by Julian Spivey
Director: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris & Iman Vellani
Rated: PG-13 (action violence)
Runtime: 1 hour & 45 minutes
It’s been at least three years since Nia DaCosta (“Candyman”) was announced as the director of “The Marvels” and as a writer/director that means she has been thinking about this story for at least that long as well. I say this 1) because I doubt what is portrayed on screen here is all she had in mind (more on that later) and 2) because it’s important to remember the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into which films are released is not often the same context in which they were written or shot. DaCosta came on in the immediate aftermath of ‘Endgame’ - prior to the release of either “WandaVision” or “Ms. Marvel” and most importantly - prior to COVID, likely eager to continue the story of this newly minted Avenger and the prospect of the first ever MCU lady league. Taking that into consideration, “The Marvels” obviously arrives at a very different point in the MCU trajectory than DaCosta likely expected as steam has been lost and arguably a fair amount of quality as well. I hate to be a doomsdayer, but the one-two punch of COVID’s impact on the release schedule and the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman threw a wrench into the MCU’s plans and as a result the whole operation into recovery mode in more ways than one. Prior to ‘Endgame,’ “The Marvels” would have nestled snuggly between ‘Homecoming’ and “Ant-Man” in terms of quality and stakes and no one would have batted an eye as it is both a smaller-scale team-up movie and a fun comic caper, but when the fate of the MCU is riding on something more equivalent to “Ant-Man and the Wasp” than ‘Civil War,’ folks will both be disappointed and continue to declare the end of this once bulletproof franchise.
Now, I will admit that something is missing. Even if time and distance end up proving the cultural reaction to Phase 5 of the MCU was more determined by our tiredness of the franchise than the quality of the film’s themes, it still feels as if something is missing. That isn’t to say the magic is completely gone, but whether the direct fault of the individual movie of the moment or not the collective feeling is this is obviously not what it once was. So, all things considered: is “The Marvels” any good? It’s impossible to say how much of what we’re seeing on the screen this weekend comes from what DaCosta - along with co-writers Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik - originally envisioned those few years ago, but while DaCosta doesn’t really get to put her “spin” on a Marvel movie a la James Gunn or Taika Waititi, she does manage some memorable character interactions - immediately striking a winning balance of awkwardness and humor between our three leads - as well as some of the better, more creative action sequences in MCU history. The orchestration of the three leads, how their switching of places and the advantages of as much is illustrated via the action sequences is more than enough to commend DaCosta as a whole and more than makes up for the lack of delineation between the three different power sets. The more important part is that Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani almost immediately find a chemistry and rhythm that works for the different character dynamics at play. The soundtrack selections are pretty sick as well.
Parris’ Monica Rambeau (who is working closely with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury on that space station from the post-credit scene in ‘Far From Home’) is forced to take on the role of the holdout due to her lack of trust in/communication with Larson’s Carol Danvers whereas Larson sticks with, kind of surprisingly so, the simple and straightforward approach; a no-nonsense attitude if you will, both of which are thankfully relieved by the presence of Vellani’s wonderstruck Kamala Khan. I enjoyed the “Ms. Marvel” series not only for the inclusion of this world and perspective it cultivated but largely for the sense of energy in tone and the thrill even a non-MCU fan could pick up on in Vellani’s performance and thankfully, Vellani brings all of that over from her series to this foray into the cosmos. In a film that goes for a tone that can handle and make credible an entire planet where the main mode of communication is musical numbers and a rescue mission that is executed by having kitty cats eat crew members, tone is absolutely key and Vellani’s performance is the only one that really locks in on this and not only makes her the highlight of the film but elevates everyone else around her. To this extent, between that tone, the costume designs, and even the production design on a few of the planets our heroes visit, this does sometimes veer into ‘Power Rangers’ territory. That is to say, it has a whole Saturday morning cartoon vibe to it - which, as a child of the ‘90s who grew up watching “Power Rangers” along with the animated “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” series on Saturday mornings, is not a derogatory comment - but whether or not that is what DaCosta or the MCU as a whole was going for here? Hard to say.
Hard to say because DaCosta or maybe Kevin Feige brought in Sean Bobbit AKA Steve McQueen’s regular cinematographer AKA the guy who shot “12 Years a Slave,” “Shame” and “Widows” to shoot this film yet you wouldn’t know it until you saw his name in the credits. Not to say the film doesn’t have its moments aesthetically, but the aforementioned odes (intentional or not) combined with the still shabby visual effects in certain spots don’t make this something Bobbit would likely want to be featured on his IMDb page. Besides not taking advantage of having Bobbit as your cinematographer though, the biggest L The Marvels takes is with its villain. Zawe Ashton (Loki’s real-life partner) is Dar-Benn (a name I had to look up in order to cite here), a Kree general who is after the same bangle that gave Kamala her powers in order to restore her planet of Hala to the once prosperous place it was as it has sat deprived and dying since Captain Marvel sought revenge on the Kree for taking her life from them. The thing is, as the plot - which deals with Dar-Benn harvesting other planets' resources to reinvigorate Hala - unfolds it’s hard not to think this whole ordeal could have been handled more diplomatically. Like, I get that there needs to be heated conflict and more importantly, fight sequences, but it is kind of funny we’ve made this big deal about this being a female-centric superhero movie and given women as a sex have largely always championed resolution through discussion rather than fists it seems ill-fitting that the crux of this movie specifically is one that could have been resolved with some better trade discussions and an apology from Captain Marvel as she’s well-aware and even understands why the Kree harbor such hate toward her. Not wrong by any means, the constructs of the genre still have to exist no matter the sex of the hero and it’s not necessarily that it feels ironic, but more “The Marvels” feels like a missed opportunity to truly take a female-centric superhero movie to another, different, unexpected level. Instead, it sticks to the yuks rather than exploring any of the deeper emotions each of these characters - Monica, Carol, Dar-Benn, and even Kamala - are clearly dealing with. But hey, Fury’s interactions with the Khan family are hilarious so what do I know?
by Julian Spivey
In December I saw something called the “12 Movies Challenge” on Facebook. The premise was that you would have 12 months to watch 12 movies recommended by 12 friends. I don’t often participate in such social media challenges but being a movie buff I felt this might be an interesting way to get out of my comfort zone a bit when it comes to watching movies.
My Facebook buds gave me some films that I’ve been meaning to watch and I pretty much front-loaded those on the list – though not explicitly stated in the challenge rules I am opting to watch one film a month.
A Best Picture winner like “Out of Africa” is an obvious choice for me to get to at some point – that point is now going to be March of this year. But there are certain movies I’m not really looking forward to all that much – I’m looking at you “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” my August selection. Then there’s the acclaimed stuff that isn’t really up my alley like the anime feature “Spirited Away,” which I’ve scheduled for November. That will truly be me getting out of my comfort zone.
Here are the 12 movies recommended to me and the months I’ve assigned myself to watch them:
January: “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983)
February: “Till” (2022)
March: “Out of Africa” (1985)
April: “Legally Blonde” (2001)
May: “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)
June: “The Birdcage” (1996)
July: “Morning Glory” (2010)
August: “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966)
September: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)
October: “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
November: “Spirited Away” (2001)
December: “The Last Laugh” (1924)
There are times when watching art where you can admit something is fine cuisine but your palate just isn’t used to it and might never develop a taste for it.
That’s kind of how I feel about Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” (2001), which was my November recommendation from my friend Ben Keller as part of my year-long 12 Movies Challenge. I asked Ben before viewing the film if I should watch it with the English dubbing or in Japanese with English subtitles and he recommended the dubbing. I hope this isn’t considered some sort of movie sin.
Now this might be a bit too on the nose because “Spirited Away” is a Japanese film but it just so happens that I’m not much for sushi. I much rather stick to the hamburgers and steaks that I’m used to.
However, I can’t find any faults in “Spirited Away,” and if everyone from the Academy Awards to IMDb users and Roger Ebert to most of my friends who’ve seen it consider it to be an all-time great film I certainly won’t attempt to deny it.
“Spirited Away” is the story of Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl, who while moving to a new city with her parents stumbles across a mystical world within a former theme park that includes a bathhouse for spirits. This bathhouse is run by a witch named Yubaba (dubbed in English by Suzanne Pleshette) who turns gluttonous humans, like Chihiro’s parents, into pigs. Yubaba doesn’t want humans in this world but has made some sort of pact that if they ask for a job within the bathhouse she can’t deny them, but she can steal their name and thus Chihiro becomes Sen within this world, but if she forgets her real name she will be stuck in this world forever.
A lot is going on within this movie, some of which I understand and some I don’t and would probably have to be far more knowledgeable in Japanese folklore to ever truly understand – this was ultimately a film made for children, so I figure Japanese kids are far more advanced than American ones if they're getting some of this stuff.
