MuppetVision 3D

The Muppets have been a mainstay of popular culture for decades, seemingly capable of reviving themselves and able to adapt to different eras and audiences. For some, it’s impossible to think of the Muppets without thinking of the Walt Disney Company, although they’ve only been an official entity of Disney since 2004. But with The Muppet Show now streaming on Disney+, and with plenty of their films under the Disney banner as well, it’s easy to make that long term association.

Yet the simplest way the Muppets endure at Disney isn’t on a streaming service – it’s at a theme park. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida is an imperfect park, but its true crown jewel is Muppet*Vision 3D, an immersive cinematic experience that turns 30 on May 16. It’s one of the great all-time attractions, so to celebrate, let’s count the 30 ways that Muppet*Vision 3D continues to excel.

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Mission: Impossible Sequels Cast

When Henry Czerny started appearing in Hollywood movies, you could be forgiven for thinking he had a type: the suspicious government agent. In his first mainstream movie, Clear and Present Danger, Czerny portrayed American agent Robert Ritter opposite Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan. Soon enough, he’d face off against another swaggering American star as another suspicious spy, CIA Director Eugene Kittridge in the Tom Cruise-starring 1996 film Mission: Impossible. 25 years later, as the original film celebrates its anniversary, Czerny is finally returning to the fold as Kittridge in the upcoming seventh installment.

/Film sat down virtually with Czerny to talk about his experience working on the first film, facing off against Tom Cruise in a restaurant doubling as an aquarium, and why he wondered if he talked himself out of being in the second film in 2000.

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Oklahoma Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Hollywood’s eras come in waves. It’s hard to imagine now, because we’re still in the crest of the current one, but the superhero era is a wave that will eventually – yes, really, even if it takes decades – ebb. Before superhero movies, there were blockbusters of vastly more stripes, somehow managing to avoid interconnected universes or the like. The Walt Disney Company is at the convergence of the current wave, with Marvel and Lucasfilm underneath their vast umbrella.

But right now, Disney+ is inadvertently giving its audiences a chance for a bit of a history lesson of what blockbusters used to look like, with the streaming arrival of the 1955 musical adaptation of Oklahoma!. Yes, it’s true, there was once a time when blockbusters weren’t about the world ending, but were about simple love stories given grand treatments.

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Mission Impossible Revisited

(Welcome to Man on a Mission, a monthly series where we revisit the films of the Mission: Impossible franchise as we sprint toward the release of the seventh film in the franchise.)

There are two phases to the career of Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. In the first phase of his career, Tom Cruise worked with exciting and distinctive auteurist directors, often being pushed to deliver daring and adventurous work. Not every film Cruise made in this phase was a creative success, but working with filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Cameron Crowe, and Paul Thomas Anderson led the star to unlock deep wells of talent in genres as diverse as Gothic horror, ’50s teen drama, and romantic comedy.

The other phase of Cruise’s career is much simpler and more straightforward. It’s Tom Cruise: Action Hero. In this phase, Cruise has fought mummies, never looked back (looking back is a classic rookie mistake), warded off science-fiction baddies, and generally kicked ass. Over the last quarter-century, Cruise has moved from working within both of these phases to fully embracing his action-hero credentials. (In the few times he has worked against those credentials in the 21st century, the resulting films are forgettable. Consider Lions for Lambs. Or maybe don’t.) 

Yet there’s a bridge between the two phases, connecting auteurs with Cruise’s gung-ho action style. In this bridge, the films manage to be distinctive products of not one, but two auteurs: the man credited as director (it’s always men), and Cruise himself. That bridge is comprised, of course, of the many misadventures of IMF Agent Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series. To date, there are six M:I films; the seventh installment, originally scheduled to open this July, is now slated to open on Memorial Day weekend 2022, with an eighth on the way in July 2023. 

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Tom Clancy's Without Remorse Featurette

The vast bibliography of the late Tom Clancy has inspired countless film and TV adaptations, but it’s also led to massively successful video-game series like Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon. Those games, and many other military-driven shooter games, feel like the true inspiration for the new straight-to-streaming film Without Remorse. Ostensibly, this actioner starring Michael B. Jordan is meant to inspire a potential long-running franchise with the tough-as-nails John Kelly taking down bad guys worldwide without any…well, just read the title. But Without Remorse has an incredibly functional, bland storytelling approach, making it as soulless as a cutscene from one of the many Clancy-inspired video games.

