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Great Penguins - Poor Production
The Blu-ray for "Adventures of the Penguin King (2012)" has 3 discs: Standard DVD, 2D Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray. This is a review of the 2D Blu-ray. I do not have a 3D TV and have not seen the 3D version of the film.
First of all, this has the worst narration of any nature video I have ever seen. Tim Allen narrates from the first person from the point of view of the penguin. He tries to be comical but instead comes off as juvenile and condescending. Apparently there is a European version that has David Attenborough but that version is not included on the Blu-ray released in the U.S.
Also, the video quality is not up to the normal BBC Nature quality. The contrast is way too high and the colors don't look natural. I was able to correct it to a point by adjusting my television but I could never get it to look as good as my other BBC Nature videos.
Despite those flaws, I still am giving this a 7 rating because it does have some very good footage of King Penguins in high definition. Anyone who loves King Penguins will want to add this to their collection.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Hooray for the Evil Queen
I was disappointed by "Snow White and the Huntsman." The main problem was I didn't like Snow White or the Huntsman. They had little or no charisma and their dialog was banal. Overall, I got bored through parts of the films.
On the other hand, the film is worth seeing for Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen. She really hams it up and comes off as pure evil. The costumes she wears are amazing. She is definitely the "fairest of the all."
Another problem is the film is so dark, serious and violent. I didn't have much fun watching it. A movie about Snow White should be more enjoyable.
There was a made-for-television version of Snow White on the Hallmark channel over 10 years ago that was much better than this film. "Snow White and the Huntsman" isn't terrible, but it should have been better.
The difference between a good movie and "art" is that you can watch a good movie and know that it's good but "art" needs to be explained to be understood. With that explanation, the film "Melancholia" qualifies as "art."
The first 8 minutes are very beautiful and I had hopes that it would be along the lines of "Tree of Life." But after that, Lars von Trier resorts to his shaky hand-held camera and clunky dialog that goes nowhere slowly. The film is hard to look at without getting motion sick.
"Melancholia" is very frustrating because it uses such good actors and it looks like it had some good ideas. It is so painful to sit through that I cannot recommend it.
"Melancholia" is similar to a film called "Another Earth" which is a much better film. Go see that one instead.
Factory Farming is Dangerous
Everyone should see "A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms."
Factory farms are destroying the environment and endangering our health. Many of the factory farm practices used in the United States have been banned in the rest of the world but they are still in use here because the giant corporations pay off the politicians and use "lobbyists" to avoid taking responsibility for the damage they create.
When it comes to factory farming, you are either supporting the system by purchasing their products or you are against the system by boycotting their products.
Be an informed consumer and see "A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms."
What are the bees telling us?
"Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?" is the best documentary I have ever seen. It literally changed my life.
So what are the bees telling us? They are telling us not to use pesticides, artificial breeding, GMO's, and other industrial beekeeping practices such as transporting hives hundreds of miles and feeding bees corn syrup. A combination of these practices are what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder and is killing the bees. The things that are killing the bees are also killing the planet. So the short answer is that the bees are telling us to support organic farmers and to boycott industrial agriculture.
I was a vegan for ethical reasons and "Queen of the Sun" showed me that organic beekeeping is not only ethical, it is beneficial to the species and the individual hives; so now I will support my local organic beekeepers by buying organic raw honey.
Before I saw "Queen of the Sun," I had never had organic raw honey before. I imagine most people have not had it either. It is completely different from the clear syrup that you get at the grocery store. It has a completely different look, texture, and taste. Apparently it has a whole bunch of health benefits also.
I strongly urge you to see "Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?" Most of the film consists of interviews with organic beekeepers and it gives insight into these amazing creatures.
Even if you don't see "Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?" I urge you to pay a little extra for organic food and try some organic raw honey from your local beekeepers. Bees are a "keystone species." If they disappear, we will lose about a fourth of our crops. We need to save the bees to ensure our own long term survival.
9/11 Through the Eyes of an Autistic Child
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is one of those films that has viewers divided. They either love it or hate it. I think the reason that a lot of people hate this film is that they do not realize the film is as much about autism as it is about the attacks on 9/11.
The main character,Oskar Schell, is clearly autistic. Anyone with basic knowledge of ASD, PDD-NOS, and Asperger's Syndrome will spot the symptoms immediately. Oskar even says at one point that he was tested for Asperger's Syndrome but results were "inconclusive."
He finds a key left in a vase owned by his father who died at the World Trade Center and spends the majority of the film looking for the lock that goes to the key. But really, he is looking to find closure with his relationship with his father and try to make sense of the events surrounding his father's death. This would be difficult for a neural typical child but it is especially difficult for an autistic child.
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is an impeccably made film with wonderful performances. I think the reason many people resent this film is because of their intolerance and ignorance about autism.
While the film is centered around the tragic events of 9/11, it is primarily about how those events are interpreted through the innocent eyes of an autistic child. If you have an understanding and tolerance of autism, you are probably more likely to enjoy this film than people who do not.
2011 was an unusually weak year for films. Considering the competition this year, I think "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is deserving of it's Oscar nomination.
The Artist (2011)
More of a Novelty
"The Artist" is more of a novelty than a film. The fact that it is silent didn't bother me as much as the predictable story, hammy acting, and 16mm square format film. It's not a bad film but I didn't feel it was worth all the rave reviews and I certainly don't feel it should be a contender for Best Picture.
The story is very predictable. I always felt I was 2 steps ahead of the script and I was bored for much of the film. I wish the cinematography had been a little fancier to offset the lack of sound. It didn't look like it was shot in real black and white. It looked like it was shot in color and transferred to black and white which gives it a muddy look. The music was pretty good. My favorite character was the dog.
If you want to see a good silent film, my favorites are "The Passion of Joan of Arc" and "City Lights." I don't really recommend "The Artist" except as a novelty.
Eat Pray Love (2010)
I Guess Money Can Buy Happiness
"Eat, Pray, Love" is about a wealthy, over-privileged woman who has a mid-life crises and instead of buying a sports car, she divorces her husband, has some affairs, and spends a boat-load of money.
I guess the moral of the story is that money can buy happiness.
This is the type of movie that makes people want to join the "occupy" movement. The whole point of the movie is that over-indulging is the way to find yourself and be happy.
And just to pour salt in the wound, in the scene where she is eating pasta in Italy is done to the music of Mozart's German opera "The Magic Flute." I guess nobody associated with this piece of trash was smart enough to tell the difference between Italian and German.
Do yourself a favor and skip this garbage.
"Nuttier than squirrel sh*t"
I have not been a big fan of Gregg Araki's films in the past but "Kaboom" is easily my favorite and it is his funniest.
Obviously this is not a film for everyone. It is kind of a cross between "Scott Pilgrim versus the World" and "Donnie Darko" but "Kaboom" places more emphasis on comedy than narrative. From reading the other reviews on IMDb, a lot of people did not get the jokes. I was laughing throughout the entire movie. If you are offended by sexual content, this movie is not for you.
This is one of the best ensemble casts I've seen in a while. Most of them are new to me. I predict Juno Temple is on her way to becoming a star.
While "Kaboom" is definitely not for everyone, if you are willing to take a chance on an end-of-the-world sex comedy, you should give it a try.
African Cats (2011)
Beautiful Nature Documentary
I watch a lot of nature documentaries and the ones by BBC Nature have set the bar very high. "African Cats" by Disney Nature is the first film that has equaled or exceeded BBC Nature in quality.
The picture quality is absolutely stunning! They must be using the highest quality cameras and lenses. The editing and music are all top quality. Some people might object to the dramatic narration by Samuel L. Jackson but I liked it.
Of course the real stars here are the lions and cheetahs. The film does a really good job of showing how they interact with each other socially. While some people might accuse the film of being anthropomorphic, I felt it did an honest job of showing their social hierarchy.
If you are a fan of nature documentaries, you can't miss "African Cats."