BATB Nitpicking and Over/Underrated Disney Podcasts

I just thought I would share with you guys 2 podcasts I did today.

The first is a live stream I did going over in fine detail the new live action Beauty and the Beast. I know some people just like to go to their movies and have a great time and find this in-depth analysis obnoxious. If this is your case than this is not the podcast for you. However, if you find that kind of thing fun than you will probably enjoy it. For the record, I mildly recommend the film for the large musical sequences and the performance of Gaston by Luke Evans.

So if this is your thing than give it a watch. I’d love your feedback on what I found and what I may have missed (I only took 6 pages of notes!)

Then the second podcast I did was with my friend Conrado where we talked about our most over and underrated Disney Canon films. I have followed Conrado’s blog for years so it was so much fun to actually talk with him vocally on the podcast. We had a great time talking Disney so I think you will really enjoy it. Follow his blog at https://cocohitsny.wordpress.com/

You can also listen to both podcasts on my channel on the SoundCloud app

Please let me know what you think of both as I am continually trying to improve. Thanks!

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Beauty and the Beast 2017 Review

It’s an interesting predicament I find myself in with this latest live action remake from Disney, Beauty and the Beast. Because I detested the marketing, some think I have a vendetta against the film and would never like it. On the other hand,  the animation fandom cries “traitor” if I like anything about it. Oh well! Looks like I will just have to be honest with my response as I always am. So here goes…

So far these Disney live action remakes have been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon because they felt small and intimate and gave a new vision to the story without bastardizing the original as Maleficent did. Jungle Book I thought was solid and entertaining and the 2 Alice films I didn’t care for. Maleficent I hated with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Where does this Beauty and the Beast lie? Well, I’d say like the remakes as a whole it is a bit of a mixed bag. The average moviegoer looking to be entertained will be but that doesn’t take from some problems I had with the film.

Let’s talk about strengths first. My favorite thing about the film was the strong production design and the large musical set pieces. I can’t think of a musical in a long time that had such satisfyingly staged musical sequences. Be Our Guest, Belle, and Gaston were the particular highlights. The costumes, scope, dancing and ensemble singing were first rate. It was easy to get swept away in the moments and that’s what you want in a musical.

I also really liked what they did with Gaston. Luke Evans was hilarious in the role and while he may not be the size of a barge it didn’t matter. He worked for the part. They made him a bit more sympathetic without completely changing his character like they did with Maleficent. He’s still the cocky guy we know and love but he seemed to actually be in love with Belle, which I appreciated. Also Lefou was a well done character. I liked his story arc through the film and Josh Gad did a good job in the role. He isn’t just a literal punching bag that he is in the animated film.  By the way, the whole “gay moment” is nothing that should offend anyone in any way. His character arc is satisfying not because of his sexuality but because of how he deals with questions of loyalty and friendship.

They also work in a lot of humor into the script, which I enjoyed. I found myself laughing quite a bit especially with Lumiere and Cogsworth but a lot of the characters were funny.

But that’s about where my positives end and some problems start. My biggest problem with the film is in the character design. All of the household objects were difficult to connect with emotionally. Lumiere and Cogsworth were designed in a way that made it difficult to see their faces and expressions. Mrs Potts was literally flat so you had no sense of movement or personality to her.  It is all left to the voice cast to sell the emotion and they just couldn’t do it. The Beast looked like Krampus and his face was flat and dull. And Harry Potter fans will hate me for saying this but I also found Emma Watson to be flat and wooden in her performance as Belle. There wasn’t much chemistry between the two of them because they were uninteresting and bland, which is a big problem selling this story.

I also had some problems with the new additions to the story. For the most part they didn’t add anything that wasn’t super obvious or predictable. It just made scenes feel stretched out and kind of boring. They should have picked one or two backstories to focus on, but instead they did a lot and none of them feel very developed or satisfyingly fleshed out. For example, we learn something about Mrs Potts’ marriage but it feels very tagged on and not emotional like it should.

The best of the additions is the new peril the household objects face with the curse but I didn’t really like that they are somehow blamed for the Beast’s behavior and the curse. This seemed like a major stretch. I can see blaming parents for the behaviors of a child but servants in a castle? That is tough to believe. It’s certainly a very harsh enchantress.  That’s for sure.

