Featured Post

Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Theater Review - The Night of the Iguana

The Night of the Iguana
Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Ed Stern
Where: Thompson Theatre at the Roselle Center for the Arts
(University of Delaware, Newark, DE)
When:  Saturday, September 28, 7:30pm

Photo by Paul Cerro -- REP

Although I'd heard of The Night of the Iguana, it's definitely one of Tennessee Williams' lesser-known plays.  Personally, my experience with Williams has led me to feel he's quite overrated, but the one thing the University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players have taught me is to be open to exploring unfamiliar plays -- particularly given the great value this fantastic troupe consistently provides.  I've said it numerous times before and I'll say it numerous times again that the REP excels at all aspects of production from their sets to their costumes to their acting and in The Night of the Iguana, the company is firing on all cylinders.  The gorgeous set by Joseph P. Tilford (his first time with the REP) and the spot-on costumes by returning designer Mathew LeFebvre plant us squarely in the steamy rainforests of Puerto Barrio, Mexico.  Perhaps moreso than many of REP's recent productions, the sets, costumes, and even the more technical aspects of lighting and sound design (by Thomas Hase and Fitz Patton, respectively) create a near perfect atmosphere making me feel as if I was transported south.  The acting troupe itself is stellar with even the smallest of parts making the absolute most of their stage time.  All of these positives make it all the more painful for me to say that the play itself just didn't work for me and led to an uncomfortably squirmy night that dragged on much too long.

Act I of The Night of the Iguana starts out quite promisingly, providing a nice mix of comedy and drama to keep the audience intrigued.  We meet Lawrence Shannon (played by Mic Matarrese), a defrocked reverend who was forced to leave the church several years ago after he slept with one of his parishioners and, shortly thereafter, blasphemed God from the pulpit in a Sunday sermon.  Shannon's new job is as a tour guide across the Mexican landscape and he makes an unscheduled stop with his current group of southern church choir belles at the rundown Casa Verde Hotel.  Shannon's been here before and knows the recently widowed owner Maxine (REP member Elizabeth Heflin) quite well.  Maxine agrees to take him in for a few nights as well as obliging to board the church choir if they so desire.  As the day goes on (the whole play occurs over the course of less than twenty-four hours), a forty-something artist named Hannah and her poet grandfather (REP's Carine Montbertrand and Michael Gotch) arrive at the Casa Verde and their unique spin on life causes Shannon to re-evaluate his behaviors.

It's that re-evaluation period that occurs in the exceedingly long second act that brings the play to a screeching halt.  There's just a languid feeling that hangs around during the whole second half that never disappears.  It's obvious that Tennessee Williams was trying to dig deep and insist that this play have a "purpose," but this attempt just doesn't work.  There are tenuous metaphorical connections that he puts in place involving an iguana (hence the title) that just had me chuckling instead of pondering, and it created a palpable restlessness in the audience (or, in the case of the guy seated behind me, a soothing sleep-inducement) throughout the play's final seventy minutes.

And it's a damn shame, too, because as I mentioned above the REP is in top form here.  This is truly some of their best work in a long time and it's a shame it can't be applauded as much as it should because of the play itself.  Having already mentioned the excellent technical aspects, let me point out that every member of the acting company shines here and instead of singling out any one person, I'd like to recognize the cast as a whole who all hit exactly the right notes and beats -- whether that be comedic or dramatic -- that their characters require.

The Resident Ensemble Players at the University of Delaware are such a deal in terms of value for the price of the ticket that whenever my reviews of their productions contain harsher critiques, I always feel a tiny bit guilty because they really are technically stellar at what they do.  It's just a shame that the opening play of their 2013-14 season couldn't be the showcase that their talent and expertise deserves.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Movie Review - Now You See Me

Now You See Me (2013)
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Common, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine
Directed by Louis Leterrier

I've always had a problem with Robin Hood stories.  Maybe it's the Republican in me shining through (a trait that I always have to suppress when it comes to the entertainment industry), but someone who robs the rich (simply because they have money) to give to the poor strikes me as an unspoken tenet of liberalism.  So perhaps in the deep recesses of my mind, Now You See Me -- a flick that revolves around a group of magicians who perform a series of heists to give money to their "deserving" audiences -- was destined to disappoint.  However, even if you take the repressed political aspect out of the equation, you're met with a film that had some modicum of potential except for the fact that it's saddled with a main plot that leaves too many gaping holes and an ending that feels like a cheat rather than magic.

I'm all for movies that have you root for the bad guys -- just look at my favorite movie of all time for proof of that.  However, when a movie presents a group of people as saintly good guys when they're absolutely doing things that are tremendously and justly illegal, I have a tough time buying into the premise as a whole.  If you set the quartet of magicians up as nasty guys, I'd have bought into the concept a little more willingly, but the characters portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco are supposed to be good folks.  To me, good folks wouldn't be doing what this movie tasks these characters to do and this fundamental difference between what the movie wants me to believe and what I actually believe created quite a schism that it couldn't overcome.

That isn't to say that Now You See Me isn't slickly directed.  Louis Leterrier keeps the whole thing moving and it never lags for a second.  In addition, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in particular are certainly engaging.  (The less said about Isla Fisher and Dave Franco the better, and I'll avoid all discussions about Mark Ruffalo except to say that this actor whom I once liked has grown increasingly more obnoxious to watch over the recent years.)  Still, the positives aren't enough to overcome a final act that terribly disappoints.  I'm not quite sure the last time I've been so let down and upset by a third act twist that still has me aggravated a week after watching it.

While the first paragraph of this review was meant to be humorous, there is certainly truth in it in terms of my opinion about the overall concept of the film.  Your mileage may certainly vary when it comes to Now You See Me simply because it had to overcome an already self-imposed bias on my part to succeed.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Disney Discussion - Bambi

Over the course of the year, we'll be spending our Wednesdays with Walt, having a discussion about each of Disney's animated films...

Movie #5 of The Disney Discussion
Bambi (1942)
Featuring the voice talents of Bobby Stewart, Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Sam Edwards, Stan Alexander, Sterling Holloway, Will Wright, Paula Winslowe, Cammie King, Ann Gillis, and Fred Shields
Directed by David D. Hand (supervising director)

***Please note that there are MAJOR plot spoilers ahead.***

Summary (in 150 words or less):
A young deer named Bambi is born.  This is his tale of friendship, love, life, and death.  Simplistic, but entirely effective.

