“Onward”: The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants

Onward!

Are they elves? Goblins? Bugbears? Kobolds? Smurfs? I have no idea.

From the studio that brought you Up and Inside Out, it’s Onward, another in-depth exploration of a directional adverb. Expect more in this series in future adventures such as Diagonal, Hard to Starboard, Thereabouts, and Counterclockwise!

(The word actually appears in-story and makes perfect sense after you’ve seen the movie. As an enticement for luring reticent viewers into the theater, it falls…shortward.)

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Frozen II” End Credits

Frozen II!

The band reunites for the sophomore follow-up to their bestselling self-titled debut album.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: six years ago Disney’s Frozen made a kajillion dollars, set off a new merchandising phenomenon, and inspired more than a few cosplayers at our favorite conventions. The cooled-down coterie is back for Frozen II, which was rightly deemed good enough for a theatrical release and not immediately consigned to Disney+ like that Lady and the Tramp do-over or the Teenage Kurt Russell Comedy Collection.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #17: My Thanksgiving Letdown with Baby Yoda

Baby Yoda!

“Only begun, the meme wars have…”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. The last installment was eight months ago because I’ve found myself pretty easy to distract this year. Time flies when I’m going to bed earlier every night due to encroaching oldness, depriving myself of precious writing time, barely making a dent in my topical backlog, and therefore not yet forcing myself into a corner where I have to mine everything I do for creative writing fodder. Plan A for Thanksgiving weekend had been a combination of reading, writing, and watching. One of those three won out thanks to a confluence of unrelated factors, all involving TVs and streaming media.

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Dragon Con 2019 Photos #4: Still More Cosplay on Parade

Maleficent and two fairies!

Maleficent with her foes Flora and Merryweather.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

..such as that Saturday morning parade through downtown Atlanta. In this installment we focus on characters of the Grand Disney Empire, including Marvel and Star Wars because why not.

Same cautions apply as last time: we’re pros, not fans; corrections are very welcome if we misname anyone; we do take requests, but can’t guarantee we photographed every parade participant; enjoy!

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Your Handy “Lion King” 2019 Review Bingo Card

Lion King Review Bingo!

For my next trick, I shall create a “Many Moods of CG Simba” T-shirt with 25 adjectives and 25 copies of that same photo.

Disney’s crass rehashes of its extensive back catalog haven’t really been aimed at me, by and large. The Jungle Book had beautiful jungles, but some of those musical numbers…yikes. Our family unanimously hated Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I have yet to see Dumbo, Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or live-action brand extensions such as Maleficent, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, or Mirror, Mirror. (Snow White and the Huntsman found ways to surprise me, but that wasn’t Disney.)

I therefore have no plans to see Jon Favreau’s nearly Warholesque repurposing of Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers’ animated classic The Lion King…and yet I’ve spent half my Thursday reading the first wave of opinions out of skeptical curiosity. After the first five reviews I read from critics and websites I follow on Twitter, I saw patterns emerging. And thus the above artifact was born. Now I can make a game out of reading still more reviews.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Toy Story 4” End Credits

Toy Story 4!

Utensil friend and me! Utensil friend and me! When your aunt makes her chili, or you’re eating cole slaw at KFC…

The Toy Story trilogy remains an unparalleled cinematic achievement in animation with its track record of consistent excellence through every chapter. The original put Pixar on the map and legitimized three-dimensional computer animation as a feature film-making medium. The follow-up was loaded with at least as much humor and heart, and arguably topped the original for some viewers. The grand finale may have been a hairbreadth beneath its predecessors in quality, but it brought the series full circle, gave us fully satisfactory closure on the saga of Andy’s room, and remains the only animated sequel ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. All three remain shining jewels in Pixar’s crown, a fixture in millions of childhoods, and an object lesson for anyone who wants to teach kids what grade-A movies look like so that they can judge the hollow offerings of other Hollywood studios all the more harshly.

It’s therefore with a sigh that we now give a round of polite, lukewarm applause for the arrival of Toy Story 4, the Zeppo of the series. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, mind you.

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C2E2 2019 Photos, Part 4: Disney and Star Wars Cosplay

Mayor of Halloween Town!

The Mayor of Halloween Town from Henry Selick’s Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, looking on the verge of abusing his power.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! My wife Anne and I just got home from the tenth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″), another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous conventions in larger, more popular states. We missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team…

…and enjoyed the company of cosplayers as a team. With the same provisos and intro as our previous chapter, please enjoy a smaller but equally creative sampling of the cosplayers on hand who celebrated the various other universes that share Marvel’s megalithic corporate umbrella.

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My 2018 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Least Worst

mary poppins returns!

