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The Lion King…25 years makes a difference

Another chapter has been entered into Disney’s newest body of work in live action remakes. The Lion King, 25 years after the original animated release, has been given a facelift. I guess the use of the term “Live Action” is a bit of a stretch for this one because of the amount of CGI used, but I’m going to go ahead and call it that, because while watching it you don’t seem to realize you are watching CGI. It felt real! It amazes me how far technology has come in the past 25 years. Disney brought the Pride Land to life!

I must admit, it has been far too long since I’ve watched the 1994 animated Lion King. I really wish I had taken the time to watch it prior to seeing the new 2019 version. I like to go back and see how much “shot for shot” they do and to make sure I recognize any new bodies of music and scenes that are different from the original version. I did’t have the chance to do that this time. I am planning on going back one day this week and watching the animated version, which might warrant another trip to the theater as well and watch the new one again.

One of the great things that I’ve experienced while watching this movies is being able to introduce my daughter to them. We own most of the DVDs or digital copies of the movies, but there is something exciting about going to the movies and watching them on the big screen. I can remember as a child how excited I would be to go to the movies. My parents were TV/Movie addicts and I have no doubt that is where I got it from. My father was probably one of the first people in our town to own a VHS player. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. So being able to experience this with my family is a pleasure.

As for the movie, it is really on par with the other Disney Live Action remakes. I’m not going to do a full review of the movie, hopefully you’ve seen the animated version. You could seriously write a book about the depth of The Lion King. There are so many wonderful lessons to be taught from the story. There are tons of symbolism. That part is the same with the live action as was in the animated. So, instead of rehashing the same story, I’ll try and focus what’s new. As I stated, it has been awhile since I’ve seen the animated version, so if I misspeak, please overlook me and I may go back and try to correct it after I rewatch the 1994 version.

As for the actors, they were top notch! The same with the original, Timon and Pumbaa steal the show. Seth Rogen was perfect as Pumbaa and he and Billy Eichner played well off each other. John Oliver was a wonderful addition to the cast as Zazu. His twist on the character was refreshing and to me seemed to give it more depth than was in the original. I’m not taking anything away from Rowen Atkinson, he was good as well. Donald Glover and Beyoncé did a fine job as Simba and Nala. The one that I was the most interested to see was Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. Jeremy Irons has such a distinct voice and vocal cadence I was a bit apprehensive to hear another actor take on the role of Scar. As I said in my review of Aladdin, my biggest let down was the voice of the bad guy. Chiwetel however, was AMAZING! When you combine his voice and the CGI for Scar, I was blown away. He was evil embodied. A true villain on the big screen. You really can’t talk about the voice actors without tipping your hat to the great James Earl Jones. I am convinced no one and I mean no one could be Mufasa better than him. When he is no longer with us, the absence of his voice will leave a void that I’m not sure can ever be filled.

There are a few new scenes and a wonderful reference to Beauty and the Beast that I didn’t remember from the animated version. But going to see this version and expecting a ton of new stuff is not the reason to see the movie, because it’s not there. One of the best reasons to watch this new version is the live action aspect. From the very first shot of baby Simba, I heard my daughter say out loud, “He’s so cuuuuuute!”. I could see her cringe back and recoil a bit as the hyenas sauntered upon the pride as Scar declared himself King. I could see the joy on her face as Simba and Nala pranced and played in the beautiful setting of Simba’s new home. These are things you just don’t get from classic animation. Overall, we all enjoyed the movie. It has action, sadness, joy, fear, and laughter. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good fart joke, might be in the wrong movie though. I could hear my father-in-law full blown heehaw laughing at the gaseous nature of Pumbaa. If you were a fan of the original, this remake is a must see. I’ve heard many people complain about all the remakes and how Hollywood doesn’t have any new ideas. If you feel this way, I believe you are missing the point. Back when many of these animated films were made, that was the only medium that could have given them justice. Now, with the technology we have, they can bring some of your fondest memories to life. Don’t short yourself the opportunity to see the Lion King come to life.

 

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Spider-man: Far from home, near to Endgame!

It’s been a couple months since Endgame… Marvel fans alike were all left with questions after the final credits of Endgame rolled, one big one in particular, “What’s next?”. Spider-man: Far from Home is the first Marvel movie to take place after the events of Endgame, both in the MCU and in our reality. Endgame was truly epic! How could you possibly do anything after that? What direction would you go?

