MOANA *Movie Review*


In the latest Disney animated film MOANA, the title character voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, is features a young woman who goes on a quest to save her village and finds herself in the process.  In her journey she must seek out the demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, and return the stolen heart of Te Fiti, a mother earth goddess who created all of the islands from her heart.

This is the time of year to start handing out awards and I am ready to give MOANA the best animated feature Oscar.  Disney managed to recapture their magic to create a beautiful story with fantastic characters and gorgeous music.  Of course, the fact that MOANA is a fabulous female role model doesn’t hurt, either.

This is a girl who is strong, brave and smart.  She follows her heart and stands up to her father and everyone else who tells her that the greater world beyond the shoreline is dangerous.  Moana trusts that the ocean has chosen her to save her people and readily takes up the quest.  Pay attention to just how often Moana’s discouraged in her journey.  Her father and Maui in particular, both in song and speech, tell her that the world is scary, that she is only a young girl, and that she needs to stop dreaming.

Pay attention, too, to all of the conch shell symbolism throughout the film.

For more about conch shells and what they mean and other MOANA information, take a look below:

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QUEEN OF KATWE *Movie Review*


QUEEN OF KATWE is based on the true story of a girl named Phiona from the slums of Uganda.  She learns to play chess and uses it as a means out of poverty. It stars Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o as her mother, David Oyelowo as her coach and introduces Madina Nalwanga as Phiona. It’s directed by Mira Nair.

The theme of this hero’s journey is one that spans cultures. While it’s an inspiring and interesting story about Phiona herself, the message translates to anyone. You don’t have to be a certain color or gender to connect with this story and the deeper messages that even the small can become big. Many of the words of wisdom come from Phiona’s chess coach who says things like: if you use your mind and follow your plans then you can find safe squares; losing does not mean you’re a failure it takes time and stamina is the key; and sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong, which is one of director Mira Nair’s recurring themes.

Mira Nair is a fantastic director and a lot of her work is about feeling out of place, which is the situation each of the three main characters are in. There’s Phiona, a young girl who learns about a life that she never ever knew existed. She struggles as she’s torn between world that she wants to be part of with the one that exists. Like the real Phiona, the film version’s Madina  Nalwanga also grew up in the slums of Uganda. This is her first film and she conveys such a subtle depth of emotion with her eyes that I was ready to hand her an Oscar. Her performance was utterly moving.

Lupita Nyong’o, plays her mother, and David Oyelowo, as her chess coach, were also amazing. One of the things I loved was that while this is the story of Phiona at first glance, the characters of her mother and Robert were treated equally. They each went through their own evolution and weren’t strictly relegated to cardboard supports. Too often there are supporting stories that can compliment the main one but which are never fully realized and these were. Having these three circle the same theme of self discovery made the film that much more successful.

The style, the locations and the saturation of color and sound make it feel like you can walk directly through the screen and into this world!

For more about QUEEN OF KATWE, take a look below:

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Producer Josephson’s vision for a new fairy-tale princess stars in Disney’s ‘Enchanted’


One of Barry Josephson’s first forays into the world of fairy tales was in an elementary school production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Although the “Men in Black” producer doesn’t remember which dwarf he played, that glimmer of the land between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” started him on the path to creating Disney’s latest film, “Enchanted,” opening in theaters Nov. 21.

In the grand tradition of classic Disney fairy tales, this part-animated and part-live-action musical begins in the fictional land of Andalasia, where a young maiden named Giselle (“Junebug’s” Amy Adams), sings to her woodland friends, meets a prince (“Hairspray’s” James Marsden), encounters an evil queen (Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon) and gets pushed into a well that transports her to modern-day Times Square, where she runs into a nearly engaged/cynical divorce lawyer/single father (“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Patrick Dempsey). Well, maybe that last part is new to the genre.

“Enchanted,” asks the question ‘what if,’ which is so intriguing,” Josephson said of the script that first came to his attention in the late 1990s.

But bringing a new fairy tale to life turned out to be about as daunting as slaying a dragon. There hasn’t been a new Disney princess since Jasmine in 1992’s “Aladdin.” Josephson said he read the Grimm brothers’ stories and Disney classics in order to give a backstory to Giselle, who believes that your soul mate is the person who can finish the line in your duet.

“What was thin in the original script was: What is Giselle’s story?” he said. “She thinks she understands the world, so [director] Kevin [Lima] wanted to start her dilemma in the animated world. Then she comes to our world, where there is even more put upon her.”

“Our world” was Josephson’s dream come true.

“This movie was a fantasy come true,” said the New Yorker. “I grew up on 90th [street, between] Park and Lexington. It was the greatest thrill on the planet to film there — I really wanted to see the city sparkle.”

And sparkle it does, thanks to composers and lyricists Alan Menken (“Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast”) and Stephen Schwartz (“Pocahontas,” “Wicked”), who third collaboration created a half-dozen new songs for the film: from the sweet opening, “True Love’s Kiss” to the Central Park grand production number, “That’s How You’ll Know” to the incredibly romantic ballad, “So Close” and the new Carrie Underwood song, “Ever, Ever After,” which is already being played on Radio Disney.

However, Josephson said his favorite tune is a nod back to his “dwarf” days.

“I really love ‘The Happy Working Song,'” he said of a number that takes place in live-action as Giselle tries to clean up Dempsey’s dirty apartment (think Snow White). We won’t spoil the surprise by mentioning which creatures show up to help.

And even though Josephson said he doesn’t plan to break into song while getting ready for Chanukah, he isn’t opposed to infusing his life with a little fairy dust: “If you make a movie like this, it makes you sort of joyous,” he said.