Disney Movie Reviews

Thor Ragnarok Might Just Be My New Favorite Marvel Movie

After a somewhat heated discussion with Brianna on last week’s podcast about the awesomeness that is Thor Ragnarok, I decided to take some action. Brianna seemed to think the movie was overrated, particularly because Thor is not a witty humor/fun music kind of superhero. I couldn’t fully disagree because I didn’t have enough background knowledge, but I have since completed my research.

First, I watched Thor: The Dark World. And by watched it, I mean I left in on in the background while I was getting ready to go out because the fifteen minutes or so I actually watched of it was boring AF. Sorry Natalie Portman, I love you, but Jane is a flat character and I was so not into it. Then I rewatched Avengers Age of Ultron, which I had not seen since I saw it in the theater. And while I have always paid attention to and appreciated Thor (you so pretty), he was never my favorite Avenger, because hello all the eye candy. But this time, I paid close attention to Thor, and I think Ultron is the set up for Thor Ragnarok. Thor is much more sarcastic and witty with the Avengers than he is in his standalone films. And at this point we all know that audiences like their superhero action flicks with a dash of humor (thanks Guardians of the Galaxy!). So when you watch the Avengers and Ragnarok back to back, Thor makes sense. His character has evolved since the original Thor movies, and since the evolution has brought us hilarity, I’m okay with it.

I went to see Thor Ragnarok in theaters for a second time to complete my study and prepare my final arguments. And guess what? It was just as funny and entertaining the second time around. I literally saw this movie twice within eight days, and I liked it just as much the second time as I did the first. So here is my dissertation on the cinematic masterpiece that is Thor Ragnarok.

Chris Hemsworth. This is the most obvious piece of evidence in support of this film, so let’s just start here. Chris Hemsworth is possibly the most good-looking man ever to have been in a movie (sorry Richard Madden, I still love you endlessly, and you’ll always be my Prince Charming). Thor has always been hot, but in Ragnarok, he is beyond. The muscles, the haircut, the war paint. It is all working for me. Like soooooo working for me. Yum.

Also, everyone else in the movie. Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Tessa Thompson are the notable newcomers, and they join an already stellar crew that, along with Hemsworth, includes Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Cumberbatch. These Marvel films are killing it with the casting and everyone was fabulous.

The music. The soundtrack for this film is on point. The music is always a highlight in Guardians, and I loved that they brought the same sensibility into Thor. The rock/80’s vibe worked with this movie because of the settings, and it was rocking.

Girl Power. Tessa Thompson as the alcoholic badass warrior trying to escape her past is effing awesome as Valkyrie. But as much as I loved her, Cate Blanchett was absolutely phenomenal as Hela, the Goddess of Death and Thor’s long lost sister. First of all, Cate looks like she is 25, which is just not fair. And on top of that, she is ferocious and fierce and terrifying and I loved every minute of her performance. I love having a female villain and she nailed it.

The settings/backgrounds/graphics, etc. Sakaar, the new planet Thor ends up on, is super cool looking visually. I loved the costumes, the colors, the vibe, the characters, everything. The bright colors of Sakaar and the Bifrost Bridge really work with the humor and soundtrack of the film.

I laughed my ass off. Both times I saw this movie, I was laughing out loud at multiple points. As funny as I found it the first time, it was the fact that I found it equally as funny the second time that impressed me. A lot of times with action type movies, the humor is a one and done, and doesn’t hold up after multiple viewings. This is so not the case with Thor Ragnarok.

Brilliant fight scenes. The final battle was by far my favorite, but all of the fight scenes were very well done. There was something really visually appealing about watching a battle on a rainbow bridge, so that was the standout for me, but as usual with Disney and Marvel, the fight choreography was beautiful (not as good as Wonder Woman, but that’s to be expected).