Off we go!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2018 I made 24 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the bottom twelve. And now, the countdown concludes with the twelve most relatively awesome:

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“Mary Poppins Returns”: Sequel Gal a Frabjous Mystic, Extra Braggadocious

Mary Poppins Returns!

Meanwhile in the evil Mirror Universe, a misbegotten Mary Poppins reboot rues its poor box office and looks upon our universe’s sequel in envy.

Anne and I haven’t watched the original Mary Poppins in 35-40 years. We had considered revisiting it before lining up for director Rob Marshall’s showy happy sequel, but all the legal streaming services wanted twelve bucks or more for one (1) showing of one (1) 54-year-old film. We moved on without it.

I remember very little of the plot, but the songs have haunted me ever since. Credit goes mostly to the legendary songwriting team of Robert and Richard Sherman, and partly to my grade-school music teacher Mrs. Quebbeman, later Mrs. Surdi when she remarried. She taught us songs we never wanted to know (“Up with People”), didn’t notice when a few of us discovered the new fad called “lip-syncing” in sixth grade, assigned me solos in three consecutive Christmas programs while I still had a stable singing voice, and blessedly introduced us to the wonders of wooden percussion, “The Rainbow Connection”, “Danse Macabre”, and at least half the Mary Poppins soundtrack. For me the film may have faded, but the tunes remain etched into my brain. Long after all the useful parts have shut down, I’ll be in my bed humming the chorus from “Step in Time” till the end of days.

Sadly, Mrs. Surdi passed away about a month ago. She was firmly in my thoughts as Mary Poppins Returns played on. Thanks to her, I knew ahead of time there’s no way I’d like the sequel more than the original. But sometimes it’s nice to sit back, be patient, listen closely, and wait to be surprised at what sticks.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During AND After the “Ralph Breaks the Internet” End Credits

Ralph Breaks the Internet!

Fun in-joke scene for the eight people over 40 who ever loved AskJeeves.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the original Wreck-It Ralph. Not only did John C. Reilly’s layered performance hit me squarely in the heart with that big act of would-be noble sacrifice in the climax, but it later inspired me to write a jokey Top Ten-style follow-up that remains one of the site’s most enduring “evergreen” entries to this day. 2012 was a fun year for me in a lot of ways, and it tickles me to remember that Ralph was no small part of that.

Alas, with great success comes the threat of sequels. Disney Animation hasn’t released a theatrical sequel since Fantasia 2000 graced IMAX screens 18 years ago. Someone up high decided it was time to break the streak with Ralph Breaks the Internet, which, to be fair, tops very nearly every direct-to-video Disney sequel ever. I would have to see Aladdin and the King of Thieves again to decide between the two. That’s faint praise, though. Even as I dwell on the phrase “direct-to-video Disney”, memories of Dan Castellaneta’s Genie, Princess Ariel’s daughter, and The Fox and the Hound 2 return and make me wince.

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“Incredibles 2”: Further Feats of the Fantastic Five

Incredibles 2!

The expressions every time Emily Blunt gets top billing over some quote-unquote “A-list” dude.

Writer/director Brad Bird’s 2004 The Incredibles remains one of my all-time favorite Pixar films, and not just because it was about superheroes. I could relate to a film about an aging guy who considers himself talented but thinks he should be doing something better with his life, but whose family had much more important concerns than his, and everyone has to dive deep into their conflicts but come out all the stronger for it as a unit. And a film where there are spectacular chase scenes. And just so happens to draw on seventy years of mainstream super-hero culture.

Fourteen years later Incredibles 2 brings back Bird and the family to pick up where they left off. But are the viewers in the same place fourteen years later?

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So There’s a Collage and a Message After the “Coco” End Credits

Coco!

Welcome to the Land of the Dead, where there’s never an affordable housing shortage!

A word of advice from someone who’s been there to other empathetic souls out there: do not go see Pixar’s new grade-A adventure fantasy Coco immediately after attending services for a dearly departed family member. Some unmanageable side effects may occur.

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My 2016 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Least Worst

Ghostbusters!

Not perfect, but still 100 times better than Sucker Punch.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2016 I made 19 trips to the theater to see films made that same year (well, 20 to be honest — I saw one of them twice). In Part 1 we ranked the bottom nine. And now, the countdown concludes:

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #9: Catching Up with 2016

Deadpool!

For old folks like me who saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in theaters and sat all the way through to the scene after the end credits, the final minute of Deadpool is ours to claim.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s me jotting down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I’ve Been Watching at home. In this entry: four 2016 releases I missed in theaters because I can’t see every movie ever. Blame work, Netflix convenience, internet shenanigans, and The CW’s unwieldy yet not-bad DC Comics lineup for hogging my weeknight attention.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Moana” End Credits

Moana!

