Tag Archives: Disney

10Aug/22

“I Am Groot” Is Another Win for Disney Plus

I Am Groot, exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Synopsis: There’s no guarding the galaxy from this mischievous toddler! Get ready as Baby Groot takes center stage in his very own collection of shorts, exploring his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars.

I have seen the two Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG)films at least three times each, but I have watched the clips of Baby Groots dancing on YouTube countless times. He’s adorable, curious, and just all-out entertaining with only saying three words to express himself, “I am Groot.” The Disney Plus series with the same name will be a big win for Disney because it was for me. It has the same concept as the GOTG films, where Groot explores the environment around him and hilariously gets himself into these situations. 

The series consists of five shorts that total 20mins, including the credits. With Vin Diesel reprising the voice of Groot and Bradley Cooper voicing Racoon Rocket.  My favorite short in the series is the one where he dances off with his shapeshifting liquid creature because I like seeing Groot dance. His fierce expressions and impressive moves will have you re-watching it and I won’t be surprised if clips from the series will be trending on social media.

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

There is no shortage of the CGI budget for the series as everything looks real, from the environment that Groot interacts with down to the textures and detail of Groot’s body. We all know fans will spare no insults or Twitter bashing if the CGI is not quality because we just witnessed the backlash the She-Hulk trailer received, and before that, it was Ugly Sonic.  

If you remember the GOTG II’s opening sequence where Groot is dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky,” which is my favorite part of the film. Where not only is he dancing but chasing a small furry creature as the rest of the Guardians are fighting an eight-legged giant beast, then that is basically what you will get for the series. 

There is not much dialog throughout the series besides Groot saying his infamous phrase. Except for Rocket the Raccoon, who makes an appearance during one of the episodes. But this is a Groot feature that doesn’t rely on the dialogue and mostly focuses on Groot’s reactions and facial expressions. Like the famous cartoon Pink Panther, if some of you old enough to remember? Every episode, Groot will make a mess; the question is, how big of a mess is it? Enough that it drives the other characters crazy, but since he is charming, all is forgiven. 

There are some easter eggs within the series. One is the Alf comic book that Groot uses to make a painting and some of the places where the episodes take place to feature the background of GOTG movies intending to let the audiences know that while the others are fighting or Groot is in his little world staying out of the big frays and more into trouble. 

If you have enjoyed Groot from the GOTG franchise, you will definitely love these series of shorts and can enjoy them with anyone at any age. I am sure Disney + will get a lot of views for “ I Am Groot,” and I will be looking forward to seeing of more shorts after this. Before the release of the GOTG III, tune into Disney + August 10th and watch Groot get into mischief.

07Jul/22

Thor: Love and Thunder, The Funniest There Is

Photo courtsey of Disney

In theaters: Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Run time: 119 mins

Rated: PG-13

SYNOPSIS: Thor embarks on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — a quest for inner peace. However, his retirement gets interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher, a galactic killer seeking the extinction of the gods.

Historically, it’s been proven difficult to produce a successful third film in a movie franchise, just look at the reviews for Blade: Trinity; but with Thor: Love and Thunder, Director Taika Waititi has provided MCU fans with the funniest Thor movie to date. This should not be a surprise, the award-winning director breathed new life into the Thor series with Thor: Ragnarok and has received much acclaim for his dark comedy What We Do in the Shadows. The humor and drama are balanced, continuing the tone of the previous films. 

Thor, The Funniest There Is

As I mentioned before, this film is the funniest of the Thor movies, especially when it comes to Thor himself. The exploration of his relationship with Jane and his former favorite weapon, Mjolnir, was the funniest part of the film in my opinion…well, besides the screaming goats. His introduction with the Guardians of the Galaxy had me laughing because of the damage he’d done while attempting to help take out a group of villains. The Guardian’s appearance was brief, but I enjoyed seeing the old gang since it’s been a while! Thor’s not only dealing with his feelings towards Jane and Mjolnir, but his current weapon, Stormbreaker, senses Thor’s intrigue with his ex-weapon, so much so that when Thor tries to call for Mjolnir, Stormbreaker appears like a lover catching him in the act. 

