Onward Review

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Pixar’s newest film, Onward, was released in theaters in March of 2020. Due to the unique circumstances of our world today, Disney+ released this movie on its platform at the beginning of April.

We have been self-quarantined in our house as much as possible for over a month now. The only outside ventures lately have been very limited, with sporadic runs to the pet store or grocery store for essentials. And while I am a bit of a home-body, a trip to the grocery store is not enough to satisfy even my moderate desire to socialize out in the world! Sadly, this is the reality for most of the world right now. We go out only when it is absolutely necessary, and in my opinion, those trips out are extremely stressful and there is a lot of tension surrounding everyone in the world today.

How I miss visiting my friends, going out for a drink, and especially hitting up the movie theater. I’m one of those people who absolutely LOVES going to the movies. For me, the theater still holds magic inside its walls. I get teary-eyes during powerful trailers even! It’s an experience that I adore, but only recently realized how much so.

That brings me to Onward. This was the last movie I saw in theaters before the world as we knew it shut down. Because of this, Onward holds a significantly special place in my heart.

When we arrived at the theater, we noticed one of the crew wiping the door handles off with disinfectant wipes. I remember this gave me extra comfort as I knew the theater was only selling 50% of its tickets per show to limit the amount of people in each theater. It’s funny now, looking back, because we didn’t realize how serious the disease was at the time. We also didn’t know that this would be the last time we would be able to go out for a fun evening for… well, the end date is still a mystery.

When Onward was released on Disney+, I had a lot of surprising emotions. The most prominent was sadness. For our podcast, Sisters of Main Street, myself and fellow host Angela decided to do a review of the movie. That meant I needed to watch the movie again. But I was hesitant, and needed to figure out why.

The movie is, in a word, incredible. It is amazingly creative, funny, heart warming, and adventurous all at once – a true feat for any movie to accomplish. The characters became instant favorites, especially Barley, which I will get into in just a minute. I knew I loved the movie, so why the hesitation?

Every once in a while, a memory is being made right in front of your eyes. You are cognizant of the transition from “moment” to “lifelong memory”. It’s rare, but it happens. And it happened when I saw this movie in theater. An occurrence that strong leaves an emotional impression on the soul, and this movie is one of those occurrences for me. So, writing a review with that much feeling behind it is truly difficult. But I felt it necessary to preface this review with the meaningful background that this movie brings. Thanks for listening 🙂

Now, let’s get into the actual movie!

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Onward takes place in a city called New Mushroomtown. What seems like centuries ago, the world in which Onward takes place was filled with magic. The creatures living in this world were also more in touch with their magical tendencies, for example the Centaur that was powerful and could run for miles and miles, or the pixies that would fly around the landscape to travel. However, not everyone had the capability to use magic, as it was a hard element to control. Since necessity is the mother of all invention, those without this skill invented new ways to complete tasks. And, true to the nature of every living thing, we follow the path with least resistance. So as these inventions and tools became more popular, and made chores and every day activities easier, the need for magic lessened until finally, magic became a long lost memory.

And it is at this point where we meet the Lightfoot’s. The starring family is composed of widowed mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and her two sons. They are Barley (Chris Pratt), aged 19, and Ian (Tom Holland), who is turning 16 years old on the day we meet the family. We learn that their father passed away when Ian was a baby, and the only way he can remember his father is vicariously through his big brother, Barley.

Ian is a nervous, shy boy that appears to feel comfortable with organization and lots of structure. He uses lists to keep himself on track, dresses very neatly, and is soft spoken and reserved around his family. He has both feet on the ground and worries over things that are outside of his comfort zone. For example, he is stressed over driving and even the process of practicing puts him on edge.

Barley is the exact opposite of his little brother. He is loud, VERY loud, and extremely animated – even for an animated character! He absolutely loves the lore of magic, and is unabashedly vocal about his thirst for adventure. Barley is one of my ultimate favorite characters in any movie, ever. I mean, he’s such a geek, like me! He’s also the oldest, like me, and I can relate entirely to the love and dedication he feels for his younger brother. But more on that in a minute.

Another “character” that needs to be mentioned is the lore. The lore of magic in this film mimics, or sometimes full-on takes from, magic-based games and lore from our world. There are nods to Magic the Gathering as well as Dungeons and Dragons throughout the film, as well as many Lord of the Rings references as well.

We also meet Laurel’s boyfriend, centaur and police-officer Colt Bronco. It doesn’t appear that Barley and Colt are too fond of one another, and Ian is just a neutral member of that weir triangle. Colt seems unimpressed by Barley’s antics and, well, nonexistent direction. Laurel expresses her own frustrations with Barley’s “gap year”, so it’s understood that she must complain about it to Colt. But Barley is also unimpressed with Colt’s banter, and I’m assuming this stems from the fact that Barley remembers his father clearly. So we pick up on the family dynamics pretty early on in the movie.

