Tag Archives: beauty and the beast

Review: Disney’s Descendants

Well, I tweeted while watching it, I figure I might as well review it, right?

Descendants is the story of the children of our favorite princes, princesses, villains, and sidekicks, looking for their own adventures. It all begins when Ben, the son of King Adam and Queen Belle of Beauty and the Beast fame, decides that the children of villains deserve a chance, rather than being imprisoned on an island behind an anti-magic barrier with their parents. He suggests a small group to begin with: Carlos, the son of Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmations, Jay, the son of Jafar from Aladdin, Evie, the daughter of the Evil Queen from Snow White…and Mal, the daughter of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. It’s the last who especially sets everyone on edge–and for good reason. Maleficent plans to use this idea of Ben’s as a chance to get the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand and free her and the other villains. But what if Mal starts to have second thoughts about whether or not she’s actually evil?

As far as Disney movies go, it’s pretty formulaic even by their standards. I mean, I was shocked thirty minutes in when the kids almost achieved their goal, but then one of the kids bungles things and so we have to have so many attempts at getting the stupid thing. The plot suffered because there were just so many characters going on, and none of them really had subplots going in the same direction. So the main plot had to try and herd them all together…which just made things even more of a mess and it felt like we didn’t really get to touch on some of them, especially Carlos who I felt got shafted a bit. Jay and Evie sort of manged to survive with some character depth, but a lot of the attention went to Mal because…Mal’s plot was also the main plot, she just had some internal conflict going on in addition.

That said, I did love most of the characters. They did a good job with the villain kids, showing them slowly coming to the good side by softening their look. (I’m holding on to hope that the end was just them being formal and they are going to stay fairly punk in their more everyday outfits.) As characters, I loved how reversed Evie and Jay were from their parents. Evie actually likes cooking and cleaning and sewing, which seems contradictory to her mother, and whereas Jafar was all about the intellect, Jay is very physical. Carlos also had a little of that, reminding me more of Horace and Jasper than Cruella. Mal was very much her mother’s daughter, which actually was a bonus because it fit with where they were going with their character. Aubrey at times fell too hard into the mean girl role, I would have liked to see more depths, while Ben actually shocked the bejeebus out of me at the end with his surprising changes (though he’s Belle’s kid, how I missed that he would be smart, I don’t know.) Again, there was just a lack of focus that made it hard to get as much out of them as I would have liked.

World building and back stories wise, we got given a bit of an info dump at the beginning, and then we were just sort of tossed in. Which…didn’t exactly work. Most of the Disney films are actually set in different time periods and countries, and most of them are even historical. I couldn’t get how the heck Carlos could be in the same universe as Ben, for example. Really, despite it being in the song that they remixed, they seemed to have forgotten that the set Beauty and the Beast in France, not some random magical kingdom they made up. I just wish we had gotten less names thrown around and more focus on the history of the characters and how this crazy world came to exist. Hell, that could have been added motivation for Mal’s eventual heel-face-turn!

Now, because this is live action, I have to pick on the acting and costumes a little bit. I normally give Disney channel movies a bit of credit. I mean, I was raised during the golden age of Disney TV movies actually being good, but I know it’s a bit more hit or miss now. But I actually thought a lot of the actors were at least decent, with some potential for more. The exception…was the guy they got for Ben. The title male character, and he was stiff and flat a lot of the time, especially in dance scenes (not good for a musical). He had his moments, but overall, I expect better if you are going to make him the co-lead. While some of the nods to the parents were neat, the colors were sometimes overly bright. They could have muted them and made their point just as clear. I also don’t get why Maleficent had black lips when one of her big signatures is her bright red lipstick. The crown for the coronation also looked awful and fake, which is cringe worthy.

Despite all of this, the visual effects were awesome, and I have to give a shout out to Maleficent’s actress, since she was great. And as everyone saw in the tweets, yes, she was the original Glinda from Wicked and she is also from my home state. I am proud. I also loved Belle and her little whacks at Adam whenever he said something she didn’t like, it made me snicker. Which is good, since Adam is still a bit of a jerk (yay, characters being consistent) and needs his leash tugged occasionally. Obviously I loved the female villain-bred heroes, since Evie and Mal sort of just stole my heart, and I loved the evil little smirks and power walks they had, especially how Evie’s plot boiled down to, you don’t have to be an airhead to catch a guy….heck, you don’t even need the guy. And still I was on the Ben and Mal train through all of this!

