Friday, May 31, 2013

Mousey Movies - Journey 2 The Mysterious Island

Cast of Journey 2 running from a giant lizard

Recently one of my friends has been arguing way to hard that Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is the most important actor in Hollywood. Now I have to say that off the top of my head I think that both Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. have more prestige with both insiders and audiences. But he responds back with box office figures. He has a good point, but I still don’t believe that the Rock could negotiate the type of deals that Captain Jack Sparrow and Tony Stark can pull down. With this debate in the back of my head I recently caught Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.

Josh Hutcherson returns to the Jules Verne stories in this sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth. He plays Sean Anderson, teenage adventurer. Sean now lives with his mother and stepfather Hank, played by the Rock. Hank struggles to connect with Sean. And in an attempt to disprove the existence of Verne’s Mysterious Island, where Sean believes his grandfather is marooned, and bond with the young man Hank takes the teenager on a trip to the island Palau. One does have to admit there is a flaw in Hank’s plans since Sean has been to the center of the Earth! The two along with their helicopter guide Gabato and his daughter Kailani, find the island, a lost city, Sean’s grandfather and danger in this Mousey Movie:

  • The Rock: Disney and the Rock have been a great combination. My buddy who has tried to convince me that the Rock is Hollywood’s biggest star bases his argument solely on box office. So let us break down the Disney-Rock box office history. 2007’s very likable The Game Plan, in which the Rock plays a football player who discovers he has an 8 year old daughter, had a budget of $22 million for a $150 million performance. Win the Rock! In 2009, he starred in a movie that I like but do not love, Race to Witch Mountain. The budget expanded to $50 million so the $106 million box office is less impressive. But still Disney made a profit, so win the Rock! So is it the Rock/Disney combination that works. Well 2009 also saw the Rock providing a voice in the forgettable Planet 51. The movie cost $70 million to make but only brought back $105 from the theaters. So Race to Witch Mountain’s win for Disney bringing in slightly more than TriStar Pictures for a smaller budget is a little more impressive now. The Game Plan is probably most comparable to 20th Century Fox’s 2010 Tooth Fairy. I know you thought it was Disney since it stars Disney legend Julie Andrews (what was she thinking) and Billy Crystal. The movie had a budget of $48 million for $112 million in return. So clearly Disney got the better of the Rock three years earlier spending less to make more. Seriously you make a movie with the Rock, you make a profit! How did Journey 2: The Mysterious Island do? With a budget of $79 million it banked over $325 million! Victory the Rock! Honestly, I do not believe that box office is the only indicator of an actor’s true status as an icon. I think reputation and accolades do matter. But I have to admit, the Rock is bankable. Disney, you need to cast him in something now and plan to watch the bucks roll in. I know that he has been lobbying for a role in The Avengers Initiative, let us make this happen.
Hank and Sean have a manly talk in the jungle.
Hank Shares Some Manly Advice

  • Hungry: The Rock is not the only star with a Disney pedigree. Josh Hutcherson thanks to The Hunger Games is clearly a star. But the first time I saw this young man in a film was Disney’s Bridge to Terabithia which I had thought was going to be in the vein of The Neverending Story. I just knew it was going to be a tale about how imagination wins out while being cute and perhaps silly. I never read the book as a kid! What I did not realize was it was a tearjerker. Hutcherson has also lent his voice to Disney’s U.S. release of Howl’s Moving Castle from Studio Ghibli.

  • Wildcat: Hutcherson is not the only young Disneyfied face. Vanessa Hudgens plays Sean’s love interest and independent minded Kailani. Hudgens broke her career on the Disney Channel with High School Musical and High School Musical 2 (for which we had a mini-party for the Between Tween at the time). And Disney moved her to the big screen with High School Musical 3: Senior Year. The Between Tween has moved onto Marvel movies, which for this dad makes me very very happy.

  • Alfred: Michael Caine plays Sean’s grandfather and Hank’s nemesis, Alexander Anderson. Caine works a lot, I mean a lot. But for the life of me I could not place him in a Disney role. Sure I loved him in ranging from A Bridge Too Far (you really should check out this World War II film) and most recently as Alfred in movies like Dark Knight Rises. Then I felt ashamed, because I was slapped across the face that he voiced English spy Finn McMissile in Cars 2. Shame!

