In anticipation of the many big-screen Marvel Comics adaptations heading our way in the coming months, two volumes of select episodes from the recent animated series,
, in which the all-star heroes form a group, but as is Marvel's style, the heroes have a bit more angst and dysfunction in addition to super powers--which can also be burdensome (though not as socially distaff as Marvel's X-Men).
and others. The team is formed by the end of the two parter that concludes the volume, Breakout.
By Volume 2, The Avengers team is established. In some ways, the
contain more character-driven material because these mighty folks don't always get along.
But every show is loaded to the brim with almost constant action, superb animation by Film Roman. This studio, but the way, is amazingly versatile, since they also produced more comedic cartoons like
It's remarkable how the creators of these shows come up with so many interesting variations on the themes of gaining and losing power (usually by way of radiation) and megalomaniacal villains. The best way to really enjoy these shows is to leaf through the book,
, a nicely priced hardcover volume with color profiles of each character.
"THAT LEGALLY SHARPAY GIRL!"
Posted on Apr 30 2011 by Greg
Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, if anything else, is one of the most quotable films of year. For instance...
Sharpay's father, greeting his daughter after the pop performance that opens the film: "Princess, you had better look out for law enforcement. They are gonna come after you for stealing the show!"
Sharpay herself, when persuading her father to give his blessing to seek fame on Broadway: "Daddy, the main reason I buy such expensive shoes is to take monumental steps!"
This made-for-Disney-Channel-but-first-released-to-Blu-ray-and-DVD movie is a spinoff of the High School Musical series. Sharpay Evans, campus queen bee and wealthy, pampered but lovable self-caricature, decides that she can conquer Broadway with minimal effort, but learns the value of hard work, good friends and consideration for others. Kind of a kid-friendly version of Legally Blonde, right down to the designer doggie.
Her catalyst for this growth is smiling dagger-plunger stage star Amber Lee Adams (Cameron Goodman, playing it to the hilt in a film with a very, very high hilt), who calls our heroine "Sharpie" and basically tricks her into becoming her lapdog assistant. At one point, Sharpay even cleans a toilet! Omigosh!
Amber Lee's character is the bad example of what Sharpay might become. But she's saved by the nicest young cute guy in New York City, Donald Hollinger (oh, sorry--wrong decade--that was Ann Marie's boyfriend).
As budding filmmaker Peyton Everett, young actor Austin Butler gets some of the best lines in the movie. But unfortunately, since he's supposed to be the voice of reason and moral center, these lines make his character is a bit inconsistent and unintentionally funny.
One minute he says to Sharpay, "Everything you have to do will be worth it to have your dream," (the exact opposite of the film's message).
Later he says, with gravitas, "You’ve sold your soul just to get [your dog] Boi in that show rather than trust in the dog that you raised. Even worse you’ve stopped trusting that your own talents would get you where you need to go!"
It's priceless stuff, but probably not as sidesplittingly funny as intended, though the production tries valiantly to balance camp with heart (a very difficult task).
Here's another gem: upon making a dramatic exit, Peyton exclaims, "One question--what happened to that hot pink whirlwind of confidence and ambition I saw through my lens that first day you got here? I mean, that girl knew she was special! That girl knew that she didn’t have to do any of this to succeed! What happened to her, huh?"
Quite a few of the clever lines are appropriately assigned...
Sharpay: "Listen, Amber Lee Adams isn’t what you think."
Roger (Bradley Steven Perry): "A self absorbed, two-faced panther who would eat her young live on a reality show rather than allow anyone to steal her spotlight?"
Sharpay: "Okay, she's what you think."
But ultimately, Peyton wins the match with this golden line, said--again in all seriousness--to Sharpay: "There is not a marquee big enough, or lights bright enough, to contain the fame you’re gonna have." You could almost hear Dick Powell say this to Ruby Keeler in a Goldiggers movie. Which in this context, is probably fine and in keeping with the jaunty spirit of Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure.
Production wise, the film is nicely shot and directed with skill by Michael Lembeck (director of Disney's Santa Clauses 2 & 3 and former leader of Kaptain Kool and the Kongs on TV's Krofft Supershow) and the city looks like the wonderland of That Girl.
