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Shrek 2 (2004)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"Be Yourself", 18 May 2005

I am reminded of an old Disney TV special, in which Donald Duck tries to be a singer, a dancer, a juggler, lots of things he simply is not. Walt sticks him to some very sage advice: "Be yourself." I bring this up because this two word homily is but one of the thousands of lessons Dreamworks could learn from the House of Mouse.

"Shrek 2," the annoyingly popular sequel to the irritatingly successful "Shrek" is a prime example of the serious condition that plagues all Dreamworks Animated Films: DERIVATIVITIS!!! The story of S2 is quite good. No, really, it is. Shrek and Fiona are newlyweds, and when they visit the Princess's parents, they are, to put it lightly, shocked to discover their daughter is an ogre. Their taunts get under Shrek's skin and he starts to think maybe Fiona would be better off with a prince. So he, Donkey and a newcomer, Puss (in Boots!) travel the countryside to make what they assume to be Fiona's dream come true. In the end, of course, they learn the importance of being yourself and that love conquers all, two very useful lessons, I think you'll find.

And if that was what the movie was, it'd be great and I'd gladly show it to my hypothetical kids any day of the week. But the plot is incidental to the main reason they made this picture, which is to cram as many jokes, spoofs, takeoffs, lampoons, references and anti-Disney propaganda gags as they possibly can into 86 minutes of celluloid. And, frankly, it gets old!! Someone needs to tell these people that they don't need all this! They don't need "Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin" jokes. They don't need pop culture references. They don't need poorly cast celebrity voices. They don't need popular singles to sell the soundtrack album. They don't need to over-market their movies. Just make movies! Tell your story. The occasional homage to one of your predecessors is understandable in animated film, but don't make that the point of the movie.

Spielberg...Geffen...Katzenberg...just be yourselves! DONALD: "Be yourself"...think it'll work? WALT: It ALWAYS works, Donald.

Sideways (2004)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
This is a very bad movie, 10 May 2005

I wish I didn't have to be this guy. I wish I could be nicer. I wish I could fall in line with the legions of fans who dig this movie's aimless plot, poorly developed characters, banal dialogue, gratuitous low humor and overall feeling of pretentiousness. I wish wish wish that this was the case. Unfortunately, I have a human brain and can tell the difference between dirty water and champagne. This is, unquestionably, a very bad movie.

It's a movie based on a novel about a writer who's writing about himself. Please. Think back to how many pseudo-independent, underdog, art-house, pretentious as all git out flicks you've seen about writers. It's self-indulgent, that's what it is. Someone needs to tell these writers who are writing these movies about writers that, to paraphrase Watterson, saying something isn't the same as being understood. You're just muttering to yourself. That's what this movie is. Probably the author needed to write it for his own reasons, but did the rest of us really have to hear this story? The plot goes nowhere. It's a formulaic repetition of self-destructive behavior. They're driving, they're drinking wine, they're talking to a girl, hey! Something weird just happened! Maybe now the movie will get interest--nope. Driving. Drinking. Talking. The characters are flat and unengaging. Giamati's Miles is a waste of this man's obvious talent and, for the love of all things wonderful in life, who the hell puts Thomas Hayden Church in a movie? Explain it to me someone! Besides the fact that his character makes absolutely no sense and has ZERO redeeming features, he plays it in the same slack-jawed monotone that served him well as Lowell on "Wings" and nothing else in his career.

If you're a self-absorbed, know-it-all, pretentious snob who thinks he's the smartest thing in the universe, by all means watch this film. If you're instead, you know, someone with taste who likes, what do you call em? GOOD movies, join the rest of us in trying to work out how this piece of garbage beat out "Eternal Sunshine," "Ray," "The Incredibles," and "Phantom of the Opera" for the best musical or comedy Golden Globe.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Big Big!, 13 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You know, cuz she's always saying "No Big," but this, you get what I was going for.

Anyhoo, this is a great film. I was a little peeved at Disney Channel for constantly touting it as "their first animated TV movie," though (What's "A Stitch In Time," cinematic chopped liver?). Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

The story was good, it was a clever plot, a few of the surprises caught me off guard (which, I guess, is what they're s'posed to do). But what I liked most about it (And this is where the spoilers are, so watch yourself...

Kim and Ron hook up! Boo Yah! I've been following this show for a long time, I was there for Josh Mankey, Brick Flagg, that girl at the movie theater, and all the time I knew in my heart that Kim and Ron should be together. Ron's never going to find another girl who gets him the way Kim does, and Kim will never find a guy she likes as much as Ron.

Maybe it's the hopeless romantic in me. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a little bit Ronesque myself and want to believe that someone as cool as Kim would actually go for me. Maybe it's just that I'm taking a cartoon WAY too seriously. But I've always thought that the best basis for romance is friendship.

