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‘THE LEGEND OF TARZAN’ SWINGS

Alexander Skarsgard

As popcorn movies go, The Legend of Tarzan is pretty good. It certainly has a well-cast leading man: Alexander Skarsgård may not be a typical macho screen personality but he looks great and, though low-key, is both likable and believable as the Lord of the Jungle. The equally attractive Margot Robbie hasn’t much to do but also fares well as an assertive Jane Porter. In this politically correct rehash of the Edgar Rice Burroughs story, there is even an African-American hero, played with brio by Samuel L. Jackson. We won’t discuss whether it’s logical that the United States would have had a black man serving as an ambassador in 1890. I wish the filmmakers had cast someone other than Christoph Waltz as the bad guy.…

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SPIELBERG UNVEILS ‘THE B.F.G.’

(Photo Courtesy of Disney)

When you’ve made a movie as great, and enduring, as E.T. the Extra Terrestrial it’s inevitable that any other film you create in the realm of fantasy, especially one involving a child, will be compared to it. So when I say that I liked The B.F.G. but didn’t love it, I don’t mean it as an insult. It may not have the cross-over appeal to adults that made E.T. so special, but The B.F.G. has moments of wonder and enchantment that only Steven Spielberg could realize. Of course, it has a nearly foolproof pedigree. Roald Dahl’s book—not nearly as dark as some of his other twisted tales—has been a favorite of children for decades. And the director called upon his E.T. screenwriter, the late Melissa…

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DISNEY GOES DEEP IN ‘LIFE, ANIMATED’

Owen Suskind-Life Animated

It’s heartbreaking for any parent to learn that their child is ill or has some kind of handicap. I can’t picture how the Suskind family felt when their younger son Owen stopped talking at the age of 3. It’s unthinkable. But it’s just as hard to imagine how he broke through his shell: by making reference to Disney animated cartoons. Life, Animated is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Owen’s father, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind. Owen’s story is told in intimate detail by director Roger Ross Williams, who earned the entire family’s trust. He uses evocative animation by Mac Guff (and written by Emily Hubley) to fill in our hero’s story and try to replicate the imaginative images in his…

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‘ROSEANNE FOR PRESIDENT!’ IS A WINNER

Roseanne Barr-680

Roseanne Barr is one-of-a-kind. Her breakthrough television series about a working-class family has never left the air and remains fresh and relevant after more than twenty years. And like her same-named character, she has never been shy about expressing her opinions. She is one smart cookie. Who better to run for public office? This entertaining, often enlightening documentary chronicles her efforts to stage a presidential campaign in 2012. Amidst the possibility of drowning in red tape, she wards off a barrage of slings and arrows and makes an honest effort to shake up the status quo by entering the world of politics. Although she uses her sharp sense of humor to good effect, this campaign is no joke. Roseanne clearly wants to make a difference.…

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IT’S A SMALL WORLD: WALT DISNEY IN CONNECTICUT

Ingersoll mickey mouse watch

I have come to the conclusion that Walt Disney is an inexhaustible subject. Every time I think I’ve read everything there is to know about the man and his career I’m surprised by a new book, video, or blog post. Just keeping up with the prodigious output of Bob McLain’s Theme Park Press is enough to keep any Disneyphile busy and fill any number of bookshelves, along with the ongoing releases from Disney Editions and Chronicle Books. Even Taschen, the preeminent publisher of lavish, oversized coffee-table volumes, has a giant Disney tome on the way. (Full disclosure: I am a contributor.) Garry Apgar, whose books include The Mickey Mouse Reader (University Press of Mississippi) and Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit (Walt Disney Family Museum),…

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DISNEY IS BACK—AND SO AM I—ON TCM

Disney Treasures-TCM-6-2016

I’m happy to announce another evening of Treasures from the Disney Vault on Turner Classic Movies beginning at 8pm EST/5pm PST Tuesday. I recorded my introductions to this selection of cartoons, features and TV episodes at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and again it provided a perfect backdrop. (I’ll be writing soon about the Museum’s current Pinocchio exhibit, which is a knockout.) As usual, TCM has scheduled a variety of goodies in the latest Disney potpourri. If you’re a baby boomer, like me, you’ll enjoy revisiting Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap. If you’re a Disney aficionado you’ll want to check out Waking Sleeping Beauty, Don Hahn’s fascinating 2009 documentary about the renaissance of animation at the Burbank studio…

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REMEMBERING JANET WALDO

Janet Waldo in Zaza

When Janet Waldo passed away on June 12, at the age of 96, most of the obituaries spotlighted the fact that she was the voice of Judy Jetson on the long-running Hanna-Barbera animated series The Jetsons. But that was just one facet of the actress’ long and colorful career. I interviewed her for my Movie Crazy newsletter in 2004 and thought it would be worthwhile reprinting that conversation now in tribute to this lovely lady. As an adolescent in Seattle, Washington, Janet dreamed of performing on the Broadway stage. Instead, fate (and the fine hand of Bing Crosby) brought her to Hollywood. For many another attractive teenager this might have led to stardom, or at least starlet-dom, but she never felt comfortable in front of…

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SHEDDING LIGHT ON FILM NOIR

Too Late For Tears-Flicker Alley

The reported death of DVDs and Blu-rays is decidedly premature, especially when it comes to specialized product that film buffs crave. Flicker Alley has released two rare features in conjunction with the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive: Too Late for Tears and Woman on the Run. They both feature behind-the-scenes featurettes and elaborate 24-page booklets. The two movies share one other thing in common: they no longer belong to the studios that first distributed them, and as “orphan films” were in desperate need of restoration. We can thank the Film Noir Foundation for coming to their rescue. Too Late For Tears (1949) has a terrific premise: nice-guy Arthur Kennedy and his wife (Lizabeth Scott) have their lives altered when someone…

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‘FINDING DORY’ IN NEMO’S WAKE

Dory-Finding Dory

I can’t think of another film that has generated so much good will from audiences who haven’t seen it yet as Finding Dory. That’s a tribute to the enduring legacy of its predecessor, Finding Nemo, and the endearing character of Dory, the fish with short-term memory loss voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. I’m happy to say that Pixar and Nemo’s writer-director Andrew Stanton haven’t let moviegoers down. It isn’t quite on a par with the earlier film but then, few sequels are. Like every Pixar creation, this one relies on several key elements: an immersive visual environment (whether you see it in 3-D or not), a simple story, and colorful characters. The look of the movie is exquisite, an underwater seascape that feels natural and uncommonly…

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THE ‘GENIUS’ OF PUBLISHING COMES TO LIFE

Jude-Law-Colin-Firth-pc-Marc-Brenner

How do you convey what goes through the mind of an artist, or a composer, or an author? Movie history is littered with failed attempts to dramatize the lives and motivations of creative people. But somehow, Genius manages to capture the grandiose dreams of author Thomas Wolfe and the dedication of his fabled editor, Maxwell Perkins. It is an altogether extraordinary achievement. Colin Firth is well cast as Perkins, the man who played midwife to the published works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, among other celebrated (and difficult) authors. In this adaptation of A. Scott Berg’s brilliant biography Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius, the lion’s share of attention is given to Wolfe, a larger-than-life Southerner played—in an Oscar-worthy performance—by Jude Law. Wolfe, whose unwieldy…

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