With the invigorating Polynesian nautical epic Moana it’s time once again for Disney to flaunt their recovered mojo while the once-flawless Pixar pins their hopes on selling more Cars merchandise as well as the expensive, grim, Zack Snyder-looking commercial they made to go with all of it.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Finding Dory” End Credits

Finding Dory!

Hipster fish coffee: the next big trend. Call it “Pescafe”.

America’s favorite fish are back! (Sorry, Charlie.) Finding Dory is a rare sequel in which the main character returns but is relegated to a sidekick role and gets fewer lines, like the third Hobbit movie. Seems unfair that Ellen DeGeneres’ agent can beat up superstar Nemo’s agent, but that’s how it goes in Hollywood.

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“Zootopia”: Welcome to the Harerdome

Zootopia!

If you refuse to see it in theaters, the “sloth trailer” alone is a hoot. I can only imagine how excruciating that scene probably was to animate using, like, a hundred times as many frames per movement.

The worldwide phenomenon about two unique individuals from very different worlds — one who’s itching for justice, one who’s given some thought to law enforcement — passed $300 million this weekend at the U.S. box office and proved major studios are still capable of putting out product that can contemplate serious topics even while reveling in visual flair and not shying away from moments of intensity or even a few tears.

No, not the one with the angry costumed guys in it.

Right this way for a few words about Disney’s “Zootopia”!

The Only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Shot-by-Shot Trailer Analysis You’ll Need

The Force Awakens!

John Boyega. Daisy Ridley. STAR WARS. Canon. Cope.

In the past 24 hours eight hundred million other internet users have posted their thoughts on the all-new Official Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer that premiered Monday night during ESPN’s Monday Night Football and was released online seconds later for those of us who don’t do sports. Hardcore fans have devoted every hour since then freezing every frame, enhancing every pixel, scrutinizing every living being or moving object, collating the data, and sharing results in hopes of extrapolating the plots of the next six Star Wars films, or at least guessing which toys they’ll buy next.

Now…it’s my turn.

Right this way for the greatest film study that matters only to me ever!

Indy Pop Con 2015 Photos, Part 1 of 3: Costumes from the Marvel/Disney Empire

Miles Morales, Ultimate Spider-Man!

Miles Morales, Ultimate Spider-Man, prepares to spring into action.

This weekend the second annual Indy PopCon once again overtook our Indiana Convention Center with a festive mix of comics, gaming, voice actors, established actors, animation, podcasting, and various other manifestations of pop and geek culture in general. This year’s guest list also encroached upon a new entertainment frontier: the rapidly expanding world of YouTube stars. My wife and I had never heard of any of those who were invited, but we were outnumbered several thousand to one in that regard.

We attended Saturday only for a limited time for a number of reasons with a short itinerary and modest expectations, but we took photos as usual for You, the Viewers at Home. The first two entries will be costumes, because that’s one of those things we like to see and share. In our first lineup: characters from the synergistic worlds of Marvel Comics, Walt Disney Animation, and that faraway Star Wars galaxy. Oddly, exactly half the viable cosplay pics we took comprised personalities from their corporate domain.

Right this way for heroes and villains in the Mighty Marvel Manner! And their amazing business associates, too!

“Tomorrowland”: By Science For Science

Tomorrowland!

As Tomorrowland transports you from the real world to the unreal, the music swells and swears you’ve never seen this kind of breathtaking cityscape before, except in Thor, The Fifth Element, the Star Wars prequels, the last several Final Fantasy sequels, the Ratchet and Clank series, the richer planets on Firefly, Jupiter Ascending, Futurama

The trailers for Tomorrowland didn’t do much for me, but the name of director Brad Bird is on my ever-shrinking short-list of creators who commands my automatic attention with each new work. I count The Iron Giant and The Incredibles among my favorite films, “Krusty Gets Busted” as my all-time favorite Simpsons episode, Ratatouille as an underrated gem in Pixar’s back catalog, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as the rare fourth film in a series that tops the first two. The Tomorrowland trailer could’ve been two minutes of Brad Bird filling out tax forms and I would’ve penciled it into my calendar.

And then I went and saw it.

One of my online cohorts called it “the worst thing Brad Bird’s ever done”. I feel like that’s a phrase that should never exist and everything he shoots should turn into an alchemical blend of gold stars and platinum A-pluses and bubbly magic dust. I refuse to complete this paragraph with “Well, this had to happen sooner or later,” because, no, it didn’t have to happen.

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