Other new story involving Belle’s mother and the Beast’s backstory just did nothing for me. Also the new songs were very forgettable and flat. They aren’t bad songs but the only reason I remember one of them is because Josh Groban sang it in the credits and I’m a huge fan of his.

Speaking of music, the other major problem I had with the movie was in the singing. Emma Watson’s singing was frankly awful. She not only sounds autotuned but her vocals don’t mesh with the rest of the strong ensemble vocals. It’s one thing for a terrible vocalist to be in Mama Mia or Phantom of the Opera but most of the singing sucked in those movies. Here the ensemble is great and classic Broadway sound, so to have an electronic sound as the lead didn’t work at all. It was such a bummer because if she had been dubbed I think I would have LOVED those songs. If I was Emma Watson I would be very mad with Disney because it is their job to make their star sound good and they didn’t.

Most people will go see Beauty and the Beast and have a great time, and so I have to give Disney credit on that level. There is entertainment to be had here and I think as a whole it is a harmless movie. Does it live up to the 1991 original film? Of course not but it’s certainly not awful. I thought the musical set pieces and Gaston/Lefou were fun enough to recommend the film despite some of my problems and issues. In a way it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity because elements  were there to make it truly great but oh well. It’s not an atrocity like Maleficent so I’m grateful for that.

Overall Grade- C+

Here is my youtube review. I would really appreciate it if you gave it a watch and a thumbs up if you have a minute.  Thanks!

Beauty and the Beast 2014 Review

So love it or hate it the new Beauty and the Beast is coming out whether we like it or not. To get ready for the release I thought it would be fun to take a look at the 2014 French version of our classic story entitled La Belle et la Bete.

This film is directed by Christophe Gans and stars Lea Seydoux as Belle and Vincent Cassel as The Beast. In all honestly, it is not a strong film but as a piece of soap opera in fairytale form it is entertaining.

The best thing about this version of Beauty and the Beast is the sumptuous costumes and sets. I’ll be honest Seydoux’s dresses show up anything I’ve seen them put on Emma Watson in the publicity for the new film. The attention to detail from hair all the way down to feet is just beautiful.

There are definite moments where the backgrounds look green screened in and the production looks cheap but there are also sets that look as lush and regal as anything you will see in the new version.

As far as the rest of the movie it is extremely silly. It’s the kind of heaving bodice period piece that you see lampooned on shows like Saturday Night Live where everyone has sexy looks about them and the melodrama is strong.

This silliness includes a running set of dream sequences of a prized deer who is shot through the heart with a golden arrow. LOL. These scenes must be seen to be believed and they may have some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in a live action film. It is hilarious.

That’s not to say this movie is ‘so bad it’s good’ because it doesn’t quite get to that level of unintentional laughs. It’s more like a telenovella that’s so over-the-top and dishy that it is kind of fun. I honestly think the people involved in this project know it is silly and they play along.

So your enjoyment of Beauty and the Beast 2014 depends entirely on your tolerance for campy theatrics. If that sounds like your thing than give it a watch. If not than stay away. You will hate it!

Overall Grade- C-

New vs Old Beauty and the Beast Singing

So today we got our first clip of Emma Watson singing in the new Beauty and the Beast remake. I have put both new and old together side-by-side on this video, so it is easy to compare the two.

What do you think of the new version? It sounds younger with more of a pop feel to it. I am a Broadway girl so I prefer the original more mature sound but I don’t hate the new style. It could work for a younger, more realistic, timid Belle.

So far with this Beauty and the Beast remake I’ve been pretty meh on everything I’ve seen. The only thing I’ve really hated is the household objects especially Mrs Potts.

household-objectsI’m very nervous about this film but hopefully it will be great like Cinderella or solid like Jungle Book. Fingers crossed.

What do you think of the singing clip and other things you’ve seen from it?

Why I Sell Beauty and the Beast Table Read Clip!

