Bedknobs and Broomsticks - Disney Films Project

 I love it when we hit one of my childhood favorites when we move through our Disney Films Project list. I've always enjoyed Bedknobs and Broomsticks and it was one of those films that touched my imagination as a child.

I secretly wanted a brass bed with removable knobs, and I certainly wanted to be able to control my own armor army! Although, in retrospect, I'm a little surprised that didn't scare me as a kid. It is sort of creepy, but the film makes it more funny than scary. I guess that's one of the things I like about this movie - it doesn't take itself too seriously. 

Angela Lansbury is a delight as the main character and I really like the children as well. I've always wondered why they cast the same man who played the father in Mary Poppins as Professor Brown in this one and I found that distracting in my youth and I still do. But it seems that was a time in the Disney period where actors were used and reused often. Oh well, it's a minor issue for me.

The animation during the traveling bed scenes is pretty strange and it seems like they could have done so much more with that. However, I have to give this film praise for the way they combined live action and animation together. It was quite groundbreaking at the time and it's still fun to watch. 

I enjoy the music and the overall story so I'm giving Bedknobs and Broomsticks 8 out of 10 Mickeys on our grading scale. 

Second Opinion with Alex Nelson

Many people write this film off as an inferior Poppins clone. But to be frank, the stories are like apples and oranges. It’s definitely the best inferior Poppins Clone I’ve ever watched!

The film’s beginning seems a bit confused, but this isn’t too bad later on. And while the practical effects seem rather problematic, the animation is excellent, and towards the end of the film, things clear up quite nicely.

I’ve actually got some writing in the offing regarding this film, which I will gladly share, provided credit is given. I’ll post it here sometime. Watch this space!

I love this film almost as much as Mary Poppins, but make no mistake, that’s not faint praise. In fact, this is one of the few films from this period that I can stand to watch, unlike my reviewer above. 

The 25th anniversary edition adds back some long lost content. While the extended cut of Portobello road is somewhat odd, I can support all of the other songs.

And as for the animation, I can find little fault with it, aside from the odd transitions. The story does have a slight plothole regarding the Star of Asteroth, but I’m going to invoke one of the old clichés regarding this stuff: A Wizard Did It.

Overall, this gets an 8/10 Mickeys. It’s somewhat lacking in effects, and a few segments are long, but it’s a great film, with stellar performances from the cast. Especially Mrs. Lansbury, who shows off her acting long before Murder, She Wrote. If you’re looking for a good film, this one won’t let you down.

The Aristocats - Disney Films Project

 We are now officially entering the time period in our Disney Films Project where we will be reviewing Disney movies that have been released in my (Katie's) lifetime. The Aristocats came out in 1970 when I was only 1 year old so this is a film that played in the theaters a few times during my growing up years. Disney doesn't do much to ever promote or showcase this movie in the parks or current culture. Perhaps it is a different story at Disneyland Paris? I do love our little Marie Tsum Tsum and I do wish they would release the other kittens to go with her.

Katie's thoughts

This is one of those movies that Alex and I disagree on. I grew up with the Aristocats and it was one of my very favorites. To be fair, we didn't have VHS or DVD and we could only see the films when they came out in the theater every 7 years. I saw it a few times during my childhood and I always loved it. It seemed like it took forever for Disney to actually release it on video once they started opening up the vault. 

Now, as an educated adult who has seen what the Disney studio is really capable of, I can see where this film is lacking. However, back in my day (boy, do I sound old!) it was a fun film for me. I loved the dogs that Edgar runs into and they still make me giggle. I also thought the English geese were hilarious. It's a simple story and there isn't much to it, but that's ok. When I was a kid, I would have given this 10 Mickeys. Now, I give it 6 out of 10 and that might be a little too generous, but I have to give nostalgia a nod here and pay homage to one of my early favorites.

Second opinion with Alex

You know how I had Lady and the Tramp pegged as “precious to the point of being forgettable”? The Aristocats makes it look like an action movie, and that is saying something.

The problem is inherent in the characters. Namely, Duchess’s kittens. You know how shows will throw young characters into a plot to appeal to new blood? This is basically the role of the kittens. They’re such a part of the focus of the film that it’s cloying. 

And of course, this neuters (get it?) any chance for Edgar to rise above “comic villain”. While the parts with him and the guard dogs are relatively funny, the whole is definitely not the sum of its parts. I don’t like comic villains unless they have some type of menace about them. I will talk about this more in the future. For now, just realize that we’ve taken several steps back in the quality of writing. What good is a villain who’s more of a running gag than a threat?