Pixar's 'Onward' on Disney Plus: The perfect family film to stream ...

Laurel surprises Ian with a birthday gift from… his father?! He had put it aside until Ian’s 16th birthday. The gift is a wizard’s staff, which comes with a spell! This spell will bring back their father for 24-hours.

Barley is the expert on magic and spells, and takes a crack at it. We realize that Barley unfortunately does not have the gift. But Ian does. Unfortunately, something goes wrong. In the middle of the spell, the phoenix stone used to charge the staff cracks, rendering it useless, and only the bottom half of their father materializes.

Yup. Only the bottom half!

This thrusts the brothers into their own “quest” to find a new phoenix stone, complete the spell, and bring the rest of their father back to spend whatever time they can with him!

The quest is adventurous and laden with fun challenges. They meet other at-one-point-in-time mythical creatures, and even inspire some pixies to regain their power of flight. This is just one instance where the brother inspire some old magical ties back to some people; but I won’t give it all away!

Ian’s focused on bringing his father back and spending some quality time with the man he never got to knew. He creates a list of activities that he would like to complete with his father. However, as time runs out, he is forced to cross some of those items off of the list. During this quest, there is a struggle between Ian and Barley. Ian wants to use practical knowledge to complete the tasks set before them. But Barley is pulling from his knowledge of the world of magic and lore. Ian becomes so focused on getting his father back, at times he can be very harsh to his big brother. Barley comes alive when he realizes they have their own personal quest to complete, and wants to show his little brother that he can be helpful in this situation.

Chris Pratt voices Barley and honestly, I don’t believe any one else could have done better. I’ll be honest. I was a little nervous because Pratt is such a well-known celebrity, I thought I would only hear his voice, and not be able to separate it from Barley. But that is not the case. Barely is so awesome and unique, and Pratt’s talents of being loud, goofy, and wild really lend to this character. Tom Holland, who voices Ian, did a great job as well, the casting really is fantastic, but the stand out for me is Pratt.

Throughout this quest, you get to see a side of the brothers that you rarely see in characters anywhere. You see their insecurities and fears, and I think it is really cool how this movie explores the uncertainty of this age group for boys. I feel this is an overlooked area that many movies do not focus on. It’s extremely real and touching, even down right vulnerable, and those emotions can be related to by pretty much everyone. But showing it through these boys was revolutionary.

In Disney and Pixar movies, of which I feel I can speak confidently, the range of emotions has always been much more vast in the female characters. I can recall some male characters that might stand out a tad above the rest, Hercules and Aladdin come to mind. But even then they have more successes and raw feelings rather than intricate, complicated feelings. Hercules shows a slight insecurity in the town, but he overcomes that greatly. Aladdin eludes to being embarrassed by his humble background, but honestly he never really portrays this, except for the fact that he needs to be a prince – but that is more for Jasmine and not because he feels anything in particular.

The bond between the brothers, partnered by the incredibly in depth character development of them both, is what makes this movie a true treasure. When Frozen was released, we cheered for the “true love” that saved Elsa and Anna because it did not come from a prince for once! It was a true revelation. Onward delivers the same revelation and cause for celebration with these brothers.

Pixar's 'Onward' goes on sale digitally today, coming to Disney+ ...

Without giving away too much about the actual plot of the film, I will say this. By the time you reach the end of the film, you will have witnessed a transformation in Ian that is… for lack of a better term… magical. You will be cheering for the brothers, and if you’re like me, crying like a baby! But in a good way, promise! You will relate to these elves, and some points will ring true to struggles we all face. The amazing way this movie brings mythical characters in to the modern lore is captivating, and brings a sense of familiarity to the movie that makes it easy to feel connected to the characters. It’s very special.

This movie is packed with excellent nods to magic and lore, exceptional characters – even the supporting characters are excellent – and a nostalgic feel as we meet up with familiar characters inside their own world. I really can’t say enough good things about it. But the most important part, personally, is the wonderful memories this movie already brings me.

I don’t like to push movies on people, because everyone has their own taste. But I feel this one could get overlook easily, and so I’m here to say, check this movie out! You will not regret it!

DIVA’S REVIEW: Moana

… Better late than never …

 

I just HAVE to do a review on this movie, because, it is literally one of my favorite movies of all time and since I already spend so much time and energy talking to people about it (whether they like it or not!), I figure it’s time to get all of my thoughts out here.

