Apparently Disney released a Teaser
Six years ago we left the world of Wreck-It Ralph, humming along with owl city and asking "When can we do this again?" This weekend we finally got to go back to the world of Wreck-It Ralph and it didn't disappoint. Ralph Breaks the Internet is one of Disney Animation's funniest films in recent memory and a worthy sequel to one of their best films.
This week we talk about the legacy of Stan Lee and how he impacted the lives of millions of fans around the world. Then we dive into those two Toy Story 4 teasers as well as the emotional Dumbo trailer. Finally, Bob Iger gave us more details on Disney's plans for Hulu so we go into that as well. That and much more. For the week of November 19, this is episode 208 of The Disney Movie Review.
Spoilers Ahead: I'm not even gonna try to keep this spoiler-free. You've been warned.
I've sat through some truly awful movies since I started this blog. I've watched movies so terrible that I've begged God to grant me the strength to make it to the end credits while simultaneously writing an email to Bob Iger demanding a refund. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not one of those movies.
Right now, fans are overreacting. As I write this, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has the lowest fan rating of any Star Wars film on Rotten Tomatoes. With a 56 percent, it beat the record of Atack of the Clones by one point. I've seen several Star Wars fans say that this film makes the prequels look good, which is possibly the worst insult a Star Wars film could receive. I think many of these fans would benefit from watching a truly terrible movie like The Good Dinosaur or The Lone Ranger.
The Last Jedi is not the worst Star Wars film ever made, but it is incredibly lazy.
Those that like The Last Jedi praise writer and director Rian Johnson for taking a visionary look at the world of Star Wars. They write articles with headlines like "The Last Jedi Doesn't Care What You Think About Star Wars." Johnson burns down what we know about Star Wars by killing off Snoke, having Rey's parents be no names (which I still don't believe), and refusing to conform to the Star Wars you know and love.
There is genius in that strategy, but Johnson executes it in the laziest possible way. He doesn't just gloss over the explanations for characters from Episode 7. He obliterates the backstory for any character he introduces. The man with the Red Plume plays a central role in the story until he is deemed insignificant. How great would it have been in the man in the red plume only turned out to be the bodyguard for the woman beside him who was the real codebreaker? A move like that would take imagination and several revisions of the script. Or, you could be lazy and just write the characters into a prison cell with a person who has the exact skills they are looking for.
Or consider one of the crucial scenes when the rebel escape pods are leaving their doomed cruiser. An inventive script would have allowed the resistance to have an elaborate plan in the face of the First Order's ability to track escape pods. A lazy script would have a line of dialogue that shows the resistance "can't track" the escape pods for some nonsense reason.
Johnson didn't have the answers fans were looking for from Episode 7, but he also didn't have the answers we were looking for from Episode 8. How was Leia able to somehow revive herself in space and force fly back to the ship? What happened to the man in the Plume? If the Jedi order is over, why does Luke call Rey a Jedi? If you literally have a Jedi mater burn down the ancient texts of the Jedi order to start something new, why would you put those old texts on the Millenium Falcon to restart the Jedi order? How did Rose's ship not explode when she crashed full force into Finn? How are some people (like the kid at the end) able to use the force without any training while Luke, Anakin and everyone before them needed training to use the force? These are the questions a good script can answer, but The Last Jedi is a lazy script.
Despite its faults -- and there are many -- The Last Jedi does have many good qualities that I feel fans are missing. The idea that Luke Skywalker still struggled as a leader after Return of the Jedi was refreshing and inspiring. An imperfect Luke Skywalker is much easier to relate to than an all-powerful Jedi. Yoda's rebuke of Luke's failure to pass on his failures to those he taught hit exactly the right tone. This was more impactful since Yoda was the one who pressed the button to burn the ancient texts. It was the past telling the present to let go so the future can have its time.
There are several messages that the film tries to get across and sometimes it is incredibly successful. For example, Poe's lesson in leadership was heavy handed in the script, but it was still impactful. Sometimes there are situations you can't blast your way out of and if Poe is to become the leader of the new resistance -- hint: he will -- he has a lot to learn. It's as if Johnson was speaking directly to my generation as we begin to assume more leadership roles at work and in the community.
Perhaps the most important question that The Last Jedi raises is how far a franchise can go before it betrays itself. That is, how far can a movie bend or break the rules of a franchise before it becomes unrecognizable to the fans who loved it in the first place? Johnson attempts to answer this question by revealing the parentage of Rey.
For decades, Star Wars fans have known that the force runs in families. If Rey's parents are nobodies, how is she so powerful with the force? Johnson doesn't provide Rey with a simple line of dialogue that might help explain her abilities. Even Luke used to bullseye 2-meter wide womp rats in his T-16 back home before he used the force on the Death Star. Anakin was a pod racer before he became one of the greatest pilots in the rebellion. No matter how much raw ability you have, you will need training--whether professional or amateur--to compete at an all-star level. That's not just the way Star Wars works. That's the way life works.
Johnson wants to do away with that notion and that is part of the reasons fans are rejecting it. This isn't my father's star wars, but it's not even my Star Wars. It just doesn't make sense. Johnson is telling fans "Everyone is special," which is another way of saying no one is. In a galaxy like Star Wars, it's easier to write a world where everyone has a mastery of the force. Then you can explain away any unfortunate happening. Consider how Johnson has set up who is the most powerful with the force:
If the list above were College Football rankings, Luke Skywalker wouldn't even make the playoffs. That is a huge rebuke of Star Wars as a franchise.
In my Star Wars, the Jedi are the most powerful with the force, but in Johnson's Star Wars the top two spots are not occupied by Jedi. In my Star Wars, Supreme Leader Snoke's mastery of the force would create a problem for even the most experienced Jedi, but in Johnson's Star Wars he can be dispatched before half the movie is over. My Star Wars is set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Johnson's Star Wars has Luke flip that dirt off his shoulders like Jay-Z. I wouldn't be surprised if he had him drop a mic.
