The Family Room A Lunch community dedicated to raising families... <![CDATA[ Floats, but Just Barely]]>
The Little Mermaid is still highly regarded as a classic of animation. It's well worthy of tha status too, so much so that, watching it now as adults, the early millennials who first fell in love with it are still quite blind to just how convoluted The Little Mermaid really is. Yes, it's a children's story based on a short by the great Hans Christian Anderson, but man, what a crazy mess of a plot. It's a good thing it got in at the tail end of the Reagan years, because there's no way in hell something like this ever would have flown anytime afterward. 

See how crazy The Little Mermaid is: THERE IS A MERMAID AS THE MAIN CHARACTER! A MERMAID! CRAZY! AND SHE HAS ANIMALS FRIENDS! WHO TALK! I mean, whoa, where are these guys getting the weed from, right? Who's their dealer and where can I find him, right?

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, the story of The Little Mermaid is universally known: A little mermaid by the name of Ariel is the daughter of Triton, the King of the Ocean. She's a little bit of a rebel; much to Triton's worry and annoyance, she makes regular trips to the surface to pick up little knickknacks humans accidentally dropped from passing ships. Given the fact that she's forbidden to keep going up and down from the surface, Ariel has to keep her fascination with the human world a secret from Dad. Sadly, Triton has a very nosy lobster confidante named Sebastian who lets Triton in on her side hobby, which pisses him off and sends him on a rampage in her secret closet. Ariel, not believing humans are the vile, disgusting creatures Triton makes them out to be (oh, if she only KNEW), is devastated. 

There's this evil witch named Ursula who knows Ariel's true desire, though, and she cheerfully offers to give Ariel a fresh new pair of real human legs for three days so she can explore the surface and meet the man of her dreams, Prince Eric, who she once rescued from drowning. Eric never got a look at Ariel, but he did manage to overhear her voice, and upon hearing that voice, he decided he was in love with Ariel and wanted to marry her. So in exchange for her legs and looks, all Ursula needs is Ariel's voice, and if Eric and Ariel haven't gotten it on in three days, Ariel goes back to mermaid form and Ursula owns her lock, stock, and barrel. Ursula is planning to use Ariel as her prime bargaining chip in challenging Triton's lordship. 

Go through that summary again and see what sticks out. Is it the fact that Eric must be pretty fucking shallow? Yeah, he hears a voice and falls in love, automatically, with whoever it happens to belong to. So when Ursula pretties herself up and takes to the surface in an effort to use Ariel's own voice - which she gets to use - against her, Eric basically whores himself out. Talk about thinking with the wrong head. Of course, since Ursula is controlling Ariel's voice, Ariel has every reason to be worried since it's the voice the Prince likes and not the girl. Ariel gets her legs completely mute, and when she voices her concern over not being able to, you know, speak to Eric and try to find out what he's really like and try to form some basis of an actual relationship, Ursula is ready with a pretty point blank response: Dress up like a Bratz doll and shake her groove thang. 

Yeah, it's pretty freaking absurd trying to get grownups to swallow that much, because it's extremely trite even by Disney standards. Yet somehow it always seems to escape the glare of cultural critics who prefer to go gunning for Belle and her Stockholm Syndrome. If anything, The Little Mermaid is actually worse on that front. The shame of it is that Ariel otherwise shows such promise as a character: She has a rebellious streak, an independently thinking spirit, and is a lot more than many Princesses of Disney past who frequently moved between trophies and decorations. Of course, you could probably factor in the fact that Ariel IS just 16 years old, and being of that age, she wants everyone to think of her as a more complex and rebellious person than she is. 

Somewhere in my more recent years and more recent viewings of The Little Mermaid, it occurred to me that I wasn't getting to know several of these characters very well. First of all, Sebastian. I know he's supposed to be some kind of advisor to Triton, but apparently advising the King comes with the duty of composing for the Royal Orchestra as well if the movie is to be believed. When Ariel fails to play her part in some kind of opera, Sebastian helps Triton scold Ariel, complaining that she ruined what was supposed to be his grandest achievement. That's quite the dual role. We also know Triton hates humans, but that's never explained. There's also Ariel's seagull friend Scuttle, who provides Ariel with all the information she could ever want on humans. I wanted to know just where Scuttle was coming up with this information, because to him, a fork is called a "dinglehopper" and is used as a comb while a smoking pipe is called a "snarfblatt" and used as a musical instrument. Ariel has six sisters and we don't get any information about them. 

Yeah, for being such a beloved classic of Disney's mighty animation division, The Little Mermaid is making us work with a pretty weak story. Even though The Little Mermaid was one of the first Disney movies to try to offer up a female lead as something more than some kind of prom night prize, that's pretty much what she aspires to be. It's Ariel who wants to give up HER own spot in the world and everything she knows, after all. To draw the comparison to my favorite Disney Animation movie once again, I don't know why Belle keeps taking all the beatings for Stockholm Syndrome with Ariel running around. In Beauty and the Beast, the is a gradual but very marked and notable change in the behavior of Beast, and it isn't like Belle spends so much time sitting around and taking it - she never seems to forget that she's captive because she, herself, made a bargain for her father's freedom. She also tries to escape, and she is helped by Beast's servants, who are legitimately warm to her from the very beginning and provide her with comfort and companionship as well as a communication buffer between her and Beast in the early goings. None of this happens in The Little Mermaid. It's a common romantic comedy trope that the woman is willing to give up all her accomplishments for a man, but The Little Mermaid goes a step further because Ariel is surrendering her entire world, basically selling her soul.

I don't want to denounce The Little Mermaid entirely, because it does succeed in showing us an imaginative fantasy world with wonderful writing and fun songs. "Under the Sea" is just plain infectious. It says a lot about The Little Mermaid that the movie escapes academia's attacks because the warmth and sweet writing are able to mask its deficiencies so well, and for those reasons, I'm rating in the positive because, hell, I like this movie too. I can't pretend the flaws weren't apparent to me even when I was a young kid, though, so I can't place this on the level of a lot of Disney's other work. It's standard, which means it's worth a few watches whenever it pops up on The Disney Channel, but if I write up a list of great animated movies - and believe me, I LOVE animated movies - I'm leaving The Little Mermaid off for sure.]]> Mon, 9 Dec 2013 16:24:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ Shrek Learns About Christmas]]>
The animation is good and the vocal talents from the Shrek movies do the voices of their respective characters. However, I didn't find the special to be as funny or entertaining as some of the other Shrek specials. I was also discouraged that the special didn't focus much on the "giving" aspect of the season (family is the big catch word in the special). Also, the special is rather short with a total running time of about 23 minutes. Despite this, I did enjoy watching it and found it somewhat entertaining. I like SCARED SHREKLESS better, but SHREK THE HALLS is ok.]]> Sat, 7 Dec 2013 17:29:06 +0000
<![CDATA[The Flintstones Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
Give me a classic Tex Avery or Looney Tunes cartoon instead.]]> Sun, 31 Mar 2013 06:11:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ Impressive Debut Film in a Fiercely Competitive Arena]]>
Additionally the film has managed to establish itself so firmly in the world's collective psyche that not only is a sequel in the works for 2013 but also a spin-off film based on the minions for the following year. Not bad at all for a firm with only three titles to its entire roster at present (the other two being a CG/ live action hybrid called Hop and a second full CG feature, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax).

But enough about Illumination and their meteoric rise to legitimate competition to industry heavy hitters Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony Imageworks and Blue Sky, you are surely reading this review to learn more about the movie itself. But before we get to that, consider Despicable Me's modest budget of $69-mil. If that sounds like a lot to you, the average budget of a modern CG feature from the likes of some of the companies mentioned above is roughly $150-million with some even dwarfing that amount (fellow 2010 CG entry Toy Story 3 cost a staggering $200-million for example). Obviously this makes Despicable Me's current gross of $543,113,985 even more impressive! Okay now I'm done talking about Illumination, honest.

Despicable Me tells the tale of a villain getting up there in years who is feeling the squeeze put on by young up and coming evil-doers like the smug & tech-crazy Vector. So as to one up Vector and raise the bar of villainy so high that no other baddie can ever compete, antagonist/ protagonist Gru hatches a scheme straight off the pages of a comic book: He'll steal the moon!

But to accomplish such a lofty ambition a little heist action is in order: Namely the stealing back of the shrink ray that Vector stole from Gru after he had stolen it initially. Confused yet? No need to strain your noodle, the plot is a straight forward through and through with a wide variety of visual goodies and far reaching shades of humor to be sure to get almost anyone giggling sooner or later.

Things get complicated for our pointy nosed, bald headed, sweater donning bad guy when his scheming requires that he adopt a trio of wide-eyed orphans. Lending his voice to the character of Gru is none other than The Office's Steve Carell with a surprisingly convincing European accent. The remainder of the cast is equally well selected and delivers above average vocal deliveries to compliment the solid visuals- Jason Segal as Vector, Julie Andrews as Gru's unlovable and unloving mom, and strangely appropriate Russell Brand as Gru's geriatric genius inventor Dr. Nefario.

However, and as you might expect, an animated version of Austin Powers' Dr. Evil is hardly going to obtain the type of marketability that you'd expect from a film trying to give Disney a run for its money but don't worry, Despicable Me has that covered in earnest as well in the form of the minions. While it's never actually made clear just what these little yellow capsules with safety goggles and overalls actually are in the film, the special features reveals that they are in fact small genetically engineered drones. The high-pitched nearly unintelligible banter is just the icing on the cute/ marketable cake. If additional films and theme park rides are any indication, mission accomplished.

The soundtrack & score are spectacular as well. Pharrell Williams provides an absolutely infectious blend of beat driven filler instrumentals and original hip-hop and R&B numbers.

Comparisons to DreamWorks' Megamind are all but inevitable and though pretty similar from afar, the fact is Megamind is more of a spoof on comic-book cliché/ superhero vs super-villainy not unlike Pixar's The Incredibles (just told from the bad guy's point of view). Despicable Me is more about the business of trying to make it in the world as a villain; completely doing away with the hero element altogether. At the risk of providing a little spoiler, this is a redemption tale at its core as well: The type where the goodness present in the human heart trumps even the sheer terror of wearing a gray turtleneck sweater with scarf and freezing everyone ahead of him into a block of ice in the line at the coffee shop.

In all, Despicable Me falls into the territory of a resounding success in just about every unit of measurement. The plot feels a tad bit more forced than the well-oiled machine that is Pixar (or DreamWorks of late) but for a new studio on an extremely limited budget, such complaints become increasingly insignificant. With an exclusive partnership with Universal Films, Illumination Entertainment has made it clear that they aren't going to be content competing with anything less than the absolute upper echelon of the genre. This, their first entry into the fold is 95-minutes well spent. Here's hoping we're treated to that inexplicably absent back-story of the minions in either of the forthcoming films in the series.]]> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 01:17:59 +0000
<![CDATA[Christmas Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Even though Christmas is over as of writing this, I feel like talking about it now.

