‘Pinocchio’ (2022) Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Disney live-action remakes have been a hit or a miss and it’s because some don’t recapture the magic. Animated films have no bounds and many things can be experimented with when it comes to the design of characters and storytelling. Pinocchio is a story that has always been dark and a bit bleak for young children to watch. It only had two memorable songs, including the stunning “When You Wish Upon A Star”, but it’s not objectively a Disney favourite. Sure, it’s a classic, but it doesn’t have the same rewatch factor as the other films in the vault. Many other filmmakers revamped the story multiple times but never remade by Disney. 

This 2022 version of Pinocchio is updated and there is even a new character named Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya) who tries to help Pinocchio. With the story being very linear with three specific obstacles Pinocchio has to overcome, the film feels like it is just hitting the marks it needs to get by. There’s no emotional connection between Pinocchio and Geppetto (Tom Hanks) at all. The performances felt a bit empty and it’s because the magic that comes with the animated version wasn’t there. The movie felt very off and it’s hard to even put a finger on why it felt that way. There seemed to be a disconnect between the timeless story and the film’s production as a whole. 

The downfall of Pinocchio is the VFX work. Each animated character looked unfinished and the movements were not as fluid as they should have been. The cinematic level of Disney films has changed because of the quality on Disney Plus and it’s not working. There’s a disconnect between the artists, the original animated film, and the actual characters that it looks incomplete. The Pleasure Island sequence is probably the best part of the movie because everything looked grand. It’s also the one time Pinocchio showed some emotions that were visible on his face. His story is all about learning how to trust others around him and understanding right from wrong. Towards the end of the movie that’s when we get a bit more depth. 

Pinocchio is a Disney live-action remake that feels the most disconnected from the original animated feature in 1938. It didn’t feel like the characters were living in this world at all with Geppetto and it comes down to the special effects not looking believable. There are also adult jokes by Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) that don’t land and it may be because of the accent that was used. Director Robert Zemeckis goes through the motions in retelling a Disney classic and unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything new to uplift the original animated feature. His story always had great messaging for children and there were many lessons to be learned but it all gets lost in a by-the-numbers retelling of the story.

‘Prey’ Movie

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Predator franchise has been going strong for years, and not all of the films in the franchise have been winners. Many were apprehensive about Prey being a prequel, but it worked. Director Dan Trachtenberg went back to the roots of the meaning of predator and reworked it to fit the natural way of life on Indigenous lands. In the Comanche Nation in 1719, a fierce and highly skilled warrior named Naru (Amber Midthunder) learns the prey she is stalking is a highly evolved alien with a technologically advanced arsenal. Fans of the original franchise have seen what the alien is capable of, but this prequel showcases its skills differently. Even though they went back to basics, Trachtenberg added another layer to the franchise by using basic animal instincts and survival in the wild. 

The reason why Prey works as a prequel is because of how simple the story was. It wasn’t overstuffed with political jargon that is linked to the government. It felt like an open world with survival mode on high for these characters. Also, it bodes well that the highly skilled warrior is a woman and Midthunder did a great job carrying the film alongside her brother and the rest of the tribe. It just felt like the most natural form of storytelling for a predator film. Naru is highly skilled in tracking and they utilized that when going out into the wild trying to find their friends. The tension that was built throughout, just by them walking through the forest was really strong. The score and sound design also helped amplify those moments of nervousness from Naru. It was so well-paced because of the instincts and pathway to tracking the alien. 

The action scenes were impressive because of how the VFX artists played into the character design for the alien. The invisibility and thermal vision were both effectively used throughout. The invisibility is what impressed me the most because of the way the kills were executed. It almost shielded the viewer from witnessing the brutality against the animals. It added so much tension to the scenes with Naru’s dog because he could have been next. From the action set pieces to the quiet, more intimate moments in the forest, Trachtenberg immersed the viewer into Naru’s world for the entire runtime of the film. This prequel does the Predator franchise justice and if anything, made it more intriguing to a new generation of fans. 

