You know, I’ve tackled a fair few streaming networks over the years. I’ve dealt with Netflix originals, Stan originals and Shudder originals but I’ve somehow managed to avoid Disney Plus originals because none of them really leapt out at me. I almost watched that Lady and the Tramp remake but… well, I suffered through three Disney Remakes in one year, I’m allowed to skip one of them. There are a few original films on there but I figured they weren’t going to be that important for me to need to look through… and then the world decided to malfunction and every cinema closed, so I may as well throw the Disney Plus originals into my diet because why the hell not?
In 1939, T.S. Eliot wrote a book titled Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. In it, he wrote a series of poems about… well, cats. The book was beloved by many and would be the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber to create the musical Cats in 1981. That show would go on to be the fourth longest-running show on Broadway, just behind The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and The Lion King. It would also be the 6th longest running show on the West End, behind The Mousetrap, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Woman in Black and Blood Brothers. It’s made billions around the world on the stage and has delighted audiences for years with its story of cats that compete to kill themselves in a magical ritual… and then Tom Hooper managed to get some blackmail photos of a lot of famous people and forced them to appear in his adaptation of the infamously strange musical. That’s the best explanation that I can come up with for why these people turned up. Blackmail and kidnapping, they certainly weren’t there because they wanted to be.
I don’t think we spend enough time really grappling with how surprisingly good Lego Movie and Lego Movie 2 were. Not only were both of them hilarious and wonderfully animated, but they both also had memorable soundtracks and a well thought out and touching tale about family and bringing them together. Sure they were also giant advertisements for the toy that’s caused more foot pain than ingrown toenails, bunions and athletes’ foot combined but it was a sweet and clever advertisement for that toy. Sure, Lego Ninjago wasn’t that great but Lego Batman made up for it. Movies about the tiny plastic figures going on adventures seems to actually work… when you’re a popular brand like Lego. When you’re Playmobil, also known as “What you buy for your kids when they’ve sold out of Lego”, turns out it doesn’t quite work out as well.
In 2013, Frozen came out and destroyed the lives of parents everywhere. While a charming movie, it had the power to make every child under the age of five unable to listen to anything other than the song Let It Go, an earworm so powerful that even typing that simple phrase has popped that song right back into the heads of anyone who saw the movie. It was also one of Disney’s best films, a simple story about two sisters that won the hearts of everyone who saw it. With charming songs sung by Broadway legends and some of the best animation ever seen it was a smashing success, grossing over 400 million at the box office and becoming the third highest-grossing film of the year. Naturally, they were going to end up making a sequel eventually and here we are, 6 years later finally getting a sequel to one of the greatest films of the 2010s. With such a high bar to reach it shouldn’t be a shock that it doesn’t quite make it, but it’s still pretty great.
In 1986, the British TV station ITV began airing a cartoon called The Raggy Dolls. For 9 seasons, children were shown the adventures of Sad Sack, Dotty, Hi-Fi, Lucy, Back-To-Front, Claude, and Princess. For almost a decade people would tune in to watch as the gaggle of rejected toys with various malfunctions went on adventures together and taught the audience to treat those who are different with kindness. It also had the absolute best theme tune of any 80s cartoon (I WILL fight you on this) that was sung by Neil Innes (of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) and is a glorious ode to treating people well no matter their differences. It’s legitimately one of the sweetest little cartoons that I remember watching as a kid and a must watch for anyone who wants to get their kids to learn the lesson that people who look different are just as valuable as everyone else… it’s certainly better than this movie was, because I remember the music from Raggy Dolls but good luck with remembering anything from Uglydolls… which I will now force myself to remember in order to explain why it’s forgettable.
