the least interesting.) It's a set-up movie for a new story that has to revisit an old set of stories and characters. At least the 2009 Star Trek film wasn't necessarily tied to a pre-existing film and could use existing characters to go on its own semi-original fan-service adventure. It was a reboot rather than a sequel, and the latter can be much tougher, especially when you're dealing with something as big as Star Wars. Rian Johnson's Star Wars Episode VIII will probably be a much more interesting and original movie. He's got a new set of characters established, a whole lot of relationships and dangling threads to play with, and lots of ability to tell the kind of story he wants to tell. I assume he'll do his damndest to avoid rehashing The Empire Strikes Back and instead bring something new to Star Wars. Johnson's got a great knack for mimicking, paying homage to, and reinterpreting different films and film genres to do his own thing, which will be great to see after a very insular Star Wars entry. Even Gareth Edwards' Star Wars: Rogue One seems like it'll be more interesting than Episode VII. It's a prequel about the mission to get the plans for the original Death Star, and yet this could be a different kind of story that doesn't have to rely on the pre-existing beats of another Star Wars movie. This might be a full-on WWII mission flick, i.e., The Space Guns of Navarone, Where Space Eagles Dare, The Dirty Space Dozen, Inglorious Space Basterds. So yes, The Force Awakens is too much like A New Hope, but it's also got enough fresh stuff in there to make it watchable and even enjoyable. It's nerdy comfort food with a twist, and it's also nerdy comfort food about the comforts of nerdy comfort foods. (But it tastes like fish heads.) The big takeaway is that the movie gets back to basics, namely that it's always been the characters that make Star Wars worth watching, not the spectacle. A fresh plot wouldn't hurt, though. I can't wait to see what happens when these characters mold their own stories and destinies in plots befitting their potential.
Force Awakens/New Hope photo
A Star Wars movie about Star Wars movies
Like Flixist EIC Matthew Razak said in his review, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the Star Wars sequel you're looking for. It's not flawless, obviously, but it does what it has to do. (It's a little unfair that every movie i...


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