  • Nemo: When I think of Captain Nemo, I think of Disney and the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In Journey 2, Captain Nemo’s legacy is prevalent with appearances of his tomb and the Nautilus. I personally really enjoyed the Nautilus look which to me seems inspired by Disney Legend Harper Goff’s classic design. One can also visit a Disney version of Verne’s island at Tokyo DisneySea where guests can discover Nemo’s lair at the Imagineered Mysterious Island.

Personally I think Walt Disney would have given a thumbs up to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. It is a family based adventure, where families have real struggles that they work through in front of our eyes. And when I say struggle, I do not mean those against giant bees but those within the battlefield of interpersonal relationships. And Disney clearly found Jules Verne’s writing a good source for mining material for his own movie. Yes I think Walt Disney would have approved, and wondered perhaps why his studio did not distribute this film.

And I do have to admit my WWE inspired friend, the Rock did a nice job!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Between Books - Disney U

Win a copy of Disney U by following the steps in this thread.
Disney U: How the Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal and Customer-Centric Employees by Doug Lipp serves a dual purpose.  First, Lipp shares with his readers the principles that Disney University has used in their highly effective training programs.  Second, he shares highlights from the Disney career of Disney Legend and founder of Disney University, Van France.

Lipp opens his book with a scenario that outlines what cast members attending classes at Disney University experience.  This allows him to discuss Van France's motivation for founding the training program seven years after the founding of Disneyland and two years after leaving Disney employment.  The man who had helped Walt Disney train in his original cast members returned to a Disneyland that was facing growing pains, staff turnover and a desperate need of a reminder of who and how they served.  Armed with new insights from his absence from Disney, Van France came prepared to revolutionize the Disneyland training program, and did so with the founding of the University of Disneyland (now Disney University).

Van France attributed the success of Disneyland University to the Four Circumstances:
  1. Innovation: By naming his new program a university, it installed the belief that the training was cutting edge.
  2. Organizational Support: The Disneyland Director of Operations, Dick Nunis, gave France his full support.  Of course Nunis was originally hired by France!  And Walt Disney was fully behind the program.
  3. Education: Starting with Walt Disney himself, Disney has supported the education of its staff which bolstered the support of the program.
  4. Entertain: With Van France working for a company with an animation and Imagineering unit, he had access to creatives who could help make training materials both humorous and engaging.
The Four Circumstances helped create a organizational culture that put value on the programs of Disney University and helped foster its growth.

The typical chapter starts with an incident in Disney corporate history where training was needed to create a course correction.  Lipp generally starts chapters with quotes or scenarios that include Van France himself, helping to show the scope of his 30 plus year Disney career.  Lipp then generally breaks down the concept that Van France was attempting to teach.  Then he demonstrates that concept in action at Disney.  After a wrap up which shows the effectiveness of the training program, Lipp provides a lesson review that provides the key concepts from the chapter and self-reflection questions tied to the the Four Circumstances.

There are two audiences that this book would be attractive to.  The first is those employed to lead and train people.  For training staff the book is a great resource for self reflection on training programs and organizational support of existing programs.  Also, Lipp provides concepts that can be applied to developing training programs.  And as a people leader who does not lead training on a daily basis I still found myself questioning if I foster the four circumstances in our day-to-day operation.

The second audience is Disney fans.  There is not a lot of easily accessible information about Van France.  And Lipp provides snapshots of France's career at a number of key moments in his Disney career.  Honestly, being interested in history, I would have loved more of France's life (though that was not really the point of the book).  Lipp does a great job of showing Van France's relationship with Walt Disney and how he translated the philosophies of Disney such as, "keep the place clean, keep it friendly, and make it fun (34)" even years after Disney's own death.  And along with the history of Van France himself it was highly interesting to me to watch Disney University help overcome issues with new adventures like The Disney Store and Tokyo Disneyland.  One does have to remember however this is not a pure history text, and the historical examples help teaching training concepts.    

I found Disney U to be a book that helped challenge my business thinking.  As someone who has to make decisions about training opportunities, it helped broaden my thinking.  Yes Virgina, training can be entertaining and impactful!  And that is a lesson we could all use. 

