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Brother Bear (2003)
Derivative perhaps, but glorious nevertheless!
Hearing all the critics with their mixed reactions to this certainly did their job to lower expectations of this film. However, as a furry and a Canadian, I could not resist going to see this film in a first run theatre instead of the discount theatre I have nearby. Boy, am I glad I took the time to see this wonder film!
This film is a wonderful tale about empathy, vengence, redemption and love. Yes, many elements can be seen as reflections of The Lion King, but the film uses them to explore a different take on the same theme.
The keeper is that critical moment when Kenai realizes that Koda's story at the salmon run is about how his mother was attacked by Kenai and his brothers. This leads to the awful realization that Kenai killed Koda's mother which was the culmination of a series of tragic events that Kenai set off because of his foolishness. It is similar to Simba's belief that he killed his father, but here Kenai cannot be simply let off the hook, but instead must face the enormity of his deeds. Instead, Kenai must take responsibility for them and tell Koda the difficult truth, even though it could very well mean that the cub would hate him. Just the fact that we know Kenai is responsible for the tragedy makes for powerful drama in Disney animation unmatched since TLK itself.
Finally, I loved the ending with Kenai choosing to remain a bear. That is the way I wished Beauty and the Beast could have ended, with the hero accepting his state and living with it. Just that scene of Bear Kenai making mark on the wall and realizing that he fulfilled his totem's promise in a powerful way he never expected made me tear for its joy and beauty.
This film may be follow a formula, but you could see it as a variation of TLK's theme to create its own tale with equal emotional and spiritual resonance. Sprinkle in the welcome Bob and Doug McKenzie humour of Tuke and Rutt and you have a film that match most of what Disney and animation have to offer!
Suspenseful, Thoughtful and above all, Smashing!
Remembering the debacle of the Schumacher Batman and Robin, it is wonderful to see that the superhero film genre has come a long way.
Ang Lee has taken one of Marvel's most iconic character and successfully made the best kind of cross between the action of Spider-Man and the sheer intelligence of Unbreakable with the faithfulness to the spirit of the comic as the X-Men series.
Ang Lee made the perfect choice with Eric Bana with his haunted nature darkening even his happy moments with what lies just below his surface. Jennifer Connelly is ideal as Betty Ross, the steadfast love shows such courage and commitment for her love who carries such a bizarrely dangerous curse. Nick Nolte is the perfect villian, expanding on the original comic idea of Bruce's abused childhood and wow, Sam Elliot is the perfect actor for General "Thunderbolt" Ross!
People complain about the dialouge, but for me, the enhanced the film wtih the resulting suspense, first for the gamma rad accident that would curse Bruce and after waiting to see if the next minute will be the one that pushes him over the edge and unleashes the Hulk. The suspense is so strong, it is a relief for the change to occur. Once it happens, the Hulk is incredibly expressive with only his face! He is a child cut off from the rest of the world and can barely understand it as it is, especially with the baddies he has to smash.
Speaking about the smashing, each Hulk sequence is wonderful. The 1st time is heartrending as the Hulk wrecks the lab and Bruce's life's work in an analogy of his life. By the far the best is Hulk's battle with Ross' forces in the most classic kind with Ross throwing everything he has to stop the creature while Hulk gives as good as he gets.
And for all the mayhem, nothing is more traumatic to Banner than the recovery of his painful past which contributed to his difficult present and facing the horrible man who caused it. That is the heart of this drama and the film is better for it.
True, it could be cut for time, but on the whole, a wonderful film about a man who we like when he's angry.
An classic series that has aged unevenly .
When I was a kid, this series was a blast to watch with its action and fire trucks. However, watching this series again after so many years tends to bring its flaws to light.
For instance, the show generally worked on a strict formula. The typical episode generally had some expository action at the fire station to set up the humour subplot just before the station is called up for a dispatch. After that, the episode generally alternates the action with the paramedics responding to calls which themselves alternate with the serious and trivial while the staff of Rampart Hospital follow up. At the end, the fire crew typically responds to a major emergency, typically a big fire with explosions. In between the calls, there is the humour subplot at the station with is typically a bunch of comedic piffle which often involves the paramedic crew trying out a scheme to find another career outside the service. I typically mute those scenes which unfortunately often means missing their cool dispatch klaxon.
With that being said, the show still is a thrill when the characters focus on their jobs, The rescue sequences are exciting affairs that show excellent production values in a time when American network TV could pull in the audience numbers to justify the budgets for those spectacular scenes.
In short, this series is still wonderful viewing on a late saturday night, but more frequent viewings would wear it out for the viewer. However on a weekly basis, its a fun view.
