5 items from 2014
One of the Oscar-season’s most anticipated films was August: Osage County, John Wells’ star-studded adaptation of Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning play. But when it premiered at September’s Toronto Film Festival, it slipped significantly behind the competition, which included Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. Critics, in general, admired the film, but some sniffed at the perceived unrestrained performances, especially Meryl Streep’s unhinged matriarch. Producer Harvey Weinstein later admitted that he rushed the film in order to benefit from the heat of Toronto, a strategy that clearly backfired. Streep and Julia Roberts were nominated for Oscars, but the film »
- Jeff Labrecque
“I think we’re all glad that they changed the name to Fantasia,” states Steve Martin dryly during his introduction of Fantasia 2000 regarding the film’s predecessor, which was originally called The Concert Feature. (Fantasia may be a slightly cooler-sounding title, but it’s not much more inviting to the average audience member than The Concert Feature.) That single line of dialogue represents the key to the creative struggle at the heart of Fantasia 2000, a perfectly entertaining film with no identity of its own. Though Martin is funny in his few moments on screen (all of the celebrity introductions in this new film are mildly charming in their own way, though they vary in tone from Martin’s wacky fourth-wall-breaking humor to regal sincerity, as with Angela Lansbury’s climactic appearance), the fact that a recognizable comedian needs to be one of our ushers into a world of »
- Josh Spiegel
The opening and closing images in the Toy Story trilogy are one and the same: a picture-perfect blue sky with a couple of carefully placed, nonthreatening fluffy clouds in the middle. While both are computer-generated facsimiles, the former is a facsimile of a facsimile: the comforting wallpaper in the bedroom of a little boy named Andy Davis. The latter is closer to the real thing, greeting the teenage Andy as he drives off to college and out of the lives of the toys with whom he populated his imagination for over a decade. As the series opens, the 6-year old Andy, a suburban Christopher Robin of sorts, proves in the confines of his tiny room, overstuffed with plush animals, board games, action figures, and other toys, that his world of make-believe is limitless. As the series closes, Andy ventures into the known unknown of the real world, secretly wished an »
- Josh Spiegel
Walt Disney avoided mixing religion and film, but the company is starting to embrace more Christian undertones
A Southern Baptist university professor in Texas is suggesting that Disney's animated feature Frozen, now doing well at the box office and just nominated for two Academy Awards, "might be the most Christian movie that I have seen this year". In fact, he says, it may be "a better allegory for the Christian gospel than Cs Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" – borderline blasphemy for many believers.
Collin Garbarino, assistant professor of history at Houston Baptist University, acknowledges that if he were to press his point of view of the film, which is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen, his faculty colleagues "might run me out of the university on a rail".
The reason his take on Frozen is potentially incendiary, and at least ironic, is »
- Mark I Pinsky
When Disneyland Paris, then called EuroDisney, opened in 1992, it was seen as something of a boondoggle, with a lack of thematic clarity and poor attendance. It's commonly seen as one of the biggest blights on Michael Eisner's tenure as the head of the Disney company (detailed lovingly in James B. Stewart's "Disney War"). For years the park (which now includes a second gate) has limped along, surviving via a series of last-minute financial interventions and government subsidies but still struggling due to its massive financial debt. Still, it's one of the more unique Disney parks in the world, particularly when it comes to the Jules Verne-indebted version of Tomorrowland (complete with the only Space Mountain that shoots passengers outside of the building -- and upside down) and this summer will have a huge feather in its cap with the addition of an entire "Ratatouille"-themed section of the park. »
- Drew Taylor
5 items from 2014
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