Let the Discussion Begin...
Bambi is the Walt Disney Company's fifth full-length animated feature and it was released on August 13, 1942.  Upon its initial release, the $1.7 million production only earned $1.64 million with World War II putting a damper on things (and causing the European market to be inaccessible).  Subsequent rereleases allowed Bambi to earn a profit.  

Critics were actually mixed on Bambi in its initial release, stating that the film wasn't fantastical enough for what "animation" had that point had been come to represent.  However, today the film is looked upon with greater respect, earning the #3 spot on the American Film Institute's Top Ten Animated Films of All Time (placing after #1 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and #2 Pinocchio).  As you'll soon see, I think Bambi rightly deserves that placement -- a statement which I couldn't have made for the films that rank higher than it on the list.

Bambi was not nominated for any Oscars, but it was selected in December 2011 for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

The Characters
(The Best...The Worst...The Villains...)

Unlike in Dumbo, having the main title character speak in Bambi proves to be much more successful in establishing the character's thoughts, actions, and emotions.  The innocence of Bambi is felt by the audience much more than that of Dumbo simply due to the fact that Bambi can vocalize his feelings.  This isn't to say Dumbo isn't moderately successful, but it's also one of the major reasons why Bambi is such a fantastic film.

Too goshdarn cute, I tell ya...

Plus, the animators add in the character of Thumper and how can you not love this rabbit?  First off, he’s a rabbit, and rabbits, in general, are loved by all – I would imagine even gardeners would have to admit to the animal’s inherent cuteness.  Secondly, young Thumper is voiced to near perfection by Peter Behn (no, you shouldn’t have heard of him…this was his only role).  A little bit ornery, Thumper is the person that we in the audience connect with, while also providing the comic relief that this rather heavy story needs.

Flower's a guy...I realize that might not be obvious...

Least successful on the character front is Flower.  Looking at the film, Flower is unnecessary and Thumper would have sufficed as Bambi’s only friend, but the addition of the cute skunk is certainly welcomed by me and it never works against the film.  In fact, in this viewing, I was actually amazed at how little Flower appears in the film.  I have to wonder if some of his scenes were left on the cutting room floor as this well known character gets very little screen time.

Not only does Man kill Bambi's mother, but he inadvertently starts a fire that ruins the forest.  Us humans are just mean.

Ranked #20 on the American Film Institutes 100 Best Villains list, "Man" is the antagonist in Bambi.  It's such a vague villain and is, in fact, the only Disney villain whom we never actually lay eyes upon.  While there's no animated figure looming over the film's characters, Man's ominous presence is always felt.  Man is simply doing what he feels he needs to do in order to survive which causes pain to these characters we’ve grown to love.  Despite this never-seen villain, the havoc and fear he can cause is staggering.  In a particularly gripping scene that so very easily could've landed as the Best Scene in the film, Man returns to the woods after killing Bambi’s mother.  The animals hide as best they can.  We see a family of quail and a female is growing increasingly more frightened.  She literally starts to go a little crazy, feels that she must flee, escapes from her hiding place, and is immediately shot.  Once again, another powerful moment.

The Music

Bambi is not known for its music and none of the four songs are sung by characters within the film.  This is the first narrative Disney film that didn't have its characters express their feelings by song, but given this film's attempts to stay relatively realistic in its depiction of nature, it seems fitting that the characters don't sing.  While the songs aren't necessarily "memorable," they are not a detriment to the film at all.  They often either provide some nice respites from the heaviness or accompany montages that help showcase the animators' prowess in crafting the forest and its inhabitants.

The most successful song (and most well-known) is "Little April Shower" which provides the audience with a glimpse of the wildlife in the forest reacting to rain and thunderstorms.  The sequence is nicely animated down to the smallest detail (rain falling on leaves, then into puddles), but admittedly it doesn't add anything to the plot.  However, in its defense, it really wasn't meant to further things along.

Least successful is "Let's Sing a Gay Little Spring Song"...and it's not just because of the usage of "gay" in the title.  This bright and cheery song is oddly placed immediately after the death of Bambi's mother -- an odd juxtaposition that proves a tiny bit jarring.

My Favorite Scene
It's tough to deny the emotional impact of the scene where Bambi’s mother is killed.  It's an iconic piece of cinema known worldwide by all and it is one heck of a moment.  A mother and child are grazing in a snow-covered field…the rustling of birds…a mother frantically rushes her child off the field for fear of an attack from Man.  “Run, Bambi, run!  Don’t look back!”  Gunshot.  A young deer continues to run, following his mother’s instructions to not look back.  Finally, he stops.  Calls for his mother as he ventures out into a field with snow lightly falling around him.  The young deer is nervous, then sees his father looming above him.  “Your mother can no longer be with you.”  Just heartbreaking.  And amazingly effective.

Completely opposite in tone, the "twitterpated" sequence also really stood out to me on this viewing of Bambi.  As Flower, Thumper, and Bambi comedically fall for their female counterparts (concluding with a smile-inducing dream sequence in which our title character prances around in the clouds chasing after his love Faline), the scene is certainly the most cartoonish in the movie, but after the heaviness that precedes it with the death of Bambi's mother, the humorous reprieve is much appreciated.

Random Thoughts
  • During the making of the film, Walt Disney had two young fawns brought onto the studio lot in order for his animators to watch them as they aged and learn their mannerisms.  This certainly proved beneficial as the animation of the animals in this production is top notch.
  • This film totally tries to lull you into a sense of calmness and security.  There's a scene about thirty minutes in during which Bambi, his mother, and all the other animals in the forest are prancing about in a meadow.  I was sure this was when his mother was going to be shot.  Nope...the animators fooled us by allowing all to escape unscathed only to have us be hit in the gut by the tragedy that occurs later.
  • It’s kind of amazing how quickly and naturally the friendship between Bambi and Thumper is established within the film’s opening minutes.  The outgoing Thumper and the reserved Bambi make a perfect fit right away.
  • Unlike some other Disney films we'll tackle in this journey, Bambi's burgeoning relationship with his significant other Faline feels legit and never forced upon us by the storytellers.  The two meet while young and grow up together, only to fall in love as adults.  The romance feels natural and believable.