Disney is kind of in a perilous place at the moment. They let Johnson have his take on the franchise without really letting him go so far that it can't be reeled back in. Will JJ Abrams follow his lead with Episode 9, or will we see something more conventional? My hunch is that Disney will play it safe. They want people to like Star Wars. They want people to come to Star Wars land in 2019 and stay in the $1,000 per night hotel. Too many films like The Last Jedi and the most hard-core fans may just stay home from the movies and the parks.
Fans have a much easier choice. Abrams will have plenty of room to tell a story as if The Last Jedi never happened. If he chooses to ignore the film, fans will have the right to do the same. If Abrams makes The Last Jedi crucial to Episode 9, fans will have to decide whether they identify enough with this new Star Wars to call themselves fans. For me, that is up in the air right now.
I don't need an explanation for everything, but I want the series I follow to make sense. I'm fine with some people being extremely special or even a lot of people being special, but I'll probably lose interest if Star Wars tries to convince me everyone is special. Because then no one is special. That's not Star Wars, it's just lazy.
Which Disney movie had the best music this year? Which trailer left us wanting more? Who was the best director? Actor? Actress? And which film is the best Disney movie of the year?
We'll tell you this week on The Disney Movie Review.
Even before Black Panther smashed box office records and went on to a $218 million four-day debut, it was an extremely important movie. In a movie with a majority black cast, there were no slaves. There was peril, but a white person never appeared to save the day. There were themes of struggles of the inner city, but no crack heads. DC’s Wonder Woman had three white actors supporting the title character. In Marvel’s Black Panther, only three white characters had lines at all.
It’s hard to understate the importance of Black Panther. Director Ryan Coogler invited audiences of all races to imagine a world that depended on the success of a black protagonist. Somehow in 2018, that is still such a radical idea that people tried to kill it on RottenTomatoes. Coogler helped the idea pay off with a solid story that packs pounds of meaning into every single line. There was nearly flawless execution by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Lupita N’Yongo (Nakia), and Danai Gurira (General Okoye). Michael B. Jordan takes his performance to a new level and steals the show in his rendition of Killmonger. But at the end of the day, this is much more than a good movie with a majority black cast.
We could talk all day about how rare it is for movies with large budgets to have a minority director or a largely minority cast, but that’s like saying the heart-shaped herb of Wakanda makes someone a superhero. The minority stuff is nice, but it doesn’t mean anything if no one sees it (See Queen of Katwe). What makes Black Panther special is the structure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- a system of films in which every film builds upon one another. In the past, good movies with a majority black cast could be ignored by the audience at large (Again, see Queen of Katwe). However, this is a movie Marvel fans have to see. The things that happen in Wakanda may be consequential to the larger MCU. For the first time, a film by a black director with a majority black cast got a huge budget and a guaranteed audience.
Once the movie actually started, Black Panther demonstrated its importance through the layers of the story. The idea of N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) choosing to betray Wakanda to help black Americans brings a twist that echoes beyond the world of the MCU. Though there are several prominent women, the action and script make sure there isn't a single damsel in distress waiting for a male hero. Entire books could be written on Killmonger’s motivation to aid the two billion people “who look like us,” and we talk about all that and more in the podcast episode below. But perhaps the most important line in the movie comes in one of the end credits scenes. T’Challa is speaking to the United Nations about how Wakanda will begin sharing its technology with the world. At the end of T’Challa’s speech, another representative asks, “What could a nation of farmers have to offer the world?” That is the essential question many people have been condescendingly asking black Americans for decades.
Even though black people have made significant contributions to America, they have been largely silenced outside of the world of sports and music. The campaign #OscarsSoWhite grew out of reality that the Academy felt minorities had nothing “award-worthy” to offer in 2016. Or consider the times when sports stars speak out about racial injustice? Recently TV personality Laura Ingraham encouraged NBA players to “shut up and dribble.” Even the first black president was interrupted in the middle of his State of the Union Address. After all, what could black people have to offer in politics?
Despite the obvious condescension that comes with this question, black people have worked to answer it for centuries. We have enriched millions of companies and built businesses worth billions. Minorities make up a majority of the box office audience and have propelled hundreds of movies to multi-million dollar takes.
Black Panther is special because it was made by black people -- actors, directors, costume designers, etcs -- and black people propelled it to record-breaking numbers. African-Americans are estimated to have made up 40 percent ($87 million) of Black Panther’s opening weekend sales. The world has been put on notice. If you build it, we will come out in force.
Black Panther is special because it was the first, but it won’t be the last. Executives at Marvel and DC can see the dollar signs from a $218 million opening weekend in February. Hollywood will do what Hollywood does and soon we will see even more studios putting actual time and energy into making movies that are more diverse.
This means that outside of the world of cinema, people will finally get to see black people as humans. Rather than being portrayed as slaves, thugs, sidekicks or oppressed, movies with large budgets will start to show the nuance that exists in life as a black person. We will get more stories that show the full humanity of an entire race of people and that could (should) lead to better understanding. Maybe even one day people will stop asking me what the “black community, as a whole,” thinks about the latest topic of the day.
At the end of the day, Black Panther is more than just the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a movie that carried the hopes and dreams of black people and comic book fans. And it didn’t disappoint. A movie that fulfills so radically different expectations is truly special.
The most important thing to understand about A Wrinkle In Time is that it is based on a novel that is aimed at pre-teens. So it is positive. Get over it. But the fact that it is based on a tween novel means the movie moves slower than it should and some plot points are oversimplified. It's sad because I wish I had more positive things to say about the movie.
Minor spoilers ahead.
Director Ava Duvernay’s Wrinkle is a love letter to pre-teen girls. It encourages them to stand up for what they believe in and not be afraid of their intelligence. Protagonist Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is consistently encouraged to acknowledge her beauty.
This is when the movie is at its best. When Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) takes Meg aside to explain how everything in the universe has led to her being exactly who she needs to be, the movie sings. It is exactly the message that tween girls -- and maybe everyone -- needs to hear.
