Movie Posters

New Poster for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

I can’t believe I’m actually posting this since I’m not a devoted fan of this movie franchise, but I quite like the new poster design for the upcoming sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Let’s hope the movie is decent (sadly, my expectations are very low on this one, but would love to be pleasantly surprised).

(© Disney)

Classic Cinema

Tour the Disney Animation Research Library

Today on Disney’s YouTube channel, Fox Carney, manager of research at Disney’s super-secret and super-fantastic Animation Research Library (ARL), gave a video tour of the facility and showed off some fantastic artwork from Walt Disney’s second animated motion picture Pinocchio (1940).

It was such a treat to see inside the building, meet some of the ARL team, and see the stunning animation art from one of the finest animated films ever made. Thanks, Disney, for holding such a cool event.

Walt Disney’s Pinocchio is now available on your favorite Digital HD platform (I just snagged my copy on iTunes)  and is coming to Blu-ray on January 31.

Cover art for the new “Pinocchio” Blu-ray (© Disney)

Follow the ARL on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Current Cinema, Disney Movie of the Month


After all of the secrecy, speculation, and mysterious viral marketing campaigns, Brad Bird’s new live-action sci-fi feature Tomorrowland is finally here. Was it worth the wait?

© Disney

© Disney

Mostly, yes. While I won’t be giving a full review (I’ll leave that to the professionals), I do have an opinion of a few things that I wished made it to the final cut:

1) More Plus Ultra. Brad Bird and his co-screenwriter Damon Lindelof created a really cool concept for the film about a secret society of the world’s best minds called “Plus Ultra.” Most references about the group were cut, which is unfortunate because the group plays an incredibly important, foundational role in the narrative. Thankfully, much of this mythology is online (see links below), but it still would have been so great in the film.

Here’s a scene that was cut that explains more about the society (enjoy the vintage-style Disney animation in the clip, too):

2) More 1964 World’s Fair. I was hoping that the film would show more of a digital recreation of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Alas, we only get a quick glimpse of the entrance, the non-existent Hall of Invention building (it was created for the film), and a quick view of the PepsiCo/UNICEF “It’s a Small World” pavilion (the queue, boats, and flume of the attraction were filmed at Disneyland where the attraction was relocated after the World’s Fair). The crew also filmed footage at the Carousel of Progress attraction, which was the former GE pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair (the attraction now resides at the Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World), but none of the footage made the final cut. Total bummer.

3) More Tomorrowland. The production team along with futuristic designer Syd Mead created an incredible world of Tomorrow for the film. Unfortunately, we don’t get to spend a lot of time there during the movie. I left wanting more, more, more (and a big yes to jet packs in the future!).

4) More Walt Disney (maybe). Given the content of the alternate reality game that took place during the D23 Expo 2013 to promote the film, it seemed like Walt Disney the man would be playing a role in the movie. Instead, the only mention of Walt Disney that made it to the final cut is in the opening credits and on the digital recreation of the PepsiCo/UNICEF pavilion at the World’s Fair (Disney’s name is on the building). /Film has a great write-up about this. It’s probably just as well, as much of this fictional representation could have been misinterpreted, but it still would have been great to explore more the contents of the fictional “1952” box and how Walt Disney was a modern-day member of the Plus Ultra Society in the film’s mythology.

Oh well. Despite my complaints, the film is still a lot of fun and it’s great to see an original family film slug it out with all of the summer sequels at the box office. Go see Tomorrowland and let me know what you think.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Tomorrowland is currently playing in theaters.


Disney Movie of the Month

“Cool Runnings”

© Disney

Leon, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and Doug E. Doug in “Cool Runnings” (1993) © Disney

Y’all know that I’m a big fan of the Walt Disney Studios. I thought it would be fun to watch one Disney film a month from here one out and blog about it. This month’s entry is Cool Runnings, the 1993 sports comedy based on the true story of the bobsled team from Jamaica that competed in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

The film tells the inspirational story of Jamaican runner Derice Bannock (played by actor Leon) who decides to form the island’s first bobsled team after an unfortunate event crushes his dreams of representing Jamaica in the Summer Olympics. Bannock meets former American bobsledder Irv Blitzer (played by John Candy) who happens to be living in Jamaica and they recruit three more locals for the team (Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and Doug E. Doug). Blitzer becomes the team’s coach and together they overcome multiple obstacles to qualify and compete in Calgary. It’s also an ultimate fish-out-of-water story, with the Jamaicans trying to figure out what it means to compete in the cold and on the world stage.