Final Analysis
(Does It Belong in the Revered Disney Pantheon and How Does It Stack Up to Past Films?)

Bambi is a near perfect film.  It packs quite an emotional wallop into its short 70-minute running time.  It succeeds in lulling the viewer into a sense that this is simply going to be a pleasant nature film with cute talking animals, only to throw us for a loop by creating some powerfully sad and emotional moments.  Up until this point in Disney's animated features, we've never been faced head-on with death and Bambi doesn't shy away from the circle of life (which, obviously, we'll come to learn about in a future Disney flick).  If there were a stigma attached to animated movies about being "for kids," Bambi should've changed that -- and it may very well have been one of the reasons the film wasn't overwhelmingly positively received by critics at the time.

Nowadays, the film is certainly revered, but I don’t think it is held on the same pedestal as Snow White or Pinocchio.  In this reviewer's eyes, it certainly should be elevated to that pedestal and I, for one, am thrilled to have re-discovered this classic.

The RyMickey Rating:  A

Join us next Wednesday for Saludos Amigos, the sixth film in The Disney Discussion.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Movie Review - Trance

Trance (2013)
Starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson
Directed by Danny Boyle

I've always been a fan of Danny Boyle and even if I find some of his films a bit overrated (I'm looking at you, Slumdog Millionaire), I still find them visually intriguing.  Trance is certainly eye-catching in the same vein as Boyle's other films -- and that's a good thing as the script seems surprisingly hollow considering the multitude of double crossings going on in this art heist-gone-bad flick.

Opening with an impressive sequence in which our main protagonist Simon (James McAvoy), an employee at a fancy British art auction house, tells the audience in voiceover how to prevent the theft of exquisite paintings only to have an exquisite painting stolen mere minutes later, I was intrigued with Trance right from the start.  In the midst of the theft, Simon is knocked unconscious by one of the thieves and wakes up in a hospital, unable to remember what occurred.  As it turns out, Simon himself was involved in the theft and integral in stealing the coveted art piece.  The only problem is that Simon was attempting to double cross his fellow criminals and kept the painting for himself...except that with his loss of memory, he has no clue where the painting actually is now.  When his "boss" Franck (Vincent Cassel) discovers that Simon was trying to manipulate him, he's none too happy, but is desperate to get the highly coveted and incredibly expensive painting back in his possession.  In order to do this, he sends Simon to a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) whom he hopes will be able to get Simon's latent memories to rise to the surface.

There's nothing in that summary that I don't like.  Sure, it may not be the most original concept, but it sounds solid.  Unfortunately, things sputter a bit after the plot is laid out in the opening thirty minutes.  Hypnotic dream sequences come to the forefront and while they are nicely shot, they grow a bit monotonous and tiresome.  There's only so many times the screenwriter can "get me" before I grow wary of the circuitous "what is reality" conceit.

The acting is fine, but the best aspect of the film -- and what saves it from being a rather complete bore -- is Boyle's direction.  Unlike Baz Luhrmann whose films are essentially interchangeable in the way that he lenses and edits things, Boyle's films -- which some would say carry that same manic tone as Luhrmann's -- are aesthetically similar to each other in the way he shoots, frames, and cuts images, yet they each feel unique.  I'd never confuse a scene from Trance with a scene from Slumdog Millionaire or 127 Hours as an example, whereas I could easily mistake a scene from The Great Gatsby for one from Moulin Rouge.  For that, I give Boyle credit.  He's a director whom I look forward to seeing what he brings to the screen.  It's just a bit unfortunate that the screenplay here didn't carry its own weight.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Movie Review - What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew (2013)
Starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata Aprile, Joanna Vanderham, and Steve Coogan
Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel

What Maisie Knew is a movie you desperately want to end a certain way, but you figure while you're watching it that it never will pan out the way you hope and it causes a depressing pall to ceaselessly hang around.  I say that not as a criticism of the film at all, but instead as a credit to the screenwriters Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright, young actress Onata Aprile in the title role, and directors Scott McGehee and David Seigel who craft a movie told essentially entirely from through the eyes of a six year-old girl being used as a pawn by her parents (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan) in a bitter custody battle.  What Maisie Knew isn't without its faults, but it's a film worth seeing thanks to the unique perspective we witness to decidedly adult situations.

As the film opens we see black screen with a female and male voice arguing with each other using decidedly adult language.  We soon discover that these voices belong to Susanna (Julianne Moore), a pushy rock star who likes to live life a little on the edge, and Beale (Steve Coogan), her live-in long-time significant other who's had enough of her rough persona, but seems a bit too egotistical for his own good.  This argument between Susanna and Beale happens within earshot and eyeshot of six year-old Maisie (played by the aforementioned Aprile in her first film role) and it will be the first of many times we see her subjected to listening to her parents duke it out with one another and then later try and convince her that the other parent is "the bad one."  With Susanna and Beale fighting in court for custody of young Maisie, they both decide that they'll look better in the court's eyes if they find someone to "love" again, thereby raising Maisie in a two-person family.  Beale hooks up with Maisie's nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham), a fellow Brit whose innocence makes her actually believe Beale has no ulterior motives to marrying her.  Susanna finds Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård), a guy who at first glance seems to be a lackadaisical loser, but just may be the kind of loving support young Maisie needs.  Both Margo and Lincoln are simply props in the vicious game Susanna and Beale are playing and despite the fact that they're simply being used, they both find themselves growing to love young Maisie and hating what her parents are putting her through.

What I find refreshingly original about What Maisie Knew is that the entire story is told from the perspective of the six year-old Maisie.  I'm not sure there's a single scene that's depicted that doesn't have Maisie either in it or peering in on it.  Kudos to the directors for keeping things squarely focused -- it may not be the most technically fascinating film, but this perspective (and the willingness to not shift from this framework) certainly aids the movie.  