I’ve never been a huge fan of animation of any kind – movies, television, etc. – and have never entered the world of anime. So, “Spirited Away” is a first for me. And, while I’m not an expert on anything related to anime or animation in general I can say that the hand-drawn images for this film by Miyazaki are beautiful and amazing. This isn’t a way we’re accustomed to viewing animation today and it honestly wasn’t in 2001 either when the film was released, as it was mostly computerized by then. It’s amazing to see this art form in action. “Spirited Away” is the only hand-drawn animation to ever win the Oscar for Best Animated Film, though that category was ridiculously only instituted by the Academy in 2001 after most animation was done via computer technology.
Next month we close out the 12 Movies Challenge of 2023 with the oldest film on the list - director F.W. Murnau's 1924 silent film "The Last Laugh."
by Philip Price
Director: Meg Ryan
Starring: Meg Ryan & David Duchovny
Rated: R (language, some sexual reference & brief drug use)
Runtime: 1 hour & 43 minutes
Meg Ryan's “What Happens Later” is a movie as much about the relationship at the center of its story as it is the film's relationship with the rom-com genre. Both are in conversation with one another for the majority of the film, but what both are trying to say lands with different levels of success. While actress Meg Ryan, who after being out of the spotlight for several years and not having made a full-fledged romantic comedy since 2008 or so, makes it seem as if she's reclaiming her place atop the genre greats with this effort filmmaker Meg Ryan feels somewhat at odds with this decision.
As “What Happens Later” unfolded I couldn't decide whether or not it was working to upend expectations while using the aesthetic and tone of your standard romcom to comment on the genre or if it was simply trying to hammer home how fraudulent everything in these kinds of movies truly is; highlighting the real conversations people are forced to have about love as they get older and realize they have less to look forward to and more to make up for. In the latter, they kind of obliterate everything we hold dear about the genre in terms of story beats and structure and the choice to play this so whimsically only reinforces the criticism of the genre as opposed to utilizing these staples by way of telling a different, more mature story than these movies usually do. I don't think I can draw a clear line between the film's ambitions and intent because I don't know that Ryan could either. She clearly has an affinity for the sweetness of the genre, but also clearly desires to lend some perspective to it by making a rom-com not about twentysomethings falling in love for the first time, but about sixtysomethings who have been chasing the high their first love gave them ever since it ended. It's a classic "can't have your cake and eat it too" scenario but damn it if Ryan doesn't try to revel in all the best parts of these mutually exclusive alternatives.
In this regard, “What Happens Later” is essentially a "what if" movie meaning it's a theoretical take on what we might do given the opportunity to say everything to that one person we never had the opportunity to say everything we wanted to. The ideal setting, an unlimited amount of time and a set of circumstances that would never actually fall so perfectly into place to provide such an opportunity in order to provide clarity and peace around some of life’s biggest regrets. Cool, that's fine. I dig the pitch especially when considering how Ryan and her crew stage the conversations in these sparse, indeterminate settings where they are guided by the voice making announcements over the PA system in the airport. There is a line of dialogue in the film though that goes, "If we could see our memories in advance would we do anything different?" Now, this feels like a question with an obvious answer, but in the reality of executing course corrections, we would undoubtedly find such an endeavor more challenging than expected with the easier, more familiar route eventually becoming more attractive. The same thing feels like it happened to Ryan's film in that it seemingly wants to rewrite the rules of the rom-com but can't help but fall back into the way of the safer, but still satisfying conclusions of rom-coms of years past.
A final note: I like David Duchovny and find him immensely charming and more than capable with this material, but he still feels miscast for one reason or another. I'm not sure how much the overall film might have changed as a result, but it arguably would have been more interesting to see Ryan and Tom Hanks round out their rom-com trilogy this far down the road, if not improving the execution at least adding more weight to the relationship history that is so much a part of this story. What if?
by Tyler Glover, Aprille Hanson-Spivey & Julian Spivey
The Word is celebrating the 100th birthday of Disney by ranking the 100 greatest characters in its history. Today, September 23, marks 100 days left in 2023 and we will be unveiling one character a day through the end of the year! The list will feature characters from Disney and Pixar animated films, as well as those from Disney live action, shorts and television series.
100. Flash (Zootopia)
Voiced by Raymond S. Persi
Has there ever been a more appropriate and realistic Disney character portrayal than Flash, the three-toed sloth DMV (which, of course, stands for Department of Mammal Vehicles) worker, in 2016’s “Zooptopia”? Sure, Judy Hopps, the young optimistic rabbit police officer, is the lead of the film and a fine one at that – but it’s Flash in his one scene (and a terrific punchline at the end of the movie) that steals the whole thing and has the biggest lasting impact. It’s a small moment that shows Disney really knows how to get the parents of all the kiddies they bring to the theater laughing along too by bringing something so annoyingly laughable in the real world to the fantastic world of animation. JS
99. Pinocchio (Pinocchio)
Voiced by Dick Jones (1940 film)
One thing I always remember from my childhood is my mom telling me not to lie to her because if I did, my nose would grow. All thanks to the classic 1950 Disney film, “Pinocchio.” Pinocchio is a character I feel we can all see ourselves in. He has an overwhelming urge to want to fit in. He wants to be a real boy. He wants people to like him and this inevitably leads to him getting into some trouble. Pinocchio sees good in people. It is difficult in the world we live in not to be concerned about ulterior motives or being able to be positive but Pinocchio’s willingness to see the good in people is something to be admired. TG
98. Seagulls (Finding Nemo)
Voiced by Andrew Stanton
If you’re a Disney fan and I suddenly started shouting, “Mine, Mine, Mine” with sort of a deep, then crescendo whiny tone, you’d know exactly what movie I’m referencing. That kind of recognition makes the Seagulls in Disney’s 2003 hit “Finding Nemo,” more than just a flock of birds that tried to eat Marlin and Dory. They are one of the many sets of memorable characters that provide comic relief on Nemo’s epic journey. Even though seagulls are among the most intelligent bird species, that one repeated word of dialogue comes across so perfectly that I can’t help but think “Mine” whenever I see them hopping along a beach, snatching up a snack. AHS
97. Mr. Potato Head (Toy Story series)
Voiced by Don Rickles
If you’re going to make a movie about toys that come to life when their kid isn’t playing with them you have to throw a real-world classic or two into the bunch and the creators of Pixar’s lodestar “Toy Story” did so brilliantly with Mr. Potato Head (can you believe it took until the second induction class of the National Toy Hall of Fame to get that guy in!?). There was nobody better to voice Mr. Potato Head than the cynical, sarcastic Mr. Warmth himself Don Rickles (hey, Rickles and Mr. Potato Head kind of resemble each other – I think the late insult comedian would enjoy that zinger). It’s a good thing Pixar didn’t give Mr. Potato Head the original look, or that would’ve really scared the kiddos. JS
96. Darkwing Duck (Darkwing Duck)
Voiced by Jim Cummings
Man, nothing would get a pre-teen going in the early ‘90s like hearing, “Let’s get dangerous” in a slurred, duck voice from their favorite daytime superhero Darkwing Duck, a mixture of James Bond and every Humphrey Bogart detective who fought dastardly villains on The Disney Afternoon syndication block that also featured “TaleSpin,” “DuckTales” and “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.” Darkwing Duck was my main man when I was a kiddo – I even had a giant action figure I would take to school with me and show off to all my young bros. - JS
95. Bruce the Shark (Finding Nemo)
Voiced by Barry Humphries
Disney’s “Finding Nemo” (2003) was an instant classic for its epic journey, witty dialogue and unforgettable characters. One of the best scenes of the movie mimics an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for sharks that are trying to stay on the wagon by not eating fish. The biggest shark of the bunch, Bruce, voiced by Australian comedian Barry Humphries, leads the meeting, proudly declaring, “Fish are friends, not food.” Even though he’s made it three weeks without eating a fish, when Dory gets a bloody nose, the smell is just too enticing to override his natural instinct. But you have to love Bruce because the concept of a shark AA meeting is hilarious, and his boisterous Australian accent really sells it. - AHS
94. Sulley (Monsters Inc. & Monsters University)
Voiced by John Goodman
When watching “Monsters, Inc.,” you can really get wrapped up in Billy Crystal’s energetic and frantic character, Mike Wazowski. However, Sulley, his strong, blue and scary monster friend named Sulley definitely stands as one of the best Disney characters of all time. Sulley may be the top scarer and get the most children’s screams to power the monster city of Monstropolis but he also has a heart of gold. When a child named Boo gets into their city, he does everything he can to get her home and not let people capture her that would hurt her. He sees her for who she is and not as the threat others do. Boo wins his heart and Sulley wins ours! - TG
93. WALL-E (WALL-E)
Voiced by Ben Burtt