Anyway, see the movie. It rocks in stereo!

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
I have but one complaint, 29 November 2004

This is a brilliant series that manages to hold onto the spirit of the Wodehouse stories without being dependent on them. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were born for these roles and there are none better suited for them. Perhaps the finest example of adaptation in the history of British film/TV.

I personally love Wodehouse's writing, and I have but one complaint: Americans. In the second series (season for us in the US) a few American characters appear and it is painful to hear them speak. For all his talent, Wodehouse could not write American dialogue to save his life.

Britain and America are, as someone once said, two countries celebrated by a common tongue. And our respective patterns of speech are in contrast. Therefore, certain words and phrases do not sound right with an American accent. Praise must go to the actress playing Miss Stoker in the Second Season. She tries so hard.

Other than that, I recommend this series (and the books, come to that) to anyone.

24 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
Better than the play, 21 October 2004

There are those who would have you believe that this is a bad movie because it deviates from the stage musical. In the play, for example, Sancho has a grating high-pitched voice whereas in the movie, his voice is warmer and stronger. Another example is the deletion of certain songs such as the completely unnecessary and boring "What Do You Want of Me?" and "To Each His Dulcinea." In addition, Cervantes is jailed on stage for foreclosing a church. In the movie, he is sent before the Inquisition on grounds of heresy. This makes the whole thing that much more significant and important. It also relates to a central theme in the movie, that Cervantes' and indeed Don Quixote's way of fighting back at the world is to imagine a new world. To dream, as it were, the impossible dream.

The stage version was one of the most substantially flawed in Broadway's history. Richard Kiley (the original stage actor) had a strong, powerful voice, that is true, but it didn't sound like Don Quixote. The man who dubs Peter O'Toole's voice in the movie, however, sounds not only like Peter O'Toole, but like Don Quixote.

Indeed, the only thing about the movie that is different from the play is that the actors in the movie are GOOD! And they don't just put on big, fake, funny voices in the traditional idiotic Broadway style. They portray their characters honestly and in keeping with the spirit of the story. And it is a story that everyone should hear. If you are like me, a lifelong chaser of impossible dreams, then the story of one man's quest to slay giants which are actually windmills cannot be ignored.

And don't be such a stuck-up tight ass about film adaptations. Of COURSE they're going to be different, that doesn't make them worse.

27 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
One of the best, 25 September 2004

Despite the electricity of "The Odd Couple" the emotional force of "Lost in Yonkers" and the Depression-era angst of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," this remains the best movie made of a Neil Simon play.

Like "The Odd Couple" it owes most of its enduring success to the chemistry between Jane Fonda and Robert Redford (reprising his role in the Broadway show) as the hapless newlyweds trying desperately to make it work. This is the movie that is responsible for most of the "mismatched" romantic comedies we've ever seen, including "Along Came Polly" and TV's "Dharma and Greg." It proves that flowery romantic prose isn't what makes a great love story, bold heroes and damsels in distress don't make a good love story. No, what makes a good love story are two people who, from start to finish, makes the audience go "Oh, God in heaven, please let them work it out!"

The brilliant dialogue of Mr. Simon, the charm of Mr. Boyer and the majestic backdrop of New York City make this a must-see for anyone who loves 1, comedy, 2, love stories or 3, Robert Redford because after this, he never really made another movie that was at all comparable.

Oh, I just remembered "Laughter on the 23rd Floor." I guess it's a tie for best Neil Simon movie.

29 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
Real good, 6 September 2004

Let me tell you what sold me on this show: The title. "Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends" the TV listings said. Obviously, it was a show about a retirement-like home for imaginary friends who had, for some reason or another, worn out their usefulness. Then I turned it on and saw the pilot movie one afternoon. I thought it was the best new cartoon show I'd seen since "Invader ZIM" (although the shows are about as different as night and day).

Kids shows should look cute. That's just a rule. And this one brings fond memories of "Fairly Odd Parents" "Dexter's Laboratory" and other recent additions to the Hall of Cartoon Fame. The main character, Bloo, is just a blue blob, but he's a great character.

But the best part of the show is it's imagination. Obviously, a show about imaginary friends is going to have a lot to do with that, but I've always thought that a kids' show should be imaginative. And this show is very original.

Anyway, it's on Fridays at 7 on Cartoon Network. I hope you enjoy it. I think you will.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Atlantis is waiting, 26 August 2004

I don't care what anyone says: THE CONTEMPORARY Disney MOVIES ARE GOOD! It's very fashionable to say that all Disney movies after Walt's death have sucked and that the "Disney Renaissance" of the late-eighties/early-nineties resulted in but a few flukes. And the box office returns of some of these movies seem very supportive of that fact. But that's not the fault of the movies themselves: It's Eisner's fault! He's been trying to undermine the values and ideals of Disney since he got the job in 1984. As I write these words, he's working on a) eliminating all cell-animated movies, b) cutting back or shutting down altogether the live action film company and c) focusing on ABC TV and the theme parks. Why? Because they make more money.