While the film is in many regards your basic sports movie, it rises above the standard clichés with its winning (and funny) script, terrific acting, and great direction from director John Turteltaub (While You Were Sleeping, National Treasure). It is a fun and inspiring film.

One final bit of trivia—Cool Runnings was released in October 1993, just months before John Candy’s untimely death in March 1994. I’m glad he was able to see his terrific performance in the film.

Rating: 4 of out 5 stars

Cool Runnings is currently available on Netflix.

Have you seen Cool Runnings? What do you think of it? Leave a reply below.

Current Cinema

First Look at “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Image © Lucasfilm and Disney

Image © Lucasfilm and Disney

One thing I never thought I’d see in my lifetime was another Star Wars movie with a storyline past Episode VI (and particularly with the prequel trilogy leaving such a bad aftertaste). Now, as we all know, that’s changed and Episode VII, or Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be coming to a galaxy near you in December 2015.

The first teaser trailer is here and it makes me feel like I’m 12 years old all over again. What do you think of it?

Guilty Pleasures Film Festival 2013


Dan Shor, Jeff Bridges, and Bruce Boxleitner on the grid in 'Tron' (Disney, 1982)

Dan Shor, Jeff Bridges, and Bruce Boxleitner on the grid in ‘Tron’ (Disney, 1982)

I am a huge fan of Disney’s innovative live-action sci-fi pic Tron (1982). Released when I was a kid and at the height of the video arcade craze, the film tells the story of computer programmer Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) and his journey into the digital world, aka “the grid,” to fight off the evil Master Control Program who has usurped control of all computer games and programs. On the grid, video games are more like gladiator fights to the death. And no one kicks butt on the grid like the computer program Tron (played by Bruce Boxleitner), who fights “for the users.” I distinctly remember seeing Tron in the movie theater in 1982 and knowing that I was watching something truly unique (I re-watched the film on Disney’s fantastic Blu-ray transfer released in 2011). It was one of the first films to extensively use computer generated graphics. The scenes on the grid were filmed using black and white film on blacked out sets with the actors wearing white costumes. The scenes were then hand painted in post production, giving them their unique color and glow. The process was so labor and cost intensive, it hasn’t been used since. With the influence of visual consultants Syd Mead, Jean “Moebius” Giraud, and Peter Lloyd, and special visual effects by Disney wizards Harrison Ellenshaw and Richard Taylor, the film has a visual aesthetic which I absolutely love. And while it may not have the most interesting plot in the world, the film is a guilty pleasure for me in all regards. Also stars Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, and David Warner. Written and directed by Steven Lisberger. “On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy.”

Guilty Pleasures Film Festival 2013

“The North Avenue Irregulars”

The church ladies go "undercover" in 'The North Avenue Irregulars' (Disney, 1979)

The church ladies go “undercover” in ‘The North Avenue Irregulars’ (Disney, 1979)

Have you ever seen the 1979 Disney comedy The North Avenue Irregulars? After taking over the North Avenue Presbyterian Church, Reverend Michael Hill (played by Edward Herrmann) finds from sad experience that the city is being overrun by organized crime. When the ongoing problems fall on the deaf ears of the local police, Reverend Hill along with six good-hearted (but majorly disorganized) ladies from the church decide to take on the criminals themselves. This is silly fun and a quintessential Disney comedy from the 1970s. Also stars Susan Clark, Karen Valentine, Barbara Harris, Ruth Buzzi and the always wonderful Cloris Leachman. Written by Don Tait. Based on the book by Rev. Albert Fay Hill. Directed by Bruce Bilson. “How come he doesn’t have any pants on?” “Well, we – we don’t know why, we – we don’t question why.”

