Disney+ has arrived, here is a quick overview and first impressions

I was skeptical at first when I heard Disney was getting into the streaming business. My first instinct was the company’s existing catalog would not contain enough content to keep me interested. Even with the prospect of all the LucasFilm and Marvel Studio’s stuff I felt it would have a hard time filling all the gaps. Things turned around slightly when I discovered Disney had finalized its purchase of 20th Century Fox and its vast back catalog of quality content. This had me optimistic the service would truly offer something for everyone. As of right now, sadly, that is not exactly the case.

First up is the interface. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. It works quite well. Polished and new yet very familiar it sports the features you would expect, a watch list, search function and category browsing. They even do the courtesy of lumping certain things together by topic, such as Disney Princesses or By the Decade. This was fine yet it made the library seem thin as each highlighted topic only focused on the most popular stuff.

Next up is the library.

This is what people care about. In terms of catalog content, there’s a little bit of everything surely to provide a good starting ground for those looking to sink their teethe into the Disney Vault. Yet, there is notably a few genres entirely lacking from the service. Horror, Science Fiction and Anime are notably scares, if non existent. I have yet to locate a single r-rated film, even from the Fox library. I searched a few I was familiar with and nothing came up. I did some digging and discovered there aren’t many, if any at all, currently scheduled to arrive either. I didn’t look too deeply but as of right now there aren’t any horror movies to speak of. Not even something as relatively tame and Disney produced as Something Wicked This Way Comes. In fact I couldn’t even find any articles online saying if the film was potentially coming or not. It could be the plan to keep the “adult” stuff like horror, anime and hard science fiction over at Hulu for the time being, which could explain the absence of those products on Disney Plus.

Being bundled with Hulu not a great way to satisfy a customer base constantly being asked to choose from streaming services. Sure, a bundle will offer a truly robust offering of quality content ranging from old animated shorts from the 1920’s up to current stuff airing on network TV today. Yet on it’s own the target market is most likely families with children and die hard Disney fans. I am neither. I am satisfied with all the Marvel animated content. As for Star Wars there is one obvious omission I felt should be there in the future, no not that terrible Holiday Special, that needs to be forgotten. I am talking about Ewoks.

Originals

Not great, not bad. I don’t care for remaking old Disney movies especially if the original is not available. Luckily in most cases if there is a remake the original is available for comparison’s sake or just posterity, which I support. Yet there were a couple of originals I did browse that caught my eye. The first is The world According to Jeff Goldblum. I gave this all of five minutes, if that, before I realized there was nothing there but an offhanded joke in some board room that was taken way to literally. Oops. Mistakes are made.

Then there is the big one everyone is sure to be talking about. The Mandalorian. This is one of those things I will devote an entire review to so all I will say now is this is the real hook of the service at this time. If you have no interest in this show but love Star Wars, I would highly recommend giving the 7-day free trial a shot just to check this out. It might be worth it to wait a week or two for a couple more episodes to be out if this is the only thing you might be interested in. However, I believe it was a highly entertaining series with fantastic movie-quality production values and the kind of Star Wars story-telling a huge fan of the Legends Expanded Universe is fond of.

Overall I give the service a B+ for its current offerings, but only if you bundle it with Hulu. Otherwise on its own merit I drop it down to a still solid but not excellent B-. I hate giving things letter grades, I prefer the star grading system for movies and video games but this felt like the best way to really convey how I felt about it currently. It has great potential. If they open the library up to R-rated movies, even PG-13 horror movies would help, they need more horror movies either way you slice it. That being said if you don’t care for horror movies at all or if you can get your horror fix from Hulu it’s worth the price of entry. It has a nice interface, decent family-friendly catalog and is priced fair for what you get, especially if you bundle with Hulu. That bundle is the catch though, without it the service has less inherent value and this could be a sticking point for some in the future, especially those who despise commercials or things expiring all the time. I did have some fun revisiting old Simpson’s and DuckTales episodes so the product has a place, at least for now, in my world. Stay Cool.

The Iron Spider stops Mr. NotSoStrange: A review of Spider-Man Far From Home

The newest Iron Man movie starts off with a half-assed high school tribute to the founding Avenger Tony Stark. Then it quickly devolves into a 2-hour quest for Little Tony Junior to discover his inner Iron Man before he can defeat the newest Dr. Strange knockoff in the latest Marvel movie masquerading as a Spider-Man flick.