CAUTION!! Endgame Spoilers AHEAD! Honestly, if you haven’t seen Endgame, you should stop reading now.

 

I hate spoilers! I hate even hinting at spoilers! I’ve honestly racked my brain to come up with a way I could give a review of Spider-Man: Far from Home without Endgame spoilers and I just can’t do it! So… You have been warned.

Spider-Man: Far from Home is a movie about the teen web-slinger coming of age. One major part of the storyline is Peter dealing with the loss of Tony. The world is dealing with the loss of Iron Man and looking for his replacement, but it’s on a much deeper and personal level for Peter. Tony was his mentor and his friend. He looked up to him as almost a father figure. In the previous movies Marvel/Disney did a fantastic job in showing the relationship between Tony and Peter. This movie is no different. Peter is torn between wanting to do right by his life as an Avenger, the responsibilities Tony bestowed upon him, and the fact that he is a 16 year old kid and wants to chase “the love of his life”. To me, it all goes back to a statement made in the 2002 Toby Maguire Spider-Man movie, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Watching Peter try to juggle his life as Spider-Man and as teenage Peter was very near to home. It’s something we have all had to deal with. Granted, probably not to the scale of saving the world in spandex, but we have all had to juggle life/work/family/responsibilities/fun… It’s something we can relate to and something we can sympathize with. It’s one of the reasons I love these movies. They go beyond the simplistic comic book tale of good guy vs. bad guy. Far from Home is no different.

We loved the movie. I love being able to enjoy these movies with my wife and daughter. They might not be as big a Marvel fan as I am, but they each find something they love. This movie had a touch of everything in it, awesome heart pounding action, reach for the tissue moments, and bust out laughing roll in the sticky floor of the theater times. Of all the Spider-Man reboots, Tom Holland is by far the best. He plays the quirky, awkward teenage Spider-Man, who self describes in this movie as, “really strong and sticky”. Jake Gyllenhaal did an awesome job as Mysterio. Samual L. Jackson is the embodiment of Nick Fury. Marisa Tomei is still by far my favorite Aunt May and remains near the top of my “Famous Actress Crush List”. It was also nice to see Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan again. Jon is a huge Marvel fan and been involved in the MCU from the start. He directed Iron Man and Iron Man 2. People like Jon Favreau is what makes these movies so great. It seems that everyone involved has a passion for the MCU. I go back to something I said from my first post for The Good Vibe Travel Blog, there has never been a movies franchise like the MCU. It is truly epic and I just can’t see anyone other than Disney being able to pull it off. Far from Home is right on par with the previous films and I can not wait to see what happens next. So much more is about to happen in the MCU, from more movies to the series coming out on Disney+ this fall. It is going to be amazing to see where this journey takes us.

 

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Toy Story 4 What it means to be lost…

Way back in 1995 the world was introduced to Pixar. They released their first major film in Toy Story and changed animation forever. Not only did their method for creating animated movies jump light years ahead of the standard norm at the time, their story telling ability was on par with non-animated films. Disney/Pixar has always had the ability to tell great stories and the latest installation of the Toy Story tale is no different.

It’s been 24 years since the first Toy Story movie was release and 9 years since the 3rd one. That’s quite a gap for a sequel. Many of the original fans have grown up, have kids of their own and some even have grandkids… I myself was 20 years old and in college when the first movie came out and now I’m taking my, almost 10 year old, daughter to see a sequel. One of the best parts of Toy Story 4, they included bits for us original fans and new fans. We went to the theater for a 1pm showing of a G rated movie. As you can expect, it was packed with families. There were quite a few of us “forty somethings” all the way down to a couple babies I’m pretty sure came out of the womb that morning! One thing I enjoy when watching movies like this is hearing the children around me enjoy the movie. I’m not speaking to the loud annoying little brats whose parents should know better than to take them to a theater. I’m talking about the kids who get it. They, even at a young age, are captivated by a movie. I love hearing the little “Oooos and awwws”, the giggles, and even the funny little comments they make to their parents. As they say, out of the mouths of babes…

To me, it speaks to the story telling ability of the minds behind movies like Toy Story 4. How can you weave a tale that captures the attention of 5 year olds and yet entertains parents and grandparents? It honestly boggles my mind. Yet they do it time and time again. Toy Story 4 had me laughing, shuttering in fear (sorry… ventriloquist dummies are terrifying!), and wishing I had brought a box of tissues. One of the main themes in the movie is dealing with being lost and what it really means. To me this transcends a simple animated movie and truly dips into the view of ones self and the world around us. It’s a movie that makes you think. It makes you look at how you view the world and question your own observations. I know that sounds like quite a bit from a cartoon… but that’s Disney/Pixar! Toy Story 4 is straight up on par with the previous three films. It might even go to “Infinity and Beyond!”. It has action, adventure, and even some romance! The classic characters are fantastic, but Forky steals the show! A close second would have to be Duke Caboom! Keanu Reeves is the new superstar that should be in every movie!

