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An acceptable sequel
I'll start with this, I was, and still am, a huge fan of "Enchanted" when it originally came out in theaters. I saw it four times in the theater and numerous more times on DVD and on Disney+. So when I heard that a sequel was coming to Disney+, I was over the moon, because news of a sequel kept coming and going as the years went by.
Look, I totally understand the critics' and everyone else's point of view of this film not living up to the hype. But I might be in the minority of people who actually really liked the film. Yeah, it's not as groundbreaking as the first film, but it still has its highlights. Namely, Amy Adams is as charming as ever and hasn't lost her sparkle as Giselle. Plus, they finally remedied a flaw of the first film by giving Nancy two songs! And all of the songs are really good.
Now for the not-so-nice stuff. The animated sequences in Andalasia could have been way more polished. Plus they redesigned Nancy in Andalasia. In the first film, animated Nancy looked like a Disney version of Idina Menzel, but here, her bangs have grown out, and her facial features kind of border on uncanny valley. But I did like how Morgan looked in Andalasia. And also, Jayma Mays and Yvette Nicole Brown were kind of miscast as the minions, and whenever they were onscreen, I forgot they were even in this. And I also question the decision of making Pip the narrator.
So is it a perfect sequel? Not really. Is it better than the first movie? Far from it. Is it just as good as the first one? In many ways, I'd say so.
Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)
THIS is how Disney should use the Muppets from now on
Ever since the Muppets were acquired by Disney in 2004, they have been somewhat of a redheaded stepchild among the many assets now owned by Disney. As time went by, Disney seemed more preoccupied with things like the parks, Marvel, and Star Wars. When I first heard about Muppets Haunted Mansion, I was adamant, because I love the Muppets and I'm also a fan of the Haunted Mansion attraction. But combining the two, could it possibly work?
The answer is a very resounding YES! As I mentioned before, most of Disney's works with the Muppets have been hit or miss, be they the viral Bohemian Rhapsody video (Hit!), the mockumentary series from 2014 (middle), or whatever we're supposed to make of "Muppets Now" (mostly miss). But this special turned out to be a match made in Hades. (And that's a compliment.) This uses practically every trick in the puppetry book, and because the Muppets are playing floating ghosts, that means we get to see a lot more of their legs. The most impressive puppetry is when Kermit plays the Ghost Master of Ceremonies. There are plenty of clever nods to the original attraction and things from The Muppets. (During the ballroom scene, notice how the dancers are making terrible jokes? That should be familiar to fans of The Muppet Show.)
I'm still not a fan of the very controversial recasting of Kermit. And, apparently, neither are the people behind the studio, as evidenced by the smaller screen time our favorite amphibian is given. But making Gonzo the central character is actually a stroke of genius, and this being a Halloween special, there are several scenes involving him that are extremely unnerving.
So overall, this was a fantastic special for the Muppets done in the vein of Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, and I really hope that Disney does more stuff like this with our friends of felt in the future.
Best animated film of 2021? I certainly believe so!
I first heard of this title the day it was released. There was so much praise for it from many different animators and celebrities I follow on Twitter. When I finally watched it, I definitely saw why. This film comes from the minds behind some of my favorite things, including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Lego Movie, and Gravity Falls! The animation is definitely top-notch, and I love how it blends CGI with live-action stock footage and photos, puppetry, and hand-drawn animation! I also really love the concept of putting a dysfunctional family against a robot apocalypse. The only thing I could do without was the casting of Chrissy Teigen as the snooty perfect next-door neighbor. She can't really voice act her way through a paper bag. So, Ms. Teigen, don't quit your day job. (Wait, what even IS your day job other than being Mrs. John Legend?) Anyhoo, I feel sorry for the other animated films coming out this year. They have a tough act to follow.
Great way to start 2021
I first heard of the Ratatouille TikTok musical via an episode of the BuzzFeed podcast News O'Clock. That's also where I first heard of the grocery store musical. When I heard the music, I thought it incredible that this pandemic could bring out so much creativity, and also, why hasn't Disney and Pixar's lawyers stepped in?
So anyhoo, after this musical was released, I gave it a standing ovation from my couch! Every single song was incredibly written, the performances were standouts, most notably Ashley Park as Colette, Wayne Brady as Django, Adam Lambert as Emile, Andrew Barth Feldman as Linguini, Mary Testa cross-cast as Skinner, and, of course, Tituss Burgess as Remy. I also really love all the cute references to other Broadway musicals. I also have to applaud the Broadway Sinfonietta Orchestra for making this sound like a true Broadway musical.
Of course, this isn't exactly perfect. One of my biggest criticisms is with the book and its reliance on Remy's narration. Also, because of the short runtime, a lot of subplots fall by the wayside, and as a result, Ego's appearance is a little too brief and the character development comes too quick.
But other than that, this was definitely a perfect way to begin the New Year after the dumpster fire that was 2020. It's a shame that this is only available to view for a limited time. I only hope that this continues to live on in some form or another, whether it be a cast recording, a show at the Disney parks, or even a full-fledged two-act Broadway musical. (Well, one can dream, can't they?)
Was this movie worth waiting for? Yes. Yes, it was.
