Thursday, July 20, 2017

The 2017 D23 Expo

Last weekend was another great time at Disney's bienniel D23 Expo!

It was a packed weekend during which I attended seven panel presentations and a surprise preview of Fantasmic! which has returned to Disneyland's Rivers of America just in time to celebrate its 25th anniversary. (Weren't we just celebrating the 20th anniversary?!) There was also a look at an amazing model of Star Wars Land (newly renamed Galaxy's Edge), shopping, and more.

The weekend wasn't without its challenges, but fortunately the majority of our time at the Expo made it all worthwhile.

After five Expos I sound like a broken record, but lines continue to be an issue; on Saturday I arrived at 6:15 a.m., nearly three hours before the show floor opened, but that wasn't early enough to secure a spot waiting indoors, and the packed line in front of the convention center (see below) wasn't comfortable, to say the least, especially as it was a warm day.

It was just a wee bit claustrophobic! Fortunately when I arrived at the same time on Sunday I was able to wait indoors.

As I predicted last year, the only way to see Saturday's hugely popular panel on upcoming live action films was to spend the previous night in line...all night long. Our daughter was game for the challenge and after a cold night on a cement basement floor was rewarded by personal appearances by the casts of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, A WRINKLE IN TIME (Chris Pine!), and something like 15 Avengers. I, on the other hand, was at least able to sleep for a few hours!

There were some significant line management issues, particularly for Friday's Animation panel, where around 1000 people who'd been waiting for hours were accidentally excluded in favor of people from closer to the end of the line. Disney had to quell a mini-riot by giving those folks wristbands guaranteeing seating to one of the other two "big" panels, Live Action or Parks and Resorts; so many seats being handed out in advance only added to spending the night being the only way to get into Live Action. Fortunately I was able to get into both Animation and Parks and Resorts with a reasonable wait time.

No one knows lines like Disney so I don't know if the issue was with contractors or there were other factors at play, but they really need to up their game in this regard. And while they're at it, how about something like doing lotteries for the three big panels and ditching sleeping in line overnight?

On Saturday and Sunday the lines to get into the Expo were so long that it was impossible to leave to eat lunch at food trucks or the nearby hotel, because it would take so long to get back into the convention center. That said, my husband was able to get to a food truck on Sunday thanks to the kindness of a security guard who agreed the food in the convention center isn't fit for man or beast. His experience was not the norm, however.

All was forgiven, however, during the magical moments, which included every guest at the Parks and Resorts panel being given a pass to a sneak preview of Fantasmic! on Saturday or Sunday evening. We went on Saturday night, and it was an unforgettable cap to the day.

A LION KING (1994) celebration which culminated in the original voice artist performing "Circle of Life" with a choir was a tremendously moving moment, and what a thrill to see people like Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks in MARY POPPINS), Lesley Ann Warren, the INCREDIBLES cast, Susan Egan (HERCULES), and a whole lotta Disney princesses in person!

I have a series of three posts in the works sharing photos and more about each day of the Expo. Be watching for those in the coming days, as well as photos from last month's trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum and much more!

Previously: Off to the 2017 D23 Expo!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Big Sick (2017)

THE BIG SICK (2017) is a very good comedy-drama about a cross-cultural romance which has just hit the skids when one of the couple falls critically ill.

The film is unusual in that it's a fictionalized version of the real-life relationship of screenwriters Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon. Nanjiani plays himself, and is excellent doing so, while Emily is realistically played by Zoe Kazan.

Kumail is a stand-up comedian and Uber driver in this Chicago-set story, while Emily is studying for her Master's in psychology. They meet and begin to forge a relationship, while Kumail's Pakistani-born parents keep trying to set him up with nice Pakistani girls.

Kumail is torn between his parents and Emily, not telling his parents he's dating a white American girl while also hiding his parents' marital intentions for him from Emily. When Emily learns that his parents have no idea she exists, she despairs of them having a future together and breaks up with Kumail.

At this point life takes an unexpected twist as Emily becomes ill with a mysterious infection and is placed in a medically induced coma. Kumail and Emily's parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), who arrive in town from North Carolina, gradually develop their own relationships during the long hospital vigil. Simultaneously Kumail comes to realize what he really wants in life.

This sounds heavier than it plays, as the drama is frequently punctuated with bits of humor. At times the film even calls to mind WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995), as Kumail becomes close to Emily's family while she's unconscious.

The four lead actors are all excellent. Nanjiani is personable, and Kazan feels like real people I've known; their characters come off as quite genuine. Hunter and Romano are excellent as Emily's stressed parents; they initially resent Kumail, given that he broke their daughter's heart, but come to enjoy and appreciate him.

I only had two quibbles with the film. The first is that the final act runs too long; the movie is 120 minutes and could have stood to shave a few minutes in favor of a quicker resolution.