Part of this new found depth might be reflective of my age or them knowing that their original audience is 24 years older. Either way, I can’t recommend the movie enough. Take your family to see this and don’t be leery of going to see a matinee for fear of small children. It can be a true joy to witness and experience their excitement!

 

Trailer:

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A Whole New World… Aladdin (2019)

Aladdin-poster

In 1992, a fantastic thing happened. A Disney cartoon was released and open many eyes into the world of Disney animation. This is true for me. I remember watching Disney cartoons from childhood, but never in my wildest dreams would I think a cartoon could move me and pull me into a journey full of emotion and laughter like Aladdin did. It opened my eyes to musicals in general. I had seen several plays at our local playhouse and I’d seen Phantom of the Opera a couple times in Nashville and Chicago by then, but hearing the music from Aladdin changed me. It was the first soundtrack to a movie I remember buying on CD. Now, you can’t even begin to think about Aladdin without the image of the late great Robin Williams popping into your mind. Robin is synonymous with the movie. He was the movie. He truly held all the power (of laughter) in the Universe with an itty bitty living space. Upon hearing that Disney had decided to do a live action film, my immediate reaction was, “That just can’t happen without Robin.” I was nervous that it would be cast to someone who would ruin the memory of the original and put a black mark on the shiny lamp where Aladdin resides in my brain.

Finally we got word that the genie had been cast. Will Smith??!?!? The Fresh Prince of Agrabah? Oh… this won’t end well. Time passed. Finally, a teaser was released. What was this? Excitement? I could feel the hairs on my arms standing on end, soon as I heard the music. Then BAM! There was Will in blue. Do you know what happened? I felt OK. I think I had a realization in the moment I heard him speak and witnessed Will standing there as the Genie. It was OK. He wasn’t Robin. He didn’t need to be Robin. He was his own Genie. This film needs to stand on its own and not be compared to the original. No one can replace a talent like Robin Williams. He was a light that shined so bright that the shadows it created are still left on the Earth today. Once again I found myself having to set aside any preconceived notions and walk into the film with eyes open and ready to see a whole new world, again… for the first time.

Opening night was finally upon us. I gathered up my family and dragged them to the 7pm show on the Friday before Memorial Day. This is something that I NEVER do. We usually hit a matinee on Saturday or Sunday, if we make it to opening weekend at all. Even when I was asked to write my opinions of Disney movies for this blog, I asked to be given a little grace in regard to when I would go see the movies. I asked for at least 2 weeks from opening. So with that in mind, the fact that I went opening night to a 7pm show should say something about the level of excitement I had for this movie. The main question is, did they deliver?

YEAH THEY DID! From the opening song to the closing credits musical dance.. The film was amazing. The live action cast did a fantastic job of bringing the cartoon to life while paying homage to the original and making Aladdin their own.  As Disney does, they add new songs to their live action versions. This did not disappoint! The new song sung by Jasmine, was a beautiful song about not being silent, but letting your voice be heard. Disney is making a statement in female empowerment and they are doing it in a great way! Being the father of a little girl, it warmed my heart to know my daughter was sitting there listening to a song written for her. Jasmine (Naomi Scott) stole the show! She was amazing! Second was the Genie (Will Smith). He wasn’t Robin Williams, but he was a new genie. In the first Aladdin, the Genie was the star. This time he was second, but not because Will wasn’t as powerful as Robin, it’s just that Jasmine was that strong. Don’t get me wrong, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) was good and did a fine job, but he worked in the shadows of Naomi and Will. Frank Welker was back as the voice of the Cave of Wonders and loved hearing Alan Tudyk as Iago! If there was a negative, it would have to be Marawan Kenzari as Jafar. He did a great job as the character but, it’s his voice…. Jonathan Freeman had a voice that made you feel the evil inside Jafar. Marawan, just doesn’t have the voice to pull off that level of “evil”. It’s like getting Jim Carey to play the voice of Darth Vader… It’s just not going to be the same as James Earl Jones.

