Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

For whatever reason, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, is a movie that has been lost in between some of the lesser films of the early 2000's.  I had never even seen it until now.  The concept, for me, was instantly interesting.  This was certainly an action packed movie, and it never got boring and kept me interested the entire time.

The plot was ambitious.  I don't necessarily know if there were plot holes, but there were definitely a few things that were tough to figure out - exactly how much time has passed since Atlantis disappeared?  Why do they have this energy crystal that is basically their life force?  It was a unique take on the Atlantis legend, and though hard to follow at times, I found it very interesting.  We also noticed that it was perhaps a bit more violent than many other Disney films.  After the first half hour or so I remarked, "Wow, a lot of people have died already!"  Granted, they were nameless people, but it was still a lot more (human) death than I'm used to.

The characters were fun, but aside from Milo,Princess Kida, and maybe a few others, they were pretty much complete caricatures - almost bordering on stereotypes.  Really over the top, and while it's fun to have a few side characters like that, it maybe started to become a bit too much.  I really liked Milo though, and Michael J. Fox's voice work is of course wonderful.  Jason says: "It's biggest strength was its diverse characters.  But as entertaining as they are, they still seem sort of one-dimensional, more fun than real."

And - spoiler alert - I thought the ending was well done.  While it certainly wasn't revolutionary to have that sort of twist, I admit that I didn't see it coming from the beginning.  So it was a nice surprise not only to have the leader be in it for the money, but then also to have his crew turn their backs on him in the end and do the right thing.

The Music
In the early 2000's Disney produced a number of animated movies that were not musicals, like the ones preceding them (Hercules, Hunchback, etc.).  If you've read other reviews on this blog you know I love a good musical, and I often feel that the animated Disney films without the characters singing just aren't as good (Pixar aside).  That being said, the soundtrack was fine for this and worked well with the film.

The Villain
Rourke fits the villain mold pretty darn well.  He's a tough guy, deceiving, and manages to trick Milo completely.  He's completely blind in the sense that all he cares about is himself and gaining money, and doesn't care about the people that he's murdering and the culture he's destroying.  After he reveals himself as the villain he definitely seems pretty insane, which is a fitting villain trait.  Definitely up there on the evil scale.

The WDW Connection
Is there anything about Atlantis is Disney World?  I know a lot about Disney but I certainly can't think of anything off of the top of my head.  If you know of anything please comment so I can add it here!  It wasn't particularly popular or well loved, so it doesn't really surprise me that the theme parks ignore it.

Becky's rating:  7.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:  7 out of 10

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Brave seemed to be a highly anticipated movie (at least to me) for a few reasons. It features a Princess, our first Pixar princess. It was also the first Pixar movie in a few years that wasn't a sequel to a previous Pixar movie (Toy Story 3, Cars 2). I know I personally had built it up a lot... but ultimately I was just a tiny bit disappointed. Also, a word of warning now: I'm going to discuss some spoilers in this review, so if you haven't seen the movie I wouldn't recommend reading this yet!

Visually, the movie is stunning. The Scottish Highlands make a beautiful backdrop for this film, and Merida is animated really well, with her bright frizzy orange hair. The voice work is great. There's also a lot of funny bits. Her triplet brothers really stood out for me as being very entertaining, as is her father. And Merida seemed to be a pretty good portrayal of a 16(?) year old girl. She was independent but also stubborn, and that made her realistic. She's definitely not perfect, so she feels more real than some of the earlier Disney Princesses.

The biggest issue I had with the film was that nothing seemed new to me. I feel like I'd seen it all before, whether it was in similar storylines in other films, in the previews, or even in the marketing and merchandise. The previews showed pretty much everything you needed to know about the first 30 minutes. I know we've all heard "I'll be shooting for my own hand!" in that Scottish accent plenty of times. It's a great moment for Merida, definitely, but it lowers the suspense about what's going to happen. I think they showed a lot of the beginning of the movie in previews because they wanted to keep the second half of the movie a surprise. But for me, even that was ruined by the merchandise that has been in the Disney Store for weeks. Three little triplet boys in the preview... and then three little bear cubs being sold as toys? It doesn't take much detective work to make the leap about what is probably going to happen.

But aside from the previews and the merchandise, the bigger problem was the fact that nothing seemed particularly new in the plot. A princess that doesn't want to be the typical princess and get married, but is more independent? I think I've seen that a million times in different forms, including in Disney movies (Mulan, and even Princess Jasmine). Human turning into an animal that needs to get turned back into a human before a certain deadline? I'm pretty sure that was the plot of The Princess and the Frog. And Beauty and the Beast, for that matter.