Moana is a story about a strong-willed girl who follows her heart to fulfill her destiny that was bestowed on her as a little girl. This movie is incredibly uplifting and surprisingly emotional. The connections developed between all of the characters are real and they almost feel like family. The cinematography is magnificent, and I was amazed at how realistic they sand, rocks, and water appeared. They just keep getting better!

There are so many parts to this movie that I simply adore. What I would like to focus on is the uniqueness that Moana explores by utilizing her grandmother’s spirit as a large part of the progression of the movie. The patriarchal grandmother, Tala, is the self-proclaimed “crazy-lady” of the village of Montunui. Her understanding of the world stretches beyond the comprehension (because of hesitation, perhaps?) of the rest of the village, including her son and Moana’s father, Chief Tui.

Tala is the oratory guru and spreads the tale of the creation of the earth. She tells about Te Fiti, a Goddess with the power to create life, and how her heart was stolen by Maui, a shape-shifting demigod. This act began the destruction of the earth, slowly sucking the life out of the islands until the earth would inevitably be swallowed up. Tala’s connection to this story of the Goddess strengthens her spirituality, and we begin to see that she is a strong believer in this tale. Tala also believes in reincarnation, as she tells Moana that she hopes to return as a stingray, which matches her tattoo.

While the rest of the village ignores her stories, Moana is enchanted by them. She holds her grandmother in the highest regard, especially since Tala allows Moana to dream and silently encourages her to feed the wild side she struggles to keep at bay. Moana is not allowed to follow her heart, however. Her father does not want her to travel beyond the reef, yet, Moana is enticed to travel the ocean. This struggle grows as she does, and soon her grandmother feels it is time to reveal to Moana that their people used to be voyagers. Tala tells her this because she knows a secret about Moana. The secret being that the ocean chose Moana to deliver the Heart of Te Fiti and save the earth from its inevitable destruction.

The most heart-wrenching part of Tala’s story can be summed up during the reprise of Moana’s song, “How Far I’ll Go.” Tala knows Moana is weary of the ocean after her one attempt failed miserably. However, Tala also knows that Moana needs to leave the island, find Maui, and save the world! The moment Tala reveals to Moana that their ancestors were voyagers, you can see her begin to get weak and tired. There is a theory that Tala’s purpose was to guide Moana to the truth of her destiny, and once that action began to roll, Tala’s life began to dissipate. Extremely quickly, Tala’s life is shortening and Moana is struggling to understand why. You may have noticed that as Tala is lying down, she is beneath a wall scroll which has the form of Maui drawn on it. Underneath him is the image of a stingray, aka, Tala.

Tala insists that Moana leaves immediately. As Moana is rowing away towards the open water and singing the reprise, she looks back at the hut where Tala was laying. Suddenly, the lights go out, and a breeze rushes down the landscape towards the ocean. Once it reaches, you see an illuminated stingray, which heads for Moana’s boat and guides her through the reef safely. It is absolutely beautiful and crushing at the same time. I cry every time!

The strong connection this movie makes to ancestors, family, and discovering where you fit in to the whole puzzle, gives this movie the  distinct feature of depth that makes the movie better each time you watch it. The humor and beautiful songs help as well!

 

 

I love that Moana is a movie about a young woman on a mission. The absence of a romantic arch is something I hear a lot of other people comment on. Some love the fact that the movie had a strong plot while avoiding the sometimes predictable plot line, while others felt it lacked something without it. For my Miyazaki fans, we are used to strong female leads and I appreciate the fact that a romantic arch is actually less common, therefore, I did not feel that anything was missing at all.

I’m not saying only women will enjoy this movie, however. It really is a wonderful film that has a great story, awesome characters, fun songs, and a refreshing take on story telling. Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is hysterical and downright perfect for the role! The sidekick chicken, Hei Hei, voiced by the impressive Alan Tudyk, is another funny-without-being-annoying character that has his own destiny to fulfill, and he does it well!

 

 

 

 

 

Moana feels like an ancient tale while at the same time is a breath of fresh air to the Disney collection! It’s been an instant favorite and I just can’t wait to see what else Disney has in store!

 

 

DIVA’S REVIEW: Zootopia

Yes, yes yes… It’s about time!

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How can I express my overwhelming elation with this brilliant film! Zootopia is an instant classic which cleverly utilizes anthropomorphic characters with both stereotypical traits true to how we would expect them to be if they were human-like, and also typical traits of our protagonists, antagonists, sidekicks, etc…

I won’t be mentioning any spoilers as I assume most people have seen the movie already since this review is “past due” IMHO, and you don’t need to be re-told what happens. However, I wanted to focus a bit on the undertones of the film. Ok cool, thanks!

