Saturday, December 24, 2016

Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Fan poster by Phil Noto
Movie: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, and Forrest Whitaker
Release Date: December 16, 2016

The most disappointing part of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was Michael Giacchino’s score, not that the audience is likely to notice. It feels like a cheap knock-off of the classic John Williams themes that everyone has come to know and love; something that belongs in a parody film. Then again, given the iconic status of Williams’ original music, maybe the audience will notice. Regardless…

Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One is enjoyable enough. There is no overarching issue, and nothing is particularly wrong with the film per se. The script is crafted well enough, the new characters introduced throughout the film are likable enough, the special effects are top notch. All of the pieces were in place for what should be a blockbuster movie event, and yet, at the end of the film, what struck me most was how utterly lackluster the whole thing felt. I couldn’t help leaving the theatre just a bit unsatisfied, surprising given the overwhelmingly positive response the picture has received from others.

The story begins with a young Jyn Erso (portrayed by child-actress Beau Gadsdon here; Felicity Jones later) and her family hiding from the Empire on a remote farm planet. After her father, scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken by the Empire’s Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and forced to construct Episode IV’s Death Star weapon, Jyn is found and raised by Forrest Whitaker’s Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera. One might expect an actor of Whitaker’s caliber to be featured throughout the movie, yet he's unfortunately reduced to little more than a cameo. He does play an important role in the plot, however, providing crucial information to Jyn on her father’s whereabouts and the Death Star he’s constructed.

Meanwhile, a Rebellion has been brewing throughout the galaxy. In search of her father, Jyn joins rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), who seek Bodhi Rock (Riz Ahmed), a defected Storm Trooper with additional information on the Death Star. While rescuing Rock, they stumble upon blind monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), who is “One with the Force; and the Force is in [him],” and his skeptical protector Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). The cast of Rogue One provide the film its brightest spot. Tudyk’s K-2SO is an especially welcome addition to the Star Wars mythology, offering plenty of witty, sarcastic banter for the others to play off. Chirrut Imwe is also rather compelling. A former guardian of an ancient Jedi religious site, Imwe serves as a reminder of the importance of faith and hope, and provides a nice contrast with the other, more cynical members of the squadron.

Ultimately Rogue One works best when it abandons typical Star Wars motifs and stands alone as its own film. It almost seems as though Edwards wanted to do something different with this picture, but didn’t fully commit to fleshing out exactly what that meant. Perhaps the issues stem from studio over-involvement, an unsurprising fact if true given how risk-averse The Walt Disney Company has become in recent years. Regardless, Rogue One had the potential to be something truly different and special; a spy thriller set in the Star Wars universe. It opts instead to be little more than a billboard for Disney’s future Star Wars endeavors, and seems to exist only to remind the audience that there’s plenty more where this came from. A bad movie? No. Just far from a great one.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: La La Land (2016)

"Here's to the ones who dream; foolish as they may seem. Here's to the hearts that ache; here's to the mess we make."

Movie: La La Land
Staring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Released: December 9, 2016

             "The World you have dedicated to Hollywood," former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael D. Eisner declared at the 1989 opening of the then-Disney MGM Studios. "Not a place on a map," he continued, "but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine." He concluded his remarks by welcoming all to "a Hollywood that never was—and always will be." Eisner very easily could have been describing the world created by Damien Chazelle in the new musical, La La Land. Not since Singin’ in the Rain, has the magic and essence of Hollywood been so effectively captured on film.
Simply stated, La La Land is a masterpiece; a stunning sensation for the senses, both visually and audibly. It’s a whimsical tale about two ordinary people with extraordinary dreams, achievable because of the effects that a series of chance encounters they share with one another has on each of them.
As the film opens, audiences are transported to a musical world in which drivers, stuck for hours in one of Los Angeles’ infamous traffic jams, abandon their vehicles for song and dance in the kind of ensemble performance that’s all too rare in today’s motion pictures. It’s on this LA freeway that Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a down-on-his luck jazz purist and pianist, and Mia (Emma Stone), an ever-auditioning, aspiring actress, first meet, as Mia flips an annoyed, horn-honking Sebastian the bird while he cuts her off. After a few more false starts and a little flirtatious banter, the chemistry between the two builds to the point of becoming almost tangible.
Eventually, against a sunset sky specially crafted for lovers, Mia and Sebastian sing and dance their way into each other’s hearts. Despite their initial belief that such “A Lovely Night” is wasted on two people who could not be more incompatible, through a tit for tat tap dance, they begin to recognize that when working together, the routine is stronger than when apart. Each recognizes the potential for greatness in the other, while doubting the potential residing within themselves.
While neither Gosling nor Stone have the vocal or rhythmic talent of Astaire or Rogers, that works to their advantage. Their performances provide the audience an opportunity to see themselves in their characters; we feel as though anyone could sing and tap dance in front of the Hollywood hills at sunset and be a star. That’s not to take away from either performer, however, as both were nothing short of mesmerizing. Still, there’s a sort of humility that they portray that, when coupled with the simplicity of the choreography and of the lyrics, provides Gosling and Stone a special kind of charm.
Equally as mesmerizing as the film’s co-stars is Justin Hurwitz’s score. In recent years, so often music seems to be nothing more than an afterthought in the filmmaking process. Not so in La La Land, where it often feels as though the film were constructed around Hurwitz’s melodies. In what may be the most memorable scene of the movie, the score quite literally soars through the star-filled skies of Hollywood along with a waltzing Stone and Gosling. There’s such an elegance and timeless quality to the scene; save for technology, it could very easily have been filmed during Hollywood’s golden years, and deserves to go down in history as one of the most memorable scenes of any movie musical. Hurwitz is definitely a composer to watch for in the future.
Hollywood itself also takes center-stage in La La Land. The City of Los Angeles has never looked so stunning. Chazelle fills the city with bold, vibrant colors, evoking imagery of Hollywood at her prime. This is the sort of backdrop that dreams are made of; it’s not at all hard to imagine Humphrey Bogart or Katharine Hepburn walking these streets. It’s fitting, considering the movie as a whole serves as a reminder that Hollywood is a city built on dreams.
Therein lies the brilliance of this picture. Just as Hollywood is a city of dreams, La La Land is a movie of dreams. In an era of cynicism, La La Land reminds us of the joy and beauty that can be found in everyday life. It reminds us of the power of friendship and love, and of the difference that one person can make in the life of another. And it does it all through beautiful imagery, song, and dance. In La La Land, every day is a dream come true, and despite the difficulties they face, Sebastian and Mia live life as though it is a dream. Perhaps here in the real-world, we should strive to live that way as well. 