The only robot I’d be OK with taking over the world would be Disney’s WALL-E, a small trash-collecting robot that has been alone on Earth for hundreds of years sorting garbage humans left behind. WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, evolves and develops a personality over the years, and falls in love with robot EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), who is there to scan Earth for signs of life. WALL-E is sweet, incredibly loyal and captures viewers' hearts with no dialogue, but simple beep/blip robot sounds. The 2008 movie itself serves as an important warning to humans about protecting the planet, but without the gentle WALL-E leading that message, it wouldn’t be as impactful. – AHS
92. Remy (Ratatouille)
Voiced by Patton Oswalt
Disney has always made us believe that if you can dream it, you can do it! In the 2007 film, “Ratatouille,” we are taught by the late great Chef Gusteau that “anyone can cook.” A young rat named Remy believes him and goes for it! What makes Remy’s quest to be a chef so beautiful to watch is that he is aware of the way the world sees rats. Remy does not let that stop him! He is determined to be a chef despite everything because it is his dream. What makes Remy one of the best Disney characters is his enthusiastic passion for his dream and his unwillingness to give up despite the obstacles. – TG
91. Chip 'n Dale (Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers)
Voiced by Tress MacNeille & Corey Burton (1989-90 TV Series)
Peanut Butter and Jelly. Macaroni and Cheese. Like these iconic pairs, there's another dynamic duo that might be considered even more iconic: Chip 'n Dale. Admit it, just reading their names made you smile as you reminisced getting to watch all the mischievous trouble those two created. From pestering poor Pluto to wreaking havoc on Donald Duck, Chip 'n Dale were impish to perfection! They were such beloved characters that Disney even created an entire show revolving around them, “Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers.” They’re so memorable, in fact, that just last year, Disney+ took the 30-year-old show and turned it into a movie. You should check it out next time you're aimlessly scrolling on your tv. You've got the focused, serious Chip in his stylish leather jacket and the goofy, fun loving Dale rocking his Hawaiian shirt. Two polar opposites glued together by chaos and adventure! Did Chip 'n Dale concoct a sneaky plan to slip on by the journalists at The Word Webzine and submit their names on Disney’s top 100 Characters List? Doesn't sound like something chipmunks could do?? Did said plan include ghost writing a brilliant paragraph to put them in the spotlight even more so? Doesn't that sound like something chipmunks would do!! – HH
90. Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)
Voiced by Ed Wynn
The Mad Hatter from the 1951 Disney classic, “Alice In Wonderland” has to be one of the silliest characters in Disney’s entire 100-year history. While Alice is in Wonderland, she encounters the Mad Hatter while he is celebrating with his friends all of their “un-birthdays” and drinking tea. Alice joins them for this tea party but ends up leaving without even having one drop of tea due to them constantly moving her to another seat before she can even get one sip. While the Mad Hatter is eccentric, crazy and very loud, he is also very lovable. The Mad Hatter reminds us all of some of our friends who can absolutely drive us crazy sometimes but we would not have it any other way. – TG
89. Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Voiced by Hans Conried
Captain Hook is one of the most memorable villains in Disney history. The reason for this is how funny he is but also how serious he is. In one scene, we will see Captain Hook so morbidly scared at a crocodile that he is acting like a baby scared of the dark. We are all brought to laughter! Then, in the next scene, he is shooting one of his pirates off the boat for not doing what he wanted. Captain Hook’s over-dramatic and emotional antics make us laugh while also being scared that he is going to blow up Peter Pan in his hideout. Disney did a great job balancing this with Captain Hook making him one of Disney’s best characters. - TG
88. Flounder (The Little Mermaid)
Voiced by Jason Marin
If you’re a mermaid, there’s really nothing better than a best friend who’s an adorable fish. Flounder, the cute yellow and blue cartoon fish from 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” is by Ariel’s side no matter what. Nothing against the live-action remake, which I have yet to see, but Flounder is just too realistic to be considered cute in that one. Flounder is a good contrast to Sebastian the crab’s tell-it-like-it-is nature toward the teenage mermaid and serves as the ultimate friend and sidekick. Even though he’s a little nervous about going on adventures, as he says, he is NOT a guppy — the ultimate fish insult apparently. – AHS
87. Cogsworth (Beauty and the Beast)
Voiced by David Ogden Stiers
In the 1991 Disney animated classic, “Beauty and the Beast,” an enchantment is put on everyone living in the castle because of the Prince’s cruel heart towards an old peasant woman. One of these is the very uptight Cogsworth, who is turned into a small clock. Cogsworth is not a rule breaker in any sense of the word. He follows the rules to a T unlike his friend, Lumiere, a candelabra. Lumiere reminds us that sometimes, we should be more willing to break away from our rigid schedules but Cogsworth is a special Disney character that reminds us that sometimes, we need to follow the rules and need to be more aware of the trouble we get into. Plus, Cogsworth is one of the funniest Disney characters of all time. – TG
86. Bing Bong (Inside Out)
Voiced by Richard Kind
Disney knows how to do heartbreak. I’m still haunted by Bambi shouting “Mother” into the silence. While not as traumatic, Bing Bong absolutely pierced the hearts of everyone who has ever had an imaginary friend, or anyone with a heart that was watching 2015’s “Inside Out.” Bing Bong, the goofy pink elephant, was an imaginary friend to Riley, still living in the depths of her mind. During Joy’s epic trip to save Riley’s memories, Bing Bong sacrifices himself, disappearing from Riley’s memory to make sure Joy doesn’t disappear for the young girl. It’s truly heartbreaking to see this sweet, funny character go, because he really represents the true innocence of childhood. It makes him such an important Disney character. – AHS
85. Nala (The Lion King)
Voiced by Niketa Calame (young Nala) & Moira Kelly (adult Nala)
To quote a different Disney classic, it’s “a tale as old as time” — a female helping the love of her life realize his full potential and making the world a better place because of it. It’s what makes Nala in Disney’s 1994 classic, “The Lion King,” so important. The feisty lioness is not only a best friend to the future king, pinning him down in the cutest way to show her own strength, but helps an adult Simba ultimately remember who he is in order to save the pride. Nala is the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the film a love story and moves the main plot forward. - AHS
84. Hector (Coco)
Voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal
Hector, from the 2017 film “Coco,” holds a very special place in my heart. Hector is a dead man living in the afterlife who is trying to cross the bridge on Dia De Los Muertos (the only day they can do this) to visit his family. However, his photo is not on The Ofrenda (an altar honoring the dead) so he is not allowed to cross back over. Hector is desperate to see the family that he left behind. Unfortunately, Hector died on the road pursuing his dreams of being a musician. So, he didn’t really get to say goodbye to his family. They mistakenly believed he had abandoned them. Hector is a Disney character that does something that I feel few characters do. You do not only sympathize with Hector, but you also ache with him. You feel his pain, his devastation, his longing, and his passion to reunite with his family. Gael Garcia Bernal is the voice of Hector and he is absolutely brilliant. The audience is so emotionally invested in this journey and when his dreams come true, we still find ourselves crying out of pure joy. - TG
83. Lilo (Lilo & Stitch)
Voiced by Daveigh Chase
Lilo, from 2002’s “Lilo & Stitch,” was a major step for Disney in representation with Disney having such a history of primarily white princesses. Lilo is a six-year-old Hawaiian girl being raised by her older sister, Nani. Lilo and Nani’s parents died years earlier and it has been a really tough transition for both of them. This film truly went into uncharted territory in so many ways. Lilo is pushing her older sister’s buttons but unfortunately, this captures the attention of a social worker named Cobra Bubbles. While Disney had spent years showing princesses at their very best, we get to see a young girl who can be selfish, and messy, want something other than a man and can cause problems that may even hurt her in the end. It was nice to see a character that reflected real life in ways other films had not done before. Lilo and Nani’s life is turned even more upside down with the arrival of a cute alien named Stitch, who escaped and is being sought after to be returned to his home planet. Lilo’s love for Stitch is something to be admired and Stitch really teaches her about love. After all, “Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” - TG
82. Joy (Inside Out)
Voiced by Amy Poehler
Is there anything that can get Joy from the 2015 movie “Inside Out” down? Yes, Sadness. Sadness is obviously too depressing for Joy, who is hellbent on making sure the pre-teen they are emotions for Riley, is always joyful. What makes Joy such a great Disney character is her ultimate realization that for true joy, you really need all the emotions working together, even Sadness. Joy really is one of Disney’s great heroines, stopping at nothing to preserve Riley’s memories and ultimate happiness. – AHS
81. Tinker Bell (Peter Pan)
Tinker Bell is a character that holds a special place in so many Disney fans’ hearts. It is really difficult to pinpoint just one singular reason. It could be her beauty, her intelligence, her sassiness or even her fierce devotion to her friend, Peter Pan. One thing is for certain though, this pixie fairy is absolutely magical. She is one of the few Disney characters that even transcends the movie she is in: 1953’s “Peter Pan.” Tinker Bell has been shown flying in opening movie credits for years using her wand to dust some pixie dust around the scenery letting us all know we are about to witness something truly magical. I think the reason Tinker Bell’s appearance brings so much joy is her presence letting us know anything is possible. – TG
