Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Week in Movies - Let's Hear It For Animals in Clothes

Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009) An awesome documentary about the Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio between the years 1980 and 1995. What's so special about those years, you may ask?! This is the time period when the studio went from making movies like The Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective to making classics like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Besides the fact that this is a very well made Disney documentary, filled with rare clips and interesting facts and stories...this movie really spoke to me. I've mentioned before how much I love The Little Mermaid and how it's always been a special movie to me because after years of idolizing the old classic Disney animated movies, The Little Mermaid was the first one released in my lifetime that really hit a home run and was every bit as magical and magnificent as the old films Walt Disney himself had produced. So here's a movie that takes this little moment from my life and blows it up and puts a spotlight on it and shows that it was really a turning point for the legacy of the Walt Disney Company as a whole. It is perhaps one of the most captivating documentaries I have ever seen. It features scores of behind the scenes footage of the making of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. Two of the highlights in the film, for me, were a clip of a lecture that Mermaid lyricist Howard Ashman gave to the animators about the role of music in animated film. Another was a brief clip of Ashman in the studio coaching/directing the voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, through the recording of Part of Your World. Both of these clips appear briefly in the movie but the DVD includes expanded scenes from the film which included 10 minute clips of both the lecture and the recording session. The Mermaid recording session is especially magical. A wonderful movie; a must for Disney fans but I think anyone would find it pretty darn interesting. Rated PG for a couple of curse words tossed off in interviews.

Easy A (2010) Really funny, very fresh and very likable teen sex comedy has Emma Stone leading a talent heavy cast in this high school retelling of The Scarlet Letter. It's pretty clever in parts and there's alot of energy throughout the whole picture, best of all it's just laugh out loud funny the entire time. Emma Stone shows she can really carry a picture. The supporting cast includes Amandy Bynes, Thomas Haden Chruch, Lisa Kudrow, Alyson Michalka, Stanley Tucci and SNL's Fred Armisen. I really enjoyed this movie alot and found it to be easily the best high school movie to come out in a while. It's Rated PG-13 for language and sexual discussion.

Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks With The Circus (1960) One of the few live-action Disney films that I hadn't seen it, I caught it on the Hallmark Movie Channel (which, by the way, has the most obnoxious and intrusive promos pop up at the bottom of the screen during the movie!) Disney staple Kevin Corcoran plays Toby, who leaves his somewhat abusive adoptive parents for life in the circus. Walt Disney's love of nostalgia is on display here with lovingly recreated scenes of the circus parade making it's way down old fashioned Main Street U.S.A. There was an excitement about the circus back then that is simply lost today. The movie is pretty plot-thin, even for an old Disney film. But of course it makes up for it with plenty of charm and good wholesome fun. Plus, it's hard to frown at a movie that features a chimpanzee in overalls and in one scene he holds a town hostage with a pistol. Let's face it folks, chimps wearing clothes and toting guns is pretty darn hilarious. This movie is also a nice snapshot of what life in the circus was like back in the old days. Not rated - it contains nothing objectionable except for maybe a monkey with a gun.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) There's been alot of very positive talk about this documentary which follows comedian Joan Rivers as she tries to stay busy at age 75. There's a bit of a backstory about her career and her early days, but the focus of the movie is Joan's attempts to reinvent herself and her drive to keep on working after all these years. It's entertaining enough and fairly interesting, but it's hard to find too much sympathy for someone who brings their troubles upon themselves. Rated R for crude and vulgar language of the first degree.

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