Merida is supposed to be a good role model for girls, and to some extent she is, but... could she be any more stupid? Who goes to a witch and makes the most vague request ever (I want my mom to change)? Anyone that has ever seen anything to do with magic knows that you have to be more specific in your requests or else you don't know what will happen!

One more positive, though: I liked the ending because to me, there was some ambiguity there. The curse said that Merida had to "mend the bond." She assumes that means the ripped tapestry that her mother had made, and she sews it up. However, in the process she also mends two other bonds - she manages to fix the rift between the feuding clans, and she also makes up with her mother and re-forms their mother/daughter bond. So which bond was the curse actually talking about? I like that it isn't so straight forward.

Ultimately I did enjoy Brave, and I would watch it again. But I'm used to Pixar bowling me over with amazing films like Up, Ratatouille, and Toy Story 3 - and this movie just didn't do that. I know Pixar for having amazingly creative ideas: the truth about the monsters in your closet, what would happen if you tied a million balloons to your house, toys coming to life, and a chef that's controlled by a rat. Brave just didn't have that unique feeling to it that the other Pixar movies have had.

The Music
Not surprisingly, Brave features a Celtic soundtrack. The music is very pretty and fits in well with the movie. Like other Pixar films, the characters aren't singing, the music is just background. The opening song was beautiful and I really enjoyed the song that was playing the first time Merida went out on her horse shooting arrows, it was a fun number - though I'm not sure the name of the song!

The Villain
There isn't really a villain in this film, though there is a witch. She's not very wicked though, just kind of crazy. More of an enabler, really, by giving Merida the curse to change her mother. The true conflict here is the differing views and opinions of mother and daughter.

The WDW Connection
You can currently find Merida for a meet and greet in the parks, especially since the movie is new - no telling if she will be a more permanent character or not. And of course, you'll be able to find Brave merchandise. Time will tell if any other Brave attractions will be added to the parks.

Becky's rating: 8 out of 10
Jason's rating: 7.5 out of 10

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Muppets

Branching out a bit from the Disney animated movies and Pixar, I decided to write up a review of The Muppets after seeing the movie for the first time last week.  After all, the Muppets are now owned by Disney, and they certainly have a presence in Disney World!

I loved the Muppets growing up.  My favorite movie was the Great Muppet Caper, although I was an extremely moral child and absolutely hated how Miss Piggy was framed for a crime she didn't commit!  So I usually watched only the first half of the movie.  Nevertheless, I loved all of the muppet movies and I was very happy to see a muppet revival with this movie.

I definitely feel that it did the muppet name justice.  It was obviously a movie about nostalgia, and in many ways seemed more geared toward older people that remembered the muppets from their childhood rather than trying to create new muppet fans.  I think kids will still enjoy it, but perhaps some of the subtleties that I felt made it such a great movie would be lost on them.  It was everything a muppet movie should be - funny, silly, heartfelt, and sentimental.  It was great to see glimpses of our favorite muppet characters, though of course the story focuses on Kermit and Miss Piggy, as well as the new muppet, Walter.  At first you might be a little hesitant that the movie is focusing on a new muppet, but it works perfectly.  Walter is a big muppet fan and has the opportunity to become one of them.  He is more of the "straight guy" that the other muppets play off of and not quite as silly himself, but he has his own charm and personality.  After I finished the movie I immediately wanted to watch it again, so I think that says a lot.

Jason enjoyed it but he is not a big muppet fan like I am.  He doesn't have any desire to watch it again, but that's not saying much as he doesn't watch many movies to begin with and almost never re-watches them if he has the choice.  He did laugh quite loudly at some parts (particularly Fozzie's fart shoes) so I know he liked it.

The Music
Like all good muppet movies, this one had music.  The soundtrack is fairly strong, with the songs upbeat and very... "muppet-y," for lack of a better word, with songs like "Life's a Happy Song" or the disco style "Me Party," sung by Miss Piggy and Amy Adams.  There was one sad ballad, when Kermit sang "Pictures in my Head" and reminisced about the old days.  I admit, I might have almost shed a tear during that part.  But the real stand-out song was "Man or Muppet."  It's an overdramatic power ballad sung by Walter and Jason Segel (who knew Jason Segel could sing?) that is at the same time haunting and hilarious.  Finally, there are some classic muppet tunes included, like "The Muppet Show" and "Rainbow Connection."  I plan to purchase the soundtrack and I rarely buy movie soundtracks, so I think that should tell you my feelings on the music.