This morning I was greeted by throngs of notifications about the great new exciting clip from the Beauty and the Beast live action film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this movie could be amazing. I hope it is but honestly I’m kind of upset about it right now. I hated the images of Lumiere and Cogsworth- especially Lumiere where you can’t see his face and he’s all rugged looking instead of smooth. He’s a candlestick which limits his expression as it is. We don’t need anything obscuring that expression.

Anyway, so what I was presented with today is a clip from the table reading. I guess I was supposed to be excited like the table read for Star Wars: Force Awakens which had Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and others coming back to Star Wars. Unfortunately this table read not only didn’t excite me, it kind of ticked me off.

Force Awakens had a reason to be made. A large majority of people didn’t like the prequels and felt Star Wars hadn’t been good for a long time. And despite some similarities to previous films Force Awakens was a continuation of the story not a remake. With this Beauty and the Beast I’ve long scratched my head at why this needs to exist? Why when it is already been perfectly executed do we need a remake of the film?

Disney just gave me their answer and it kind of makes me mad…

Bill Condon says “When something is so perfect why get near it? The answer is technology has caught up with the ideas that were introduced in that movie”.

Are you kidding me?

This is basically Disney saying that the 2D animation that made them great isn’t a fully realized version of their great ideas. That they were restricted and now technology has expanded they can finally do their ideas justice.  You know what? Those ideas were done justice. I never watched Beauty and the Beast and thought ‘boy if only they had greater technology this could be executed better.”

The Jungle Book gave us a new version of the Kipling story and the technology worked for that version of the story. If Condon had said “we now have the technology to tell a new take on the ideas” that would have been one thing but for him to say that “technology has caught up with the ideas” it makes me really mad. It says to me Disney sees 2D animation as quaint and old fashioned and technology/CG as a better way to execute the ideas of the past! Urgh!!!

I can’t be the only person in the world that was annoyed by this comment? And the fact Disney would use that quote to sell this movie is really discouraging and shows a lack of respect for the great artistry done in the 1991 film. It was certainly a good enough execution of the ideas to get the first animated Best Picture nomination and it was good enough to entrance millions of viewers.

Howard Ashman wrote and worked on Beauty and the Beast literally on his death bed. It is a masterpiece and a labor of love in every way I can think of. It was good enough to make AFI’s Top 10 Romantic Movies of all times list. Good enough to be many people’s favorite animated film including current CG films.

But I’m glad technology has finally caught up with Disney’s ideas of the past….

angery beast

Beauty and the Beast Teaser Trailer Response

So today the teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast came out. My response- it’s fine. I have no problem with it and it looks intriguing. Even with Cinderella and Jungle Book being strong films I am still suspect of these live action remakes but everything I’m hearing about Beauty and the Beast is encouraging.  I’m looking forward to it and this trailer did nothing to damper that enthusiasm.

That said, I hate to be a cold blanket over everyone but the response to this teaser I do not get. Let’s look at it objectively.  We get an image of a castle,  some shots of the inside, we see beasts claws on a painting,  hear Lumiere and Cogsworth briefly talk, see a door being opened and a rose. Aside from the vocals it’s basically just a bunch of set shots.  We love the music but this movie could totally suck and it have all the elements of this teaser trailer. Lots of horrible movies have decent sets and music. I mean Maleficent had decent sets to look at and look what we got with that film…

I guess I don’t really get why people are so excited about this trailer? It’s fine. It basically announces the film and that’s what it is supposed to do. But on twitter and at rotoscopers.com they are really going nuts about it.  Some quotes:

“Oh my goodness, when they showed the ballroom with the beautiful prologue music playing I was welling up!”

“CRYING! Singing and crying…”

“This looks absolutely gorgeous. The music made me so nostalgic”

“Oh come on… I can’t be the only one who got chills and audibly squealed.”

Now I remind you Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney film. So why am I not so excited by the teaser (again I don’t hate the teaser. I’m just not crying with excitement)? Well, I’m not really sure.

When I think back to the Star Wars teaser when we first saw the Millennium Falcon and Harrison Ford said “Chewie, we’re home” and how thrilled I was. Why was I super excited?  Because Star Wars had been in my opinion nearly ruined by the prequels. I know many like those films, but I hated them and so I was anxious for Star Wars to be redeemed. I wanted some hint they were going to be doing it right.