80. Hercules (Hercules)
Voiced by Tate Donovan
Although he doesn’t get quite the amount of attention as many other Disney heroes, Hercules is definitely one of the greatest Disney characters of all time. Hercules portrays the image of being strong and mighty but he’s also kind and caring. He teaches that it’s what’s in your heart that makes you a hero. He is goofy, selfless and an all-around loveable character. - AJ
79. Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck-It Ralph)
Voiced by Sarah Silverman
How could one not love Vanellope von Schweetz?! She has the right amount of flair, attitude and humor. She teaches children to be strong and brave, and also have a little fun. She also completely steals “Wreck-It Ralph” from the titular Ralph. Sorry bud! - AJ
78. Jett Jackson (The Famous Jett Jackson)
Played by Lee Thompson Young
I didn’t have the Disney Channel until I was around 13 or so years old, so some of the original shows from the ‘90s were unbeknownst to me and some of the classics that came later (i.e. “Hannah Montana”) were after my interest in teenage orientated shows had faded. “Lizzie McGuire” and “Even Stevens” are two shows from the early aughts that are remembered fondly by folks of my generation but my favorite series of that time is one that seems to have mostly been forgotten over the years: “The Famous Jett Jackson.” When I was 13 or so, Jett Jackson was the coolest teen on earth. As played by the late Lee Thompson Young, Jackson was a teenage actor attempting to live a normal teenage life at home, while playing the super cool spy Silverstone on TV. Imagine trying to live the chaotic, emotional life of a teenager while also being James Bond? JS
77. Tigger (Winnie the Pooh)
Voiced by Paul Winchell & Jim Cummings
Tigger is the comic relief of “Winnie the Pooh,” which is probably incredibly necessary because remembering the characters as an adult I’m pretty sure Eeyore and Winnie himself were differing types of clinically depressed. Then you have Tigger, the toy stuffed tiger come to life, who’s always filled with optimism and energy and often mischievous – maybe he was on something to cope with the rampant depression of Pooh Corner? Anyway, he was always good for a laugh. - JS
76. Anna (Frozen & Frozen II)
Voiced by Kristen Bell
Disney’s 2013 hit “Frozen” has everything – queens/princesses, adventure, adorable animal sidekicks, romance, betrayal. But what makes it one of the best is the bond of sisterhood between Anna and Elsa of Arendelle. Elsa’s had a rough go since her childhood when she put Anna in danger with her special frozen powers. Even when Elsa freezes her sister out for years (yes, pun intended) and then leaves Arendelle after her powers send the town into winter, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) is fearless in her pursuit to find her sister and bring her back to take her rightful place on the throne. Anna, though naive at first in romance, is relentless even when she second-guesses herself. Each sister moves even closer to their destiny in 2019’s “Frozen II.” Above all, Anna is one of the best examples of a sister that Disney has ever created. - AHS
75. Peter Pan (Peter Pan)
Voiced by Bobby Driscoll
Peter Pan might be one of the most accurate portrayals of the male brain in the history of not only Disney but film and literature period. Peter Pan is a free-spirited, mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up. Have you ever met a male – rather boy or adult – who really wanted to grow up? Peter Pan, as created by author J.M. Barrie and first introduced to many of us via the 1953 Disney classic that shares his name, is a freakin’ hero to men everywhere for his sheer refusal to grow up. Stay young forever, Peter Pan. You’re living the dream, dude! – JS
74. Yzma (The Emperor's New Groove)
Voiced by Eartha Kitt
Yzma is easily one of the funniest Disney villains in a long lineage of great Disney villains. In 2000’s “The Emperor’s New Groove,” Yzma is the royal advisor to the very selfish Emperor Kuzco. After being unceremoniously fired, Yzma plots to kill Kuzco. However, she accidentally turns him into a llama and mayhem ensues. Yzma is voiced brilliantly by Eartha Kitt, who won the Annie Award for Best Voice Acting By A Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production for this role. Kitt’s voice makes Yzma iconic. There are so many funny moments with this villain and most of these are between her and her henchman, Kronk. Kronk is very easily distracted and does not always pick up on social cues. One example is Kronk becomes very concerned about cooking spinach puffs the night they are going to kill the emperor. Yzma is trying so desperately to keep her composure and we, the audience, are losing our minds with laughter knowing how irritated she is. Another funny moment is when Yzma has Kronk pull a lever dramatically. It ends up being the wrong lever and Yzma falls through a trapdoor with a crocodile. Kitt’s performance was spot on and led by a fantastic script, leaving us all to hold Yzma in a special place in our Disney hearts. - TG
73. Joe Gardner (Soul)
Voiced by Jamie Foxx
Joe Gardner, the protagonist of Pixar’s 2020 film “Soul,” is one of the more unique Disney/Pixar characters because you could tell watching the film, especially as a thirtysomething, that this was truly a character for adults. This was actually somewhat of a criticism of the film for some. Sorry, it can’t all be princesses, pixie dust and giggles parents. It’s time your kids learned about death, the afterlife and jazz! It was also nice to see a black man cast as a lead in a Disney/Pixar release, even if they did turn Joe into a disembodied green soul for much of the flick. They already think you’ve gone completely woke Disney/Pixar – keep throwing all sorts of cultures and people at us. - JS
72. Fairy Godmother (Cinderella)
Voiced by Verna Felton
Disney’s brand has always promoted dreams coming true and wishes being granted. Who better to fulfill these wishes than a fairy godmother? Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears to her when her dress is tattered and she has no hope of going to the ball. The Fairy Godmother sings one of the best Disney songs of all time: “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” and transforms Cinderella’s destroyed dress into one of the most beautiful gowns in cinematic history. After also turning a pumpkin into a carriage, Cinderella is well on her way to her dreams coming true. Don’t we all wish we had a Fairy Godmother who could just wave her magic wand and make all of our dreams come true? Disney gives us hope in this beloved character. – TG
71. Gordon Bombay (The Mighty Ducks)
Played by Emilio Estevez
How many film studios can say they named an actual professional sports team after one of its films? The NHL’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were founded in 1993 based on the film “The Mighty Ducks” that came out the year before. Disney would own the team from its inception until 2005, at which time the franchise was renamed Anaheim Ducks. When I was a young kid I probably enjoyed Disney’s live-action films of the ‘90s more than I actually did the animated films – which seems strange today as that was an era of the Disney animation renaissance. But I was inspired by Coach Gordon Bombay, as played by Emilio Estevez, and his team of rag-tag pee-wee hockey players and the redemptive arc for Bombay, who is coaching the team as community service after a drunk driving sentence and has an unpleasant history with youth hockey. - JS
70. Dumbo (Dumbo)
Dumbo is a character that I feel we all can identify with. Disney really made us see that even one of the cutest and most adorable characters ever conceived is still made fun of for being different. Dumbo, the cutest little elephant ever, is born into circus life and so, he eventually will be a performer like his Mom. However, he starts getting made fun of when his ears grow to be really, really big. When his Mom begins to defend him against these bullies, Ms. Jumbo is put into solitary confinement. Dumbo, of course, like any of us, wants to rescue his Mom so he decides to really focus on becoming a star. Dumbo’s determination, his perseverance and his love for his mother makes Dumbo one of the best Disney characters ever. This adorable elephant has a heart just as big as his two abnormal ears. We feel it and we are rooting for him every step of the way. – TG
69. Rapunzel (Tangled)
Voiced by Mandy Moore
Despite being locked in a tower for 18 years, Disney’s Rapunzel from the 2010 movie “Tangled” is tough. She has an adorable little chameleon best friend Pascal to keep her company as her golden hair, complete with healing powers, keeps growing, keeping who she thinks is her mother but is in fact her kidnapper, Mother Gothel, alive. She’s really the princess of Corona and her parents have been desperately waiting for her return, releasing beautiful sky lanterns on her birthday each year. She’s clever and risky, taking off with thief Flynn Rider to see the sky lanterns. Voiced by Mandy Moore, Rapunzel has become a favorite among the modern Disney princesses. - AHS
68. Powerline (A Goofy Movie)
Voiced by Tevin Campbell
There’s just some sort of fascination pop stars hold over us in our younger days. Fourteen-year-old Max Goof was no different being entranced under the spell of pop star Powerline’s celebrity and music to the point of impersonating him during the Principal’s speech on the last day of school in “A Goofy Movie.” Max is excited to view Powerline’s Los Angeles concert via pay-per-view with a girl he likes, but unbeknownst to him his dad, Goofy, has planned a father-son cross-country fishing expedition. The movie culminates with Max and Goofy on stage at Powerline’s L.A. show. Even though Powerline only really has this one scene in the film, he’s always loomed large in the minds of “A Goofy Movie” viewers, as easily entranced by his performances as Max was. Real ‘90s R&B star Tevin Campbell provided the singing voice for Powerline making the songs “Stand Out” and “I 2 I” truly, well, stand out in the film. By the way, you should definitely watch the season four “Atlanta” episode “The Goof Who Sat By the Door,” which is a brilliantly mockumentary on the making of “A Goofy Movie.” - JS