And I can't speak enough positive things about 9-year-old Deric McCabe, who plays Charles Wallace. The entire third act of the movie is placed on his shoulders and he rises to the occasion as the best actor in the movie.
However, any light that escapes from the film is certainly dimmed by the first 30 to 45 minutes. Audiences must endure pacing that is at a crawl and acting that feels like it belongs in a high school auditorium.
The first act does little to draw in those who haven’t read the book. It introduces characters like Mrs. What’s It (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) with such a casual nature that it’s hard to be invested in the characters. Calvin (Levi Miller) receives no introduction whatsoever which makes him a character of little consequence.
The film tries, but it never quite captures the magic that has caused so many children to fall in love with it over the years.
The non-Marvel fans will call Avengers: Infinity War bloated. They will say there are to0 many characters or that it is an assault of the senses. The true "film critics" will see it as little more than a popcorn flick. That's okay. It's not for them.
Avengers: Infinity War, the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is for fans. It's made for the fans that will immediately recognize that Red Skull is the villain from Captain America: The First Avenger. It's for the fans who remember that epic fight between the Hulk and the Hulkbuster armor in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It's for every fan who went to the midnight showing and stayed after the credits before it was cool.
Everything about Avengers: Infinity War is a "Thank You" note to the fans who made the Marvel Cinematic Universe one of the most successful franchises of all time. Infinity War is officially Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Marvel fans will clearly see the influence of Black Panther director Ryan Coogler when the team heads to Wakanda for the final battle. Whether it's the Guardians of The Galaxy or Thor, all of the characters are exactly what a Marvel fan would expect. And that is what makes it glorious.
When Marvel started its Cinematic Universe on May 2, 2008 with Iron Man, who knew we'd eventually have 18 films that span across 10 years. Even Kevin Feige didn't expect it. Though Infinity War is only the first part of the conclusion, it is a fitting start. Marvel is bidding adeiu to all of the heroes that made the MCU what it is. Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) are all facing annihilation from Thanos (Josh Brolin) in the movies and ending contracts in the real world.
Now it's time to say goodbye. And, since it is the end for them, Marvel is going to make it an amazing goodbye.
Case in point: the death of Spider-man. As spider-man (Tom Holland) evaporates to dust in the arms Tony Stark, you can't help but think of the symbolism behind it. The Avenger who is destined to start phase 4 of Marvel's master plan dies in the arms of the one who started the first phase. Conventional wisdom would say that the opposite should happen. But Marvel didn't get anywhere by doing what people expect.
Instead, the Russo brother's and Marvel choose to tell a good story, and that's exactly what Infinity War is. I don't know a single commentator who expected Thanos to get his wish to gain all Infinity Stones and annihilate half of the universe in the first film. Marvel took what could have been a simple "Thanos only needs one more infinity stone" storyline and they turned it on its head.
By giving Thanos everything he wants, the Russo brother's continued the one thing that has made The MCU so dominant. They made a movie that stands completely on its own and yet, fits perfectly into a larger universe. That is what made the MCU so successful and that is what will carry it to a new generation of fans.
Here's what we know: Thanos has all of the stones and appears to be invincible. Half of the Avengers are dead, despite those real-world contracts. For those who doubt those deaths, remember that several Marvel characters are replaced in the comics. For example, Miles Morales eventually takes up the mantle as Spider-Man. There is nothing stopping Marvel from taking that same path, including a studio-friendly contract.
In addition, we know that Marvel will give us one more chapter of Ant-Man in July and introduce us to Captain Marvel in 2019. We also know that Captain Marvel must be incredibly powerful since Nick Fury calls on her in the post-credits scene.
My personal theory is that the Soul Stone will be the key to the next film. Red Skull appearing wasn't just an accident and Dr. Strange knew that the only way to defeat Thanos was to give him the time stone. Dr. Strange's meditation into the future may be the only advantage that the Avengers have. Of course, I'm sure our heroes will eventually come out on top, but Marvel could surprise me. Thanos could be the invisible force in the sky moving forward and that's fine by my. After 10 years, I'm just happy to still be on the ride.
I was skeptical going into Solo: A Star Wars Story. I wasn't worried about Alden Ehrenreich's portrayal of Han or whether they would "ruin" a character I enjoyed. I was just pretty sure the movie didn't need to exist. But somehow, Lucasfilm managed to turn something that I thought would be pretty stale into a fun summer adventure.
Half-directed by Ron Howard (after the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller just under a year ago), Solo takes viewers through a fun origin story that could have far-reaching consequences in the Star Wars universe (More on that later.). How did Han Solo meet Chewie and get the Millenium Falcon? When I walked in, I didn't care too much, but I was pleasantly surprised at the answer.
Alden Ehrenreich plays Han as a naive boy. He is much more Luke Skywalker than Han Solo at first, but that's exactly what we needed to see. He is a Young Han Solo. We meet him before the years of smuggling, Jabba the Hut and the Kessel run. This is what gives Ehrenreich so much freedom. We see hints of Han, but that is all. He is a different character and Ehrenreich does a great job.
In fact, most of the time the acting is pretty good. Woody Harrelson (Beckett), Donald Glover (Lando), Joonas Suotamo (Chewie) and Love-interest Emilia Clarke (Qi'ra) turn in some memorable performances. The problem is that the acting is disjointed. You can tell there were points in the movie when they were acting for Howard and some less impactful parts when they were acting for Lord and Miller. The only one who doesn't suffer from this continuity of character issue is the villainous Paul Bettany (Dryden Vos), who is one of the scariest Star Wars villains I've ever encountered.
The only "character" that let me down was the music. This score is co-composed by John Powell and John Williams. Williams, of course, is the genius behind most of the Star Wars franchise. By comparison, some of the Powell scores seem elementary. Then again, it's hard to think of a person who would not sound elementary next to John Williams (excluding Michael Giacchino).
