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Disney Takes INDIANA JONES Property, Will Make Fifth Film Because Fuck Your Childhood

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In the most heartbreaking news article of the week, Disney has acquired the rights to Indiana Jones and plan on making a fifth film in the beloved franchise. Heralded as one of the greatest film trilogies in the history of film trilogies (although some are admittedly lukewarm on the ultra-campy Temple of Doom), the utterly heinous fourth film sought to dismember all fan love for the franchise. Now, a fifth film is in the works to challenge how far you can push viewers until they snap.

Subbing a grizzled and aged Indiana Jones for the snarky, cock of the walk ruffian who made the hat and whip combo into a thing, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull left a stain on the franchise unlikely to be wiped away by a follow up chartered by Disney. Introducing Indy’s son in Mutt (Shia Labeouf) was a play to pass the torch but was widely panned by all, making the likelihood of his playing a serious role in any future installments slim.  

But the question remains: what to do with the character? Sure, Ford could probably play him one last time, and perhaps try to make up for the utter disappointment of his last outing, but he’s hardly in physical shape to play the character any further on down the line (the guy isn’t getting any younger). This doesn’t leave the future of franchise with many options. Since the whole Shia/Mutt thing isn’t really an option, this really only leaves them with one choice: to James Bond it.

Instead of going back and rebooting Raiders with the same story, they can just pass the mantel to a new, younger actor without ever explaining the change and continue down a whole new line of whip-cracking adventures. This will allow them to remain in the same Nazi-filled time period, breathe new life into the character, and set him up as a mainstay for decades to come. But any duplicitous attempts to shoehorn any ol’ actor into Indy digs to take on supernatural/Nazi will be met with fierce fan uprising. However, if they put a proven talent in the role, people might not have such a knee-jerk freakout and may accept Indy as a changing man. Then again, what is Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford?

I guess I’d rather not really think about too much and instead will bow my head in respect for our lost friend, Indiana Jones (1981-89).

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Out in Theaters: FROZEN

“Frozen”
Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds, Chris Williams, Stephen J. Anderson

Animation, Adventure, Comedy
108 Mins
PG

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Although still lacking the gilded touch that made the likes of Aladdin, Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast such timeless classics, Frozen is a rock solid addition to the post-hand-drawn Disney musical stable and is the best animated feature of the year by a good margin.

Made up of a relatively unknown vocal talent, Frozen values story and song more than an all-star cast and kitschy pop culture jokes, making it an experience that’ll warm the most curmudgeonly of hearts and a film rich with beautifully-realized animation that keeps the wow factor buzzing for children and adults alike.

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The new roster of tunes sound inspired by an alluring amalgamation of Inuit folk songs and bubbly fad-pop songs the likes of Katy Perry. And while some songs are a little too bright for the taste of a self-respecting mid-twenties male, each has a narrative purpose accompanying its infectious melodic tendencies that all blend perfectly into the fabric of the story.

Eight new songs from Kristen Anderson-Lopez (In Transit, Winnie the Pooh) and Tony Award winner Robert Lopez (“The Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q”) are sure to inspire a whole new generation set to commit these catchy songs to memory. The best of which is the opening, near teary-eyed, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and the witty anthem courtesy of reanimated snowman Olaf (Josh Gad)- who is destined to be a favorite for all – in the openly hysterical “In Summer.”

Listening to these tunes, it’s clear why A-list celebrities have been sidelined for more undecided stars – they can all sing…and they can sing well. Unlike earlier Disney musical endeavors, no voice performer is swapped out for a sound-a-like. Keeping this narrative bridge consistent allows character to enliven their songs with the necessary emotional weight or comic vibrancy needed for the scene. But will they stand the test of time to join the ranks of “Tale as Old as Time,” “Circle of Life,” or “A Whole New World”? Probably not.
 
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Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” a non-Grimm fairy tale from 1845 that sees evil trolls, amnesiac kisses, and the Devil himself, Frozen pursues the sugarcoated stylings we’ve come to expect of Disney that champions heart over heinousness and works all the better for it.

In the royal town of Arendelle, we meet a newly crafted version of Andersen’s Snow Queen in Elsa (Idina Menzel), a withdrawn but hopeful young girl with magical powers of icy consequence. Quartered out of site after a childhood accident that nearly saw the death of her fearless younger sister, and this story’s other central heroine, Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa’s loving but misguided parents instill in her a mantra the close cousin of Gandalf’s “Keep it secret, keep it safe.” But throbbing beneath Elsa’s poised veneer is an unflinching desire to break free of the taut regulations that years of secrecy have instilled in her.

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Since we all know the most perilous job in the Disney kingdom is parenthood, it’s no surprise that the young princesses’ parents are lost in a storm at sea, leaving Elsa to take up the mantle of Queen when she reaches the ripe age of womanhood. Years later, on her coronation day, Elsa’s buried abilities are shaken loose by an overeager Anna whose heart is newly set on marrying prince Hans (Santino Fontana), whom she met just hours earlier. Unhinged by a sense of crumbling familial guardianship, Elsa unwittingly lets loose years of repressed icy powers to cover her island community in a blanket of eternal winter. Finally, the town’s people see her for what she really is – a sorceress lacking the most basic semblance of control.  