Prey is one of the biggest surprises of the summer and, unfortunately, it won’t be getting a theatrical release. If you’re a fan of the Predator franchise then you will love what Trachtenberg did with this prequel. It gives roots to a franchise that had so much success over the years, only to validate its place in sci-fi action history as one of the strongest out there. Midthunder was the standout all the way through and carried the film on her shoulders. Without her compelling performance, especially her tracking the alien and adapting to its movements, it could have been a different movie. She draws you in with her eyes and then locks you in with her subtle movements. As someone who has never been a fan of the franchise, this prequel has made me want to go back and watch them all. 

Prey will be released on Hulu and Disney Star on Friday, August 5th.

‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 2 Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Welcome back to the Arconia, Only Murders in the Building fans! This time the mystery-solving trio gets a sequel to their podcast as they try to solve Bunny’s (Jayne Houdyshell) murder. The cliffhanger in season one worked well and now poor Mabel (Selena Gomez) is at the forefront. Everyone is accusing her of being the murderer. So in this season, Mabel, Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin) have to clear their names. Charles kicks off the season by narrating what it’s like to live as a famous person in New York City, and then as an infamous person that people can’t stand to look at. It sets the tone for how each episode is structured, which makes for a very engaging season two. 

Season two introduces some new characters: Mabel’s love interest, Alice Banks (Cara Delevingne), Bunny’s mother, Leonora Folger (Shirley MacLaine), the new building manager, Nina Lin (Christine Ko), Charles’s daughter, Lucy (Zoe Colletti), and Amy Schumer moves into Sting’s apartment. All of these new characters come into play and are used as red herrings throughout the season. The beauty of season two is that John Hoffman and Steve Martin know how to construct a story within an episode, while also having it flow into the larger scale of the story. As the trio attempts to clear their names, the new people they meet have them blinded by the charm of someone new.

Not only do they focus on the murder of Bunny, but Hoffman and Martin also highlight how New York has changed. The world doesn’t value these old monuments in the city, it’s always about reconstructing the history. And isn’t that what we all do in our minds when memories get a little foggy? In a way, there is a parallel in the world surrounding the Arconia and the characters. Each episode explores an event from a character’s past that can be used to play into the investigation. The writing is strong this season because we get more of a backstory on Charles and Oliver. They both have been through so much and they are starting to deal with their past this season. The tactics that they have both used in the past prove to be useful for their podcast.

Only Murders in the Building consistently surprises viewers in every single episode because of how well it’s crafted. It’ll present a new idea at the beginning of the episode, give some backstory on the characters, and then tie it all together in the end with the investigation. It is such an entertaining show and the chemistry between Martin, Gomez, and Short has just grown stronger this season. Be prepared for a wild, hilarious, mystery in season two because this series is just getting started. There are many cameos and endless possibilities as to where this show can go. The show is unique to the whodunit subgenre, all while modernizing it with a podcast. Such great work all around. Make sure to check out new episodes every Tuesday on Disney Plus! 

‘Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Many of us grew up with Disney cartoons on Saturday morning and Rescue Rangers was one of those shows. Two cute little chipmunks with squeaky voices and some great detective instincts made a show worth watching. Chip and Dale both have been with Disney since the very beginning and they’re almost on the level of Donald, Mickey, and Pluto. Even if you haven’t heard the theme song in a while, once you hear it in Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers all those memories come back in an instant. Having John Mulaney voice Chip and Andy Samberg voice Dale complimented the characters so well. It’s funny, fresh, and kind of emotional when it comes to the friendship they share.

After thirty years that their popular television show ended, chipmunks Chip and Dale live very different lives. When a cast member from the original series mysteriously disappears, the pair must reunite to save their friend. Co-writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand created a backstory for Chip and Dale that created an emotional connection to their friendship from the start. Anyone can relate to Chip and Dale because they both felt like outcasts in school before they met each other. After one lunch together, they performed until they became stars of their show. There are many surprises in this movie and the characters are very self-aware about the movie they’re in. 

Having established comedians like Mulaney and Samberg helped the characters of Chip and Dale develop into actual performers. They suited the characters extremely well, but you can see the straight man and wise guy trope between them. So it does feel like a buddy cop comedy, but also an old-fashioned tag team in regards to their comedic background. Our favourite chipmunks meet many other animated characters along the way and meet some odd characters in the uncanny valley. What was most impressive about this movie is the diverse animation used throughout for different characters. There is such a mixture of character designs from 2D to 3D that make this one unique.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a very fun time for the whole family. It feels very nostalgic but at the same time, it doesn’t rely on the nostalgia to tell the detective story in this sequel/reboot/remake. It was funny hearing characters in a Disney movie talk about sequels and reboots while they are in the middle of a remake themselves. It does get away from them a bit in the middle because they stretched out the story to fill time, or else the sentimental value of their friendship and how long they’ve known each other packed the emotional punch by the end of this film. Make sure to check out this Disney original film this weekend on Disney Plus!

Interview: ‘The Quest’ On Disney Plus Presents A New Prince With Elliott Ross

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Quest on Disney Plus offers fans of the Fantasy genre to dive into the world itself. It is a ground-breaking immersive competition series that drops eight young people into the fantastic, fictional world of Everealm, where they must save a Kingdom by fulfilling an ancient prophecy. Audiences have fallen in love with the fantasy genre because it is the truest form of escapism. When playing video games, reading a book, or watching a series, any fantasy world that is created can become a haven for so many. Disney has made a show for teenagers to believe in their power within to become a warrior on their terms. 

When Elliott Ross came across The Quest it was one project that he wanted to work on. As someone who is a diehard Lord of the Rings fan, he needed to be part of a fantasy television series. Ross plays Prince Cedric in the series and lights up the screen in every scene he is in. He has been honing his craft for over 12 years in London, until recently when he relocated to LA. He has a strong theatrical background, having worked at The RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe and on London’s West End. Ross has been passionate about studying his craft and exploring every avenue in the acting industry, “I think I just felt like the work didn’t feel like work, and I enjoyed being consumed by it.” Sometimes work is more of a calling and that’s what it feels like for Ross. 

This series presents a new concept that allows fans of the fantasy genre to be more interactive with it. It fuses the fantastical realm of Everealm with regular teenagers who have always wanted to be part of that world. To be able to add the twist of a competition show, while structuring a narrative that fits the fantasy genre on top of that is impressive. Disney Plus has been able to construct new, interesting concepts that can have fans of any genre come together to work on something different. Ross loves the fantasy genre and when he found out that he was working with producer Mark Ordesky (Lord of the Rings), it was a dream come true,

“I was riding through the forest during a night shoot and I just kind of, I just took the moment in. I looked at the forest and I looked at the armor I was wearing and it looked like I was in Lord of the Rings. And I was like dude, this is my dream. I’m living my dream.”

– Elliott Ross, The Quest

It has been known that Disney always makes dreams come true for so many children all over the world. But little do people know, that actors who make-believe for a living also get the chance to fulfill their dreams in the projects they produce. Even though Ross plays a Prince in The Quest, he carries the same poise and kindness in his own life. When talking about his future and how he wants to grow his platform, he wants to share his resources to help others. He has had a passion for writing and in his next step, he is currently developing a TV comedy series script that explores modern patriarchal masculinity. Ross wants to use his platform to have an open discussion with his fans and others who have struggled with the process. He wants to be able to touch upon all of the sensitive topics while having a respectful dialogue in his series. 

Courtesy of Disney Plus

Ross has been able to explore every avenue of this industry and he has gained some wisdom as he creates this pathway for himself. After going through many projects and auditions, he has some advice for upcoming actors trying to make their way in the industry,

“I would say to young actors is it’s to not worry so much about the conventional way, because it doesn’t happen for everyone. It’s not easy to get into drama school and it’s, you know, not everyone gets to audition for all the projects. You have to make your own path through it. And I think with that in mind, it’s very important that young actors don’t get carried away in focusing on the big dreams. So my main piece of advice is focus on what is in front of you and focus on the next step.”

– Elliott Ross, The Quest

By creating your own path in life and not comparing yourself to others, you will be more fulfilled. Social media has also affected everyone’s mental health and motivation because of this constant comparison to other people. Ross believes that if you take it one step at a time and focus on what’s in front of you, you will be able to achieve anything. More importantly, you must surround yourself with people who will uplift you and support you while you navigate your life. Similar to the series The Quest, even though you’re in healthy competition with others, they’re all in the same boat trying to reach the same goal, but everyone is different. Ross has been working on his craft for some time now and his hard work has paid off because he now has a platform to help others.

All eight episodes of The Quest are available now on Disney Plus