My other disappointment is that this R-rated film had such excessive bad language. It's frankly a shame there's so much of it, as this is otherwise a very good movie and the language becomes annoying, pointless verbal clutter. I wish they had dialed it back to PG-13 levels.

THE BIG SICK was directed by Michael Showalter and filmed by Brian Burgoyne. The supporting cast includes Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Shenaz Treasurywala, Myra Lucretia Taylor, and Linda Emond.

The trailer is on YouTube.

So far this year I've been seeing "new" films at a faster-than-usual pace, averaging a couple per month. It's quite nice to have that many films out which are worth checking out! I anticipate that the next new release I'll see will be DUNKIRK (2017), which opens on Friday, July 21st.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

The Happiest Place on Earth opened 62 years ago today, July 17, 1955.

I'm back from an amazing weekend at Disney's D23 Expo, where Disneyland was honored and celebrated at various events. I'll have more on that soon, as well as photos of last month's visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

12 Years of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

Today is a very happy day, the anniversary of when it all began, back on July 16, 2005!

With each passing year I'm more grateful than ever for the wonderful people and experiences which have become part of my life thanks to this blog.

A few weeks ago I was honored to be interviewed by Raquel as part of her own celebration of a decade of blogging. For anyone who missed it when I linked to it in a recent roundup, it may be found at Out of the Past.

Thanks to Raquel's questions I had the chance to expand further on how I began blogging, how I approach creating content, and especially how much blogging has meant in terms of friendships and experiences.

Thanks to you all once more for reading and being part of the community here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings!

Previous blog anniversaries: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Off to the 2017 D23 Expo!

As mentioned in my post earlier this week, Disney's D23 Expo is this coming weekend, July 14th-16th, 2017.

This is Disney's fifth D23 Expo, and I've attended all five of them. I'll be at the Anaheim Convention Center all day Friday through Sunday.

I have a post prescheduled for Sunday, so please check back for new content while I'm away.

I'll be posting photos from the Expo all weekend on Twitter so please follow along in real time!

Some of the highlights on the schedule:

*There will be many great panels on Disney history at the Archives Stage, including "60 Years of the Horseman Known as Zorro," "Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney's Animation," "Marc Davis Goes to WED Imagineering," "Yesterday's Tomorrow: Disney's Magical Mid-Century," and "Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough – Celebrating 60 Years of Walt Disney’s Most Charming Tableaux."

*"Melodies in Walt’s Time: The Music of Disney Live-Action Films" will feature appearances by Lesley Ann Warren, Karen Dotrice, and live musical performers celebrating the scores of films such as SUMMER MAGIC (1963), MARY POPPINS (1964), THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE (1967), and THE ONE AND ONLY GENUINE, ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND (1968).

*A 20th Anniversary panel celebrating HERCULES (1997). Voice star Susan Egan has Tweeted "Live Singing WILL Happen."

*The Power of the Princess will feature Paige O'Hara (Belle), Jodi Benson (Ariel), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), and Auli'i Cravalho (Moana). Some sources say Ming-Na Wen (Mulan) will be there but she's not on the most recent info I've seen, so we'll see.

*A new "Voices of the Disney Parks" panel. I've attended two of these presentations in the past and found them enjoyable and informative.

*Disney fan extraordinaire John Stamos will host Legends of Disney Imagineering with Tony Baxter, Marty Sklar, and Wayne Jackson.

*I'll probably miss that Disney Imagineering panel because it's opposite "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons." Such are the hard choices we have to make at the Expo!

As always, I'll be sharing some of my Expo experiences and photos here after the weekend is over! (Update: Please visit The 2017 D23 Expo.)

Previously: Off to the 2015 D23 Expo!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Look Back at the 2015 D23 Expo

Disney's D23 Expo returns to the Anaheim Convention Center this coming weekend, July 14th-16th.

This will be the fifth D23 Expo, which has been held by Disney in Anaheim every other year since 2009. I've attended all of the Expos to date and will be attending all three days of the 2017 event.

After the 2015 Expo I posted an overview of the Expo, including a critique of the year's strengths and areas for improvement. That was followed by a pair of photo posts on the 2015 Expo's massive Disneyland exhibit, Part 1 and Part 2.

I left on a trip out of state just after writing those posts and didn't get back to sharing any more on the Expo. (So much to blog and so little time, etc.!) This week is the perfect time to take a look back down memory lane at 2015 as I get ready for the 2017 edition!

We spent considerable time on the first day of the 2015 Expo exploring the previously mentioned Disneyland exhibit. A panel of "60 Years of Disney Parks Merchandise" was atypically disappointing, but a 60th anniversary celebration of the Jungle Cruise was quite enjoyable. The day ended with a multi-panel presentation on "Imagineering 60 Years of Disneyland."