Friday, September 12, 2014


Today I'd like to introduce a brand new series in an attempt to revive and revitalize this blog. I'm calling it, "re-Imagineering," a place to share ideas for actual existent Disney properties around the world. 
For it's inaugural debut, I thought it'd be great to take a trip to Walt Disney World and discover all of the new and exciting plans currently in development. 

So, without further ado, may I introduce to you...

*Disney's Animal Kingdom*
Where Adventure is Wild!

Discovery Island
~Mother Nature 3-D show~
Replacing the Tree of Life's "It's Tough to be a Bug," Mother Nature hosts an all new 4-D show taking guests into the natural world like never before. 

~World of Color Animal Show~
I'm excited to see the upcoming "Rivers of Light," but my idea would basically incorporate massive water screens fountains, and floats all coming together in a celebration of the animal world. 
The show would start off with Fantasia 2000's Spring Sprite flowing through a forest. Music and lighting would set the scene as the show transitions to the Circle of Life...the entire set is pitch black when guests hear the first note of the iconic song, until brilliant shades of red and orange and yellow fill the river and water screens shoot up projecting images of animals heading towards Pride Rock. Floats featuring actors dressed as different animals (think Broadway's Lion King), emerge from behind the far sides of the screens, and then finally, as guests hear, "It's the Circle of Life," Pride Rock itself comes from between the 2 massive water screens. Rafiki is seen at the end of the rock, holding baby Simba, as the animals on the screens and floats bow before the newborn prince.
Other scenes include Fantasia 2000's Noah's Ark, in which a full sized Ark loaded with animals floats on the lagoon, a Montage of underwater scenes featuring Mr. Ray and his class from Finding Nemo, as well as various clips from Disney Nature films.

Camp Minnie-Mickey
Avatarland is given the ax, I don't like the idea. Instead, Camp Minnie-Mickey will continue to serve as the park's Fantasyland, recreating U.S. National parks of the 1950's and 60's. Here, guests can meet their favorite Disney characters while learning about the importance of conservation.

~Humphrey the Bear Log Flume~
Park ranger Donald Duck has been assigned the task of keeping Humphrey the Bear out of trouble, but unfortunately for Donald (and his temper), that’s much easier said than done.

~The True-Life Adventure Mine Train~
Hosted by the legendary AA owl Hoot Gibson of Western River Expedition fame, this scenic train ride through nature’s wonderland takes guests past various landscapes and habitats of North American critters, including Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Deer,  etc,

~It’s Tough to be a Bug~
Relocated from the Tree of Life to Camp Minnie-Mickey, the classic show is now housed within a giant rotting stump. Rumor has it the show may soon be accompanied by a new version of A Bug’s Land.

*EPCOT Center*
Where Tomorrow Begins Today

Future World
The area of the park most in need of assistance, Future World is going to drop the World's Fair theme in favor of becoming a "working model" for the future; the idea is that at EPCOT, the future is already here. A massive overhaul plan on greater scale than even DCA 2.0's is devised and includes a pavilion by pavilion update.

--Progress City Plaza--
Phase 1 of EPCOT Revitalization involves replacing Innoventions, with Progress City Plaza, and includes the demolition of the old Communicore buildings. Replacing them are several stand alone buildings housing various exhibits and restaurants themed to futuristic city life.
The area is filled with lush gardens and ponds, evoking harmony between technology and nature.