Review Copy Provided by McGraw Hill 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dreaming Disney - Welcome to Level Seven The Unofficial Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel Cinematic Universe Podcast

As you may have noticed, I am really excited about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..  In fact I am so excited, that I have partnered to create a podcast and website separate from Between Disney.  Ben Avery who wrote The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles and I discovered that we had matching enthusiasm for next season's new hit show (my prediction).  So we put out powers together to start Welcome to Level 7 The Unofficial Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel Cinematic Universe Podcast

In our first episode we break out the first trailers and speculate on what we think the show holds.  Personally, and I am biased, I thought it was super fun.  We plan to get ready for the show discussing the Marvel Cinematic Universe films leading up the fall premiere. 

You can find us on the web at:

We are on iTunes and can be found here.  

You can also follow us on FaceBook by clicking here.

And follow our Twitter page by clicking here

I think this is going to be a lot of fun.  And do not worry I will still talk about some Marvel over here where it all began!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Between Books - Midlife Mouse

Book cover showing the profile of a man looking at a mouse in front of Cinderella castle

When I first opened Midlife Mouse by Wayne Franklin I had no expectations.  I was attracted to it  because of the Disney hook and the fact that I do feel like I need to open myself up to the wider world of fiction.  But as a middle aged man, who still feels 16, I really did not believe that a story of one man's midlife crisis would actually pull me deeply in.  Three days later, I reached the point where one character's true identity was revealed,  I smiled and mentally congratulated Mr. Franklin on a job well done!  Because he has truly written a fictional story that Disney fans, especially history fans, will love!

Midlife Mouse tells the story of Bill Durmer.  As we open the book we find Bill and his daughter holed up in a Walt Disney World hotel room as they are surrounded by the WDW Swat Team (yep I said it).  We begin to flashback through Bill's life and we learn that Bill is a solid family man and citizen within his Alabama hometown.  However, Bill's life has taken a downward turn as he is forced to close his family business and his coastal community experiences a disaster which Bill blames on himself.  Bill believes the key to rediscovering his purpose lies at Walt Disney World, a place where he was truly happy.  He runs away to the resort with one of his children and begins an adventure steeped in Disney history as those who continue the traditions of Walt Disney seek to discover if Bill is the fulfillment of Walt Disney's last great prophecy.  Along they way, Bill faces danger, fantastical situations, Disney historical truths, and a journey of self discovery to rediscover his purpose.

Bill Dumer's story is one where two genres collide.  First, Franklin provides us the drama driven midlife crisis story.  This book lives in the same neighborhood as fictional books like Our Kingdom of Dust, where our main characters attempt to escape the complexities of their life by fleeing to Walt Disney World so they can be happy.  This theme can also be found in non-fiction books like Cast Member Confidential, proving people do run away to Mickey in real life.  But compared to both of these examples Midlife Mouse is a more family friendly offering.  I would let the Between Tween read this book if asked.  However, Our Kingdom of Dust is something the Between Tween is still a few years away from due to the intense imagery.  Second, Midlife Mouse is a fantastical mystery adventure.  I kept getting the feeling that the story was an adult Kingdom Keepers.  Franklin's tale is full of mystery and secrets within Walt Disney World, where one is not only taken on a ride but also learn real Disney history in a fictional book.

The mystery adventure revolves around a prophecy made on Walt Disney's deathbed.  Durmer and the reader discover that a group of nine separate Disney fans/employees are either seeking the fulfillment or delay of Disney's last prophecy.  I was delighted that each of the groups was descended from Walt Disney's Nine Old Men.  So for history fans, Franklin tickles the imagination by using names like Marc Davis and Ward Kimball in the fictional mystery.  I smiled as I read how each group descended from the original Legends to others including Mary Blair, Don Bluth, Card Walker, Frank Wells, and I believe Jefferey Katzenberg (not mentioned by name) amongst others.  And I really enjoyed how the groups dealt with the problem of Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas due to their close relationship.  I felt the fictional edits to the histories of these real life legends was true to their histories and legends.  The mystery also allows Franklin to share some of his own opinions on the current state of Disney and Disney fandom.     

The midlife crisis portion of the story is highly effective and makes you feel for Bill.  I am guessing that most people have someone like Bill's sister Nancy in their lives, loving but controlling.  And as a husband and father I could feel the complexity of his personal problems.  Though I probably could not run away to Orlando without the Between Wife!  I think anyone who is at the midpoint of their life can understand much of inner dialogue and quest for purpose.