I have a confession to make. I actually became a fan of Phineas and Ferb while the show was in its fourth and final season. I was already in my late 20s by then, but somehow, the series really got to me. And one of the characters I related to most was Candace Flynn. I mean, sure, she seemed to be painted as somewhat of a villain because she constantly wanted her brothers to be busted, but she also had some sympathetic qualities. And also, Ashley Tisdale always gave a hilarious vocal performance every time she screamed "Mom!" So after the show ended, of course I was excited that a new movie based on the show would be coming to Disney+, and that Candace would be heavily featured.
So far, I am on my fifth viewing of this movie! It is definitely that good! Obviously, having Candace be the center of the film was a great idea, and Ashley probably gave the performance of her life. I also really love all the callbacks to the original series, especially all the cameos. A discussion about Phineas and Ferb would not be complete without the songs, and once again, they knocked it out of the park, with highlights being "Such a Beautiful Day", "Adulting", and "Us Against the Universe". But what stole the show for me was Tiffany Haddish appearing as "The Sound Someone Makes When They Explode from the Waist Up" (which just so happens to sound like someone saying Candace's name), and every time it happened, it just kept getting funnier and funnier. Well, I know what I'm gonna do today: Watch it yet again.
I have been a subscriber of Disney+ since the very beginning. And I have been a Disney fan longer than that. I gotta say, this show was a huge surprise when I saw it released. When I go to sleep, I prefer listening to ambient new age music alongside relaxing sounds. When this series came out, not only did I find every episode relaxing, it also made me really appreciate the hard work of both the sound designers and animators. I really hope Disney plans on doing more of these, maybe throwing Pixar films in the mix. There's definitely a lot to churn out with Wall-E.
This show should have run longer on Broadway!
This was a great representation of the incredibleness of the brief run of the SpongeBob musical! However, it was not filmed at the Palace, and to make room for more ads, they had to cut a few minor things. Plus, this didn't include any of the Rube Goldberg devices that were on both sides of the stage, which was a bummer. On the plus side, we were finally able to hear some of the things that were left off the cast album, like Plankton's speed rap in "When the Going Gets Tough". Another plus was having Tom Kenny not only voice the French Narrator, but also perform Patchy.
The Last Five Years (2014)
Better sung than visualized
I became a fan of L5Y when I saw a regional production in the Berkshires. I instantly fell in love with the songs and the concept. Since then, I have also seen the recent off-Broadway production directed by Jason Robert Brown himself and have listened to the original cast album non-stop. When I heard they were making a movie of this, I was skeptical, because in the show, neither Jaimie nor Cathy ever share scenes together save for one wedding scene in the middle. I was further skeptical when I heard that they were going to have them in every scene together.
Well, I saw the film on demand last night and I have to say, first let's speak about the music. The reason I loved the music so much was because it had such small orchestrations and no drums. I was afraid that adding drums, more strings, and more electric guitar would take away the chamber feel of the sound, but on the contrary, it actually enhanced it. Second of all, they chose two great singers who were able to sing most of the score live, and I have to give props to Anna Kendrick, who is probably the best Cathy I have seen and heard. Also, props for not cutting a single musical number, and they didn't have to because the show was an hour and a half to begin with.
Now for everything else. The new dialog between the songs hardly added anything to the film. I'm mainly concerned with Cathy's dialog during the Shmuel Song. Also, in the play, every song Cathy sang took place when she was going backwards, but a few parts of her songs, mainly "When You Come Home..." and the final part of "Climbing Uphill", seemed to take place in chronological order. Also, that whole fantasy sequence in Shiksa Goddess with all of Jaimie's Jewish girlfriends was way too unnecessary, as was that brief dance scene during "Moving Too Fast".
Other than those things, I thought it was very well done.
Rainbow Rocks rocks!
Last year when Equestria Girls was announced, there was some outcry among the fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that they were turning our beloved ponies into human teenage girls in high school. When it was released, it got mixed reviews. I personally thought it was simply good, but flawed in that it put a little too much focus on Twilight and Spike. Normally, that would be a good thing because Twilight is my favorite character, but the film was simply too much exposition and not enough story.
Rainbow Rocks, however, is a completely different animal altogether. This film is definitely a thousand times better than the first. One part of the genius of this film is the emphasis on the music, which has been part of FiM since the beginning thanks to songwriter Daniel Ingram and score composer William Anderson. Another improvement over the first was having the villains keep with the music theme by making them sirens. Also, Sunset Shimmer works so much better as a protagonist than as an antagonist. Another benefit of this film is there is an equal amount of emphasis between each one of the mane six, as well as giving some background favorites the spotlight. All in all, if you excuse the cliché, this film ROCKS!
Worst stand-up special ever
Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Kristen Schaal's work as an actress and voice actress from her work on Flight of the Concords, the Daily Show, and Bob's Burgers. But as a stand-up comedian, she falters. The only reason I'm not giving this one star is because the first half of the special was all hit while the rest, after she does a lazy eye joke, fell flat. Not even a cameo by her Bob's Burgers co-star Eugene Mirman could save this. I know a lot of people are defending her and saying she was flopping on purpose a la Andy Kaufman, but at least Kaufman was able to save his set by ending on a dead-on Elvis impression. All Schaal has got is being upstaged by a 7- year-old girl and doing a bit about her absent dancing horse.