Guilty Pleasures Film Festival 2013

“The Absent-Minded Professor”

Professor Brainerd (Fred MacMurray) discovers flubber in "The Absent-Minded Professor" (Disney, 1961)

Professor Brainerd (Fred MacMurray) discovers flubber in “The Absent-Minded Professor” (Disney, 1961)

In Disney’s 1961 comedy “The Absent-Minded Professor” (don’t bother with any of the Michael Eisner-era remakes), Fred MacMurray plays Professor Ned Brainard, a physical chemistry professor at Medfield College who is so focused on his research that he keeps missing other important things in his life, including his own wedding. On the night of wedding attempt number three, he happens upon a big discovery–a new substance and energy source he names “flubber” (short for “flying rubber”). Prof. Brainard has a lot to overcome–he wants to use flubber to help Medfield College out of its current financial crisis, he’s got to protect flubber from the nefarious businessman Alonzo P. Hawk (played by Keenan Wynn), and, most importantly, he’s got to win back the trust and love of his long suffering fiancé Betsy (played by Nancy Olson). The special effects still hold up after all these years and are a lot of fun to watch in this clever, fun and funny film. Check it out sometime and let me know if you agree. Also stars Tommy Kirk and Eliott Reid. Written by Bill Walsh. Directed by Robert Stevenson. “There’s nothing in the rule book that says one team can’t jump higher than the other.”

Guilty Pleasures Film Festival 2013

“The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes”

Schuyler (Michael McGreevey) and Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell) participate in a college TV quiz show in "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (Disney, 1969)

Schuyler (Michael McGreevey) and Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell) participate in a college TV quiz show in “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” (Disney, 1969)

A live-action Disney favorite from my childhood is “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” (Disney, 1969). Set at the fictional Medfield College (home to the Disney classics “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber”), student Dexter Riley (played by Kurt Russell) and his fellow classmates want the school administration to buy a much needed super computer for the campus. The students persuade A.J. Arno (played by Cesar Romero), a wealthy benefactor of Medfield College, to donate one. While Dexter is working on the computer, he gets zapped by lightning and all of the computer data gets transferred to his brain. The strange event turns Dexter into a walking encylopedia, which spurs the school’s administration to enter him along with some of his classmates in a TV college quiz tournament that could potentially win big money for the school. Unfortunately for Dexter, the computer also included secret information about A.J. Arno’s illegal gambling business. It’s the college students vs. the administration and the crooks in a movie that’s simple, silly fun. Also stars Disney regular Joe Flynn as Dean Higgins, Michael McGreevey as Dexter’s friend Schuyler, and William Schallert as Professor Quigley. And for today’s Dexter Riley trivia, the film spurred two Dexter Riley sequels, both starring Kurt Russell: “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t” (1972) and “The Strongest Man in the World” (1975). Written by Joseph L. McEveety. Directed by Robert Butler. “Don’t worm me, you worm!”

Thoughts on Movies

“Brave” in Dolby Atmos

"Brave" theatrical poster (© Disney | Pixar)

“Brave” theatrical poster (© Disney | Pixar)

I saw the new Pixar Animation Studios’ film “Brave” last week in a theater equipped with the new Dolby® Atmos™ sound system. Only 14 theaters in the U.S. are currently equipped with the Dolby Atmos system. “Brave” is the first feature film to use the new sound format.

Dolby states that its new Atmos system is “a revolutionary approach to sound.” According to the Dolby website:

“The most significant development in audio since the arrival of surround sound is here. Dolby® Atmos™ delivers audiences a more natural and realistic soundfield, transporting them into the story with a lifelike sensory experience. Developed with input from professionals throughout the movie industry, Dolby Atmos represents a dynamic shift in audio, reinventing the traditional surround sound methodology and offering a complete platform for sound now and well into the future.”

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in the theater was the increased number of speakers in the room, including two long bays of speakers installed across the entire length of the theater ceiling. The Dolby Atmos trailer gave us a preview of the sonic treat that awaited for us. Instead of being just loud and overpowering, watching “Brave” with the Dolby Atmos sound mix made the all the sounds, voices and music in the film incredibly clear, refined and targeted. I was really impressed with the subtlety and clarity of the sound as well as the sheer power and depth that it provided the movie-going experience.

It will be interesting to see where this new technology goes in the future and how widely adapted it will be over time. I personally will jump at the chance to see a film in Dolby Atmos again. I hope you get to experience it and enjoy it soon, too.