Midlife Mouse is billed as a Southern fantasy.  I was concerned living in Betweenland I would be missing some of the color of the story.  I found that was not a concern.  I felt Franklin did a good job of giving Bill's hometown of Decent Chance the color of the south from sweet tea to religion in a small town without leaving me behind.

I think the release timing of Midlife Mouse is perfect.  This text is a great summer reading choice.  I could see carrying this to the beach, on the airplane or a comfy bench in a Disney park (okay that's a lie I can't read in a Disney park when there are rides to be checked off.  My only complaint is Franklin refers to Walt Disney World as Disney World.  But when I found out the identity of Bill's spiritual guide Red, well everything was forgiven (really that's all I could complain about).  You can't go wrong by grabbing a copy of Midlife Mouse and taking yourself through a mystery through the Magic Kingdom Park.

Review Copy Provided by Author

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mousey Movies - Star Trek

Movie poster showing Kirk, Spock and Uhura.

When I was growing up I watched my fair share of both Star Wars and Star Trek. Unfortunately, as time passed I met a girl, got a job, went to school, moved around, had some kids, bought a mini-van and watched less TV. When I returned from media silence, two loves ran to the top. One was Disney (of course) and the other was Star Wars. A lot of this had to do with being a father, since I could share these fandoms with my kids. I honestly have only watched one Trek movie in the last decade, and it was not that good.

In 2009 with director J.J. Abrams reboot/restart/continuation of the Trek saga with Star Trek, many of my friends were excited.

Me, not so much!

I did drag myself into a third run discount theater to see the film with a scratchy print and bad sound. The Between Tween who went with me loved it! I then destroyed the movie’s plot in front of the youngster, which may or may not have resulted in crying. I then promised to let the Tween watch something Star Wars to cleanse the mind. And then I thought this journey was over.

With the coming of the blockbuster Star Trek Into Darkness, I have largely felt left out of the excitement again. However, things are different this time around. I decided I wanted the film to do well, purely because it would help build the audience for Star Wars: Episode VII since they share a director. Despite my new found hope in the darkness, I was still not sure when I would personally see it. But when the Between Wife made a comment about wanting to see the 2009 film, which I believe was solely based on those blue blue eyes of Chris Pine, I acted.

2009’s Star Trek tells the story of how the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise were brought together when facing an intergalactic emergency that threatens entire worlds. Federation recruit James T. Kirk is pulled into a battle against a disgruntled Romulan miner from the future named Nero. Our villain blames Ambassador Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy himself, for the death of his world. Nero chases Spock across time where they overlap with the younger version of Spock played by Zachary Quinto. The story shows us relationships growing amongst the core Trek characters while creating a new timeline in the Star Trek universe. And as the Between Tween pointed out in the first scene, Star Trek is Mousey:

  • Parental Units: As the movie opened the Between Tween yelled out, “Hey, it’s Thor!” I laughed and said not that can’t be. That guy is too well shaven and has short hair. Then I turned my head askew and said, “Hey, it’s Thor!” Chris Hemsworth does in fact play George Kirk, the first officer of the U.S.S. Kelvin, the father of Captain James T. Kirk, and hero. As the scene progressed George Kirk’s wife Winona was also introduced. And I yelled out, “Hey, it’s Emma!” Yes, Mrs. Kirk was played by Jennifer Morrison from Once Upon a Time. Kirk definitely has some Mousey parents.

  • Prince Charming: Speaking of the Kirk family. Chris Pine who plays James T. Kirk got his film debut in a Disney movie. He played villain/love interest Nicholas Devereaux in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.  
  • Spock’s Mom: So as long as Winona Ryder’s career has been, clearly she has been in many Disney movies. This must be true since she is in so many Tim Burton movies. So yeah, she must have cashed many checks from the Mouse. But shockingly, no! She did voice Elsa Van Helsing in Frankenweenie. But most of her other Burton films including Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are not Disney films.   

  • Guardian: Zoe Saldana plays Uhura, the language specialist on the Enterprise and Spock’s love interest (I know shocking). Saldana has been cast as Gamora, the most dangerous woman in the galaxy, in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Honestly, I am holding out opinions on this future Marvel film until I find out who will voice Rocket Raccoon. Saldana played another tough women as Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003. Anamaria is a pirate through and through as a member of Captain Jack Sparrow’s crew.

