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Movie Review: Disenchantment under the sea in live-action ‘The Little Mermaid’

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It’s not Rob Marshall’s fault that Disney’s latest live-action retread doesn’t really sing. “The Little Mermaid,” a somewhat drab undertaking with sparks of bioluminescence, suffers from the same fundamental issues that plagued “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Halle Bailey might be a lovely presence and possesses a superb voice that is distinctly different from Jodi Benson’s, but photorealistic fins, animals and environments do not make Disney fairy tales more enchanting on their own.

The essential problem is that the live-action films have prioritized nostalgia and familiarity over compelling visual storytelling. They try to recreate beats and shots from their animated predecessors, defiantly ignoring the possibility that certain musical sequences and choices were enchanting and vibrant because they were animated, not in spite of it.

This image released by Disney shows Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)

Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in “The Little Mermaid.” (Disney via AP)

There was, in the 1989 film, a sparkling awe to everything. The underwater castle. The mermaids. Eric’s ship. Even Ariel’s bright red hair. Combined with the wonderful songs and lyrics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, it’s not hard to understand why it helped fuel a Disney Animation renaissance.

Anyone who has gone through the recent Disney’s live-action library would be right to approach “The Little Mermaid” with caution. Still, there’s excitement as the camera takes us underwater to give us our first glimpse of the mermaids — even after a somewhat ominous quote from Hans Christian Anderson that begins the movie (“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers much more”). You can’t help but be hopeful. But the first mermaid that comes into focus doesn’t so much evoke wonder as it does a flashback of Ben Stiller’s merman in “Zoolander.” The technology is better, sure, but the result is about the same. Worse, as we spend more time with them, following Ariel’s multicultural sisters as they gather around their father King Triton (Javier Bardem), it’s hard to shake a distinctly uncanny valley feeling. It’s like gazing in on a roundtable of AI supermodels with fins.

This image released by Disney shows Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, left, and Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)

Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, left, and Halle Bailey as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” (Disney via AP)

For all its pizazz, everything about this “Little Mermaid” is just more muted. Miranda’s new songs are odd, too, and don’t seem to fit. Prince Eric’s (Jonah Hauer-King) makes sense, maybe even Ariel’s in-her-head anthem after she gives her voice to Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula, but did Scuttle really need a song, too?

Speaking of Scuttle, the cute cartoons that stood in for Ariel’s seagull, crab and fish friends have been replaced with horrifyingly accurate depictions of said animals. Awkwafina’s comedy charms can only go so far while looking like an actual seagull who might be after your chips at the beach. Close-ups of its beady blue eyes are unsettling, though it was probably a good call to go blue over gold, which looks a bit demonic even in the cartoon. Sometimes it seems as though the editor is trying to minimize the unpleasantness by quickly cutting away from Scuttle. Flounder (Jacob Tremblay, who also voiced Luca) doesn’t have this problem as much, mainly because once they go out of the water he’s essentially hidden under the surface. Daveed Digg’s Sebastian gets off easy, looking the most pleasantly cartoonish. But then there’s that Jamaican accent that they decided to carry over (and this in a movie that adds a line about consent to “Kiss the Girl”).

This image released by Disney shows Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in “The Little Mermaid.” (Disney via AP)

Visibility is a problem for more than just Flounder, too. Sometimes “The Little Mermaid’s” underwater sequences just look too underwater. Things are cloudy and dull and hard to see, once again probably in the name of authenticity, but straining to see what Marshall and the scores of VFX teams have labored on for years is not a pleasant experience. This could be a projection issue — I wasn’t in an especially high-tech theater with color enhancing upgrades. But that also means anyone without access to things like Dolby Vision around the world will have this issue, too. When Sebastian brings out the most colorful fish he can find for the “Under the Sea” number, you even start to empathize with Ariel a little bit. It is the exact opposite of the “ Avatar: The Way of Water ” experience.

“The Little Mermaid,” a Walt Disney Co. release in theaters Friday, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “action/peril, some scary images.” Running time: 135 minutes. Two stars out of four.

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Meryl Streep Guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the 77th Festival de Cannes

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Meryl Streep Guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the 77th Festival de Cannes, (Photo by Patience Eding / Another Concept Magazine / FNN News Network / Florida National News)

Meryl Streep will be the guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the 77th Festival de Cannes which will take place on the stage of the Grand Théâtre Lumière on Tuesday, May 14. A celebrated figure in American cinema, the American actress will kick-off the upcoming edition which will draw to a close on Saturday, May 25th with the awards’ list given by the President of the Jury, Greta Gerwig.