67. Sanderson Sisters (Hocus Pocus)
Played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker & Kathy Najimy
Witches simply do not get more fabulous than the three Sanderson sisters of “Hocus Pocus” and its sequel. Winnie (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) are simply unforgettable. Winnie is the oldest sister and leader of the pack who is obsessed with staying young and living forever by stealing children’s souls. She uses her sister, Sarah, to lure the children to their deaths and uses Mary to help brew the potions and sniff out the children. Together, they are the perfect team. What makes these witches so brilliant is that they are very scary. I used to have nightmares about them when I was younger but they are hysterically funny as well. There are so many quotable lines in this movie that stay with you and get recited by millions around Halloween time every year. They are simply iconic. When they end up coming back to life after being hanged years later, it truly becomes a fish-out-of-water story where the witches have to start understanding the technological advances that have been made which leads to even more hilarious hijinks. Every time I think of “Hocus Pocus,” I think of Winnie’s line at the beginning of the movie, “Oh, look. Another glorious morning! It makes me sick!” It’s something we can all agree with the witches on especially on a Monday morning! – TG
66. Bruno Madrigal (Encanto)
Voiced by John Leguizamo
We don’t talk about Bruno – but we can certainly write about him. Bruno Madrigal, the ostracized uncle in Disney’s 2021 movie “Encanto” was not only the center of the Lin-Manuel Miranda penned song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which skyrocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 but was one of the most important characters in “Encanto.” Bruno (voiced by John Leguizamo) is painted as mysterious and maniacal but is ultimately sweet, OCD and quirky. He’s one of those characters that embodies someone who is different in society. Any child, or adult for that matter, watching the movie who feels they are misunderstood can empathize and relate to Bruno. He ultimately has a happy ending, which is so important to give those watching hope that maybe being different isn’t such a bad thing. - AHS
65. Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Voiced by Betty Lou Gerson (1961), Played by Glenn Close (1996) and Emma Stone (2021)
Cruella is a strong, independent woman with excellent fashion sense and a clear picture of what she wants. However, Cruella is one Disney villain that can be difficult for audiences to connect with. It is difficult to see things from the point of view of someone who wants to kill puppies in the name of fashion. There is something about Cruella that clearly resonates with viewers though. Cruella’s story has continued through several films throughout Disney history. Aside from the original Cruella de Vil in 1961’s “One Hundred and One Dalmatians,” Cruella has been portrayed by Oscar nominee Glenn Close in 1996’s “101 Dalmatians” and in its sequel “102 Dalmatians.” Most recently, Cruella was brought to the screen by Oscar winner Emma Stone in 2021’s “Cruella.” I think what makes Cruella so interesting to so many viewers is they want to find her humanity. This was definitely the case for me. In 2021’s “Cruella,” we learn the dog killing was all a lie that became widespread throughout London. Villains are not born. They are made. I’m interested in learning more through the planned sequel to see what truly made Cruella become the villain we all know her as today. – TG
64. Oaken (Frozen & Frozen II)
Voiced by Chris Williams
Disney’s “Frozen” is full of beloved characters, but one of the most quotable goes to Oaken, owner of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna. It’s a very minor scene in the movie as a whole, despite how pivotal it is for Anna as she meets the future love of her life Kristoff. I find myself randomly quoting his famous line, “Yoo hoo, big summer blowout” in his high Scandinavian voice. You’ve got to love his tenacity to try and sell swimsuits in a snowstorm to a visibly freezing Anna and later Kristoff. He’s a shrewd businessman who takes up permanent residence in my brain, and I know I’m not the only one. - AHS
63. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
Voiced by Anika Noni Rose
Princess Tiana is one of the most exciting things to happen in all 100 years of Disney. It might have taken 86 years but in 2009, Disney FINALLY welcomed a black princess. Representation is so important. We all should be able to see ourselves on screen. With Tiana’s introduction, little black girls all over the world could finally see a Disney princess that looked like them. It was such a beautiful moment in Disney history. Disney also just gave us such a fantastic character in Princess Tiana. Tiana lives in New Orleans and is determined to own a restaurant. She wants to cook the recipes she was handed down from her Dad and ones she has made up on her own. Another reason Tiana stands out is that her dream never was about meeting a prince and having a happily ever after. She even has a friend named Charlotte La Bouff, who fits into the Disney princess stereotype. Tiana is a character we all love so much because of her passion, her determination, her perseverance and her intelligence. Tiana has brought hope to little black girls around the world and showed them that their dreams do matter too. - TG
62. Marlin (Finding Nemo)
Voiced by Albert Brooks
There are certainly cuter (Nemo), funnier (Dory) and cooler (Crush) characters in “Finding Nemo,” but I think the unsung hero of the whole movie and likely its heart is Marlin, the overprotective clownfish father who’s just trying to do his best to raise his son after the tragedy that took his wife – because Disney, y’all - and all of her eggs but the one that turned into Nemo. Is there anything as devastatingly sweet as Marlin’s early scene: “There, there, there. It’s OK. Daddy’s here. Daddy’s got you. I promise. I will never let anything happen to you, Nemo.” The neurosis of Marlin is perfectly suited to the voice acting of Albert Brooks, who quietly sets the tone for the film – while so many others surrounding him attempt to steal the spotlight. - JS
61. Roz (Monsters Inc. & Monsters U.)
Voiced by Bob Peterson
Roz, from “Monsters, Inc.,” is the kind of side character that truly stands out and you remember forever. Roz appears to only be a secretary working for Monsters, Inc. who gets fed up with Mike Wasowski, a scare trainer, for not turning in his paperwork on time. She always tells him, “I’m always watching.” It winds up being a great plot twist later on in the film when it turns out Roz is the Number One of the Child Detection Agency and has been undercover investigating the CEO of Monsters, Inc. It makes it so clever that her catchphrase has always been “I’m always watching.” This snail-like monster is voiced to perfection by Bob Peterson, who is also the story supervisor for the film. Roz definitely reminds us of that one coworker who can be annoying with their strict adherence to rules. - TG
60. Hades (Hercules)
Voiced by James Woods
Hades is without a doubt one of the best Disney villains of all time. His charisma and humor in “Hercules” draw you to him so much that you almost wish he could’ve stuck around at the end and you almost forget he’s voiced by James Woods! He’s hilarious but he’s also just such a cool character. I mean, god of the underworld what’s more interesting than that? – AJ
59. Kuzco (The Emperor's New Groove)
Voiced by David Spade
Maybe it’s the way comedian David Spade played the part in “The Emperor’s New Groove,” but Kuzco is such a loved character amongst Disney fans. He’s downright hilarious, has the best relationship with Pacha, and turns into such a softy as the film goes on. His charm is unmatched and makes him just so likable! – AJ
58. Doc Hudson (Cars)
Voiced by Paul Newman
Doc Hudson is truly one of the most unsung heroes in Pixar history. Even among the cast of “Cars” he doesn’t seem to get his due with the flashiness of Lightning McQueen and the comedy of Mater, but I love everything about this character from his storyline to the history behind the characters and the voice behind me. Played by Paul Newman, in his final film role, Doc Hudson, an anthropomorphic 1951 Hudson Hornet, was an auto racing legend in the early days of the Piston Cup before suffering a terrible rollover crash and fading away into obscurity as a small-town doctor (which surely has to be a reference to Moonlight Graham in “Field of Dreams”) and judge before years later turning into the mentor to a brash, young racer Lightning McQueen. As a NASCAR fan, I love the real-life inspirations behind Doc Hudson, with the character mostly inspired by NASCAR Hall of Famer Herb Thomas, who drove the real “Fabulous Hudson Hornet” in the ‘50s. I also think Doc Hudson is a terrific final performance for a Hollywood legend who loves racing cars and was even a major event champion at it, along with some of the unique homages like Doc Hudson having Newman’s piercing blue eyes and the nickname “Hud,” which was one of Newman’s most memorable roles. Doc Hudson is the perfect mixture of original character and homage. - JS
57. Kronk (The Emperor's New Groove)
Voiced by Patrick Warburton
Kronk is one of the silliest characters in Disney history. While Kronk is known as the henchman of Yzma, the villain of “The Emperor’s New Groove,” Kronk truly does have a heart of gold. Even when he is supposed to dispose of the emperor in Yzma’s plot to take over the kingdom, he cannot bring himself to “finish the job.” Kronk is what makes “The Emperor’s New Groove” one of the best recent Disney films. While Yzma is constantly trying to plot, Kronk is sidetracked by his own interests. When they are supposed to be poisoning the emperor, Kronk is more concerned about his spinach puffs. He loves to cook and is more worried about them turning out perfect than doing his boss’ bidding. “The Emperor’s New Groove” really is successful in showing just how much fun a villain and an air-headed henchman can be. – TG
56. Lizzie McGuire (Lizzie McGuire)
Played by Hilary Duff