  • Star Wars, Nothing But Star Wars: Since I was just looking to bash Star Trek originally, I did not notice that director J.J. Abrams crafted images that seem like homages to Disney’s newest franchise. These include the fact that Vulcan and Alderaan are both destroyed and have refugee communities.  Kirk meets old Spock and Mr. Scott on an ice world with ferocious creatures, Luke almost lost his life to a ferocious creature on Hoth.  And on that world when one ferocious creature is chasing Kirk it is stopped by a bigger one, or as Qui-Gon Jinn would remind us there is always a bigger fish.  And seriously is Mr. Scott’s engineering partner is an Ugnaught, they are both short , handy and not so pretty.  Yeah, those are just a few I noticed, but clearly Star Wars influenced this world!

Star Trek is a super mousey movie, even if I did not want to admit it. We did not even include Michael Giacchino who wrote the score; his Space Mountain theme is still my favorite. And I am willing to say it should not carry the horrible title I gave it years ago. But this time I turned off my mind, went with the flow, enjoyed the adventure, laughed with the Between Kids and most of all…..looked forward to Episode VII.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mousey Movie (TV) Preview - Marvel's Agents of SHIELD Full Trailer (and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland)

Usually I would refrain from posting about a full trailer so soon after a teaser, but I love this trailer.  Avengers' fans, I give you Marvel's Agents of SHIELD full trailer, watch and enjoy!

Here are my thoughts on this show that I am even more excited about now!
  • When Coulson steps out of the shadows to welcome Agent Ward to the next level, well I got excited.
  • I think they are going to wait until the last possible moment to tell us how Coulson is back.  Honestly, they may wait years to let that little secret out of the bag.  Maybe you have to be Level 8!
  • Does everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. know Coulson is back, or is this a Secret Avengers scenario?
  • It looks funny! 
  • I do not care that they have ripped the emotional heart out of The Avengers! #CoulsonLives
  • Everyone in the Between Household gave this trailer a thumbs up!
  • It looks to me like not everyone on the team will be by the book, which could create tension.
  • I love that Coulson is back, I may have already mentioned that!

So while ABC released this trailer they also released one for Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.
 Confession time, I am really behind on Once Upon a Time.  So this trailer took me by surprise. 

Here are my early thoughts, not really knowing anything about this show:
  • It appears they will be pushing the romance factor heavily.
  • I do not really see any familiar faces, in fact I am not really sure how it spin off from the original other than the fact they used some footage from the first show.  Maybe I have just not gotten to the proper Alice episode yet (I'm really behind).
  • At the moment I do not think I will be watching this new offering on a regular basis.  That probably means I will not watch at all since I am guessing they will be building a story throughout the season.  
What do you think? 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Between Books - The Art of Pixar Short Films

Book cover showing a luxo lamp and a toy ball.
The Art of Pixar Short Films by Amid Amidi outlines the history of Pixar's shorts up until 2009, providing both history and concept art and stills.  The "Introduction" provides a brief history of each short's development with few images.  This is followed by over 100 pages of art without much narration.  The images include sculptures, concept art, storyboards and stills.  The following shorts are all covered by the book:
  • The Adventures of Andre & Wally B.
  • Luxo Jr.
  • Red's Dream
  • Tin Toy
  • Knick Knack
  • Geri's Game
  • For the Birds
  • Boundin'
  • One Man Band
  • Lifted
  • Mike's New Car
  • Jack-Jack Attack
  • Mater and the Ghostlight.      
The Art of Pixar Short Films is well researched and really provides a short history of Pixar.  Amidi shows how the shorts were a platform to build both the technology and artistic skills needed to elevate Pixar to feature films.  Then with entry into full length movies, Pixar continued to see shorts as both a training ground for future big screen artists and a bonus for film audiences, a bonus that had historic precedents in the history of cinema.  It cannot be a called a complete history of Pixar however, with ownership changes for example not being mentioned.  But Amidi does provide a nice history of the shorts that he actually discusses.  There are a number of facts that I found enjoyable including that Ed Catmull was recruited by Disney at one point to design Space Mountain.  The featured art is fun, informative and displays the skill of Pixar's artists.

I am just now getting into the Art of books, so I am a novice in this genre still.  I did find the format different than volumes I have read in the past.  But the large blocks of narration helped keep a cohesive history.  Overall for me the history of The Art of Pixar Short Films is what has led me to consider this a necessary volume for those interested in Pixar history.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mousey Movie (TV) Preview - Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Sign with the image of Agent Coulson that says, Keep Calm or I will Tase You and Watch Supernanny While You Drool Into the Carpet
Sadly, I am a little behind on Once Upon a Time so I knew I would not be able to catch the preview of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD live.  But luckily in this day and age, well everything gets put online. 