Whereas Maisie's innocence may not allow her to fully understand everything her parents are doing to her, we in the audience grow to have an intense hatred for the way Susanna and Beale manipulate her young mind into kowtowing to their intentions.  Little Onata Aprile gives a very nice performance in a role that never once feels as if it's being "acted."  Granted, Aprile's character isn't necessarily forced to do anything outwardly that gives her a fantastic "moment," but I was certainly impressed with the young girl's ability to communicate all we needed to know with simply the naturalness of her wide eyes or hushed silence.

Unfortunately, the film falters a bit with the performances of Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan.  Much focus is placed on their relationship and I found both of them to be playing their roles a bit too one-notish.  Neither adult seems fully developed, but rather portraying caricatures of who they are supposed to be.  Additionally -- and there's a slight spoilerish aspect that comes along with this final comment -- the film ends in a wholly unexpected way that seems a bit too farfetched to be truly believable.  I simply couldn't imagine the narcissistic parents we've grown to hate throughout the movie doing what they do at the film's conclusion.  Fault for this lies in both the screenwriters and the actors and it does ultimately knock the film down several notches despite its other positive attributes.  

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Disney Discussion - Dumbo

Over the course of the year, we'll be spending our Wednesdays with Walt, having a discussion about each of Disney's animated films...

Movie #4 of The Disney Discussion
Dumbo (1941)
Featuring the voice talents of Edward Brophy, Verna Felton, and Sterling Holloway
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen (supervising director)
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Summary (in 150 words or less):
A cute little elephant is delivered via stork to Mrs. Jumbo who works in a traveling circus.  Upon arrival, the baby elephant is revealed to have gigantic ears which, while loved by his mother, are ridiculed by the other elephants in the circus who nickname the baby Dumbo.  After circus patrons poke fun at Dumbo, Mrs. Jumbo goes on a rampage forcing her to be shackled, locked up, and taken away from her son.  Befriended by a circus mouse named Timothy, Dumbo goes through a series of mini-adventures helping him to become more confident in himself while away from his mother.

Let the Discussion Begin...

Dumbo is the Walt Disney Company's fourth full-length animated feature and it was released on October 23, 1941.  The film proved to be Disney's most financially successful of the 1940s and turned a profit right away, in part due to its short length (at 64 minutes it's one of Disney's shortest animated feature films) which kept its production costs at half of Snow White's and less than a third of Pinocchio's budgets.

Dumbo won the Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Motion Picture and was nominated for Best Original Song for "Baby Mine."

An interesting, albeit somewhat unimportant, tidbit of info:  Dumbo (along with Alice in Wonderland) was the first Disney film to be released on VHS in 1981.

The Characters
(The Best...The Worst...The Villains...)

Dumbo is the first film of Disney's to place its focus squarely on animals -- certainly a characteristic that will continue in many of the company's animated movies.  Interestingly enough, though, the writers decided not to have their title character speak at all throughout the film.  To me, this was a somewhat ballsy move, but one that pays off in that the animators were able to prove their expertise by completely conveying everything needed to be said through facial expressions or body movements.  The character of Dumbo is as well-rounded as one could hope and the audience fully gets behind him despite the lack of dialogue.

Given its short length, there aren't a huge amount of other characters thrown our way in Dumbo, but Timothy Mouse is undoubtedly the other key figure in the piece despite not appearing in the film until its already a third over.  As Dumbo's one supporter, Timothy endears himself to the audience by urging our title character to stand up to the naysayers -- he's the kind of friend we all hope to have, really, despite his somewhat manic and seemingly "hopped up on caffeine" type of personality.

Millenary at its finest.

Dumbo falters the most in the character department with the Crow Quintet that our title character meets at the very end of the film who, although integral to the plot, appear at the expense of the film's somewhat unfocused storyline.  Thrown in with less than ten minutes to go, the animators attempt (unsuccessfully) to give each crow his own personality, toss in a silly song (which isn't all that humorous), and aid our main character in discovering his gift of flight.  A little more time to develop these guys (and their placement in the film) would've gone a long way.  As years have passed, these guys have faced some criticism for apparent racial stereotyping because of their "cartoonish" portrayal, but I'm not quite sure where the offensiveness would come into play.  (And, honestly, if you're going to talk about racism in this film, there's definitely a more obvious choice which we'll delve into in a little bit.)

Apparently, the female sex of any species will just stand around and gossip about others all day long...

Because of the flick's brevity, villains aren't a key player in Dumbo.  There's no larger-than-life evil force wanting our protagonist to fail.  Still, the film does feature a pack of lady elephants that prove to be less than kind to our title character and, in fact, give Jumbo, Jr., his nickname of "Dumbo" within mere minutes of seeing his large ears.  They're nasty beasts, that's for sure, but classifying them as "villains" would certainly be a stretch.

The Music
This is the very reason I've never allowed myself to get plastered...Apparently I learned at a young age that getting drunk leads to horrific, life-scarring images of men made entirely of bright-colored elephant heads.

When one thinks of Dumbo, I'm not sure the film's music comes to mind.  It's not that it's particularly bad, it's just that with the exception of maybe two songs, most of it is mediocre and middle-of-the-road. While many would single out "Baby Mine" as a particularly lovely and nicely fitting lullaby (a statement with which I wouldn't argue), the best song in the film to me is "Pink Elephants on Parade."  While it may not be the most ingenious song ever written (or maybe, in fact, it is the most ingenious song ever written solely for its sheer absurdity), "Pink Elephants on Parade" is a fantastic piece of animation.  Pre-1960s LSD-induced hallucinations, the Disney animators crafted the trippiest thing I think we'll see in these Disney Discussions.  Images of florescent and pastel colored elephants shape shift into one another effortlessly, humorously, and ultimately oddly, creating a visual masterpiece that would make Salvador Dali proud.  This isn't to say it isn't disconcerting or strange or even slightly out of place in a film that heretofore has been incredibly straightforward and "by the book," but it's fascinating.

"Grab that rope, you hairy ape." Yep...quite disconcerting lyrics in this one...