A Vast Improvement on The Original
I used to watch the original He-Man series, but eventually I grew out of it after realizing just how poorly budgeted and written it was, albeit with with notable exceptional episodes.
However, this series is a perfect example of the best kind of remake. The producers obviously examined the original series thoroughly and set out to play up the best elements of the series and rectify the weaknesses. As a result, the series boasts vastly superior animation that avoids the constant cycles and other crudities of Filmation's work. There is also wonderful writing with stories that are so well paced that each episode has the feel of a feature film with the amount of content they manage to pack in. The characters are formed with intricate detail and it allows for a truly compelling viewing experience.
It is a pleasure to see a remake finally be everything that it should be.
The Eleventh Hour (2002)
An Insightful Series into the nature of Canadian TV Journalism
As short lived as this series appears to be due to government fund budget cuts, it has still been pleasure seeing this wonderful series.
This series is the best qualities of the feature film, The Insider, put to TV. In seeing the struggles of a crusading TV newsmagazine, we see the dramatic presentation of the same kind of battle of journalist integrity of the reporters vs. financial expediency on the part of management. Put into a Canadian context, this series gives me, a Canadian, a perspective into our nation's media reality even if it is through the prism of fiction.
This series has real value in Canadian TV and its loss will be grevious.
The Prince and the Pauper (1990)
A wonderfully condensed adoption of a classic.
Maybe this film is not the best that Disney's has produced, but it has many merits of its own. For one thing, the artists have managed to have at least have an element of the satire of the Twain book as with the Prince's lesson about the only two lines you need to learn as a king.
Furthermore, while the humour is excellent, the film allows for at least a few moments of legitimate drama. Nowhere is this more evident than when the Prince learns that his father has died. You see Mickey in mourning and then soulfully rise to his new responsibility as the true heir to the throne who must end the tyranny he has seen among his people. It's an inspiring moment to see the boy realize the weight of his duties and face them with a new maturity.
This film is a stellar effort from Disney's second golden age.
The most charming live-action Canada Vignette
For years, the Canada Vignettes were a welcome part of Canadian TV and none of the live action ones had more charm and love than this particular one.
It's a wonderful snapshot of Canadian urban life in the 1970's at its best. There is something special to see this film paying tribute and giving voice to these volunteers who gave their time to ensure the safety of school children, set to a gentle Arlo Guthrie like ballad. Combine this with the footage of children of that era with charming antics of their own and it brings back fond memories of a time of a more compassionate Canada that is sorely missed today.
The Cider House Rules (1999)
A blatantly manipulative and ideologically wimpy film
Mr. Irving might pride himself on his oscar for this film and enjoy the money he gained from it, but it does not hide the fact that this film takes the easy ways out, both artisticly and philosophically.
First, the film bends over backwards to mine as much sympathy for the orphans as possible. The worst offender is the feature secondary orphan character who is perpetually shown to be at death doors with oxygen tents and all. The film throws almost all its emotional weight on him and it comes off as subtle as the proverbial brick through the window.
The more serious concern is that the film tries to argue for reproductive control, including the right to chose abortion as an option. However, for all the eloquence of Michael Caine's character, the film wimps out and goes for a mushy compromise. I am refering to the fact the Caine character dies as a ether addict, which one reviewer saw as a punishment for his activities, while the Tobey Maguire character, who is pro life in stance, agrees to perform an abortion for a woman who was a victim of incest. Only the most rigidly fanatically pro lifers oppose abortions under that kind of circumstance and the film comes off as too cowardly to cowardly to take a real stand for a woman's right to chose.
That kind of film may satisfy the studio bean counters, but I want films with the backbone to take a stand on a difficult topic such as this.
Canada's most daringly insightful TV newsmagazine.
While there are other TV news magazines on Canadian television, there are none like Undercurrents.
This series has a fine habit on zeroing in on the big media and business with lazer like precision insight as it probes the implications of media and technology issues. Even though it is on a public broadcasting network, the government is just as prone to take it on the chin when they deserve it whether it be for racist ads or the practices of their institutions like Statistics Canada. Always, this series endeavors maintain a sense of humour whenever possible with secondary stories being basically satiric jabs at various tech & media problems that would make Michael Moore proud.
Only public broadcasting seems willing to support this kind of show and I am glad that they have the courage to do so.
A Worthy Sequel
The original Redwall animated series distinguished itself as one of Nelvana's finest series with a magnificent adaption of Brian Jacques' first book.
Now this series does Jacques' third book even more justice. If anything, this series depicts more drama, starker perils, and a higher standard of artistic excellence for the company to follow. Correspondingly, the series has more violence which is handled with a care which enhances the story rather than distracting from it.
If you get an opportunity to see this series, don't pass up the chance to see just how good Canadian television cell animation can be!