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If a movie is available in region A, you should be able to play it on your regular American Blu-Ray player!
I have another list for movies that should be restored and put on Blu-Ray.
I have another list for movies that are on Blu-Ray, but not in America.
Finding Dory (2016)
Finding Dory has some stellar, heartfelt moments, but it's not as interesting as Finding Nemo.
"Finding Dory" has some stellar, heartfelt moments. I don't think the story is as interesting as Finding Nemo, but the movie is still great.
Finding Nemo is one of my favorite movies ever, and I never thought it needed a sequel. After watching Finding Dory, I still don't think it needs to exist.
The beginning of the story is an easy example. The first several scenes of the movie re-live some of the major and minor moments of Finding Nemo. Every one of those scenes I like better in their Finding Nemo versions. The story gets more interesting after these initial boring scenes, and I thankfully had a huge investment in the story over the course of the film.
I liked the characters of this movie and didn't have a problem with them. But a friend reminded me of the profound impact the minor characters of Finding Nemo have on the story, themes, and humor. The characters in this movie are great, but against the unforgettable cast of Finding Nemo, they can't compete. So many scenes in Finding Nemo are brief, yet set up important lessons that drive home the theme of the movie. After watching Finding Dory once (not enough to give a final judgment), I can't say the same.
Crush the sea turtle and Nigel the pelican in Finding Nemo are better than their closest competitors in Finding Dory. Same for the major characters like the tank fish in Finding Nemo.
The visual beauty didn't seem to be there. In Finding Nemo the first instrumental on the soundtrack is called "Wow". There's hardly any Wow in Finding Dory. The story doesn't facilitate much beauty with the locations it's set in. Part of this is my bias. Early on, some fish are in a kelp forest. I prefer a colorful coral reef instead of a dark green kelp forest submerged in dark green water.
Maybe awesome visuals don't need to be in this movie. Finding Nemo still exists, and Pixar just made The Good Dinosaur. But what should fill in that gap is still lacking. Story, characters, theme, etc..
The Simpsons: Flaming Moe's (1991)
I'm going through the whole "Simpsons" TV series, starting from season 1 -- and this is the first episode I'd rate a 5/10 or lower. Most of the jokes didn't make me laugh.
The Aerosmith guest bit is completely uninspired. It could've been Kiss or AC/DC and the substance of the joke wouldn't have changed at all. The joke is that Aerosmith is in Moe's Tavern and playing one of their songs. Not very creative.
Michael Jackson's guest appearance (season 3, episode 1) was much better. Granted, the episode revolved around him. So what else about the episode, besides Aerosmith?
It's a morality play worse than any modern kids' show. Seriously, the morals of Steven Universe and My Little Pony are more clever and nuanced than this. The Simpsons can do episodes with heart and/or a message (see Lisa's Substitute or Homer Defined). This one just feels half-baked.
Apparently there's a "Cheers" reference, but I haven't seen that show. I did like the alternative animation style (static images) used during the "Flaming Moe's" song. From reading online, that sequence was a Cheers reference.
I was grossed out by the composition of the Flaming Homer drink. That's part of the humor, but it's not the kind of humor I usually like.
Some jokes were funny - the gratuitous use of women as eye-candy in Kent Brockman's video series and his 7-part look at "the bikini". The Springfield Tire Fire is hilarious.
I wish I spent my time watching this episode doing something else. I don't feel fulfilled by it at all.
Safe, slightly heartwarming, and pretty funny. Closer to Shrek and Madagascar than it is to any Disney classics.
This movie is really disappointing to me. I've seen some of Disney's best, and this isn't it -- but it easily could have been. When I saw Zootopia's teaser trailer months ago before "Inside Out", it looked like a solid premise: "animals live like people but retain some of their wild traits". It doesn't take an amazing premise to make an amazing movie. "Frozen" and "The Lion King" are awesome movies not because of the setup for their story, but because of how the story is told. They feel like care was put into their world.
Zootopia takes a lazier, more adult approach to creativity. You can see this same problem in "The Lego Movie", most kids' movies, and many episodes of "Family Guy". The laziest humor you can have is referential humor, and Zootopia's references cheapen the clever jokes it also has. Given this animal world, there's room for a lot of funny jokes and puns based on traits audiences are familiar with. One that Disney gets a lot of mileage out of is how many offspring rabbits tend to create (the main character has around 180 siblings). And those jokes are really funny because they only make sense in the world of Zootopia.