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This film caught some heat from those who believed there were strong racial undertones. This, I’m assuming, is in regards to the “Predator vs. Prey” theme threaded throughout the film, which felt very familiar as our social issues between race vs. race, or perhaps religion vs. religion. While the topic is certainly heavy for a kids movie starring a bunny cop, I definitely felt that fourth wall disappear on a couple of occasions while watching the film.

Whether it was the intention of the writers on not, I actually approve of this “hidden” plot line. Taking infamous enemies such as a fox and a bunny and using that connection as an analogy for prejudice was not only a perfect call, but overdue in my opinion. The reason it worked so well is because of the characters themselves. Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (voicef by Jason Bateman) had some amazing chemistry. And while this isn’t a love story, the evolution of their friendship was extremely believable.

Judy Hopps comes from a small town, where the community appears set in their ways. Her dreams of being a cop strikes a cord with her town, including her parents who believe in having “realistic” dreams. It’s a great scene when the two parents are trying to explain that she should actually not try, and stick with what was normal, AKA acceptable or expected of her. Hopps’ resilience is catching as she works hard to prove herself, and her hard works pays off! In the end, she defeats all odds, silences the naysayers, and becomes the first ever “bunny cop”. She is assigned to work in the heart of Zootopia, a mega-city full of diverse landscapes and bustling with animals from all walks of life.

Of course, Hopps is not the most popular rookie on the team, and while she starts off full of fanciful dreams of saving the world, she is quickly pulled down from that dream as she realizes that her assignments are rather menial.

nick-and-judyHer vigor leads her to volunteer to find a missing otter, against her Captain’s orders. She basically bets her career that she will find him. It’s an impulsive mood, especially considering that the file on Mr. Otterton is practically non-existent, and, Hopps has little to no resources. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Hopps has no choice but to swindle herself a sly fox that she had previously met. Enter Nick Wilde!

The two could not be more different, but as they move through this crazy search together, they realize that they have both suffered lifelong judgments based solely on their appearance.

Wilde decided as a child that if people expected him to be a certain way (a sly fox), then that was all he would be. Interestingly enough, Wilde does possess a strong trait of being unusually clever. Hopps points out how his cleverness could be a useful tool and he would make a great cop. It’s a great moment, because Wilde accepts that there is more to him than he ever thought. Also, he shouldn’t be ashamed to be “clever”, because it was something they needed to solve the case!

There is a lot of focus on working hard for what you want, believing in yourself, and, not judging a book by its cover. The lessons in this movie are amazingly taught. But beyond the lessons we get from this movie, it’s also just a hands-down wonderfully funny and visually beautiful film, filled with excellent Easter eggs as well!

I can’t say enough good things about Zootopia! The plot moves along and doesn’t drag out. You get super involved with the characters, too. I especially love watching the little hamsters with their little suits on OMG!!!! SO cute!!! But I digress.

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This film has heart, and the moment the credits began to roll, I honestly debated with buying another ticket and watching it a second time. Not to mention, I did see the movie for the first time while at Disney Springs, so hello major Disney-ness!

You’re just going to love it, I promise! Zootopia is also available on Netflix, so really there is no excuse to not check out the movie.

And if you’ve already seen the movie, please tell me what you thought of it!

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Got Brave On My Mind

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This weekend was chock full of Disney movies, mainly because I was super sick with my FIRST COLD OF THE SEASON!

I found myself reaching for some strong, empowering female-lead movies as well. Not sure why, but anyways, Princess Merida from Brave is a great “spokesperson” for this role! Her whimsy and independence are truly endearing. Merida, you rock!

 

Celebrate October!

October!!! I love October, it’s my second favorite month in the entire year (following December, of course)!!!

So many awesome great exciting things happen in October, especially up here in New England. It’s cool, beautiful, comfy, rejuvenating, and sometimes just a little spooky!

We got the Salem Witch Trial thing up the road, we’re known for being the location where Hocus Pocus was filmed, and it’s easy to believe that mischief and mayhem can occur on our cobblestone streets littered with colorful leaves.  *sigh* It really is beautiful right now.

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To get in the mood for the “mischief” October brings, I decided to find out What My Disney Villain Name was, by checking out this quiz.

No surprise, I got the magically deceiving Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog. Not only is that one of my all time favorite movies, I think that Dr. F is a great villain! However, I’m not exactly sure I relate to these “traits” the way the quiz believes I do…

“You are very much like Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog. You are shady, suave, and powerful. Your magic is great but comes at a cost, and everyone knows you’ve got friends on the other side.”

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Hmph.

 

 

Sparrow #5?!

Aye aye, Matey!

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A fifth Pirates movie is on its way for 2017. And that would be: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

These movies are getting darker and darker, which is cool. I really loved the first and second movie, but haven’t seen the fourth one yet. Maybe a Pirate Movie Marathon is in order?…

Check out the trailer here!