Despite abandoning my Christian faith in 2001 (I'm an agnostic with really strong leanings toward atheism), I still practice Christmas because I think it's a wonderful time to spend with friends and family, and that I see it more as a cultural tradition in the Western world than an exclusively-Christian holiday.  I guess it helps that since 2006, I've been spending my Chirstmases with family that don't bog down everyone's spirits with their dramatic crap or downright malice for others.

My ideal Christmas consists of comics and games for gifts and Mexican-styled food for dinner and dessert.


]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2013 05:06:10 +0000
<![CDATA[E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> This movie was a favorite of mine during my childhood and even after watching it for the first time in ten years, it's just as great as I remembered it to be.  One of the best family films of the 80's and one of the landmark films of American cinema, E.T. combined strong special effects with a brilliant soundtrack and believable characters.  Like any good movie, it does a good job at changing tones, as there's scenes that made me laugh my ass off (like E.T. getting drunk) and others that moved me (the end of the movie).

On to the 2002 re-release, I thought it was a joke.  The extra scenes didn't develop any scenes or characters any better, the CGI renditions of E.T. looked out-of-place, and the replacement of certain bits of dialogue and especially the shotguns with walkie-talkies butchered the movie.

I'm glad that Steven Spielberg saw the light recently and for the blu-ray release of the movie, released only the original version from 1982 with only a few enhancements in the background sound to bolster atmosphere.

]]> Tue, 23 Oct 2012 02:24:14 +0000
<![CDATA[The Wizard of Oz Quick Tip by BaronSamedi3]]> Sun, 21 Oct 2012 01:09:15 +0000 <![CDATA[ An American Fairy Tale]]>
The premise is the same as the classic film, young Dorothy is transported from her home in Kansas to a magical world called Oz. First she accidently kills a witch and meets the Munchkins. She just wants to get home and she's told that maybe the Wizard of Oz can help her. So, she sets down the yellow brick road to find the Emerald City and meet this great and powerful wizard. Along the way she's joined by a Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and a somewhat cowardly Lion. The Wicked Witch of the West doesn't really want Dorothy dead, but just wants her captured. There are also a bunch of winged monkeys who have to serve the Witch of the West.

However, though the elements are all there, the story is actually quite different from the famed 1939 movie. For instance, unlike the movie, Dorothy really is transported to Oz in a tornado. It's not all just a dream. Or, take the Emerald City, it's not so much green because of all the jewels and actual green color, but more-so because of the green glasses anyone in the city must wear. And the flying monkeys, they only serve the Witch of the West because she is the person who controls a magic cap.

Like what often happens with film adaptations, I found the book to be a much better overall story than the famous movie version it's based upon. Though there are some frightening moments in the movie THE WIZARD OF OZ, the original story is much more dark and frightening. Baum had said he wanted to write a truly American fairy tale and THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ is that. For instance, there are some creatures that actually die in the story and at one point Dorothy is turned into a slave. Many people complain about the Dainty China Country section doesn't fit with the rest of the story. While this part of the book is slightly different in tone and mood, I never found it to be offsetting. Dorothy's journey to the Emerald City and then to Glinda weren't completely straightforward so there are all kinds of side journeys she and her companions could take.

Originally written for children and conceived as a one-part story, Baum had no idea how much fame, fortune, and success would result from the book. Since the story was so successful, the publisher asked for more Oz books and Baum complied and complied and complied. Sometimes he complied because he needed some more cash. In total, he wrote 14 Oz books. Being the first, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ is one of the best. It really is an American fairy tale.]]> Sun, 8 Jul 2012 15:56:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ Not the Typical Small Group Video Series]]>
Disc 1: "Episode 1: My Life Has a Purpose"
"Episode 2: My Life Can Change"
"Episode 3: My Pain is Understood"
Disc 2: "Episode 4: My Life Has a Plan"
"Episode 5: I Have the Promise of Eternal Life"
"Episode 6: I Have a Hope That Never Dies"

Episode 1 focuses mostly on the Last Supper, Episode 2 focuses on Judas & Peter, Episode 3 looks at Jesus himself, Episode 4 examines things from the perspective of Mary, Jesus' Mother, Episode 5 looks at the unnamed thief who asked Jesus to remember him when he came to his kingdom, and Episode 6 mainly looks at things from the perspective of Mary Magdalene.

Unlike many Christian videos, especially teaching materials, this is a high-quality DVD series. The episodes have really great production values. They look like something out of a blockbuster movie or an expensive mini-series.

Each of the videos is narrated by Kyle Idleman, the current Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church outside of Louisville, Kentucky. Kyle is a good teacher and his particular teaching style works well for the format of these videos.

My only complaint about the series is that the music often is louder than the dialogue. There is no music when Kyle is talking, but then when the action of story takes place there's this undercurrent of music that doesn't stop and which is usually louder than the music. Many of the people in the small group I was in that watched this series with are older and they couldn't hear a lot of the dialogue because the accompanying music was too loud.

Overall, this is a very well-produced DVD series. It's intended to be used as part of a small group study. However, though the experience isn't the same, the videos are such high-quality that one can learn a great deal by watching them on their own.]]> Sun, 8 Jul 2012 15:40:02 +0000
<![CDATA[Batman: The Animated Series Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
This show had it all: superb animation, tip-top voice acting (especially Mark Hamill as The Joker, you can't beat that with a police baton), gripping storylines, fantastically-developed characters, a powerful art style, and heart-pounding action.  There's so many great episodes in this series, but an episode that sticks out to me at the moment is the Season 1 episode "Heart of Ice."  That episode had a lot of emotional depth executed in that one.

If you enjoyed this show, you should also check out Batman:  Mask of the Phantasm, which is an animated film made by the same people that made this series.

Finally, it's worth noting that despite the fact that Batman:  The Animated Series was a show originally broadcast in a timeslot for kids' entertainment, it feels much more mature than so many anime titles that are marketed as "adult."]]> Sun, 27 May 2012 04:29:23 +0000
<![CDATA[Toy Story Quick Tip by devora]]> check out my review of Toy Story 3!).]]> Tue, 21 Feb 2012 04:43:26 +0000 <![CDATA[ All Beauty]]> BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D

Written by Linda Woolverton

Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Voices by Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury


Mrs. Potts: Tale as old as time, true as it can be.


From the moment the film opens on a spectacular view of a majestic castle through a forest filled with bustling foliage and sparkling waterfalls, the wave of love I felt for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST back in 1991, came rushing back over me when I saw it’s restored 3D rerelease on the big screen. Sure, the rerelease can be seen as nothing more than a gimmick to get more money out of already tapped out filmgoers. Disney doesn’t have to spend that much to make it happen so the returns will be plentiful. Sure, you can see it through this jaded filter if you like, but I choose to see it as an opportunity. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a wonderful film, plain and simple. Having it back in theaters, having it brought to new heights with it’s 3D conversion, is a gift, a delightful and infectious gift.


We are certainly all familiar with the story of the spiteful, selfish prince who refuses kindness to an elderly vagrant and is placed under her spell when she reveals herself to be a beautiful woman. He is physically transformed on the outside into the beast of a man he is on the inside. Meanwhile, his castle becomes an enchanted prison that finds its inhabitants changed into household items, like clocks and candlestick holders. When a brave, young girl named Belle trades her freedom for that of her father’s, and agrees to become the Beast’s prisoner in lieu of her dad (it’s a long story!), the possibility of breaking the spell becomes a reality. The Beast must find true love before it’s too late and Belle might be his last chance. And, to top it all off, all of this grandeur is told in highly enjoyable song and dance.


BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a classic love story and directors, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, tell it with very little placating, which Disney is all too easily prone to these days. The theatrics of the enchanted castle provide plenty of lighter fodder to alleviate the mood but there is still ample room leftover for a tender exchange of love between one very independent woman and one very tortured man. Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) is one of the most intelligent and strong heroines in Disney history, without forsaking any of her innocent romanticism, and the Beast’s (Robby Benson) inner struggle is an antagonist unlike most found in the Disney lexicon. As spectacular as the animation is and as boisterous as every musical number is, what I find most moving and most memorable about BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the way it captures the delicate dance that led these two guarded souls to the love of their lives.

Thanks for reading.
LUNCH rating is out of 10.

Click here for more BLACK SHEEP REVIEWS.
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]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2012 17:09:18 +0000
<![CDATA[Christmas Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> here... I have done it, have you?!]]> Thu, 22 Dec 2011 14:26:01 +0000 <![CDATA[ Ratchet Racing Rules!]]> Kid Galaxy Ratchet Racer Drag Strip. It is geared towards the 3+ crowd, and my kids are 7 and 11. I'm happy to say my fears were unfounded though. Even I lost myself in the fun, playing with these with my son for over an hour.

The toy is a simple tried and true design, basically wind up and go. In this case, you take the two halves of the car and turn them until they reach their full tension. Then you and your playmate set them on the track and let’em rip! The drag strip is easy to set up and I didn't find it as  flimsy as some other reviews have indicated. There are obstacles along the raceway so the first one past them is usually the winner. If they both hit them at the same time, fun mayhem ensues. While the track itself is entertaining, it is just as much fun to set these cars going across a smooth wood or tile floor. You can even get creative and sic them after the cat or another household pet.

The cars have two halves and you can interchange them with other Ratchet Racer cars (sold separately). I really like the fact that they are 100% "kid powered" and don't need batteries. That's a big bonus if you're giving them as a gift for the holidays. That it also engages the child's creativity rather than plunking them in front of a video game is also a plus in my book. I feel the price is more than fair as well, considering the amount of play time they consume.

Ever since this toy was unpacked, these cars have been whizzing underfoot throughout the house. Both of my children have yet to tire of them. After more than three weeks, I think that says a lot. I have fun with them too though, so perhaps I'm a bit biased.

~ Kort]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2011 15:22:10 +0000
<![CDATA[Spider-Man: The Animated Series Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Mon, 7 Nov 2011 00:26:07 +0000 <![CDATA[The Flight of Dragons (1982 film) Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> The Flight of Dragons is one of the best animated fantasy films I've ever seen. Its combination of intelligent story and heartfelt characterization distinguishes it from the majority of animated films during the time it was released and has helped it to achieve a cult classic status.
Produced and directed by the Rankin/Bass team responsible for the 1977 animated film of The Hobbit and the 1980 film of The Return of the King, The Flight of Dragons has a similar visual motif and style as those other animated films, and like them it also includes a great folk soundtrack.

The film's script has a bit of a convoluted history.
The story is taken in part from the idea that dragons actually did exist in our world's prehistory and that they evolved from dinosaurs. This was a theory posited within a speculative history book by an author named Peter Dickinson. In his book Dickinson suggested the possibility of dragons having existed in reality and what happened to them. The book takes a pseudo-scientific look at what conditions would be needed for a dragon to fly, how they could produce fire, and what their physiognomy might have been. The title of the film comes from the title of the Dickinson's book, The Flight of Dragons, and the main character in the film is named after Dickinson.
The story is also taken in part from a series of fantasy novels by Gordon R. Dickson, the first novel of which is entitled The Dragon and the George, and tells of a man who is magically transported from the real world into a fantasy world of magic, where he is turned into a dragon. Most of the names for the characters and the adventure aspect of the film are taken from this novel.
Additionally, the script for the film adds new elements.

