If you are already predisposed to hate Disney and all that the mega-conglomerate stands for, the new "Jungle Cruise" is bound to rub you the wrong way. It's an over-stuffed, over-produced chaotic romp, that just seems to be full of excess (and CG) around every corner. However, with Emily Blunt and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson at the center of the mess, their friendly chemistry is just barely able to keep "Jungle Cruise" from straying completely off-course.
It's not all "Black Widow"'s fault. This long-awaited Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) feature film was supposed to have reached theaters back in May of 2020, but well...you know. Had there not been a pandemic, this movie would have seen release just under one year after the Phase Three final chapter, "Avengers: Endgame." And while the additional year of waiting has perhaps allowed us to enjoy the Marvel Disney+ TV shows a bit more ("WandaVision," "The Falcon and Winter Soldier" and nearly all of "Loki"), most Marvel fans are getting increasingly impatient as they await some forward traction with the over-arching story.
And while "Black Widow" is supposedly the first feature-film of Marvel's Phase Four, it doesn't feel like it. It does finally give Scarlett Johansson's beloved Black Widow character time to shine, a scene-stealer who has to this point just been a team player, appearing throughout other hero's films as one of two (along with Hawkeye) human Avenger members. But her new stand-alone film feels like it could have been released five, or seven years ago...a good but not great Marvel film that feels disappointing only because fans - I'm assuming - are chomping at the bit for things to move on from "Endgame."
Disney has a thing for its villains, and Cruella de Vil has always been one of the company's most iconic. New this weekend (in theaters and available on Disney+), "Cruella" gives us the origin story of a character who first appeared on-screen in the 1961 animated classic, "101 Dalmations" and who most recently was portrayed by Glenn Close in the live-action 1996 remake, "101 Dalmations" and its dog of a sequel, "102 Dalmations" (Close gives her seal of approval over this new version of the character, being that she's one of the film's Executive Producers).
Emma Stone is a perfect young Cruella de Vil, with the ability to be so likable and angelic at times but who can also turn on her devilish side with a quick flash of a look and a grin. There's nothing at all wrong with her rendition of the infamous Disney villainess, but "Cruella" is clogged with so much unnecessary and distracting nonsense that it - just barely - doesn't quite work.
Female protagonists in Disney animated films have come a long way. It's been 84 years since Snow White awaited a Prince's kiss to awaken her from a cursed slumber. The tales themselves are a far cry from their "snow white" roots, with modern adventures focused on diversity, people of color and those that have far too long been under-(or mis-)-represented throughout the history of cinema.
The impressive "Raya and the Last Dragon" is Disney Animated Studios' 59th feature film to be released theatrically, and one thing has remained the same since the beginning: Disney has pushed the envelope with its animation techniques and style, and "Raya and the Last Dragon" is the most beautifully, brilliantly rendered animated film dare I say in the studios' history.
And while the story-lines - many borrowed or adapted from existing fairy tales or legends - have admittedly played it safe with the Disney formula over the past century, this latest animated entry feels fresh and inspired, possessing that Disney charm that makes it feel like its destined to be a classic, with ever-relevant themes that speak to the issues of today just as potently.
The best part about the new Marvel Universe series "WandaVision," is also undoubtedly the source of its biggest frustration.
Don't worry, you won't be alone in asking yourself, "What the heck is going on here?" as that question is the central mystery of the series, at least through its first three episodes (I was given just the first three episodes for review...the series as a whole is nine-episodes long, with the first two episodes coming to Disney+ on January 15th, with new episodes unveiled each week on Fridays through March 5th).
But it's an intriguing, bizarre mystery that will take time to unravel, although the built-in army of young adults that make up the bulk of the Marvel Universe fanbase might have an even tougher time of following - or getting - the innate charm of "WandaVision."
The audience has come to expect more from Pixar than your average animated movie. And once again, Pixar delivers.
Synonymous with the phrase "coming to Disney+" is the idea that the film will be family-friendly. With few exceptions for new films, it also has been synonymous with mediocrity. "Godmothered" is no different, a film that just barely gets a passing grade despite the often-clever spin it gives to traditional "fairy-tale" expectations.
Who could forget the classic "Star Wars Holiday Special" that aired on CBS during the Christmas holiday of 1978? The answer is, even if you were lucky enough to have seen it when it originally aired, you would have tried forgetting about it almost immediately. The special is famously BAD, despite starring the cast from the films, including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. It was so terrible that it never aired again, and has never, ever seen an official release, making it all the more of a cult-favorite item when VHS recordings of it would pop up at conventions years later.
Knowing full-well how legendary that special has become, to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of its airing, Disney+ is releasing an all-new "LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special." This new version features the recent Star Wars heroes like Rey, Finn and Poe in their own "Life Day" adventure. as it honors the entire saga new and old, poking fun at the famous special in which it is based all the while.
Disney's live-action re-make, "Mulan," was supposed to hit theaters back in March...but, you know.
After several delays, it became increasingly apparent that "Mulan" was never make it to the big-screen at all. Instead, putting it on the Disney+ streaming service seemed like a gamble that Disney was ultimately willing to take.
For the hefty cost of $29.99, you can finally watch this new version of "Mulan," if you also happen to be a Disney+ subscriber...or you can wait until December when it will supposedly be available on the service for free.
Side-stepping whether or not this version of "Mulan" is worth $30, I do think that this film would have looked dazzling on the big-screen, even though it still holds its own at home.
Originally intended for a mid-Summer blockbuster theatrical release, the family-friendly adventure "Artemis Fowl" finds its way to Disney+ this weekend.
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