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Cardcaptor Sakura (1998–2000)
Renews my faith in good kiddie anime...
22 July 2001
... although I have to say that "Cardcaptor Sakura" is not strictly for the kiddies (Harry Potter, anyone? C'mon, I know a bunch of your 30-somethings read those books, too!). Sakura is your average Japanese fourth-grader, until she unwittingly releases some troublesome demon-posessed cards from an old book, along with its familiar protector, Kero-chan (a smart-mouthed and decidedly cuter sidekick than "Sailor Moon"s cat). What follows is a delightful romp as Sakura tries to re-capture all the cards. She gains allies along the way with her friend Tomoyo ("Madison", in the US dub) and Li Shaorun (although sometimes Sakura's not sure whether or not he's a real ally; the kid, who's been raised a cardcaptor by his family, has a real ego).

The series boasts top-notch animation for a TV-series, even by Japanese standards (and I've watched a lot of anime), and the dialogue is neither stale nor repetitive. Even though each episode deals with a card capture, the writers managed to make each day new and interesting rather than a repeated "Oh, lookie, Sakura's going to capture another card". In fact, some episodes feature a capture as just a brief side-plot with the focus on Sakura's relationships, worries, or other points of pre-adolescence. This is everthing "Sailor Moon" should have been, but wasn't.

"Sailor Moon" was a cute show, but really one-dimensional in a way only six-year olds could really enjoy. I admit, "Sailor Moon" is cute and I watched it when I was little, but it doesn't contain the depth of character, plot, and animation as "Cardcaptor Sakura". What makes Sakura so endearing is that she's quite capable, and even when she screws up she fights it out. One of the most annoying habits of "Sailor Moon" is how the lead character is saved or at least aided practically every time by the dashing male lead, Tuxedo Kamen ("Tuxedo Mask", in the US dub). Sakura proves that a girl can kick butt thoroughly.

Also, in Sakura's world, people are not perfect or one-dimensional. Li Shaorun can be a brat (and eventually evolves to crushing on Sakura as the series progresses), but he's that way because of his background. He's been ingrained by his family to capture cards, and at first he sees Sakura as an amateur rival who he doesn't need (he actually feels threatened by her presence in the beginning). Tomoyo, an amateur film freak, drags her videocamera everywhere to film Sakura's captures, and has a few stints of her own. Even Kero, with his sharp mouth and love of video games, and Sakura's older brother, a true pain in the butt (in an endearing and entirely lifelife way), makes the series all the more realistic and worthwhile. Unlike "Sailor Moon", here there are no "throwaway" characters, even Sakura's band of clueless schoolfriends. Nobody here is one-dimensional.

This series is a definite recommendation to everyone, but my advice is to buy the DVD volumes, which you can find on Unfortunately, the American dub doesn't even include the first eight episodes, so you don't even see Sakura accidently freeing the cards!! Some of the DVDs have the option of subbed or dubbed English, I think, but they're totally worthwhile. As of this printing, there are five volumes (with about eight episodes on each) made available in this country, with more coming. I HIGHLY recommend them.
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Load of tripe
24 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
*warning, some spoilers*

I wanted to like this movie. I really did. However, the script makes doing so exceedingly difficult. Firstly, Renee Zellwegger has a nice English accent, yet I was put off by the idea of weight. She looks incredibly plump, yet we're expected to believe she's a "whopping" 131 lbs. Whopping? Since when was that a lot? Wasn't there just a People article describing Charlize Theron's 125 lb. frame? Not very realistic. And people wonder about the rising eating disorder rate, when a size 4 is considered 'plump'.

The story itself was sickening. Alright, so Bridget makes a bonehead mistake by having an affair with her sleazy boss; I admit, I cheered her on when she wised up, yet the other leading male, Mark Darcy (played emotionally-dead by Colin Firth) made me snort. He's arrogant, rude, and puts Bridget down so much, yet she ultimately jumps from one sleazeball to another. So what does Bridget learn? That someone loves her "just the way she is" (except when he calls her a foolish idiot, among other unpleasantries)? What am I supposed to do? Congratulate Bridget on this?

