Tag Archives: disney

Disney Plus’ Highly Acclaimed “The Mandalorian” Breaks the Internet

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The internet has been talking about The Mandalorian (2019) for weeks. The stakes are high that Disney+ attracted its many subscribers due to the long-awaited Star Wars rather than its promise of the extensive library of the classic tales. With Jon Favreau in the creator and writer seat who had a driving influence on the formation of Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems like there won’t be any second thoughts on the success of The Mandalorian. 

The first episode sets up the facts very subtly for the avid Star Wars fan and those who turned their devices on for the extensive publicity of the show. Favreau says in an interview, “When a universe is filled with chaos, you have tough characters emerging”; this is exactly what happens in The Mandalorian. Specifically, for those who are unfamiliar with the Star Wars Universe, the empty deserted streets, disturbing quietness, bars full of the good guys and the bad guys are not hard to catch. This is a world ignoring the painful aftermath of the chaos. The world needs a hero, but scene one never tells the viewer whether the Mandalorian is one. Instead, it gives off the idea that he is a bounty hunter. Is he a good one? The suspense builds up as the viewer navigates through the story to uncover his true identity. The series slowly yet so effectively introduces the viewer to its leading character. The Mandalorian is not a thriller, but it surely has moments that make the viewers hold their breath.

“You are a Mandalorian. Your ancestors rode the great Mythosaur. Surely you can ride this young foal.”

While understanding the sub-genre of the Star Wars series as we know to be sci-fi may take some processing, the soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson is a great help. My initial thoughts throughout episode one are mixed; there seems to be too much emphasis on tribalism, which at first did not add to the story. Before Mandalorian begins his search for an intriguing target, he needs a ride. Not a particular spaceship, but a creature called blurg. The Mandalorian establishing control over the creature is a moment to cherish for those the Star Wars fans. It reveals a piece of Mandalorian culture and mythology. Read more

[Review] The Lion King: How Simba Changed the Fate of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes 

In case you live in a cave and did not notice—Disney is on a roll with the live-action remakes of our favorite stories. It all started with Alice in Wonderland (2010) which had its strong cast bring over a billion to Disney’s thick wallet, entered a decline phase with The Jungle Book (2016) due to its odd tone and mixed reviews, and in my personal opinion, Disney hit rock bottom with poor casting and several other issues by releasing Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Aladdin (2019)The Lion King (2019) directed and produced by Jon Favreau, however, helped Disney’s magic to reach our hearts, again, just like the 90s. Here, I will explain how Disney finally stopped failing the audiences.

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Realism. Once I wiped off my tears coming out of the theatre, I decided to pay my respects to The Lion King (1994) at home and figure out why this animated documentary-like feature film worked so well. The first thing I noticed was Favreau’s attention to detail, and I assure you, he made sure we, as the audience knew about this. Favreau spent valuable effort to walk us through our surroundings, identify the appearance of species of all kinds, and appreciate one of the best (and likely leading) Virtual Reality production techniques within the film industry. Compared to the 1994 version, I could easily appreciate the 2019 feature for its identical yet heightened visuals. As Favreau explains, realism is what makes the film so unique. Ironically, it also produces the magic the previous films missed.

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Music. Better yet, the voice actors have done exceptional work: Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) gave us the hurt and careless Simba at the same time. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s vocals (as Scar) were the closest thing to a brilliant Broadway performance. But, the real star in the voice work was Seth Rogen who made us all adore a warthog. Despite the never-ending coverage about Beyoncé’s casting on top of her new album inspired by The Lion King, her voice did not shine in the production. I think we are so used to hearing Beyoncé’s strong vocals that Disney music seemed a bit toned down for her vocals. Nonetheless, Favreau managed to awkwardly insert a short section of Beyoncé’s new original, “Spirit” in the film. If you catch the scene, I am sure you will agree that it just seems like a poor editing job rather than an integral part of the movie. Read more

Disney’s Live-Action Aladdin: If it wasn’t for the Genie…

Copyrights: Disney Studios.

With its agenda focused on the live-action reenactments of its all-time classic films, Disney’s Aladdin followed the recent Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo films to find its spot in the local theatres. Anyone who watched the animated Aladdin would agree that it is a risky choice for a live action adaptation. The 1992 Alaaddin was the greatest dance of colors a screen could ever house in itself. During the Disney renaissance, Aladdin was the film that made the second highest profits for Disney.

There are some things that need to stay in their initial artforms to meet up and play with our imaginations. 1992 Aladdin will always be one of those films for me. For this very reason, I had low expectations from this remake. I have more than a few comments to make. So, let’s start, shall we?