There are a lot of Disney Channel Original TV shows, but “Lizzie McGuire” will always be one that stands out. Even though it only lasted two seasons, premiering in 2001, it solidified Hilary Duff’s fame as an actress and singer. The character, 13-year-old Lizzie McGuire, was cute and awkward, trying to navigate junior high. She wasn’t popular, had two loyal best friends in Miranda and Gordo and a cartoon inner voice that popped up to share exactly what was going through her mind. I was the same age when the show premiered and Lizzie was relatable in every way. Junior High is not an easy time in life and having a character like Lizzie was important for young girls to see on screen. - AHS
55. Robin Hood (Robin Hood)
Voiced by Brian Bedford
Robin Hood has been one of literature’s heroes for so long we don’t even know who first created him. The character who robs the rich to give to the poor has been around since at least the 1300s in English folklore and has been portrayed by such suave actors as Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and Russell Crow in film. But the cutest version of Robin Hood, I think we can all agree on, was the character in the form of a charming red fox. As voiced by Shakespearean actor Brian Bedford, this Robin Hood is likely the one to first introduce children around the world to this great hero ever since the film premieres in 1973. Also, the film contains original music by the great Roger Miller, so you know I’m going to point that out. – JS
54. The Seven Dwarfs (Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs)
Voiced by Roy Atwell, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Billy Gilbert, Eddie Collins & Pinto Colvig
Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho! There are seven dwarfs at 54. The first ever feature-length animated Disney film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released in 1937 and thrilled audiences everywhere with what could be done in the medium of animation and essentially led Disney to control the medium for the rest of the remaining 100 years since its birth. Snow White might be the main star of the film, but these hard-working miners often steal the show. There’s Doc (voiced by Roy Atwell), the good-hearted leader of the group, and then the other six are pretty much explained by their respective names: Happy (voiced by Otis Harlan), Bashful (voiced by Scotty Mattraw), Sneezy (voiced by Billy Gilbert), Dopey (voiced by Eddie Collins), Grumpy and Sleepy (both voiced by Pinto Colvig). Always good for a laugh and some of the earliest Disney classic songs, which have stood the test of time, like “Heigh-Ho,” these little guys were a major step forward for the cutesy, funny, lovable characters that Disney would build itself around in film. - JS
53. Thumper (Bambi)
Voiced by Peter Behn (Young Thumper), Tim Davis (Adolescent Thumper) & Sam Edwards (Young Adult Thumper)
Bambi’s adorable friend Thumper the rabbit has perhaps one of the best pieces of advice ever shared in a Disney movie: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Thumper is such an important character in Disney’s 1942 classic “Bambi,” not only because he befriends the orphaned deer, but he brings some lightness to a pretty dark plot. After his mother is shot and killed, Bambi explores the forest with Thumper and Flower, the skunk. Thumper is just adorable, especially when he melts with love after laying eyes on Miss Bunny. He’s cute and full of wisdom, making him a classic character. – AHS
52. Shadow (Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey)
Voiced by Don Ameche
Shadow is the goodest boy to ever grace a Disney live-action film in 1993’s “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey,” which was a remake of the previous Disney film “The Incredible Journey” from 1963. In the 1963 version, the dogs and cat don’t talk, but the remake made the wise decision to give the animals speaking voices and hired Michael J. Fox as the American Bulldog Chance, Sally Field as the Himalayan cat Sassy and veteran actor Don Ameche as the wise, old Golden Retriever Shadow. The audience is already gonna be head over heels in love with an old, graying Golden Retriever, but given Ameche’s voice and the treacherous, heart-wrenching plotline of Shadow trying to lead his brother and sister home to a family they believe has lost them he becomes the hero of the story. If you don’t weep at the end when the injured Shadow limps his way back home to his family, who think he’s passed on during the journey home, then you simply have no soul. - JS
51. Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Voiced by Pat Carroll (1989) & Played by Melissa McCarthy (2023)
The Little Mermaid’s Ursula is easily one of the most frightening villains in Disney history. Ursula has to be one of the best at being bad ever! When Ursula grants Ariel’s wish to let her leave her mermaid life to be a human for three days, she takes her voice from her as payment. She tells Ariel that she has to get her prince to kiss her within three days but wants to make that as difficult as possible. And when Ariel almost gets that kiss, Ursula disguises herself and uses Ariel’s voice to bewitch him into falling for her. Ursula does not play fair! She is in it to win! This definitely makes her extremely dangerous. The late Pat Carroll’s vocal performance of this role is one of the best in animation. – TG
50. Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh)
Voiced by Ralph Wright, Ron Gans, Peter Cullen & Brad Garrett
There may not be a Disney character I identify more with than Eeyore, the pessimistic, gloomy, depressive donkey from the Winnie the Pooh series of films, shorts and series based on the books of author A.A. Milne. “Well, I suppose it is … for some,” when the always sunny Piglet asks him, “Good morning!” is my kind of answer. Don’t let the gloominess fool you though, Eeyore also has a heart of gold and is filled with compassion for his friends. You don’t have to be all happy-go-lucky to be a good per, err, donkey, after all. - Julian Spivey
Heidi Hall and Alea Jeremiah contributed to this article.
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the films being covered here wouldn't exist.
by Philip Price
Director: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi & Ari Cohen
Rated: R (drug use and some language)
Runtime: 1 hour & 53 minuts
I've seen five of Sofia Coppola's eight narrative feature films (“Virgin Suicides,” “Marie Antoinette” and “Somewhere” are my blind spots) and the trapped, isolated, lonely woman is an obvious recurring theme in her work. This is no doubt what attracted the writer/director to Priscilla Presley's 1985 memoir Elvis and Me on which Priscilla is based. Telling the story of Priscilla's courtship with Elvis, beginning in 1959 when she was only 14 and Elvis was 24, Coppola's film very much feels like a collection of very specific instances and memories Presley recalls during the 13 years their lives crossed paths. These moments clearly left an indelible mark on what was otherwise a smitten teenager, but that would seemingly shape Presley into the woman she became; in many ways showing her a life she didn't necessarily want to lead. What makes Coppola's film so engaging are the conflicted feelings Presley experiences throughout her relationship with Elvis while the lack of any real momentum combined with a general knowledge of the events and timeline the film covers lend the film no real urgency regardless of the importance of this perspective.
In last year's Baz Luhrman-directed, Austin Butler-starring “Elvis,” the scene in which Elvis meets Priscilla for the first time occurs just over an hour into the film after which it manages to distill this courtship down into a five-minute scene making Priscilla much more brash in the process which is notable given Cailee Spaeny's portrayal is far more reserved. Priscilla herself seemed thrilled with Luhrman's biopic but is also an executive producer on this film making the gray area all the more fuzzy. I wouldn't say “Priscilla” necessarily paints Elvis in a bad light as much as it does very much a man of his own time who handled his fame in the only way that seemed reasonable given the circumstances. Coppola's interpretation certainly makes it clear Elvis could be controlling (telling his young bride what to wear and how to style her hair), quick to lose his temper at the slightest sense of resistance, and would straight-up flirt with other women right in front of Priscilla's face, but the adapted screenplay also recognizes she is this man's safe haven and as much as she desired to do things for herself, she desired to serve that purpose for him as well. Now, I know what you're thinking, and it's a strong, "Hell no!" which is completely understandable and as a parent of a nine-year-old girl who couldn't stop considering how 14 is only five years off at several points during this viewing experience, I wholeheartedly agree. That said, and as previously stated, this is the crux of the arc we're meant to invest in and in that regard, the film does its job.
Where it lost me was the lack of presenting any real core to the relationship, highlighting no real evidence of a connection so exceptional that Priscilla's presence rose above every other girl who fawned over Elvis along with the episodic nature of the pacing. We go from Germany in 1959 and the quiet, first encounters of these two strangers - one with a vast knowledge of and admiration for the other whereas Elvis had no inclination as to who Priscilla was. In fact, it kind of feels like Elvis initially only finds that aforementioned solace in Priscilla's presence because he's homesick, his mother has recently passed, and she is not only from back home, but the same region as him which proves to be what he needed at that moment in his life. On the other hand, such an experience must have been completely surreal for a 14-year-old fan who probably shouldn't have been put in this position in the first place. Priscilla's parents (Ari Cohen and Dagmara Dominczyk) find themselves in a tough spot trying to give their daughter some clemency for taking her away from her home and her friends, but despite the appeal and overwhelming charm Elvis no doubt displayed there is a part of them that had to know the kind of life they were submitting their daughter for no matter how much blowback they might receive initially. I get it, it’s the kind of once in a lifetime scenario you kind of have to see play out, but the fact of the matter is she was still far too young for them to even consider Elvis’ requests. This obviously is no fault of the film though how Priscilla herself chooses to defend/view Elvis' advances at her young age is one of the more fascinating aspects of this telling.