Phil Harris is the film’s saving grace, lending some of his gifted talent to Thomas O’Malley. This and his song with Scatman Crothers as Scat cat are excellent moments. But that’s all. Moments.

I found myself, in the opening of the film, uttering the eight words that can kill a film, “I don’t care what happens to these characters.” Don’t get me wrong, I still felt for their situation. But the presentation is so bland, it doesn’t give much to care for, not even when Duchess is giving info that should make us care for her plight. I just don’t feel anything regarding the film is up to Disney’s usual standards. In fact, without Phil Harris, the whole thing is pretty declawed. (It’s FUNNY! It’s okay to laugh!)

The Xerox process is beginning to show its age at this point. Characters appear pasted on backgrounds, gags are repeated to the point of tedium, and the whole thing seems lacking. 

Hurting matters is the lackluster songwriting. The title has Maurice Chevalier lapsing into French, which I mistook for a stroke, and the other songs, save “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” and “Thomas O’Malley” have issues. “Scales and Arpeggios” suffers from kid vocals, which I find annoying, and that’s… wait, there’s another song? True story, I thought that “She Never Felt Alone” was Eva Gabor speaking. You have to mess up pretty badly in delivery for that to happen.

And then there are the additional characters. Four band-playing cats, three English geese, two barnyard dogs, and an old human lawyer slapped in the film! The reason? Nothing more than an ill-advised  attempt to create humor. The dogs succeed, but everyone else just seems to drag the pacing down. There, but for the grace of Sterling Holloway, Phil Harris, and Scatman Crothers, goes the film.


There appears to be a formula here.

HOW TO MAKE A MEDIOCRE DISNEY FILM (OR, WHAT TO DO WHEN WALT DIES):
1: Talking animals
2: Kid hero
3: Diverse cast of side characters
4: Well-known actor in villain role
5: Phil Harris or someone who acts like him.
6: Reused animation
7: Something English
8: Jazz Number
9: Climactic battle with villain, resulting in villain being humiliated.
10: Leads pair up at end of film.

Overall I give this film 3 mickeys out of 10. A square in the act can send the whole thing back. Is it any wonder Miss Gabor wanted to add some comedy to her role? (THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.)

I'm the leader, I'll say when the review's out.

The review's out.

The Jungle Book - Disney Films Project

 Continuing on with our Disney Films Project, it's time for The Jungle Book!

Katie's thoughts

This is one of my childhood favorites and I still enjoy it as an adult. I never read Rudyard Kipling's books so I never worried about it being so unfaithful to the original works. I just have always loved the characters and the songs. King Louie and his crazy monkeys are scene stealers for sure and the song I wanna be like you -oooh -oooh, is so fun and catchy! Baloo's Bear Necessities is another classic. And that sweet little song the girl sings at the end gets me every time. Of course Mowgli has to go with her after that!

There's not anything too deep to examine here, just a cute story told with flair. The animation is pretty standard for Disney look of the time period it was released in, but that's a compliment. I'm giving it 9 out of 10 Mickeys but it's probably more like a 9.5 for me. 

Second opinion with Alex

 

Here we are, end of the classic age.

This is our 2nd finale, the last film Walt produced before his end. In that sense, the whole thing takes on one last resonance of familiar themes. 

Swinging jazz permeates the soundtrack, and a few noted celebrities are in roles, instead of just the rotating Disney ensemble. If this company were a band, it would be Chicago. The entire thing resonates with a varied song selection, memorable characters, and excellent art. What else to say?

This is a very good finale, and I give it 9/10. It's not faithful to the stories, by any means, but it adapts them well. The one caveat is some of the dialogue not flowing as well as usual. 

Poppins holdover: Trust in Me has been re-purposed from its original draft, "The Land of Sand." This was part of a compass sequence that was storyboarded, but not filmed.

Star Wars Episode 7 - The Force Awakens

We've been anxiously waiting for the right time to post our review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We decided to wait until the movie had been released on iTunes and DVD and give everyone about a month to see it before we wrote our post. It worked out perfectly because we watched it on May the 4th which has come to be known as Star Wars Day!

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This is where we have to warn about spoilers and we are not kidding! We don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen the film. Even if you don't think you are a Star Wars fan or even if you haven't seen all the other movies, we think you will still enjoy this film. So quit reading if you haven't watched! 

