Archive for the ‘Disney’ Category

Monsters University: Now Available for Homeschooling

Monster-University-pixar

I am not much of a scarer. I went to college for more comedic reasons. Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan (John Goodman), however, went for the former. The two best buds from Pixar’s hilarious and touching Monsters, Inc have returned, albeit in a timey-wimey sort of way, for Monsters University, a prequel showcasing how the dynamic duo first came together.

The story of Wazowski and Sullivan gets off to a rocky start, and the film follows it through the fairly predictable course syllabus of self-discovery 101 with a healthy dose of teamwork thrown in for extracurricular requirements.

Monsters Univeristy does not offer a lot of surprises, save one experienced by Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), and a good chunk of the humor is based on the audience being familiar with the main characters in an omniscient sort of way—it’s funny now because we know how things turn out.

However, that doesn’t mean the jokes don’t work. I laughed loudly during much of the film. Monsters University is very funny.

In addition there are also a number of homages paid to the college comedy genre, with references to Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds, respectively, and they really make the grade. Granted, they won’t be recognized by everyone, but that is the key to Pixar’s success, making films that work on many, many levels.

Unfortunately, Monsters University misses on one—it is somewhat lacking in what Pixar does best: heart. There are moments of sentiment, but they are over too quickly and often feel too forced. The tender moments that Pixar has trained us to wait for come and go before we even realize what is happening. There is no lingering for effect. They don’t leave a tender moment alone. I thought everyone listened to Billy Joel in college.

The art is breathtaking, the humor hits, the characters are fun and relatable, but that special moment wherein the Pixar movies we know and love grab the audience by their collective tear ducts and dare them to hold on… it never happens.

Instead we are given a very enjoyable family film that is full of laughs that will undoubtedly do well at the box office, but left me just a little bit hollow, like getting a B+ in gym class.

Blue umbrella

Luckily, for those of you that have grown fondly accustomed to those special Pixar moments, they are all packed into the short that precedes Monsters University. The Blue Umbrella is sweet, sad, haunting, and hopeful—all within a few speechless minutes. It is a wonderful piece of filmmaking.

That said, Monsters University is a lot of family fun, and the laughs are deep and often. It passes with flying school colors. Monsters University comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray, and there will be all kinds of extra credit for the whole family to enjoy.

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The Lone Ranger: A Review

Lone Ranger and Tonto

Who was that masked man?

And what’s with the bird?

Disney’s spin on The Lone Ranger opens tomorrow, and it is a wild, wild ride.

The film follows the transition of John Reid (Armie Hammer) from lawman to outlaw to hero—he’s the title character, you can’t miss him. However, despite the name of the film the real driving force in the story belongs to Reid’s frenemy, Tonto (Johnny Depp), and the dead bird on his head. Reid and Tonto are quickly bonded together by a thirst for vengeance and a flair for theatrics, then they ride all over the screen seeking justice and answers. Hilarity ensues.

The fact that the film is very funny was something of a surprise. Mind you, it isn’t funny in a spoof sort of way, although there are a few jokes at the expense of previous versions of the story, but rather honest laughs based on the situations at hand and the manner in which Reid and Tonto handle them. Also, Silver (best performance by a horse since Animal House).

Tonto and Silver

Even more surprising is the action. Obviously I expected a good amount of it, but it far exceeded my expectations in both quantity and quality. The Lone Ranger is a non-stop thrill ride and I enjoyed every minute.

Mind you, I didn’t think I would.

I had the same misgivings about the casting of Depp, whom I greatly respect, as the rest of the Internet, and I’m pretty sure I would remember someone named Armie Hammer had I heard of him before. I was somewhat apprehensive as I entered the press screening with a bucket of popcorn and lightly salted hopes.

But I have got to admit, it wowed me.

There are sure to be some naysayers that feel the film should have stayed true to the original backstory between Reid and Tonto, or that there are historical inaccuracies regarding railroads, desert hares, and physics, but that doesn’t matter. Their idea of fun is not having any, and who needs naysayers when you have a horse running on the roof of a moving train? That’s summer blockbuster stuff, people.

This is where I would normally put in a spoiler or two, and give you the same basic plot outlines as every other outlet, but I’m not going to waste your time—neither will The Lone Ranger. Go see it.

Parents: I must point out that The Lone Ranger does live up to its PG-13 rating and there is no shortage of death or gun violence. It’s the kind of film that I would let the boys (ages 7 and 10, respectively) watch at home where discussions can be had as needed, but not necessarily in the theater where violence is soaked up, justified, and quickly forgotten.  But that’s just me. I’m that guy.

