I had the opportunity to view an advance screening of Disney Pixar’s Brave at the El Capitan in Hollywood for ASIFA members over the weekend, and the film does not disappoint.

It covers some familiar territory with some appreciated departures. Pixar doing its first fairy-tale felt quite reminiscent of the brand of tales Disney has given us in the past. It feels a bit like a mash-up of moments from The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and even Brother Bear. In a very Princess Jasmine-like fashion, the free-spirited, bushy-haired Princess Merida dreads her upcoming betrothal and marriage. It is part of their ancient tradition based on history and legend to keep peace among the warring tribes of the area. Merida must sacrifice her freedom for the greater good of the land and she doesn’t take this idea well. Like her fellow redhead princess, Ariel, she acquires the help of a witch to change her fate taking the story in a whole new direction most will not be expecting.

The big surprises end there however. One problem with the movie is that is very predictable. This is the obvious part of the story where the characters must go on a journey to learn and grow and find reconciliation. Although it is clear where things are heading, it is still a pleasant adventure to undertake. You don’t necessarily know how things will unfold, just the overall direction. Pixar knows how to get you invested with its characters and their emotions.

At the climax, when I knew the film was blatantly manipulating me to feel sad but somehow things were still going to work out, I could not resist the tears. Although the future happy ending is transparent, you still live in the moment and suffer along with the characters. I appreciated its ability to make my care and cry.

One major thing to note is that I was surprised how dark this film was. I took my 5-year-old Godson and he was scared during a lot of the film. He would cover his face, cuddle and refuse to watch. There was one little girl who was crying so much that her mom had to take her out of the theater and they never returned. There is actually a lot of action and violence.

It’s very different from what you see in The Incredibles where the supernatural powers of it all removes it from reality. Here these are real men fighting with bow and arrows, swords and spears against a very vicious, terrifying bear. Sometimes they fought each other, which were the more comical moments and this film has plenty, but the intensity of this bear is definitely frightening to young children.

In usual Pixar tradition the animation is of excellent quality. The visuals continue in their high standard. Some of the shots and camera moves were epic with a bit of a Lord of the Rings feel. They took advantage of the beautiful and lush setting the Scottish highlands have to offer. Rich in folklore, mythology, action, emotion and comedy, Pixar delivers a very satisfying film.

What I appreciated the most about the movie, however, comes from a feminist perspective. This is the first animated princess movie I’ve seen that isn’t a romance. Sure, some other fairy-tales don’t focus on the love-interest initially, but that woman always settles down in the end. We don’t have to end with a sappy wedding or partnership to bring a sense of security and triumph. The pinnacle of a woman’s achievement doesn’t have to always be a husband.

More than the lack of romance, I noticed the presence of motherhood. Moms are always neglected in these types of stories. Most princesses only have dads and the heroines with mothers focus their efforts on dad. Mulan fought in the Chinese army for her father’s honor. Tiana builds a restaurant in her dad’s memory. Aurora and Rapunzel grow up far enough away from their mothers to even have a relationship. This is a real mother-daughter story with fighting, heart-ache, forgiveness and growth. Their frustration and struggles are real and relatable.

Both women have stuff to learn from one another and their dynamic takes center-stage before all the magic and wonder of the rest of the scenery. Pixar has covered father-son, husband-wife and other family relationships well in the past and they give great treatment to this new territory. I appreciate and applaud their efforts to explore this woman-centered tale.

For all the feminism, the boys will still get a kick out of the movie as well. Merida’s triplet brothers are a handful of chaos and bring a lot of energy to screen. King Fergus is a fun and goofy dad. There is plenty of testosterone among the tribes fighting for Merida’s hand. It is a well-balanced movie that will please all genders and ages.

Brave is not as original or ground-breaking as previous Pixar films, but it is still quality entertainment. You’ll laugh, cry, and enjoy the ride. It may not be considered the best cinematic achievement by Pixar, but for me, it may have just become my new favorite.

The film is released in theaters this Friday, June 22.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 brings the L.M.D. storyline to a truly wild end. Here’s what to expect from “Self Control”!

You don’t know what’s coming

Yeah, there’s a synopsis for “Self Control” — “Suspicion turns to paranoia when the team doesn’t know who can be trusted as more LMDs infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.” But that’s the equivalent of saying that Iron Man is about a goateed man who can fly.

Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 answers a lot of questions about who is and who isn’t a robot. More profoundly though, the episode goes in for a final knead and punch of the ideas that have been floating around all season.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 brings the L.M.D. storyline to a truly wild end. Here’s what to expect from “Self Control”!

You don’t know what’s coming

Yeah, there’s a synopsis for “Self Control” — “Suspicion turns to paranoia when the team doesn’t know who can be trusted as more LMDs infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.” But that’s the equivalent of saying that Iron Man is about a goateed man who can fly.

Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 answers a lot of questions about who is and who isn’t a robot. More profoundly though, the episode goes in for a final knead and punch of the ideas that have been floating around all season.