Okay, I have to wrap this up. As far as an obvious answer to the Ever After High franchise goes, Disney did…okay. They could have fleshed things out more, and they obviously forgot their own canon in places. But (and this is a big but), this first movies appears to be, in Disney fashion, a franchise building block, much like a first book in a longer running series. As far as that goes… They did good. I will definitely be seeing what’s going on in the sequel, and while the books look to be too juvenile for me to even glance at (curses), I hope they will do great things with the animated shorts coming out.

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Top 10 Favorite Movies

I know, not a review, but it’s something. I’ve discovered I don’t have the second Shadow saga book, and refuse to buy it just for consistency. (Maybe with Christmas money next year.) I have a movie sitting around, waiting for me to watch and return it to its owner, and the Ginny-donation-box needs gone through so I know what I have. But for this week, I thought I would do a list of my favorite movies, spurned on by a conversation happening on the drive home from a medieval fair.

So with that, I give you my top favorite movies (err, sort of). There were a few exceptions made in the case of series where you like all the movies in it equally, it could count as one. I suspect because the guy who asked the question wanted to make sure people like me just didn’t start listing MCU movies…

10. How to Train Your Dragon

There’s a lot to love about this movie. On one hand, I have to knock it a bit because it is apparently way different from its source material, and as a writer, that irks me. But they took the concept and ran with it, which I thought was impressive. I love the fact that Hiccup is this plucky, skinny little kid that doesn’t have the brawl and doesn’t need it, instead just needing his smarts. I also love the fact that Astrid is a bit of a tomboy, yes, and is very much the fighter and athletic type, but she is still considered beautiful and feminine. And then the dialogue is perfect, and I love how cat-like the dragons are… It’s really just an amazing film.

9. Pitch Black/Chronicles of Riddick/Riddick

…Someone is going, “Wait, Rebecca, you can’t do horror, why are these on your favorite list…?” I know I can’t do horror, which is why it’s all the way down here at number 9. 😛 Yes, some elements of these movies gives me nightmares. But I love the way the anti-hero was shaped, even if I think we took a weird tangent in the second movie. I’ve done some slightly more in-depth thoughts on this franchise, and I stand by them. But I love them, and I look forward to seeing where it goes in oncoming films. (Plus, I really, really like Vin Diesel, okay?)

8. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

I am a sucker for this TV series, despite some of the weird/stupid episodes. I thought that this movie was a great way of showing Terry stepping into the mantle of the Batman, and it also helps answer the question of what happened to at least one of the Robins. It makes some nods towards the series that are great in context of it as a whole. I have to knock it a little, since if you don’t know some of what happened in at least the first season, some of the emotional bombs don’t hit as hard, and it’s not as obvious that Terry is not a genius like Bruce without that further evidence, so the ending is less of a comeuppance. But there are still moments that even a newbie to the concept can love if they watch it just as a stand-alone, and most of the history is general Batman history and thus easy enough to grab on to (or is explained).

7. Beauty and the Beast

My very first review on this blog was about this movie, though it was over the 3-D rendition and had some problems. I know there are some people who have severe issues with the plot of this movie, shouting Stockholm Syndrome and verbal abuse. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I am saying that I think that is a pretty quick leap. Is the situation weird, yes. But this is a fantasy movie, weird situations are the norm. But I won’t get into an argument on this list. I love this idea of a brainy girl who doesn’t fit in with her surroundings and wants more out of life, falling in love with someone who similarly doesn’t belong, of finding love with each other. I love the idea of love helping you become a better person. The side characters also have their moments of glory, and I’ll admit it, I have deep issues with trusting the popular, pretty boy, and Gaston being the jerky villain is awesome.

6. Marvel Cinematic Universe

Okay, this is the first of the cheater choices. I just can’t pick a favorite, and they are so inter connected, it’s hard to separate them out. It doesn’t help matters that my favorite hero hasn’t had a solo movie and doesn’t look to be getting one either… (I’m such a Hawkeye fan girl.) There are questionable choices at times in the writing, and I don’t always like which of the Marvel universes they pull from, but everything is working well together, and they are pacing themselves well. You can tell, for example, that Iron Man is pulling back to be a more supportive role and his solo character arc is resolved and now it’s him in the group. My working theory is that Captain America is going to wrap up with this third, and Thor with is. They aren’t letting one character become more than the series as a whole, and that I think is what makes Avengers so amazing.

