The Booth Window - 'Tomorrowland' Review

THE BOOTH WINDOW: EARLY SCREENING REVIEWS

By Chris Pribilski

I’ve been a movie theatre manager for a while now, and one of the perks is the early screenings.  Studios don’t do it for all features, but for most they’ll offer an early screening of a movie for booking agents to attend.  The process has gone through many changes over the years, but I still get the invites, and I’ve never had to sign a disclosure agreement, so let me tell you what I thought without spoiling anything!

Screening time!  Let’s look at Disney’s Tomorrowland!

**Any plot points that I allude to or flat out tell you can be gotten from the Tomorrowland trailers.  NO SPOILERS!!**

Pre-2003:  “A movie based on an attraction at a Disney theme park?  That’ll never work.”

Then comes along a little movie called “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”  Yeah, it kinda did work; enough so that the fifth installment of the series is slated for a July 4th weekend release in 2017.  Now we have to ask can they do the same thing based on a Disney theme park “land.”  Well, I think they can.

It’s not just because of the “PG” rating widening the potential viewing audience either.  While “Tomorrowland” is geared more towards kids than “Pirates” was it has just as much if not more family appeal.  The movie stars Britt Robertson as high-school girl Casey Newton, an imaginative young lady who “knows how stuff works.”  Co-starring is George Clooney as Frank Walker, a “kid-genius-now-grumpy-old-guy.”  Brad Bird directs and co-writes with “Lost” writer/co-creator Damon Lindelof, both of whom I think are fun, imaginative storytellers. 

Will “Tomorrowland” be the huge phenomenon that “Pirates” was?  Probably not.  I thought it was a great flick, a really fun movie, but I don’t see how it could be made into a film franchise.  As a theatre manager I walked away from “Pirates” thinking “Wow, this is definitely going to get a sequel and make us some money!”  With “Tomorrowland” I’m thinking “That’s going to make us some money over Memorial Day weekend.”  I’m not saying it can’t be done, and heaven knows if the movie does well at the box office they’ll make a sequel, but if they do I see a sequel being more like “Return from Witch Mountain” was to “Escape to Witch Mountain.”

YouTube has some wonderful shorts from the 2014 New York Comic Con in which Brad Bird and company speak about the movie.  While Clooney got most of the attention due to it being his first Con, you can tell that the cast got along very well and seemed happy to be back together to talk about the movie.  All cast members talk about how everyone took the project seriously and put their best into the movie.

As the movie started I was immediately skeptical; we start with Clooney as the narrator, a film writing tactic that can be done well (Fight Club, Shawshank Redemption), but also can be a sign of poor editing or a distrust of an audience to let the narrative play out in the story.  Thankfully my concerns were unfounded and the use of opening narration worked; it actually ended up demonstrating within the first few minutes the essential qualities of our two main protagonists.  No worries, it’s not “Iron Man 3.”


When we start it is indeed a great big beautiful tomorrow as a young Frank Walker attempts to submit an invention at the 1964 World’s Fair.  I remember images of 1964 Disneyland circling around the internet a few months ago (of course now I can’t find them), and now I know why.  This brought about my next worry: will this be just a giant commercial for the Disney Parks?  As much as I’ve developed into a Disney nerd since having kids, I like my movies to tell a story, not sell a product. Thankfully my worries were again unfounded and I got to geek out a little bit seeing Space Mountain and other Disney landmarks.  I also loved how Disney technology was used in the film; in fact, it plays a crucial part.  And while I’m avoiding spoilers I will say this: no one seeing this movie will ever ride the “Small World” attraction the same way again. 

It’s at this time we meet another very important protagonist, played by the very talented Raffey Cassidy; however, I’m hesitant to tell you anything about her involvement in the story.  After re-watching the trailers it’s clear that Disney is intentionally leaving the character out of promotion.  Why?  I think it’s because her character changes the promotional focus of the movie.  Disney is relying heavily on Clooney to draw people to this movie and is centering your expectations of the film on his character.  Don’t get me wrong, he is an essential part of the plot, but after the intro he’s not in the first third of the movie.  They even added Clooney dialogue to the trailers that wasn’t in the final cut; in fact, I think the actual lines come from Cassidy’s character.  It’s a shame; she has a crucial part to play.  She drives the story throughout the entire movie and the acting job is wonderful.  I wish Disney would have had more confidence in the movie to forgo these changes, but I guess when you’re dealing with a multi-million dollar investment you want to put your strongest player in the spotlight.