I have no such need for Beauty and the Beast. It was done about as perfectly as you can do a film (there are no perfect movies). I want the movie to be good but I am not nearly as anxious for it save the franchise I love. How do you improve upon what was already perfect?  I had been waiting for a good Star Wars movie for 17 years. Disney, on the other hand, if they never made another live action remake I would have no problem with that.

Anyway, people will probably walk away from this wondering why Rachel can’t just have fun with the teaser. I did. It’s fine. I like it but again it’s a bunch of shots of the set with music. I don’t get all the jubilant response but if you loved it let me know why.

Most Romantic Disney Movies

Happy Valentines Day friends!

valentinesTonight I am going to see Song of the Sea at the theater but I thought I might give you some romantic inspiration Disney-style.  There have been many great couples in Disney but which one’s are the best for Valentines Day?

Here we go!

12. Nightmare Before Christmas-

Got to pick something different but the love story between Jack and Sally is actually quite sweet. Gives us hope that even the strangest of us have a match.

jack and sally2

11. Bambi

I don’t give enough Bambi love on the blog.  It really is beautiful.  The instant love trope would be brought out so many times by Disney but this was the first and it introduced us to being twitterpated long before twitter!

10. Rescuers Down Under

I think the only Disney Canon with a proposal in it? Help me out if I’m wrong.  Bernard tries over and over again to propose to always be thwarted. I love how Bianca has such faith in Bernard even with the rugged Jake around.

Proposal-in-The-Rescuers-Down-Under

9. Snow White and the 7 Dwarves

Hoping your prince will come?  Why not watch Snow White sing about it?  Have a little hope on Valentines if you are currently single. When the Prince sings One Song it is one of the more underrated Disney musical moments.

8. Tarzan

Tarzan and Jane have lovely chemistry together as they try and understand each other’s world view. Hey and maybe it will help you ladies think twice about those ape-men in your life 😉

tarzan and jane

7. Aladdin

The whole movie is basically a guy trying to impress a girl who has sworn off men.  Perfect for Valentines Day!  We also get a magic carpet ride, A Whole New World and one of the best Disney kisses.

aladdin and jasmine

6. Cinderella

I feel like you almost have to put Cinderella on a list like this.  I mean it’s Cinderella finding her Prince Charming…but I actually think it’s more about a woman getting rescued from an unhappy life.  But it is a beautiful princess falling instantly in love with her Prince and getting married at the end.  Can’t go wrong with that.

Another underrated Disney song-

Pretty much these next 5 are equally loved by me so they are ties for first place!

5. Tangled

Disney’s stab at a romantic comedy and it is great. The banter between Flynn and Rapunzel is so well written . They have great chemistry and we see them grow together the entire movie.  When they get to the lanterns it is such a lovely moment.

tangled flynn and rapunzel

4. Lady and the Tramp

Probably includes the most iconic Disney romantic moment and the scene that made spaghetti synonymous with a hot date.  It is such a sweet and gentle movie that will make even the most grumpy person smile.  I dare you not to smile!

3. WALL-E

Another one I think you might have to be made of stone to not appreciate.  Wall-e simply loves Eva. It’s as simple as that.  He will do anything for her and it is sweet and innocent and completely lovely.  As Hello Dolly tells us in the movie ” it only took a moment
To be loved a whole life long”

walle and eva

2. Beauty and the Beast

Tale as old as time, tune as old as song.  Bitter sweet and strange finding you can change. Learning you were wrong. Certain as the sun rising in the east…Beauty and the Beast.   Yep. It’s the time when one heart understood another despite him having a ‘hideous’ appearance. We all hope someone will see our heart and love us flaws and all.  No movie exemplifies that hope better than Beauty and the Beast.

1. Up

Usually if people ask I tell them Up is my favorite movie.  It’s certainly in the top 3.  It’s a movie I could watch once a week for the rest of my life and never get sick of.  What it does in the first 10 minutes is my favorite moment of film ever. To show a whole life of a couple is something that always makes me tear up and I’ve seen the movie a lot.  But what moves me even more is how Ellie remains a palatable force in the movie.  Carl talks to her and you feel her presence.  When I first saw Up it was like a hug from my Grandpa who I miss dearly.  It reminded me that he is close by and rooting for me.

up cake
This is how much I love Up. I had this cake made for my housewarming/birthday party when I moved into my house.