The quality of these films is not declining. If anything, they're becoming more sophisticated and that marriage of traditional values in storytelling and contemporary comedy is working out much better.

As an example, I give you "Atlantis." Here is a very original story, which cleverly incorporates CG graphics into an otherwise entirely cell-animated movie and manages to portray dark aspects and big action just as expertly as comedy.

A stellar cast, led by Michael J. Fox, helps the movie character to seem more believable, and not just funny drawings. Wisely deciding that not every animated film has to be a musical, there are no annoyingly optimistic songs to ruin the mood.

This movie is noteworthy if for no other reason than Jim Varney gave what would be his last performance as the voice of Cookie, the...well, the cook.

Yentl (1983)
3 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Good movie, bad musical, 19 August 2004

Barbra Streisand is talented, she absolutely is. Even straight men who hate her with every fiber of their being have no choice but to admit that the broad can sing and she ain't too bad in a movie either. And one need only see this film to see how good a director she is. This film is beautiful. Every frame is like a Renoir painting. The script is intriguing and original, the performances (especially Mandy Patinkin's) are great and overall it's a lovely film...

Which would've been about a hundred and ninety eight times better if BARBRA STREISAND HADN'T SUNG!! Don't get me wrong, as I intimated above, I love hearing Barbra sing, but this movie didn't need it. The songs (sung mostly by Streisand in the title role in the form of inner monologue [which is to say that they play in her head and her lips don't move] or out loud to an empty room or a reflection in a mirror, which gets old pretty quick) are superfluous. They do little to move the action or explain the characters, Yentl just sings what she feels at semi-regular intervals throughout the movie. I mean, they're pretty enough songs and keep in mind, this is coming from an openly straight musical theater lover who knows Broadway and Hollywood from "Oklahoma" to "The Producers."

Bottom line: Watch it as a beautifully shot movie about a girl trying to be more than society wants her to be. If you want a GOOD musical in which Streisand does at least ninety-five percent of the singing? Pick up "Funny Girl."

"Coupling" (2000)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Perhaps, perhaps...definitely, 19 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is, without question, the best situation comedy I have seen in a good many years. As a devout follower of the medium, an expert in its ways and a firm believer that it is NOT dead, but rather misunderstood, I can state unequivocally that "Coupling" is as good as it gets.

I will not belittle this show by comparing it (as everyone else seems so fond of doing) to "Friends" "Seinfeld" and "Sex and the City" three American comedy series to which it bears fleeting resemblances. There is nothing that p***es me off than taking an original and innovative show and trying to explain it by cramming together a handful of old shows. It is a show about single friends who discuss love, dating and sex but there the similarities end...

Except to "Friends" I guess, seeing as there are three girls and three boys...anyway...

The strength of the show comes from the same place that it does in all great shows, and that is in the characters. Compare "Star Trek" to the obviously superior "Next Generation." The difference? The former is concept-driven while the latter is character-driven. So "Coupling" may be a show about nothing, but unlike "Seinfeld" it is saved by seven wonderful characters.

Primarily "Coupling" is about Steve and Susan, who are quite clearly ideal for one another but keep splitting up because Steve is stupid and indecisive and Susan is strict and unrelenting. But they gravitate back together with alarming regularity. Joining these two are Patrick (Susan's Ex), a ridiculously well-endowed pursuer of S-E-X and little else, Jane (Steve's Ex), a self-obsessed, delusional, bisexual horror who, in her capacity as a traffic reporter, has caused several accidents, Jeff (Steve's best friend and a coworker of Susan's), who is like a twelve-year-old boy who just discovered sex and hasn't grown out of his obsession with boobies, and Sally (Susan's best friend) torn between her own obsessions, one with sleeping with Patrick and another with looking forever young. In the fourth series, a new character was introduced, a nervous, comic shop owner with what can only be described as "verbal diarrhea," Oliver is a charming addition to this group of confused singles.

Here's the number one reason why British shows are better than American shows: After the opening titles of "Coupling" after all six of the cast members' names have been listed the ONLY credit that we see (apart from the actors) is "By Steven Moffat." Writing is the first and most important ingredient to a good show. "Fawlty Towers," "Absolutely Fabulous," "The Office," "Blackadder," and "Father Ted" were not created by a staff under pressure from network execs. Each was the vision of but one writer.

Okay, I guess that's everything. And since I can't think of a clever ending I shall simply stop right here.

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