**** SPOILERS EXIST BELOW THIS POINT. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED. ****
Solo doesn't have the deepest plot or Oscar-worthy acting, but it more than makes up for it through significance. When Qi'ra fires up the hologram to reveal Darth Maul -- or "Maul" as he is now known -- Lucasfilm was giving a call-back to more than just The Phantom Menace. Solo is set after the Clone Wars, which means we are seeing Maul after Obi-Wan cut him in half in Episode 1. So what gives?
Hardcore Star Wars fans will know that Darth Maul has been alive and well in the two television shows Rebels, and The Clone Wars. They will also know a lot more about how Maul survived, which I won't go into here. The important thing is that Maul now exists in the movie canon. Which means if you spent hours watching Rebels, reading comics, and discussing scenarios with your friends, Lucasfilm just threw a pretty big easter egg your way as a "Thank you."
If The Last Jedi attempted to burn the Star Wars world down so it could be rebuilt, Solo expanded on an already rich universe with a new story. Each method will have its supporters and detractors. However, the most important thing a studio can do for its fan base is acknowledge and appreciate their dedication. That doesn't mean the studio must or even should bend to the will of the fans. However, it doesn't hurt to thank fans before you blow up their universe. By inserting Darth Maul into the fray, Lucasfilm gave a strong message to Star Wars fans who felt their entire world collapse in The Last Jedi. Lucasfilm is taking the trilogies in a new direction, but they aren't done with the past just yet.
Who would have thought we’d see a black President of the United States before we got a sequel to The Incredibles? Now that it is finally here, it was well worth the wait.
Incredibles 2 smashed Finding Dory’s record as the top opening weekend for an animated film. The $180+ million weekend haul would be impressive for a live-action film and, to put it in perspective, that’s more than Captain America: Civil War made in its opening weekend. It’s safe to say that fans were pretty excited about this one and the movie did not disappoint.
We pick up with the Parr family at the exact second we left off with them in The Incredibles. Superheroes are still illegal, but that doesn’t stop the Incredibles from facing off with The Underminer. What happens in that fight propels most of the action in the rest of the movie, including Bob staying at home with the kids while Helen goes to save the day.
The best part of the movie is the way writer and director Brad Bird positioned Bob at home. He isn’t some bumbling oaf who doesn’t know how to vacuum or start a washing machine. Instead, he is the incredibly relatable dad who is doing his best to take care of his family. And yet he provides plenty of laughs along the way.
Scientists have pretty much proven that women are better at multitasking than men are, a talent that is particularly handy when handling three kids. In Incredibles 2, we see Bob struggling to keep up with math homework, first dates, and a baby that can walk through walls and fights raccoons. I found myself completely identifying with Mr. Incredibles struggle to even process everything that is going on in his family, all while trying not to let Helen know how much of a struggle it is. And when Brad Bird reprises his role as Edna, the comedy moves from good to great.
One of the strengths of the film is also its biggest weakness. Elastigirl takes center stage in this outing, catching the bad guys and leaving her family at home. It sounds like a big step forward for women who are “leaning in,” but the story is really one-sided. We get to see Elastigirl’s perspective as the hero in the spotlight, but we never get Helen's perspective as a working mother after years of being a stay at home mom.
In fact, the one time she is directly asked about work-life balance, our heroine dodges the questions to go pursue more hero work. This could be a casualty of Pixar not allowing enough of a female voice in their productions.
That aside, Incredibles 2 is still a fun journey for the entire family. The real identity of the villainous Screen Slaver is a little too easy to spot, but their motivation is compelling and something that goes a little deeper than a mustache-twirling bad guy.
Without a doubt, this is Pixar’s second-best sequel, right behind Toy Story 3. However, it suffers from letting Elastigirl shine and leaving Helen behind. Much of her character development was given to Bob at home so any message meant for a strong female character is only partially delivered. For that, it gets an 8.5/10 in my book.
If I'm honest, there isn't a ton to say about Disney's new movie 'Christopher Robin.' There are no big reveals or any surprises with broader implications to the hundred acre wood universe. It is charmingly simple, just like Winnie the Pooh, and that is what makes it so enjoyable.
The movie is directed by Hollywood chameleon Marc Forster, who also directed World War Z and Finding Neverland. It drops us into the hundred acre wood just as Christopher Robin is saying goodbye to his friends and his childhood in general. In many ways, it plays out just as you'd expect. Christopher Robin grows up to forget all about his childhood and becomes an all work, no play, semi-deadbeat dad. At this point, it's up to Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of the gang to set him straight.
If there is one fault of the film, it is that it tries a little too hard to use pooh to speak to the audience. Winnie the Pooh has always been a simple, yet insightful friend to Christopher Robin. He fulfills that role in this film as well, but his insightfulness is a little overwhelming. It's almost like he is trying a bit too hard to set Christopher straight, so it comes off a little disingenuous.
All that being said, Pooh still charms the entire family. It is good for what it is and a perfect reminder of the magic of childhood for grown-ups who have long since left their magical play lands behind.
This was a light news week for Disney movie news, but the rest of the world has really made up for it. Before we get to the Disney news, I wanted to offer a resource to parents struggling to speak with their kids about race. There is a lot of craziness going on not too far from where I live and even when we agree that racism is bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean we always know how to talk to our kids about it. I wanted to include this article in case anyone is having trouble talking with their kids about race.
The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Lucasfilm is in talks with Stephen Daldry to direct a standalone Obi Wan Kenobi film. It’s something fans have asked for, but I’m not sure if we need it. As Ed points out on the podcast this week, “need” and “want” are two entirely different things. Depending on your level of Star Wars love, fans can have a very different view of which standalone films will actually enhance the Star Wars universe. There are some people who don’t feel like we “need” episode 7, 8, and 9. Those people are wrong, but they do exist.
However, I fit snugly in the camp that isn’t terribly excited about an Obi Wan standalone flick. Obi Wan has been in four Star Wars movies. That count rises to seven if you include his force ghost appearances in the original trilogy and his vocal cameo in The Force Awakens. Add in the hundreds of episodes of The Clone Wars on Disney XD and you have a character that has been thoroughly explored in cinema and television.