The Blu-Ray and DVD is sparse on bonus features, consisting mainly of a short doc about Sharpay's "evolution," bloopers and footage from the camera Butler used throughout the film.
"IF THERE WASN'T A TRON, THERE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN A TOY STORY"
Posted on Apr 14 2011 by Greg
So says John Lasseter
in one of the many bonus features on the Tron and Tron:Legacy five-disc combo set
, containing a Blu-ray and DVD each of 1982's Tron
and the recent Tron: Legacy
, plus a digital download disc of the latter. (You can also get each film separately, but why unless you have the earlier DVD and don't want Blu-ray?)
Lasseter's quote comes from what are billed as the "original DVD features" that were included in the much-sought-after first DVD release of the original Tron
, which Disney did not reissue until now. Turning away what might have been a great amount of profit, the studio withheld the original film from reissue when the new film premiered, reportedly to avoid what might have been assumed as technical comparisons from the 1982 movie to the shiny new 2010 one.
They needn't have worried much, but it didn't seem to matter in the long run, because today both films are among the best sellers in the DVD market. And even though they don't compare well when judged primarily by special effects standards, they actually both stand together better than expected.Steven Lisberger
is still one of the most unique films to come from Disney or any other studio, now as well as then. There is simply nothing exactly like it, including Tron: Legacy
, which is undeniably a tribute in its basic look, but also resembles a good many current big-screen special effects extravaganzas.
There's no way that modern filmmakers would replicate what is very much a product of its era in scope and resources, and Tron: Legacy
is lightyears beyond its predecessor in astonishing visuals. And like the original, the sheer, overwhelming proponderance of eye-filling sights leave little room for characters, though both tried valiantly. Tron: Legacy
has the lion's share of labor, having to survive comparisons to its predecessor and reconcile two storylines, all the while relaunching a franchise that has been like shining gold in a locked treasure chest for decades.
On the third point, Tron: Legacy
succeeds extremely well. Like Star Trek
, which transformed from a canceled network series with high ambitions and vision that transcended its limited sets and effects and built on itself through new incarnations, Tron
was a great idea that occurred before the medium could handle it and even Disney didn't know what to really do with it for almost three decades -- though perhaps now has come into its own.
The key was to catapult the franchise, and Tron: Legacy
hit the mark. The animated version previewed on the disc is just one piece of the pie; a high-tech dance party called ElecTronica
at Disney's California Adventure
Park is another; and apparently the merchandise is already doing wellBruce Boxleitner
and Jeff Bridges
appear in both films, a plus for fans, though clearly many enthusiasts do miss Cindy Morgan
(who appears on the earlier bonus features). Rather than relying on star power to sell the new film (and jeopardize sequels with high contractual demands), Disney wisely gave Garrett Hedlund
and Olivia Wilde
a high-profile showcase. Wilde -- who has already distinguished herself superbly on TV's House
, is especially impressive -- she is a scifi icon in the making, along the lines with Star Trek: The Next Generation
's Seven of Nine.
What's especially fascinating about Tron
, though, is the road entertainment and effects took between the two films, which can be traced on the bonus features (though the earlier Tron
DVD set did have a few more, so keep your old one if you have it). It was an influential film that inspired countless viewers, especially those within the film and video industry.
Both films make good use of the clarity of Blu-ray. The only missing feature is a new commentary track. But we can still hear the comments on the original film by Lisberger himself, who seems to have been welcomed into the new production by the new creative team.
BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO H-B'S "ALICE"
Posted on Apr 02 2011 by Greg
45 years ago last Wednesday, March 30, 1966, ABC broadcast Hanna-Barbera
's most ambitious TV project of up to that time, Alice in Wonderland, or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?,
featuring a multi-star voice cast and the unique twist that Alice falls down a TV set instead of a rabbit hole.
Among the characters in this updated version were Fred Flintstone
and Barney Rubble
as a two-headed vaudevillian caterpillar. The always astonishingly knowlegable animation historian Jim Korkis
knows how much I love this special, so he sent this rare concept art to enjoy.
In this concept, Yogi Bear
played the Mad Hatter and Barney was the Dormouse (the March Hare, resembling but not intended as Ricochet Rabbit, looks as he did in the final show). The Hatter and the Dormouse were later designed as stand-alone characters.
Can't wait for this to appear on DVD...someday. As for Jim Korkis, he's now one of the today's most sought-after public speakers, his legion of fans are looking forward to his upcoming appearances this summer in California at the Disneyana Fan Club Convention
and at the Walt Disney Family Museum
, as well as seminars and speaking engagements at businesses, colleges and private gatherings throughout the country.
HAIL TO THE PRINCESS RAPUNZEL
Posted on Mar 28 2011 by Greg
Rumors of the end of the Disney Princess movies, to paraphrase Mark Twain
, "have been highly exaggerated." Tangled proved it by being a huge theatrical hit. Part fairy tale, part musical, part romantic comedy, somehow it all came together despite a long, difficult history of behind-the-scenes changes and rearranges, including giving the film a "hip" title instead of Rapunzel
(or as it was known in an earlier incarnation, Rapunzel Unbraided
When the Tangled
trailers originally aired, I was apprehensive because of the title change and the skewed trailers with their blaring pop music tracks. Would it be a spoofy, Shrek
-y send up? Would Rapunzel herself be the tough-talking "today" lady so common in recent animation? Would it end with a boogie dancing '80s top-40 chestnut?
I needn't have been concerned. Tangled turns out to be a Disney fairy tale in the classic sense that straddles the difficult line between "straight" storytelling, screwball comedy, romance and yes, even a little suspense -- because, like Cinderella
, we know it's all going to be fine but we want to see how it works out.
And speaking of Cinderella, there has never been a Disney animated film with a more complicated villain than Mother Gothel since the Stepmother in Walt Disney
(Cruella and Madame Medusa are close contenders). The evil is all about psychological abuse, the manipulation of a person into submission that is so effective that the victim is compelled to sustain it, even though they yearn for more.
How many of us have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, a situation in which we are led to believe that we're "lucky to be here" or "better off than the alternative" by a person or a group who knows your true worth but conceals it by convincing you you're not capable otherwise? Who hasn't had the boss/parent/partner/friend who criticized you so much you started to believe you really were worthless? I was astounded to see this complex dynamic dealt with in a Disney animated film.
Both Rapunzel and Flynn have self-doubt but they trod on anyway. They didn't start out contemptuously loathing each other the way couples do in way too many films nowadays, either. Their character arcs were the most plausible we'd seen since Beauty and the Beast.
The Alan Menken/Glenn Slater
songs were not tossed in at random just to fill up an album or make a great theme park number (though they probably would), but because they had a crucial book requirement. They all served the story -- and I've Got a Dream" was the funniest number since "Gaston."
Often when the story was just about to approach a cliché, there was a gag or twist that punctured it. And the horse -- Maximus -- stole every scene.
Animation-wise, there was a hand-drawn quality to the expressions that I don't recall in most CG films, especially in the more human-styled characters. In his commentary on Toy Story 3
, Lee Unkrich
said there had been huge strides in CG humans and clearly both films were able to benefit.Tangled
didn't make me get all misty eyed the way that Toy Story 3
did, but it was, in tone, more of a grand epic romp overall. I liked it much more than I thought I would. My wife and kids loved it, too.
The Tangled Blu-ray
is truly dazzling, making full use of meticulous detail, design and color. The DVD does not contain as many bonus features as the Blu-ray, but there aren't all that many overall anyway. One highlight is a segment in which lead voice actors Mandy Moore
and Zachary Levi
breeze through a lighthearted trivia trek which includes a quick rundown of all 50 Disney animated features (a list that has, historically, changed a little bit over the years). Sure wish there was an audio commentary, though.
There seemed to be no doubt that Mandy Moore was a perfect fit for the singing and acting duties of playing a Disney princess. The surprise is Levi, who has far more range than he often is allowed to display on TV. Clearly he has more stage experience than the unpretentious persona evidenced in various appearances. He even has a decent singing voice.
Like Mickey Mouse, who started it all, the fairy tale is the heart of Disney storytelling. They can and should stretch and go outside the box but they should never totally abandon the core form. Nobody does it better. Makes me feel sad for the rest...(somebody stop me!)
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