The Villain
Tex Richman is ridiculous, as any muppet villain should be.  His evilness is really overdone for comedic effect - "maniacal laugh."  He seems to care nothing about others but only about gaining as much money as possible.    There is also a rather bizarre moment when he breaks out into a rap song and female dancers come out of his closet briefly.  Luckily, Tex can't destroy the muppets and their optimism and spirit, and he is stopped by one of his own minions, who is really a muppet at heart.

The WDW Connection
The Muppets have a big show at Hollywood Studios, with MuppetVision 3D.  This 3D show, complete with special effects, is classic muppets.  Most of your favorite muppet characters are in there, and they have some great corny jokes.

Becky's rating:  9 out of 10
Jason's rating:  7.5 out of 10

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

It's been awhile, but we're back! We had a wonderful wedding, fantastic honeymoon, and we miss having so many Disney movies to watch! We never did get the chance to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie, so we rented it from Amazon and watched it.

This movie is adorable, and I have to say that I love how it is so classic. They really stayed true to the characters and how the original movie was done. I loved the stories. Like the original, it is definitely a kids' movie, but there were a few jokes or little things I thought were thrown in for adults, which made it fun. In fact, I think I ended up liking it even better than the original one.

Jason and I had a lot of fun discussing which character is most like us. I had to say that hands down, Jason is Owl, because they are both very verbose but intelligent. If anything I am sort of a cross between Rabbit and Piglet, but probably more Piglet - mostly because of my scaredy cat nature.

Jason's thoughts: "It was fun." He felt it wasn't one of the really big Disney classics, but a fun movie to watch.

The Music
Loved the music for this one! It was really a highlight of the film. They still had to classic Winnie the Pooh song to kick things off, but sung by Zooey Deschanel. I personally love her voice and thought it was the perfect fit here. Almost all of the songs were quite catchy. The best song was definitely "The Backson Song," which all of the characters take part in.

The Villain
No real villain here, except for the fabled Backson! Although he is described as horrible and scary, in the end it turns out that he is made up, so in the end it was the characters and their own imaginations running away with them that was the real problem.

The WDW Connection
See The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh entry. I will mention that we got a chance to go on the Pooh ride while in Disney. The wait was always pretty long for it, but the ride itself is very cute - a fun way to relax. The queue is also well done, with lots to entertain the kiddies.

Becky's rating: 8 out of 10
Jason's rating: 7.5 out of 10

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I was not familiar with this movie.  The only thing I knew before watching it was that the animation was unique because the backgrounds were filmed in real life, and then the CGI was done on top of them.  It sounds pretty cool, but didn't actually come off as all that impressive.  Though the animation was probably the best part - the story line really fell pretty flat.

If you're not familiar with it, it's after the meteor hits and a group of dinosaurs are trying to find a place to live - specifically, water.  Who knew a film about dinosaurs could be so boring?  The majority of the movie is them just walking around.  There wasn't much action.  I was literally falling asleep.  It was the type of movie where I kept checking my watch, waiting for it to be over.

The basic structure of the plot could have had some potential.  The problem was that most of the story was just about them "journeying"... nothing really happened until the end.  But the idea of someone who is a bit of an outsider coming in and rallying a group to believe something they wouldn't have seen before - that idea has worked in the past.   Just doesn't really work here.

Jason:  "It was slow and boring.  And the animation is dated.  It was not worth my time."

The Music
Not really a musical, just a forgettable soundtrack here.

The Villain
Kron is the main dinosaur leading the group on, and he has no mercy.  He's completely set in his ways and doesn't care about the old and weak dinosaurs, preferring to allow them to die rather than slow the rest of them down.  At first he just seems rather hotheaded and like a jerk rather than really evil, but toward the end his attitude really starts causing him to do evil things.  He can't do what's best for the group because he refuses to admit that he might be wrong and Aladar might be right.  Still, as a villain he's rather forgettable and cliche - nothing that we haven't seen before.

The WDW Connection
In Disney's Animal Kingdom, there is a ride called DINOSAUR.  It's not directly related to the film, but the name of the attraction was changed to have the same title of the film when the film came out.  Also, they've added in some references to the movie, such as a few scenes in the preshow.

