Fantastic Disney+ Suggestions for February 2020
As February ends, we’ve almost made it! Spring is just around the corner, with its warmer weather and requirement for several fewer layers of clothing. Until then, we still have to remain warm. So, we’re stuck inside for a little while longer. Here are eight Disney+ suggestions to pass the time until the seasons change. Spoiler: I’m big on romcoms, princesses, and National Geographic shows during the coldest months.
12 Dates of Christmas
Hey, as long as snow’s in the forecast, holiday movies are fair game! That’s my philosophy, which explains why my TiVo still has Christmas movies from several years ago. While I don’t use my TiVo much in the age of streaming media, I still do have several memorable romantic comedies saved for posterity.
For example, ABC Family aired a Groundhog Dog knockoff called 12 Dates of Christmas back in 2011. It was the anchor program in the channel’s 25 Days of Christmas block that year. So, Disney pulled out all the stops in signing film actress Amy Smart and Zach from Saved by the Bell to star in the film. I’m being serious right now if that’s not clear. They WERE huge gets in 2011.
Anyway, the story focuses on Kate Stanton, an unhappy woman who doesn’t precisely possess the holiday spirit. For no good reason, she finds herself reliving the same blind date – you guessed it! – 12 times. To break the cycle, she has to do right by everyone she knows.
Yes, you’ve seen this movie before. Still, it’s the month that has Groundhog Day, and the film is relevant again due to that Bill Murray commercial. So, the timing is right to watch an entertaining knockoff starring Amy Smart, who deserves a better film career than she’s had.
For reasons too difficult to describe here, the Marvel Cinematic Universe technically doesn’t include Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore. However, its less successful partner program is 100 percent MCU. In fact, Avengers: Endgame features a memorable scene with an actor from Agent Carter.
James D’Arcy reprises the role of Jarvis, the real butler, not Tony Stark’s personal assistant of a similar name. It’s a fitting tribute, as one of Endgame’s directors, Joe Russo, also helmed the second episode of Agent Carter.
While the connections here are interesting, I’m recommending Agent Carter for an entirely different reason. The show is fun. By now, everyone knows that Hayley Atwell is perfectly cast as Peggy Carter. In the two seasons of the short-lived television series, she gets to fight espionage agents around the world. More importantly, she battles extreme sexism most charmingly.
Agent Carter deserved a better fate. It’s a hidden gem on Disney+ that you should add to your Watchlist immediately.
Continent 7 Antarctica
Since you’re already cold, the last thing that you want is to watch a documentary series with six episodes set in Antarctica. I’m here to tell you otherwise.
As you watch Continent 7 Antarctica, you’ll learn what genuine weather-related hardship is. You’ll see tankers break giant blocks of ice to free other, smaller ships to sail safely through the waters. You’ll watch people get cabin fever while stuck in buildings for weeks on end.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll grimace when a couple of explorers find themselves trapped outside. For 24 hours, their only survival option involves digging a tunnel and staying there until the weather improves.
I’ve watched every episode of this mini-series. I keep hoping for a sequel, too. It’s mesmerizing and will make you feel a lot better about a few snowflakes.
Dan in Real Life
I’ve run movie websites for more than 20 years, and I work from home. So, I usually have at least one movie playing in the background. I tend to re-watch stuff that I know that I like, especially heartfelt stuff that makes me happy.
Dan in Real Life is probably one of the 50 movies that I’ve watched the most in my lifetime.
Steve Carell is pitch-perfect as that Hallmark Channel movie stereotype, the widowed single father. He has three daughters, a goofy brother, and a wise father. Dan’s comfortable and relatable.
Dan’s life gets upended when he has a chance encounter with a woman played by Juliette Binoche. For the first time in ages, the widower feels something for another woman. Then, he finds out that he’s just fallen for his brother’s girlfriend.
Okay, this movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel. However, Dan in Real Life comes with impressive depth and heart. Also, the cast is terrific. Emily Blunt and Amy Ryan also co-star, while the two teen daughters are played by Alison Pill and Britt Robertson.
I discovered this one by accident. I was curious about whether National Geographic had licensed the rights to its excellent Mars series before the Disney purchase. It turns out that they had, as Netflix is currently streaming the first two seasons of the show.
While I heartily recommend Mars for both the science and the fictional story, I found something great on Disney+, too. Expedition Mars documents the way that the Opportunity and Spirit rovers expanded humanity’s scientific knowledge on the red planet.
These two vessels overcome unimaginable obstacles like Martian dust storms and icy nights to report back to NASA. No one involved with our space program expected Opportunity and Spirit to survive the harsh conditions for more than a few months. This documentary shows they did.
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Back before she had conquered Hollywood, Anne Hathaway beat out hundreds of other actresses to play the role of Princess Mia. At the time, female leads were few and far between in the industry. And this role had the gravitas of Garry Marshall directing with screen icon, Julie Andrews, co-starring.
Hathaway was only 18 when she got the gig, a nod to her preternatural acting ability. I always loved this project and its sequel because a friend worked on both productions. He relayed a lot of juicy details about problems on the set. None of them impacted the film’s quality, though.
The Princess Diaries became a blockbuster for Disney, earning more than $100 million, the barometer for greatness at the time. It also garnered a sequel. Plus, the rest of the cast is interesting. Jason Schwartzman’s younger brother plays the love interest in the film, while Mandy Moore plays Hathaway’s bully.
By the way, if you cheat and do a double-bill with the sequel, Chris Pine plays the boyfriend in it!
Princess Protection Program
This film exemplifies the power of Disney’s casting and marketing machines. Back in 2009, Jamie Chung seemed like the biggest star in this film. She’d just appeared in ABC Family’s six-part series, Samurai Girl, which isn’t available on Disney+ yet for some reason.
However, the ostensible leads of the Disney Channel movie were 16-year-olds who had already done a lot for the Mouse House. Yes, Princess Protection Program stars Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, two women who you can’t get off of your Spotify playlists no matter how hard you try.
The story is your run-of-the-mill princess hides out as a small-town teenager for a while. Demi plays the princess while Serena plays the normal girl. I’ve watched the movie, and it’s nothing special. Still, it deserves a look just for the “remember them when” aspect. If Disney wanted Lovato and Gomez to star in a movie now, the women would expect a couple more zeroes in their checks.
That Darn Cat
During the 1960s and 1970s, I’m dubious that Disney rejected any comedy pitch ever. Some of the films that they made feature synopses that sound like they were written on a bar napkin. And I’m not even saying that as a bad thing!
The zaniness of some of these comedies is impossible to imitate in the distilled modern era, where a bad elevator pitch guarantees that a project won’t move forward.
Thankfully, we still have Dean Jones and Hayley Mills movies from this era to delight us. That Darn Cat is doubly great because it stars both Disney icons, along with a cat who somehow holds the only clue to a robbery and kidnapping.
Half a century before the internet figured it out, Walt Disney already knew that cats and dogs made for the best entertainment. This movie is a dated relic…but impossibly charming!
PS: Disney fans should know that the Sherman Brothers wrote the theme song for That Darn Cat!