There is a fun little montage explaining what happened with the relationship between the two. The references to rom-com movies was a cute addition. Watching Thor deal with his emotional issues while trying to battle the God Butcher, made for a great addition to the film. Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Thor was organic as usual. I definitely feel this role was made for him. His ability to switch seamlessly from comedy to drama was shown greatly in this film as we witness Thor “go through it”. This film provided more growth for this character, something the audience and I, myself, can relate to as we get older and experience life. 

Korg, voiced by Taika Waititi, was hilarious with his offbeat and unusual comments. His narration throughout was certainly in sync with the film and, well let’s face it, every MCU fan loves the storytelling of Korg and Luis from Ant-Man. I don’t know about you, but I love to hear his off-the-wall stories. I’m hoping Korg and Luis eventually get some screen time together where they exchange some of their stories. 

Taika Waititi at Thor: Love and Thunder premiere. Photo courtesy of Disney

Mighty Thor

Having Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor in this film is a good fit. We get to see what happened to her relationship with Thor and what Jane has been up to this whole time. Her character is struggling to tell Thor some secrets that could affect them forever while also dealing with the effects of weilding Mjolnir. I also enjoyed watching Natalie Portman take on enemies and struggle to be a hero at this point in her life. Portman will win you over with her charm and on-screen chemistry with Hemsworth.

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie

Hail King Valkyrie!

Valkyrie is actually one of my favorite female MCU characters. Her desire to kick ass, her excitement during battle, and her sometimes brash attitude make for the best person to have your back on the battlefield. In this film, we see her boredom with her role as the leader of the New Asgard. The tourism, food advertisements, media, and inclusivity in world politics, none of it impresses her. But when there’s a new threat in the form of Gorr and Jane Foster (aka Almighty Thor) makes an appearance, she suddenly feels right at home. Tessa, herself, noted the change in the state of her character during the press conference, stating “She’s really missing being on the battlefield and missing her sisters.  And so, it’s been great fun to get to have that again, with Natalie in particular as Mighty Thor.”

Everything from her mannerisms to her face shows excitement, as she has a new force to battle alongside her sister. I enjoyed Tessa’s performance because it holds true to the nature of the female warrior. Although brief, the film does address her bisexuality, which has come up in conversations amongst fans. Can I say that I’d really like to see Valkyrie get her own project because she is that damn fun to watch?! 

Tessa Thompson at Thor premiere

“ When we first met Valkyrie, she was [dealing with alot and doing so] by drinking a lot. And Taika and I talked a lot about upending what a female superhero looks like. You have this moment where she comes out, and you think it’s gonna be sort of that badass thing and then she immediately falls over.

With this one, we also talked about the idea of someone that has a job that they really love, but they’re also kind of disgruntled. She, you know, was a professional soldier for thousands of years and now finds herself kind of stuck in bureaucracy.” -Tessa Thompson

Gorr the God Butcher

When I first heard Gorr would be the villain in the next Thor movie, I thought, “This film is going to get dark real quick” because I had read the comics and seen the damage he’s done to Thor. Christian Bale is a good actor and there are not too many, if any, roles in which I can say he was terrible. The introduction of the film provided a very dark but compelling setup for the character as we witness him slay a god with the necrosword. The strife, suffering, and death of his daughter sent him on a warpath to take out the gods. I have heard some say he is the best villain in the MCU, but I would have to disagree and that is not for lack of performance or writing. Thanos and Killmonger were so convincing, it’d be hard to top those characters (for me, at least). 

Videography 

Major kudos to the videography and post-production team on this project. The scenes where Thor and the crew fought on the necro planet and the transitions from full color to black and white were on point. The necrosword fed off whoever wielded it and you can see Gorr transform throughout the film into this hideously scary version of himself. The special effects added to the fight scenes, especially the third and final ones, were great. 