If you want to go live action either of the Parent Trap movies are excellent choices with great chemistry from the leads.  Why not have a party and watch both!

Downloads1

What are your favorite Disney romances? What did I miss?

Most Rewatchable Disney Canon Films

I will be seeing Big Hero 6 in the next 3 hours! Oh boy!

I was talking with a friend about Robin Hood and told her despite its problems it is one of the most rewatchable Disney’s.  What I mean by that is some movies are masterpieces but more weighty than the kind of thing I want to watch over and over again .

So what are those movies that I don’t mind repeat and frequent rewatching?  What’s the one that if I’m feeling like a movie that will entertain but not challenge me what do I pick?  I will add that I seem to have a unique high tolerance for repetition.  Other people tire of music, movies, food, books and I just don’t.  If it is something I like than I like it forever and repeatedly.

That said, some films like The Lion King I love but the intensity makes it tough to rewatch again and again.

I will also say that all of the Pixar movies with the exception of Brave (yes even Cars 2) are very rewatchable.   That’s why I’ve struggled to write up reviews of Pixar ,movies . How many ways can I say masterpiece?

pixar

 

Here goes in no particular order:

1.  Tangled- romantic comedies are probably my favorite genre to rewatch.  Tangled is funny, light, joyous, beautiful and a terrific villain.

Tangled_rapunzel_poster_20

2. Robin Hood- Maybe not the most ambitious Disney film but the humor makes it very rewatchable.  I love the voice performances and while it is a bit too long it is so much fun I enjoy rewatching it.

robin hood poster

3. Jungle Book- I hate the ending but other than that it is charming, funny, and the music is the true star.  It clips along so well with moments of real heart.  It is certainly up there in the movies I’ve seen the most.

1967_80sRR_JUNGLEBOOK

4. Emperor’s New Groove- Again not the most ambitious but so full of laughs that it is great to rewatch.  Comedies are often the best for rewatching as we don’t always feel up to an intense emotional experience.

emperors poster

5. Aladdin- Another comedy makes the list but Aladdin is so much fun with the manic energy of Robin Williams.  Every time I see it I spot a new impression or moment I had missed before.  It will entertain both boys and girls equally and it is just one I wouldn’t mind watching on most any day.

aladdin poster

6. Frozen- I can see many of you roll your eyes because you are sick of this movie.  I repeat I don’t get sick of movies.  If I like them I like them and I like Frozen.  I could listen to the music all day and the humor is great, pacing a lot of fun and I just enjoy watching it most any day.

Frozen-movie-poster

7. Lady and the Tramp- sweet, simple, romantic and with some tension and laughs.  Just something so pleasant I can’t think of a time when I would not enjoy watching it. As the poster says the ‘happiest motion picture’ from early Disney.

Lady-and-tramp-1955-poster

8. 101 Dalmatians- A lot of of humor with Cruella,  fun lively story, lots of great characters.  Dry with with Horace and Jasper.  Always at the top of my rewatch list.

101 dalmations

9. Lilo and Stitch- Probably my most emotional film on this list but it is so lovingly told and Lilo is such a real kid I am drawn to the picture despite my dislike for Stitch.  Maybe part of it is I find the Hawaiian local and music so relaxing it’s an easy rewatch for me..  It brings back many happy memories.

lilo and stitch poster

10. Mulan- Another movie with a lot of humor, romance, heart, and excitement.  Just thoroughly entertaining and not too deep or morose like other less rewatchable films.

Movie_poster_mulanHonorable Mentions- Beauty and the Beast although it feels a little long for a frequent rewatch, Little Mermaid because of my nostalgia for it, and Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which is probably the most rewatchable for little one’s.

 

Off to see Big Hero 6!!!!

Best Disney Villain Songs

Disney-Villains-ReelGood1

I already did Best Villains  so in honor of Halloween it seemed appropriate to talk about some villain music.  Particularly my favorite villain songs.  Actually there aren’t as many as you’d think.  Classic villains like Lady Tremaine and Maleficent don’t have a villain songs.