So won't you enjoy this first preview with me:

First thoughts?

  • Coulson is back and Clark Gregg is cool as ever.  Seriously, don't touch Lola!
  • There will be action.
  • There will be a smaller TV budget.
  • They will by reminding us that this show will tie-in with the Avengers Initiative.
  • I will be worried about story and production quality until the third episode mostly because I think they will go all out in episode one.  
  • I will be watching.   
  • Clark Gregg could probably read the phone book as Coulson and I would watch it.  

What are your thoughts? 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Oswald Opines - Long Live the Clone Wars

Episode VII Fan Poster showing the Millenium Falcon with Mickey Ears

A little over a month ago I suggested that Disney fans join RebelForce Radio in writing Bob Iger to save Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  And then a day later the news of the show's cancellation hit the press.  And I thought the story was over!

And then this week, I received this letter.  And I have to admit I was shocked and a little overexcited to get a letter addressed from LucasFilm.

Photo of picture from LucasFilm

Here are my brief thoughts on this letter:

  • The Padawan: I think many Disney fans, including me, worried  what cancelling the show would mean for the career of Dave Filoni at LucasFilm.  In my opinion, Filoni is a master storyteller, a brilliant director, a skilled organizer, and George Lucas' padawan.  I think the second part is important.  From interviews it is clear that Filoni has spent hours with Lucas discussing Star Wars back story, meaning and intent.  Filoni is probably one of a few in the world that have such a high understanding of Lucas' intent.  And as a Disney fan I do not want to see him go elsewhere.  In many ways Filoni should be seen as a John Lasseter for Star Wars animation.  This letter makes it clear that Filoni was not one of those laid off and is in fact working on the next Star Wars animated saga.  And that is a little victory.  

  • The Admiral:  I sent my letter to Disney and Iger.  The response I received was from Kathleen Kennedy.  I think this shows that Disney corporate is going to treat Kennedy as Lasseter and Ed Catmull.  She will be the voice and creative director of a Disney subdivision.  And even if some of the changes (layoffs, 3D cancellations  seem to match Disney trends, LucasFilm will have a voice separate from the Disney CEO.

  • The King is Dead, Long Live the King: Star Wars: The Clone Wars is gone.  It will not be coming back.  No matter how well received the bonus content is, the show will not be coming back.  LucasFilm has moved on, Filoni has moved on, and they would like fans to move Episode VII.  Clearly, as many have reported, their efforts will be directed towards preparing us for the next trilogy.   

I am still shocked.  I never expected Disney or LucasFilm to respond.  There was nothing that said that Disney had to spend the 46 cents for a stamp and send me a letter.  I have received less consideration from publishers I have contacted and a apparel store that messed up a recent hat order.  Honestly, part of me did not think my favorite animated show could be saved.  And it was not.  But I am starting to move on.  As the letter notes, they did give me an ending.  And the show lasted than most animated television series.  I am moving on, straight into the next chapter when I can take the Between Kids to new Star Wars in the theater.      

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mousey Movie Review - Iron Man 3

The cast of Iron Man 3

I am a Disney fan, Marvel fan, superhero fan and a heretic.

Contrary to other reviews you may have read already, let me say Iron Man 3 is a good movie but not the greatest superhero comic movie ever. It is not as good as The Avengers, Iron Man 2,or Iron Man (my personal ranking, yes I did put 2 before 1). It is fun and enjoyable though at times (the front) it kind of drags and I have plenty of concerns that brought me out of the movie the first time I watched it. Maybe my expectations were too high!

In the third installment of the Iron Man series, an emotionally maturing Tony Stark, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr., is dealing, and not well, with the emotional ramifications of the battle for New York in The Avengers. While emotionally at his wit’s end he enters into a confrontation with the terrorist The Mandarin who is attempting to reeducate the American President. Tony becomes embroiled into this confrontation after one of The Mandarin’s Extermis soldiers hurts someone close to Tony. After a strike on his home, Stark must determine how to defeat the demons of his past, find The Mandarin’s lair, protect those he loves and defend the United States’ government in this Mousey Movie:

  • Team Work: Where is Captain America? I assume that Thor is not in the neighborhood but where is Captain America? Shouldn’t Captain America face a challenge against the United States and its leader? Is he not the most natural of Tony’s friends, he has a flag on his chest, to at least fight for the American way of life? Where is S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury? Tony Stark is at least loosely affiliated with S.H.I.E.L.D., so should we not expect Nick Fury (who never shows up) to at least send someone like Coulson’s replacement over to the Stark Ranch after an air strike against it. But nope, no S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony Stark is part of a wider world, so where is everybody? 