The second and third acts of the film essentially break down into the second and third phases of their relationship meaning Priscilla moves to Memphis while still in high school so Elvis can see her more frequently in between movie shoots and eventually their marriage which only actually lasted six years (a fact I was admittedly surprised by). Though I haven’t read Priscilla’s book I’m interested to hear how Coppola’s film compares to the line Presley walked regarding what she revealed and what she kept to herself. The film never explicitly states the first time Elvis and Priscilla had sex only that he was keen to “wait for the right time”. There are two, maybe three insert shots of Priscilla with karate instructor Mike Stone which was a known affair, but again, the film doesn’t disclose this information as much as it does suggest it. While I understand the intent of this style given Coppola feels like the type of filmmaker who might take dailies to Presley and ask her if this is what a certain event feels like in her memory it also suggests she sacrifices some of the further confliction in Priscilla’s genuine love for Elvis that is challenged by her desire to lead a life of her own, something she would never have as long as they were together. It is this lack of emphasis on the relationship itself and more the commitment in tone to memory being more of a poet than a historian that makes what we’re seeing feel if not unfair, certainly biased. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this choice (it’s arguably more ambitious), but by the final shot of the film I couldn’t help but feel we’d learned about as much as the film had earned … not a whole lot. All of that said, having never seen Jacob Elordi in anything prior, he is very good here.
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the films being covered here wouldn't exist.
by Philip Price
Director: Kurtis David Harder
Starring: Emily Tennant, Rory J Spear & Cassandra Naud
Rated: Not Rated (Nudity, Violence & Language)
Runtime: 1 hour & 32 minutes
As vapid as the title might suggest this is, “Influencer” is actually one of the better (if not the best) horror/thriller I've seen this year. Like so many films these days this isn't necessarily presenting us with anything new, but what it's doing it's doing at a really high level. I love a movie that's smarter than it knows you're going to assume it is based on exterior factors and “Influencer” almost certainly takes advantage of its Shudder distribution, no marquee cast, and derisive title as each contributes to a certain kind of trashy B-movie perception that makes the fact this is actually a smart, twisty take on the role of social media not just in our lives but in the world at large all the better as said commentary is much more astute than it is mocking; never losing itself in its sermon, but instead letting the character choices and tone speak for themselves.
Not only does director Kurtis David Harder (who also co-wrote the movie with Tesh Guttikonda) take advantage of the preconceived notions around his film, but he then steps it up further to convince us we're watching something made with real intent and awareness of style (as well as some vast knowledge of the genre) by managing to have his film aesthetically look like the staged, phony world presented via Instagram while also coming off as a credible feature film with purpose. Further, (and this is when I really knew we were in good hands) Harder drops the title card for his film thirty minutes into the runtime. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but the placement within the story and the way it combines with the soundtrack to kind of deftly say to the audience, "Okay, let's really get going now..." not only enhances the pacing but revives interest in where the narrative could possibly go given the end of the first act feels rather finite. The fact the very next scene follows the character I didn't expect us to stick with told me all I needed to know about what might happen over the next hour and that was that I didn't know anything at all.
And while the second act of the film is saddled with a lot of explaining this execution is also cleverly handled as it works both in harmony as well as in contrast with the events of the first act. Employing tricks of the trade to manipulate the tone of a procedure we've already seen work successfully to then feel more menacing is not a new trick of the trade in and of itself, but it is especially effective in this instance given the flexibility of Cassandra Naud's CW who seems to only know how to interact with people by scanning them upon meeting them and figuring out what type of person they want in their life and then immediately becoming that person. This of course makes Naud's performance a barn burner as she alternates between identities depending on her audience, but more so it serves as the - if not exactly subtle - very savvy commentary concerning how social media has enhanced and distorted the tendencies already inherent in human interaction.
By the final half hour of the film, things have gone so awry for each character in such unexpected fashions that it's genuinely hard to say where the film might land regarding each of the arcs in play which (naturally) continues to make it exciting. The boyfriend role (Rory J Saper) is the weak link of the movie in terms of both performance and subtext, which is tough considering he factors into the final act quite heavily, but there is an interesting transformation taking place even if Saper isn't compelling enough to fully land the plane on why. Moreover, the underlying yet most distinct theme in “Influencer” is that of loneliness. The film doesn't revolve around this idea meaning it doesn't have long, lingering shots of characters sitting alone staring at their screens so as to inspire contemplations of what they present to the world versus how they truly feel, but it does investigate how easy it is to become the person your acquaintances would like in their life and therefore how easy it is to become lost without someone to guide you; to base your personality off of.
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the films being covered here wouldn't exist.
by Philip Price
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles & Gemma Chan
Rated: PG-13 (violence & language)
Runtime: 2 hours & 13 minutes
“The Creator” is visually absorbing if not thematically so. Though the ideas it's playing with and tropes it's utilizing may not be as shallow as they initially appear they tend to feel cursory due to the fact writer/director Gareth Edwards (“Rogue One”) never finds the right groove for his film to slide into. “The Creator” is ultimately a movie of fits and starts in which each new promise of something exciting and/or interesting never fully delivers on as much.
It's an odd feeling, really, given mere minutes into the film I was bowled over by the authenticity imbued on an image of a massive spacecraft hovering over a more natural (and clearly real) location. I'm a sucker for when films can integrate futuristic or not yet realized elements into a more common and recognizable environment and Edwards has a great eye for such combinations that really allow both components to pop, but while I was immediately in on the aesthetic I kept wondering when I was going to be made to care or even be wowed by anything other than the framing.
Aside from a few in-world inventions, performance moments (largely from Madeleine Yuna Voyles in a really wonderful and really complicated role for a child to play), along with some questionable story turns there wasn't anything that made me sit up in a way that I was inclined to lean forward. Rather, I kind of shifted my weight to the other armrest to consider why the film didn't seem interested in leaning into its ideas either. The mission is fairly straightforward, but the intentions are not … always. Weirdly, and despite admitting it was beings operating on artificial intelligence who nuked Los Angeles, “The Creator” is determined to convince us the only thing left of our souls are the fingerprints we left on the programming within the robots we're now at war with.
Joshua's (John David Washington) entire arc is that of going from the former soldier who harbors hate for robots coming around on them because of an emotional connection meant to be a revelatory moment in the third act yet we know that he knows this child is not real, that it is just programming, and that despite what feelings may have developed, underneath we are not all the same. Many a parallel could be drawn around the analogous nature of the story and I certainly understand the validity of what feels real sometimes holding more merit and importance than what may be factual, but strictly in terms of the debate around A.I. - this feels like an odd time to make this argument.
Whether future viewings occur or not, I'd like to believe there is more going on underneath the surface than my initial screening would indicate as I haven't yet worked out the potential meaning for having Joshua and Alphie's desires be so aligned and greater than that of the semantics taking place around them that they're unwillingly caught up in. I do know that the concept of transferring someone's last moments of consciousness to a robot via flash drive so that others may share in them or gain information from them was pretty sick, that Ralph Ineson's voice is just insane, and that I didn't really clock Hans Zimmer's score at all despite this being right square in the middle of his wheelhouse which was ... disappointing ... to say the least; much like the experience overall.
by Philip Price
Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Ben Mendelsohn & Garrett Hedlund
Rating: R (violence)
Runtime: 1 hour & 49 minutes
Director Neil Burger (“Limitless,” “Divergent”) is a reliable set of hands to place your stock adaptation of a popular airport thriller in and if nothing else, “The Marsh King’s Daughter” demonstrates just how dependable Burger is at executing, if not elevating what could easily be dismissed as a Lifetime movie. Ironically, this is the kind of psychological drama audiences would flock to theaters to see in decades past when such material was placed in the hands of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Alan Pakula. Though it's highly doubtful this adaptation of Karen Dionne's 2017 bestseller will shape any future box office trends it is nice to see something like “The Marsh King’s Daughter” - a movie with good bones, a strong premise, and something of a movie star in Daisy Ridley's roundabout franchise way - getting a wide release as any option for a sequel or opportunity to franchise are seemingly completely off the table.
As refreshing as all this might feel in our current cinematic landscape, there is unfortunately still something rather rote about the experience of “The Marsh King’s Daughter” for, while those bones are solid, Burger's film doesn't really stand to support much depth or a stand-out performance that takes it beyond the genre stratosphere. There is potential for such, whether that be in exploring the current state of Ridley's Helena Pelletier who is in a constant state of trying to convince herself that the life she's leading is the right one after finding out the one person she believed in the most was really a monster; the movie naturally taking place when this person, this father figure, comes back into her life after 20 years. Or, one of these actors might have taken the opportunity to really infuse the material with some electricity (ahem, Ben Mendelsohn), but instead, things are played fairly safe and straightforward leaving the movie feeling predictable and uninspired.