The film takes place between two worlds: our world, which is the rational world of science and logic, and the world of magic, where sorcerers and wizards are commonplace. The drama from the story derives primarily from the conflict between these two worlds and from the idea that in the world of magic people are becoming skeptical and the wizards and sorcerers are losing their powers as mankind turns to technology and begin looking to the powers of the future, rather than the belief in the superstitions of the past. This creates an interesting dichotomy thematically, but the film is careful to show that neither science/logic or magic/faith is complete unto itself and that there must be an inherent balance between the two lest the universe fall into disharmony.
Amidst all of this, a young man from our world is transported to the world of magic where he is accidentally transformed into a dragon and he must now learn to apply his knowledge of science to the world of magic uniting the two powers in order to become human again and to defeat the forces of evil which would conquer both worlds.

Another reason the film stands up so well is the voice cast which features John Ritter, James Earl Jones, Victor Buono, Paul Frees, Harry Morgan, and Bob McFadden. It's hard to expound upon what an excellent job these actors have done in giving the characters life. People often don't realize how important the voice cast is in making an animated film believable and emotionally involving. One of the things that Rankin/Bass did so well during this period was to assemble truly talented actors to give the characters depth and sincerity.

Featuring dazzling animation, a clever and involving story, and a great soundtrack by Don McLean, the film is for me one of the smartest nostalgia kicks out there. So often when I look back on my favorite movies as child I find that they are pretty disappointing or downright pathetic in retrospect, but The Flight of Dragons still shines as brightly as a beacon of quality fantasy storytelling in the dead of night.
]]> Fri, 9 Sep 2011 15:28:54 +0000
<![CDATA[The Hobbit (1977 animated film) Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Rankin/Bass animated film based on the original version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is rather light family-friendly fare, it is also true that The Hobbit as a novel was fairly light and adventurous in tone. The book wasn't meant to be this colossal epic like The Lord of the Rings. It had humble beginnings and I think the whimsy and modesty of the book comes through in this charming animated film.
This film has often been maligned by Tolkien scholars and hardcore fans of the novel for abridging the story and leaving out key characters and events. There are some who accused the film of being "too cute", of being "Disney-fied", others complain about the use of contemporary folk music in the soundtrack ,or say that the animation style was too "Japansese-y".

Personally, I think that the film does succeed as an adaptation of a children's book as it does appeal to children and it does keep all of the major characters (except Beorn) and themes from the novel intact.
As a musical fantasy, I think the film works well within both genres, and it's especially good considering that it was a made-for-TV film. The animation is certainly of a very high quality.
The music, while anachronistic, helps to set the mood for the film and truly the songs are very good.  Beorn's absence from the story was a shame, but I can see the logistical reasons for leaving him out (not dissimilar to leaving Tom Bombadil out of LotR). The depiction of Smaug is quite memorable and iconic too.
I also love the voice casting here. Orson Bean makes a terrific Bilbo and John Huston is beyond superb as Gandalf.]]> Thu, 1 Sep 2011 16:04:34 +0000
<![CDATA[ Still Charming Half a Decade Later]]>

I don’t know about you but when I think of Pixar’s “classics” rarely is Cars the first to come to mind.  The Toy Story(s) perhaps, Monsters Inc. maybe, even Finding Nemo for those so inclined and yet it took a under-whelming sequel followed by a revisit to the DVD I thought I knew well to realize that the first Cars is the epitome of all that Pixar has come to mean to modern animation.

In the event that you’ve been living in a cave these past six years, Cars tells of a racecar sidetracked by fate on his way to The Big Race in California.  Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a brash NASCAR rookie who unwittingly gets lost and ends up in Radiator Springs, an almost-ghost town and former hot spot along historic Route 66, now ignored by tourists and travelers alike, thanks to the superhighway that bypasses the town.

In the process of arriving, McQueen inadvertently tears up the asphalt of Main Street.  He gets arrested and is sentenced, against will and ego, to repave the damaged street.

While paying his debt to society, McQueen encounters a 1951 Hudson Hornet, a rusty but lovable tow truck, a hippy 1960 VW bus, a classy but confident Porsche and a herd of tractors prone to tipping over and fluctuating exhaust fumes out of fright.

The racing action certainly gets its due to be sure and kids have proven that a ragtag group of vehicles with eyes behind their windshields works just fine as toys, school folders, and backpacks.  But it is John Lasseter's underlying message that couldn't be clearer here: Pay attention to what matters: family, friends, true love, and it doesn’t hurt to appreciate cars either.

NASCAR-fans had much to celebrate, as did car-racing aficionados of all disciplines for that matter but it’s the nostalgia of society’s collective switch in thinking (from the scenery of iconic Route 66 being traded for the efficiency of the superhighway) that I found most prolific this time around.

Even though 2006 might as well be eons ago in the ever-advancing world of computer animating technology, the visuals in Cars still manage to impress (especially in high-definition); a fact perhaps further enhanced by the abundance of heart within the prose.

In all, and contrary to the trend that Pixar just continues to outdo itself in each subsequent effort, it is almost ironic that having watched the lackluster sequel in the theater led me back to the original and of course to rediscovering the charms that separate the good films from the great ones.

]]> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 08:24:36 +0000
<![CDATA[Despicable Me Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> : (
I swore an oath that I would not watch any more computer animated movies, but I couldn't help it... this one was just sooooo CUTE!

The film tells the story of Gru, a neglected boy who failed to win the approval of his mother as a child and grew up to be the world's greatest villain, and his attempt to pull of the greatest theft in villain history: the Moon. However, things begin to go awry when a younger, sassier, and wealthier villain named Vector shows up in town after having stolen the Great Pyramid of Giza, which results in the media dubbing all other villains as simply lame. In order to regain his throne of supreme villainy Gru must show that he can steal the Moon and be as ruthless as possible in doing so, but things don't go as planned when Vector manages to get a hold of the shrink ray that Gru needs to shrink the Moon before stealing it. Desperate and unable to break through Vector's security defenses, Gru relies on three young orphan girls, which he adopts, to sell Vector cookies and divert his attention while Gru steals the shrink ray back. The plan goes perfectly, well, almost, until Gru realizes that he has accidentally bonded with the three precocious and adorable children... at which point he must decide whether he wants to be a villain or a good dad.

The film is amazingly well made and the humor (much of which is provided by the antics of the Minions, Gru's genetically engineered henchmen who look like little yellow capsules) works wonders on both children and adults. The heart of the story about an embittered man trying to find acceptance and approval from his own mother and discovering that it is even more gratifying to find it from his adopted children is heartwarming and surprisingly effective within the realms of an animated family film.]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 12:04:46 +0000
<![CDATA[ Not Sendak's "wild things", but Spike Jonze's.]]>
Spike Jonze is a whacky guy, with the sort of charm that only a whacky guy can possibly have. Whether the man has made great films or not doesn't matter. What really matters, to me, is whether he can make many. Perhaps he cannot; Jonze has only directed three films, this one included. But each one has been something different; a journey like no other. There is a lot to appreciate when it comes to Spike Jonze and his little movies, although "Where the Wild Things Are" helped me to realize that Mr. Jonze might just be something more than simply a filmmaker.

We all know the popular children's story book of the same name. It was short, sweet, and to the point. It was 48 pages long, with only a handful of words. The illustrations helped tell half of the story, which was what made it so accessible and charming to both young and old audiences alike. I was first told this wonderful story when I was about...I'd say three years of age. And it was a whimsical journey just reading those 48 short, very easy pages with my parents. And now, there is a movie that has been made about one of my favorite childhood books.

Anyone who was exposed to Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" as a young child will connect quite well with Spike Jonze's screen adaptation. It was an impossible task, but Jonze didn't care. He has made a film out of "Where the Wild Things Are" that takes bold risks. It is not for children, it is strictly for those who are either in touch with their memories of the book, or in touch with their own emotions. It worked like a charm for this movie-goer.

The film introduces us to eccentric little boy Max (Max Records), who lives with his mother and sister in a suburban home, which he often runs around in, chasing his dog in a wolf costume (yes, the same one he donned in the book). Max often feels ignored by his mother (Catherine Keener), who has a boyfriend that Max does not completely approve of. And Max's just another sister, an older one, which means that she could care less about Max's loneliness.

One night, things go out of control, and Max runs away into the night. He hides, and envisions that he is going on a fantastical adventure by boat. His boat takes him across the sea, to a land where there are giant furry beasts. The beasts seem dangerous, initially, but when Max informs them of his fictional occupation(s) as a "king", they think twice before feasting upon him.

The Wild Things, which is what we call the beings that live on the island, are characters of their own. There's Carol (James Gandolfini), Ira (Forest Whitaker), Judith (Catherine O'Hara), Douglas (Chris Cooper), Alexander (Paul Dano), and K.W. (Lauren Ambrose). And then there's The Bull, who's a loner throughout the film, up until the end, where the great beast speaks. So now with all the characters properly introduced, I suppose there is nothing more for me to do than to tell you more about the story. So that I don't spoil too much, I'll be vague; Max and the Wild Things have many adventures. They build a huge fort, which is something that Max is always willing to do. They also have rock/dirt fights, and pile on top of each-other. However, Jonze doesn't want his Wild Things to be on-dimensional, so he layers them with unexpected complexity, in the way of emotions.

The Wild Things are sometimes very sad, human beings. When they cry, we want to cry too. This will be enough to puzzle any child that is unfortunate enough to see this film at a young age. I do not think that there should be complaints, or even threats regarding the tone of the film. This is an art film; not the Disney movie that the studios might have wanted it to be. I like what Jonze, who co-wrote the film, did to Maurice Sendak's story, and she was reportedly pleased as well. She trusted Jonze to make a spectacular film, and just like that, he has made one. "Where the Wild Things Are" left me with a lot of feelings, but it allowed me to cherish my childhood, as only stories of children and their imaginations can. The best filmmakers, who work with the imagination, never let go of their inner kid; but maybe, in Jonze, Sendak, or anyone's case, this is for the best.]]> Sun, 26 Jun 2011 02:02:57 +0000
<![CDATA[ Cute and charming, but only sometimes funny, however, I do somewhat admire it.]]>
"Despicable Me" is an animated feature in which weapons pop out within several seconds, little orphan girls are made somewhat cute, and evil minions are nothing short of resembling dimwitted corn-pops.

So right there, some good ideas were put into the product. The final result is energetic, family-friendly fun that has charm; but lacks the extra kick that could have earned it a total recommendation. With that being said, I would never try to turn someone's back on the film; although if you want a masterpiece in animated filmmaking, then this isn't where you should be looking.