I have been far too soft on the Avengers films. In fact I have sung their praises individually while maintaining my displeasure with the shear amount of films required to follow the massive cinematic universe Marvel Studios have crafted under the heavy hand of The Walt Disney Company. Yet as I sit in the theater enjoying easily my favorite stand alone, solo Marvel superhero go on his latest adventure I can’t but wonder when are we going to get a Spider-Man film that doesn’t have ties to either the Avengers, SHIELD or Tony stinking Stark. Don’t get me wrong this is not an attack on the film, I enjoyed it, nay I loved it. Save for a few heavy handed references to that industrialist whom I have grown to detest, loath even. To the point I am willing to revert to cliche’s in an attempt to accurately convey my disdain for the fact that nobody has a problem with any of these movies because godforbid you  have your own opinion. No if you stray from the message of Marvel Rules and the MCU is cinematic perfection, then you will bring the wrath of the nerds down upon your sorry ass faster than Thor can throw a thunderbolt at Loki.

The plot

This is my sticking point. The movie is utterly fantastic, through and through, no question there. I loved this portrayal of Peter Parker, his friends and even the very adorable Mary Jane. I was annoyed at first that there were obvious alterations from her comic book appearance but the actress handily won me over and made my heart flutter, yes that is in deed the woman this version of Peter Parker would fall madly in love with.

The parts of the story that focus on Peter and his friends and teachers is absolutely brilliant. I loved it. It really captured the essence of a high school field trip gone awry. As a former high schooler who experienced many failed attempts at following the itinerary the adults were amusingly trying to force upon us this film encapsulated that perfectly.

The downside is the movie relies heavily on SHIELD interfering to bring Spider-Man out to play while once again making Tony Stark the central force not only tying the plot together but serving as the entire motivation for the villains. Every single person who sides with Mysterio does so exclusively because of their respective desire to destroy the legacy of none other than Mr. Stark himself. By the time the film gets Peter on a plane waving his hands around at his version of Jarvis, now named EDITH (Even in Death I’m The Hero) a not-so-subtle reminder Stark is still running the damn show. Seeing Spider-Man replicating the motions of the man who wore the Iron Man suit, while constructing his own Iron Spider suit, just goes to show had desperately the MCU has come to rely on a single man. Now, don’t get me wrong I can handle a reference to Stark, I can surely accept these movies are in the same universe, but when the entire film centers entirely on Tony Stark as the motivator for the plot, the reason for the antagonist and the solution to the problems created throughout it only makes me wonder who, behind the scenes, is infatuated with either the character, or the actor who played him? Even in death Robert Downy Jr’s Tony Stark was seen throughout the film, on multiple occasions.

There was even a point where Peter suggests he doesn’t want to be the next Iron Man, he just wants to be Spider-Man. YES, that is exactly what I want too! I want a Spider-Man movie more akin to the very faithful adaptation Sam Raimi provided more than a decade ago.

The characters

I can’t spend too much time knocking the characters. In fact I literally want to do the opposite. The kids were fun. The adults were fun to laugh at. The villains were exactly as expected and most importantly Tom Holland nailed his portrayal of Peter Parker both in and out of the Spider-suit.

I haven’t seen the previous film so I didn’t spend enough time learning the names of the new characters. I will say that each one served a purpose and was exactly as entertaining as I expected. I honestly have no complaints. I was, at first, annoyed our beloved Mary Jane Watson was not a red head (especially as someone who is fond of red heads just look at my Jean Grey obsession) but I can honestly say this interpretation won my heart. She really was the object of Peter’s affection and she nailed her performance. The other characters were as aptly acted as I expected and nobody stood out as off putting. For everything I love about the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, the one thing that I don’t like is Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Miss Watson.

The only characters that did annoy me were the Avengers characters that I felt were out of place in this picture. I don’t need to see Nick Fury sending Spider-Man to Proq to fight Mysterio, I want Mysterio to hate Spider-Man for his own personal reason without the need for Stark Industries or SHIELD to be involved what so ever. Still, the Mysterio parts were totally amazing.

The action

This takes me to the best part. As is to be expected the action sequences handily deliver an experience that is very much worth seeing in the theater. In fact, I will say that as much as I absolutely love the original 2002 Spider-Man, this movie was clearly the more cinematic picture. Sure, times have changed but still this movie jumped off the screen whereas that previous film merely did the job it needed to at the time.

