Advertise on OnMilwaukee.com
James Corden and Emily Blunt play the Baker and the Baker's Wife in Disney's "Into The Woods."
James Corden and Emily Blunt play the Baker and the Baker's Wife in Disney's "Into The Woods."

'Into The Woods' a musical that misses the mark

In film, we are used to having a narrative that takes characters through a story. Sometimes that narrative is from a narrator off-screen, or an internal voice inside a character. At other times, that device that keeps the story going is the dialogue and actions of the characters themselves.

Every so often, when Broadway has its influence on a production, that narrative is sung.

Disney’s presentation of "Into The Woods" was released a couple of weeks ago. I had the opportunity to screen the Blu-ray edition.

Let’s start out with the obvious, and the best part of the film. Anna Kendrick as Cinderella is the perfect casting. Kendrick, who had roles in the Twilight films, "Up In The Air" and "Pitch Perfect," is a wonderful singer and she proves it with her performance.

Beyond that, this film has some issues.

You would have thought that the stars were aligned with the producers of "Wicked" Marc Platt and Callum McDougall teamed up with Rob Marshall of "Chicago" and John DeLuca of "Nine." Marshall gets to direct a talented cast with Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine behind the music and lyrics.

And the cast, led by Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Kendrick and Chris Pine, are some of the best-known names in the movie business.

But the story was far from enchanted as nursery rhyme characters venture out into the woods. The woods itself is meant to be a character. But the movie-makers just let dark lighting create the dark mood. The characters at times were hard to see. There are other ways to portray "dark" beyond just shutting off the lights on the sound stage.

The story pacing seems disjointed as well. I found my mind wandering more than once during slow scenes that set up to virtually nothing. I’m a fan of the live theater, and a fan of musicals. I just have a feeling that "Into The Woods" would be more enjoyable as a stage production and some of the magic is lost in this film version.

The Blu-ray combo pack does offer some nice extras…

Read more...
This glowing green eye awakens in Tinker Bell's Pixie Hollow in "Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast."
This glowing green eye awakens in Tinker Bell's Pixie Hollow in "Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast."

NeverBeast deserved this film's ending

If we realize it or not, when we are entertained by a story, it is because there is at least one character we’ve identified with. When there is a film, or a book of other sort of media that we say we didn’t like, it is usually because what was presented didn’t resonate enough for us to be invested.

 "Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast" came out on Blu-ray combo pack last week. Unless you are a small child who currently dreams about being a princess, there usually is not enough substance in a home entertainment release like this one to make watching worth it.

Sure, if you are an adult who remembers their innocent memories about what great things there are in this world and others beyond, you can tap into "NeverBeast" for a fun, little ride.

However, and we’ve found this true for writers who use animation to share stories, that if a story is presented on multiple levels, there can be that identification for anyone. We take ownership of characters we enjoy.

That being said, and I’m probably not alone in this, most of us older than say the age of 12 will love this film. And it isn’t because of Tinker Bell or her friends who live in Pixie Hollow.

Those under 12 will love this film for a multitude of other reasons. The rest of you out there will find yourself identifying with Gruff, the NeverBeast.

Gruff has a job to do, he is misunderstood, and is looked at by some as a problem to be dealt with. By the end of the film, he’s the hero.

"We showed (John) Lassiter the end of the film," said director Steve Loter. "What he said is that we now have to earn that ending."

Lassiter, the head of Walt Disney Animation as well as CEO of Pixar, knows a thing or two about telling good stories. In this Tinker Bell film, he provides the guidance and lets his team do what they do best. The proof is in the proverbial pixie dust as you witness children flying with this adventure.

Ginnifer Goodwin of ABC’s "One Upon a Time" fame as Snow White provides the vo…

Read more...
"Sleeping Beauty's" Princes Aurora visits with Sofia The First in a holiday DVD release, "Holiday in Enchancia."
"Sleeping Beauty's" Princes Aurora visits with Sofia The First in a holiday DVD release, "Holiday in Enchancia."

"Sofia" may brighten a cold and gloomy day

Disney’s "Sofia the First" cartoon series about the young, adopted princess has some wonderful story-telling. Also, it features design guru Tim Gunn from "Project Runway" as the voice of Baileywick.

While many of the cartoons that Disney produces usually have something for children and adults alike, the stories of Sofia and her family are more for younger viewers. Teenagers will roll their eyes and yawn.

"Holiday in Enchancia" features wintery scenes with plenty of heavy coats and princess dresses. The DVD package includes a Sofia light-up ornament, and the story has special guest star Sleeping Beauty Princess Aurora making an appearance … you know, much like the episode actors on "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island."

This is a very cute story, one that is well told, well voice acted and wonderful and simple style animation. As Sophia spends her first holiday in the castle, King Roland goes missing. Sofia leads her mom, Amber and James on an expedition on a flying sleigh to find him. There’s come really great computer animation and a scary moment when they get caught in a blizzard. Luckily for all, animal friends come in handy when their dad is missing.

The extras on the DVD include four extra episodes of the snow: "Baileywick’s Day Off," "The Little Witch," "The Baker King" and "Four’s A Crowd."

"Big Hero 6." the Oscar-winning film from Disney Animation and based on a Marvel graphic novel, comes out on Blu-ray combo pack today.
"Big Hero 6." the Oscar-winning film from Disney Animation and based on a Marvel graphic novel, comes out on Blu-ray combo pack today.

Oscar-winning "Big Hero 6" now out on Blu-ray

There is little question why "Big Hero 6" won an Oscar on Sunday night. The animated movie, arriving on Blu-ray combo pack today, has that something special one expects out of a Disney Animation movie, as well as it the special vibe of a comic book origin story.

When Matt Mueller wrote his review of the theatrical release, he stated that this holiday film proved that Disney Animation was on the right track, pulling away from its cousin, Pixar.

"Plus, it has Baymax. Baymax trumps all. All hail Baymax," he wrote.

As far as I am concerned, this PG film is as balanced and as perfect as a movie can get when  setting up an origin story for a universe bigger than the corner the main characters inhabit. Baymax, the huggable robot built by the brother of the main character, Hiro, was meant to be a health care provider and assistant. But Hiro had other plans in mind, including tracking down what caused the fire that his brother was tragically killed in. Baymax is upgraded to fly, among other things, that allow the loveable character to be the best companion a young supergenius could ever hope for. The friends of Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, become the other four members of what becomes Big Hero 6.

It seems that at the core origin of most superhero tales is a tragic story of loss. This story isn’t different, but what it does do so well is present the main villain in parallel, showing he also is dealing with loss much like Hiro is. It is the way in which loss is handled that separates the good from the evil.

Extras include deleted scenes, two of which were considered to be possible opening sequences in the film. In a behind-the-scenes featurette, we meet the directors and other main staffers that brought the Marvel graphic novel to the big screen. We also learn that Marvel executives are the ones who helped the Disney Animation team come up with ways to help tell the story.

One fascinating thing revealed was the difference between animated films done by Marvel versus ho…

Read more...