I can also say aside from the costume and art departments, the soundtrack is another aspect of the film I enjoyed because I’m a Guns’n’Roses fan. Growing up in the 90s, I didn’t think most Black people listened to Guns’n’Roses. Lol. But this brought back memories and was a great fit for the film. Now I’m curious to see if “Sweet Child of Mine” is getting more plays on streaming services.

I hope you enjoy Thor: Love and Thunder as much as I did. The one thing I will say is that as much as I loved the film, I still don’t think it is better than Thor: Ragnarok. Good thing is that both films are great for the franchise and could only help Thor stay on track to get signed on for more films, if that is in the plans…fingers crossed! 

Just an FYI, there are two post-credit scenes that you want to stick around for.

30Jun/22

Rise is About Family, Love, and Perseverance

Streaming: Disney Plus

Release Date: June 24, 2022

Actors: Dayo Okeniyi as Charles Antetokounmpo, Yetide Badaki as Veronica “Vera” Antetokounmpo, Uche Agada as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ral Agada as Athanasios “Thanasis” Antetokounmpo, Elijah Sholanke as Alexandros “Alex” Antetokounmpo, and Jaden Osimuwa as Kostantinos “Kostas” Antetokounmpo

Synopsis: Based on the real-life story about the Antetokounmpo family, the first family to produce a trio of brothers who go on to become NBA champions. It explores their journey as Nigerian immigrants in Greece striving for a better life.

Many of us know about, or at least have heard of, Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka The Greek Freak) from his MVP awards and 2021 championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. For years now, he’s been dominating the NBA. We also know that he was born in Greece to Nigerian parents and has siblings in the NBA. One thing we are not sure about is his upbringing…until now. With the film Rise, audiences and fans can get a glimpse of what it was like for Antetokounmpo growing up. You’ll be surprised to learn what Giannis’ family had to go through…I know I was.

Giannis and his family

We’ve seen it before: the overseas basketball player struggling financially with aspirations to play in the NBA. But Rise has a different narrative; Giannis and his brothers were also trying to avoid deportation while living in Greece. Not ony does this make for a more interesting film with layers, but also provides a better feel for the family’s obstacles. This film brings to light the family’s obstacles and their persistence to make ends meet while also showcasing their optimism. This gave me a better understanding of why Giannis and his brothers are down to earth on the court and on social media. The scenes when the family was almost caught by the authorities and deported back to Nigeria felt incredibly tense. They were barely escaping each time, and so I couldn’t help but cheer for this family’s breakthrough since it was clear they needed it. It elicited an oddly intense response from me, especially for a Disney film. I found this quite impressive. Even during the part of the movie where Giannis was drafted, I couldn’t help but watch with great antcipation!

The direction and videography were very well executed in this film. Historically, it hasn’t been easy capturing the beauty of dark skin on screen, especially when it comes to lighting and angles, but this wasn’t an issue in this film. This is my first time watching a piece directed by Akin Omotoso and I look forward to seeing more of his work.

I have to be honest. When it comes to biopics, sometimes they aren’t the best quality, but I can say that Rise was well done. There was nothing lacking in the acting, especially with Yetide Badaki who played Giannis’ mother and who is Nigerian herself. She was nurturing, protective, and also provided an inspiring presence on screen. Every time I saw her, she reminded me of not only my mother but also other Black mothers I know.

Dayo Okeniyi (as Giannis’ father, Charles) also had a great performance. Portraying a father who’s doing all he can to provide for his family, considering everything they’d overcome, the stress was real and Dayo was able to channel that stress. I can only imagine how it would feel consistently trying to find ways to bring joy to my family while dealing with such difficult circumstances.

The actors portraying Giannis and his brothers added to the great performance of the cast as a whole. Uche Agada was convincing as a newcomer learning how to play the game of basketball at a later age. He provided a believable fish-out-of-water perspective. When the boys were faced with racism as teenagers, it definitely resonated with me because I too have experienced racism at a young age, as I’m sure many other young men of color have.