Brotherly love. As someone who has not really seen the previous Thor films, my experience with Loki is limited to the Avengers, but one of my all-time favorite lines from the brothers is Thor’s quip in the first Avengers about Loki being adopted. Even though Loki had some moments of bad little brother in the film, it was cool to see Thor and Loki fighting on the same side. I guess all it takes to bring brothers together is a psycho sister.

Did I mention Chris Hemsworth? Seriously. So so pretty.

In conclusion, while Guardians of the Galaxy is always going to be up there as one of my favorite Marvel movies, I think that all together, Thor Ragnarok might have it beat (by just a little bit). I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and guess what, I would consider seeing it in the theater again. I didn’t even see The Force Awakens in the theater three times, so that should tell you something. Even if you take the gorgeous man out of Thor (but please don’t ever do that), I think the other fantastic elements would make it a movie worth watching.

Have you seen Thor Ragnarok yet? What did you think?


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Beauty and the Beast at the El Capitan

So I, along with the rest of the planet as it seems, saw Beauty and the Beast this past weekend. Unlike many of the planet, I was lucky enough to get to see the film at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, aka the home of all Disney movie premieres. I love going to the El Cap and I try to see as many Disney movies there as I can. The theater itself is historic and beautiful, and they always have awesome costume and prop exhibits, along with pre-movie entertainment. My thoughts on the movie are coming in just a few minutes, but first, I wanted to share with you some highlights of seeing BATB at the El Capitan.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theater (I literally stopped and said, “Oh my God”) is this amazing Swarovski crystal curtain designed just for Beauty and the Beast. Pictures cannot capture the dazzling effect of this curtain. It sparkles and shines and changes color with the lights and it is absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, I need one of these in my house. It’s amazing and you have to see it in person to really appreciate it!

Before the movie begins, there is a short projection show on the curtain, displaying some imagery related to the movie.

And as always at the El Cap, movie goers are treated to a half hour of organ playing from award-winning organist Rob Richards. For BATB he took us through several Disney movies, ending with BATB’s animated counterparts Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Lion King.

In the basement of the El Capitan is a display of costumes and props from the movie. These were some of my favorites:

Cogsworth costume and prop…

Belle and Beast costumes from the ballroom scene…

Lumiere costume and prop…

Steins from the tavern scenes…

And the famous rose (this one can be found in the theater lobby)…

Of course, the main attraction at the El Cap is the showing of the movie, Beauty and the Beast. I had some hesitation about the film going in, mainly due to the fact that I have been burned by some movie musicals in the past. Honestly, I’m glad I did have some hesitant feelings because it meant that I wasn’t disappointed. Let me be clear–I loved the movie. Visually, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. If they don’t win every visual effects and cinematography award out there I will be shocked. It’s breathtaking. I also LOVED the additions made to the story (which I won’t detail in case you haven’t seen it); I thought all of the added information made sense and helped answer some questions left by the animated film. Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou were the highlights for me, along with the fab Audra McDonald as the wardrobe (who in this version gets to sing, which is awesome). Dan Stevens as the Beast was also good, as were most of the supporting players.

So for the real question plaguing all of us musical theater peeps: How was Emma Watson? Love you girl, but she just didn’t do it for me musically. Belle is not an easy part to sing, and it was clear that Emma just doesn’t have the chops. I loved her acting performance and I loved the feminist angle that I’m sure she helped influence in the film, but she’s just not a great singer. What bothered me the most was how much you could tell they had altered her singing. It sounded false and kind of electronic. I also did not like how they seemed to use the same effects in some of the other songs (like “Be Our Guest”) thus making amazing singers like Ewan McGregor sound not as good as he should have. Really, Emma’s singing was the only thing about the movie that I didn’t love and I kind of got over it after the “Belle” reprise (where her lack of vocals was most glaringly obvious). But I would have preferred to see one of the many actual talented stars out there from the world of Broadway in the role. Let’s put it this way: I would not go out and buy the soundtrack from the film, I would much rather listen to the Original Broadway Cast recording.