Can’t write a review of this movie without mentioning the biggest surprise… Guy Ritchie directed this movie. For those of you who may not know who Guy is… he is the man responsible for a lot of fantastic movies, Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films. Going from those movies to a Disney Aladdin…whoa, big jump! I have to say, this was the biggest surprise of all for me. I hadn’t noticed that he was at the helm till I saw his name pop up in the opening credits. Soon as I saw it, I actually said out loud, “Guy Ritchie directed this?!!!?” Everyone around me looked at me like my head was on fire. I’m guessing the main crowd for Aladdin aren’t big fans of movies like Snatch.

Over a year ago, I was nervous about Disney going live action with some of their animated films, but now… I’m blown away. How dare I question the Mouse?!?! Go see Aladdin and try not to sing too loud in the theater.

 

Trailer as presented by Will!

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All good things… Endgame!

Avengers-Endgame-MCU-Rewatch

We’re in the Endgame now.

The time has come. The end is upon us. Will the universe be left ripped in half by the snap of a mad Titan or will it be avenged?

Marvel fans Assemble!!! The movie we have been waiting on is upon us! The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3 is complete! 22 films to tell the twisted tale of a mad Titan’s dream and the mighty heroes destined to stop him. Last month, I challenged each you to take up your shield and hammer and forge forward with me on a quest to watch all 21 movies in 30 days! How many of you made it? I can proudly say, I DID IT! Granted I had the help of some unexpected downtime, thanks to a bout with the flu and a stomach virus…(not sure it was worth it?!?!)  As I’ve stated in my previous blog posts, I always do my best to go into a movie without any expectations. I won’t lie, I failed miserably on this one! There has been so much hype about this film, from commercials, teasers, trailers, talk show hosts (if you haven’t seen the amazing We Didn’t Start the Fire by the Avengers from Jimmy Fallon, you are missing out!) and within my own mind. I can honestly say, I’ve never been so excited to see a movie. Now, I’ve been a Star Wars fan for almost my entire life, but it doesn’t compare to this. There have been several EPIC tales told through movies  and television (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and I’ll even throw in Harry Potter) None of them come close to the level that Marvel and Disney has done with the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). So I am going to forgive myself and allow the expectation to blossom and grow in anticipation of this movie. I think the story deserves it. I think the fans deserve it.

And did they deliver? Absolutely!!! I was utterly and completely blown away. This movie exceeded all expectations and was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. A friend of ours, who is not a Marvel fan, walked out of the movie theater talking about how awesome it was!

So here is my **NO SPOILER REVIEW**

From the opening scenes to the closing credits, you could feel the emotion put forth by the actors, the writers, and the director. The movie had an overall feel that is hard to express in words. I laughed and I cried. There was such a wide range of emotion while watching the movie. The buildup of a scene, the significance of an event, and the raw passion from everyone involved could be felt throughout. I went into the movie spoiler free. I avoided a lot of social media to keep some idiotic keyboard cowboy from performing an act of cyber-bullying and getting their kicks off by ruining the movie. It was hard, but it was worth it! Luckily a friend of ours shot me a text message to let me know the 1pm showing was sold out. We were going to the 4pm show. I rushed to the Study of our house and got on the laptop. YES! There were still tickets available online. It was 12:45. Literally 5 mins after I had purchased our tickets, I opened ths website back up and the 4pm show was sold out. With our 9 tickets in hand (Thank you ONLINE Sales!) I still got the theater an hour early, just in case there was a line. I prepared for this movie. Let’s not fool ourselves, the older we get the harder it is to go 3 hours without a bathroom break. I actually stopped drinking any fluids 4 hours before going into the movie so I could make the full run time. I am pleased to say I made it! There are several articles out explaining (mostly spoiler free) times to make a bathroom run. I must disagree with them. To me, this film needs to be watched in its entirety. Every scene has meaning. It may not be a direct plot supporter or a moment of significance explaining the meaning of something, but it has value. Every scene has something. The majority of people in the audience could sense it as well. As I said the viewing we attended was a sold out show. The theater was packed. There were moments you could hear a pin drop. For almost 3 hours, a room full of strangers were on a journey together. A journey masterly conceived, well written, well directed, and acted out to perfection. I hope there was a showing in Heaven and Stan Lee had a front row seat. Thank you Stan.

 

OFFICIAL TRAILER: