Sunday 29 September 2013

Disney Renaissance - Worst to Best

Walt Disney Animation Studios' return to success was fairly recent; most people believed it began with 2010's Tangled, which earned $590 million worldwide and became the studio's second highest grossing film of all time. Public interest in the animation powerhouse, which saw a horrendous slump in the 2000s, only continued with 2012's Wreck-It Ralph, which earned $471 million worldwide and an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. Disney are set to continue their winning streak later this year with Frozen, a CGI adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen.

But most of us remember the studio from the 1990s, when it dominated the animation market with high blockbuster films featuring big name actors, surprisingly high budgets and big pay checks upon release. Most people like to heavily discuss this time period known as the Disney Renaissance - so, as a loyal Disney fan, it seems only fitting to give you my worst to best list of the films from this era. Let's begin...

#10 - Pocahontas (1995)

Disney's first take on a historic figure was a successful move for their bank account; Pocahontas continues to hold the record for the largest film premiere of all time and closed its theatrical run with $346 million worldwide. However, critically, things aren't so hot - Pocahontas is an extremely bland film, lacking any substance or charm within its characters and having some of the most forced romance of all time. An effort to make the human characters move realistically falls flat, as the animation is sluggish and very unnatural. Alongside its neighbouring films in this time period, Pocahontas is easily forgotten and should stay that way.

#9 - The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

With a box office gross of just $27 million, The Rescuers Down Under enjoyed little success and is seldom viewed as a Renaissance film - but it was released during this Disney-envy time frame and so still qualifies. Much like Pocahontas, it's largely very bland and uninteresting, but manages to keep audiences hooked with slightly more enticing characters. Its plot and pacing aren't its strongest points, and it's not surprising this Disney flick never got off the ground.

#8 - Hercules (1997)


Hercules turned out to be a very modest success, earning $252 million worldwide during its theatrical run. It is the starting point on this list for the brilliant Renaissance films, but even it has some flaws; it's rather goofy and the jokes don't always work, paving the way for an overdose of humour during inappropriate scenes. When it's funny, however, it's really funny, and manages to still develop wonderful characters, a touching narrative and a decent if generic Disney romance. Good stuff!

#7 - Aladdin (1992)

When released in 1992, Aladdin became one of Disney's most profitable films by earning $504 million worldwide on a very modest $28 million budget. Part of its success is often attributed to Robin Williams' casting as the Genie, who fuels the films excellent sense of humour. Though very enjoyable and aesthetically stunning, Aladdin slips up just a tad with some serious plot holes (snake staff) which sometimes destroy the script's established logic. Still a very good film, though!

#6 - The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame cost $100 million to make - to see a hand drawn film with such a high budget was astounding, but the film thankfully covered costs with a worldwide gross of $325 million. It's a very new approach for Disney - focusing on very dark source material and strong themes, which it does its best to stay faithful to. It doesn't always embrace its dramatic heights, but the film still has a broad appeal and ultimately delivers a very powerful story.

#5 - Mulan (1998)

Disney's approach to another popular legend of course adds its own comedic and light hearted twists, but it still manages to be a very thematic and entertaining film for kids and adults alike. Shan Yu is a badass if bland Disney villain with an ideally sinister motive, and Mulan's disguise as a man paves the way for some very witty jokes and appropriate tension. Mulan banked $304 million worldwide when released in 1998, making it another highly successful blockbuster for Disney.

#4 - The Little Mermaid (1989)

The Little Mermaid holds the merit for spearheading the entire Renaissance period when it grossed $211 million worldwide, unable to reach the desired $100 million domestically but eventually doing so after a 1997 rerelease. It is admittedly a very underdeveloped romance, but its fairy tale atmosphere negates any serious concerns and allows for a very touching and funny story with one of Disney's best villains to date.

