MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot is a breakout star, true to the iconic Lynda Carter version, but very much making Wonder Woman her own. The experience was very much like 1978, seeing Christopher Reeve earning the role of Superman when George Reeves seemed to still own it in the minds of many.

Gadot has a riveting presence. One can’t take one’s eye off her. She looks as striking in the trenchcoat and glasses–if not more so–as in the costume, which BTW is a fine design compromise between the superhero look of today and the more garish ones of yesterday.

Diana’s strength came through her compassion, her intense sense of what was right, not just through her ability to kick butt (though no complaints there either). Sometimes in films and TV there’s a tendency to endlessly overstate “strength” than effectively exemplify it through character. This film does it beautifully — better than many recent films with the same message.

When Diana sees the suffering of the people in no man’s land and can’t move on, I know it’s clichéd a bit, but the way she decides she’s mad as hell and not going to take it is indicative of how we all feel at this point in our history and why these movies are so popular. What the heck can we do? We can’t help everybody, and we can barely help ourselves sometimes, but we want to believe in something better than ourselves. DC finally figured out what Marvel knew all along, and in some ways, humanized in a way unlike any previous superhero film because it hit on a more personal level.

As to the whole “love conquers all” thing, it was a simplistic way of explaining the concept of grace. In religious terms (and the movie was using tons of iconography) it’s the idea that we are given things we don’t deserve by through grace, through love. On a secular level, a parent or loved one gives without expectation of thanks or reward for the same reason. You don’t see that in ANY form of modern entertainment nowadays (cough-cough Kardashians).

But by gosh and gum, Gadot was super great. I just wish they’d put a little of Charles Fox’s TV theme song in there during the credits, just as an homage, like they did in the first Spiderman movie, even if it was an updated version.

Speaking of the TV series music, La La Land released a complete stereo soundtrack of ALL the music and themes from the ’70s series on a multi-disc set that is a treasure for fans and can be found here.

DVD Review: Walt Disney BAMBI Blu-ray Anniversary Edition

This is not the first Blu-ray edition of Bambi, one of the finest films ever made–and that’s not just in the animated category but all films–so if you passed it over before, get it now.

If you’re into bonus features and they make you want to buy it again, this one comes with a nice postcard-sized art card reproduction of inspiration art of the legendary Tyrus Wong, who passed away last year. It has a little paper easel so it can be display. Nice touch.

There are several mini-docs worth noting, particularly “Studios Stories: Bambi” which has some photos and footage from Walt Disney’s personal family life that have either never been seen or are rarely shown. Interview audio from Walt is used to narrate.

There’s another recently uearthed Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon called “Africa Before Dark” with a marvelous, fully orchestrated new score by Mark Watters. The restoration is sto pristine it looks showroom new. What a miracle that these can actually be seen today.

Here are two other features you can preview now. Voice over great Corey Burton does an uncanny young Walt in this recreation of a Grasshopper sequence that was never used in “Bambi:”

And here’s another feature, most suitable for the younger folks who might wonder exactly why “Bambi” matters today. It’s about, well, why “Bmabi” matters today:

Interview: “Beauty and the Beast” Co-Producer Steve Gaub

This was essentially Disney’s first full-blown musical fantasy since Pete’s Dragon in 1977. It’s a genre that’s often difficult to pull off and do well with the public, but this seems to have struck gold. This is a very, very big movie. How long were you involved?

STEVE GAUB: I started in October of 2014. We moved to London of 2015, bringing on all the other crew and the other departments for preproduction. We shot from the summer of 2015 production through 2016. For me, it was about two and a half years of my life.

GREG: And it’s a lovely production and looks great in the Blu-ray, but there’s that elephant in the room. With a classic animated film already in existence, why do it?

STEVE: Very fair question, and it was certainly in the minds of a lot of people. I think it was just a good opportunity to update a property for a new generation.

GREG: Like the recent Jungle Book and Cinderella, maybe one way to see these live-action versions is as complementary interpretations, and a way to dive deeper into the stories and the characters. A good example in Beauty and the Beast is Belle’s father, who gets to be more than “silly old Maurice” and is given added dimension by Kevin Kline.

STEVE: Yes, he’s excellent. The whole cast embraced there characters and entered their world. And as you can see when you watch it, no detail was spared. All the songs are there, plus some new music.

GREG: Speaking of music, this film was a very substantial box office hit. When Hollywood considers this, along with La La Land and even Frozen, which is undeniably a musical, does this—I don’t like to use the overuse the phrase “bring back”—but maybe affirm the viability of the musical as a genre that the public has embraced?

STEVE: That’s anyone’s guess, but if our efforts had anything to do with it, we’re delighted.

Beauty and the Beast is now available on Blu-ray with a number of special features but alas, no audio commentary (sacre bleu!)

Exclusive: Robert Osborne talks movies, Lucy and TCM

Those of us who have had a lifetime obsession with film, TV and animation have certain books that become important parts of our lives—which we read over and over. In my case, in addition to Leonard Maltin’s The Disney Films, Robert Osborne’s Academy Awards Illustrated. So much of what I know about films came originally from that book. Back in 2014, he was gracious enough to do this charming interview with me. This is the first time it has ever been published in its entirety.Continue reading