I knew when I heard that J.J. Abrams was heading up this movie that it would be a good one. I was a big fan of LOST and even though I never really was much of a Trekkie, I like what he did with the Star Trek film series. I was also relieved that George Lucas wasn't involved in this movie. I feel bad saying that since it's his baby, but the prequels prove that he needed to let someone else take over the reigns. 

It was so much fun to watch all of the old movies and prepare for this new chapter. I was careful to not read anything online about it and I even stayed off of Facebook for a few days to protect myself from spoilers. As I was browsing through LEGO photos on Instagram, some jerk posted THE great big spoiler from the movie right there in his caption two days before the film even opened. I was so mad! Why do people have to ruin it like that? So lame!

With all that out of the way, I have to say that I completely enjoyed The Force Awakens. I guess time will tell how it all fits into the Star Wars universe, but I loved the characters (old and new) and it was filled with amazing action. The first trilogy from the 1970s was something special even without all the great technology of today. But it sure was fun to see a Star Wars story illustrated in the most dynamic way possible (so far)! Thankfully, the film didn't have to just rely on the effects. The plot and actors were great as well. And I can't stress this enough... Harrison Ford has still got it, even after all of these years!

I genuinely liked Rey and Finn and I hated Kylo Ren so I know the movie magic worked on me. I would have liked a little more of the older characters, but I also understand that they have to turn over the franchise to the younger folks. Han and Chewie are classics though and it felt so good to have them back for a time. I loved the small bits of humor woven into the film; Han snarking at Chewie "Oh, YOU'RE cold?" The Stormtroopers turning back down a hallway when they heard Kylo Ren throwing a fit in the other room, and Han telling the kids to "escape now, hug later." 

My only complaints? The Snoke character (image below) seems ripped off from Lord of the Rings or something. He seemed a bit out of place in the Star Wars world. And I'm a big Han Solo fan so you can imagine that I'm having a hard time accepting his fate. That one hurt! Even so, I give this movie high marks. I'm giving it 9 out of 10 stars. Well done!

Now on to Alex's review...

May Four Stars Be With Us: Episode VII: The Franchise Awakens.

So this is a newer film, and the spoiler warning still applies. I know I sound like a broken record, so basically, don’t read if you haven’t seen. Cool?

This film is really difficult to review on a continuity level, but we have a very good beginning set up in this episode. Given Abrams’ tendencies, that’s a good thing. (Why is the water in the temple brown, and how did it affect Sayid?)

The Character arcs for our protagonists are neatly written, and executed. Some people will complain about Rey being overly powerful, but don’t forget, she’s a novice at this stuff, and she’s not as aware of this type of thing as others.

Finn stands out, mainly because he’s terrified out of his gourd at the beginning, and grows into a more courageous individual as the film goes on. That’s the definition of heroism, right there. Being afraid and doing it anyway.

And Poe Dameron is an awesome pilot, and totally attractive, not to mention a genuinely likeable character. This is how one introduces the plotline, right here.

The whole thing boils down to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World IN SPACE, but to be honest, that’s not a problem. Getting too complex was what bogged the prequels down, after all. And the simple plot allows for character establishment for the heroes and villains.

General Hux manages to sell the idea that a high ranking official in the First order can be intimidating and intelligent, something that even Grand Moff Tarkin struggled to accomplish.

The Stormtroopers have gained levels of skill as well, becoming accurate enough to hunt down many people, and in one instance, skilled enough to fight, and almost beat, a guy with a lightsaber!

But it’s Kylo Ren who manages to show the power of the dark side. He’s not trained as a sith, but he can freeze people and blaster bolts in place, and also read the minds of others! One wonders how such a person would turn out under full training.

Han Solo also turns out a good performance, but we don’t focus on him for long. He’s got a son, who he eventually confronts. This is Kylo Ren, AKA Ben Solo.

And I will be totally honest, the legacy characters aren’t utilized as much, mainly because they’re getting too old. But Han and Chewie are still good. Han even gets a touching moment with his son, where he manages to show a side of him we haven’t seen.

And then we see his death, because Kylo has just killed him with his lightsaber in an act of faked emotion. What a lowdown move! Rewatching this, my mom didn’t want to witness this action, it unnerved her. Finally, this generation gets its “I am your father” moment.

