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Abigail Disney Doc ‘The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

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Abigail Disney Doc ‘The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

Think of this the next time you go to Disneyland and you find yourself hugging one of those adorable costumed characters: The person underneath that costume may be going without health care. Or not have enough money to pay their rent and is sleeping in their car. Or is surviving on groceries from food stamps or a food pantry.

That’s the sobering message of Abigail Disney and Kathleen Hughes’ new documentary, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, receiving its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Disneyland may be “The Happiest Place on Earth” for those who can afford to visit, but not so much for its “cast members,” as the company disingenuously labels its workers.

The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales

The Bottom Line

The Disney name makes the film’s arguments all the more compelling.

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Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Special Screenings)

Directors: Abigail Disney, Kathleen Hughes


1 hour 26 minutes

Abigail Disney has been on a crusade to shed light on economic inequality for years, and she’s in a fairly unique position to do so, being the granddaughter of company co-founder Roy. “Having the last name Disney is like having a weird superpower you didn’t ask for,” she comments in the film, later admitting that she feels “complicit” because her considerable assets largely stem from her inheritance of company shares.

Those shares are awfully valuable, thanks in no small part to the company — like so many others in America — prioritizing profits and shareholders over the lives of its employees (excuse me, “cast members”). The documentary features commentary from five of those employees, who have worked there for periods ranging from 5 to 47 years. They describe in vividly haunting detail their struggles to make ends meet on incomes of $15 an hour, plus an extra 75 cents hourly for night shifts. The money doesn’t go far in the Anaheim/Orange Country area, where a recent analysis has shown that a living wage would be over $24 an hour. The workers’ plight became even more dire during the pandemic, when they were laid off by the thousands.

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Contrast their situations to that of former CEO Bob Iger, whose income in 2018 was $65 million. In 1967, Roy Disney’s pay, including stock options, was just 78 times that of the company’s lowest paid workers, as compared to a disparity numbering in the thousands today. “The Disney company is ground zero of the widening inequality in America,” comments one of the film’s talking heads, who include several university professors and such writers as Kurt Andersen and Neal Gabler, the latter the author of Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. An Anaheim City Council member describes Anaheim as “a tale of two cities,” with a severely run-down southern section that doesn’t benefit from the huge subsidies and tax breaks given to Disney and the other theme parks.

The film includes footage of Disney testifying before a congressional committee, where she’s accused of promoting “socialism” and “Marxism” by, no surprise, Republican members. She also wrote to Iger, who responded by acknowledging the problems of the company’s workers but blaming the government for failing them.

The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales falters a bit when it broadens its scope to examine the dramatic increase in economic inequality in America, from the prosperity of the middle class in the 1950s to the current era in which far too many workers make a minimum wage but not a living wage. It’s not that the film’s arguments aren’t sound, including one commentator vividly describing “the assholification of America” that began in the 1980s and the damning indictments of such figures as Ronald Reagan and economist Milton Friedman. But it all feels familiar coming after so many documentaries exploring similar themes.

The film also gets slightly cutesy at times, as with the inclusion of a discussion between Abigail and her sister Susan in which the latter suggests that she make a movie to address the issues. “Well, that was meta,” Abigail concedes.

Still, the film makes an extremely powerful, timely and important statement, especially coming from someone whose name carries such symbolic weight. Disney deserves tremendous credit for standing up for what’s right, even if it means biting the family hand that feeds her.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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