Becky's rating:  4.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:   3.5 out of 10

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

This is a classic.  I was a huge Winnie-the-Pooh lover as a kid, so this really brings back the memories.  I remember absolutely adoring this movie and all of the other movies, games, and whatever else existed in the franchise.  The first video game I ever remember playing was a Winnie-the-Pooh game on our Macintosh computer.

While in some ways I do think that Winnie-the-Pooh is timeless and something that can be loved by everyone, I think it definitely has more of an appeal for kids.  Unlike some of the other animated Disney movies, which might deal with serious topics and hardships, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is just a rather go-lucky series of stories that has very little real strife.

My favorite out of these mini stories is the one where Pooh eats too much honey and gets stuck in the door of Rabbit's house.  I remember loving the part where Rabbit decides to make Pooh's butt part of the decor and starts painting it.  When I was younger my favorite characters were Pooh and Piglet, but now that I'm older I can kind of sympathize with Rabbit somewhat.  Of course, they're all great characters - Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Owl.  Owl was much funnier now than when I watched him as a kid, because there were a lot of things I didn't get then.

There are many more Pooh stories than the ones contained here, and some of them have been made into shorts and other movies by Disney.  In addition, there is a new Pooh movie coming out this summer.

Jason's thoughts:  "It was good, but it's more for kids."

The Music
Lots of songs in this one, and they fit the style of the movie well.  They aren't show stopping numbers, but fun songs that really appeal to kids, such as "The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers," "Winnie the Pooh" and "Heffalumps and Woozles."

The Villain
The characters are all so sweet and lovable in this one that there really isn't a villain.  Sometimes they get on each others' nerves, but in the end they are all just friends.  If anything the unknown Heffalumps and Woozles are the villains, but we don't really see them in this film other than a dream.

The WDW Connection
Pooh and his friends are quite popular in Disney World.  There is a ride in the Magic Kingdom named after this movie, called The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  There is also a restaurant there called the Crystal Palace, which is a character meal.  When you eat there you can meet Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger.  The characters can also be found many places throughout the parks - I've run into Pooh in the UK pavilion in Epcot a few times.

Becky's rating:  7.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:  7 out of 10

Friday, June 17, 2011

Monsters, Inc.

For some reason, I had never seen this Pixar movie when it came out.  The first time I watched it was a few years ago, when Jason and I first started dating.  Now I have to say that I think it is one of my favorite Pixar movies - and Pixar does some good stuff!  The only ones that might top it for me would probably be Toy Story and Finding Nemo.  Maybe Up.  Yeah, it's really hard to pick a best Pixar movie!

I love the unique concept behind this movie.  It's all about monsters just trying to make a living by scaring children.  Of course, most of these "monsters" turn out to be pretty nice guys, and we're rooting for them.  And it's hilarious.  I laughed so much at this movie.  Especially the part where someone walks in and asks what they're doing, and Mike makes up the excuse that they're rehearsing for a musical - and then at the end they actually show you the play performed!  Not only is it funny, there's lots of excitement and adventure.

The characters are great.  I love Mike Wazowski.  He's so funny, and there's just something so likable about him.  And how could you not love Sulley?  Though he's the "scariest" monster, he's clearly got a huge heart, as he basically adopts Boo and cares for her, even though she is a human child.  They are an awesome pair of characters.  I'm excited to hear that they are going to create a prequel called "Monsters University," which discusses how Mike and Sulley first met while at school, and initially didn't like each other.

I also really like the ending of this movie.  I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it, but I thought the discovery of how to fix the energy crisis was clever and original.

The Music
It wasn't all that memorable to me, but then again soundtracks usually are not.  On the other hand, I won't soon forget the "musical" played during the ending credits and performed by Mike!

The Villain
Randall is a jerk, but doesn't really come off as the most evil of villains.  A bad guy, definitely, but basically just a slime ball.  Though that machine that he builds seems pretty evil, especially when he's willing to use it on a little child.  I also don't like all the advantages he gets by being the type of monster that he is.  He can move around really easily since he can climb walls and stuff, but the worst part is that he can turn invisible.  It's hard to deal with a monster like that!

The WDW Connection
There is an attraction in the Magic Kingdom called the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, which is basically a comedy show that includes interaction with the audience.  The last time I was in Disney the show was in beta mode, and they were testing it out.  We got to go and watch it, and found it hilarious!  At that point in my life I had never even seen the movie, and I still loved it.  The person I was with filled me in on some of the background so I would understand the characters and all.

Becky's rating:  9.5 out of 10
Jason's rating:  9 out of 10