Really the only complaint I will voice here is how Spider-Man’s suit looked too high tech. Again I am more than happy with a spandex wearing super hero I don’t need my Spidey running around in Stark Industry gear. However, Disney apparently disagrees so here we are.

The fight scenes where Mysterio are giving Spidey the beat down of his life are just amazing. The illusions were perfectly crafted to confuse the audience while disorienting the wall-crawler simultaneously. I can’t think of a single action scene that didn’t work for me. For the most part the action tends to be the best part of these films anyways so I have no complaints.

Scenery

I don’t normally include this category in a review but this film went out of its way to ensure every shot was breathtaking. The cinematographer deserves an academy award I think. This movie made me feel like I was web slinging with Spider-Man. It made me feel like I was on a bus going down the country side of some distant country I’ve only heard about in movies. It was a very beautifully shot film that really brought the characters to life and made the settings pop.

Overall

The movie is a very enjoyable ride. From start to finish the movie goer is sure to get a thrill ride easily worth the price of admission. While Spider-Man is absolutely my favorite solo superhero in the Marvel battalion, his films have been largely inconsistent. There is usually a great film thrown together with a few minor details to nitpick. In the 2002 picture the movie was mostly perfect with a few cheesy one liners and a terribly cast Mary Jane. The Amazing Spider-Man had some of the most exciting action scenes and took the character in a much darker place but fell short on the charm that makes the character so like able in the first place. This film is no exception. It was a damn near perfect movie only tainted by the overwhelming and very in-your-face references to Tony Stark and the Avengers. Other than that it was perfectly cast, perfectly acted, beautifully shot. It more than capture the essence of the character and the plot, while a little contrived, fit the film nicely. All in all I had a blast and most fans will too.

I rate it a solid 5 out of 5. The minor flaws are just not nearly enough to take away from an absolutely spectacular Spider-film.

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 6

In this episode I talk about Star Wars Rogue One, the prequels and special editions, Nirvana and the 90’s grunge rock scene, the underappreciated film Ghost World, and some other stuff.

 

The untouchable remake?

Hollywood loves remakes. Video game companies and musicians do covers, remakes, remasters, or remixes all the time. But there is one movie that appears to be remake proof, Star Wars. But is that really the right call?

I love Star Wars as much as the next guy, maybe more than the average guy for that matter, but I think it is a terribly dated, and considerably flawed film in many respects. I know I just pissed off half the internet, but honestly it’s not like enough people in the world read this blog to make that statement so let’s move forward.

I have given this a lot of thought and with Disney now in charge of Star Wars, I think a true remake of the classic trilogy is not only in order, but something they desperately need to get in motion. The plan appears to keep moving forward in the new universe while dabbling in the old with spin off films. They have to recast Han Solo to make a young Han Solo film, this is obvious. Now they just did the highly successful Rogue One, so here is what I think needs to happen. They absolutely need to consider the possibility of casting a new Han Solo, Luke, and Princess Leia for these spin offs, while they are at it why not do the unthinkable and actually REMAKE the classic trilogy? This would end some of the who shot first debate, UOT vs. Special Edition Debate, and it would give fans young and old, an brand new way to experience one of the most iconic film stories in history.

Of course the originals will still exist, and Disney should still find a way to get on top of releasing the ORIGINAL unaltered trilogy onto Blu Ray for the fans that want that, the thing with Star Wars is the franchise is so big and so massive it appeals to so many fans with so many different tastes. I would love it if they could then go back and REMAKE the Prequels also, some would argue that needs to happen before a remake of the classic but I don’t think so. The reason is they ARE moving forward with a Han Solo movie, they HAVE to cast a young Han, why not take this opportunity to remake/reboot the franchise NOW while the getting is good and the new fans will fully embrace it while the stick in the mud fans won’t even matter because they haven’t bought a NEW Star Wars item since 1997 if you believe the internet.

Is Star Wars so untouchable that remaking it would spell absolute disaster? No I don’t think so, in fact I think it not only is the RIGHT thing for Disney to do, I fully expect it will happen sooner, rather than later, as Disney themselves LOVE remaking and re-telling their own stories. Now Star Wars didn’t start out as a Disney story, but hey guess what neither did Peter Pan, Marry Poppins, the Jungle Book, hardly anything they create is original anyways so what’s the difference?

Disney if you ever get a chance to ignore the sticklers and decide to remake the classic trilogy, I will be behind it 100 percent. Just as long as you don’t break the golden rule and do some gender/race swapping because well that’s not necessary but updating the franchise for a new generation, IS.