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Eight Below (2006)
'Eight Below' will warm your heart. (may contain spoilers)
I saw a sneak preview of 'Eight Below' tonight. I hear that it's based on/suggested by another film, 'Nankyoku Monogatari.' As I have not seen that film, I can't make any comparisons. What I can say is that 'Eight Below' is one beautifully-done movie.
When I saw director Frank Marshall's name attached, I wondered if this movie would be 'Alive' with dogs. In a way, it is; both films deal with groups that get stranded in the ice-cold middle of nowhere for an extended period of time and have to survive on their own. The difference is that the dogs are left there instead of crash-landing. This movie is about a team of dogs who must survive on their own and a man, forced to leave them behind, who will stop at nothing to rescue them.
Marshall's direction is assured, Don Burgess's cinematography is beautiful, and Mark Isham delivers another wonderful music score. Jason Biggs brings some welcome comic relief in his scenes. But ultimately, the movie belongs to the dogs and Paul Walker. It's not necessarily that I don't like him, but most of Walker's movies just don't do anything for me. As far as I'm concerned, this is by far his best performance to date. He brings depth to a character who is very good at his job, hurt at having to leave his team behind, determined to go back and rescue them, and realizing that he may not like what he finds when he gets there. And the dogs are nothing less than MAGNIFICENT, truly a joy to watch every second they're on screen. You cannot help but feel for them, cheer for them and adore them.
'Eight Below' is a thoroughly winning adventure.
By thy side, Figaro
This movie ROCKS.
I saw HOODWINKED over MLK weekend. I had actually NOT seen the trailers prior to this, but reading the reviews on sites such as this one and hearing that it was made for $15 million or so made me curious.
This movie is HILARIOUS!!!!! Animation-wise, I had read reviews stating that the animation was not up to par. The way I see it, comparing this movie to Pixar or PDI product is kind of like comparing Jay Ward cartoons to The Lion King or those classic Rankin-Bass specials to Corpse Bride/Nightmare Before Christmas. No, it isn't the highest-level animation, nor, I think, did it NEED to be. Like the Ward/RB stuff, I found the quality of animation (or lack thereof) to be part of the charm. What this film lacks in animation quality (which, by the way, I did not think was bad at all), it more than makes up for in its clever script, hilarious vocal performances (particularly Patrick Warburton as The Wolf, Glenn Close as Granny, Andy Dick as Boingo and director Cory Edwards as Twitchy) and great use of songs.
All I can say in the end is that whatever the trailer looked like, don't use it as a basis to judge this film. See it for yourself.
Oh, yes--MUCH praise must be lavished upon the filmmakers for daring to make a comedy with NO fart jokes, NO poop jokes and NO sexual innuendos--and, in the process, reminding us all that it can still be done.
By thy side, Figaro
This film is a perfect example of why I like DreamWorks Animation. Like its title character, they refuse to conform. Don't let the G rating fool you. Even with that rating, "Spirit" possesses a remarkable intelligence and treats the audience as such; it never talks down to the small fry. The horses do not talk or sing (and even Matt Damon's narration is used sparingly). This allows the audience to put 2 and 2 together, and the animators shine--this is the most remarkable horse animation I've ever seen. It also places a greater importance on the music. I've always felt Hans Zimmer's best scores were for animation, and this is the best of the best. His score blends seamlessly with Bryan Adams' songs, which complement the story beautifully. The CinemaScope frame is used to great effect, and the film looks so good you could pick any one frame of film, frame it and mount it on a wall. But more importantly than all of the above, after you see it you will be proud to be free and better yet, your own spirit will be uplifted.
Ice Age (2002)
Cool ICE AGE gets a warm reception.
Fox has had a hard time with animated features. ANASTASIA did moderately well; TITAN AE did not. But with ICE AGE, they may finally have their foot firmly in the door.
The animation: Okay, maybe Blue Sky won't dethrone Pixar or PDI anytime soon. But make no mistake, ICE AGE is a visual marvel still. It fits the story perfectly: alternately cartoonish and detailed when it needs to be. (It's not ALWAYS necessary to see every strand of hair on a creature's body.)
Voices and characters: One of the best things about the film. The characters are quite memorable, and the vocal performances are great. Others have objected to Ray Romano's performance as Manfred the mammoth, but I felt that his deadpan delivery was just right to portray the strong, yet emotionally wounded loner. Denis Leary makes Diego a cool cat, whether he's bad or good. But the best vocal performance goes to John Leguizamo, who is simply hilarious as Sid. He makes Sid immediately endearing rather than irritating.
And then there's Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel whose antics with an acorn open, close, and serve as the transitional elements of the film. He's a miniature Wile E. Coyote to his acorn's Road Runner. You know he's gonna get it, but you just gotta cheer for--and laugh at--the guy.
But the success of a film ultimately comes down to its script. The trailers make this film out to be hilarious, and it is. But what a nice surprise to find out there is more to it than mere comedy. It's a testament to the talents of director Chris Wedge and the writers that you will laugh hard one minute and have a tear in your eye the next. They also know when dialogue is not needed, which is commendable.
