THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: Disney Goes Back To Basics With ‘Princess’, ‘Old Dogs’ Needs A New Trick
After Atlantis was released in 2001, it seemed Disney was ready to abandon 2D animation for good. And when their attempt to mix computer animation with 2D, Treasure Planet, resulted in financial disaster a year later, that was the final nail in the coffin. Seven years later, they’re ready to give it another go, but the studio is proceeding cautiously with their first 2D toon in ages, The Princess and the Frog. The old school animated picis opening this week in New York and Los Angeles and based on the early reviews, it looks like it has a good chance to be a Pixar-size hit. At least that’s what producer, and Pixar founder, John Lasseter will be hoping when it opens across the country December 11.
While the fairy tale source material is standard Disney fare, the fact that it features Disney’s first African American protagonist is not. Randy Newman wrote the songs for the movie, which is set in New Orleans’ French quarter, and appropriately enough, Dr. John performs them on the soundtrack.
Newman told Variety,
“I thought they’d ask me to do it, but they wanted Dr. John’s voice. They had us doing a part, an otter or some kind of animal that was going to be the narrator. I think he beat me out for the part of the otter.”
THE BUZZ: Good. Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum says,
“This old-fashioned charmer holds its own beside the motion-capture elegance of Disney’s A Christmas Carol, the engrossing stop-motion universes of Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox, the CG-enhanced genius of Up, the wonder of 3-D technology, and, indeed, the unique, hand-drawn Japanese artistry of Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo as the year’s deepest, most affecting, and most inventive movies.”
The LA Times Betsey Sharkey, writes,
It’s the studio’s return to the lush, fluid beauty of hand-drawn animation. It’s an old-fashioned fairy tale, even though they’ve had some fun with the story. And it’s set to music in the grand tradition of “Beauty and the Beast,” which is to say the neoclassic ’90s brand of Disney animation.”
And now for another Disney release. John Travolta and Robin Williams star in Old Dogs as friends whose lives are turned upside down when they have to unexpectedly take care of a set of twins, while on the verge of the biggest business deal of ther lives. It was directed by Walt Becker, who was also responsible for the cringe-inducing 2006 hit Wild Hogs and I’m sure he wondered how he could top himself for his next project.
That’s when he must have had the idea to combine Wild Hogs with Daddy Day Camp, throw in Robin Williams for good measure and hope for the best. It remains to be seen whether the movie will be a hit, but it seems as though it’s already the top contender for the title of worst film of the year.
The Buzz: Bad. The Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips, writes,
“Wild Hogs, Old Dogs — what’s next, Bumps on Logs? Truly, I would rather watch John Travolta and Robin Williams sitting on a tree trunk, doing nothing, than endure their best efforts to energize this ol’ hound. Does no one know how to film physical comedy anymore? In the latest Disney live-action comedy, people are constantly getting their fingers crushed by car-trunk lids, or getting clocked in the groin by golf balls, and undergoing grotesque facial distortions owing to the wrong medication. And none of it is funny. It’s all pain and no funny.”
The director of Ninja Assassin, James McTeigue, talked about what it was like working with The Wachowski Bros., who produced the movie, in a recent interview with Twitchfilm.net. He said,
“They’re producers, so they’re there if I needed their support, or want to talk about something. But they never tried to influence me at all, they were like, “It’s your movie. We’re making our own movies. We’ll put all our stuff into Speed Racer or Matrix, or whatever we’re doing next.” I think usually by the time we get to do my movies, they’re coming off the back of a movie, so they’re like, “Yeah, you know, okay…”
The Buzz: Pretty good. Ethan Alter wrote in Hollywood Reporter,
“In typical Wachowski fashion, these set pieces embrace both comic book and video game aesthetics: The frames are carefully composed and packed with rich colors, but the camera is rarely locked down, toggling around the space as if McTeigue were controlling it with a joystick. This approach might upset old-school kung fu movie fans, but it results in some of the most entertaining and over-the-top martial arts action this side of the Kill Bill films.”
The Road, starring Viggo Mortenson is based on Cormac McCarthey‘s novel about a father and son traveling together across a post-apocoplyptic United States.
The movie’s director John Hillcoat, talked with Cinematical about how he approached the challenge of adapting the novel to the big screen. He said,
“Really the focus had to be on that central journey of the father and son, and all of the apocalyptic cannibal stuff, that’s all obstacles that test the characters on their journey; that was all important, but the heart and soul of it was the love story between father and son – so it was to get that right. Also, not to get overwhelmed by the task at hand; once it was published and it grew into this thing, that was just added pressure to strip it down to the essence, because it’s all there in the book – the dialogue, the story, the characters. To not overcomplicate it.”
The director wasn’t the only one who found the project to be a challenge. Viggo Mortenson told Parade.com,
“It was cold, wet and dirty,but the physical part was actually easy. The challenge was getting inside yourself – just being honest about how afraid you are, how sad you are, and the determination comes from dealing with your own fear.”
The Buzz: Not so good. LA Times‘ Kenneth Turan writes,
The Road is a road you’ll wish hadn’t been taken. Not because anything’s been badly done, but because there’s a serious imbalance in the complicated equation between what the film forces us to endure and what we end up receiving in return.”
USA Today‘s Claudia Puig was slightly more positive about the movie. She says,
While the film is not as resonant as the novel, it is an honorable adaptation, capturing the essence of the bond between father and son.”
Although Richard Linklater‘s film Liars (A to E) was recently canceled shortly before shooting was set to begin, he should be comforted by the warm reception of his new movie, Orson Welles and Me starring Zac Efron and Claire Danes. It’s the first big dramatic role for the High School Musical star and it looks like the genre switch has paid off. Efron plays and aspiring actor who lands a role with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater Company.
Steve Christian, the chairman of Freestyle Releasing, waxed optimistic when talking to Variety about their releasing strategy for the movie. He said,
“We’ve developed what we believe is an exciting road map for distributing this film, one we hope will pave the way for many others to come. The climate is such that there are fewer homes for films of this quality and budget range and it is important to create new options.”
The Buzz: Pretty Good. The New Yorker‘s David Denby writes,
The strength of Me and Orson Welles is that it sticks to Welles’s actual production and to the life of a new theatre company. This is a movie of great spirit and considerable charm. It’s about the giddiness of promise—the awakening of young talent, after years of the Depression, to a moment when anything seems possible”
Time‘s Mary Pols, says,
In the new Richard Linklater film, Me and Orson Welles, a youthful Welles is brilliantly embodied by Christian McKay in one of those, hey-who’s-that? performances that tends to draw Oscar talk, even if the film itself isn’t much more than an extremely pleasant lark.”