Trailer Park: Moana

Ever since they announced Moana, I’ve been looking forward to getting a trailer. And the teaser, which came out recently, doesn’t disappoint. It looks gorgeous, the music’s perfect, and it makes me excited to see more from this movie.

What do you think?

Trailer Park: Beauty and the Beast

I completely forgot Disney had a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast coming up, so when the teaser trailer dropped yesterday, I might have screamed a little.

I know where I’m going to be on March 17 next year.

Trailer Park: Cinderella

So Disney released the full trailer for their live-action Cinderella, which is coming out in March 2015. It’s not really something that’s been on my radar, but considering how good Maleficent was, I’m intrigued. And the new trailer pings me in all the right ways. (Also, I LOVE HER DRESS. Just wow. Seriously.)

So how about you? Are you excited for Cinderella? Cautiously optimistic? Or are you just kind of “meh” on the whole thing?

Movie Review – Maleficent

hr_Maleficent_13I’m a sucker for a good fairy tale story, but given that Sleeping Beauty was never one of my favorite Disney movies, I was only passingly interested in Maleficent. That is, until the trailers came out. Then, my interest went from “passing” to “I CAN’T WAIT.”

Thankfully, Maleficent lived up to my hopes, and even surpassed them in some respects. I adored the way they twisted the original story, and overall it was a gorgeous movie, completely enjoyable, despite a few hiccups.

Given the title, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the entire movie is about Maleficent, starting with her childhood (insofar as fairies have childhoods) in the moors, and her friendship with a human boy named Stefan.

However, Stefan has big dreams: dreams that involve him becoming the king of the human kingdom that neighbors Maleficent’s moors. And as we see, he’s willing to do just about anything to achieve those dreams, even if it means betraying someone he’s claimed to love.

His betrayal may get him what he wants, but it also earns him the enmity of the most powerful fairy in the moors. And Maleficent is just as determined to get her revenge as Stefan was to earn the crown.

The christening scene, where Maleficent casts her curse on Aurora, was my favorite scene in the entire movie. It’s one of the most iconic Maleficent scenes from the animated Sleeping Beauty, and to say Angelina Jolie nails it is an understatement in the highest degree. She’s absolutely note-perfect in every aspect of it: her tone, her mannerisms, her facial expressions, the chilling desire for revenge. It’s amazing.

And with the additional backstory between Stefan and Maleficent from the first 30 minutes of the movie, it becomes clear just how much of that curse is designed to strike directly at him. It’s a fantastic scene, and I’m pretty sure that alone is worth the price of admission.

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

Shush, don’t wake the baby…

After that, we’re in familiar territory: Stefan sends his infant daughter into the woods to be raised by three fairies, orders all spinning wheels destroyed, and then proceeds to spend the next sixteen years slowly spiraling into madness, driven by his own desire for revenge, to see Maleficent utterly destroyed.

Meanwhile, the three fairies raise Aurora, and we also reach one of the few things that didn’t work about the film for me. The fairies are funny, but they’re also horrifically incompetent, to the point that it’s almost stunning Aurora survives to adulthood. It’s one of the largest departures from the original, I think, and there are times when it hurts the movie more than it helps it.

The movie also glossed over why these fairies, as residents of the moors, would be attending Aurora’s christening. We got a perfunctory explanation, but I really didn’t know why they would so deliberately go against Maleficent—even if they had succeeded in making it a gesture of peace, there was no guarantee that she would follow the gesture.

But the core of the movie is Maleficent’s growth: the loss of her innocence, her cold vengeance, and then the slow build of her relationship with Aurora. While the three fairies are bickering, Maleficent, strangely, ends up being the one to ensure the baby doesn’t die. She watches from the shadows, keeping an eye on Aurora as she grows, and that new relationship is the most intriguing thing about this movie. Aurora is absolutely adorable, and you can see why Maleficent starts to have second thoughts about what she’s done.

I don’t want to talk too much more about it, because they do a good enough job of twisting the story that I’d rather not spoil it. Suffice it to say, if you’ve considered seeing Maleficent, or if you at all like fairy tales, I would really encourage you to go. It’s a great story and a wonderful retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale.

Movie Review: Frozen

Frozen_21Frozen hadn’t really been on my radar when it was first coming out. Then most of my friends loved it and most of the blogs I read on Tumblr collectively lost their shit over it, so when I desperately need a “me” day, I decided to make it my movie of choice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and thought it was very lovely, but I’m not sure that I like it quite as well as some other, more recent animated movies, like Tangled and Brave.

In Frozen (very loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Snow Queen), Elsa and Anna are the princesses of the kingdom of Arendelle, and Elsa has the ability to create snow and ice. When she accidentally injures Anna and Anna loses her memory of Elsa’s powers, Elsa is forced to hide them, driving a wedge between the sisters.

Elsa still struggles to control her abilities, however, especially as she gets older, and any strong emotions make them worse. When she and Anna have a public fight on coronation day, Elsa inadvertently reveals her abilities to everyone. The people turn on her, and terrified, Elsa flees the country.

Unfortunately, she leaves Arendelle trapped in winter, and it’s up to Anna to get her sister back to save her country and mend their long-damaged relationship.

