disney

Still magical. Yet, there’s something there that wasn’t there before, and that something is meh.

Belle and Beast dance the night away.

If you’ve seen the 1991 Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast as much as I have, you’re probably just as nervously excited for the live-action version as I was. The 1991 film was the first animated feature to ever be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar Award, and for good reason: it was smart, magical, romantic, and broke down animation barriers. The new live action version had to stay true to these things, while simultaneously amping up the drama, the romance, and the magic, and still embracing its classic songs (“Bonjour”, “Be Our Guest”, “Beauty and the Beast”, etc.). For a while, it was scarily unclear if the new version would be a musical at all. Once announced it would be, however, the producers needed to cast actors who could sing, and employ special effects that didn’t ruin the fun-loving side characters like Lumiere, Cogsworth, and, of course, the central character of the Beast. While the new songs and expanded character backstories are jarring and uninspired, the majority of the new Beauty and the Beast is still full of magic and romance, and does the original and Disney source material proud. The film also marks a pivotal point in Disney’s aspiration to have one of the industry’s most inclusive, and ethnically and racially diverse, modern film portfolios.

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Film Review: Moana

by Chad Liffmann on November 23, 2016

Moana is beautiful, adventurous, and musically gifted.

Animated Moana gives a miraculous multi-dimensional performance.

Animated Moana gives a miraculous multi-dimensional performance.

Yesterday I watched Moana. Today I listened to the soundtrack about eleven times through. Yesterday I questioned the benefit of seeing films in 3D. Today I feel that a film can truly benefit from non-gimmicky 3D. Yesterday I wondered when there’d be a new Disney song, besides “Let It Go”, that I’d welcome getting stuck in my head. Today I’ve had three Moana songs stuck in my head and love’em all. Do you catch my drift? Disney has delivered a beautifully animated film that holds true to the traditional spirit of Disney animated feature canon while adding new depths to characters and story structure. Moana is a cinematic gift — a film that is accessible and enjoyable to all audiences, re-watchable, boasts a stellar soundtrack, sets a new standard for animated environments (though I feel like I say that every six months), and has one of the most admirable female heroes ever put on screen. Yup, I mean it, too.

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Film Review: Queen of Katwe

by Carrie Kahn on September 23, 2016

Nair brings inspirational chess prodigy story to life in appealing new film  

Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) imparts chess – and life – wisdom to young Phiona (Madina Nalwanga).

The phrase “heartwarming family film” has been overused so much that it’s become a meaningless cliché, but when is the last time you saw a live action picture that legitimately fit that description? A few Pixar movies aside, the cinematic offerings that truly appeal to parents and kids alike have been pretty paltry lately. Disney competently rectifies that situation today with Queen of Katwe, a well made, well acted, inspirational-without-being-cloying film that tells the true story of a poor girl from the poverty-stricken town of Katwe, Uganda, who becomes a national and international chess champion.
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Recapturing that ol’ warm fuzzy Disney feeling.

The biggest kind of warm fuzzy.

The biggest kind of warm fuzzy.

For those who remember the 1977 Disney classic, Pete’s Dragon, you may wonder why an obscure title such as that one would need a remake. To be honest, the remake doesn’t answer that question. But nevertheless, the new Pete’s Dragon is a very charming family film. Pete’s Dragon has an old school magical feel to it, with similar familial themes to classic 1970s Disney films such as The Apple Dumpling Gang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Escape to Witch Mountain, and the original of the same nameAside from the less-than-ideal usage of country-tinged pop songs to convey the right emotions we should be feeling, and the absence of musical numbers, Pete’s Dragon is a solidly executed and delightful adventure.

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“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.” -Anton Ego, Ratatouille

There will be no negative criticism here. Ratatouille live at the San Francisco Symphony was absolutely wonderful, highlighting both the magnificent award-winning score by Michael Giacchino and the brilliant animated masterpiece that is Brad Bird’s 2007 Pixar film. Audience members of all ages, including many families, entered Davies Symphony Hall over the weekend to watch Ratatouille. The SF Symphony has delivered numerous memorable film screenings accompanied by live scores, and this one sits near the top.

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Finding Dory gives you another big ocean adventure and all the feels

The charmingly grumpy Hank helping Dory

The charmingly grumpy Hank helping Dory

Let’s start with some full disclosure. Finding Nemo is my favorite Pixar movie and Dory is my favorite part of it. To say I was excited to see Finding Dory would be an extreme understatement. I spent all day telling telling everyone I saw “I’m seeing Finding Dory tonight!” not for any particular reaction, but just that I was so excited it just jumped out of my mouth like crazy fangirl word vomit. Luckily it seems like most people are excited to see Finding Dory so my spastic exclamations were pretty well received. The audience at the screening seemed excited as well, even if it was smaller than usual due to the Warriors game. Seemed strange to me people would pick a basketball game over the movie, but maybe the game was better? [read the whole post]

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Film Review: The Good Dinosaur

November 25, 2015
www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-RgquKVTPE

The animation bar has been raised! (even as the story bar is lowered) It has always been said that (nearly) every Pixar film raises the bar for animated storytelling. Other studios had a hard time keeping up with the incredible stories and emotional journeys Pixar kept churning out. The bar for animated storytelling was raised […]

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SFIFF58 Interview: ‘Aria for a Cow’ writer/director Dan Lund & Crew

April 27, 2015
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppUmneWWaxQ

The shorts programs at SFIFF58 have been increasing in popularity the last few years, and Shorts 5: Family Films is no exception. One film from the group, the colorful and magnificent musical Aria for a Cow, is appropriately quite the showstopper. I sat down with Disney animator and Aria for a Cow writer/director Dan Lund, art director […]

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Film Review: Cinderella

March 13, 2015
www.youtube.com/watch?v=20DF6U1HcGQ

Who ordered a ‘fairy tale straight up’?  We all did. First of all, did anyone else know that the new live action version of Cinderella was directed by Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Thor)?  The man is an acclaimed thespian and director, and no wonder the cast of the new Cinderella is so perfect, and the direction so sure-handed.  And […]

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Film Review: Big Hero 6

November 7, 2014
www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IdMPpKMdcc

I dare you not to buy an action figure or stuffed toy within the next 48 hours after seeing this film. Before saying what Big Hero 6 is, let’s start with what it’s not. It’s not the 6th movie in a series; it’s the beginning of a new one. It’s not a Pixar movie, but John […]

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