Deemed a monster by the unscrupulous tradesmen passing through Arendelle on a business trip, fatally cute, and morbidly naive, Anna employs the help of ice salesman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer BFF Sven to locate her escaped sister and return the city to prosperity before it’s too late. The normative fairy tale lessons of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Be true to yourself” are pounded home but the dichotomy of two princesses each struggling with their own separate but equal identity crises is a new chapter in the Disney princess manual.

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After absolutely dominating the 90s with some of the best animated features, Disney suffered a nosedive in quality that saw the likes of Treasure Planet, Bolt, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Meet the Robinsons flail and fall into obscurity, a side effect of their unwillingness to change with the ebb of culture. Halting their dominant reign (that unarguably stopped after 1998’s Mulan), newcomers Pixar started their own golden age which took the wind out of Disney’s sails. Bookending the period of Disney’s supremacy and the coming of Pixar’s rising star, Disney faded from the spotlight.

But with their recent string of successes, made up of 2010’s Tangled, last year’s Wreck it Ralph and now Frozen, it seems that Disney is finally back on top as the animation studio to beat. Although the hand-drawn days of animation have come to a close, the same immaculately rendered, noticeably loving detail is put into each and every breathtaking sequence in Frozen. This not only has resulted in an animated feature worthy of Disney’s legacy but it’s essentially is assured Frozen a win at this year’s Oscar ceremonies.

Adapting to a new generation of tech-savvy, open-minded youngsters, the House of Mouse also gives some much-needed wiggle room for Frozen to step away from Disney’s legacy of antiquated sexual identities, chartering a new and exciting course for post-feminist Disney princesses. Our main heroine may still be a landlocked princess but a smooch from a prince may not be the ultimate life bandaid we’ve seen in a thousand children’s tales before. Rather, true love is found in self-discovery, or simply etched in the fiber of the nuclear family. This is a new brand of lesson in a new social climate, one where the tenants of yesteryear cease to dictate the values of tomorrow.

B+

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MALEFICENT Gets a Fairy Tale Trailer

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Nipping at the heels of yesterday’s poster comes the first trailer for Disney’s Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. Revealing a CGI-heavy world too reminiscent of this year’s piss-poor Oz: The Great and Powerful, this latest in a string of live action adaptations of classic Disney tales looks to be just another in a long list of throwaway cash grabs. At one point, I remember thinking that both Oz and Snow White and the Huntsman looked like they had some promise but both ended up being some of the worst films that I’d seen all year. From this first look, I’m almost willing to already retire Maleficent into that category.

The biggest issues these slew of new age fairy tales face is that they try to be everything for everybody, balancing light and dark elements amongst a dump truck of special effects and C-grade humor that goes slightly over kids heads but is too dumbed down for adults to really enjoy. Although this first teaser trailer doesn’t showcase much of the goings on in the story, the setting itself is highly reminiscent of the landscape of those aforementioned films – not to mention the one that started it all, Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland – and for it, I’ve lost any hope that this is anything but another cookie-cut slice of the Disney pie.

Visual effects guy Robert Stromberg will direct with John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Bank) apparently brought in to do some reshoots. A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal — an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora (Elle Fanning). As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom — and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

Maleficent is directed by Robert Stomberg and stars Angelina Jolie, Miranda Richardson, Imelda Staunton, Kenneth Cranham, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville and Brenton Thwaites. It hits theaters on May 30, 2014.

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Angelina Jolie is Horny in Poster for MALEFICENT

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A twist on Disney’s classic animated feature Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent revolves around the “Mistress of All Evil,” here played by Angelina Jolie. Much like “Wicked” took the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, Malficent sees the story through the eyes of the antagonist, revealing just how she did become so evil after all.

In storybook lore, jealous that she was not invited to her christening, Malficent cursed baby Aurora to prick her finger and die before she hit 16. Once called the “most menacing villain in Disney canon,” it’ll be interested to see how effective Disney is at humanizing a character that’s always been little more than a deep hue of evil. 

Visual effects guy Robert Stromberg will direct with John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Bank) apparently brought in to do some reshoots. A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal — an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora (Elle Fanning). As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom — and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

Maleficent is directed by Robert Stomberg and stars Angelina Jolie, Miranda Richardson, Imelda Staunton, Kenneth Cranham, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville and Brenton Thwaites. It hits theaters on May 30, 2014.

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Will Disney's FROZEN Freeze Up Animated Competition's Oscar Odds?

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With Pixar in a bit of a tailspin following their triple-decker slump in quality (Cars 2, Brave, Monsters University), “rival” studios like Disney (who actually owns Pixar, but that’s neither here nor there) and Dreamworks have been given more of a chance to step into the spotlight and try and carve out their own day in the spotlight. It seems clear that Monsters University, Despicable Me 2, and The Croods are shoe-ins for Best Animated Picture nominations but none of them seem primed to take home gold. Considering this largely lackluster spread of animated features (the best of which, in my opinion, has been Turbo), Disney’s Frozen stands a good chance at nabbing the coveted top spot come award’s season.

Directed by Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf’s Up) and Jennifer Lee (in her first directorial gig), Frozen follows Anna, a fearless optimist, who teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encounters Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.

At this point, what sets Frozen aside from the approach of many other similar budget animated features is the voice talent (or lack their of.) While most animation studios these days spend a pretty penny on well-known celebrity voices, Frozen‘s vocal department is characterized by Hollywood outsiders, but cult-favorites, Kristen Bell and Alan Tudyk.

Frozen is directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and stars Kristen Bell, Alan Tudyk, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad. It hits theaters on November 27, 2013.

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