  • The Real World: To me a hallmark of the Iron Man films has been cementing Tony Stark to the real world. So I wondered how The Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley would be handled. The Mandarin is a traditional Asian Iron Man villain powered by ten rings that are either magical or alien depending on the story arc you are reading. He is very non-real world. But I do applaud the fresh and realistic take they give to the Mandarin. He is portrayed in a way that should not be offensive to any culture. And he easily could exist in our world. Since Thor brought us Gods and The Avengers brought us aliens I thought maybe they would take an imaginary leap with The Mandarin. Instead, they followed their past and stayed in our world and I really liked it. And Kingsley was brilliant in his portrayal of this classic villain. 

  • Kids and Animals: Kingsley was good, but Ty Simpkins stole the show for me. Who? Exactly! This fresh faced youngster plays a boy named Harley. Harley like Stark is mechanical and an emotional hot mess. If anyone can put the cocky superhero into his place it is Harley. Disney, sign this kid onto a long-term contract. We need to see him in future films as a sidekick to the millionaire, a protégé one might say. With Coulson out of the picture, until the T.V. show premiers at least, I officially identify Harley as my new favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe original character. 
Tony Stark falling from the sky.

  • Tear Jerker: Everyone who has seen the trailers knows that Tony’s home is attacked and his hall of armor is devastated. I used to be sad about this when I saw the first trailers. But I must have come to terms with it, because I was sad but the armor loss did not upset me. But I had forgot there were other items in the garage that I've become emotionally attached to. So despite seeing this scene over and over again I was still left with a sense of loss. 

  • Other People’s Property: Punisher, Ghost Rider, Daredevil and Blade are all officially back in the Disney/Marvel family. And it is clear that Disney is concerned with staking claims to their property, intellectual property that is. Along with the return of the Marvel lost children, Kevin Feige has announced that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are planned to be featured in The Avengers 2. This is interesting since Disney does not have movie rights to their daddy Magneto, who is in the X-Men films. And you have to wonder if they can even stay they are mutants? But the move does block these mutant siblings from being used in the non-Disney Marvel movies. Another addition in the second Avengers film is AIM as Aldrich Killian’s think tank. And Roxxon is mentioned as a company within the Disney Cinematic Universe before it could show up in a Spider-Man film. The most interesting marking of the Disney territory is War Machine being re-branded as Iron Patriot. I prefer the War Machine name, especially since Rhodey has never been Iron Patriot. Oh, and Iron Patriot is a villain, a re-purposed Iron Man suit worn by Spider-Man villain Norman Osborn. Is it possible that Marvel and Disney made this name change now to keep an Iron Man-like armor from showing up in the Spider-Man films? Honestly, I have a hard time believing that Sony could include Iron Patriot in their plans without Marvel approval. When all the intellectual dust settles, I wish War Machine was still War Machine! 

  • Business Casual: This is a small thing, but it took me out of the movie. Don Cheadle’s Colonel James Rhodes the pilot of Iron Patriot is an Air Force officer. So his uniform when on patrol in the Iron Patriot armor is a polo and jeans that one can buy in any men’s section. Should he not have some sort of Battle Dress Uniform or other sanctioned and logoed military outfit when on official patrol, and not an outfit I could buy in every department store’s men’s section? I guess it does make CosPlay easier! I just keep thinking that Walt Disney demanded that Imagineers be true to details because even if we did not know why something was off we would still feel it. I felt it! 
Iron Patriot Poster

  • Action Jackson: The action sequences are really good, especially the attack on the Stark mansion and the battle finale. The Between Kid saw it with me the second time and I am pretty sure there was no blinking during both of these sequences. And despite having seen the movie once before, I still felt pulled into Tony’s struggles as his house was destroyed around him. The second time I paid to see the film in IMAX 3D, which usually I dislike. But for Iron Man 3 I really enjoyed the feeling of broken glass flying at me or ashes floating throughout the room. 

