Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Disney's Creativity Dilemma

Disney released it's slate of films planned for the next few years, most of which were already announced at different times. There is a pattern that is quite disturbing, which was brought to my attention by my movie buddy, Will McKinley. Disney is banking itself on franchises and remakes. Aside from some new storylines out of Pixar and Disney animation, there is not a whole lot of original ahead. I understand wanting to capitalize on the $4 billion spent on Marvel and the other $4 billion for Lucasfilm, however, how about continuing a legacy. 

Sequels are not new to the Disney machine, remember that it's the studio that gave us four Herbie films.  Even during Walt Disney's era, there was The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963).  However, with the exception of two Davy Crockett feature releases (which were just packaged versions of the one hour serial from the Walt Disney Presents television show), there were no other live action or animated sequels made under his reign.  I am not about to start the "What would Walt do?" argument, because that is inconsequential.  What I am concerned over is the future of the studio.

Disney's first FULL live action film was not even produced until 1950's Treasure Island. Live actions films then dominated the studio until the millenium, when this mining of the animated properties began. Direct-to-Video animated sequels saw out Eisner's era at the studios. Thankfully, that trend ran it's course and several sequels that were planned never saw the light of day, (Pinocchio II and Aristocats II, anyone?).  Now it seems we have gone the opposite direction. The studio has gone back to mining the properties, but now is producing live-action films based off the animated classics. This year we had Cinderella, which fared well at the box office, assuring a few more in the future. The Jungle Book, which Disney already has done in live action form, back in 1994 is getting another go, this one will be a musical version but with mostly new songs and CGI animals, I presume. Beauty and the Beast just starting filming this month for a 2017 release. Rumors of Pinocchio and Snow White are also rampant.

There are several original films in the current slate. Many of have modest budgets and can lean on the tent pole positioning of the Marvel and Pixar films for a buffer. If they are successful, they too perhaps, will be considered for future sequels.

Oh, and another word about Disney property mining, we have Tomorrowland, The Movie! opening for Memorial Day weekend. This should be a success, though maybe not a blockbuster. We can likely look forward to more Disney attraction-turned-films in the future, including another attempt at a Haunted Mansion movie coming sometime probably in 2018, according to Screenrant.  Let's see if we get a Matterhorn movie, which itself was inspired by a live action film, Third Man on the Mountain (1959).

Disney has always been about innovation and mass appeal entertainment. For their sake, I hope they do not end up back in the 70s rut of mere regurgitation and derivative content.

Below is the list announced fully, today:
Avengers: Age of Ultron – 5/1/15
Tomorrowland – 5/22/15
Inside Out – 6/19/15
Ant-Man – 7/17/15
Bridge of Spies – 10/16/15
The Good Dinosaur – 11/25/15
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 12/18/15
The Finest Hours – 1/29/16
Zootopia – 3/4/16
The Jungle Book – 4/15/16
Captain America: Civil War – 5/6/16
Alice Through the Looking Glass – 5/27/16
Finding Dory – 6/17/16
The BFG – 7/1/16
Pete’s Dragon – 8/12/16
Doctor Strange – 11/4/16
Moana – 11/23/16
Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One – 12/16/16
Beauty and the Beast – 3/17/17
Ghost in the Shell – 4/14/17
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – 5/5/17
Star Wars: Episode VIII – 5/26/17
Toy Story 4 – 6/16/17
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – 7/7/17
Thor: Ragnarok – 11/3/17
Untitled Pixar Animation – 11/22/17
Untitled Disney Animation – 3/9/18
Avengers: Infinity War Part I – 5/4/18
Untitled Pixar Animation – 6/15/18
Black Panther – 7/6/18
Captain Marvel – 11/2/18
Untitled Disney Animation – 11/21/18
Avengers: Infinity War Part II – 5/3/19
Inhumans – 7/12/19
Thanks to  Box Office Mojo for the listings.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Into The Woods (2014)

I wish...I could say I loved the movie.  Recent musical adaptations from the stage to screen have left me disappointed.  Big disappointments include Phantom of the Opera (I have never enjoyed Joel Schumacher's work anyway), Les Miserables mostly due to the casting of Javert, and the current abomination of Annie (2014).  The movie musical isn't dead though, Chicago and Dreamgirls were quite satisfying adaptations and perhaps because they lent themselves better to film from the stage than other works.

Into the Woods first premiered on Broadway in 1987 and was later filmed for television and subsequently released on home video/DVD. I have watched that production many times over the years as well as several live stage versions over the last 20 years.  The plot was created for the theater. The songs were placed in such a way that build toward the end of a first act and then the shift for the second act. Much like the Phantom movie musical, the transition through the eliminated intermission feels feels awkward and rushed.  It also creates the need to alter or eliminate songs from the score.  Into the Woods was without several songs from the original score, this did not however, take away from the plot and would be missed by a movie audience.

The story revolves around some familiar fairy tale characters; Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella along with some new characters including a Baker and his wife.  Their stories intertwine in a newly created storyline of the Baker and his wife trying to remove a curse so that they can have a baby.  The story is creative and all seems to be wrapped up into a happy ending. This is traditionally where act one ends.  Act two then follows with what happens after and then the story takes a steep dark turn. In the history of the stage show, many audience members have left after the first act, believing that it was the end of the show. The same went for the movie, where I heard some folk after the show saying that they felt the movie was too long and could have ended after the happy ending midway through the film. I had to to laugh, because that is just part of the Into the Woods experience.

Stand out performances came from Emily Blunt as the Baker's wife. She has a pleasant singing voice and was nice to look at.  I was less enthralled with Meryl Streep as the Witch. I just felt she was phoning in her performance in a paint-by-numbers portrayal of the role.  Frankly, she is also too old for the character.  The movie looked great from a cinematography standpoint but fell short of looking spectacular. I did take into account that much of the film takes place in the woods, a dark and dreary place and symbolic for the world in which we all live.  Into the Woods does not have a happy ending ultimately and you will not walk away feeling great about things.