Wednesday, November 13, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Five Underrated Movies Now Streaming on Disney+

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

So Disney+, Disney's streaming service answer to Netflix, launched yesterday to much fanfare. As of this writing, I haven't watched anything on the service yet but I have logged into the service and taken a peek at the mammoth amount of content Disney is hosting on there. There's so much to watch that one can get lost trying to figure out what to watch. Never fear! Disney geek Douglas Laman is here to suggest five woefully underrated Disney titles you can watch right now on Disney+. As a sidenote, John Carter is, unfortunately, not on the service yet. If it was, though, rest assured that this list would just be John Carter five times.
Woola, the adorable alien doggo from John Carter
 Anywho, onto the list, which begins with...

Queen of Katwe
Basically the last gasp for theatrically-released Disney fare that wasn't a blockbuster release, Queen of Katwe has a pivotal place in the history of Disney's feature film output but it's also just a darn good inspirational sports drama! Disney's made a whole bunch of these types of films over the last twenty years, with many ending up as more schmaltzy than moving. Thankfully, director Mira Nair imbues a lot more in the way of distinctly-realized characters and stakes to ensure that Queen of Katwe can stand out from the pack, you truly understand that there's so much at stake for the lead character of this motion picture in her chess ambitions than just delivering snippers of inspirational dialogue Disney can drop in the marketing materials. Lupita Nyong'o is also on hand in a moving performance as the lead character's mother and, really, any movie that allows Nyong'o to deliver memorable acting is worth a viewing!
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Currently the last hand-drawn animated movie in the Walt Disney Animation Studios canon (please let that not stay the case for long, this artform must endure), Winnie the Pooh is an endlessly delightful comedy that deserved better than getting dumped on the same weekend as the last Harry Potter movie. The gorgeous-looking animation is a treat to watch and the vocal performances (including Craig Ferguson as Owl, a brilliant piece of casting) are delightful but the real star of Winnie the Pooh is comedy, this movie is an absolute hoot. A whole scene where Piglet tries to help his animal friends who are trapped in a pit is full of utterly hysterical wordplay. This is one animated Disney movies that adults won't have any trouble enjoying as much as their kids!

Treasure Planet
I'll always take any possible chance to stan for this motion picture, which, like John Carter, deserves to be known for more than its poor box office performance. For one thing, Treasure Planet was one of the few early 21st-century animated movies to figure out a nifty way to blend hand-drawn animation and computer animation. The hand-drawn cyborg character Long John Silver having his robotic body parts be rendered with computer-animation, that alone is utterly brilliant and there's plenty more visual imagination where that came from. Sure, some of the attempts at comedy are strained but it's easy to take those in stride when Treasure Planet delivers so many gangbusters elements like Emma Thompson as a feline ship captain and that whole I'm Still Here sequence.
Teacher's Pet
A box office bomb from 2004, Teacher's Pet has basically vanished from public memory in the fifteen years since its release, a pity because it's actually a better movie than most of what Walt Disney Animation Studios was putting out at the start of the 21st-century. Though far from perfect, Teacher's Pet's warped-looking animation style is certainly distinct compared to the visual aesthetic of typical Disney animated fare and comes loaded with some totally committed vocal performances from the likes of Nathan Lane, Debra Jo Rupp and Kelsey Grammar. If your kids have already worn out the popular Disney animated movies, maybe give this underappreciated scrappy title a try?
The Rocketeer
Disney kept trying to make their own answer to box office juggernaut Batman at the dawn of the 1990s, but the likes of Dick Tracy and especially The Rocketeer just couldn't match Batman in terms of box office prowess. Its box office may be underwhelming, but The Rocketeer is actually a wonderful superhero tale (heck, I'd say I prefer it to Tim Burton's original Batman!) What's especially lovely about The Rocketeer is how director Joe Johnston puts the projects whole aesthetic as far away from ironic as possible, this is a totally sincere adventure picture about a guy with a jetpack and calling to help people. It's hard not to get swept up by such an endearing atmosphere and a great turn from Jennifer Connelly as the female lead, Timothy Dalton's zesty baddie and a cheer-worthy moment where a broad mobster stereotype firmly refuses to work for a Nazi, not to mention some wonderful production & costume design, all help to make The Rocketeer a superhero adventure worth seeking out ASAP on Disney+.

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