I don’t want to end on a sour note, because I really did love the movie, and I will probably see it again in the theaters. This is a film that needs to be seen on the big screen, and I honestly don’t feel like anyone could leave the theater after seeing it and feel disappointed. I’ve been to a lot of midnight showings/opening days, and I think there was more enthusiastic applause at the end of Beauty and the Beast than I have ever heard before. If you are in the LA area, I highly recommend taking a trip to the El Capitan to see BATB, but if you’re outside of So Cal, any movie theater showing is totally worth the price of admission.

Have you seen BATB yet? What did you think?

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Star Wars at the El Capitan Theater

A few weeks ago, the hubs and I went to see Star Wars for the second time and decided to make an event of it and go to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood (we also started off our romantic date night eating at Hooters, since it is the fastest and most affordable restaurant next to the theater, but that’s a whole other story). I love seeing Disney movies at the El Capitan (like the live action Cinderella) because there is always a pre-show and they have super cool exhibits and displays from the movie. Plus, the theater itself is gorgeous and full of history, which is always a bonus.

There were tons of cool things about Star Wars at the El Cap (as the cool kids call it), and these are just some of the highlights. The film is scheduled to run at the theater for just a little bit longer, so if you are in the LA area, make sure you check it out. If you aren’t in the LA area, you can live vicariously through my pics! (Side note: pictures that were imported pre blog change are having some weird formatting issues, so sorry they are small :o(.)
Storm troopers are obviously a must at any Star Wars event…
One of the highlights for me was the Lego displays…
Downstairs in the gallery were several costumes and some props that were used in the making of the film…
Before the movie started, the world famous Rob Richards played tons of Disney favorites on the historic El Capitan organ and the audience was treated to a brief laser light show. One of the other pros of seeing any movie at the El Cap is you get to see a bunch of Disney previews. I am looking forward to the new slate of films set for release in the next couple of months. And yes, I loved Star Wars just as much the second time as I did the first. I might even go see it again!
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I Drank the Star Wars Kool Aid and I Ain’t Even Mad

Unless you have been living under a seriously huge, life-crushing rock for the past few months, you are well aware that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened in theaters yesterday (Friday).  The build up to this movie has been unlike anything I have ever seen and the film is already (writing this on Saturday, the day after the official opening) on track to break every box office record in the books.  Star Wars fans, to me, are the first generation of the fandoms, which are now so popular everyone seems to belong to at least one (Disney! Harry Potter! Hunger Games! Doctor Who! The Walking Dead!…I only like the first three, but you know what I mean) and they laid the ground work for how it should be done.  Fans were camped out for weeks before opening day, showed up in costume, got tattoos, and even threw opening day weddings to show their solidarity to their fandom.  Some of that is a little cray cray, but Star Wars is one of those pop culture phenomenons that just can’t replicated.

I was never a huge Star Wars fan as a kid (and not because I’m a girl and I wasn’t “allowed” to be), they just weren’t my thing.  My brother, however, loved Episodes IV, V, and VI and so I saw them all frequently, though usually in small pieces.  I also LOVED Star Tours as a kid, it was my one must ride when we visited the park.  When Episodes I, II, and III came out, I saw them in the theaters, mostly because I had friends who were interested, but I never saw them more than once (I actually saw Episode III at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome, where my mom saw Episode IV back in the day).  My husband is a big fan, but we had never actually watched any of them together until this past week when we decided to watch one of the movies each of the six nights leading up to Friday so that we were refreshed on the story and ready to go for Episode VII.

I freaking loved every second of watching those six movies.  Alright, part of that is that it is rare for the hubs and I to spend that much dedicated time together during the week (which is sad, but life tends to get in the way) and that was awesome.  But I also really enjoyed watching all six movies as one continuous story.  Clearly Episodes I, II, and III do not have the same magic as Episodes IV, V, and VI (though II is the only one I would really consider a “bad” movie), but when you watch them all together, everything makes a lot more sense.  To me, part of the beauty of the series is that they are not perfect films–plot holes, cheesy dialogue, sub par acting can be found in ALL the films.  The beauty part is in how much we love them anyway, not despite the flaws, but because of them.  That’s what makes them so awesome.