  • Grow Up: I do believe the storyline shows growth for three of our main characters. Tony Stark clearly now cares for someone beyond himself, Pepper Potts. Potts, portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, is definitely in charge of Stark Industries and comfortable with that role. She says no and yes on her authority and not Tony’s. In fact, Pepper comes off as a very strong figure in the board room, her romantic relationship, and even on the battlefield filled with villains and heroes. And Happy Hogan , played by Jon Favreau, no longer drives Tony or Pepper around but heads all of Stark security. It is nice to see these original three have not been stuck in place. 
Pepper Potts holding a shattered Iron Man helmet poster

  • False Ending: I really feel like they are trying to give Iron Man 3 a Dark Knight Rises ending where the trilogy of Iron Man films are all wrapped up in a neat little package. But everyone, and I mean everyone to the youngest child knows, knows that regardless of the ending tying up of plot points that Tony Stark and Iron Man will return in The Avengers 2. In fact, the ending could literally end the Iron Man saga, and the Between Tween asked if there would ever be another Iron Man movie. After the post-credit scene we are told Tony Stark will be back and all the emotional work that the ending built up is out the window with a title card. I really felt like they fully do not understand the bigger picture. If this was the true end of a trilogy I would be satisfied. But that is not the situation. In the end, this ending is just misdirection to me. I should not I have debated heavily with a friend about this point, but I still have not been convinced it was the ending we needed. 

Again, good not great. Iron Man 3 does have things we expect and need including the Stan Lee cameo and the post credit scene. Actually the post credit scene was not what I expected, or still believe needed, but was probably one of the best to date. If you are reading this blog, you will probably see Iron Man 3, if you have not already. I recommend sitting back, relaxing and do not look critically. Because when I took that strategy it was a much better movie.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Comic Corner - Marvel's Iron Man 3 Prelude

Comic cover showing Tony Stark standing in his Hall of Armor
It was an easy sale to get me to pick up Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Prelude #1. I got it for free for The Marvel Comics App. I like free, free is good. I like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Avengers, they are good. So clearly, I was destined to enjoy this as I prepared to see Iron Man 3, which I will have seen by the time of posting and assume I will have thought was good. Sadly, despite my excitement, I was found wanting in this issue.

Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Prelude #1 is written by Christos Gage and Will Corona Pilgrim with pencils by Steve Kurth. The tale intertwines itself amongst the events of Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. The real main character is Rhodey (James Rhodes) as he follows the leads to track down a terrorist named The Ten Rings, which has supplied terrorists with weapons globally. You will also remember them as Tony Stark’s kidnappers in Iron Man. The issue ends with a cliffhanger as Rhodey in his War Machine armor may have gotten too close to The Ten Rings!

Okay, so I do really enjoy the tie-ins to several Avenger Initiative movies. This issue, for example, does an excellent job at explaining why War Machine did not join the Avengers in New York. And it addresses that Rhodey stole his first armor and shows Stark handing over an updated armor to Rhodes. We also see a glimpse of my beloved Agent Coulson in the background. Additionally, The Ten Rings is a clear foreshadowing of Iron Man 3 and the Mandarin. So I do feel like those who are only fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could pick up this issue and instantly understand all of the background without comics. Co-writer Pilgrim served as a researcher for Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, so he knows this version of the Marvel universe.

But, I do have two criticisms. First, they did not go all in. Rhodey looks like a buff handsome super hero, which is noticeably different than Don Cheadle's more unstated body type. Instead, he does look like the Rhodey from the comics. And even though Iron Man is in the title, this is really a War Machine issue and I wish that either this was highlighted in the title or that Stark had less of a supporting role. Second, I wish they would have given me the full story in a single comic. The purpose of this comic is to make me more excited about a movie that I am already planning to see (or will have actually seen when you read this!). This title did not change my impression either way, so charging me $2.99 for the second half or $7.99 for a print version with the whole 40-some pages seems like overkill. Especially since the story did not have enough action for me to choose to purchase the next half. I already know that Rhodey makes it to the movie!

Sadly, I did feel a lack of excitement for Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Prelude #1. I felt very vanilla about it. It is the type of story I would expect kids who devour movie tie-ins to enjoy. But adults will probably not find the strands of a story that will get them excited