The Good
The scene in the cave that built up to Aladdin‘s iconic encounter with the Genie was spectacular. Yes, we have the green-screen technology here in 2019, but not one ever granted me a time travel with the green screen before. The particular scene was a favorite of mine. It also marked the point in which Will Smith (or “the genie”) took the reins of the film and started dominating the screen, leading us through the mystical possibilities with a sense of humor.

I have to admit, I never really liked Will Smith’s acting choices. The guy is talented, but his films never really spoke to me. Alaaddin, though, is the proof that you can put Will Smith, an animated monkey, and a carpet together, and keep a crowd entertained. He often outplayed the rest of the actors (not— Menna Massoud*) and erased them off of the screen for me. Production-wise, this is bad, but Smith surely deserves praise. It is not his fault that the casting didn’t work out the best, right?

*I have never watched Menna Massoud in any other productions. To me, he did not lead the film, but he seems to be a promising actor. While I could see many of the characters easily replaced by someone new, Massoud’s energy and visuals brought the animated Aladdin to life. If there is ever a sequel, Massoud’s portrayal holds a promise to be iconic.

The Bad
Both the accents and non-accents made me cringe. Why is it that the two lead characters have smooth accents? Why is it that the rest of the cast is speaking with unnoticeably noticeable accents that just hang in the air? I am confused. I am also not sure if this is a move by the production team to make the exotic film somewhat politically correct, or they were simply scared of criticism. What do I think? Time for a reality check. This is obviously an ethnic story re-made for profits. You can’t walk away from criticism and you obviously will offend people. So, make a choice and stand with it.

I adore the original Aladdin soundtrack. My long-time musical theatre experience often makes me give mediocre reviews for the on-screen musical adaptations. I can’t say I adore the re-make soundtrack, I can’t say I hate it. It is okay, which sounds like an insult to such great music. This is mainly because of Naomi Scott and the ensemble, that really failed to thrill me as I had hoped. Disney films, to me, are made complete by the ensemble in every way. Sadly, I did not see or hear it in Aladdin.

Let’s get to Jasmine’s solo. It finally revealed the complexity of Jasmine’s powerful character. The song was beautiful, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether Celine Dion was singing it. Seriously, close your eyes and tell me I am wrong. It did not nor will it ever fit into the classic soundtrack. It is a great attempt at girl empowerment but absolutely fails to represent the Middle Eastern roots of Aladdin.

The Ugly
There are different opinions about the origin of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’s story, but the common knowledge is that it is from the Arabian Nights. It was painful for me to see this identity crisis throughout the film. The ruler is the sultan, there are notions to the Arabic serai (or palace) regime, and it greatly reminds me of the prime time Middle Eastern tv shows about the Ottoman Empire. And on the other hand, I could swear the costumes and cinematic angle of the happy dancing is out of Bollywood. The intention seems to be directed towards inclusivity. Sadly, my eyes I couldn’t see that. I saw a mish-mash of different cultural figures put together, and it was chaotic.

Should you see Aladdin? Absolutely. Set your expectations low, but as Aladdin says, trust him—and the genie, of course.

[A Review] How to Recover After Avengers: Endgame

The following review is spoiler-free, but my comments may get you thinking about possibilities, I suppose. Read at your own risk.

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Patiently sitting through the end credits, being handed over tissues, sobbing a little more, waiting for the post-credit scene that I know is, definitely, not happening.  I wish I hadn’t seen the movie for a while longer.

Avengers: Endgame is Russo Brothers’ best work yet. A majority of the viewers would agree that we were heartbroken, but not disappointed. Marvel Studios have given us what we asked for: The end of a hero’s journey. So gracefully representing what it means to be a hero: Selfless and brave, as mythic as it can be, but also vulnerable and honest about their fears.  There is also a touch of Disney’s magic as the movie drove the overall notion, “I will die trying if it means I am serving the ones I love”.

Endgame completes the Infinity War, yet, is a distinct, special, emotionally-charged experience. In a way, it puts more sense into the rollercoaster ride of the Infinity War. The three hours are absolutely made use of, well-transitioned, and necessary to unravel the narrative.

The film does a good job of digging deeper into character development which is so different from what we are used to within the origin stories and follow-ups. Our superheroes change, they are broken, and finding their way back doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll showcase their punches and kicks, but rather it is a journey that almost fixes their brokenness, and gives us, the viewers, some relief at the same time.

There’s so much more I would like to address in terms of cinematography and representation, however, I’ll let this experience sink in a little more until I get to it. And the question of how to recover after the Endgame? –I suggest appreciating what the franchise had given us for the past 10 years and the Endgame experience as a whole. Keep in mind, the MCU has a history of great resurrection and we could only hope for one last one.

This may be my love letter (back) to Lee, Feige, The Russo’s, Favreau and Downey. Thank you for gracefully fixing our broken parts. I cannot see the Endgame projected onto the screens any other way.