When it came time to head to the theater on Friday for Episode VII, I was pumped.  I was rocking my BB-8 brooch and ready to love every second of the seventh installment.  And I totally did.  (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything for you…in fact, that’s another thing I totally loved about this whole experience, I follow HUNDREDS of Disney people on social media, many of whom saw the film early, and I did not see a SINGLE spoiler.)  I love the new characters, I love the old characters, I am now obsessed with BB-8 and Rey.  I LOVED IT.  I expected to like it, I expected it to be good, I expected it to be entertaining.  I didn’t know I would leave the theater a member of the Star Wars fandom.  But I did.  And a lot of it was because of Episode VII, but even more of it was the entire series as a whole, all seven films, all together.  I will 100% be seeing The Force Awakens in the theater again, quite possibly more than once.  And my husband should be concerned about how much BB-8 merch I will be purchasing over the next couple of months.  All of the sudden, I can’t wait until Squirt is old enough to watch the films with us (the real dilemma is going to be deciding which order he should watch them in).  I’m already planning his Star Wars themed birthday party, and Star Wars themed room decor.  And hello opening day of Star Wars Land, I will now be there with bells on.  Seriously guys, I am usually one of those people who scoffs at bandwagon fans, even picking the opposite of the cool, popular choice just to be a brat, but I can’t even pretend to hate Star Wars.

My name is Falon, I drank the Star Wars Kool Aid and I ain’t even mad.

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Cinderella at the El Capitan

As you know already, I absolutely loved Cinderella.  Hardcore.  What I also loved about my Cinderella experience was seeing it at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.  If you live in So Cal, visiting this theater at least once is a must.  It’s gorgeous, plus there are always special extras that you don’t get when you see the movie in a regular theater.

First, there is a live organist playing all your favorite Disney songs before the show starts…

Since we got to see “Frozen Fever” before Cinderella, we also got a little visit and sing-along with Olaf…

Then there was an amazing video/light/projection curtain show before the movie actually began…

After the film, we got to walk around the theater and look at some of the costumes and props used in the actual movie.  This is the fairy godmother’s dress…

The “everyday” outfits worn by Cinderella and the Prince…

The ball outfits of Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters…

And, of course, Cinderella’s stunning ball gown…

And my favorite, the glass slipper…

I had to get a shot from every angle!  Pretty stunning, am I right?  Cinderella is playing at the El Capitan until April 16th.  Don’t miss your chance to see this fabulous movie with all the extras to go along with it!

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Movie Review: Cinderella

All pictures courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

From the moment the first images of Cinderella were released, I’ve been counting down the minutes until the premiere.  That dress!  Those shoes!  The prince!  I walked into the theater last Friday night ready to watch a gorgeous film.  I saw so much more than that.  Cinderella has never been my favorite princess, but the way this classic story was told was so stunning, both visually and emotionally, that I might have to put her up there with Belle and Ariel from this point on.  To put it simply: I loved every minute of this movie.  I’m going to assume we are all familiar with the basic storyline so I’ll just jump right into the good stuff.

Lily James is fantastic.  As one of the few on the planet who has never seen an episode of Downton Abbey, I had never heard of her or seen her in anything.  She brings such a genuine sweetness to the character that you can’t help but fall in love with her.  The way the beginning of the story was fleshed out (we actually get to meet and spend time with her parents before their deaths) combined with James’s emotions hit me in all the feels.  I cried.  More than once.  She is utterly fabulous.

Speaking of utterly fabulous.  Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine is to die for.  Given Blanchett’s extensive film credits, I expected nothing less than a brilliant performance and I was not disappointed.  She is downright evil, but she also gives us a glimpse as to why she despises Cinderella so much (though it doesn’t get all touchy feely like Maleficient in her movie).  Plus, she looks ridiculously good.  Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera also shine as the wicked stepsisters, Anastasia and Drisella.