Special Notice- Hellfire-  I could not put this on my list but I know everyone will ask about it.  I just can’t support a song that is openly supporting the rape and murder of a woman.  I’ve talked about it so much on the blog.  It crosses a line I am not comfortable with.  That said, it is very well sung and the animation is haunting, so for that reason I am honoring it as separate from my list.

So that said- my list.

10. Trust in Me- One of the first villain songs in any Disney film and it is close to an Adam and Eve type villain as Disney gives us.  Like the serpent in the Biblical story, Kaaa oils and slithers his way around the jungle, hypnotizing his victims with his beguiling song.  It is made all the more creepy by the fact it is Sterling Holloway, the voice of Winnie the Pooh claiming to be Mowgli’s best of friends.

9. Gaston- Perhaps the funniest villain song.  It’s a big pep talk for our town hero.  The fact that we know he wants to make our heroine unhappy at whatever cost gives it an eery undertone.

8. Heffalumps and Woozles- One of the spookiest moments of Disney.  We’ve got a true nightmare with all the minor chords and inflections of a haunted house song.  There is also always something creepy about toys like jack in the boxes.  Plus, they want to steal Pooh’s honey!   This song is especially effective when you think it is aimed at toddlers. It’s in every shape and size, size, SIZE!

7. Prince Ali Reprise- While a reprise and not a complete song it is very effective.  A joyous number from earlier in the film is now used to control and manipulate.  At this point in the story Jafar has total control of the Genie and everything else.  It all looks very bad for our heroes.

6. Mob Song- An extremely chilling song because it’s an entire town taking on our heroes that are basically household items.  How is this going to work?  As the music escalates the tension gets tighter and stronger until we feel real panic, like a mob would feel.  The animation is striking and captures the darkness and increasing madness of Gaston and the crowd.

5. Savages- Perhaps the most thoughtful Disney villain song and it is the redemption of Pocahontas which made my bottom 10 Disney movies.  It is a cliche ridden historical travesty but in this song they reach some emotional truth.  Some criticize it for the way it stereotypes people but that’s the whole point of the song.  Both sides have rationalized why the other is the villain and needs to be done away with.  It’s very profound and beautifully drawn and sung.

4. World’s Greatest Criminal Mind- Brought in a series of villain songs in movies that would go nearly uninterrupted for the next decade of Disney movies.  Ratigan is a hilarious villain with Vincent Price as one of the best voices ever. The fact he kills a mouse for calling him a rat when his name is Ratigan is so funny.  Kind of like Gaston it is a funny villain song but very effective.  Ratigan is the closest Disney has ever gotten to an over-the-top Bond villain and I love it!

3. Mother Knows Best- As far as straight singing this is probably my favorite Disney villain song and one of my favorite songs.  Donna Murphey is amazing as Mother Gothel.  It is Sondheim level quality.  It takes the nurturing of motherhood and uses it to control and manipulate a child.  Is there anything colder than that?  It’s so effective.  I just love it!

2. Poor Unfortunate Souls- One of the most brilliant voice casting in Disney history.  Pat Carroll gives Ursula a mix of a truck driver and a drag queen.  She is on full saleswoman mode and uses every sweet and conniving method she can muster to tempt Ariel into her web. She would have said she’d cured cancer if it would have gotten her the ending she wants.  That’s my kind of villain.  The animation is brilliant and funny and I love that ursula is the only octopus we see aside from a brief glimpse of one in Under the Sea.  There is nobody who looks like her.  She is blackness, overweight, with red lipstick.  Got to like that!

1. Be Prepared-  In a movie where almost nobody did their own singing (even Broadway star Matthew Broderick didn’t),  it is especially compelling Jeremy Irons sang Be Prepared.  It is as close as Disney gets to a Hitler villain.  He even has Nazi hyenas.  He oils and defines his plan dripping with disdain for everyone including his brother.  He is a sociopath who has no guilt throughout the movie for any of his choices.  All he cares about is himself to the detriment of the entire kingdom.