This isn’t the world of Star Wars advancing. This is a look back. A nostalgia play. With Rogue One and The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm showed that they can expand the universe, introduce us to new characters that we love, and not rest only on nostalgia to get fans to the theater. For me, an Obi Wan standalone film is a move in the wrong direction.
It’s taken a few years, but it looks like the Disney company is finally starting to actually prepare for Bob Iger to leave the company. Disney just extended the contracts for three key C-suite executives and significantly boosted the pay of another one they hope sticks around.
Disney extended the contracts for Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy and Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Mayer through 2021. Both will also get pay increases, from $1.3 million to $1.5 million. In addition, Disney extended the contract for General Counsel Alan Braverman through July 2019, but left his pay at $1.6 million. Finally, Chief Human Resources Officer Jayne Parker received a pay raise from $865,000 to $975,000.
With Iger slated to leave the company in 2019 - for real this time - each of these executives will be key to helping the new CEO learn the ropes. It is also possible that this move signals that Disney will be looking for an outside successor to the Disney throne, but I hope that doesn’t happen.
Replacing Bob Iger will not be an easy task, but he can’t stay CEO forever. It looks like Disney is finally preparing for the inevitable transition.
It’s easy to see why so many people are excited about MoviePass. The service promises to offer virtually unlimited movies at your local theater for only $10/month. Even for casual cinephiles it is a great deal.
The service isn’t perfect. There are no blackout dates, but you also can’t use it on 3-D or IMAX features. Plus, you have to buy your ticket within 100 yards of the location where you want to use it, which is far from convenient. Oh, and you can only buy one ticket at a time.
But MoviePass is missing the point. People aren’t skipping movies because they are too expensive. They are skipping the theaters because the movie experience sucks. Here’s what they can do to fix it.
It turns out Nick Fury isn’t just missing Black Panther. It was recently confirmed that the character will sit out both Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled sequel. In an interview with Yahoo, the actor said:
I’m not in Avengers 3 and 4. They’re shooting them now, and they haven’t called me yet. They wouldn’t let me go to Black Panther-ville, so it’s kinda like how you gonna make a black Marvel movie and not let Nick Fury show up in it?!
As the Marvel Universe expands, it will be more common for actors and actresses to feel left out of certain get togethers. Contract negotiations, outside projects, and story considerations will keep characters out of films. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) famously got a roommate after he was left out of Captain America: Civil War. If we get more shorts like that, a few actors missing a movie will be well worth it.
If you haven’t seen the Japanese version of the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, your life isn’t as good as it could be. The trailer is amazing and so much better than anything we have seen. Plus, Dr. Strange makes a cameo in the trailer. Take a look below.
If you long for the days of vintage Disney Channel, long no more my friend. Just take a listen as the Disney Channel stars of the 90’s sing Circle of Life.
This week finds Disney going toe-to-toe with Redbox and Amazon as it paves the way for its new streaming service. And since I was sick with the flu last week, we never got a chance to talk about those new trailers for Solo and Incredibles 2. That all changes this week. Also, Disney announced that kids ages 3 - 9 will eat free this summer. So does that mean there is no free dining for adults? We talk about it on the show.
Disney is back in court, working desperately to stop Redbox before Black Panther comes out. After a judge rejected Disney's request for an injunction to keep Redbox from selling digital download codes at deep discounts, Disney went back to the drawing board on its legal language for its combo packs.
Disney codes used to just say that they were not for sale or transfer, which didn't hold up in court. The new injunction motion states, "To redeem a Code...a user must represent that he or she, or a member of his or her family, 'obtained the [C]ode in an original disc + code package [i.e., a Combo Pack] and the [C]ode was not purchased separately.'"
I'm not a lawyer, but I doubt that this will satisfy the judge. Initially, the judge ruled that Disney was trying to control the transfer of physical copies of discs, a move that is not covered by the Copyright Act. Now Disney appears to be trying to control the physical transfer of digital copies of movies. What if a friend buys Thor 2 and sells me the Digital code for $1. Am I breaking Disney's copyright by downloading the copy on my Disney Movies Anywhere?
If we really do create our own enemies, then Redbox is a monster of Disney's making. Had the studio agreed to a distribution agreement, this situation would never have happened. Which reminds me of another beast...
Amazon and Disney have been having a quiet feud over distribution as well. It all stems back to 2014, when Amazon asked for a larger cut of sales. Disney said no and since that time, Disney fans have run into peculiar issues when searching for films. For example, Amazon -- which controls an estimated 40 percent of online sales -- is only allowing Prime members to buy The Last Jedi.
Disney is betting that consumers will view the inconvenience as a major annoyance, leave their beloved Amazon to find copies of movies elsewhere, and be so disgruntled that Amazon will be forced to come running back to Disney. On the other hand, Amazon is hoping fans love Disney content enough to pay a premium to get it from Amazon. Both of those views are wrong.
Consumers are already viewing this as an inconvenience, but not enough for customers to undercut Amazon just yet (More on that later). Disney content is great, but it'snot the only fish in the sea. Disney needs Amazon to suggest its toys, movies, and other items to keep sales booming. After all, it's not like Consumer Products is raking in the dough for the company.
Still, Amazon also needs to be careful. Feud's with Google and Disney are causing customers to question whether or not the store really goes from A to Z. This is already taking a toll as Amazon fell out of the top 10 of global websites for the first time -- and that's according to Amazon's own data. In fact, they aren't even the world's top online retailer for now. We'll see if that changes as these feuds continue.
Did you want free dining? Well, you've got it...just maybe not in the way you wanted it. Disney recently announced kids would eat free at Walt Disney World during trips from May 28 - August 30. Of course, there are restrictions. This is Disney we're talking about. The offer is valid on kids ages 3 - 9. You have to have a Magic Your Way package and stay in certain rooms, but the point is free dining is here.
What remains to be seen is whether grown-ups will get free dinings. Every year for the past few years, Disney has released free dinings to entice people to come to Disney World and stay on property. That's a point that a lot of people miss. Disney does this to increase its own bottom line, not just for goodwill. There is no way Disney loses money on this promotion.