It's easy to miss some of the directorial choices Burger makes that add some subtlety and nuance to the father/daughter relationship between Mendelsohn's titular character AKA Jacob Holbrook and Ridley, but while the film and the performance do a good job of allowing Mendelsohn's presence to loom over much of the proceedings we never truly feel we understand the guy's motivations even when he states them plainly. We don't buy it. Furthermore, it almost feels as if Mendelsohn should have leaned more in one direction or the other to either emphasize how much of a loose cannon Holbrook could be or make him more of an enigma; showing remorse for his actions despite his inability to control his impulses. Either choice might have then amplified the profundity of the ramifications his actions had on his daughter who has spent the majority of her life figuring out what pieces of her father, if any, she should keep and how she exists outside of his influence, if at all.
The film has something of a prologue showing us the appeal of Holbrook to his daughter (played in flashback by Brooklynn Prince) which also serves as a blueprint for where/how the story will unfold as well as outlining the character's inclinations and conditioning so that we understand and believe their choices later. We see the instillation of Helena's pessimism, the ruthlessness of Holbrook and his lack of pity or sympathy in any situation. I mention this prologue specifically because it includes some of the best moments in the film in terms of tension and character work. Convincingly painting a portrait of how someone, especially an impressionable child, can come to have positive feelings toward a captor and sympathy for their causes while developing negative feelings toward outside authority figures. The first 20 or so minutes of the film highlight this turn while the remaining hour and a half feels as if it never finds its footing in trying to dissect how one undoes that damage and indoctrination. A special shoutout to Caren Pistorius though, who plays Helena's mother and whose eyes and expressions in certain scenarios say more than any dialogue could.
The final climactic sequence carries some impressive stunt work and thrilling action, but if you're coming to the film because you believe it to be an action thriller, I'm afraid you'll leave pretty disappointed as most of the action is contained to the third act. While a lack of chase sequences or shootouts might prove disappointing for some, I doubt they would be as disappointed in the film as a whole as I was in the lack of attention paid to Ridley and Garrett Hedlund's marriage in the film. Nothing about the relationship makes sense. Like, we get that Helena is supposed to be permanently distant from everyone in her life outside of her own daughter - which, is another can of worms this doesn't really dive into - but there are certain, specific shots that would seemingly be included for very specific reasons that are never addressed otherwise. It's as if a whole subplot was cut that deals with Helena's inability to function in a normal, loving relationship and all that's left are these remnants that make her as a person as well as Ridley's performance feel unnatural. Which, I guess is what I was asking for when I said something needed to rise above the routine here, but these oddities don't so much elevate “The Marsh King’s Daughter” as they do signal a lack of investment in this kind of storytelling.
by Philip Price
I had no idea what this was about or that it was based on a novel going in, I only knew that David Slade made an underrated banger in “30 Days of Night” that I liked when I was 20 and that one AFI music video back in the day, but damn! I didn't expect this!
I love a movie that completely creates its own world and in the case of “Dark Harvest” builds something of an alternative reality while also being a period piece set in the 1960s. Establishing the rules of this world while also keeping plenty of mystery intact Slade's adaptation of Norman Partridge's story balances this task and tone with great atmosphere (Slade bathes nearly every shot in the blue moonlight) that, along with Brian Reitzell's really cool score, emphasizes the heightened experience of it all while somehow still landing some emotional pull and thematic resonance by the final act.
It should also be noted that the film's antagonist, a Pumpkinhead-esque creature named Sawtooth Jack (which maybe should have been the name of the movie?), is a real treat in terms of conceptualization and execution. It's clear “Dark Harvest” doesn't have the biggest budget, but the practical effects work utilized to bring him to life and conduct his movement are especially chilling while also showing off a few tricks when it comes to the slick, but gnarly kills he doles out.
It may get a little too far out there to land for some, but the ideas around getting so lost in a system or tradition that we lose sight of the purpose of our actions are really driven home by Casey Likes' frustration and anger as he tears through the town on Halloween night. It also doesn't hurt that Luke Kirby is just all the way going for it and loving it.
I was 10 years old when I watched the VH1 “Behind the Music” episode about Milli Vanilli and it was the first time I'd heard of them or the scandal around them. I think it may have premiered even before Rob's death, though when I was watching this new documentary I for some reason thought Rob had committed suicide by jumping from a building or hotel room.
Anyway, the point is, I realized there were a lot of assumptions I'd made or been led to believe about the Milli Vanilli story while watching director Luke Korem's film as the crux of this recounting is whose idea the whole hoax was in the first place. There is still speculation to be had as no one owns up to things outright (Fab has his version, Ingrid Segieth has hers, and Frank Farian - at 82 years old - didn't care to talk about it), but there is kind of a bias based not only on what we want to be true but given the tone of the talking head interviews from both Fab and Ingrid.
We will never know the absolute, 100% truth of what went down in that studio in Germany, but like the thesis the documentary settles on, it doesn't seem that debate matters all that much when one considers the heartbreak caused by the repercussions of the scandal. Mostly, the regret we see in the stories these people tell has been overcome, but it is the tinge of sadness knowing it didn't have to go down the way it did that will forever resonate and is what lends Korem's film a genuine soul.
"Milli Vanilli" is streaming on Paramount+.
by Philip Price
Director: David Yates
Starring: Emily Blunt, Chris Evans & Andy Garcia
Rated: R (language, some sexual content, nudity & drug use)
Runtime: 2 hours & 2 minutes
Between dramatized series' like “Dopesick” and “Painkiller” to last year's unanimously praised documentary “All The Beauty And The Bloodshed” the whole world of the pharmaceutical scam and opioid crisis in America has been well-documented over the last few years. Director David Yates seemed to be in luck despite this barrage of similarly-themed content though, as I've only seen the Nan Goldin doc meaning this fictionalized telling of Evan Hughes' 2018 investigative feature of the same name was essentially fresh territory for me. That said, it's unfortunate “Pain Hustlers” or the first feature from Yates that has not been authored by J.K. Rowling since 2014's “Tarzan” and the first non-IP film he's made since 2005 is something he only seems tangentially connected to. That is to say that Yates, a Brit through and through, might have had a vision for how to tell this story when he read Hughes' piece, but he likely found this distinctly American story just that therefore implying the type of vision he then defaulted to.
That default is naturally Scorsese-light as “Pain Hustlers” echoes recent output like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and similar films that came along in its wake a la “The Big Short,” “War Dogs” and most recently “Dumb Money.” Each of these films centers around unqualified individuals stumbling into incredible (if not always legal) situations that garner them untold amounts of money who then have to balance their greed with their inexperience before getting caught. As a piece of entertainment, this moves quickly and offers enough broad insight coupled with reaches for genuine emotion to track as something worthy of your time while being informative either as a whole or about certain aspects of this crisis not yet exposed. As a novice on the subject, I found the idea at its core - the exploitation of helping people for profit rather than the greater good - naturally compelling and the details of it fascinating which made me wonder why, by the close of the film, I had no real reaction to what I'd just experienced.
Given the "outrageous" elements of the story and the long list of endearing talent on screen, it would seem this was a winner, and that Yates should stick to making more grounded material rather than return to the Wizarding World, right? Maybe so, but what is ultimately so underwhelming about “Pain Hustlers” is that despite having all the right pieces in play, that default vision results in something more rote than revolutionary. I'm not even saying this needed to be revolutionary (the movie is middle-of-the-road fine) and I'm not even saying it couldn't feel familiar (“Dumb Money” was absolutely derivative yet I bought into the protagonist as a real person), but while I know it wasn't his intent, it looks and feels as if Yates processed what he shot through a filter of snappy editing, funky soundtracks and pretty people doing despicable things that mimics more than it makes it its own meaning it doesn't feel much like it matters. A kind of perfect illustration of all bark, no bite.
It's a difficult thing to explain. The timing isn't the best, the execution is uninspired, and while I have always adored Emily Blunt as a performer I don't know that I buy her as Liza Drake - a former stripper who lies her way into a pharma rep position only to have her work ethic and ingenuity take her farther than anyone else in the company - or more worrisome, I don't know that either myself or the movie buys Drake as someone with the ability to grow a conscience. The movie is framed with these talking head interviews with different members of the cast (which is all Chris Evans does here: provide context and exposition) and they set up Drake as this ruthless, conniving businesswoman who takes no prisoners and would die before donating a dollar to charity, but by the end of the film we're led to believe the resolution of the film rests on her being the complete opposite. Honestly, Andy Garcia as this eccentric John Kapoor-type figurehead comes out best (every time it showed his real dog standing next to an identical plush I lost it), but at least “Pain Hustlers” gifts us the present of Brian d'Arcy James singing "Closing Time" making this not the calamity its characters find themselves in, but still ... not good ... and not nearly as savage as it should have been.