The panel presentations are usually not very photographer-friendly as they are huge rooms, and while the audience can see all the panelists, the best shots sometimes end up being of the Jumbotron screens! A couple shots taken at the Jungle Cruise presentation:

Composer Richard Sherman, seen on the Jumbotron at the Imagineering panel:

My favorite presentations are at the much more intimate Archives Stage, where the second day I saw a wonderful panel with Ron and David DeFore, the sons of actor Don DeFore, who shared stories of growing up at their father's Silver Banjo Barbecue, which operated in Disneyland from 1957-61. This hour was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. Earlier in the weekend I had the chance to chat with them and was able to share my appreciation of their father's work. When I praised his performance in RAMROD (1947) they exclaimed "You're a real fan!"

The menu photo below was shared by Ron DeFore a few years ago at MiceChat:

On the final day I enjoyed a panel on the documentary "The Tunes Behind the Toons," with Dave Bossert, movie music historian Jon Burlingame, and Mark Watters.

There's much to see on the Expo's show floor, relating to every aspect of Disney, including theme parks, movies, Marvel, music, and much more. I loved this whimsical display of Pixar balls:


Plans for Shanghai Disneyland:

As had been the case at past Disney Expos, our highlights included concerts. First off, Leonard Maltin hosted a marvelous program of Silly Symphonies cartoons accompanied by a 32-piece live orchestra:

My other favorite memory of 2015 might be the FROZEN concert featuring live singing performances by Kristen Bell (Anna), Josh Gad (Olaf), and composers Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez. It was a wonderful experience, and the concluding "Let It Go" singalong finale, complete with "snow" -- and John Lasseter singing along -- was pure Disney joy. Some video may be found here.

Coming tomorrow: A preview of this weekend's D23 Expo!

Select Links of Past Coverage: A Look Back at the 2013 D23 Expo, which includes additional links to my coverage of the 2009 and 2011 Expos; Back From the 2015 Disney Expo!; 2015 D23 Expo: Disneyland - The Exhibit - Part 1; 2015 D23 Expo: Disneyland - The Exhibit - Part 2.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...The Barnes & Noble half-price Criterion Collection summer sale starts today. Visit B&N's Criterion Collection page to start shopping.

...The Cinecon Festival, screening many rarities, returns to the Eygptian Theater in Hollywood this Labor Day weekend. Details are here. One of the most interesting titles on the schedule is Paramount's UNTAMED (1940) starring Ray Milland and Patricia Morison, screening in nitrate!

...If you're in Palo Alto, check out the Stanford Theatre's 67-film Warner Bros. festival. The series was programmed by David Thomson, author of the upcoming book Warner Bros.: The Making of a Studio. The book will be published by Yale University Press.

...DUNKIRK (2017), which opens July 21st, will be screened in 70mm in numerous theaters nationwide; it's the biggest 70mm release in a quarter century. A list of 70mm theaters has been posted at Indiewire. I anticipate seeing it in 70mm in Long Beach, California.

...There's a nice article by Geoff Mayer at Senses of Cinema, "Alone in the Alabama Hills: Budd Boetticher and Lone Pine."

...There's a new exhibit at the Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park in Carlsbad. I hope to visit the ranch; Leo Carillo was both a terrific actor and a significant figure in California history. Leo Carrillo State Park was named in his honor, as was nearby Leo Carrillo Elementary School.

...Alison Martino remembers Wallich's Music City at Sunset and Vine for Vintage Los Angeles.

...getTV has resurrected the two-season Cheryl Ladd procedural ONE WEST WAIKIKI (1994-96). Richard Burgi costars. You can read about the show at the getTV blog; it was authored by my friend, Will McKinley.

...Out today on DVD and Blu-ray: THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017), reviewed here in April.

...On the topic of another recent movie, Matthew Garnett of The Federalist muses on BABY DRIVER (2017) having "the most redemptive anti-hero ever." Also at The Federalist: Collin Garbarino calls the movie "amazing."

...It's a Wonderful Movie has lots of info on Hallmark Channel's "Christmas in July" programming.

...Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter wrote an interesting article about our current TV era, when there are more shows than a critic can keep up with and reviews often aren't read for weeks or months.

...LAist posted an article on "The Best Underrated Movie Theaters in Los Angeles."

...Caftan Woman's "One for July" on Turner Classic Movies is THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (1959) with Joan Crawford, Martha Hyer, and several more interesting names. Happily I recorded it!

...Pure fun: This elephant knows how to pool party!

...Notable Passings: Italian actress Elsa Martinelli (seen at left), who starred in films such as THE INDIAN FIGHTER (1955) and HATARI! (1962), has passed on at the age of 82. Toby pays tribute at 50 Westerns From the 50s...Famed stuntman Loren Janes has died at 85...Builder Paul Matt of Matt Construction has died at 85. He built the Broad Museum and remodeled the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, to name just two projects...Longtime Alfred Hitchcock production manager C.O. "Doc" Erickson has passed away at 93.

...For additional links on classic movies and more, please visit my July 3rd link roundup.

Have a great week!