The Streaming Wars: Disney+ to dominate all

 

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Photo credits: Techcrunch.com

 

From Snow White to Iron Man, Star Wars to the Monster’s Inc., there is something for everyone in Disney’s World. The small yet iconic Mickey Mouse has been taking over the well-established characters of the film industry for a while now. Not many of us know the end goal but let me walk you through Walt’s direction that brought back an old trick: Disney+

Prior to his great success—Walt Disney was interested in TV due to its ability to increase the visual appeal of Disney products, and this was the most-influential post-war decision in the American culture, that encompassed the consumer through “total merchandising”. Later, Disney signed an agreement with ABC. The Disneyland tv show elaborated to the economic transformation of the company. In the time span of a year, Disney attracted half of ABC’s ad bills, and ABC had to operate at loss. Disney’s contract with ABC was an opportunity to capitalize on the studio’s library of films.

Disney’s textuality outset was indifferent from the traditional approach it fragmented, propelled and guided the viewer away from the TV episodes, but guided them to a more persuasive text that encouraged further consumption.

Flash forward to 2019— Disney officially owns the following studios (entirely or more than %49 ownership) ESPN, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel, Lucasfilm, A&E, The History Channel, Lifetime. The studio ownerships, film productions, and finally… the transformed TV era plans come back with the birth of online streaming. Disney+ is ready to dominate your screens.

Disney + is set to launch on November 12, 2019. The cost will be $6.99 a month, or $69.99 for a whole year. Can’t we all expect chaos in the Netflix office already? With their monthly price at a double rate, there will be competitive changes to be made. Or not? We shall see. Other streaming services owned by Disney, Hulu and ESPN Plus – will run on the same platform, will likely require separate subscriptions.

What shows are on the agenda? (Hat tip to CNN Business).

Live Action Series
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (available at launch)
The Mandalorian (available at launch)
Diary of a Female President (launching in year one)
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (launching in year one)
Loki (launching in year two)
Untitled Cassian Andor Series (launching in year two)
WandaVision (launching in year two)

Animated Series & Shorts
Forky Asks a Question (available at launch)
SparkShorts (available at launch)
Lamp Life (launching in year one)
Monsters at Work (launching in year one)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (launching in year one)
Marvel’s What If…? (launching in year one)

A Bonus: The Simpsons announced their partnership with Disney+ by saluting their corporate overlords just yesterday.

New deals, new franchises, new streaming outlet… where does it all lead?
Luckily, the end goal remains the same. Walt Disney Corporations is not taking over the world (yet). But they continue to build on the plan to make the theme parks more profitable through TV… ehem, I mean streaming services!

Disney recently made $2 billion investment to its theme parks. The Secret Life of Pets is getting a theme park ride at Universal Hollywood (expected 2020), “Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge” theme park is set to open in 2019, “Guardians of the Galaxy Blast In” comes in 2021.

Disney Corporate must be expecting new profits through its streaming service that will continuously drive fans to the theme parks. It worked in the ’50s, why not now? After all, don’t we all want to live a little magic?

Works Cited/Further Reading
Disneyland (1993) by Christopher Anderson

Lee’s Legacy and Feige’s Vision Hits the Box Offices: Captain Marvel

The following article was first published on Mars’ Hill Newspaper (Vol. 23, Issue 10) under the title of “Captain Marvel”.

Captain Marvel just dropped into the theatres of the earth from the Kree Empire. Mind you, she is from the 90s—so get ready for the nostalgia-packed soundtrack while you watch Brie Larson kick ass!

Since its opening night March 7th, Marvel’s newest release, Captain Marvel, has received a variety of criticism. Some say she is the embodiment of a male prototype in a desirable female body, others claim Carol is the superhero they never knew they needed more of on the silver screen, especially after the debut of Wonder Woman.

The mastermind Kevin Feige, whose vision built the Marvel Studios from ground up (thanks to Iron Man!), spent a budget of $152 million on Captain Marvel’s production and doubled the studio’s profit with a record-breaking $455 million worldwide in its first weekend. This is a grossing more than the totals of any three-day opening of a motion picture this year.

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There is a question worth answering: To what does Captain Marvel owe its success?

Unlike Stan Lee’s legacy of comic book inspired continuity, Captain Marvel welcomes newcomers with Carol’s origin story and doubles that with cues about Fury’s past as well. On top of the complexity of his character, the young Samuel L. Jackson is a delight to watch on screen (thanks to the blockbuster’s make-up artists!). Even though Fury is not the tough authority figure we are used to seeing as the leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D., he still plays a crucial role in stirring the storyline, and he is a living reminder that the actor has a huge role in creating a legendary character.

A common criticism and a generalization was that Carol Danvers, and the rest of the female superheroes, were created on the basis of “girl power” and while doing so, the character was still masculinized. Masculinization might be a way to empower female superheroes, but it is definitely not the only way. I see Marvel’s Carol Danvers as a success because as powerful as she is, she is also emotional. She is a woman who is confused about her past, where she stands in a fight, and what she believes is right. Through her journey of self-connection, she navigates her confusion about what she stands for, and she regains her faith in her own strength. She is a powerful embodiment of what women go through today. Brie Larson’s character certainly does not deserve the harsh criticism she received upon the opening weekend.

Captain Marvel is also the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s response to the demands of the public. We are more concerned about diversity than ever in an era that grounds itself on acceptance. Whatever the reason may be, be it for publicity or expanding their audience, the women in Captain Marvel are fully-clothed, colorful, and beautiful yet vulnerable. These are the stepping stones for a long-awaited perception change for Marvel’s cinematic audience, and we are excited and in it for the long haul.

 

Captain Marvel Doodle: Thanks to Sierra Ellis.

Storytelling: On the flowing stream

What does it mean to be a storyteller? My lecturers discussed this a million times over the four years of my undergrad career. I call it a ‘career’ because I have been creating stories ever since I was eight, if not even earlier. Do you mind taking a walk with me through the memory lane? Even though I look like I’d prefer being alone while I do this, I still think I need company today.

I love bedtime stories, and I would use all of my little power to stay awake through those. Luckily, my dad had a million stories to tell. Every time he started a new story, he would reassure me saying that it is a really old tale and he is not making it up, because why would he? I would get mad at him because, after two or three years of hearing a new story every night, I think I was somehow too smart for a six-year-old, and I realized that they all told me the same thing over and over again: “You can explore, but listen to your parents when they warn you, or else you’ll get in trouble”. Oh, and no love interests, mom and dad will save you, there is no prince charming here!

But my dad was a professional. “Dad you are not making this up, right?”, “No, this was absolutely real”. The little black sheepdog always wondered what happened outside the farm. One day he decides to take a long walk, jumps across the fences and explores the endless fields. It suddenly starts getting darker, he is scared, and he hears a pack of big bad wolves howling. They get closer and form a circle around him, the little sheepdog is scared. His parents come and save him, later, getting mad at him a little bit but hugging him tight still. Dad, I miss your stories. I know you didn’t make any of them up.

If you thought my dad was an okay storyteller. Let me tell you about his mom, my grandma. Whatever she tells you, you are ought to believe her. She always had something in her voice that would make you feel like she is pulling you deep into this thought bubble that is inside her two hands. She was a magician playing with her words, and a bit of a witch, I am never sure if her hands are telling the story or casting a spell.

Oddly enough, her story never changed because she only had one. Her mother was adopted, had a very tough childhood but grew older to be a loving mother to my grandma. But this loving mother died too soon. I have seen my grandma pulling out a small photo of her mother from the very last drawer full of tablecloths, that is a part of an 80 some year-old dark brown wooden cabinet. Every time she pulled out the picture, she would blame herself for forgetting what her mother’s face looked like. She says she needs the picture to remember. I bet it hurts.

You remember the stream, dear? —  In the old town, it’s by our old home. – How can you not remember? – Well, I’ll take you there when we go. Oh, dear! – It was night time, very late. Maybe after 11 or 12. We had to sail through the river, so mom put me and my sister in a small wooden boat. And she was rowing and rowing. Oh! All of a sudden! – We saw a light from deep down. Oh, it was beautiful. It was shining and so bright that it hurt our eyes. My sister was younger, you know. And mom said to put our heads down. We put our heads down, but I peeked out on the side, mom didn’t see. Oh, it was so beautiful. A woman, she had ginger hair. It was so long. Her hair was like Leipzig silk! She was shining. She swam next to our small boat. Was it ever beautiful? – No, no. She didn’t hurt us or anything.

Then, what happened? We got off the boat and went home, but it was beautiful. I never told mom that I saw it!

But you are not lying? Right? How can you see it in the old town? Like here? Is it true?Maybe, I was dreaming, I don’t know. I was young. (She would shrug off her shoulders and move on with her life at this point, after charming me with the story. It was so cruel because I would think about it all night until I finally fell asleep).

There are things I wish I could remember better lately, and my mind won’t let me. But, can’t we all tell stories? All of the stories I heard, had a bit of those people that touched the narrator. And, no, my great grandma is not made up, but loving and gentle, just like in grandma’s story.

Dogs can talk, and mermaids are real – if only you believe.

 

Photo Credits: http://kopriyet.blogspot.com/2016/05/kirmasti-koprusu.html
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