But why would you be looking here in the first place? Mastery is not implied with this kind of premise; but rather cartoonish fun. Like Dreamwork's "Megamind", also about the struggle between heroes and villains, "Despicable Me" has its moments of fun, cartoony glory; although the story somewhat fails to deliver when it comes to captivation. But that's OK. "Despicable Me" is entertaining, sweet, and sometimes funny; so there's stuff to forgive as well as stuff to forget. All-in-all, I think you're in for a pleasant, if not forgettable treat.

Super villain Gru (Steve Carell) needs to find a new angle. His evil antics are losing popularity and substance due to the arrival of new super villain Vector (Jason Segel), as well as more villainous figures who know more about the business than Gru does. So Gru plans to shrink and steal the moon. However, when he gets the shrink-ray, it is stolen Vector, who uses it for his own meaningless purposes. And in one of his nigh pathetic attempts to get it back, Gru befriends and adopts three orphan girls (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and the adorable Elsi Fisher). Eventually, Gru re-claims his shrink-ray, and production on the theft of the moon continues.

However, Gru grows affectionate of these girls. He soon becomes a fatherly figure to them, taking them to amusement parks, telling them bed-time stories, and winning them stuffed-unicorns with his deadly weapons. All sequences listed above are surprisingly sweet, thorough, and more thoughtful than one would come to expect.

The plot can get sort of sappy and generic at times, but "Despicable Me" never stops being at least mildly engaging. It's not a great animated film, like "Spirited Away", but it's not a bad one, like "Hoodwinked". Thus, I can forgive it for its flaws; and I can also respect it too. I like what the writers and talents involves in its making were trying to do, and while they could have done better, there is some solid wit to be found here; buried underneath the seldom-seen but sometimes-annoying poop/fart humor, which most animated outings tend to throw in the mix anyways.

Carell voices Gru like some sort of Nazi. He sounds German; and the character looks like one built for Carell himself. This is a good thing about animated filmmaking; you can have the voice actors inhabit their characters, and Carell, well frankly, he fits right in.

The film looks decent, as far as animated films go. The animation itself, for the characters especially, is admirably smooth and never- absolutely NEVER- looks particularly ugly. Everything else looks fairly good, although there's just nothing that makes "Despicable Me" special. I know it doesn't need to be "special" to be good, but there's something missing, and sadly, it's a crucial ingredient. But if you're looking for light, consistent family-entertainment, then by God, you've got it.]]> Sat, 4 Jun 2011 20:55:40 +0000
<![CDATA[Tangled Quick Tip by devora]]> Tue, 31 May 2011 17:22:14 +0000 <![CDATA[ Fire Truck Education]]> Tue, 31 May 2011 06:03:28 +0000 <![CDATA[ Reviewed: Tangled [2010]]]> PG - 100mins - Animation/Comedy/Family - 28th January 2011

It has been well over 10 years since the Walt Disney Animation Studios branch of Disney has had anything to shout home about as they have struggled to live up to their past successes (Lion King, Aladdin all the way back to Snow White in 1937) and compete with the modern animations of it’s sister company Disney Pixar.

Tangled is based on the Brothers Grimm story of Rapunzel (the film’s title was only changed from Rapunzel shortly prior to its release) who as traditional tales go was locked away in a tower with only her long flowing hair as a chance of rescue. As a baby, Princess Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is kidnapped by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) from the palace for her magical healing powers that have been passed onto her. Locked away in a tall tower and believing she’s Gothel’s daughter, she longs only for one thing- to get out into the world and see the floating lights that appear every year on her birthday.

As luck would have it Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), a thief, finds his way into her tower when hiding from the palace guard and Rapunzel fearing he is one of the evil monsters her mother has warned her about knocks him out. When he comes to she strikes up a deal that in exchange for him escorting her to see the lights and keep her safe, she will let him go and return his stolen loot.

The best thing about this film is the characters and their mannerisms. Gothel is vanity personified with snide remarks aimed at Rapunzel, Ryder the perfect amount of cockiness and all of the token extras play their part well. My two favourite though say absolutely nothing and easily steal the show. Both the chameleon (Rapunzel’s best friend) and a guard’s horse, Maximus are fantastic. Seeing a horse which acts more like a dog got me going but this was topped by the chameleon who seemed to have an expression that summed up the mood perfectly every time. A little legend!

In terms of graphics, they are some of the best I have seen in an animation with the detail in her hair in particular being most impressive. But then this should be expected as Tangled does now hold the record for most expensive animation and second most expensive film ever made coming in at a noteworthy £157.5 ($260) million.

As with all Disney, there was a couple of sing-a-longs thrown in for good measure and although they will not live long into the memory in the way that others have, (hakuna matata anyone?) they were still catchy and you will find yourself tapping along or humming a tune or two for a while after the movie has finished.

This movie got me laughing and even having watched it a second time I was still giggling away throughout. It works for both adults and children and the witty way in which it was written appealed to me greatly. I will happily be watching this again so it has most definitely worked its Disney magic on me. Disney might well be back!!!

Rating: 7.9/10

For further reviews feel free to check out: or follow this site on Twitter @ FAbFilms

]]> Thu, 19 May 2011 18:07:24 +0000
<![CDATA[ And on a book shelf, Fromage to Eternity]]> The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is one of the funniest, slyest and most innocent comedies around, and one of the most action-filled, too.
Wallace and Gromit run a pest control business. People have hired them to catch all the bunnies that are chomping up their vegetables. This is vital because the annual veggie contest and fair given by Lady Tottingham is only days away. Through indescribable circumstances a bunny is turned into a giant were-rabbit and Wallace and Gromit are on the case. But then, in an amazing twist, the were-rabbit is...but you’ll get no spoilers from me.
Believe me, while children will love the film, this is a movie, just as Chicken Run was, for adults of all ages. The inventions are so rococo they probably need to be seen twice to be really appreciated. Allusions to horror movies and their stars, from King Kong to Lon Chaney, Jr. to Ernest Thesiger, are scattered all over the place. The puns and visual gags fly fast and loose. In the Wensleydale-loving Wallace's library are just briefly seen copies of, among other fine books, East of Edam and Fromage to Eternity. When Wallace loses his clothes and has only a cardboard produce box to protect his modesty from Lady Tottingham, you have to be quick to catch a glimpse of a small warning label glued on the box, "May contain nuts." And when Lady Tottingham invites Wallace to her private garden and shows him her prize melons.... But don't frown; it's all smile-inducing innocence.
Gromit may be silent, but everyone else speaks and the actors voicing the parts are exceptional. Peter Sallis, now 90, continues to be the voice of Wallace. Helena Bonham Carter does Lady Tottingham. Ralph Fiennes does Victor Quartermaine and is completely unexpected. Anyone who can only picture Fiennes as primarily a serious actor who isn't too funny, as I have, needs to see this movie. Quartermaine is an upper-class twit, loud, dense, eager to hunt down and blow away the were-rabbit and anything else. Fiennes is funny and nails the character. If you didn't know it was him you'd swear the voice belonged to some awful caricature of upper-class British oafdom.
This is a clever, funny movie.]]> Sat, 14 May 2011 03:26:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ It's not just for babies]]> Ultra Dreft packs a punch and really does an exceptional job cleaning soiled clothing. Our whites appear brighter and the clothes are not over-saturated with fragrant residue and other potential irritants, indicative of a number of laundry detergents currently on the market. My family had been using a grocery store generic detergent before trying this brand, and the difference is noticeable. Ultra Dreft's powder is soft, light and pleasant; much like the clothes feel after being washed with it. The packaging with a photo of a mother holding a newborn may suggest that it would not be effective on clothes worn by grimy adults, but Dreft gets the dirt out and restores fabric freshness. The concentrated formula goes a long way.

Given that it is the "#1 choice of pediatricians", I can only assume that this detergent would be a wise choice for those with sensitive skin and allergies. It makes sense to use a detergent that can effectively clean babies' clothes, which from my experience can get far dirtier than the average adult attire. BTW, my wife loves the soft pink packaging. It's not jarring like so many other offerings in the laundry aisles.

The one drawback I find is the price, but you supposedly can use a third less on the same amount of clothes. It usually stands on the top shelf of the laundry aisle, so it seems to be a "top shelf" product. In this case, you get what you pay for, quality detergent.]]> Thu, 12 May 2011 21:05:52 +0000
<![CDATA[ A fun, light, funny, and comic animated adventure.]]>
Disney has always had a reputation, which is the same for me or anyone else really, that has me wondering what they'll cook up next. They always have something on the stove; something good, and sometimes even great. Now, you can't have a good animated film just by having good animation; you need something more. "Tangled" is an animated feature that adds a clever little ingredient, giving it a nice taste, thus bringing it from the potential "animated, goofy mediocrity-fest" to the "wholesome, funny, and undeniably charming victory".

This is no animated classic, but I will admit that I enjoyed myself throughout. One does not approach a film such as this expecting a full-on masterpiece of poetic story-telling and direction; we have Pixar for that. But for some damn good entertainment that will have all audiences laughing and engaged, we have films such as this one here. "Tangled" is indeed consistent in its entertainment, funny in its humoristic elements, and speedy, if not imperfect, in its story-telling. I have no problem with that.

The story is a spin on the fabulous and widely-known "Rapunzel" fable. There have been many films that spoof, honor, or pay homage to such a tale, although this is one of the more successful reimagining's. Sometimes, the spin is funny; sometimes its actually kind of smart. In short, it works; for all its worth. As you can expect, there is a princess (Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore), a prince (Eugene, voiced by Zachary Levi) and a villainess (Mother Gothel, voiced by Donna Murphey).

The "prince" and the "princess" essentially go on one big heck of a journey, which helps the princess to get out more, and the "prince", who you should know is a currently "wanted" man for theft, attempting to avoid getting caught by the "old day" fuzz. Oh, and there's also a chameleon and a horse. This automatically makes this movie better than the standard family animation fare.

The voice casting works, and to my surprise, so does the musical numbers. Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that most animated flicks, especially those coming out of Disney's doors, are almost REQUIRED to have "song-and-dance" sequences? I noticed such a thing, and many times I've had problems with these "sequences". Here, we have a film which is so well-made that it even remembers to have these particular scenes/sequences enjoyable, instead of ear-splittingly melodramatic and childish. There's something mature within this film, something that is mature enough to charm a handful of adults. This film is indeed marketed towards children, but parents shouldn't mind the experience. They may even like the film themselves, because it has undeniable charm and a hell of a heart.