Free will and humanity. Sacrifice and love. The nature of reality — and even of life itself. Beneath the plot, surprises, and pain, that’s what’s really going on in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spring finale.

That, and the characters who get caught in the middle.

Jed Whedon is Not. Playing. Around.

Executive producer and showrunner Jed Whedon is the man behind the pen and the camera in “Self Control,” and he’s there for a reason. Whedon’s first try at the director’s chair on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is operatic, incisive, and perpetually gut-clenching.

Yes, there are lovely and disturbing vistas, an artistry that comes from a deliberate and careful eye. But more important is the unshakable Whedon impulse that animates Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, that builds through the episode like a cresting tide.

You know that unmistakable sense that someone is laughing behind the scenes? Yeah. That’s why Jed Whedon is here.

What’s next?

Well, that’s a very good question. “Self Control” leaves us with a few razor-like possibilities, all of which lead down spiky corridors of questions. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 is here to leave us thirsty for the season’s final seven episodes, and that’s exactly what it does.

Oh, and to answer your next question…

Cliffhanger?

Uh, yes. Cliffhanger.

Oh boy, cliffhanger.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, “Self Control,” airs Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

What are your top theories for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4×15?

Have President’s Day off? Here are some movies, TV shows, and soundtracks with which to celebrate President’s Day.

‘Hamilton’


Even if you were somehow lucky enough to have already seen the musical, you might as well celebrate today with another listen to the soundtrack. In case you have been living under a rock, Hamilton is a hip-hop, rap, musical about Alexander Hamilton. Yes, Hamilton never became president, but the musical does include multiple would-be presidents. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even birthday boy himself George Washington are heavily featured in Hamilton. Based on the biography by Ron Chernow, you can get a history lesson while you listen to great music.

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Have President’s Day off? Here are some movies, TV shows, and soundtracks with which to celebrate President’s Day.

‘Hamilton’


Even if you were somehow lucky enough to have already seen the musical, you might as well celebrate today with another listen to the soundtrack. In case you have been living under a rock, Hamilton is a hip-hop, rap, musical about Alexander Hamilton. Yes, Hamilton never became president, but the musical does include multiple would-be presidents. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even birthday boy himself George Washington are heavily featured in Hamilton. Based on the biography by Ron Chernow, you can get a history lesson while you listen to great music.

‘Liberty’s Kids’


Liberty’s Kids aired in the early 2000s on PBS. Liberty’s Kids follows three teenagers from varying backgrounds throughout the American Revolution, mentored by Benjamin Franklin. It is geared for children but is still pretty enjoyable for adults. In each episode, the teenagers encounter a significant person or event from the revolution, giving a concise and entertaining history lesson. The show features many important figures throughout the revolution, showing even more presidents than in Hamilton. As one can imagine, Washington is among these.

‘Lincoln’


Lincoln is a 2012, Oscar nominated movie, directed by Steven Spielberg based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. Instead of a biopic of Lincoln’s entire life, Lincoln is specifically about his passing of the 13th amendment. Essentially directed between each of his science fiction blockbusters, Spielberg also made many significant historical movies, Lincoln among them. Lincoln not only shows his power as a president, but also humanizes him through an Oscar winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.

‘1776’


Hamilton is not the first musical about American history. Thankfully, though, because this way there are other options, one of which is 1776. Even more conveniently, the musical 1776 was adapted into a movie in the early 1970s. Heavily implied by its name, 1776 is about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 1776 definitely has a more classical musical theater vibe than Hamilton. The strange combination of American history and musical theater allows for a humorous yet educational experience. However, as reflective of the history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Washington is not a character in the musical; yet, it obviously includes many other significant historical figures.

‘The West Wing’ or ‘The American President’


Unlike the other items on this list, these two are about fictional presidents. But it would be nice if they were real. Of the many politically charged movies and television shows by Aaron Sorkin, these two are specifically about presidents. If you have the day off and want to attempt to binge watch seven seasons, then you may want to check out The West Wing. The West Wing follows President Bartlet and his staff and advisors during their time in the White House. If you want a movie to help you transition between Valentine’s Day and President’s Day then The American President is worth watching. It is a romantic comedy about President Shepherd, who falls in love with a lobbyist.

How else will you celebrate President’s Day?

The first two cast members for Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Lion King have been announced by director Jon Favreau.

James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in the animated movie in the ’90s, is returning as the character in the live-action adaptation. Interesting!

Meanwhile, Donald Glover — who will co-star in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming for Disney and Marvel — will play Adult Simba.

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The first two cast members for Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Lion King have been announced by director Jon Favreau.

James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in the animated movie in the ’90s, is returning as the character in the live-action adaptation. Interesting!

Meanwhile, Donald Glover — who will co-star in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming for Disney and Marvel — will play Adult Simba.

Favreau tweeted the news Friday evening:

According to a statement from Disney, The Lion King “will build on the groundbreaking technology used in The Jungle Book to bring the story of Simba to photorealistic life.”

A release date for the film hasn’t been set. Favreau also helmed the live-action Jungle Book for the studio.

So far casting is off to a great start!