~Carousel of Progress~
Everyone's favorite family finds yet another new home here in Progress City Plaza. Located in Progress City's "Museum of Yesterday's Tomorrow," the family no longer finds itself talking of the wonders of yesteryear, but instead now discuss how wonderful life is in the past's future. Guests start off in a Jules Verne-inspired future, where men are shot to the moon via cannon, and time machines enable folks to visit any time period they desire. Moving forward through time, guests find themselves in the art-deco future of the 1930's. Father is getting his haircut by the old robot from Horizons as he discusses high speed zepplins that take folks from one end of the Atlantic to the other. Next, guests are transported to the far-out future of the Fabulous Fifties where aliens and man have made contact, and the family rides around in a Jetson's inspired vehicle that drives itself. The neon future of the 1980's greets guests in the last scene, where a metalic Christmas tree stands tall in the corner of the room and Sister phones in from outer space with her newborn via holograph screen.
The finale of the attraction includes a museum, including a 100% refurbished Progress City model, of Walt's original plans for EPCOT the city.
As you can probably tell, the idea is heavily influenced by Horizons, essentially just merging COP with the beloved Epcot attraction.

~Bot's Diner~
Guests will have the opportunity to dine in the world's first human-less restaurant. Here, all food is prepared and served by robots. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Main Street USA & Gracey Square

1) Elias & Co.
2) Shops/Dining
3) Edison Cinema
4) The Roaring 20's 
5) Main Street Carousel
6) Tower of Terror
7) Haunted Mansion
8) Time Train
9) Gangster Restaurant

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Modern Masterpiece??

You know, there are very few things in this world that whet the Disney fanboi's appetite the way great piece of concept art does. Personally, I love concept art. In fact, I would argue (along with many others) that looking at concept art often times leads to disappointment in an attraction or environment after it's been experienced in real life. Concept art allows fans to "fill in the blanks," if you will. We get to use our imaginations to decide what that new dark ride is going to be like, or what kinds of "Disney-details" can be found in that new land. The reason we're able to do this? For the last 60 years, Disney has been displaying concept art that is nothing short of masterpieces. Full of detail and energy, as we study the images they almost feel as though they come to life. And just as it takes multiple trips to a theme park in order to truly gain an appreciation for the details of its surroundings, it takes multiple views of the art in order to really absorb all that is being shown. 

With all of that said, I think it's time for another epic addition of the game, "What Doesn't Belong Here!?
The rules are simple. Below, you'll find a few of my favorite conceptual pieces that I've saved over the years. All you have to do is guess what piece feels out of place. Ready??
Here we go...

Tony Baxter's Discovery Bay

An unused rendering of EPCOT Center's entrance by Herb Ryman

Hong Kong's Adventureland overview from the mind of John Horny

Eddie Sotto's Sci-Fi City Tomorrowland envisioned for Tokyo

The Disney-MGM Studios' Hollywood Blvd by Collin Campbell

World of Color "Winter Dreams"

What's that? You say the poorly-named "Winter Dreams" rendering is the one that doesn't fit in? Give yourself a great big pat on the back, You got it right! Great work gang!

In all seriousness though, just look at how bad that piece of "art" is. It's painful, really. In fact, from the moment I saw this photoshopped horror yesterday, I immediately felt embarrassed for Disney. How on earth did anyone even begin to think that this garbage is acceptable? I really don't understand how a company that was literally built on art could possibly allow this to slide. GAH! It's not as though Disney has a huge shortage of artists that couldn't show the world something more professional...heck, Disney, next time you need a piece of concept art, please ask me to do it! I promise I'll work for free!

In the meantime, I suppose the fans will just have to stick to past pieces of art in order to get our concept art fix. Either that, or we could always check out So You Want To Be An Imagineer on the Visions Fantastic forums. Honestly, when fans (mostly basketbuddy) in an armchair Imagineering competition are able to create more professional looking artwork than the number one media company in the world, you know there's something wrong.

Monday, June 17, 2013

So You Want To Be An Imagineer Project 4: The Great Movie Ride

Les Miserables Scene Layout
1) Charlie Chaplin Production
2) Singin' In The Rain
3) Mary Poppins
4) Fantine--"I Dreamed A Dream"
5) Valjean
6) Javert
7) Thenardier's Inn

Scene 5: A New Hope

Sunday, May 26, 2013

So You Want To Be An Imagineer Season 11--Six Flags

A rough draft of a potential coaster concept done in MS Paint.

Various coaster concepts

"Mono-Coaster" as it is currently calls. The single bar allows the coaster to switch from being a regular coaster to an "inverted" coaster. It can also spin.

A glass "pod", allowing vehicles to load onto the Ferris Wheel. 

A profile view of a potential roller coaster design with the "Ferris Coaster" concept.

More to come...