Tag Archives: disneyplus

30Sep/22

Hocus Pocus 2: More Diversity, More Surprises but Same Magic

Whitney Peak as Becca, Belissa Escobedo as Izzy, and Lilia Buckingham as Cassie
Photos Courtsey of Disney

Starring: Whitney Peak, Sam Richardson, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy

Where to watch it: Disney Plus

Release date: September 30th, 2022

Synopsis: It’s been 29 years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the 17th-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.

With the announcement of Hocus Pocus 2 streaming on Disney Plus, I didn’t have high expectations for the sequel. After watching the film, I discovered I was right. The movie was not bad; it had the same loveable antagonists, the Sanderson Sisters (played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy), along with a new cast of teenage heroes living in the current day. If you remember the first film as I do, you will feel the same magic (pun intended) as I did while watching this film. 

I did like the introduction of the new characters and how the writer was able to connect them to the first film. The candle is the catalyst, and the book of magic is still what drives the story because of the contents it possesses…the secrets to how the sisters can become the most powerful in the world. The writer was able to give the book a more human aura, which is meant to be a big payoff in the end, and it comes close. 

Sam Richardson as Gilbert
Photos Courtsey of Disney

New Characters Spoiler Alert

I have to give kudos to Disney for being cleverly inclusive in the film and adding some Black characters. Instead of characters of color being speckled throughout the film as extras, the movie has two Black characters playing huge roles. Gilbert, played by Sam Richardson, is the magic shop owner that witnessed the Sanderson Sisters’ last stint at wreaking havoc on the townspeople as a child. Then there’s Becca, played by Whitney Peak, one of the lead protagonists and an aspiring witch. She attempts to thwart the witches’ plans with her two friends Izzy (played by Belissa Escobedo) and Cassie (played by Lilia Buckingham). I won’t spoil why their roles are important, but I will say it is…..okay, I can’t help it! Y’all, we finally have a Black witch in the Hocus Pocus universe! Yes, Becca discovers she has the powers, and I am here for it! Will she defeat the Sanderson Witches? I’ll leave it up to you to find out, but all I know is I am happy. 

The Sanderson Sisters, once again, keep the same chemistry and evil attitude as they did 30 years ago. They weren’t over the top, nor did they underperform. Bette Midler’s voice is about the same. Although I was not as excited with the “One Way or Another” performance by Blondie, I enjoyed their performance of “I Put a Spell On You” by Nina Simone. No one can do it better than Nina, but the Bette Midler version was fun. Bette Midler does perform “The Witches Are Back”, a very fun song, with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as background singers before the final credits roll. Speaking of the Sanderson Sisters, the little girls who play the younger versions of the sisters perfectly portrayed their adult versions. Especially young Winifred “Winnie” who immediately caught my attention as she was very charismatic and clearly has a lot of talent.

Costumes and CGI

I was happy the film looked like it used more practical effects than CGI. I think too much CGI would’ve ruined the film. There was some concern, for me at least, that zombie Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones) would be CGI. But Billy was still clumsy and losing his head; with Doug Jones portraying the character, there’s no need for much besides costume and makeup because of his tremendous talent. 

The costumes for the sisters and Billy look as good as in the original film. The first few minutes start off in the 1600s and I felt like I was transported back then with them. It is at this time we get to see the witch responsible for giving them their power when they were just some normal kids themselves. Because of this, I would not be opposed to a Hocus Pocus installment set entirely in the 1600s. 

Photos Courtsey of Disney

Hocus Pocus 2 may not have me clamoring for a rewatch, but it is still worth checking out for the nostalgia and same fun energy of the original. Kids will be entertained by the film and want to see the first one if they haven’t already. Fans of the original, who are now over 30, will be able to relive the experience of the Sanderson Sisters’ introduction to new technology. With a more diverse cast that moves the story forward, Hocus Pocus 2 is stream-worthy. The only issue I had with the film was the final act because it seemed a bit rushed. But you be the judge.

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.