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The Mitchells vs the Machines Review

One of the great modern animated comedies is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, a loopy adaptation of the famous children’s story. The 2009 adaptation took the picture book’s basic concept of food falling from the sky instead of rain and snow, and warped it in delightful fashion as a disaster-movie parody with a surprisingly effective emotional undercurrent. That film’s directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, have shown themselves to be adept animation filmmakers, also serving as major guiding forces on The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so their presence behind the scenes of the new Netflix release The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a sign of hopefully high quality. And mercifully, that’s very much the case with this enormously funny, big-hearted comedy that manages to take what could be an exhausting but timely technological argument and twist it into gleeful pretzels.

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Make Mine Music

One of the easiest, most painless binge-watching projects you could embark upon during the pandemic is to dive into the canon of Walt Disney Animation Studios films. Sure, you could add Pixar to the list, but getting to experience the depth and breadth of mainstream animation history, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Raya and the Last Dragon, would be an effective crash course, and a mighty enjoyable one to boot thanks to the still fairly young streaming service Disney+.

But while Disney+ enables viewers to stream everything from Marvel superhero fare to old Star Wars TV movies to National Geographic specials, there’s an odd gap in that animation crash course, one you might not even be aware exists. That gap is the package film Make Mine Music, which turns 75 today. You might figure today’s a fine day to watch Make Mine Music considering that birthday – how better to celebrate? Sadly, you’re out of luck: it’s the only Disney animated film that’s not streaming on Disney+. In fact, Make Mine Music has never been available for streaming or purchase on Blu-ray. This is the kind of film that would make a perfect selection for the Out of the Disney Vault column here at /Film, except it’s still locked in that vault. The obvious question is: why?

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Thunder Force Review

Imagine a world much like our own, but with one key difference: nearly 40 years ago, after an interplanetary blast of cosmic rays, some people were gifted with superpowers. There’s just one nefarious twist: the only people who gained these powers were likely to be sociopaths. So, in essence, what if, 40 years ago, supervillains were created but without an opposing force of good to stop them? How would these cruel villains run rampant over the societies of the world? What nasty plans would they have for the rest of us, who would be hopeless to fight back? What dystopic horrors would be enacted upon us all?

These are among the very reasonable questions raised and promptly, bafflingly ignored by the new Netflix action comedy Thunder Force, whose very basic premise is a lot more interesting than its filmmakers are willing to explore. Aside from that setup, the real premise is “What if Melissa McCarthy got superpowers?” That must have been the elevator pitch for McCarthy and her husband/frequent collaborator, Ben Falcone (who wrote and directed Thunder Force). That setup is all well and good, but this whole film feels like an elevator pitch: tossed off without any detailed thought. It’s true that this is, compared to Falcone’s other directorial efforts, pretty much the cream of the crop. But that doesn’t make Thunder Force any good.

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the falcon and the winter soldier clips

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

Over the last few years, an incredibly, disturbingly common refrain has arisen from the cast and crew working on a slew of big new TV series, from Big Little Lies to Stranger Things – “It’s really a 6-hour movie”. (Feel free to fill in a larger number to account for shows that have eight or nine episodes per season instead of six.) The war of film and television feels especially foolish to fight as we wind down from a pandemic that kept so many of us away from movie theaters, essentially turning everything into television whether it was intended that way or not.

Marvel’s latest show for Disney+, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is no different, with star Anthony Mackie saying that the show would be like “a six- or eight-hour movie” last summer, and director Kari Skogland emphasizing it again during an interview with /Film. Leave aside any amount of eye-rolling you might muster at seeing that comment again. Maybe a six-hour Falcon movie appeals to you. That appeal would be more intriguing if Disney+ was treating The Falcon and the Winter Soldier like a movie, instead of…well, a weekly television show.

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Amy Revisited

(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

The 1980s were a very rough time for the Walt Disney Company, at least in the first half of the decade. We may now think of the 1980s as the time when Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg joined Disney, steering it to new heights with films like The Little Mermaid and with the expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. And while that’s all true, the two men didn’t arrive until 1984. The first few years of the decade were a bumpy stretch, marked by minimal animated products and only a smattering of live-action films. The flip side is that the theme parks were moving onward, with the 1982 opening of EPCOT Center and the 1983 unveiling of Tokyo Disneyland.

But the side of the company focused on filmmaking seemed adrift at best. The 1981 film The Fox and the Hound, turning 40 this summer, does have its fans (and some impressive setpieces), but its production was mired by a huge walkout of young animators and a warring battle between the old guard of Disney animation and newer artists who wanted to steer the studio in new directions. Live-action fare wasn’t much more notable; cult films like Tron and Return to Oz are well-liked by fans precisely because they stand against so much of what we envision a “Disney movie” as.

The same is true for another film that celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, the 1981 melodrama Amy.

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