Cue epic lightsaber duel with Rey and Kylo. Oh, and this is taking place on a giant battle station, that’s basically the death star supercharged, in the middle of a dog fight to take the place down. I grew up on Star wars, and this still excited me! (~_~)

I can’t wait to see what happens next, but that’s later, and right now, we have to PREPARE TO WATCH ROGUE ONE, YOU GUYS! THERE’S ANOTHER MOVIE RELEASING DECEMBER THIS YEAR! Not going to lie, I am stoked!

 

The Force is Strong With:

  • BB-8. The character seemed shoehorned in during the marketing blitz, but they pulled him off correctly! Great job, Disney! Gold Medal!
  • The Starkiller Base Sequence is deftly choreographed, to the point that I counted off the time in movie for when the weapon would fire, and it was accurate to the point of being somewhat creepy. (Start timing when you hear “weapon charged in 15 minutes” and count how many times the dialogue in the film syncs up.)
  • Also, the piloting in this film sets a new standard for Star Wars piloting. Super sweet!
  • Rey is the type of role model we should be seeing in action films, and has an excellent backstory that makes her sympathetic. You kind of want to hug her after all she’s been through.
  • Finn is an even better character, and also incredible. The only issue he has in battle is being put up against even more skilled opponents. But it’s not for lack of trying. As for his character, how many of us can relate to what he’s going through?

If I listed more, we’d be here until December. Whatever’s not on Dark Side goes here.

The Dark Side Lurks Within:

  • Leia hugs Rey, a complete stranger, while Chewbacca is left to grieve Han’s death alone.
  • Phasma is wasted in her appearances, so I guess we’ll have to wait for episode 8 to see her in action.
  • Speaking of which, does Snoke do anything other than look menacing and holographic?
  • Per the Abrams formula, there are more questions than answers. We even get brushed off when someone explicitly asks how someone got Luke’s old lightsaber.
  • R2-D2 just seems to resume at complete random. It’s weird. You couldn’t have booted up before all the action happened?
  • New mercenaries that might be a threat to Han Solo are introduced, then killed in debut moment. What a waste of characters!
  • Leia isn’t leading the resistance as much as I’d like. And I know Carrie Fisher is old, but no mentions of other battles or anything?
  • Really vague ending. What is happening in that last scene?

The Jedi Says:

{Luke stares at you, battered by the elements of age. He has trained many, and watched many fall. In his eyes, there remains the faintest of light, surrounded by uncertainty. The look is one that has crossed your face as you’ve anticipated this movie. But you know him, and you know that light will overcome. You look upon the past leader, aged to maturity in the force, and you sense your own light returning.}

THE CALL OF THE LIGHT (8/10)

“As long as there’s a Comment Section, there’s hope!”

 

May the 4th Be With You!

It's Star Wars day! May the 4th (May the Force) be with you! It's a bit silly, but it's good to have an official excuse to geek out and we are going to take it. 

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We are planning to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens tonight and we will soon be posting our review here on the blog. Be sure to check out our previous Star Wars film reviews:

And if you want some Star Wars related giggles, check out these bad lip reading videos. If you haven't seen the original movies it won't be as funny.

May the 4th be with you!

Mary Poppins - Disney Films Project

 We are slowly making our way through our Disney Films Project and we were so excited when we got to Mary Poppins. It's one of our favorites!

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Katie's thoughts

I distinctly remember seeing this movie as a child and wanting to be able to use Mary's magical way of cleaning up a room. I was fascinated with her and her big bag of furnishings and clever ways. I loved the mixture of animation and live action and I especially loved the music. All of that is still true today. This is definitely a masterpiece in the Disneyverse, even if it wasn't a favorite of P.L. Travers (the author of the Mary Poppins series of books). Sure, it was "Disneyfied" but that is why I love it. 

Julie Andrews is the perfect Poppins and I love Dick Van Dyke's dancing. Many people miss that he also played the very old banker as well. The children are darling and seem like they are really experiencing the magic of Mary Poppins. I've never really cared for the mother figure in the story, but it's a minor issue for me and I think it's the intention of the film so that you focus on Mary.

I will admit that I like the character of Mr. Banks more after watching Saving Mr. Banks. Even if that film wasn't completely accurate, it made me look closer at what the story is really trying to accomplish and appreciate the epiphany that Mr. Banks experiences.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure that Feed the Birds is the best Sherman Brothers song of all time. Walt thought so too and he would often tell the brothers to "Play It" so he could listen to it.