#3 - Tarzan (1999)

Tarzan was the most expensive 2D animated film until Disney's own Treasure Planet topped it - the film cost $130 million, which seems strange but is quite evident when you really watch the film exploit its gorgeous visual style. Using new technology at the time, animators were able to paint in 3D spaces, creating gorgeous brushstroke CGI sets - characters could then be hand drawn and pasted onto the sets to allow dynamic camera movement and thrilling set pieces. Tarzan is also as emotionally engaging as it is visually stunning, with charming characters, a great villain and powerful morals. Its budget didn't prevent success, either - the film earned $448 million worldwide and remains one of Disney's highest earners today.

#2 - Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Regarded by many as the best Disney film of all time, Beauty and the Beast was nominated for a whopping six Oscars when released to cinemas - including the very first Best Picture nomination for an animated film. The titular characters share a beautiful bond developed at a pleasant pace, and Disney continue their widespread appeal with loveable supporting characters and excellent music. After a 2012 3D rerelease, Beauty and the Beast earned $424 million worldwide - and continues to enjoy huge fame and success today.

#1 - The Lion King (1994)

Alongside Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King remains one of Disney's most popular films in the eyes of general audiences and is still the highest grossing hand drawn animated film of all time. It earned $768 million during its initial release, which grew to an incredible $987 million after two rereleases. Everything is perfect with this film - the characters, the animation, the music, the songs, EVERYTHING. It has a strong heart and delivers its emotional moments genuinely and perfectly - there is simply nothing I can fault, which is why it remains not only my favourite Disney renaissance film - but my favourite film of all time.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Movie Review - Insidious: Chapter 2

Enjoying critical and commercial success back in 2011, Insidious was far from a masterpiece, with far too much focus on endless pounding of your ear drums above an eerie atmosphere, but compared to other takes on the genre in recent memory it was a strong effort. James Wan truly impressed the horror market in July with his stunning and frightening hit The Conjuring, and now just two months later he has returned with his long awaited Insidious sequel.

Following the events of Insidious, the Lambert family are grief stricken at the loss of Elise (Lin Shaye) and begin to notice that something is not right with Josh (Patrick Wilson), who remains in denial as the onslaught of ghosts and parasites continues to flood and terrorize their household. A plan is finally put into motion to save him from this strange curse, which leads to revelations of a familiar foe who has haunted Josh since he first discovered his supernatural abilities.

Generally horror films struggle with acting, because it's difficult to perform freaky intimidating villains just as much as it is to play scaredy cat protagonists. Insidious: Chapter 2 sadly kicks off with some noticeably shoddy dialogue and performances that clearly never developed beyond script read throughs. There are times when it all becomes a bit too corny, detracting from the beautiful atmosphere the film establishes with its gorgeous cinematography and sound design (the title music aside). Patrick Wilson easily steals the show, towering above the rest with his consistently good role - it's a shame the rest of the cast had to spend a while settling into their roles before it became convincing.

Though Insidious: Chapter 2 takes a while to get going, once everything is set and the unclear direction becomes more focused things really kick off. The ghostly villains are performed wonderfully, particularly a rather spooky role done by Danielle Bisutti. The Further is rendered beautifully as a dark, foggy but joyfully simple place and the story, while reasonably complex (and sadly at times a bit daft), never becomes overambitious. Frequent scares add a pleasantly unsettling vibe to the experience - but perhaps we could do without some of the melodramatic scripting and jumpies.

Insidious: Chapter 2 does nothing to stand out from the recent horror crowd aside from, well, being good. It's not a groundbreaking experience and resorts to clich├ęs more often than not; but an entertaining experience is consistent throughout the narrative and on an aesthetic scale everything is almost flawless. Above all, it's an enjoyable if uninspired sequel to a horror hit that didn't really need one, and should entertain any fans loyal to its acclaimed predecessor.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Top 5 Worst Customers

Many people have worked in a shop or in some sort of job involving customer service. It can be incredibly rewarding and incredibly frustrating. Customers are the most important aspect of these job roles, but they are also the most annoying aspect. It's a great feeling to serve and help a really polite and keen customer - but the good cannot exist without the bad, and those bad customers will always find a way to irritate and anger you. If you can relate, then keep reading - here are the worst types of customer to ever walk through shop doors.

