The Princess and The Frog

A couple days ago we reported on “BOLT”, a new animated Disney (not Pixar) feature that looks like a lot of fun, and today we have some news regarding another Disney (not Pixar) animated film, “The Princess and the Frog”. “Princess” returns to Disney’s roots with traditional 2D animation.

Variety reports that Oprah Winfrey has joined the film and will lend her voice to the title Princess’ mother. She joins Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), John Goodman, and Keith David in the film, which is expected to be released at the end of 2009, just in time for the Holiday season.

The film has a lot going for it in my eyes. Not only is it being directed by the team of Ron Clements and John Musker, the minds behind my favorite 2D Disney film “Aladdin” and other classics such as “The Little Mermaid” and “Hercules”, but it will also feature new music from Randy Newman. It has all of the makings to be a new classic and I look forward to seeing (and hearing) more about the film.

Between the teaser and several TV spots I’ve seen for “Blindness”, I’ve been very skeptical as to how accurate it will remain to Saramago’s novel.  Yet, judging from this trailer, I may have been very wrong.  While the spots I’ve seen seem to focus on the government’s reaction to the white blindness epidemic, this trailer focuses on the characters that make the novel so relevant and touching.  The montage at the beginning of the trailer shows each of the main characters each going blind in the exact same manner as in the book.  Most of the dialogue is straight from the novel as well, in fact the only discrepancy I can find is that the doctor’s wife insists on going in the ambulance with her husband even though she can see, whereas in the book she lies and tells them she has gone blind at that very moment.

It’s entirely possible that this trailer could have been crafted in such a way in order to hook fans of the book, as the TV spots have proven that there is definitely some material with the government and Sandra Oh’s character that was invented for the film.  Yet, I feel somewhat assured that this trailer shows that my favorite characters will all be there and that their stories appear to be somewhat unaffected in this adaptation.

To learn what other film adaptations are coming in Fall/Winter 2008, check out our list here.

Posted on September 26th, 2008 by Jess | Leave a Comment
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I Am Legend

Rumors have been abundant, but Variety confirmed today that Will Smith will reprise his role as the scientist Robert Neville in an “I Am Legend” prequel. The film will “chronicle the final days of humanity in New York before a man-made virus caused a plague that left Smith’s character the lone survivor among a mutated mob in the city.”

Is it just me, or did we already see this stuff in the first film? I recall some intense flashbacks of a terrified NYC, a cute family, and one massive helicopter crash. We all know how this ends, and the film covered how it started, so why go back and rehash all the details? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the first film, but I just see no reason for a prequel.

Furthermore, the first film was based on a book of the same name, and sadly came nowhere near doing it justice. It left a bad taste in my mouth as being an adaptation in name alone. Will they try to incorporate more elements from the book that should have been in the original film, such as establishing the neighbor Bill Corman who eventually becomes the lead vampire? My guess is no. Just another missed opportunity in an attempt to make more money that further hurt the chances of this incredible story ever being told properly.

Posted on September 25th, 2008 by Jess | Leave a Comment (1)
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Disney's Bolt

While it is not from Pixar, Disney’s animated film “BOLT” looks like a lot of fun. I saw multiple scenes (including the one I’m about to link) and a behind the scenes feature at Comic Con, and I really liked everything I saw. The film feels like a Goonies style adventure film with a cute “ready for the action” dog, a “misplaced” cat, and a “scene stealing” hamster. If you don’t know the plot yet, “BOLT” focuses on a TV canine action star of the same name (voiced by John Travolta), who doesn’t know that he’s an actor and thinks that he really is a superpowered hero. After mistakenly thinking that his co-star (Miley Cyrus) is kidnapped by an evil villain (Malcolm McDowell), Bolt escapes his captors (handlers) and embarks on a cross country rescue operation, meeting Rhino (Mark Walton), a TV obsessed hamster, and capturing Mittens (Susie Essman), who Bolt thinks is conspiring with the enemy (because you know, all cats are evil).