After this flashback introduction we cut to the present day.  We’re introduced to Casey Newton’s world.  Important to her story is the constant bombardment from school and the media regarding the dire situation the world is in.  It is through this negative media attention that we discover a critical trait to Casey’s character: her need and desire to solve the problem, any problem, no matter what its scope.  She truly believes that any action, no matter how small, can make a difference.  It is this trait, this hope and confidence in herself and humanity in general that attracts Walker and company to her, ultimately leading to Walker aiding Casey in her attempt to get to Tomorrowland.

The journey to Walker is perilous, with unseen dangers and wonderful cameos by Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn, along with some heavy Star Wars and other memorable sci-fi influences.  Once Casey’s goal is in sight nothing will sway her from it, and when Walker joins the cause things just get more and more dangerous.  Eventually through some washing-machine-type of transportation and the aid of some of Tomorrowland’s founders (I immediately thought of the classic “Timekeeper” attraction; after you see the flick watch it on YouTube and you’ll get what I’m talking about), we get to Tomorrowland and adventure ensues.

It is here that I’ll stop and let you discover the rest of the plot for yourself.  Hugh Laurie does a great job with his monologue and we see his character as a “shade of grey,” a man that meant well but in the end did not have within him the same hope that Casey does.  While I think some will argue or complain this is a certain “type” of film that got “preachy,” I think everything made sense and was built up within the story.  I didn’t feel there were any curve-balls here that changed the voice of the story.  It was a fun ride.


I thought the acting was strong and that the cast had good chemistry.  Clooney’s grumpy and Robertson’s ever-the-optimist characters never got to the point where they were annoying.  While there were obvious “blockbuster-cliché” moments, our director and writers got you wrapped up in the story and made you care enough about the characters that whatever flaws I found I forgave pretty easily.  The movie was not “Clooney-heavy;” Brad Bird and company balance their talent well, using all to advance the story more than anyone’s career.  Stardom was not milked here, the story remained the focus. 

This is definitely an effects movie and it certainly does not disappoint.  There are less CG “hiccups” than in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and the practical effects blended seamlessly.  Cinematography was great, though it was probably almost completely digital; pretty easy to get a great shot when you can make it look however you want in post.  While I’m sure the same comparison to the Apple Store can be made as was made in the “Star Trek” reboot, the locations and set design perfectly matched my expectations.  What was really nice was that unlike the Star Wars prequels in which Lucas used the movie to show off the technology, this film used the technology to tell the story.  I was honestly surprised that this wasn’t made to be a 3D movie.  IMAX was nice, but I never feel is worth the extra price tag.  Just sit closer to the screen in a normal theatre.

I have to tell you, as I watched this movie there were several times I caught myself smiling thinking “wow, they pulled it off, this is a good movie.”  I’m really excited to take my daughter to see it and to try to catch new things that I missed the first time around.  I think you’ll like “Tomorrowland;” even people not into sci-fi movies should at least like the action scenes and awesome visuals.  Do yourself a favor, don’t wait to rent, see it on the big screen!

Incidentally, in my research I found that Brad Bird put out a link on his Twitter feed of a teaser trailer for “Tomorrowland” called “The Origins of Plus Ultra.”  It’s an unlisted video on YouTube, so you’ll have to go to his Twitter feed to get the link.  It’s a four-minute short that gives some backstory on the movie of “Tomorrowland.”  It doesn’t ruin anything and gives some perspective into the movie; however, it technically is a spoiler, so I leave it up to you to decide whether you want to watch it or not.

** As you will forever hear me say, please, please watch the movie at an independent/local movie chain if you can, and be sure to buy SOMETHING from the concessions.  I know concessions are expensive, but the building doesn’t make much money off the tickets.  If you like the theatre you go to, support them by buying at least a small popcorn, that alone will be a huge help.  Sneak the rest of your stuff in ;).**


THE BOOTH WINDOW - THE AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW

THE BOOTH WINDOW: EARLY SCREENING REVIEWS

By Chris Pribilski

I’ve been a movie theatre manager for a while now, and one of the perks is the early screenings.  Studios don’t do it for all features, but for most they’ll offer an early screening of a movie for booking agents to attend.  The process has gone through many changes over the years, but I still get the invites, and I’ve never had to sign a disclosure agreement, so let me tell you what I thought without spoiling anything!

It’s my first review, and it’s a big one!  Let me tell you about Disney’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON!