This gets 10 out of 10 Mickeys from me!

 

Second opinion with Alex

Why on earth would this not be in the canon? 

Mary Poppins blends all of its points into a concise, focused, and practically perfect film. Every improvement to the story is notable, and the film is a hallmark of Disney's history.

This film has Julie Andrews, the Sherman Brothers, and the entire music team working to make a believable score, so you'd be surprised to learn that some songs were cut, or stuck in other films.

Everyone beats up on Bert's accent, but I can't imagine the character any other way. Besides, he can speak English well, as Mr. Dawes Senior. (Watch the credits if you need it spelled out for you.)

And that story! Everything has been made to fit the story of the woman who came from the sky to fix a family's problems. Yet enough is left out or made vague to launch so many, many more stories. I'm working on one now, in fact.

If you expect anything less than 10 out of 10 from this viewing, or my review, I insist you take another look, because I don't intend explaining the charm of this film.

In fact, make that 10 plus out of 10. If we must expand the scale, we must.

We also saw the Broadway adaptation of Mary Poppins in New York back in 2012. It was fantastic! They actually danced on the ceiling! We are so excited to be able to see this again when it plays this year at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

 

Scene from Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It (A Disney Theatrical Souvenir Book) 

Scene from Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It (A Disney Theatrical Souvenir Book) 

The Sword in the Stone - Disney Films Project

We sure have been enjoying our Disney Films Project even if it is going to take us a very long time to get through our list of 50 movies to watch. It's a good problem to have! This time we are reviewing The Sword in the Stone.

Katie's thoughts

I've watched this film so many times that I have found the bloopers and small mistakes made by the animators, yet I still love it. This is not a masterpiece by any means, but I adore the story and have always enjoyed the general theme of the movie. The Sword in the Stone is based on the King Arthur legend - specifically the book The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Of course it has been "Disneyfied" here, but it is still a good retelling. 

I enjoy Merlin and Archimedes and the lessons they teach "the Wart". It's a simple tale that is fun to watch. The opening number almost always lulls me to sleep these days so I load this show up on my iPad when I have trouble sleeping. It often takes me several nights to finish it all the way through.

The wizards duel with Madame Mim is a really clever bit of animation. I do agree with Alex that it slows down the story a bit but it is probably my favorite part of the movie. I also love the musical number of Higitus Figitus and the animation sequence that goes with it.

The animation is not top notch in this feature and the action is a bit slow. Despite those problems, I genuinely love this movie and it's just comforting for me to watch it. I'm giving it 7 out of 10 Mickeys. We all have our personal favorites and this just happens to be one of mine.

This movie is rarely reference in Disney culture these days and I've never run into any merchandise related to it. I sure would love to see a few items come up for sale. Maybe I missed something when it had it's 50 anniversary back in 2013? I guess I'll hope for a 60th celebration in 2023. Sigh! It is rumored that there will be a live action remake coming up, but I'm not all that excited about that idea. 

The most attention this movie gets is the photo opp attraction placed in Fantasyland in several of the Disney parks. Here's Alex and his Dad trying to figure out how to get the blasted thing out of the stone during a rainy trip to Disneyland in 2001.

 

Second opinion with Alex

I admire the film, half developed as it is. See, the problem here was that a lot of the animators were off chasing chickens while Bill Peet did his work. Chanticleer, I believe it was (the story the other animators were working on).

The message of wisdom is the films focus, to the point that the heart may seem muddled. Don't be fooled. The film's heart is its wisdom, and the point that brains will find or make a way. 

Of other note, Merlin here is actually a noted take on Walt, the old Maestro himself. The animators even gave the wizard Walt's nose.

Even the choice of Wart helps to focus our attention, giving us sympathy for our character. (By the way, that's not a recommended nickname. Ever!)

The film does get in its own way, however. The songs aren't as memorable as other Disney songs, though that's more rookie inexperience than anything. The Sherman Brothers will return, this I promise you.

My main peeve, however, is the imbalance in any sequence involving Madame Mim. Miss Mim absolutely slows the film's focus down. The wizard's Duel is excellent, don't get me wrong, but it just seems to derail our real story. (Which Miss Mim would no doubt take pride in, as she lives for these types of trainwrecks.)

Final rating on my end is 6 out of 10 Mickeys. It's excellent, but a few slips make this a mark off the beaten path. Still worth watching, however.