After Jeanne Moreau, Marco Bellocchio, Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jane Fonda, Agnès Varda, Forest Whitaker or Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep will receive the Festival’s Honorary Palme d’or. 35 years after winning the Best Actress award for Evil Angels, her only appearance in Cannes to date, Meryl Streep will be making her long-awaited return to the Croisette.

Meryl Streep Guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the 77th Festival de Cannes, (Photo by Patience Eding /Another Concept Magazine / FNN News Network / Florida National News)

“I am immeasurably honored to receive the news of this prestigious award. To win a prize at Cannes, for the international community of artists, has always represented the highest achievement in the art of filmmaking. To stand in the shadow of those who have previously been honored is humbling and thrilling in equal part. I so look forward to coming to France to thank everyone in person this May!” Meryl Streep stated.

“We all have something in us of Meryl Streep!” Iris Knobloch and Thierry Frémaux said. “We all have something in us of Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, Out of Africa, The Bridges of Madison County, The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia! Because she has spanned almost 50 years of cinema and embodied countless masterpieces, Meryl Streep is part of our collective imagination, our shared love of cinema.”

After her drama studies and initial success on New York City stages, Meryl Streep’s career took off on the big screen in 1978 with The Deer Hunter, starring Robert De Niro. In Michael Cimino’s film, Meryl Streep wrote all her lines to give her character nuance and depth. This marked both her first Oscar nomination — now reaching a record 21 — and her demand to play strong, ambivalent women. For example, when she starred opposite Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer, she refused to let the film revolve around the male lead and rewrote a crucial monologue. She went on to win her first Oscar, and quickly gained recognition from the audiences and the industry alike.

Meryl Streep uses her intuition and hard work to reinvent herself with every appearance. Even on the scale of a film: in Karel Reisz’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, she played two roles. In Alan J. Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice, her acting addresses a mother’s inconceivable moral dilemma. For this character, she studied German and Polish to take on the accent — impeccable according to Andrzej Wajda — and won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Sydney Pollack’s unforgettable historical, romantic epic Out of Africa (1985) marked a new turning point, in which she and Robert Redford formed one of cinema’s most legendary couples. Far from confining herself to the register of passionate love, Meryl Streep also ventured into darker characters. In Fred Schepisi’s 1988 Evil Angels (A Cry In The Dark), she played a mother accused of infanticide. Her performance earned her the Best Actress Award at the 1989 Festival de Cannes.

In the 1990s, she tried her hand at gritty comedy: she challenged female stereotypes in Mike Nichols’ Postcards from the Edge and Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her. In The Bridges of Madison County, she captured the screen alongside Clint Eastwood in a love story as impossible as it is timeless, that went down in cinema history.

Throughout her career, Meryl Streep has never shied away from publicly denouncing the precarious position of women in the film industry. Aware of the issues surrounding the representation of women in Hollywood movies, and keen to embody all their facets in all their complexity and fragility, Meryl Streep plays a wide variety of roles and genres. After Stephen Daldry’s The Hours and Robert Altman’s The Last Show, it was in two roles as funny as unexpected that she once again made her mark: as the cantankerous editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine in The Devil Wears Prada and Donna, a hippie who marries off her daughter in the musical Mamma Mia! She went on to star in biopics (The Iron Lady, Florence Foster Jenkins, Julie & Julia), political satyres (Lions for Lambs, Pentagon Papers, Don’t Look Up) and family films such as Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig, who serves as President of the Jury at this year’s Festival de Cannes.

Two women, two generations, two aspirations, and the same passion for the Seventh Art, brought together on the stage of the Grand Théâtre Lumière.

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A NEW adventure is on the horizon at Pirates Dinner Adventure this summer

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ORLANDO, Fla. (May 8, 2024) – One of Orlando’s favorite attractions is bringing a new adventure to guests with more action, more music and more fun for the whole family.

Orlando Dinner Entertainment is excited to introduce a brand-new adventure for the beloved characters of its legendary dinner show, Pirates Dinner Adventure with “In Search for Neptune’s Treasure.”

The new show comes from acclaimed live entertainment writer and director Michael La Fleur, who has worked with world-class clients including Celine Dion, Cirque du Soleil, The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios and more.

“In Search of Neptune’s Treasure” will feature a new script, stunts, songs, set pieces, costumes and of course, plenty of opportunities for audience participation. Guests can expect to see the re-imagined, swashbuckling cast of characters embark on another high-seas journey full of action, adventure and romance as Princess Anita finds herself aboard Captain Sebastian the Black’s ship with a crew of rouge pirates.