**Any plot points that I allude to or flat out tell you can be gotten from the previous Marvel movies, TV shows, and the various trailers.  NO SPOILERS!!**

If you’re one or two minutes late to the movie, you’re going to wonder if you got directed to the right auditorium.  Don’t sweat it, you’re where you need to be and you didn’t miss anything. We start right in the middle of an intense action sequence that shows our heroes doing what they do best: kicking butt.  

Apparently over the past few months the team’s been hunting down Baron Strucker, a Hydra villain we saw after the closing credits of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”  They’ve been trying to recover the lost object Strucker acquired in that final scene (an object you’ll recognize from the first Avengers flick that also makes an appearance in a trailer) and apparently we’re in the middle of a raid on the Baron’s last stronghold.

This opening film sequence shows off Whedon doing one of the things he does best: balancing individual character screen time in an ensemble film.  We get to see each hero doing their part.  There are one or two occurrences during the battle that seem strange to our heroes, mainly caused by two characters we’ve been anticipating since their appearance in the first teaser trailer.  Since it’s the beginning of the film I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that the Avengers win the battle, acquiring the item they’ve been trying to recover.  Thinking that the war on Hydra is over, all agree a celebration is in order.

Just a head’s up: Stan ‘The Man’ Lee’s cameo is during the Avengers’ celebration, and it’s probably one of my favorites!

As we all know from watching any popcorn action movie, when our heroes are celebrating, that’s when the crap’s about to hit the fan.  If you’ve been following the buzz on this film at all, you know what’s going to happen to lead up to this moment.  If you haven’t been keeping up, let’s just say we’re introduced to our villain: Ultron, an artificial intelligence housed in the body of one of Stark’s “puppets.”  

He makes his presence known to the Avengers, and after breaking a bunch of their stuff, he escapes with the recovered relic to begin his master plan. The rest of the film has Whedon taking us through a standard ensemble hero story; however, he does such a good job with the pacing you’ll never notice the 145 minute run time.  Whedon throws plenty of surprises our way that make us forget for a moment we’re watching a very familiar story.  All the characters are balanced, and each has a significant role to play.  If you still haven’t learned your lesson about canon in these movies, I’ll just tell you to shut up now.  It all works within the universe and is all fun; we really don’t want to listen to your complaining.  It’s not like Greedo is shooting first or anything.

I also liked how Whedon doesn’t treat you like a child when telling this story.  He establishes and references events that have occurred between the two films without adding a ton of unnecessary exposition. Unlike other writer/directors, Whedon does so without making it feel like he’s just throwing information in to make his story work.  Whedon’s just expecting you to pay attention; each second is precious in a movie of this scope and he doesn’t want to waste a moment.  He’s a great storyteller, and everything flows with few hiccups.  Just like with the first Avengers movie, there are points where Whedon pokes fun at the insanity of it all (most notably in a scene between Hawkeye and one of our new characters), but he does so without completely pulling back the curtain.  He’s having fun, and inviting you along for the ride.

The highly anticipated Hulkbuster scene lives up to the hype, and the introduction and inclusion of The Vision, while brief, works within the story (the immediate trust the Avengers have in Vision is handled BRILLIANTLY).  Even though we meet several new characters and have a number of fun cameos, the focus remains on our principal players.  Most of the additions feel like they contribute and aren’t just crammed in to set them up for the next movie (though Marvel die-hards will notice several scenes that serve to set up future movies, all well incorporated).  We also get the first recognition from our characters that there is a much larger threat on the horizon.

Now let’s be real, it’s not a perfect movie.  There are one or two CG scenes that don’t work (riding a Hulk bareback for one).  Unlike the first movie the humor is clunky at times.  Some of the exposition scenes were a little rough or felt forced.  Still, these occurrences are few and far between, and considering how much story is crammed into this movie without losing pacing, action, or character development, the job Whedon did is pretty impressive.  The movie is just fun, plain and simple.  If you like the superhero genre, or even just a good popcorn flick, you’ll like this movie.

Watching the standard 2D version is fine, but I thought the 3D was great and worth the extra price tag.  

IMAX is fun, but not worth the price bump, save your money. You want that experience, just sit closer.

There were a lot of awesome moments and observations I’m dying to share with you (I didn’t see Raphael in the bathtub), but I really don’t want to spoil anything!  I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I did! 

** As you will forever hear me say, please, please watch the movie at an independent/local movie chain if you can, and be sure to buy SOMETHING from the concessions.  I know concessions are expensive, but the building doesn’t make much money off the tickets.  If you like the theatre you go to, support them by buying at least a small popcorn, that alone will be a huge help.  Sneak the rest of your stuff in ;).**

A Fond Farewell to the Disney's Hollywood Studios Sorcerer Hat

By Kevin J. Kessler

These skeletal remains represent the passing of an icon. Like most icons, its passing is mourned by many, while there are also those who celebrate its death, citing distaste for its storied legacy. Of course I'm referring to the former icon of Disney's Hollywood Studios, the giant Sorcerer's Hat!