Listen, people: there's a crowd that this film was made for, and it's a crowd that can appreciate animated films as well as see through their cartoon-qualities. However, "Tangled" is the very definition of cartoon; featuring sequences so delightfully comical that you can't help but recall the "good old days" of animated filmmaking. You know: the days when animated films weren't riddled with poop/fart jokes and clichés that are stuffed down our throats like a jail-cell meal? Yes, those were the days. And there are many reasons why I'm recommending "Tangled". It looks great, feels nice enough to enjoy, and frankly, it's just really entertaining. The only problem that I (as well as many people) had was the plot clichés. Damn them to hell; who needs them? They're present here, although the film sometimes appears to be mocking them. None the less, "Tangled" doesn't trip on its hair and fall face-first into animated-filmmaking mediocrity hell, and it's actually worth a watch. It has charm, good looks, and the humor is, well, humorous. If you can appreciate any of that, then "Tangled" is for you.]]> Sun, 1 May 2011 17:32:10 +0000
<![CDATA[Tangled Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Walt Disney Pictures has released a really good traditionally animated film since Tarzan, and they've been making far too many computer animated films, and let's face it, their last fairy tale movie (The Princess and the Frog) was a huge letdown. So, you can imagine my surprise when I watched this and found it to be charming, moving, humorous, and thoroughly enjoyable all around. In my opinion, as a fan of Disney animated fairy tales, this is perhaps the best movie they've produced since Aladdin back in 1992. Tangled features strong digital animation and characters that are full of quirks and nuances that haven't been seen in some time. I also have to admit that this film features perhaps the most likable villain since Cruella DeVille.]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2011 18:53:20 +0000 <![CDATA[ Maybe I should've read the book...]]> As a general rule, if I think a book is eventually going to be made into a movie, I’ll hold off on reading it until I’ve seen the movie.   How many times have you heard someone come out of a movie theater saying, “The book was so much better!”  or “They cut out so many parts that were in the book!”  or something similar?    This is mainly because we’ll give more time to a book than to a movie.  It typically takes me 8-12 hours to read a normal length book.  A movie gets 2 hours, maybe a little more.   Watching a movie after you’ve read the book is almost always a disappointing experience.  But if you watch the movie and then read the book, you can enjoy both;  the movie for telling a compelling story, and the book for expanding and enriching that story.

The exception to this rule might be the Harry Potter books.   I haven’t read them, and now I’m starting to regret it.  I enjoyed the first few movies, but the further we progress, the more serious and involved things become, the more confused and lost I feel.  The filmmakers are expecting the viewers to come in with knowledge of the books; they’re letting the books do the storytelling for them, and the movies serve as a sort of visual shorthand for the books.

So I write this review fully aware that I don’t get it, that I’m of the unitiated, and that the way I saw the movie will be different from the way someone who read the book (which is, apparently, everyone else in the universe) will see it.   Plot spoilers follow, but hey, you read the book, so…

Read the rest of my review here.

]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2011 18:33:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ Strangled: What Disney Does to Creativity in 3D]]>
On the positive side, nobody can accuse Mandy Moore of mumbling. Cranking out the tunes with a reckless abandon that makes me scared to think of her with a credit card in a department store sale, Mandy brings a blandness to Rapunzel's vapid and unlikable self-absorption that's somewhere between Lea Michele in Glee and Lea Michele. Mandy's robo-written heroine <Insert name here> is about as memorable as flu.

But forgive me for getting ahead of myself. Disney once again shows a fear for originality that rivals my fear of flying insects, with executives shoeing out the window anything that we haven't seen before and spraying Raid on anything that dares to look different. The entire first act of Tangled is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with Quasi Modo - imprisoned love-hungry teen with a heart of gold - replaced by a long-haired skinny cheerleader and Frollo - evil kidnapper posing as parent - replaced by a drawing that looks just like the witch from Enchanted, with a little Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove.

Meanwhile the male romantic lead  - a thief with a heart of gold, just like the guy from Aladdin, though he looks just like the soldier from Hunchback - spends the first 30 minutes being chased by twin morons and being hit with a frying pan. The frying pan joke is right up there with slipping on a banana skin. The entire set is a morph between Beauty & The Beast and Hunchback, portraying some none existent French countryside presumably in an effort to boost park sales at Eurodisney. And even the freakin' horse looks just like every Disney drawing of a horse you've ever seen.

Literally, Disney's sponge of ideas has been wrung so dry that their next film should just be called "Out of Copyright - Give me Your Wallet". If the Brothers Grimm could see their "reimagined" boorish Rapunzel, they would be scratching their way out their graves. By the way, if this review sounds negative then clearly I'm not trying hard enough.


Dear Disney,

Although I cannot expect you give me back two hours of my life, a cliche so ripe that I fully expect to see it as dialog in an upcoming release, please send me $10 back, you thieving bastards. If this is the best you can do for a 50th film, please stop now and consider a career in nothing else.



Tangled is such as bad film that it might try to run for President if Donald Trump gets suffocated by his own wig. I'm presuming that the whole thing is a result of a drunken bet by Disney executives to see how much crap the audience will take before a sequel is out of the question. Straight out of the door, it hits every single overdone cliche with a precision that makes you want to cancel Panda breeding programs:
  • Evil woman with mystical flower curses a household (for no reason at all). It's kind of the fairy tale version of a drive-by shooting with petals instead of 9mm rounds.
  • Pretty, narcissistic heroine is waiting to be recognized (as a Princess, girlfriend or both), with the instigating event arriving as male hero at page 10.
  • Subtext of royalty-slash-monarchy offering a better political system than a Republic, interestingly enough.
  • Animal sidekicks who can't talk. At least the tiger in Aladdin could have eaten the irritating little muppet - the poor chameleon here has to listen to Rapunzel's shit none-stop.
  • Broken families and evil step mothers.
The list goes on and on, much like the musical numbers in this mess. Did Alan Menken really write those?


1. I thought about redubbing the soundtrack with added profanity. It's actually much funnier with a few F-bombs thrown around.

2. Randomly pick one of the BBC's 1,500 remakes of Pride & Prejudice while learning to tie a noose with a USB cable.

3. Selecting a partially dangerous myth from Mythbusters and seeing if you can repeat the experiment, get different results, and not burn down the kitchen.

4. Attempt to hum the theme tunes of Superman, Spiderman and Star Wars one after the other. Nobody can do this by the way, and if anyone can it will open a vortex to another dimension, much like if you type "Google" into Google.

5. Write an alternative Disney movie based upon ripping off the bits you remember from Aladdin, Emperor's New Groove, Hunchback and Beauty & The Beast. This will only take about 5 minutes, so consider this an extra if one of the first four finish early.


The truly remarkable part is that this film cost $260 million. Holy hell! More alarmingly, it's grossed twice that. The key thing I learned is that Rapunzel must go through conditioner like crazy, and since every moppet in the land is probably going for "the grow" right now, I need to buy shares in Johnson & Johnson immediately.

I'm honestly contemplating releasing my DVD collection into the wild and reading books instead of subjecting myself to this mindless drivel. It makes me yearn for another remake of The Incredible Hulk to see how much more it can be screwed up.

In a final, final random thought, I'm thinking about heading down to Disneyland with a megaphone to warn people off this film. I should also raise the issue of their major rodent infestation too.]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2011 15:08:22 +0000
<![CDATA[ In A Tale About Hair, Disney Finds Its Roots]]>

Long-time readers (sufferers as the case may be) of my critical efforts may have noticed a certain pattern whereby I locate, for purpose of review, animated feature films so obscure that even the individuals responsible for their creation have long forgotten about them.  Usually (but not always), it isn’t very difficult for me to find fault in these works but alas, to insure the accuracy of my whole scale of judgment, I proudly visit the latest, greatest, high-budgeted, much hyped, talk-of-the-town animated pieces as well.

As such I think it’s safe to presume you’ve heard of Tangled prior to indulging in my evaluation but in case you have not, a brief refresher is in order: Tangled is Disney Studios’ computer-generated 2010 big budget retelling of the timeless German fairy tale Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm.

Tangled starts at the beginning and not just Rapunzel’s beginning but her mother’s.  It turns out the pregnant queen needs a bit of a miracle to overcome illness and that miracle comes in the form of a flower said to have come directly from the sun. 

With a droplet of the flower’s potency, the queen overcomes her affliction and gives birth to the baby Princess Rapunzel.  It turns out the flower’s amazing abilities not only cured the ill queen but found their way into the hair follicles of the yet unborn child.  Because of the young princess’ magical locks, one Mother Gothel kidnaps her from the palace under the veil of darkness.

Mother Gothel just so happens to know a thing or two about the flower's magical abilities and decides that she will stave off the effects of aging by locking Rapunzel in her hidden tower.

Fast-forward to a 17-year-old Rapunzel with hair over ten times longer than her body; tower ridden and utterly bored when a fleeing bandit by the name of Flynn Ryder takes refuge in her hidden crib.

Rapunzel works out a deal with the charming thief to act as her guide to the mysterious and perilous land beyond the tower and the adventure ensues the moment her bare feet feel the green grass of the meadow for the first time.

So now that we’re up to snuff on what Tangled is and how it came to be, the all-important question then centers on entertainment.  Does Tangled deliver in terms of amusement?  Absolutely and perhaps better still, it manages to do so with the first genuine signs of “classic Disney” sensibilities that have been largely absent since the industry started making the move from 2D drawn animation to computer generated 3D in the mid-1990s.

I could be mistaken of course, but it has long since been my assertion that a majority of the CG features thus far have been created by individuals so awed by the medium itself that what resulted were closer to showcases of the technology first and foremost with story-development taking the back seat.  A sort of “because we could doesn’t mean we should” mentality.

Of course there are exceptions to this trend, many of them in fact coming from the geniuses at Pixar (which has since become absorbed by Disney anyway) on account of the fact that they seemed to be oddly in tune with what kind of stories could lend themselves perfectly to the computer-generated world.

Disney, however, hasn’t been so successful.  Anyone who has witnessed earlier solo-efforts like Valliant, The Wild, Chicken Little or Bolt can attest to the fact that while passable, none of these films could even come close to mastering the art ala Pixar.  That brings us back to Tangled.  Rather than create another attempt to cut into the lucrative CG glory shared by Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky and so on, Disney finally seems comfortable (or perhaps confident) enough to get back to telling a tale their way- medium be darned.

What results is the formula that has made countless prior Disney films ultra-successful: A slightly modernized take on a classic fairy tale, a musically laced prose (yes the characters break out into song quite frequently here), personified animals with just enough actuality left in tact to still be considered realistic, dashing heroes, perfectly timed comedic efforts, evil old ladies and just a touch of magic.  It’s all here- the precise recipe that has charmed fans for years across films like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and to an extent even Aladdin.  This time however the clarity and attention to detail that can only be achieved via the technique of computer-generated textures factor in to aid the material rather than try to make-up for a lack thereof.

At 100-minutes, this film hints toward the marquee’s return to longer runtimes and comes feeling as though that is simply how long it takes to weave its tale (rather than rushed to completion or stretched out with filler).

The casting is, as is customary for a major Disney effort, spot-on with Mandy Moore doing a bang-up job as the title character and Zachary Levi is equally captivating as Ryder.  Additional props are due to Donna Murphy as Gothel.