Audiences will be fully immersed in the adventure thanks to new, upbeat songs, Magic Nights and Nick of Time, paired with new special effects and Broadway-quality lighting.

“We’ve loved entertaining both locals and visitors alike for almost 30 years with our Pirates antics, songs and stunts,” said Nick Kroger, Creative Director of Orlando Dinner Entertainment. “Our new show pays homages to the classic characters that audiences know and love while introducing exciting, new show elements to create a revitalized, immersive experience.”

Pirates Dinner Adventure — “In Search of Neptune’s Treasure” is set to soft open this month and officially open on June 1.

 

Ticket prices for the Pirates Dinner Adventure are $72.95 for adults and $46.95 for children ages three to 10. Children ages two and under are free. To reserve your experience, call 407-206-5102 or click here to book. Parental discretion is advised.

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Movie Review: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are great fun in ‘The Fall Guy’

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One of the worst movie sins is when a comedy fails to at least match the natural charisma of its stars. Not all actors are capable of being effortlessly witty without a tightly crafted script and some excellent direction and editing. But Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt seem, at least from afar, adept at that game. Just look at their charming press tour for “The Fall Guy.” Theirs is the kind of fun banter that can be a little worrisome — what if their riffing is better than the movie?

It comes as a great relief, then, that “The Fall Guy” lives up to its promise. Here is a delightful blend of action, comedy and romance that will make the audience feel like a Hollywood insider for a few hours (although there are perhaps one too many jokes about Comic-Con and Hall H).

Loosely based on the 1980s Lee Majors television series about a stuntman who made some extra cash on the side bounty hunting, Gosling takes up the mantle of said stunt guy, Colt Seavers.

Colt is a workaday stunt performer and longtime go-to for a major movie star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tom is the kind of deeply egotistical and self-conscious A-lister who tells everyone he does his own stunts and worries out loud about Colt’s jawline being distractingly softer than his. I think the word “potato” is thrown around as a descriptor. Taylor-Johnson has quite a bit of fun playing up all his eccentricities that you hope, and fear, are at least somewhat inspired by real horror stories of stars behaving badly.

The film comes from director David Leitch, the Brad Pitt stuntman and stunt coordinator who helped bring “John Wick” to the world and directed “Atomic Blonde” and “Bullet Train.” He’s a guy who not only has the vision and know-how to bring the best in stunts to films and make them pop, but also has a vested interest in putting them in the spotlight. Forget the Oscar, how about just any acknowledgement? Perhaps “The Fall Guy” is just one tiny step on the path to making audiences more aware of some of the behind-the-scenes people who really make movies better and risk it all to do so.

It’s revealing that the movie starts with Colt suffering a terrible injury on a set. The stunt that goes wrong is one he’s just done and doesn’t seem remotely nervous about. The film cuts to his recovery and semi-reclusive retirement until he gets a call from Tom’s producer Gail (a delightfully over-the-top Hannah Waddingham) begging Colt to come back for a new film. They need him, she pleads, as does his longtime crush Jody (Blunt), who is making her directorial debut. She waits to inform him that Tom is missing and he’s the one who has to find him. On the quest, Colt encounters tough-guy goons, enablers, a sword-wielding actress, and a dead body on ice that all lead up to something big and rotten. And like a selfless stunt guy, he does it all out of sight of Jody — trying his best to save her movie without giving her something extra to worry about. Nothing about it is particularly plausible, but it’s not hard to get on board for the ride, and much of that is because of Gosling.

While he’s not quite underappreciated for his comedic timing, especially after “Barbie,” it’s fun to get to see him really embrace and lean into the goofiness — whether it’s crying and singing along to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” or quoting movie lines to his stunt coordinator pal (Winston Duke, always a good addition) in the midst of an actual fight.

There is something very juvenile and sweet about Jody and Colt’s will-they-won’t-they romance, with its mix of attraction, banter, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It was a genius stroke to cast these two opposite each other and it leaves you wanting more scenes with the two.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Aaron Taylor-Johnson in a scene from "The Fall Guy." (Universal Pictures via AP)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson. (Universal Pictures via AP)
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Winston Duke in a scene from "The Fall Guy." (Universal Pictures via AP)
Winston Duke. (Universal Pictures via AP)

Working with a script from Drew Pearce (“Hobbs & Shaw”), Leitch packs the film with wall-to-wall action, in both the film’s movie sets and its real world. And with the self-referential humor, the industry jokes and the promise of a little romance, it feels like one of those movies we all complain they don’t make anymore.

“The Fall Guy,” a Universal Picture release in theaters Friday, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “action and violence, drug content and some strong language.” Running time: 126 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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