Now hotels are filled, parks are crowded and getting a reservation takes more than a light coating of Pixie dust. You better dump the entire jar on your head if you want Cinderella's Royal Table or Be Our Guest. Point is, Disney no longer needs free dining, but I think they haven't needed it for a while. Instead of being a tool to attract guests who normally wouldn't come, free dining is now a way to spread out crowds. If we can get the people who would have come in July to come in August instead, it makes vacations less crowded for everyone. Whatever revenue is "lost" on free dining is recouped through room requirements. Again, there is no way Disney is losing money on this promotion.
That said, Free dining is just another tool in Disney's belt. The moment it stops becoming useful is the moment you won't see it again. I don't think that will happen this year.
Finally, an exciting trailer for Solo. I was less than impressed the teaser that came out for this movie, but now that we are starting to get some real plot points I am finally excited to see what's in store. Take a look at the trailer below:
This is another movie that looks to blow the doors off the box office. We've been waiting more than a decade for a sequel to The Incredibles, and it looks like the film we are going to get will be more than equal to the original. Pay close attention to Violet's development. Her powers have grown so much more than in the first movie. Gone is the shy, uncertain little girl. I think she may be the most interesting character in the movie.
There wasn't a lot of direct movie news this week. Most of the news revolved around Disney as a corporation. Still, there is plenty to chew on as Redbox responded to Disney’s lawsuit over copyright infringement. Also, the Disney Board will no longer have representatives from Facebook and Twitter due to conflicts of interests. On the Star Wars front, we realized we have four months left until Solo: A Star Wars Story and we have yet to see a poster or a teaser. This begs the question, does Star Wars actually needs marketing?
Back in Episode 159 -- when we briefly discussed Disney's lawsuit against Redbox -- this seemed like an open and shut case. Redbox was buying Disney Blu-Rays and DVD's and offering the accompanying digital download codes at a significant discount. Redbox does not have a distribution agreement with Disney. so it is forced to buy the movies to fill its kiosks. The download codes are just a bonus.
Disney sued in December to stop Redbox. The suit said Redbox is violating the terms of sale of the combo packs, which usually include a warning that “Codes are not for sale or transfer.” Case closed, right? Not even close.
Redbox struck back this week arguing that the codes should not be treated any differently than the physical discs. Redbox is entitled to distribute the DVD's and Blu-Rays just like Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and any other video rental business was. But the real power in Redbox's argument comes with the “first sale doctrine.” This states that a copyright owner cannot prohibit a purchaser from reselling a copy of a work, such as a used book.
Redbox argues that customers are simply redeeming the copy of the film that has already been sold to Redbox - a copy that Redbox says it can do whatever it wants with. Redbox also says it can't be overlooked that Disney is starting its own streaming service that will contain many of the movies Redbox is selling.
It's a very strong argument and could form a precedent for the way digital files are treated. I recently cleaned out some of DVDs and plan to donate them to a used bookstore, but there are no (legal) used bookstores for internet movies. If someone gets me a digital copy of The Good Dinosaur, I just have to sit and endure it for the rest of time.
As much as I want Redbox to win this lawsuit, the alternatives terrify. Disney could stop including digital download codes with its Blu-Rays and only provide digital copies through its new streaming service. It's not terribly likely, but it's also not terribly unlikely. Similar to Adobe, Disney could run its intellectual property off a subscription model, where the user is tied to the company and not the product. Physical discs could become a thing of the past as Disney moves to put a stranglehold on your wallet.
Disney is tying up the loose ends in its business as it prepares to enter the world of streaming. It started this week with an announcement that Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are stepping down from the Walt Disney Company's board of directors.
In a statement, Disney said, “Given our evolving business and the businesses Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Dorsey are in, it has become increasingly difficult for them to avoid conflicts relating to board matters.”
Over the past few years, Twitter and Facebook have bid on and won the rights to stream live sporting events, which directly conflicts with ESPN and the BAMTech sports streaming network Disney will be launching this year.
Speaking of which, Disney's BAMTech Media hired former Apple and Samsung executive Kevin Swint to launch the new service. Swint will serve as General Manager of the Video on Demand service and ultimately run the company’s upcoming Netflix competitor.
Most recently, Swint worked as VP product/content & services for Samsung and before that, he worked at Apple, heading the worldwide iTunes movie business. Swint has a large task ahead of him, but it's good to know that he is comfortable in the digital arena. His hiring also shows that Disney is struggling to find digital media expertise inside its own walls. That inexperience could rear its ugly head when the platform launches, but Disney is trying to get experience promoting a new network.
Disney is pulling four of its biggest creators from YouTube to give exclusive content to Twitch. The creator partners — Markiplier, Jacksepticeye, LuzuGames and Strawburry17 — are under a multiyear pact with Disney Digital Network. Each creator will broadcast live and create exclusive on-demand content.
This is a good deal for Twitch because it gives them the firepower of Disney. Honestly, who even knows what Twitch is? For Disney, the net gain is much more subtle. They get a chance to extend the reach of digital talent beyond YouTube, sure. But they also get a chance to see what it takes to make a streaming network successful when it has a fraction of the size of YouTube. I imagine Disney will be taking copious amounts of notes that it can apply to its own streaming service when it launches in 2019.
Consider these two facts.
Despite all of the troubles for Solo - and there have been many - you'd think Lucasfilm would be able to come up with at least a one-line teaser that pairs old footage from Star Wars with one line by the new Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich. Instead, all we have is a vague synopsis.
Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the ‘Star Wars’ saga’s most unlikely heroes
By this point in Rogue One’s marketing cycle, we’d already had the first teaser trailer and poster, even though it had several rounds of reshoots.
What's more, Star Wars may be a much more American franchise than Disney might have hoped. The Last Jedi seriously bombed in China, becoming the worst-performing blockbuster in China since Disney's The Lone Ranger. (Coincidentally, The Lone Ranger has a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes, though there is no way The Last Jedi is worse than that pile of hot garbage). Roughly 10 percent of Chinese theaters have kicked Star Wars off their schedule after just a 15-day run.