(…Don’t ask me about Agents of SHIELD. Just don’t. I have all sorts of mixed feels, because they are writing a really weird Bobbi…)

5. The Last Unicorn

Yeah, you should have timed this one appearing on this list. God, I loved this movie growing up. I don’t remember how many times I rented it, but it was an insane number of times. And what’s not to love? Schmedrick and Molly Grue are amazing characters, with deep character flaws but even bigger hearts. Amalthia starts out not necessarily flat but very much lacking in certain levels of human empathy. And when that starts to change, it breaks your heart. And the ending isn’t completely happy but honest and true to its world, which in fact keeps with the original source material…like this movie does amazingly well at, just cutting stuff for time reasons in ways that make sense. It’s an under appreciated classic that really deserves more attention.

4. Lord of the Rings Trilogy

And here’s the second cheater. But honestly, these three again are so wound together, it’s really hard to separate them. And while I may get more frustrated with the first two, that’s only because TNT and other channels marathon the dickens out of them but rarely show the third. I own the super long, box-set versions, so I don’t watch them as much as I like because really, who has that kind of time? But I appreciate them because there are all those extra little moments. (Okay, and because the Faramir/Eowyn moments were a lot more blatant in those versions). As someone who read the books too young, if I’m honest to myself, and got bogged down in Two Towers, these movies were well-done and helped me feel the same excitement that I know the books inspire in other people

3. Three Musketeers

Specifically, I mean the version that Disney put out with Tim Curry as the cardinal. It sticks the closest to the original story as far as screenplay/stage adaptations go according to other people’s research, not mine. And honestly, the characters make this story and the way the actors portray them. The plot is ridiculously straight-forward, there aren’t any surprise twists coming. But the characters, man… I can’t even pick a favorite, that’s how awesome they all are. And there are lots of comedic moments, but some of serious drama that can just break your heart. And it flows very well between the comedy and the drama so it doesn’t jar you out of the story. And they are all so relatable and human, down to their silliest of flaws. (Like Pathos being a pathological liar, since there is no Queen of America.) I highly recommend this movie (except…maybe not for the kids. It gets a bit too serious and gory.)

2. Twelve Angry Men

What is this, a black and white film that is in no way fantasy or scifi? Shut your mouth! …Okay, in all seriousness, I love this movie. You’ve probably seen nods to it elsewhere, since I knew some shows that are episodic rather than overarching plot have done versions of it. (Hey Arnold! and the pulling of the fire alarm, for example.) It doesn’t have your traditional, physical conflict. Everything is done through words and differences in personality. The twelve characters are all different from each other, though some are pretty similar so it can get confusing trying to explain it rather than watch it. It doesn’t help that they are known by juror numbers only. You get to the point where you don’t care who is what number or who they are, you recognize the character and know their motivation, and that’s what matters. And it all builds on top of each into an absolutely amazing climax. Even if old black and white movies aren’t your thing, you should totally check this one out.

1. Cats Don’t Dance

Despite my education and supposed grown-up status, I will always be a girl obsessed with animated movies and musicals. This movie is the best of both and is always going to be the best in my heart. I love Sawyer’s sassiness and the fact that, let’s face it, she’s a better performer than our male lead, she just needs a push to try again. And because of the type of cat design they went with for her, she actually comes across as being plump and curvy rather than a stick, which is a big thumb’s up in my book. Darla is an absolutely amazing villain, especially when combined with Max, to create an almost Pinky and the Brain dynamic. And I think the idea of a animal actors trying to make it big like the humans is just awesome. The music is catchy and actually has a jazz feel to it rather than the Broadway musical feeling that most movies end up going with. The animation is good Warner Bro. animation, which is just as good if not better than Disney at times, and the way they use color is just a great touch. Overall, I think it’s just an under-appreciated animated classic, and definitely deserves recognition.


Beauty and the Beast in 3D Review

Figured I might as well start with one of the films that started it all… Because the fantasy nut had to start somewhere, and where better than an enchanted castle? Between this movie, The Last Unicorn, and Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles series, my world fundamentally became mystical before I was even ten.

I went into the film a giant skeptic. I have mixed feelings about suddenly re-releasing everything that was ever considered a major film in 3D, simply because some of them are not going to take the treatment well. However, I also figured an animated film such as this one had a better shot than most, plus that Tangled short was calling my name, so I bit the bullet and paid the extra money for the full experience.