So, here’s a fun thing I do that’s very stupid. Sometimes, if a classic film has a reputation as being one of the all time classics… I won’t watch it. Most of these are films from before I was born or, at least, young enough that I wouldn’t have been able to see upon release but if they’re influential as hell then I probably missed them. This is for a variety of reasons that I think make sense (they don’t, I’m dumb). The first is just a lack of availability, half the fun of being in Australia is that a lot of major films don’t end up on easily available streaming services at an affordable rate. The second reason is simply that there’s so many current films out that I genuinely didn’t have the time to catch up on them, I don’t have time to go back and watch Terms of Endearment because I have to go catch a 3pm screening of Here Comes The Grump (like I said, I AM DUMB). The third, and only legitimate reason I have, is that I have this worry that I will be tainted by the films that referenced the classic so it won’t seem as good by comparison. This actually happened with Psycho, a movie I didn’t watch until this year because I had not only seen a billion people reference the shower scene, but I’d seen the horror films that took influence from Psycho and tried to go beyond the kind of violence that was considered shocking in 1960. For the record, upon seeing it I did promptly kick myself for being so dumb but I still do it. I tell you all this because I should’ve seen Cabaret long ago, but I saw everyone reference it and worried it wouldn’t hold up so please remember to aim the tomatoes you want to throw directly at my face, I deserve it.
The first film that I have any memory of seeing in a cinema is the 1994 animated classic The Lion King. While my memory is a little sketchy (because I was 6) I still remember how enthralling it was, this glorious creation that was chock full of drama and laughs and bright glorious colours that just seemed to leap off the screen. I remember the legendary stampede and my mother crying at Mufasa’s death. Truly it was the film that started me on a journey to loving cinema and of all the movies that I could’ve seen as my first theatrical experience, I’m glad it was that one. Now, here we are, 25 years later and I’m angry and bitter and hate everything and have to watch as the first film I remember seeing is slowly sucked dry right before my eyes and all I’m left with is a withered husk of a film… I’m not going to be happy during this review, just so we’re clear.
The first Beatles song that I remember hearing was Octopus’s Garden. I remember it being performed in my grade school class with big pieces of cardboard cut out into various sea animals and painted with fluorescent paint that a bunch of small children would wave around randomly while singing a cover version of the fifth track from Abbey Road. I’m not sure if we were on key, but we were precious children and so everyone claimed to like it because you’d have to be some kind of monster to tell a bunch of kids that they didn’t do a good job of paying respect to one of the greatest bands of all time. I hope we can all agree that telling a bunch of children that they’re bad at doing a Beatles tribute act would be mean… however, if you want to tell a bunch of grown adults making a million dollar film that their Beatles tribute act is bad then that’s OK. I mean, I plan on spending the next few paragraphs saying exactly that, so it’d be a bit silly if I thought it was mean.
Released: 30th May Seen: 25th May (Advance Screening)
Last year I reviewed a little indie film called Bohemian Rhapsody, you might have heard of it. At the end of that review, I gave the film a 3 and a half rating, a good score for a good film but the more I’ve ruminated on it, the more I realise how the film just isn’t that good. If I were to review it today it’d probably get a 2 and a half star rating. That’s kind of the fun thing about reviewing, as you watch more films you build up a bigger library of references and can spot flaws easier. So when I saw the trailer for Rocketman, I was ready to be a lot more critical about the film. I was ready to not be won over by whimsy but to actually do this properly, and when I found out that the director of Rocketman was the same man who was brought in to replace Bryan Singer on Bohemian Rhapsody after everyone finally realised that Bryan Singer is a bit of an asshole (to put it lightly) I was excited. This is it, a do-over, a chance to try again and make sure that this time I spot a gaudy mess for what it is… and then they just had to screw up my plans by actually producing a fun enchanting film that put the biggest smile on my face. I swear, it’s almost unfair.
When we think of the Disney Renaissance we think of this brief period between 1989 and 1999 when Disney was putting out hit after hit, some of the best films that appear in their catalogue. Right in the front end of that list, dropping in 1992 is the film Aladdin. Based on the Arabic folktale, Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved films. It’s a simple love story, enchanting tunes and, of course, its legendary performance by the late Robin Williams has cemented it into cinema history. Even today the original film holds up with great comedy and award-winning songs that everyone knows. A Whole New World, Friend Like Me, Prince Ali, these are some of the best songs ever put on film. The movie was such a hit it led to two direct-to-video sequels (one of them is actually good) and a TV series that everyone who was a child in the 90s watched. There’s even an adaptation of the show on Broadway but one thing that there will never be is a live-action film remake… at least, that’s what I thought until we inexplicably let Disney think that it would be acceptable to plunder their vaults and turn their classic animated films into subpar live action drivel, but apparently we’re allowing that now so guess what I have to do right now? That’s right, weep and cry because I had to watch this bland lifeless thing that alleges to be a movie.