In an article from the South China Morning Post, cultural commentator Luo BeiBei summed the flop up to Disney being tone deaf on the Chinese culture. We are surfing on the same internet, but living in two completely different worlds,” she said.
Disney and Lucasfilm may be displaying that same tone deafness with fans now. Solo is a nostalgia play. It needs the fans who built the franchise to make it successful.
Younger moviegoers have plenty to see in 2018 including Avengers: Infinity War - which comes out three weeks before Solo - and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - which comes out two weeks after Solo. Both of those opening weekends will easily approach or eclipse $200 million. Disney will need to get its act together by the Super Bowl and move faster than the Millenium Falcon in the Kessel Run for Solo to have an outing that moves the needle.
Here are a few official synopses of upcoming filmes:
Christopher Robin is stuck in a job where he is overworked, underpaid and facing an uncertain future. He has a family of his own, but his work has become his life, leaving little time for his wife and daughter, and he has all but forgotten his idyllic childhood spent with a simple-minded, honey-loving stuffed bear and his friends. But when he is reunited with Winnie the Pooh, now tattered and soiled from years of hugs and play, a spark is rekindled, and he is reminded of the endless days of childlike wonder and make believe that defined his youth, when doing nothing could be considered something. Following an unfortunate mishap with Christopher Robin’s briefcase, Pooh and the rest of the gang including Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger, step out of the forest and into London to return the crucial possessions…because best friends will always be there for you.
“Disney’s Christopher Robin” is directed by Golden Globe® nominee Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”) and written by Oscar® winner Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”), Alex Ross Perry (“Golden Exits”) and Oscar nominee Allison Schroeder (“Hidden Figures”) based on characters created by A.A. Milne.
Everyone's favorite family of superheroes is back in "Incredibles 2" – but this time Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) and Dash (voice of Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of "normal" life/ It's a tough transition for every one, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack's emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) must find a way to work together again – which is easier said than done, even when they're all Incredible.
The internet is gonna do what the internet is gonna do. And recently the internet saw the costume of The Wasp in Ant-Man and The Wasp and thought it looked like a penis. Personally, it looks like every other super heroin costume I've ever seen. I can see what they are talking about, but I doubt it deserves the attention it's getting. Take a look for yourself below or click the play button listen to this week's Podcast to get our thoughts on all this week's news.
Did nobody notice this when they were designing Wasp? pic.twitter.com/Rd669maE8P
— Nicholas Levi (@NicholasJLevi) January 17, 2018
The next time you're in a store to buy the latest Disney movie, you might want to double check the labels to make sure you are getting a digital copy along with your blu-ray and DVD combo pack. Some Disney fans are finding that the newest movies do not have a digital download code attached to their purchase.
There are two good reasons Disney would make this change. This first is due to the ongoing feud with Redbox. Ever since Redbox started re-selling digital download codes to Disney movies, Disney has been searching for a way to keep the codes from falling into the wrong hands. Removing digital download codes from certain combo packs could be a direct assault on Redbox. This would make sense as some retailers have begun to implement a limit on how many products customers can buy.Some retailers are limiting the amount of movies customers can buy.
The second reason Disney could be pulling download codes it due to the streaming service it will launch next year. Disney could want to move customers away from buying physical disks and towards buying only digital copies. If it works, it could be vastly more profitable for the company.
That said, it looks like most of the 4K - Blu-ray combo packs have maintained the digital codes. Those are also the most expensive combo-packs Disney offers and the profit margin on those packs is likely much higher than the DVD - Blu-Ray combos. So Disney could be removing digital codes from Blu-ray and DVD combo packs to pad their profit in retail.
I hate to say it, but this feels like a potential Bob Chapek move. The Disney executive is over consumer products now and is excellent at coming up with ideas that are profitable for the Disney company and a pain in the Eeyore for Disney fans. This may or may not be his brain child, but we'll keep an eye on it as the year progresses.
In the battle for the future of digital streaming, Disney is losing. U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson was disinclined to acquiesce to Disney’s request to block Redbox from selling download digital codes. Basically, Disney asked the court to block Redbox from selling codes until this case was finished. Pregerson said “no.”
In an opinion released on Tuesday, Pergerson said Disney failed to meet the requirement that “A private party seeking a preliminary injunction must show that [the court case] is likely to succeed on the merits.” In addition, he said Disney’s actions have pushed the company into Copyright misuse.
"The terms of both digital download services’ license agreements purport to give Disney a power specifically denied to copyright holders....This improper leveraging of Disney’s copyright in the digital content to restrict secondary transfers of physical copies directly implicates and conflicts with public policy enshrined in the Copyright Act, and constitutes copyright misuse.”
You can read the full opinion here.
Back in Episode 159, this seemed like an open and shut case. Redbox was buying Disney Blu-Rays and DVD’s and offering the accompanying digital download codes at a significant discount. Redbox does not have a distribution agreement with Disney so it is forced to buy the movies to fill its kiosks. The download codes are just a bonus.
Disney sued in December saying that Redbox was violating the terms of sale of the combo packs, which usually include a warning that “Codes are not for sale or transfer.” Redbox struck back arguing that the codes should not be treated any differently than the physical discs and, for now, it seems like the judge agreed.
The Redbox legal team may have got the jump on Disney, but there is no way Disney loses a copyright battle with their other big L team: Lobbyists. If -- or more likely when -- Redbox wins this case, Disney will do whatever is necessary to protect its profit and intellectual property.
At best, Disney will add legal language to its Blu-Ray and DVD packaging so that anyone who opens the package is agreeing to unseen terms and conditions. If they wanted to take it a step further, Disney could lobby congress to make a few changes to copyright law -- which they’ve done for several years.
What’s more likely is a nightmare scenario where Disney stops including digital codes with its combo packs and only releases digital copies through the streaming app it is launching in 2019. Microsoft, Adobe, and several other companies have gotten onto the subscription train and Disney is already headed in that direction. It’s only a matter of time.