It's a lot lazier to make an iPhone, make it look like an iPhone, and change the Apple logo to a carrot logo. On another phone, we see a photos app whose interface and logo look a lot like Google Photos. In "Toy Story 3", there's a ripoff of a Macbook, and it *enhances* the story - these are real toys in the real human world, interacting with a real brand of computers. What is so exciting about Zootopia is it gives its writers and animators a chance to make its own unique world. Any relationship with the human world should serve a logical purpose within the animal world as well. Otherwise, it's like the animal world of Zootopia doesn't even exist. (This is done well, for example, when a train car has three sets of doors, for big, medium, and small animal). "Wreck-It Ralph" puts more care into its world than Zootopia does.
There's an extended reference to "The Godfather" which has lots of references and not much original humor. It's disappointing to have boring references like this alongside creative, funny jokes that build off of Zootopia's world. I laughed a lot at the lame costumes at a school play in the film.
Perhaps the most tasteless joke in the entire movie is that lemmings follow each other. They don't, and they never have. This myth was created BY Disney in the 1950s. Not only is it weird to have fake animal behaviors in a movie seemingly obsessed with cataloging real ones, it's insulting to be reminded of Disney's past animal abuse. There are animals that move in herds, and a joke that bison or sheep all scrambled in a herd to buy a "pawpsicle" is not much of a stretch from the existing joke.
Like its comedy, the rest of Zootopia is uneven. Jason Bateman puts in a great performance as a mischievous fox. He channels the conniving behavior his "Arrested Development" character had in that show's final season. The animation is rarely jawdropping. Dreamworks or Sony could have animated this movie, and very little would be different. Even the fur of the animals doesn't look that fluffy or fun, except in rare scenes. I was more blown away by "Frozen", and that was over two years ago. "Frozen" had incredible bright lighting, shimmering water reflections, and sparkly snow and ice. In Zootopia, there's a good montage of all the climates its city has to offer. Also, there is an "Avatar"-style serene misty floaty jungle type of place, but other than that, it's a pretty normal city with a fairly normal visual style.
The story kept me interested in the movie but is not one I want to go back to. A rabbit cop is tasked with solving the disappearance of an otter. There's some interesting, yet obvious subtext that is expressed reasonably well. It's relevant in the era of Donald Trump, but says little that hasn't been said in countless other movies. When movies like "Frozen" or "The Little Mermaid" have an average story, they can fall back on their incredible visuals and thrilling music. Zootopia has no traditional musical numbers, and the vocal song that plays through the rabbit's phone early in the film isn't nearly as catchy as "Under the Sea", nor is it as rich with meaning as "Let It Go". I like its message, saying that trying new things and making mistakes is an important part of life, but didn't find it as engaging as some pop hits like "Raise Your Glass". The instrumental soundtrack (from the composer for "Inside Out" and "The Incredibles") was more up my alley. I specifically noticed how cool "Ticket to Write" was - it has a laid-back, tropical vibe.
Good animal stories can be told. Disney made The Lion King. Other companies made "Cats Don't Dance", "Fantastic Mr. Fox", and "Finding Nemo". The TV show "Polar Bear's Cafe" has inventive animal comedy. What saddens me with Zootopia is that you get bits of cynicism, that the filmmakers are so above it all. "We didn't make our own Google logo because we didn't have to". "We copied human sensibilities for pop stars because that's what people recognize". The implication is that kids are too stupid to know the difference between attention to detail and sloppiness, and the cynicism and references to real life are there to keep parents from wanting to leave the theater. As if a well-made movie with an easy-to-follow story is something that no adult would want to watch.
Fudget's Budget (1954)
UPA Innovates Yet Again
After 25 cartoons in the "Jolly Frolics" collection, one would expect UPA to run out of ideas, to settle into a style with the same old characters, and give up on its creativity for good.
This does not happen in "Fudget's Budget". It IS creative. It IS groundbreaking. The Cartoon Modern style that UPA created is present in this, but you're not going to find another UPA cartoon that looks the same. The people collapse into lines, spin around, and reform into people again. The money motif is pervasive: dollar signs are prominent design features of the Fudget house. Mrs. Fudget goes down two flights of stairs without a stairway ever appearing in the shot. The short has that UPA magic.
It does peter out by the end. Partway through, the audience has seen most of what the short has to offer. It has to build towards a conclusion, but they list off events in the story to the point of boredom.