I came into this piece a bit jaded from the onset, feeling as though the classic fairy tale retold through CG has been done to death.  Perhaps four Shreks, two Happily N’ever Afters, three Unstable Fables, one Pinocchio 3K and countless other attempts will do that to a critic.  However, I must confess to having been swept up in the revelry with Tangled right from the onset.  Truly Disney retains its throne in terms of mastery of facial animation techniques and the hair textures here are absolutely astonishing.

By going back to their roots and doing what they do best, Disney has (finally) notched its place in the computer animated feature film hierarchy and has done so without relying upon the Pixar co-brand to make it happen.  Sure John Lasseter’s name finds its way to the credits as Executive Producer, it’s undeniably apparent that this was a Disney piece through and through.  I like to think that had this one been released back in the 2D era it would have gone by the simple title “Rapunzel” but if we have to try to isolate Pixar’s influence on the project in some capacity, surly they had to have come up with the hip title.  Ironic when you stop to consider that from a puritan perspective, this is Disney’s most untangled computer-generated piece to date.

]]> Sun, 10 Apr 2011 05:46:47 +0000
<![CDATA[Blueberry Girl Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Tori Amos' unborn daughter Tash, Blueberry Girl evolved into a delightful picture book by Neil Gaiman with wonderful illustrations by Charles Vess. The character of Blueberry Girl is depicted on each page as a completely different character, different in ethnicity, appearance, and personality which offers young girls an empowering message that they can be whoever and whatever they dream of.]]> Fri, 8 Apr 2011 23:37:14 +0000 <![CDATA[Odd and the Frost Giants Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Neil Gaiman, but it is well told for what it is. This would probably appeal most to the 8-12 year old crowd and most likely to boys. I think it could have benefited from more characterization and back story on the mythical characters. Odd's adventure ultimately feels very brief and at 117 pages, the story is almost over before it's gotten started.]]> Fri, 8 Apr 2011 23:21:27 +0000 <![CDATA[ Probably the best animated film I have ever seen]]> Carl Fredrickson (Edward Asner) is an adventurous, young boy, who meets a girl named Ellie who shares his same passion. Once they are older they fall in love, and get married. They had once planned to travel to a lost land in South America; however, when Ellie dies Carl becomes a grouchy old man with a hard heart. He is being forced to stay in a retirement home for hitting a construction worker, so he comes up with the plan of tying hundreds of balloons to his house and flying away to the lost land he had always dreamed of going to. But soon after Carl departs on his journey he realizes that he has accidentaly picked up a partner. An eight year old boy named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who is innocently trying to earn his assisting the elderly badge. Together they will embark on a great adventure, as they learn more and more about each others lives, and they discover how much they really need each other.

Pixar is hands down one of the most brilliant movie making businesses in film history. If you look up some of the great animation makers, and great film makers in general. Pixar is possibly one of the most consistent, if not the most consistent, to be good at what they do than any other film makers in history. As far as animation goes Walt Disney was as fine of a producer as there ever has been. Him and his crew have accomplished what almost no film makers can do, and that is almost always make a good movie, without ever really making a bad one. And I am not at all trying to take anything away from the great Walt Disney, but as of now I believe that Pixar has passed him as far as how consistent they are in making every single film great. For the most part everyone has at least one or two Pixar films they feel are a let down, but after eleven critically acclaimed films, I would say Pixar has still done an unbelievable job. I recently watched the documentary "The Pixar Story", which inspired me to write this review of my favorite Pixar film, Up.

Many people love films for many different reasons, and because of this is why we have critics, so that they can tell us if a movie is good or bad, and we can get different opinions from different critics. But Up is one of those special films where almost everyone who sees it loves it, and I am one of those people. Pixar is more known for doing films not involving that much to humans, such as toys, cars, fish, rats, bugs and so on. But here they just take a basic story about an old man and a young boy. Which is one of the reasons I like the film so much. Pixar does a great job of keeping everything unique and not at all like any of the other films made. The story is slightly predictable I suppose, but it does not really matter because it was fantastic at the same time. The character developement was perfect beyond belief. I do not know if I have ever in my life cared so much for animated characters. We start the film off learning about one of our main characters Carl, and as the film goes on and the relationship between Carl and Russell progresses, we learn more about the life of Russell. No one in this world could have done a better job at the developement of those two characters lives.

The vocal talent was amazing, as Pixar films always are. Ed Asner was a surprise to play Carl Fredrickson, but it worked out great. I had never heard of Jordan Nagai before this film, but his job with Russell was as good as they come. I can pretty much promise anyone he will make you laugh at least once in this film. And my favorite was of course Christopher Plummer to play the idolized Charles Muntz in the film. Also Bob Peterson was hilarious as Dug, the dog our characters pick up along their journey. It isn't everyday I laugh out loud at a dog, but in Up I sure did. The writing in this film was brilliant as well, which did help bring out the laughs in the film, along with the cast. But the best thing about this film was not the fantastic characters, or the vocal talent, it was how the writers here not only made everything in the film come together perfectly, but they actually wrote a story that truly means something in today's world. And a story with a strong meaning is about as much as I can ask for in a film.

Overall, Up is not your everday animated film. This is one that kids will laugh at, and adults will laugh and cry at. The character developement was so brilliant along with the story, I cannot help but tear up at times in this film. The voices were superb, some of my all time favorite from Pixar, and the animation was jaw dropping. The musical score will bring tears to your eyes as this amazing story unfolds. Up is not just an animation mastpiece, it is a masterpiece of the art of film making.


]]> Tue, 5 Apr 2011 00:37:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ Some of the best animation I have ever seen]]>  

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young boy living on an island with the great vikings. He explains in the beginning that it is a very old land, but with new houses. This is because their houses are constantly being burned down by the firery breath of dragons, who they are always in battle with. Hiccup is the son of a high in rank viking Stoick (Gerard Butler) who is ashamed of his son because he fails to be the dragon fighter he is supposed to. So to prove himself Hiccup shoots down a never before seen dragon called a Night Fury. He then heads to kill it, but sees fear in the dragons eye, so he goes against the viking way and begins to train this dragon. Hiccup starts to learn more about the dragon species, and maybe that they are not as bad as everyone has always believed, and Hiccup must do everything he can to save the dragons.

Even with all of the critical acclaim How to Train Your Dragon received, I still did not think it would be this good. I thought this was an okay year (2010) for animated films. Despicable Me was not great, but it was decent. Toy Story 3 and Tangled came through nicely though. I always wanted to see this one, but I just never could seem to find the chance, and now that I have I can honestly say that it was well worth my money. The film opens overlooking the town that the vikings live in, and I was instantly drawn in by the absolutely stunning animation. That is one of the keys to an animated film, you have to get the audience's immediate attention by the animation, which is exactly what this film does so perfectly. With some of the action scenes I found my jaw dropped nearly to the floor, the animation was done so brilliantly it is almost hard to describe. The fire breathing out of the dragon's mouth, the completely lifelike movements of the humans, everything was done so great.

The story is also something that can go very wrong in a lot of animated films. Most are for children and in the process of making a child's movie the creators can lose the film's maturity making it not enjoyable for adults. But something Pixar tends to do so well is just the exact opposite, which is create plenty of laughs and put in humour and meaning that is sure to attract adults to the film as well. DreamWorks has obviously been in a struggle recently, but all they seem to do here is send a big message to Pixar saying "we can make great films too". And to be honest, even though the Academy disagrees and most young and old critics alike will disagree, I thought this was definitely better than Toy Story 3. The animation was better, the characters better, and all around the story was better. I do not want to take anything away from Toy Story 3, as Pixar did such a wonderful job making the final installment in that series, but I personally must admit How to Train Your Dragon gets the win coming from me.

The story was so creative in this film, though it seems to have all the ingredients for another childish, no good animated film, it really does work in the end. It is quite the heartfelt tale as well. I could understand if someone complained over the characters being a bit undeveloped, but I think that worked out okay. There isn't much to say great about the character developement, but the amount used here was plenty that was needed for the film in my opinion. Jay Baruchel as hiccup was fantastic. I did not particularly like him in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, I found him a bit annoying, but here I think he fit the part perfectly. And as for Gerard Butler, I can quite safely say this is by far the best film he has ever played in. And to be honest I thought he played the part of Stoick wonderfully. This may not have been the greatest vocal cast in animated film history, but it certainly was a good one, and a funny one too.

Overall, How to Train Your Dragon comes highly recommended. It has a beautiful musical score, that might be worth a buy. The animation is so incredible you may very well fall out of your seat, and the vocal talent is fantastic. It may not be the best animated movie ever, but I can actually say it is one of the best I have ever seen, and most definitely a favorite. Don't miss this film, How to Train Your Dragon is a brilliant animated film.
]]> Mon, 4 Apr 2011 04:11:15 +0000
<![CDATA[ Should Pixar be worried? It is quite possible that they should]]>  

Fantastic Mr. Fox is the crazy story of Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his many wild adventures. Back in the old days he and his wife, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) would steal birds for a living, and were good at it too. Needless to say though, the fox world was a very targeted species by humans. But on his last job Mr. Fox discovers that he is going to be a father, and this convinces him that his days are over being a wild animal, and he settles down to focus on the family. However, one day when his son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman) is much older, Mr. Fox decides it is time to get a real house and quit living in a hole. So he buys a house next to the meanest, and most scary farmers in the world. Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr. Fox brings in a good friend, Badger (Bill Murray) who will help him complete this one final job. The mission is a success, but the farmers are not happy with what has happened, and decide to fight back. This puts the entire world of animals in a load of trouble, and Mr. Fox, with his inspiring speeches, must lead animals of all different kinds against these three farmers and hopefully save everyone's lives.

This is nothing short of fine stop-motion animation. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a clear comedy that will make both kids and adults alike laugh, but it also has its moments of meaning, and plenty of life lessons. I am a huge Pixar fan, but it is movies like these that come around every once in awhile that remind me of the fact that Pixar is not the only animation studios that can make a great movie. These days, with DreamWorks having good films and bad, it just seems that Pixar controls all things animated. But Wes Anderson is here to say that he himself also has a talent for making animated films. Well, I must admit that this is the only Wes Anderson film I have ever seen, none of his films are really my type, so I tend to blow them off unless they are on TV. But what he does here impressed me. It is quite unique for a director to make several films, then just switch to animation, and make something so brilliant as this. Along with Noah Baumbach, Anderson wrote a screenplay funny, crazy, and yet so amazing. The use of the word "cuss" honestly never got old, and I can tell you I laughed out loud in this way more than I do in most comedies. The script is so funny and so well written, kids will find it hilarious, but there are sure to be plenty of jokes that slip by them and make the parents laugh as well. Fantastic Mr. Fox may go all over the place throughout the film, but Wes Anderson knows what he has going here, and that's what made this film come together so well in the end.

This also just further reminded me of why I have come to love stop-motion animation so much. Though I will go as far as saying some people will not like this type of animation, especially the way it is done here. Most will enjoy it, but I would not be surprised at all if someone made a negative comment about it. I recently went on a small animation kick, and watched some interesting films that I had not seen before. Some of which being 9, Tale of Despereaux, Coraline, and Mary and Max. Next to the last I mentioned, Fantastic Mr. Fox was definitely my favorite of these. I may not have found it to be quite the masterpiece some might have, but this certainly came through in every way for me.

