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.

It. Is. Here. The long-awaited first trailer for Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast starring Dan Stevens and Emma Watson is available to watch now!

Disney invites us to be their guest in this first tantalizing teaser for Beauty and the Beast, one of the most highly anticipated live-action remakes on their slate:

Anticipation has been high for Disney’s live-action retelling of their animated classic, and by all accounts the trailer suggests that the new Beauty and the Beast, hitting theaters in 2017, won’t disappoint.

The trailer does a lot to up the excitement factor, playing on our existing knowledge of the classic story, and teasing the arrival of Emma Watson’s Belle (damn you Disney, you know what we want!).

It opens with the castle (very Hogwarts-looking, no?), as we see iconic imagery from the Disney movie. We hear the voices of Ian McKellen and Ewan McGregor (Cogsworth and Lumiere), see the portrait of the prince, and finally, the rose — and Belle, barely visible, watching it in nervous anticipation. It looks like it still has all its petals, so we’d guess that this might be the first time she sees it.

We imagine the full reveal of Belle in the dress will be huge — we’ll keep you posted, as we’re sure that bombshell is dropping soon.

Beauty and the Beast opens March 2017 and stars Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast, Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as LeFou, Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, Kevin Kline as Maurice, Audra McDonald as the Wardrobe, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, and Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth.

What did you think about our first look at the Beauty and the Beast live-action movie? Did it live up to your expectations?! Or was there just not enough Belle? Share your thoughts in the comments!

‘Adventures of Supergirl’ #9: The Facet mystery deepens

And Kara hates mysteries.

2:00 pm EDT, May 22, 2016

Adventures of Supergirl #9 gives us our first look at Facet but inspires more questions than gives answers.

Adventures of Supergirl #9 keeps its creative team and picks up where the previous issue left off, with Kara and Alex underground and facing off against bots from Fort Rozz. While the sisters fight off attacks, Kara muses about hating mysteries. She reflects that Clark likes them because they taught him to reveal the hidden truths about others while Kara doesn’t like them because she wants things — and people — to be straightforward.

The mystery is, of course, who is behind everything that has led Kara to this moment. The mastermind? Facet. While Kara and Alex are fighting, Alex is grabbed to serve as bait, bringing Kara face to face with Facet. Though Facet speaks a language Kara doesn’t understand, she does recognize Facet’s uniform as belonging to a guard on Fort Rozz.

Adventures of Supergirl #9 page 1

Kara attacks Facet but breaks her hand. Uh oh. She tries to use her heat vision, but Facet deflects it. Kara is overwhelmed by Facet’s counterattacks, and Facet has the bots grab Kara. When Facet removes her mask, she reveals a reflective silver face and says she wants to begin Kara’s training to make her Krypton’s finest, like Facet herself. Facet tells Kara to ask her mother about her, but the conversation is interrupted when Alex sets off an explosion.

In the chaos, Kara grabs Alex and flees. They reach the surface, mostly still in tact, and Kara says they should go speak to Alura, so I assume she’s going to speak to the Alura AI at the DEO. The mystery that Kara hates has come around to not only encompass Facet but also her mother, which frustrates Kara to no end.

A good portion of this issue is action, as Kara and Alex fight the Fort Rozz robots and Kara faces off against Facet. Both Kara and Alex are left the worse for wear after the encounter. While we know there won’t be anything too serious happening to our main characters since the comic ties into the television series, the action sequences were still quite engaging, particularly in terms of the art.

Adventures of Supergirl #9 page 2

As with the previous issue, we see a fair amount of Kryptonian as the Fort Rozz robots and Facet speak. However, Facet also speaks a language that Kara didn’t recognize that was represented by squiggly lines. This only enhances Kara’s frustration with the mystery that underlies the entire issue — and the comic as a whole, as we learn that everything ties together after all.

With four issues left, I assume Kara will get some answers from the Alura AI about Facet. This new villain tying into the life of Alura makes a lot of sense considering the television series spent quite a lot of time exploring the consequences of Alura’s actions on Krypton. As her daughter, Kara has had to face many who held grudges against Alura for sentencing them to Fort Rozz so thematically, this issue of Adventures of Supergirl ties in nicely with the series in that way.

Reading Adventures of Supergirl every other week is like catching up with a good friend you only see every now and then — especially now that Supergirl is on break for the summer. I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here and finding out just who Facet is and why she’s taken such an interest in Kara.

Adventures of Supergirl #10 will be released on Monday, May 30.

Fred Armisen hosted the season 41 finale of SNL with musical guest Courtney Barnett. He also brought along a couple of familiar friends as well.

SNL kicked off its season finale with a bang using Kate McKinnon and Larry David as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In what was maybe the best cold open of the season, Hillary and Bernie bickered back and forth about Hillary’s insurmountable delegate lead in the Democratic primary race. The sketch was particularly enjoyable as the two of them danced through the halls of Studio 8H before throwing to the credits with the entire cast.

Fred Armisen’s opening monologue was also one of the best opening monologues of the season. Fred performed a part of his fictional one-man show, and exaggerated just about every single thing you could imagine. The monologue was not only hilarious but one of the most unique monologues ever given on SNL.

The first sketch of the night featured a couple of breaks of character as Cecily Strong, Fred Armisen and Kyle Mooney played Native American explorers who take things a little bit too far.

To the delight of the audience, SNL brought back a Digital Sketch with none other than Andy Samberg himself. Samberg is set to star in the new movie Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

Maya Rudolph, who has an upcoming variety show with Martin Short, stopped by Weekend Update to play the recent ousted President of Brazil. Maya can do no wrong, and this sketch was yet another example of her many hilarious accents.

The funniest sketch of the night had to go to Fred Armisen’s character Regine. Regine and her boyfriend played by SNL alum Jason Sudeikis are outlandish, rude and inconsiderate: the perfect recipe for tons of character breaks. This is a must-see sketch!

SNL will return for its 42nd season this fall. There is no word yet as of which cast members may be leaving the show. Details around casting usually happens throughout the summer months as the show gears up for its fall premiere.

What did you think of Fred Armisen hosting SNL?