It says a lot about the rest of the short, and especially the animation quality, that I can think so highly of the overall cartoon despite not liking how it develops towards an ending. The animation is top- notch. It's surprising even if you've watched the 25 previous Jolly Frolics cartoons. It blew me away. The facial expressions and hair animation of Mrs. Fudget when she defends her hairdressing is great. She has happy eyes that look like the caret key on a keyboard: ^
It's also great that Mrs. Fudget (Irene) is depicted as an equal to her husband George, rather than subordinate. So many UPA cartoons were written by frustrated husbands, for frustrated husbands. She "meets the bills" with George's paycheck, rather than "waste his money" or any other cliché that UPA could have said instead. The cause of the Fudget's financial woes is not Irene's intense spending; everyone in the family contributes to them spending beyond their means, and everyone in the family cuts back. "Fudget's Budget" takes a basic premise and expands it wonderfully.
Tangled Ever After (2012)
Focused on the wrong characters
My favorite characters in Tangled are Rapunzel and, slightly behind her, Flynn. The horse Maximus and the chameleon Pascal were fine in Tangled, but I wasn't dying to see more of them. Yet they are the stars of this animated short. I did not watch Tangled for its physical humor, but since the animals can't talk, that's just about all they do.
Within the listed parameters, Tangled Ever After does a decent job, but these story decisions suck the life out of the Tangled universe. I wouldn't care as much if this was a short with the same plot but with no Tangled connection. It would fit right in as the pre-feature short for the next Disney or Pixar movie. But since it's Tangled, I know everyone involved could have done better.
Tangled Ever After is a poor choice for the name of this short. It's odd. After watching Tangled, I was fine with the story ending where it did. But this short raised the possibility of more Tangled stories, and then had a middle-of-the-road showing when it got the chance. Now I'm left wanting even more Tangled, to help me move on from this short.
Plenty of jokes, if you're paying attention
So far, this is the only Jacques Tati movie I've seen. It's extremely visual. It looks great. In particular, the opening of the film and the movie's final major act are wonderful to watch. A few scenes show characters being swallowed up in massive sets and environments. The shot gets wider and wider, an approximation of how insignificant each of the characters are to those around them. Such shots are stunning in their beauty.
Most of the comedy in Trafic is visual as well. I normally like wordplay, but I ended up liking Trafic's visual humor as well. For example, two workers are installing a sign for an "auto show", and one instructs the other to rotate the giant letter "O" before putting it up. Yet the O is perfectly round and looks the same at any rotation. Most of the comedy is from similar workplace incompetence and inefficiency. Much like a real workplace, there's nobody in the movie pointing out how ridiculous everyone is acting. The satire isn't mean-spirited; Tati isn't implying that workers are lazy or stupid, just that sometimes we end up behaving foolishly.
A scene in the middle reminds me of Saturday Night Live, during its creative peak. Customs inspectors are suspicious of a prototype camper car, so its salespeople have to explain all of its features. This includes an electric razor inside the steering wheel, an extendable bed, a trunk-mounted shower, and a grill that seems to use heat from the engine. It's absurd and brilliant, and I've only listed some of the car's features. The inspectors aren't always convinced: hands having been squirted by the built-in soap dispenser, an official requests to have the soap analyzed. Anyone who has seen Charlie Chaplin's movies will see shades of his characters in Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot -- he changes a tire with extremely exaggerated, rhythmic alternation between crouching and standing.
All of the humor, both visual and spoken, translates excellently from French (and there is some English in the movie anyway), although one joke about a gas station giving out trinkets will only be fully appreciated by audiences who were alive when gas stations still did this (before the 1970s?). I think it compares very easily to "Airplane!" or The Naked Gun. In contrast to The Naked Gun, Trafic is more deathly serious despite being hilarious. Part of the comedy is playing "what's wrong with this picture?", and sometimes it's really hard! If you miss the jokes, or have to have them explained, you won't find the movie as funny.
96 minutes long is the perfect length for this movie. It conveys the annoyance of waiting for a roadside mechanic or being late for an event, without forcing viewers to watch in real-time. There are plenty of jokes throughout the film to keep the audience's attention. Despite being called "Trafic", you're not going to see any metropolitan gridlock here. The movie happens *because* of some cars, but most of the movie is not *in* a car.
Full disclosure: I watched this along with around 15 other young people in a film comedy class. I liked it far more than any of the other students, who found it to be either: occasionally smart but mostly boring, or entirely boring.
Madangeul naon amtak (2011)
Daring and weary
Leafie looks nothing like any American animated film. It carries out its story in a way unlike American animation as well. American animated movies are almost always kids' movies, and there's an implication that the story and characters should be similarly childish.
Leafie, hailing from South Korea and based on a South Korean novel called "The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly", doesn't seem interested in stooping to the six-year-old demographic. There's a lot in the movie for kids to love, but it's also a bit scary, and the story isn't as neat and orderly as one expects from a kids' movie. Leafie is bittersweet, like real life, which makes it both interesting and hard to watch. Tears were in my eyes at one point, although I never started sobbing.