Now on to the vocal cast. This is in fact some of the best vocal talent I have ever heard. I am not the biggest of George Clooney fans, even in some of his stand out roles like Michael Clayton he just gets on my nerves a bit. But here he is brilliant in every way possible. His lines are great and he is just plain funny. Meryl Streep is one of my all time favorites, maybe my favorite actress ever. She handles the role of Mrs. Fox just as she handles all of her roles, perfectly. Wallace Wolodarsky was actually my favorite of everyone. If you have seen the film then you know exactly what I am talking about here. He plays the part of the opossum, which was hands down the most funny of all the characters, mainly because of the acting. Eric Chase Anderson and Jason Schwartzman were both great as well, playing the two younger characters. And I can't forget Owen Wilson and Bill Murray, though playing small parts they make plenty of difference for their time in the film. One more thing to look out for is Wes Anderson playing the weasel. He sure does a bit of everything here.

Overall, Fantastic Mr. Fox is an absolute delight for all ages. It is easy to look at, and very well written. Packing plenty of heart and humor, Wes Anderson proves that he can make animated films as well, and I certainly hope this will not be the last that he ever does. And with plenty of unforgettable characters done incredibly by the vocal cast, Fantastic Mr. Fox shows that Pixar might just have a bit to worry about.
]]> Thu, 31 Mar 2011 21:49:19 +0000
<![CDATA[ Coraline or Your other mother...]]>
Yes, yes; I know there is a BOOK called Coraline that was the basis of this film.

I have more time to watch a movie than to sit and read, sue me.

Now that that is out of the way -

Coraline follows a young girl and her parents who have moved from the city where her parents write seed catalogs (but in reality hate dirt). Coraline is bored to tears. She wanders around meeting the other eccentric residents of the apartment building, from a Russian circus performer to a pair of crazy old ladies. She also meets her only human compadre in the film, "Woeby" (Woebegone...what a name).

In one of her very well depicted "I'msoboredomigodi'mgonnadiei'msobored" cycles through the house, she discovers a small door which (initially is bricked up, but at night) leads to the "other" world.

In the other world her other father is a musician, not a writer. Her other mother is a June Cleaver wanna be that makes pancakes and potroast, not a tofu casserole. Yeah. Seemed pretty enticing to me too.

Turns out, other mother is really well, a mother. A frightful game of cat and mouse ensues as Coraline seeks to extricate herself, the ghosts of dead children, and a talking cat from the other world.

A delight for the eye and surprisingly good voice acting by Dakota Fanning (do you know how hard it is to "act" when you're alone in a room?) make this a favorite rainy day movie.

Two thumbs up from the fat guy and the other one.]]> Sat, 26 Mar 2011 15:04:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fun for Outdoors]]> Now that we've had the time change and the weather is nice, I've been spending time outside with my kids when returning home from work. We do a variety of activities, but what seems to get the most play is this Air Scoop set. My 6-year old daughter and 10-year old son enjoy it, as do my wife and I. In fact I plan on purchasing a second set so that we can all play at the same time. The included wiffle ball doesn't fly very far, but its slower travel in the air makes it easier to catch for the younger ones.

It is made from a light plastic that flexes easily. In fact, I'm surprised it hasn't cracked yet after a few months of heavy use. The little covers at the base of the handles can pop off, but hold firmly when stuck back on. The only other negative is that the wiffle ball is SO light, it bounces out of the catcher if one isn't careful. We've learned to cushion the impact when catching so it isn't really a big deal. It adds to the challenge in fact.

Those few niggles are nothing major though. If you want a set that feel more sturdy, buy a more expensive one. Overall this is a fun lawn game set for a minimal cost. As I said, I plan on getting another so that should say it all.

~ Kort]]> Fri, 25 Mar 2011 19:13:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ How to Train Your Dragon... every vikings favorite story]]>
We always seem to go through phases when it comes to popular genres and topics of entertainment.  We have the year of 3D (which I'm still debating as to whether I should actually be excited or not), the year of remakes (that has become YEARS and I wish would seriously end), the year of cheapquels/sequels (which some films have promise and others are straight to DVD quality), and of course the year of the "underdog"/geek(which is by far my favorite).  3 months into 2010 and I already have two favorite films.  I recently noticed that I seem to have a pattern this year and am beginning to fall harder and harder for the "geek", and although one is a much older sense of humor, I also find myself falling harder and harder for Jay Baruchel.  He went from playing a "hard 5" and winning the heart of a "hard 10" to being a very un-viking like viking.  How to Train Your Dragon is based on the characters from a children's series by British author Cressida Cowell which following the adorable Hiccup and Toothless. This film, however paints a very different picture of Toothless in comparison to the children's novel. Regardless, after watching the film I wanted to go out and find some way of adopt Toothless for myself.
How to Train Your Dragon is an adorable family film that is truly a joy for kids of all ages.  From start to finish everyone in the theaters cheered and gasped as Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) discovered the truth behind the dragons and his discovery of friendship with Toothless.  I will confess there were several scenes where I became so wrapped up in the story that I even teared up for the dragons. and his viking companion.  The story of friendship, courage, and determination is one that everyone can relate to no matter your age, or personal goals in life.  It is far more than a story of "don't judge a book by its cover", but a true testament to going out and learning the truth for yourself so you can make an educated decision on whatever you may encounter in life.  Even the relationship between Hiccup and his father Stoick (voiced by Gerald Butler) is relate-able to the real world.

Dreamworks has created an amazing family friendly film that touches the heart of its viewers all the way down to the deepest darkest corner, warming even a bully's heart.  With voice talents of America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) as Hiccup's love interest Astrid, Kristen Wiig(Extract and Whip It) as the female of the twin duo Tuffnut and T.J. Miller(Extract and She's Out of My League) as her male counterpart Ruffnut, Craig Ferguson as the "handy" Gobber, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Bad-AssRole Models and Superbad) as Fishlegs, and Jonah Hill (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Superbad) as the "tough" Snotlout you are sure to laugh with their outstanding comedic skills.  The names are enough to send any kid into a fit of giggles, but when you get the characters together on screen, competing for the ultimate bragging right and the chance to kill a dragon in front of the whole village, it's obvious why Dreamworks would take on such an amazing story.  The characters are fun, and the dragons will make even the macho-ist of men  turn a little soft around the edges.  As for the dragons, Toothless is the ultimate family pet.  Everyone will walk out of the theater wanting one of their own.  Even for a dragon that can breath fire, and almost destroy a village, his puppy dog eyes and lovable demeanor will push you right over the edge.

How to Train Your Dragon is a film for kids of all ages who are looking for something good to watch this weekend.  You will laugh, you will cry, and you will give three cheers for Hiccup and Toothless.  So if you are looking for a film to watch, grab your kids or kid brother/sister or husband/wife or whomever and check out this film.  You will not be disappointed. I give this film a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
]]> Fri, 25 Mar 2011 16:42:28 +0000
<![CDATA[Ratatouille Quick Tip by woopak_the_thrill]]>
Still my favorite Pixar movie to date! (even edging out THE INCREDIBLES)]]> Thu, 24 Mar 2011 17:33:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ Summer is around the corner, let's get those hair out of the way!]]> It's a typical Disney film and you can expect all that you can expect out of a Disney film. 
Tangled is the 21st century Rapunzel and if you've not read the outline of the story, then it's a highly enjoyable film. I watched this on my 2nd half of my 5 hour flight from Singapore to Shanghai last night, after spending an enjoyable first half on Love and Other Drugs. Despite the harsh reality of the first half of my journey, the 2nd half was a lot lighter and still pretty much enjoyable.

I can't help but being enthralled by how well of the animation of the eyes of Rapunzel is. It's like you look into her soul and can actually feel how trapped she had been her whole life! They come alive for me, not her hair! Granted, she has magical hair and one quite unexpected in terms of plot. 

A well crafted animation with enough excitement and music, even for the adults.

The Fog has lifted
The World has shifted
At last I see the light
Now that I see YOU!

]]> Fri, 18 Mar 2011 12:25:52 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fun For The First Hour]]> My kids enjoy building things out of all manner of materials, so I was excited to let my 6-year old daughter try this product out. She unpacked all of the container and after a cursory look at the instructions, started creating "monsters" using the supplied creature forms. We immediately ran into issues with the forms not locking securely (you have click them shut) and the clay not easily covering them. The feet also tend to fall off when the creatures are lifted up. Anyway, the biggest hassle came when using the dot popper. It takes quite a bit of practice to get it to release a uniform dot of material like shown on the packaging. Even then it can be hit or miss. This may be too tasking for some youngsters who just want to have creative fun. My 10-year old son gave it a try and was frustrated by the tools too.

In the end, the kids just made everything by hand and none of their creations came out looking much like what you see on the box (which is fine). When mixing colors of clay, you get a muddy, tie-dye effect. No going back to a solid color after that. The clay has an odd, soft texture that is fun to touch, but doesn't seem ideal for building things. The kids did have fun with it for a short while, but after an hour or so they lost interest I was left with a mess of tiny pieces to clean up. The pieces that fell on the white tile floor left smears of color when wiping up, and a few pieces that worked their way into a carpet are still there and have stained it. The packaging is not ideal for storing forms tools and clay containers since once you've opening it is cannot be easily re-packed.

I just got some modeling clay from an art store and my daughter has had much more fun creating sculptures using it than she did with the Crayola Presto Dots. She also prefers Play-Doh to Dots. Unlike these other two fun craft clays, replay value is next to nil with the Dots, and the finished products are less sturdy. Some kids may enjoy assembling the dot creations, but not mine. I don't think it is worth what you pay for it and would not recommend it.

~ Kort]]> Tue, 15 Mar 2011 13:51:40 +0000
<![CDATA[ Wonderful!!]]> Thu, 10 Mar 2011 02:23:11 +0000 <![CDATA[ Fantastic is an Appropriate Adjective Here]]>

I’m not going to pretend I went into The Fantastic Mr. Fox with expectations in any feasible direction.  I never read the classic book on which this film is based but had vague knowledge of the book’s existence as “one of the other books from the guy who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach”.

Next up comes the realization that the film adaptation was the result of director Wes Anderson’s creative vision; a style that, love it or hate it, is undeniably unique.  With past films like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, about the only common thread I could find was appearances by Bill Murray (and in that regard The Fantastic Mr. Fox continues the tradition).

This is the story of one Mr. Fox and the conflict within him between being a responsible family “man” and the chicken-stealing wild-ways of his past.

Despite making a promise to his wife that the life of thievery is a thing of the past, Mr. Fox decides, as part of his mid-life crisis, that he must try "just one more raid" on a trio of intolerant farmers (Boggis, Bunce and Bean).  The sad reality with recovering addiction is that “just one more” easily becomes a returning lifestyle and Mr. Fox realizes this only after it’s too late.