That extra lump of change? Totally worth it within the first five minutes of film. Going through the forest to zoom in on the castle and the stain glass was done amazingly well, I was literally in awe like it was my first time watching it all over again. (Even though I swear there was some rewording in that narrator-prologue in one spot. My friend says I’m crazy, and she may be right since I don’t have the original film on hand to compare.)

Sadly, the greatness could not continue. I immediately spotted how, when they were making everything into 3D, some coloration, primarily shadows and subtle shading to some of the characters, was lost in the process. They sometimes just sat on the ground, without shadows to indicate anything was there at all or a change in the ground to show that dirt was being displaced by a foot. The sound started sounding goofy about the same time, making some of the background dialogue seem really loud (though that is potentially a theater, not a film, problem). Some of that background scenery earned new notice with the treatment, though, and made me giggle. Such as the woman who sings, “You call this bacon?” actually holding up a fish. No, a fish is not bacon (not that I think bacon is part of the time period either). Much like how in Mahjong, we cannot figure out how a bird is related to bamboo, which we also call bacon because of the way it is drawn. (Okay, we really can take an education guess at the bird, but it has become a running joke now.) The little moments and awesome scenery really just out-showed the now flat-color characters (worse than the original, I mean.)

They went a little crazy adding extra branches to the dark woods for 3D effects during slow parts. It got a little too overcrowded visually for me at some points, especially with Phillip and Maurice in the first scene there in the woods. It was a little better with Belle and Phillip vs. the wolves later. The rain on the castle got nuts. I understand adding to it for 3D, but it got out of proportion with the rest of the frame in some scenes or too heavy period in others… Plus, proportions in the castle got absolutely bonkers. I understand, enchanted castle. Things are going to probably be a little wonky. All the scary gargoyles become angels, for pity’s sake, after the spell is broken. But still… I think the interior ended up being about eight times bigger than the physical. See that line, about a mile back…? Yeah, it’s the line of believability, and it got crossed.

Another aspect of disappointment was the 3D’s affect on the Beast. Maybe this is the fact the coloration on my childhood TVs were always pretty dark, but I never knew completely what the Beast looked like until Belle first saw him. I know we all now know what he looks like, but it is such an awesome cinematic introduction, with sharp overhead lighting after so much shadow and suspense… It makes me really sad that he got lightened up to the point of easy visibility in the earlier scenes with Maurice.

The sound and flat colors continued (plus me just noticing a couple of color fails on the original’s parts. Phillip’s feathers should have been white…), especially in Lafou’s song (OW, my ears, he was so out of proportion with the others singers in “Gaston”). The ballroom scene, thankfully, survived moderately intact. There was one moment of color fail with Belle’s dress where instead of that rich gold it was canary yellow, but that was the only moment I cringed in that scene… Belle didn’t escape problems entirely, though. Her eye color kept changing. It started out the same color as her hair, then it became green, then an olive brown. It was a little weird. The big changing scene also had this long scene with Belle next the Beast as he rose up into the air… I don’t remember this scene. Was this another short insert (there’s another of a random screen shot of the stairs)? Hmm… Don’t see the purpose, other than to shoot starbursts at the audience.

Good news, no random insert of song from the re-release on DVD/Blue-ray, that’s a total YAY moment. I still went “AWWWW!” embarrassingly loud when the Beast said he loved Belle, and whimpered when Belle said the same thing later (This movie turns me into an even worse sap). I still inwardly grumbled about the Beast changing back, but that’s a problem I have with the story itself. For some reason, I keep wanting the monsters to physically stay, you know…monsters. Gaston is still a major slime ball… Though apparently his whispering to Lafou makes no sense at the end of “Gaston.” My friends swear they heard random, unrelated words this time. Chip is still adorable and confused by the grown-ups talking over his head… I totally recommend the movie, just for the opening and closing sequences because they are worth the 3D charge.

…And the Tangled short is just awesome sauce. Not gonna lie.

(Random preview story: There was a clip. With silver, type-face font. Talking about how last year, the four disappeared from the screen, and were returning this summer. My friend and I literally reached over to grab hands, thinking it was an Avengers preview and about to SERIOUSLY FREAK OUT and just go completely geek in the theater (to the mortification of the other two with us, I’m sure).

…It was for Madagascar 3. We were NOT amused.)