Much like how Brave was about the relationship between a mother and daughter, Frozen is, at its core, about the relationship between two sisters and rebuilding that.

It’s easy to see why Elsa’s so afraid to let Anna or anyone else come close to her, considering she has the ability to hurt them so badly. And for years, she lets that fear rule her life. Watching Elsa learn to let go of that fear and let people back in, particularly Anna, is probably the best part of the movie. (It’s really not surprising that her song, “Let It Go,” is one of the most popular from the movie.)

Haters gonna hate.

Haters gonna hate.

I loved how determined and persistent Anna was regarding her sister; no matter how much she was hurt or shut out in the process. Their relationship was very sweet, and I’m glad that it’s where the movie chose to put the bulk of its focus.

The visuals in the movie were absolutely gorgeous. I spent an inordinate amount of time marveling at how real the snow looked, how the animators did such a fantastic job of replicating how it looks caked on someone’s clothes or how powder actually moves. Elsa’s ice palace is also amazing; I kind of wish I could just look at it forever.

The part that bothered me the most was the romantic subplot. Not because I didn’t like the characters—I did, and Kristoff was probably my favorite—but it didn’t seem to be developed as well as the relationship between Anna and Elsa. The biggest criticism Kristoff levels at Anna regarding her fiancé—that she’s only known him a day—is one you can, ultimately, throw right back at him.

Not to mention the trolls’ song, “Fixer Upper,” didn’t really sit well with me because, for the most part, it sounded like they were saying you could change a person. Which…yeah, that’ s a big “no,” and even if they  clarified the message better near the end of the song, it still wasn’t quite enough to pull it back.

It also came at a point in the movie where time was of the essence. I couldn’t help but think “Yes, yes, the song’s cute, BUT FOR PITY’S SAKE CAN WE GET ON WITH IT?”

It is an enjoyable movie, though, and again, I loved that the main focus was on a family relationship rather than a romantic one. If you’re intrigued, give it a go. I’d say it’s worth seeing in the theater, if you can.

A to Z Challenge – E is for Enchanted

enchanted-posterIt looked cute, darn it. I can be as cynical as I want, act as elitist as I want, but when it comes right down to it I’m just as much a sucker for a cute fairy tale as I was when I was five. Perhaps it just means I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, but whatever the reason, I really, really wanted to see Enchanted.

It’s not quite like Shrek, which prided itself on being a screwy fairy tale. Rather, Enchanted starts out just like many other classic Disney animated fairy tales: wicked stepmother queen, handsome prince, beautiful girl in the woods. There’s singing, there’s talking animals, there’s a troll that needs vanquishing, and then there’s to be a hurried wedding after the handsome prince meets the beautiful girl. Of course, this is all in the first 10 minutes of the film.

Since one of the themes of Enchanted is that happily ever afters can really happen, is the movie a happily ever after for Disney? Does it mean the return to form of their classic fairy tale animated films, even though it’s got a real world twist?

Well…not quite. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but to me, Enchanted doesn’t match up to Aladdin or The Lion King, which are probably my two favorite Disney animated movies. (Of course, that’s not counting stuff done with Pixar…sad that I have to qualify that, isn’t it?)

However, it is really, really good, really, really entertaining, and really, really cute. It teeters on the verge of “cute enough to make you sick” a few times, but thankfully manages to rescue itself. That alone makes it more than worth the time spent in the theater, especially if you are a fan of fairy tales and princesses.

After Enchanted‘s heroine Giselle (Amy Adams) meets and falls in love with the “hero,” Prince Edward (James Marsden), they decide to get married the next morning. This doesn’t sit well with Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who wants to keep her crown. So, she turns herself into a crone and pushes Giselle into a wishing well, and Giselle finds herself crawling out of a manhole in the middle of New York City, which is about as far from her fairy-tale land as she can get.

Welcome to New York!

Welcome to New York!

That’s where she meets Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a single divorce attorney with a six-year-old daughter. Over the next couple of days, the perfect concept of “happily ever after” she’s had for her whole life may change to include a man and a world that are anything but perfect.

Like any Disney animated movie, this one employs songs, and uses them both in the real world and the animated world. Not only are the songs excellent, but the choreography in the real world is equally so. The dance sequence in Central Park to “How Does She Know” is especially memorable, and worth the price of admission alone.

The actors are also fantastic. James Marsden looks like he’s having a ball as the gallant and slightly oblivious Prince Edward. Susan Sarandon is absolutely brilliant as the evil queen, both visually and vocally. It’s almost a shame that her time in the real world is so limited, because she’s so much fun while she’s there.

And mention must be made of Patrick Dempsey and Amy Adams. Both do stellar work as the leads, with she being so naïve from her storybook world, and he being so firmly grounded in reality. Dempsey does a great job as a guy who’s both bewildered and intrigued by this sweet, possibly crazy lady who quite literally falls into his life. And Adams is equally good at taking a character whose bubbly innocence could get annoying and making her lovable and endearing.

At a time of year where we’re getting inundated with holiday movies and Oscar wannabes, Enchanted offers a breath of fresh air. It’s a traditional fairy tale with enough of a twist to keep it from being the same old thing. It’s well worth the time and money to see it at the theater, even on a weekend night.

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.