Giannis with actor Uche Agada

Overall, this film was a well-crafted project for Disney Plus that the entire family can watch and enjoy. It’s a film about family, love, and perseverance. After watching this film, I have a better appreciation for the Antetokounmpo family as a whole and it made me respect the former MVP even more. The writing and acting were compelling, and I hope many people watch this film as it’s a fresh take on a basketball story that happens to be based on true events. Not only am I cheering for the success of this film, but I am also cheering for the success of the Antetokounmpo family.

24May/22

Disney Launchpad Finalist, Spencer Glover, Is Ready to Share More Stories

Every once in a while, I find an indie short film I can connect with during my coverage of film festivals. One of the films that stood out to me at the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival was Message Read by Spencer Glover.  Not only did Spencer impress audiences with his touching film, but he also won over the judges for the Disney Launchpad contest. He was selected as Director for the project, Black Belts

Taji Mag was able to catch up with the busy Writer/Director to talk about his upcoming Disney Plus project and his work as a creative. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): When did you fall in love with filmmaking?

Spencer Glover (SG): It’s been a little bit of a, well, not-so-crazy story. As a kid, I watched a lot of movies. I remember watching movies like Blood Sport and Jurassic Park. And so I think the love for filmmaking started when I was a kid. The “seed” was planted when I was young, but it didn’t really sprout until college when I got into Tennessee State. 

I remember as I was walking on campus and, at this point, I was studying Music. I was walking around the music building and it was connected to the Communications department. So I walked past some students that were running the Tiger News Broadcast, which goes out to the entire school. And I just saw this group of kids and they’re running the show… the cameras, they had a director, there were students working on the sound, and they were doing interviews. Something about that just sort of struck me and, later that semester, I changed my major to Film. From there, everything exploded. 

DDF: What is your process for making your films? Does it differ depending on the genre?  

SG: You know, I’ve realized this: that [with] films, for me, all I’m trying to do is just connect to the emotions that I felt as a kid watching movies. So, I’m trying not to be a Filmmaker who just deals with one topic because I love so many different types of films. But I do recognize that there are certain personal dramatics that come out of your work unconsciously.

For me, the themes could be anything from losing a parent or dealing with childhood trauma to just protecting things, protecting the world that you live in. Those things have sort of found their way into everything that I’ve written so far. And I think it’s going to continue to be that way. I try to recognize that feeling when I have an idea and I feel like that inspiration comes over my body. I try to really grasp onto that and examine what it is about the idea that is sticking with me.

DDF: What is your favorite film genre? 

SG: I have a lot of guilty pleasures in film. Action films are probably always going to be some of my favorite. Action comedies too! I think of films like Rush Hour shamelessly. It’s one of my favorites. It’s got a little bit of a different tune than what I regularly watch now, but I just try to appreciate the heart of the story and what it was trying to say. I’ve always been attracted to Sci-fi films and, like, the whimsy of filmmaking. So, I love to watch stuff that transports me to a different place where I can just forget about my problems and the world for an hour or two, and just kind of get sucked into the world of the movie.

I like those character-driven sort of indie dramas too. Like the ones you watch and just know that this film is going to break your heart. I was watching Drive My Car the other day and during the first 20 minutes of the film I’m like “This movie is going to break my heart.”. An hour or two later I am in tears saying to myself “Why is life like this, why do we have to go through this?”

DDF: What was your reaction when you got selected as a Launchpad finalist?

SG: Just pure joy. I remember one of the coordinators for the program set up a meeting with me for 15 minutes after the second interview. I got on the call and the coordinator said “man, I’m not even gonna waste time…you got it”. And I just had the biggest smile on my face. It was a big thing for me and I just felt a lot of joy.

I’ve gotten over a little bit of a hurdle in my career because, as Filmmakers, we all struggle with this; that idea of “can I perform at a level that’s high enough?” You aspire to that, but you do the work and then you put it out. Sometimes it doesn’t resonate or connect the way that you want. And you have that battle of, like, “Man, I don’t know if I’m in the right space or doing the right thing”. So hearing that I got into this was, it was a boost of confidence and it was really validating.