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Astro Blasting With the Honeas: A Disney Story

Buzz Lightyear ride

This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app–and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands—click here.

I was going through a box of old photos (the box being a computer) and I realized that our family of four has changed quite a bit throughout the years. For instance, there are four of us, but just seven years ago there were only three! Crazy, right? Also, we go to Disneyland a lot.

One of the most telling timelines of our family’s progression can be found against the backdrop of Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters ride. We have moved many times over the years, but Astro Blasters has stayed true to its mission and as such the attraction allows us to measure our life against it—kind of like a wall covered in pencil marks that registers the sporadic growth of those that lean upon it, but without all the mess.

The story of us riding Astro Blasters is actually pretty amazing, and somewhat melancholy. Tricia and I looked so much younger then—I had hair! And the boys, oh, the boys… so sweet and innocent, back before the world turned them cold and bitter.

It didn’t take long before I realized that I had found the perfect topic for the new Disney Story app, so I loaded the pictures onto the camera roll of my iPhone 4 and I got to storytelling.

Enjoy!

I know it comes up a little small on this page (that’s my blog, not the app), so for a better look at the glory of us, please click here for our Disney Story!

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A Dozen Years of Marriage: Our Story

photobomb bride

This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app – and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands—click here. It’s free!

Yes, I’m doing a sponsored post to celebrate our anniversary, because if I’ve learned anything in twelve years of bliss it is that when opportunity knocks you best answer. Disney Story knocked, and the rest, as they say, is this post. Besides, I proposed at the Magic Kingdom (I was wearing a Foo Fighters shirt—romantic!), so it’s like circular.

Twelve years ago today Tricia and I were married. Man, we were beautiful. Then time pulled all of my hair out, left a couple of kids on our doorstep, and tricked us into thinking that the then was better than the now, but the truth is, the now is pretty good, too. Take that, Time!

Happy Anniversary, Tricia. Next year, a baker’s dozen!

For the record, I’m wearing a Foo Fighters shirt today, too, but it’s from a totally different tour.

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Paper, Awards, and Action

paper, plane, airplane

At some point in the past few weeks my boys have developed an avid interest in paper airplanes. They have always found the process to be fun and interesting, but suddenly they are obsessed. No paper is safe, from the Sunday Times to store receipts and every sheet between, they fold and throw, fold and throw, and sometimes they pause to take it all in. They are like the Wright brothers of origami.

Our house is a tarmac of untaxied litter.

 

The minute I met Kristina Reed I could tell she was trouble. We were in a theater at Walt Disney Studios and she was discussing her work on the animated short Paperman, of which she was the producer. She was excited and passionate, too much so for a person that was supposed to be working, and I decided then and there that she was someone to keep an eye on.

Reed must have been beside herself when Paperman was nominated, deservedly so, for an Oscar. It was just the kind of thing that would encourage her commitment to fun and quality, two things that Hollywood, apparently, does not care for in a setting so serious as the Academy Awards.

From that moment Reed and the Academy were on a collision course, and like all things showbiz, it would end in glory and a heavy dose of overreacting. The glory was Reed’s part.

Paperman, one of the best movies of any length to open last year, is not only a technical breakthrough in the world of animation, but also charmingly sweet. It is a classic tale of boy meets girl, then the loss, the finding, and lots of paper airplanes. Lots of paper airplanes.

When Paperman won the Oscar the crowd went wild, where the crowd equals Reed, and her lovely celebration in which she let a few lip-stained paper airplanes fly from her too high seat in the mezzanine down upon the masses sitting below. It was perfect.

Security, however, did not agree.

Reed was kicked out of the Dolby Theatre for her actions, an exile that lasted up to ten minutes while the facts unfolded like so many planes beneath the weight of crass humor and self-righteousness that is the Academy Awards—a delay that seems far too grounding for a wonderfully indulgent flight of fancy. She returned to her seat and the captain turned on the fasten seatbelt sign.

 

My boys didn’t watch the Academy Awards. There were too many teddy bears talking about orgies for it to meet our criteria of family entertainment. Therefor my boys had to wait until the next day to hear about Ms. Reed and her paper airplanes.

“How did her planes fly?” they asked.

“I don’t think they went very far,” I answered.

“That’s okay. Throwing paper airplanes off a balcony sounds awesome.”

“Yes,” I said. “It certainly does.”

“Can we do that?” they asked.

“You can do anything,” I answered. “The sky’s the limit.”

They chuckled politely, befitting little boys that like a roof over their heads, and then they went back to work on the pile of scrap paper in front of them. They looked downright inspired.

Fold and throw, boys. Fold and throw.

paperman, disney

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