#5 - The ones with trust issues

So a customer comes up to you and asks: 'excuse me, do you sell this?'. You are very confident that the shop does not stock such a product, yet the customer doesn't trust you because you're a Sales Assistant. I mean, you only work part time, what the hell would you know about your own workplace? So, right after asking you, they say thanks and skip off, then immediately find your manager or supervisor and ask them the same question - getting the same answer.

#4 - The ones without patience

Isn't so frustrating to visit the post office and be greeted by a long queue because only two of the six million till points are in use? Nobody likes waiting, including myself, but sometimes we have to bite the bullet and be patient. I wish some of my customers understood this. Our shop has 3 tills, and due to recent staffing problems, very rarely are all of them in use simultaneously. So every now and then, a queue builds, but there's nothing we can do as we do have other jobs to complete. Some customers cannot accept this, and come marching to the till angrily asking why they had to wait so long (so long being 30 seconds) and why all tills aren't in use. As is usually the case with me, they then spend ages preparing their money to pay - meaning that they didn't use their longer than usual wait to actually get their money out and make it all quicker. Most illogical.

#3 - The ones without manners

I work for a company that pays me. The company pays me. Not the customers. I technically owe them nothing, and I only serve them with a smile because I'm told to. So why do some think they have the right to talk to me in a hostile manner, or demand things because they feel they have control over me? Examples of this include customers who do not say excuse me or even hello, but come up behind you and say a product. Like, 'audio books?'. That's it. They literally ask that, expecting you to know that they're talking to you. Other times you get customers who go off in a huff when you kindly explain you don't stock an item, or cannot reduce the existing price of one. Or if you cannot bag an incredibly huge item because the company has not given your store big enough carriers. These customers should understand that people who work in a shop are still humans, and shouldn't be spoken to like fucking slaves.

#2 - The ones who try and bargain

When working at a charity shop in 2012, I had many rude customers come up to me and dispute the pricing of many products. For example, a small ornament was priced at £2, and a lady tried to buy it for half that price - insisting £2 was far too costly. Too many customers try and play dumb to get items at a lower price as well, for example a lady in our shop once found an item with £9.99 clearly written on it. When she was about to pay, she disputed the price, and found a large sticker with 4 written on it on the back of the product label. This was in fact a sticker from a stock take that we forgot to remove, but this was not an easy mistake - the number had no currency sign and was hidden away, whereas the official price tag was right on the front. The lady was simply trying to get away with not paying the full price.

#1 - The ones who can't accept NO

These customers are the worst and most inappropriate ones to ever exist. They want a product and you simply do not have it - you know this for sure, and you even ask your manager. They concur - the product is not in stock. Unlike the customers with trust issues, these customers won't put on a thankful pretense and ask someone else, but will just get annoyed. Sales Assistants, last time I checked, do not control the products of the shop and have no influence on the choices by Head Office. Customers are often too retarded to realize this, and instead question why you don't have the product, criticize the shop for lacking it or give you blank, perplexed stares followed by complaints. Some will even walk away in a huff, or ask you to order a product for them. We're not Amazon - we don't just stock everything for your convenience and order single items just because you're angry. The nerve of some people astounds me. If you're a customer who does this, then listen up: I hate you.

Thanks for reading!

Monday 9 September 2013

Birthday Times

It's that time of year again - today I turned 19 years old, which isn't as impressive as finally becoming a legal adult in 2012 but still good all the same. Also unlike 2012 is, annoyingly, my lack of a day off today - I am spending it at University (Arts University Bournemouth), which I began attending last week.

This year I got a few cool things: the first series of Friday Night Dinner on DVD, a deadkitten for my microphone, Star Trek Into Darkness on DVD and a new razor, sparing me from buying endless packs of shitty ones from Poundland. My girlfriend also got me, at my request, the first two seasons of Thomas & Friends on DVD and the recently released Diamond Edition of The Little Mermaid. Got lots of clothes too. Good stuff.

I've been out for a meal with my family to celebrate, and will soon be going bowling with my girlfriend and a couple of friends in the week. Fun times indeed!

PS: A deadkitten is a furry shield for a microphone to provide wind resistance in exterior locations. It is not a dead baby cat. End of.