All Disney Parks are defined by one massive landmark. Walt Disney referred to them as "weenies" (stop snickering!) They were meant to be a pull for the eye, a solitary structure with the purpose of providing definition to an already legendary theme park. To inspire such a sense of awe, a structure must truly capture the inner essence of its particular home. In EPCOT, we have Spaceship Earth (many times, infuriatingly, referred to as The EPCOT ball, or simply the Big Golf Ball) At Disney's Animal Kingdom, we have the Tree of Life, and in The Magic Kingdom, we're greeted every trip by the majestic high reaching beauty of Cinderella Castle. 

So what did the third Disney Park, then known as Disney's MGM Studios have to offer? It was a Hollywood studio style water tower known as The Earful Tower...

*yawn*

*yawn*

While it's an impressive site, The Earful Tower failed to inspire that same sense of awe and reverence found in other Disney parks. I think the general public's reaction to this structure was best defined on an episode of the pro wrestling television show WCW Monday Nitro, which was taped at the Studios, when commentator Tony Schiavone (on what was undoubtedly the greatest night in the history of this sport) pointed out the Earful Tower in the distance. His commentary partner, former wrestler The Living Legend Larry Zbysko, scoffed and said, "the EARful tower!?" on live television. 

So what was the answer? The park needed SOMETHING to pull in that attention. What it needed was an infusion of DIsney MAGIC, and that's exactly what it got! 

Tah-Dah....?

Tah-Dah....?

The Sorcerer Hat was constructed at the end of DHS's main road, Hollywood Boulevard and was instantly met with hostility from the Disney faithful, enraged that this new "eye-sore" was blocking their view of The Chinese Theater, which houses popular attraction, The Great Movie Ride. There was an immediate outcry that never really subsided. Since that time, you either loved the hat, or you despised it with every fiber of your Disney heart! I happen to be the former. 

The first time I laid eyes upon the hat in person, it was 2009. I was newly engaged, loving life, and excited to return to what was once my favorite theme park when I was a teenager. (It has the Muppets!) When I saw the hat waiting for me at the end of Hollywood Boulevard I was overcome with the scope, scale, and magic that it represented. While I've always enjoyed the Chinese Theater, I feel as though that's more of a Hollywood icon, while the hat in question was a true DISNEY icon, and that appealed to me, most of all!

I'm a guy who loves Disney theming. I cried out in delight at 18 when my room at the Polynesian Resort had a photo of Mickey on the wall. I gasped with glee at age 24 when I saw the picture of Captain Jack Sparrow adorning the wall of my room at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. I love that Mickey Mouse is carved into the small bars of soap I always steal....erm....hold on to at the end of every trip. This hat was pure DISNEY, and that was all that mattered to me. 

When I heard that demolition of the hat was forthcoming, I was saddened by the news. But, whenever something vanishes in Walt Disney World, though we may miss it in the short term, we should always remember that something wonderful is most assuredly on the way! Walt Disney World is like the mythical Hydra. Cut off one head, two more shall take its place!

Gah! Not THAT Hydra!

Gah! Not THAT Hydra!

 Disney will never do something to purposely cripple itself. If they're removing something as important as the icon of a major theme park, then they definitely have something up their sleeves! So, to that end, I'm eagerly looking forward to the inevitable announcement, but there is still a large part of my heart that will always have a place in it for the Sorcerer Hat. 

As I've watched the photos adorning Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter of the hat's rapid deconstruction  I've felt a pang of loss. It hit me this week that these eyes will never again fill with wonder and magic at the sight of it. I'll never again hum the broom theme from The Sorcerer's Apprentice as I stroll past it, and I'll never again take that silly photopass photo utilizing perspective tricks to look like I'm wearing the hat. 

I'm saddened, but cautiously optimistic as I look forward to the NEW hat-less DHS. But, something HAS to be coming in its place. The park needs an icon, and The Chinese Theater, Earfull Tower, and Tower of Terror are NOT viable options. I don't know about you folks, but I will be eagerly looking forward to D23 this August for any kind of announcement, or....dare I imagine....Star Wars Celebration in April????

Farewell, old friend! I lift my Rapid Refillable Mug in your memory! You will be missed! Thank you for the Magic!