It was a week of groundbreaking announcements for Disney. First, people “familiar with the situation” said Disney Parks chief Bob Chapek is first in line to be the next Disney CEO. Then Marvel released the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, breaking records and the internet. Disney Pictures announced that it has found the actress who will play Mulan in the live-action movie. If that weren’t enough, Disney announced it is suing Redbox, and they’ll probably win big. Let’s get into it.
No matter what fans think of Bob Chapek or the reports that he could be the next Disney CEO, there are two facts Disney fans cannot dispute.
Chapek has a microbiology degree from Indiana University Bloomington and later earned an MBA from Michigan State University. He worked at Heinz and J. Walter Thompson before becoming Disney's home-entertainment marketing director. Chapek is responsible for taking Disney from DVD to Blu Ray. It’s a slow process that has seen Disney rack up the profits while fans have had to scurry around for blu rays of their favorite movies.
Chapek then went on to head consumer products in 2011.He led the division to double-digit profits by cutting jobs and focusing the business on brands (like Disney Princess) rather than specific lines of merchandise (like shoes). Disney fans will remember this as the period where “grown-up” merchandise disappeared from the Disney store. If you have Frozen fatigue, it’s probably a direct result of decisions from Bob Chapek, who is reportedly a big fan of Disney's big-budget movies that spawn sequels, toys, and theme-park attractions.
That’s all a little annoying, but Chapek took cost-cutting and profit-making to the next level when he became the head of the parks division. The tiered system of tickets that cost more during peak times is a Chapek product. He eliminated some annual passes and consistently introduces new ways to get patrons to pay extra for perks such as nighttime events and passes to get to the head of the line.
Make no mistake, if Bob Chapek happens to be named as the next Disney CEO, it will be bad for fans.
There was a time when no movie could match the anticipation fans felt for any movie named “Star Wars.” Avengers: Infinity War is here to bring balance to the universe.
Infinity War became the most-watched trailer within a single day of release, racking up more than 200 million views in 24 hours. According to Marvel Studios, the Infinity War trailer has accumulated 230 million views across all forms of media.
This was to be expected. For 17 films and 9 years, fans have been waiting for Thanos, the ultimate villain, to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, it is finally time.
But this moment is bigger than this. Disney has seven of the top 10 most viewed trailers in the first 24 hours. Three of those are Marvel films (4. Thor: Ragnarok,10. Captain America: Civil War). In fact, Infinity War more than doubled the number of trailer views of the The Force Awakens.
As Star Wars becomes more common at the box office, you can bet Lucasfilm will look to Marvel to keep audience attention and excitement for their movies.
Disney is suing Redbox over digital codes. If that sounds weird, it’s because it is.
These days a lot of Disney blu rays come with a code to allow fans to download a digital movie. Every Disney digital code comes with a statement in bold that reads “not for sale or transfer.” Apparently Redbox thought that was just a suggestion. Redbox has been selling the code directly to customers for a fraction of what the digital copies cost on iTunes or Amazon.
Redbox has distribution deals in place with major studios like Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, but not with Disney. That means Redbox has to purchase retail copies of the studio’s titles so customers can rent them. Now Redbox has been illegally selling the digital codes that come with those physical copies.
This seems like an open and shut case but maybe Redbox has a card up its sleeve. We’ll soon see.
Chinese actress Crystal Liu Yifei has been cast as the leading actress in Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan, set for 2019. The casting announcement has been received positively in both China and in the West.
Liu has been acting for more than a decade. Her breakout role came in 2003 and she has starred in Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Jet Li. She has been nicknamed “Fairy Sister” for her elegant style and angelic appearance, on and off screen.
The casting directors went on a year-long search to find the leading actress, looking for someone who could meet three criteria: English-language ability, martial arts skills and, star quality.
If Disney was hoping to create the "definitive version of The Nutcracker," they've got a lot more work to do. The Nutcracker and The Four Realms plays like the first draft of a script from a college senior submitting her final project. In fact, the Four Realms is close to being a really good movie, but it falls short in so many ways.
Let's start with the good parts. Mackenzie Foy and Matthew Macfayden add a lot of emotion to their characters of Clara and Mr. Stahlbaum respectively. Costume designer Jenny Beavan should win an Oscar for her creativity in this film. Ballerina Misty Copeland treats all of us to an amazing performance that most of us could not afford to see otherwise. It's cliche to say the best part of a movie is the end credits, but Disney allows Misty to freely dance — which alone might be worth the ticket price. The video below has bits of it.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz1J_mwnMQc&w=560&h=315]
There is so much wrong with Four Realms that it is hard to know where to start. The biggest weakness of the film is the story. It tries to take viewers down the well-trodden path of uncertain young girl who becomes a strong character by the end. (Think Mulan, Casey Newton, etc). The problem is that Clara is never uncertain, so moments that should carry weight never seem to quite get there. Her growth as a character is minuscule at best and non-existent at worst.
Meanwhile, the main twist in the story seems completely manufactured for the sake of having a twist. Disney is currently so hooked on trying to subvert audience expectations that if Snow White were made today, Dopey would turn out to be a master villain. There are plenty of ways to tell an exciting story even when the audience knows how it will end. The live-action version of The Jungle Book didn't need Bagheera to join Shere Khan for it to be a great movie.
If you can get past the story — and that's a big if — you then contend with a few disjointed acting performances. To be fair, this duality is likely due to the fact that one part of the movie was directed by
Lasse Hallström and all of the reshoots were done by
Joe Johnston. Still Nutcracker Captain Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) is sometimes stiff and other times loose, while Sugar Plum (Kiera Knightley) is borderline inappropriate in the way she provides a double entendre for some of her lines. Even Helen Mirren, who does a good job as Mother Ginger, can't rescue the doomed script.
Disney was very close to adding another strong female character to the Disney canon, but Four Realms falls short. The costumes and set design are inspiring, but in the end the story is too big of a nut for this film to crack.