ICE AGE has the potential to be a big hit. It's got one of the best ad campaigns in years, no Disney competition on opening weekend, and on top of that, it has a solid story with endearing characters. I hope it will be a film for the ages.
Balto: Wolf Quest (2002)
Rough, but with lots of heart.
I felt this film was kinda like Balto himself--a bit rough around the edges, but with a heart of gold underneath. I didn't care for Boris, Mu(c)k and Lu(c)k this time around, but Maurice LaMarche, Lacey Chabert and Mark Hamill were good as Balto, Aleu and Niju. However, the BEST piece of casting was David Carradine as Nava...he was WONDERFUL. The songs were generally well-done, and "Taking You Home" was beautiful. I really thought the ending of the movie was well-done: hopeful and leaving you with a satisfying feeling without being a traditional "happy ending."
So I have to say I still like the original a bit more, but this film was by no means a failure.
Snow Dogs (2002)
Good dogs. Good, good dogs.
First of all, those of you who saw the talking dogs in the trailer and feared that this was going to be just another talking-animal movie can lay your fears to rest. The dogs talk only in ONE scene, and it's a dream sequence. The rest of the time, with the exception of a few shots where Demon gets a little help from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, the dogs are just dogs. And they are absolutely BEAUTIFUL creatures. You will love them the moment you set eyes on them.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is delightful to watch in this role, and proves himself to be a great comic actor as well as a dramatic one. James Coburn is also good as Thunder Jack, and the scenes where he and Gooding argue are fun. Those two work well together. M. Emmet Walsh and Sisqo are hilarious in their supporting roles, and it's nice to see Nichelle Nichols in a non-Star Trek setting.
Director Brian Levant and the screenwriters have included a lot of physical comedy, but it's FUNNY physical comedy, not gross-out physical comedy. And most of this is set against the Canadian wilderness (standing in for Alaska), beautifully photographed by Thomas Ackerman. Add to this a serviceable score by John Debney and you have a great film for all ages, Gooding and Coburn's funniest, and Levant's best.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)
This movie is fun!
I gotta say I enjoyed "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." You may say that this film isn't a "Shrek" or "Monsters, Inc." Of course not! Nor is it supposed to be. It's not always necessary to be so detailed as to show every strand of hair on a guy's head or anything. This film has a CARTOON look to go with a CARTOON plot. But that's not to say this film isn't still a visual knockout, because it is! The cast is excellent and hilarious, especially Rob Paulsen as Carl Wheezer. The soundtrack was good, with "We Got the Beat," "Kids in America," and others. And Goddard! The coolest character in the movie! Immediately after the film I wanted (and still want) a Goddard toy! Again, I found this film really enjoyable.
By thy side,
Justice League (2001)
JUSTICE LEAGUE Rules. Period.
I knew this was going to be a good show, given the fact that Bruce Timm and the same team responsible for the WB/DC animated shows were doing it.
Even so, this show TOTALLY blows me away every time I watch it. EVERYTHING about it is dead on PERFECT. Kevin Conroy, as always, is great as Batman, as is George Newbern as Superman. Hawkgirl is a great addition, and boy can she hold her own!! But the character that has emerged as my favorite is J'onn J'onnz, aka Martian Manhunter. I love the character design and animation of him, and I don't think they could have gotten a better actor to voice him than Carl Lumbly (who played Stalker in a few episodes of Batman Beyond).
The composing team also does a great job with the music, and I REALLY hope that somewhere down the road, they release a CD of this music.
I'm absolutely delighted that Cartoon Network airs JL in letterbox format as well as full-frame. I, for one, prefer letterbox as it gives the show a more epic and cinematic feel.
Simply put, JUSTICE LEAGUE rules. Period.
By thy side,
X-Men: Evolution (2000)
I hope it continues to evolve.
Despite my limited knowledge of X-Men--or perhaps because of it--I love this show. The animation, voices and music are GREAT, and it is not from Japan (no offense to anime fans). I love how Nightcrawler and Beast look. And to those who said that characters like Beast were being ignored, the episode "Beast of Bayville" proves otherwise and also proves that the series is living up to its name and evolving, which takes time. I hope the evolution continues.
Samurai Jack (2001)
A brilliant production on every level.
It seems that Genndy Tartakovsky was only getting warmed up with "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Powerpuff Girls". With those shows he proved he was a comic genius; with "Samurai Jack" he demonstrates that he is a genius, period. Every single aspect of the movie premiere is top-notch. Phil LaMarr is wonderful as Jack. James Venable's score beautifully captures the tone and has just the right mix of traditional Oriental and electronic sounds. I liked the fact that there did not seem to be any unnecessary dialogue (in fact several scenes--most notably the beginning--have almost no dialogue at all). The animation and backgrounds are very stylish and striking, and the filmmakers even allow the art to escape the confines of the square 1.33:1 TV ratio with some split-screen and widescreen shots used to great effect. It is my hope that the series continues to be as good as the premiere is. This will be on you "must-watch" list.