DDF: This leads to my next question. Have you ever questioned yourself at any moment in your filmmaking career? If so, how did you overcome it? 

SG: I did have my moment, but I was able to get over it. The post-production of my film, Message Read, was really hard. We had plans to take it to the professional post house, do professional color, and all these other things and, you know, money is tight in our industry. We only had, I think, a $12k budget for the project, and all of that money was used up during the shoot. So I had to take on being an Editor and doing graphics, visual effects, and color. It was a lonely process, but in the end, this film is such a personal story.

I’m very critical of my own work, so I’m seeing all of the shortcomings. We sent it out into the world and we submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival and South By Southwest Film Festival and all these places. We got rejected from all of them. 

I’ve learned that everything you create, you don’t control and it has it’s own life. So we put the film out and it got rejected a bunch in the beginning. Kariss (my partner and wife) had similar feelings: that we did a great job with this film. We’re happy and proud of it. We can’t control anything else. Then, at about four months into the pandemic, the movie started gaining momentum. Out of nowhere the project just started getting into festivals and people were really starting to respond to it. I think it had to do with the fact that, as a group, we were losing so many people at that time and the story is about dealing with loss. It was just connecting in a way that we didn’t expect. And it just goes back to the idea: you don’t know what’s going to happen. So, I’m thankful that Message Read is making a connection now. 

DDF: Can you tell us about your Disney project, Black Belts

SG: It’s a Kung Fu story. It’s a father and son relationship dealing with loss. It touches on aspects of masculinity and what it means to be masculine. I think you and I grew up in an era where a macho man was the way to be for boys and young men. I was talking to a friend about how from the 80s and early 90s, it was peak macho. It was, like, shoot’em up and a lot of action associated with masculinity, especially in entertainment. It was such a fun time, but it could be a little toxic and Black Belt touches on a few of those areas.

It’s coming out in 2023 on Disney Plus. We’re in development with it right now. We’re doing rewrites on the script and I’m working with Xavier Styles (the writer of the story). It’s also a true story for him, so it’s been really fun. It’s definitely a process and it’s really setting me up in a way that feels true to the studio world because this is the first film that I’m going to be directing something I did not write.

Also, a big part of this program is that it’s multi-hyphenate filmmaking. This season, they actually split it into two groups. So there are Writers and there are Directors. I just applied as a Director because I wanted to really take a shot at receiving somebody else’s script, finding myself in it, and then putting it up on screen. 

You try to find your way into it and make sure that you connect with the material. It’s been a journey. We have about another month of development, then we go into pre-production, then we shoot the film in the Summer, then post-production takes place, and then there’s a release on Disney Plus. 

The entertainment industry has shown progress in Black creatives getting exposure to audiences across the world. Spencer Glover is one of the names that will be on that list. I know Spencer talked about how the movie Drive My Car broke his heart. Well, Message Read broke my heart and so I’ll be looking forward to seeing his future projects. Make sure to check out his work on his website and be on the lookout for his Disney Plus project, Black Belt, in 2023.

 

01Apr/22

Moon Knight: A Disturbed Vigilante with Powers From an Egyptian God

Oscar Issac as Moon Knight photo courtesy of Disney

Airing weekly on Disney+ beginning March 30, 2022  

Starring: Oscar Isaac (“Show Me a Hero” and “Star Wars [Trilogy]”) as Steven/Marc, May Calamawy (“Ramy” and “The Long Road Home”) as Layla El-Faouly, and Ethan Hawke (“The Good Lord Bird” and “Before [Trilogy]”) as Arthur Harrow.

Synopsis: When Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life, he discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector. As Steven/Marc’s enemies converge upon them, they must navigate their complex identities while thrust into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt. 

Who is Moon Knight? 