And while the action serves as the catalyst to move the plot along, the core of this tale is satirical family life (personified through animals) of Mr. Fox (George Clooney) wife, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), their son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and visiting nephew Kristofferson Silverfox (Eric Chase Anderson).  It is this dynamic that provides the film’s greatest charm by staying close to the moral lessons of the original tome coupled to Anderson’s trademark off-brand wit and style.

And in keeping with the Wes Anderson brand of style, the visuals, this one forgoes fancy Pixar/ DreamWorks-esque 3D computer animatics for traditional stop-motion technique. And not unlike Aardman’s works with Wallace and Gromit or Chicken Run, there is undeniable charm to be found in this method.  Once the viewer adjusts to the intermittent rhythms and the scruffy (almost ultra-realistic) look of the model textures, the wit, beauty and emotional undercurrents contained here are stunningly apparent.

The pacing, heck even the themes and satire are undeniably adult oriented however.  Does this mean foul language, sexual themes, or gore? Absolutely not.  Anderson’s work is an all-age friendly class act all the way.  However, it’s definitely still debatable as to just which age will make the most of the experience here.  The visuals may be strong enough to keep the kiddies involved but it’s the sociological and family interrelationships that really define this piece.

Entire case studies have been conducted in effort of defining the various themes and underlying issues that author Roald Dahl confronted in his writing and many of these ideals transfer brilliantly into the film: Concepts like our inherent inability to ever fully let go of our youth or the battle between industrialism (represented here by the farmers) and nature.

The vocal work is spectacular as is expected from such a deep cast and the Alexandre Desplat soundtrack makes use of an excellently appropriate selection of pop music.

In all it’s tough to come away from this film without some appreciation of Anderson’s ability to combine the classic material with his own sensibilities.  And while his past films may suggest this as a trait that can go either way, rest assured that Fantastic Mr. Fox retains the very best of what Wes Andersen has to offer: Intelligent wit, impeccable timing, and just enough homage to early-filmmaking techniques to be labeled charming.

]]> Wed, 9 Mar 2011 06:29:49 +0000
<![CDATA[Love You Forever Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Tue, 8 Mar 2011 23:46:41 +0000 <![CDATA[Love You Forever Quick Tip by Schauna]]> Mon, 7 Mar 2011 22:10:03 +0000 <![CDATA[ A Christmas Story Will Never Die, As Long As You Don't Let It.]]>
They have built in a lot of funny scenes such as what he got for Christmas from his Aunt, and that was a full length bunt suit that his Mother made him try on. Plus, there is that  myth busting scene about whether or not your tongue will stick to a frozen metal pole and then the fire department is called. From their wild neighbor's dogs tearing into the kitchen and taking the holiday turkey and the bullies chasing them after school, to the ever famous leg lamp that The old man Mr. Parker (played by Darren McGavin) was so proud of winning.

There is laughter and stunts that even I remember as a kid. You will never  get to old to watch this movie or to introduce this to your kids. If you have a chance to see this live on stage, take my word for it you and your family will enjoy it immensely.  The geeky outfits that they wore in the 1940's is just the way that things were back then. The thick glasses that area worn throughout the movie and long skirts that the mother wears, Mrs. Parker (played by Melinda Dillon) depicts the era to a tee.

This movie is rated PG and lasts one hour and 35 minutes. Produced by Rene Dupont and Bob Clark. The cast includes Mrs. Parker (played by Melinda Dillon), The old Man Mr. Parker (played by Darren McGavin), Ralphie Parker (played by Peter Billingsley), Randy Parker (played by Ian Petrella), Flick (played by Scott Swartz), Swartz (played by R.D. Robb),Miss shields (played by Tedde Moore),Grover Dill (played by Yano Anaya), Scot Farcus (played by Zack Ward),Santa Claus (played by Jeff Gillen), Ming the merciless (played by Colin fox), Flash Gordon (played by Paul Hubbard), Tree Man (played by Leslie Carlton), freight man (played by Jim Hunter), Head Elf (Patty Johnson).

You can't beat that good old-fashioned cinema, even the now generation of kids will love the funny antics of Ralphie and the old man. They can also relate to the bullying that is going on now to what was happening in the 1940's. Bullying, was there then, and it is still here now, some things just never change. Even if your child does not believe in Santa this movie will still get them excited for Christmas no matter what time of year that you watch this. This may not have all of those special effects that the newer movies have but this will definitely take you back in time. As your kids get older this is a  must see and one that you should pass onto them so that their kids can see it and keep their hopes alive.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8]]> Mon, 7 Mar 2011 14:22:33 +0000
<![CDATA[ "The world has held great Heroes, ...]]> But never a name to go down to fame
Compared with that of Toad!"

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, a turn-of-the century children's story written by Kenneth Grahame in 1908, has deservedly withstood the onslaught of time. On the surface, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is an allegory that tells the story of the adventures and misadventures of Toad, Rat, Badger and Mole in the rural English countryside. The pastoral narratives and witty dialogues are charming, evocative and warmly mellifluous without ever approaching doleful or lugubrious. I simply can't imagine the smile it would bring to a child's face were a parent to make the effort to read this as a bed-time story with four separate voices reserved for each of the main characters.

But, considered on a deeper level, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS could be considered a metaphor for Toad's descent into self-destructive behaviour and his friends' loyal and loving intervention to rescue him from his love of fast motor cars, portrayed as an utterly consuming addiction. Love, loyalty, friendship, arrogance, courage, steadfastness and gratitude are among the emotions that Grahame has portrayed so accurately in a very simple but quite moving narrative.

As you might imagine, like most children's stories, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS does end on an "all's well that ends well" note but Toad's behaviour in the future remains an obvious open question. Highly recommended ... what TOOK me so long to find this one?

Paul Weiss]]> Tue, 15 Feb 2011 19:30:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Best Animated Trilogy Ever!]]>
Andy's mother accidentally thinks the toys are meant for the garbage and puts them out. Only some last minute action by Woody and TRex save the toys from being garbage fodder (this is an omen of a larger danger later in the film).

Andy's mother than thinks the toys were meant to be donated and she then takes them to a day care center. The toys at first thinks they have arrived in Heaven because they meet a whole bunch of new toys led by a big pink teddy bear who tells them they will be played with all day.

Unfortunately, things are not as good as they seem as the daycare starts looking like a prison and dangers abound. There are a lot of touching moments in this film and don't be surprised to shed a tear or two.

I really enjoyed this film as much as the other two. The authors have made another fun and original story and all the toys still have the same voices, except Slinky Dog whose orignal actor passed away. On the DVD extras, the new voice of slinky dog is the original actor's friend and he tells how he imitated the original actor's voice. Also, on the extras we get to meet the voice of Andy who is the same actor (now in his 20's) who needed to be tracked down and luckily was delighted to do the voice again. Ned Beatty is the pink teddy bear, Michael Keaton plays a "sleazy" Ken doll and Whoopie Goldberg even has a character.]]> Tue, 15 Feb 2011 11:52:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ Perhaps Pixar's Finest Work To Date]]>

I might as well come right out with it:  Any attempts to discount Pixar’s absolute mastery of the craft of computer animated features are absolutely futile from this critic from this moment forward.  Until now I’ve been pretty consistent in giving their ballyhooed works 4-star ratings due to the sheer cleverness of their plots and the attention to detail of their visual prowess (sometimes even tainted in protest by Disney’s habit of over-promoting) but 2007’s Ratatouille has managed to so thoroughly touch upon every single element of what makes a classic film that it nearly single-handedly atones for every set of Toy Story bed sheets or Finding Nemo lunchboxes bartered the world over.

Well I suppose as is customary, I should begin this review with a short synopsis of the story with one caveat: Ratatouille really doesn’t lend itself to summation.  I knew this going in when all of the pre-purchase research I did led to the same shaky conclusion: Really, a tale about a cooking rat in France?  Never mind all that! This is to French rat chefs what Wall-E is to your trash compactor or what Monsters Inc is to applying for a job at the electric company.  In other words, Pixar takes a fairly mundane concept and packs it so chock full of charm and personality that we would be captivated just looking at an animated lamp.  Oh wait, they’ve proven that already but I digress.

Ratatouille centers on the tale of Remy, a gray rat gifted with a sense of smell. With aspirations of using his talents to concoct gourmet dishes, he is instead given the most un-romantic task of sniffing out rat poison for his rodent colony.

When his family is forced to abandon their home in the walls of a cottage in the French countryside, Remy is separated from his brood and ends up in the sewers of Paris. In hunger and desperation, Remy has a hallucination of his lifelong idol, the recently deceased chef Auguste Gusteau. Following Gusteau's advice, Remy finds himself at the skylight overlooking the kitchen of Gusteau's world famous restaurant.  By fate, destiny or just good fortune, the wheels are in motion to put Remy in a position to showcase his repressed talents.

Well if after having read all this, the plot sounds awesome to you, congratulations.  You are already ahead of where I was going in.  I really couldn’t imagine a full-length animated feature film (and one at 111-minutes at that) about said topic being terribly intriguing and yet I was pleasantly surprised almost immediately.

Like most Pixar pieces the exact source of the charm isn’t even easily identified.  There is abundant attention to visual and textural detail on a near frame per frame basis, the voice acting is spot on and the character animations are, well, pure Pixar and yet even still I can’t help but profess a certain degree of subtle wit and faultless timing that never allows the viewer to forget this is a high class Disney venture through and through.

Pacing is downright spectacular with just enough character building and story-setting to establish the tone of what’s to come.  The action wastes little time revealing itself and is remarkably satisfying throughout the multiple incarnations contained within.

The scoring is Michael Giacchino, which, suffice to say, is downright spectacular with beautiful soaring compositions and personal mood-setters scattered throughout.

In all it’s difficult to adequately isolate just what it is that makes Ratatouille so wondrous.  I like to think that, like all of Brad Bird’s works, there isn’t a single factor that outshines the others so much as it’s the culmination of years of lessons learned both in 2D and 3D animation mediums.

The script contains the type of polish and fineness that comes only with years of tweaking and rewriting.  Scenes flow with deliberate prose, sequences form with near-poetic resolve, and the grand story arc is seamless in its delivery.

About the only thing I can say that even resembles a complaint about this work is the simple reality that of all the Pixar pieces, a strong argument could be made that this one is the most adult-oriented of the lot.  Not that kids won’t marvel at the bright colors, cute characters, and general onscreen action, it seems much of the subtleties, humor, pacing and gourmet food integration will certainly be better appreciated by the older set.

In all I’m quite proud to finally slap a perfect 5-star rating on a Disney/ Pixar property.  This one finally delivers, for me anyway; the potential hinted upon in every Pixar film prior and since and does so with style, grace and humor.  Director Brad Bird concludes his interview on the disc by saying that he loves the medium of computer animation and that fact’s apparent here from beginning to end.

]]> Sat, 5 Feb 2011 11:15:12 +0000