Leafie the hen was born on a farm but wants to escape. Over time she has a child of her own who has different abilities than her. It's frustrating for mother and son that they are different enough for the other animals to make fun of them. Parenthood and belonging are major themes; "Leafie" is a blend of Animal Farm, Finding Nemo, and a little bit of The Lion King.
It's all a bit predictable. Some parts throw you for a loop but it's usually not that hard to guess correctly about what's going to happen next.
There are some brief jokes involving toilet humor, which weren't done in a clever enough way to make me appreciate them. They're more explicit than the toned-down toilet jokes you find in Finding Nemo or The Lion King, which is probably why I found them so distasteful.
I appreciate seeing an animated movie that doesn't look like the homogenized "Pixar / Dreamworks / Disney / Sony" style. Vibrant colors abound, and it seems like the movie was animated mostly using two- dimensional techniques. It never made me as happy as "Ernest & Celestine" did, and I liked the way that movie looked even more than this one, but "Ernest" was never as sad as "Leafie" either.
Although the movie always looks *different*, it doesn't always make the best use of its style. Very few scenes blew me away with their visual style: Frozen, The Lion King, Ernest & Celestine, and Wall-E have "Leafie" beat when it comes to beautiful artwork.
I'm glad I watched this; there are too many sequels and too little heart in American animated movies. Characters don't have the nuance they do in Finding Nemo, and there's not enough humor to hold together the passable, but touching plot.
I suggest watching it in HD - it was released on Blu-Ray in South Korea (Region A) and Germany (B). But once you're done, look up the original ending. It's a mandatory part of the experience, and it's a shame that they cut it from the film. You'll understand why it was cut once you watch it, but it contains major spoilers, so wait until you watch the movie first.
Even for fans of Lady Gaga and The Muppets, this is a bad program.
I like Lady Gaga a lot, more than I like The Muppets. Still, The Muppets are great! As soon as I heard about this holiday special, I was baffled. The Muppets are generally inoffensive family entertainment. Lady Gaga is at best inoffensive pop entertainment and at worst offensive pop entertainment.
Lady Gaga's latest album, which I don't think is aimed at children, has several songs dealing with sexual themes. Some of these are played during this holiday special featuring cute puppet characters that children are likely to enjoy.
I pretty much never consider "think of the children!" as a legitimate criticism, but it's extremely apt here. One could argue that The Muppets were never completely for children, but they also never had Lady Gaga wearing a clamshell bikini. I don't think kids' minds would be warped by watching this (they probably wouldn't notice the sexual undertones), but the very inclusion of so much sex is again baffling.
Lady Gaga is able to perform for an audience outside of her typical followers without ruining the venue she is given. Look up her performance of "The Edge Of Glory" on Howard Stern's radio show. She's not wearing a clamshell bikini, and she's not singing about sex. Granted, her outfit is skimpy, but it's *less skimpy* on this adult radio program than one of the ones she wore for the *Muppets Holiday Spectacular*. That's ridiculous.
To top it off, of the Gaga songs I like, very few were played in this Muppets show. They're all from her latest album, which is 1/3 great songs, 1/3 tolerable songs, and 1/3 bad songs. "Gypsy", my favorite song of the album, sounds much better in the studio recording than it does with Kermit the (blank)-ing Frog singing along.
There's no way to salvage this program, but it would be a 5/10 with me, a Gaga and Muppets fan, if it was more Muppets and less Gaga. Additionally, it should have had one or two of Gaga's older songs rather than more of her newest garbage. (Having more holiday songs would probably please most people more than having different Gaga songs, but I'd rather see Gaga singing her own material.)
The bits with Statler and Waldorf are just about the only redeeming qualities of this show, outside of one skit with Gaga and the Muppets about what clothes she should wear, which was okay. I've made an imaginary quote from them to finish this review. It should have been said during this special.
"I liked Lady Gaga better in 2011." "You thought her songs were better then?" "No, it's just that she wasn't doing a Muppets Holiday Spectacular that year."
One scene undermines the film
Although much of the dialog is cheesy, the film as a whole is pretty great. However, Gravity stumbles with its dream sequence. Why did it take a male character to encourage Dr. Ryan Stone? Why did this happen in a dream? Why did Stone need help from a dead guy in a dream?
I don't usually like suggesting that films become radically different just to become more progressive or more politically correct. In this case, a slight change *would* make for a more interesting movie. Remove the deus ex machina dream sequence. Dr. Stone instead should have got over her problems on her own, without a knight in shining armor to rescue her.