For those who are not familiar with Moon Knight, he is what many consider the Batman of Marvel. Basically, a vigilante with dissociative identity disorder imbued with powers from an Egyptian God. What makes him interesting is he has multiple identities and they change so often that he sometimes is unclear about what is real and what is not. This synopsis makes for a perfect series and it does not disappoint! 

Oscar Isaac, as both Steven Grant and Marc Spector, is spectacular. His portrayal of the soft-spoken Englishman, Steven, is quite convincing! Honestly, I could not believe that was his voice. Although he’s not of much use as a scrapper, Steven’s knowledge of Egyptian history proves to be useful during the series. He even provides some comic relief that breaks up the serious tone without interrupting the flow of the series. Issac’s mannerisms, posture, and responses were so different when playing each character that both were unique and clearly distinguishable.

The mercenary and fearless Marc Spector is the complete opposite of Steven. He is better suited for tense situations and impending combat. It’s interesting how these two talk to each other through reflective items (windows, mirrors, etc.) about the predicament they’re in and the past life of Marc Spector. It is during these moments that Oscar Issac seems to shine and shows his range of skills.

Dr. Paul Puri, an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA and past president of the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty Association, was brought onto the project to help the actors and filmmakers understand Dissociative Identity Disorder and its implications. This was key in making the performance as authentic as possible.

Khonshu, the ancient Egyptian god of the Moon, looks amazing and his introduction is what nightmares are made of! With lights flickering, objects moving, and Khonshu’s eerie invisibility, Marc/Steven’s reaction provides a great display of true horror. The way the directors kept Khonshu as a shadowy figure before showing him on screen was great camera work. The moments between Marc, Steven, and Khonshu remind me of Venom and Eddie Brock. Hmm, that would be interesting to see on screen…Moon Knight and Venom. Let’s make THAT happen, Marvel!

Steven Grant (Oscar Issac) sees Egyptian God Khonshu

The beautiful scenery of Egypt and the artifacts in the series are a plus. I could tell the directors paid attention to every single detail, from the background actors to the venues. My favorite scene is when the characters are looking at the stars in the desert, completely ignoring the colorful diversity of its people. Speaking of which, May Calamawy (an Egyptian-Palestinian actress), as Marc’s wife, Layla, is also a great screen presence. She has a vulnerability towards Marc/Steven, but also gets her hands dirty when needed. All I can say is she can definitely handle herself! Sidebar: since Black Widow is dead, maybe she could join the Avengers? Just a thought.

Ethan Hawk as the main protagonist, Arthur Harrow, is convincingly evil. His menacing and manipulative ways made me want to punch him right in the face (what can I say…I got sucked in). Harrow is definitely demented and has a warped idea of justice. However; his followers all seem grateful for his leadership and are loyal to his cause. Being the former avatar to Khonshu, Harrow serves as a formidable opponent and plays off of the weaknesses of anyone he crosses. 

The scenes where the identities switch in order to take over, especially when Steven wakes up from his blackouts with no recollection of how he arrived there, are very cool. The most hilarious scene to me is when Steven comes to after his alter ego, Marc, has murdered henchmen around him. The flashes of light, the smash cuts, and other edits make for great transitions. Egyptian director, Mohamed Diab, sets up some great scenes specifically in the third episode when the characters are in Egypt. Action-wise, this series has some kick-ass fight scenes like when Marc turns into Moon Knight. Let’s just say he kicks a lot of butt! Even some of the dog-like demons he faced were afraid of him. 

Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight, photo courtesy of Disney

Final Thoughts

I’ve only seen up to episode four thus far, but I can assure you that Moon Knight is worth watching. The series has plenty of intriguing storylines to follow and cliffhangers that will leave you wanting more…not to mention director Mohamed Diab makes sure the audience is aware the basis of the story comes from Eygpt. In addition, there are lots of easter eggs I’m sure Marvel fans (and history buffs!) will have fun with. This series is far from family-friendly due to the amount of blood and violence, but it wouldn’t be the same without it. If you love Batman, Deadpool, or the original Moon Knight comic, then you will enjoy this project.