I mean really, just look at this guy.  He could have stood there silent the entire movie and I would have been just as captivated.  I have loved Richard Madden since I first saw him on Game of Thrones so I was psyched to see him cast in the role of the Prince (also known as Kit).  I thought he was fabulous (and gorgeous, obv).  I loved how the film explored his relationship with his father, it gave the sometimes flat character a bit more depth.  I also liked seeing him become a leader at the end of the film, and how his principles as a leader were influenced by Cinderella’s motto: “Have courage and be kind.”  I think it was a wise decision to have him and Cinderella meet once before the ball as well as it gave the audience a bit more time to see just why he was so captivated by her.  Oh, and the boy can dance.

Of course, the costumes, sets, and overall design of the film were absolutely breath-taking.  This carriage is unreal (and I wish it was here on the West Coast instead of at Disney World!).  Everything was just so beautiful.  Cinderella’s transformation was stunning (and I have seen it done live, in front of my face in the Broadway musical version).  In general, the direction of the film was right on point.  I liked the fleshed out story and the character development, I loved the original elements from the 1950’s cartoon (appearances are made by Gus and Lucifer), and I was blown away by both the performances and the visuals.  I seriously cannot say enough good things about this movie (and no one is paying me to say that).  If you weren’t one of the millions who went to see the film this past weekend, then get on it!  This one cannot be missed.

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Movie Review: McFarland USA

I am such a sucker for a good sports movie.  I’m partial to baseball films, but really any movie about an athletic underdog is one I’m probably going to like.  So when I got the chance to check out an advanced screening of Disney’s upcoming sports movie McFarland USA, I was all over it.  McFarland USA is about a group of kids from Central California (middle of nowhere Central California) and the coach who pushes them to succeed in the sport of cross country.  McFarland is a predominately Hispanic town and Coach White (that’s his actual name) is one of the few white guys around.  There are some racial issues that ensue, but the focus of the film is more about the kids and the relationship they build with their coach.  These are kids (teenagers, really) who are dealing with abusive parents, family members serving jail time, and parents who rely on them to work before and after school in order to make ends meet.  Cross country becomes their escape, and opens up a world to them that they never would have known if it weren’t for their coach and his encouragement.
McFarland USA got off to a slow start for me.  The first half hour or so of the film dragged and I was actually dreading writing this review because I didn’t think I would have many positive things to say.  The emotions were lacking at first, and the dialogue was stilted and ineffective.  But after that first half hour, it took a sharp turn into heartwarming territory and my waterworks flowed several times before the end.  Kevin Costner gives a solid performance as Coach White, though he is probably a little old for the role.  But he’s Kevin Costner so I guess we’ll forgive that.  The “kids” playing the students were the highlights in terms of performance.  The standouts for me were Carlos Pratts as lead runner Thomas and Michael Aguero as Damacio, one of the kids who has to work in the fields for hours both before and after school.  With the exception of Costner and Maria Bello (who plays his wife), the cast are mostly unknowns (like don’t even have pictures on IMDB unknown) and I think that actually had a positive impact on the movie as a whole.  I was able to really believe the struggles these kids were going through.
While there were no surprises in the underdog-pulls-out-the-win sports story, the movie kept me interested because of the kids.  The hard work they put in and the struggles they went through are nothing short of inspirational.  Maybe it’s because I have taught at schools with a mostly Hispanic population before, but something about their story really touched me (I’m not lying when I say I cried more than once).  And as an educator, I really appreciated the work of this coach who sacrificed so much for his group of students.  One of my favorite parts of the movie was actually the ending, when they showed the original team members and coach and gave updates on their lives.  What can I say?  It hit me in the feels.
Overall, if you enjoy a good sports film, definitely head out to see McFarland USA.  Just make sure you bring some tissues with you.

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