Two other songs -- "When I See an Elephant Fly" and "Casey Junior" -- are certainly ones I remembered despite having not seen the movie in over a decade, but both are throwaways that don't add much to the plot.  Still, they're fine...particularly when compared to "Song of the Roustabouts," a song which I'm sure you forget entirely as I never even remembered its existence.  Here we have faceless black men setting up the traveling circus as it settles into its new town, singing lyrics like "We work all day / We work all night / We never learned to read and write."  Nowadays, there's an uncomfortableness derived from words like that, but that's not even the reason this song lands here (as one needs to be able to recognize the pre-Civil Rights Movement-era time and setting from whence this film was made).  Quite simply, the lyrics are too basic and its dirge-like tone just juxtaposes a bit too oddly with the rest of the film.  Plus, it's likely the only song that you won't come away from the film humming.

My Favorite Scene
Hey, kids!  See how adorably cute drunks are?

Drunk Dumbo is too cute to not be my favorite.  Add in Timothy Mouse getting inebriated as well and you've got a scene that you'd likely never see in an animated movie today (or at least not one rated 'G' or 'PG').  Plus this all leads into "Pink Elephants on Parade" which is a visual (drug-induced) masterpiece of animation.

The film's finale with Dumbo flying and getting his comeuppance on the clowns and elephants who ridiculed him in the past is also surprisingly moving and entirely successful.

Random Thoughts
  • Dumbo's real name is "Jumbo, Jr."
  • While I was well aware that the other elephants spoke, I was surprised when Dumbo's mother, Mrs. Jumbo, actually uttered any words.  For some reason, I thought the mother and son communicated all without any vocals.  Granted, she only says "Jumbo, Jr.," when asked what her new son's name is, but it's more than I thought was spoken.
  • The "Pink Elephants on Parade" scene doesn't scare me anymore like it did when I was five years old...that's progress on my part, I guess.
  • Dumbo doesn't fly (the very thing the movie's most known for) until 59 minutes into the 63-minute film.
Final Analysis
(Does It Belong in the Revered Disney Pantheon and How Does It Stack Up to Past Films?)

Dumbo is a good film, though not one of Disney's best mainly because its short 63-minute run time doesn't permit a whole lot of time to create depth for its characters.  While there's certainly some emotional undercurrent related to the title character's separation from his mother, the film abandons this pivotal relationship for nearly its whole second half.  As much as I love the "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence, the second half really needed to be focused on Dumbo getting back into his mother's care and the "Pink Elephants" and crow sequences just take the viewer away from what they really want to see onscreen.

The low budget allotted to the film isn't ever evident in the animation (although it's certainly less intricate than Pinocchio as an example), but the lack of funds does make itself known in the story and brevity of the film.  Still, while this isn't quite the classic I remembered it being, Dumbo is a decent addition to the Disney Pantheon.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Join us next Wednesday for Bambi, the fifth film in The Disney Discussion.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Movie Review - World War Z

World War Z (2013)
***viewed in 3D***
Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, Sterling Jerins, and Abigail Hargrove
Directed by Marc Foster

The great thing about World War Z is that it just jumps right into things without even attempting to provide any modicum of backstory as to why humans on Earth are turning into fast-running, crazed zombies.  Dad Gerry (Brad Pitt) is simply taking his kids (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove) to school and his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) to work when craziness hits Philadelphia and the family finds themselves desperate to find cover from the chaos taking over the east coast.  Fortunately, Gerry has recently retired from a job with the United Nations which gets him access to a "safe house" of sorts on a huge aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean.  While on the ship, Gerry agrees to travel around the world to try and find the source of the virus that is wreaking havoc on the human race.

While it's true that World War Z doesn't waste any time getting started, it's somewhat unfortunate that the film spends a huge portion of its second act slowing things down and explaining things way too much.  I mean, quite honestly, I could care less where this "zombie virus" started and following Gerry from country to country (in an episodic fashion) grows tiresome.  That isn't to say that these set pieces -- a journey to Jerusalem, a frenetic plane sequence -- don't create tension, it's just that they're linked so tenuously to one another that the story never feels entirely cohesive.  Admittedly, the final act (which apparently faced a huge rewrite months after the film finished shooting) is a success and had me intrigued.  Having read what the original ending was, things are certainly infinitely better in the updated version, but the finale doesn't quite make up for a surprisingly lackluster middle hour.

You could certainly fare worse with summer action fare than World War Z and most everything and everyone in front of and behind the camera is solid.  Unfortunately, the story just isn't quite strong enough.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

What I'm Listening To - "Fuse" by Keith Urban/"Tornado" by Little Big Town

I don't post much about music and that will certainly be a trend that continues, however, with this blog being the "entertainment diary" that it is, I wanted to post about a concert I attended this past Saturday.

While I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan of country music, I've grown to enjoy some artists over the past five or six years and it's become a genre that won't cause me to cringe when I hear it come on the radio.  Still, when it comes to country music, I really only listen consistently to three or four artists and when I heard that two of them were coming on a "double bill" to the Susquehana Bank Center in Camden, New Jersey, I jumped at the chance to see them for what I considered a bargain price.

So, my brother and I ventured into the lovely city of Camden to check out Keith Urban's Light the Fuse tour with opening act Little Big Town.  Having already seen Little Big Town twice, I was much looking forward to hearing their harmonies blend together beautifully again, but, considering they were Urban's warm-up band, I was expecting maybe a half dozen songs from them.  Much to my surprise and delight, we were treated to a dozen numbers -- many from their year-old album Tornado.  Considering this was the first time I was seeing them in a stadium setting (let alone an outdoor stadium setting), I was a little wary about how they'd sound.  [And when the first opening act Dustin Lynch performed, I couldn't understand a word he was saying...which is why since I don't have anything nice to say about him, I'll just pretend like his gig didn't really exist.]  My worries were unfounded, however, as they proved to me (once again) why if I were pressed to name my favorite current band, Little Big Town would take the crown.  To me, they're a modern day Fleetwood Mac, which is further exemplified by the fact that at every one of their shows they perform a kick-ass cover of that band's "The Chain."  They managed to successfully make their more upbeat songs take on a more pulsing sound filling the arena, while at the same time making their slower numbers feel incredibly intimate.  Despite the fact that they've seemingly grown exponentially over the past year in popularity thanks to their biggest hit yet "Pontoon" (which also happens to be one of my least favorite singles of theirs to date), I'm somewhat selfishly hoping that their concerts still remain rather cheaply priced so I can continue supporting them in the future.

Little Big Town would've been worth the price of admission alone for me, but the addition of Keith Urban was just icing on the cake.  Current American Idol judge Urban always seems like a genuinely nice guy and that persona certainly was present on the stage.  Backed by five gigantic vertical screens (seen above when Urban does a "duet" with the members of Little Big Town), Urban's set had an energy that never died down when he was on the main stage.  However, when the country star hiked out to the back of the stadium to play three of his biggest hits in front of the crowd on the grass lawn, the buzz in the seated section died down considerably.  Perhaps it was just my lack of any view and while I can certainly appreciate the journey out to give the "cheaper seats" a close-up view, it did bring the set down a tiny bit from my seats.

That aside, Urban puts on a great show interacting a little bit with the audience and performing a nice mix of songs from his previous albums and his new album Fuse released just this past Tuesday.  Urban is well known for his guitar-playing prowess and that was on display in full force here.  Complete with a camera mounted on his guitar's neck to give the audience a fantastic view of his technique, Urban and his band really rocked out for a little over two hours straight.  I will say that while I'm a big fan of Urban's softer side, when he played something like his "You'll Think of Me," the intimacy of the album version was missing.  I'm not quite sure you could ever feel the quietness and calmness a song like that requires in a large stadium venue (although Little Big Town succeeded in that department), but Urban was a bit more winning during his upbeat songs.

Undoubtedly, I'd go see both Little Big Town and Keith Urban again should they tour together or individually in the future.  A solid show absolutely worth the price of admission.

Keith Urban Set List

  1. Instrumental
  2. Long Hot Summer
  3. Sweet Thing
  4. Cop Car
  5. I Told You So
  6. Stupid Boy
  7. Even the Stars Fall 4 You
  8. You Gonna Fly (duet with Little Big Town)
  9. Without You
  10. Good Thing
  11. Kiss a Girl
  12. (Lawn) Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who cover)
  13. (Lawn) Days Go By
  14. (Lawn) Rumor Has It (Adele cover snippet, sung by band member Jerry Flowers)
  15. (Lawn) Once in a Lifetime
  16. (Lawn) Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen snippet)
  17. (Lawn/Main Stage) Better Life
  18. Boys 'Round Here (Blake Shelton cover)
  19. Some Nights (fun. cover, snippet sung by band member Danny Rader)
  20. You'll Think of Me
  21. Little Bit of Everything
  22. Who Wouldn't Want to Be Me
  23. Somebody Like You
  24. (Encore) But for the Grace of God
  25. (Encore) Keep on Lovin' You (REO Speedwagon cover)
  26. (Encore) Tonight I Wanna Cry
  27. (Encore) Locked Out of Heaven (Bruno Mars cover snippet, sung by band member Brian Nutter)
  28. (Encore) You Look Good in My Shirt
Little Big Town Set List
  1. Little White Church
  2. On Fire Tonight
  3. Bring It on Home
  4. Pavement Ends
  5. Sober
  6. Front Porch Thing
  7. Your Side of the Bed
  8. The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  9. Can't Go Back
  10. Tornado
  11. Pontoon
  12. Boondocks

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Movie Review - The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones (2012)
Starring Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Victoria Thane (Holly), Richard Wilson, and Jessica McNamee (last two are the two people at the dance)
Directed by Sean Byrne
***This film is currently available for free on the FearNet Channel for Verizon OnDemand customers.***

At the very least, the horror movie The Loved Ones made me incredibly uncomfortable.  Squirming in my seat happened often in this one and there was even a moment where I covered my eyes in typical little kid fashion.  While I'm certainly making up for the lack of viewing horror movies in my teenage years, I haven't really ever found myself "enjoying" the subgenre of torture porn brought on by the likes of Saw in the early aughts.  And I certainly didn't "enjoy" watching The Loved Ones, but I absolutely appreciate that this is probably as good as it gets when it comes to this type of movie with some pretty great acting, an interesting (and sometimes humorous) story, and a first-time director that certainly knows how to create a frighteningly uncomfortable vibe.

The premise is incredibly simple and doesn't waste any time getting started.  Set in Australia, the film opens with Brent (Xavier Samuel) being asked by the soft spoken and presumably unpopular Lola (Robin McLeavy) to go to prom with her.  Brent doesn't ridicule her in the slightest (as we'd perhaps expect in movies like this), but tells her very politely that he's already going with Holly (the incredibly attractive Victoria Thane).  A few days later when he's out, Brent finds himself drugged, kidnapped, and dragged to Lola's house where she and her father (John Brumpton) have set up their own prom where they'll enact a series of heinously painful and psychologically disturbed acts of torture on the poor guy.

In his first film, writer-director Sean Byrne certainly displays a keen eye for horror, but he also rather adeptly mixes in just the right amounts of humor which, while creating laughs, also manages to make the disturbing moments even more distressing.  Oddly enough, thinking back on things, we hardly ever "see" the torture happening.  We know it's going on, but Byrne creates much of the macabre moments simply by insinuating them.

Byrne also gets some great performances from his cast.  Xavier Samuel is entirely convincing as the poor sap who has some of the worst possible acts inflicted upon him.  [I'll never look at salt and an open wound the same way again.]  Because of an initial torturous moment, his Brent is unable to speak, but Samuel still manages to convey everything needed for the movie to succeed.  John Brumpton as Lola's father is disturbingly creepy thanks to the typical suburban dad façade he puts on even as he wields a hammer willy nilly around Brent's head.  While he sometimes seems to be a bit more comic simply for "comedy's sake," he's a perfect counter to Robin McLeavy's Lola who is just terrifying.  The child-like mannerisms and tone that Lola often presents can turn on a dime to something infinitely more diabolical -- and that distinct change in image could've been laughable, but McLeavy sells it.

The film does falter a bit with an inane subplot involving Brent's buddy Jamie out on a mission to get laid on prom night.  His storyline goes nowhere and doesn't even interact with the main arc so I'm flabbergasted as to why it's even in the flick to begin with.  We all know what the "Hollywood ideal" of a normal prom night is -- we don't need it as a counterpoint to the hell Brent is experiencing with Lola.  Still, despite that fault, The Loved Ones is a good horror pic.  Granted, it's one I'd never want to watch again and one I can't necessarily recommend simply because of the fact that it made me cringe a bit too much...but I recognize that's what it was going for and it certainly achieved that goal

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Friday, September 13, 2013

Movie Review - Aftershock

Aftershock (2013)
Starring Eli Roth, Andre Osvárt, Arial Levy, Natasha Yarovenko, Nicolás Martínez, and Lorenza Izzo
Directed by Nicolás López
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I read in some article yesterday about Eli Roth's latest film being picked up after it screened at the Toronto Film Festival.  In the article, they mentioned that Dimension Films had picked up a film called Aftershock for over $2 million at last year's festival.  That must be a decent sign, right?  Having seen the trailer for Aftershock likely on some shlocky horror movie I've watched over the last few weeks, I had already added it to my queue because for some reason the premise looked intriguing, but this article made me think that I might actually get something decent out of this.  Good Lord, I couldn't have been more wrong.

Aftershock is a horribly acted, written, and directed flick that revolves around six "young-ish" people, several of whom are native to and some of whom are vacationing in Santiago, Chile, when a huge earthquake occurs.  (At least, we're to assume a huge earthquake occurs as the special effects that are supposed to signify this are some of the most poorly executed I've ever seen, eclipsed by anything you'd see in a late night low budget cable tv flick on SyFy.)  These six people, none of whom are appealing or whom we feel any rooting interest to survive, find themselves having to deal with the aftermath of the natural disaster which would've been bad enough on its own, but here it's interspersed with gang members stalking the sextet attempting to steal their money and rape the women.

There's just nothing positive to say about this in the slightest.  The writing is just heinously poor, forcing us to follow this insipid sextet for thirty minutes as they explore Chile and act deep and thoughtful (when they're not talking about banging one another) before the earthquake rocks their world...and the script gets worse after the quake happens.  The directing is horrendous.  I can just see Nicolás López telling his actors to "wobble on your feet" to simulate the earth shaking underneath them -- we're talking Sharknado level directing here.  And lest we forget the acting.  Eli Roth is just abysmal, but even he looks like a Shakespearean actor when placed next to Lorenza Izzo who plays an American party girl.  Don't get me wrong -- she's gorgeous, but she's utterly laughable as an actress.  Apparently widening your eyes to their fullest extent and darting your eyeballs around in frantic motions for sixty minutes while shaking uncontrollably and yelling at the top of your lungs is all that it takes to prove you've got talent to someone like Eli Roth who cast her in that aforementioned film that got picked up at the Toronto Film Festival -- a film which I'll be avoiding like the plague now.

The RyMickey Rating:  F

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Disney Discussion - Fantasia

Over the course of the year, we'll be spending our Wednesdays with Walt, having a discussion about each of Disney's animated films...

Movie #3 of The Disney Discussion
Fantasia (1940)
Starring Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra; narrated interstitials by Deems Taylor
Individual Segments directed by:
 Samuel Armstrong (Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, The Nutcracker Suite)
James Algar (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)
Bill Roberts and Paul Satterfield (The Rite of Spring)
Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, and Ford Beebe (The Pastoral Symphony)
T. Hee and Norm Ferguson (Dance of the Hours)
Wilfred Jackson (Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria)

Summary (in 150 words or less):
In a one-of-a-kind merging of audio and visual, Walt Disney takes some of the "greatest" pieces of classical music and creates animation to go along with them.  Some segments tell coherent stories while others are much more abstract in their design.

Let the Discussion Begin...

Fantasia is the Walt Disney Company's third full-length animated feature and it was released on November 13, 1940 -- the second animated film released by the company in 1940 following Pinocchio.  In part due to WWII, but also due to the fact that the film received mixed reviews and audiences felt Disney was aiming too highbrow, Fantasia was unable to make a profit in its original release.  It was released multiple times in subsequent years with various footage and audio being deleted (then sometimes added back in) for certain releases and ultimately turned a profit.  In fact, when adjusted for inflation, Fantasia's $76.4 million in domestic grosses makes it the 22nd highest-grossing film of all time.

Part of the reason the film ended up costing the company so much was the invention of Fantasound -- a pioneering sound system that made Fantasia the first film to be released in surround sound.  Roadshow theaters across the country were retrofitted with the necessary speakers which increased the underlying cost of the film.

Fantasia was ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's Top Animated Films of all time (a placement with which I strongly disagree).  The film was also ranked #58 on its 1998 list of the Top Films of All Time before falling off that chart on the AFI's revisit in 2007.

Fantasia was not nominated for any Oscars, but it was selected in 1990 to be preserved in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Typically, this is where I'd begin to separate out into separate sections based on the film's characters, music, scenes, and random thoughts, but Fantasia is such a unique piece that we'll be foregoing that rubric for this discussion, instead looking at each individual section with a bit of detail.

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
After seeing the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra file in and take their seats with their instruments, the film begins with narrator and music historian Deems Taylor walking onstage .  (It should be noted that these narration segments with Mr. Taylor were edited out of many of Fantasia's re-releases and although the visuals remained intact, the audio was lost.  Therefore, in the dvd version [and for certain re-releases], Mr. Taylor's vocals were dubbed.)  Mr. Taylor tells us that some music tells a story, some pieces paint a picture, and some are simply "music for music's sake."  "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" falls into the latter category and the Disney animators decided to take things very abstract for the opening piece of Fantasia.  After we see colored live-action silhouettes of the orchestra pop up on the screen, abstract animation kicks in and we see what appear to be violin bows mixing with circles, beams of light, and various other patterns.  There's certainly an avant garde nature to the piece, but I couldn't help but feel that the animation wasn't equalling the grandness and scope of this fantastic piece by Bach.  Not exactly a fantastic start for the film.

The Nutcracker Suite by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky
For some reason, I had in my mind that this was the famously animated scene in which hippos pranced around, but having not seen Fantasia in decades, my mind was playing tricks on me and that scene was to come later.  Instead, "The Nutcracker Suite" gives us fireflies, mushrooms, fish, and flowers dancing to the now well-known classical piece.  More successful than the first segment, the animation is quite good (particularly with the mushrooms and dancing flowers), but there's a "blandness" here that perhaps comes from the lack of exquisite background design that unfortunately permeates the piece.  Although certainly not as abstract as "Toccata," the lack of a story in the first two segments kicks the film off on a odd start -- one that it doesn't particularly recover from until more than halfway through.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas
Undoubtedly the most famous of the segments in Fantasia, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" tells the tale of a young apprentice (played by Mickey Mouse) who, after his magician boss leaves room, decides to cast some spells of his own leading to chaos.  This segment was originally created to be released as one of Walt's Silly Symphony cartoons (a series of animated shorts set to music), but it was later decided to build upon this piece and create a whole film revolving around classical music.  The popularity of Mickey Mouse was already beginning to wane and Walt Disney thought including this piece in a major motion picture was the perfect way of giving his leading man a boost.

Modern-day critics may look at "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment with disdain simply because it contains a key character in Disney's pantheon and isn't as abstract as some of the other pieces presented within Fantasia, but that's a huge failure on their part.  This piece of animation is incredibly well designed and set near perfectly to Paul Dukas' classical music.  The appeal here to both kids and adults cannot be overlooked and it's deservedly the most well-known piece in the film.

The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky
Here we see the progression of the Earth from nothingness in the cosmos to volcanic chaos to single-celled organisms to fish and finally to dinosaurs.  After the dinosaurs battle it out (including a fight between a Stegosaurus and a T-Rex that doesn't end positively for one party), we see their extinction take place which provides perhaps one of the most depressing endings for an animated piece ever.
With the exception of the previously described "Toccata" piece, "The Rite of Spring" is the least successful number in Fantasia and there are two reasons for this.  First, the animation simply isn't that great.  While I appreciated the restrained beauty at the beginning of the segment in which volcanic magma gets spewed all over leading to the "quietness"of single-celled creatures being formed, once the dinos come onto the scene, the animators left a bit to be desired.  Things seemed a little blocky and not overly fluid.  Second, Stravinsky's piece just isn't all that impressive in scope.  I feel like the animators wanted to make something grand (hell, they're dealing with the creation of the world so that's about as grand as it gets), but were let down by the music itself.

The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven
After what would've been a fifteen-minute intermission (where we first see the title card for the film), we return to the second half of Fantasia which proves to be a bit more successful than the first.  "The Pastoral Symphony" takes us into the world of classical mythology where we see unicorns, centaurs, fauns, cupids, and fairies prancing about trying to find love.  While it runs a little long, the animation is a nice mix of "cartoon-style" and a more realistic look.  One note:  We see an abundance of naked buttocks on some baby cherubs and many sets of nipple-less breasts on the "centaur-ettes" (as our narrator calls them) making Fantasia the animated film in the Disney pantheon with the most nudity.

Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli
And here's where those famous aforementioned shots of hippos dancing in tutus come into play.  "Dance of the Hours" is a piece of music describing "a day," so here we get ostriches "waking up" and starting to dance (Morning), hippos prancing about (Afternoon), elephants blowing bubbles and floating upon them (Evening), and menacing alligators coming onto the scene and trying to capture all of the other animals (Night).  There's humor here, but an odd amount of elegance as well with the animators trying to capture (in albeit comedic form) the beauty of ballet.  These animals all have their own sense of character and the animators gave each of them a personality that is surprisingly strong given the brevity of the piece.  Some may call this segment cheesy or too kid-centric, but I think it's the best animated segment in Fantasia.

Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria by Modest Mussorgsky and Franz Schubert
In what is perhaps the ultimate battle, narrator Deems Taylor tells us that the final segment of Fantasia will begin "Night on Bald Mountain" in which the devil himself (whom after the narration was eliminated in subsequent reissues became known not as "The Devil" but as a beast named "Chernabog") summons all his minions only for them to be dashed back below by the tolling of church bells as "Ave Maria" begins to play and abstract images of candles and church spires come into view.  While "Night on Bald Mountain" is incredibly strong and particularly harrowing (and absolutely one of the darkest pieces Disney animation has ever created), ending Fantasia with "Ave Maria" seems a bit of a letdown.  Don't get me wrong.  "Ave Maria" is a beautiful piece of music, but the animators have bookended Fantasia with images that are so abstract (after beginning the piece with "Toccata" as detailed above) that I find both the start and finish to be disappointments.  ("Ave Maria" is certainly less abstract than "Toccata," but the tone and effect of the animation styles were similar to me.)

Final Analysis
(Does It Belong in the Revered Disney Pantheon and How Does It Stack Up to Past Films?)
I remember watching Fantasia in its 1990 re-release in theaters and thinking it wasn't all that spectacular.  I also remember my uncle falling asleep during the film.  Twenty-three years later, I was the one that easily could've fallen asleep.  There's just something about the classical music playing that could easily knock me out here.  Admittedly, while I'm attempting to watch these Disney films in the best possible manner, I couldn't get my hands on a Blu-Ray of this one so the colors and images may have been a bit muted, but I'm not sure that would've made a huge difference.

You might say that I don't have the culture and sophistication to appreciate this, but that wouldn't be the reason I find Fantasia unsuccessful.  The problem with an anthology work such as this is that you're bound to have some pieces that don't quite work and Fantasia has a few that disappoint.  In fact, the whole first half proves to be a bit of a letdown.  With the exception of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment, I found myself twiddling my thumbs.  While the second half succeeds much better, I found that even those pieces ran on a bit too long.  While I understand the concept of capturing the entirety of the composer's work, I found myself wishing things were trimmed at times. 

It also doesn't help matters that the animation isn't up to the caliber we've seen presented in Disney's previous effort Pinocchio.  While certain pieces are great, when the animators tried to get a little more obscure and abstract, I found their efforts lacking.

I certainly give Walt Disney credit for trying something unique, but, as he soon discovered, Fantasia wasn't exactly what the public desired.  His intent of making Fantasia an ever-changing piece of film with re-releases in subsequent years with new animated pieces interspersed with originals failed to come to fruition during his lifetime (although, as we'll see several months down the line, Fantasia 2000 helped carry on Disney's desire).  Unfortunately, I'm with the general public on this one, finding it a bit of a misstep in Disney's still-burgeoning career.  While it's uniqueness makes a valid argument for its placement in the Disney Pantheon, I cannot place it there.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Join us next Wednesday for Dumbo, the fourth film in The Disney Discussion.