Watch the extended clip from Disney’s “BOLT” here. And check out these awesome pictures:

Disney\'s BoltDisney\'s Bolt

Disney's BoltDisney\'s Bolt

Billy Crystal Variety reports that comedy great Billy Crystal has joined the Dwayne Johnson Fox comedy, “Tooth Fairy”. The film co-stars Ashley Judd, and Julie Andrews, with direction by Michael Lembeck (The Santa Clause 2 & 3).

In the film, Johnson plays a tough as nails hockey player who is well known for knocking his opponents teeth out, and he is punished for his actions and forced to become the Tooth Fairy for a week.

“Tooth Fairy” follows “The Game Plan” and “Get Smart” for Johnson, who has been building up his family film leading man status. He’ll be appearing next in the 2009 remake “Race to Witch Mountain”.

Appaloosa, a Western by Ed Harris

I’m a sucker for a good western. There’s something about the slow southern drawl, the sweeping desert beauty, the tough guys on horses, and the intensity of a good showdown that I find so engaging.

The Book:
Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are two gunman who come to the town of Appaloosa to lay down order and reign in the terrible Randall Bragg who murdered the sheriff and instills terror upon the town. The two embark on lawfully bringing Bragg down, but hit a few snags along the way including a mysterious woman named Allie French. Even though Parker’s novel was written in 2005, it may as well have been written in the early 20th century in the era of silent films and John Ford westerns. Its slow and steady pace is perfectly suited for the screen and offers a visual style and well developed characters with smart dialogue. This book is a great read and a perfect western film all in one.

The Movie:
Ed Harris, who produced, co-wrote, directed and starred in the film, brings this story to life with an amazing cast and a near direct adaptation of the book. Nearly every line of dialogue comes from the pages of Parker’s novel and every action is precise to the word. Often such a direct adaptation does not result in a good film, but as westerns tend to have a slow pace about them, it translates well. It goes without saying the Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, and Jeremy Irons turn in fantastic performances and even Renée Zellweger, who I find to be hit or miss, easily transforms into the needy, backstabbing Allie. The pacing is slow at times, and Harris does fall victim to an adaptation cliché with Everett’s unnecessary narration at the beginning and end of the film. Also, there is a stumble in the development of the relationship between Virgil and Allie when she is teasing him about his past and Virgil gets upset and beats up a belligerent drunk in the bar. This scene doesn’t play as well as it does in the book and instead makes Virgil out to be an angry man with random bursts of violence, which is not the case. However, the film preserves the source material and the actors bring a great, dry comedy to the film that is not as apparent in the novel and truly brings the characters to life.

What’s Missing:
Appaloosa by Ed HarrisNot a whole lot- the first time Virgil and Everett met, the crime that Bragg’s men commit upon arriving at Appaloosa (it’s mentioned by the sheriff Jack Bell in the first scene of the film), and some minor scenes between Virgil and Everett along the way. Most notably missing is the prostitute Katie’s wisdom and relationship with Everett. She gets but three decent scenes in the film, though it feels like there was once more that may have ended up on the cutting room floor. In the book, she helps Everett to understand Allie’s manipulative ways and develops a sweet relationship in which he is considered more than just a client to her, but in the movie she is nothing but a glorified companion. She’s not even mentioned by name, though Everett does have a touching scene with her just before the final showdown.

What’s New:
Harris’ adaptation is so precise that hardly a single detail has changed. The largest one is still rather insignificant where Whittfield is one of Bragg’s man who witnessed the murder and turns against him to testify, while in the book he is a deputy of Appaloosa who ran away once Jack Bell is shot and returns to testify against Bragg. Also, Russell, the Shelton’s cousin, does not show up until they arrive at Beauville, while in the book he’s with them throughout the encounter with the Indians.

Overall Adaptation:
It would have been easy for Harris to change the story to involve more action, more sex, and all in all make it a more acceptable Hollywood film, but he does not. This is a very respectable, direct adaptation that preserves its engaging story and transforms it into an instantly classic western.

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