If you want to see a great movie about switching one's life around and standing up for oneself, watch "American Beauty". Kevin Spacey breathed so much more life into Lester Burnham, and he didn't take crap from his wife or anybody by the film's end.
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Tells it like it is...
16 December 2000
Spielberg has a talent for showing, not telling. He doesn't tell you war is stupid, pointless, and takes young men away from their mothers. He doesn't have to. Mrs. Ryan, seeing the War Dept. car pulling up to her house and knowing that at least one of her sons is dead, unsteadily falls to the ground; a young man crying for his mother as he lays dying; another boy getting his arm blown off, staggers for a minute, then retrieves his arm and scurries off. And this is just the first twenty minutes. These images show you what war is like. It doesn't preach. It just shows the reality and allows the viewer to make his own decision.

Some people complained Germans were depicted negatively in this film. What do you expect? American soldiers who've just seen their buddies blown to bits make friends with the enemy? One of the great strengths of this film is that it's viewed through the eyes of these young men. When the nervous little translator laughs and talks with the soldiers' German captive, that actually felt realistic, but not negative. The German was a young man, too, and you almost felt sorry for him when the other soldiers consider shooting him. The film simealtaneously shows both sides and the viewer realizes the truth: when fighting a war, you're killing not just some faceless shadow. You're fighting 17-year olds who have families and blood and dreams. If everyone in the world was forced to watch this movie, we wouldn't be having problems in the middle east or Ireland or anywhere else.
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Mia Farrow did it better...
1 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
About halfway into the movie, I started to get an inkling that I'd seen this before. Then I realized that I had; anyone else ever see "Rosemary's Baby"? Some things seemed awfully familiar...

In any case, "Astronaut's Wife" doesn't cut it. Aggravatingly slow, little pay-off in the end, and an annoying ending (*spoilers*). The end seems chopped off, like there was something more to it. And the audience still doesn't understand what invaded Johnny Depp's body and why.

Glad I spent the $3 to rent this instead of the $8.50 in theaters, or else I'd have been really ticked off.
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Loser (2000)
"Loser" lives up to its name...
10 August 2000
"Let the buyer beware" is a common enough phrase, and it seems this should apply to movie advertising as well. When I saw previews for "Loser", I was expecting a comedy with a spritz of romance and a dash of drama for good measure. Instead I got a hopeless mess which wasn't sure what it wanted to be.

A college frosh (Jason Biggs, from American Pie) is ridiculed by his three dorm buddies, who love to host wild parties and slip roofies into drinks of the ladies. They eventually kick him out of the room, leaving him to fend for himself. At the same time, he falls for a down-and-out classmate (Mena Suvari, of American Pie and American Beauty) who has the hots for her rude & crude teacher. In theory, it sounds great. In reality, it's a lot harder to pull off.

There aren't that many chuckles, and most of them revolve around Bigg's ability to screw up and get laughed at. After a while, you stop thinking he's a geek and actually start to think he's not such a bad guy after all, and why can't something else happen besides him getting made fun of? And why's Suvari still with this teacher for a nerve-wracking hour and a half when it's OBVIOUS the guy's a creep? Basically, Biggs chases Suvari around for 120 minutes trying to convince her to go for him because he's such a nice guy (which is true, but you'd think the girl would catch on quicker).

Add to the mix three moronic dorm buddies who don't even resemble real people (or real college kids, for that matter; all three look to be around 25-30). The only part of the movie I did like was the ending, when an "update" scrolled onto the screen to tell the future fates of these three idiots. I chuckled at that part. If only there was more to chuckle about.

It looks like Amy Heckerling tried really hard to pull this off, but I don't think it's really her fault. After all, to direct and produce a really wonderful film, one has to have a wonderful script to start from. I don't think she had a chance.

If you want a fantastic school comedy, do yourself a favor; Save the $8.50 and go rent "Clueless". So it deals with high school instead of college... it's still better.
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Jawbreaker (1999)
Gag me!
28 February 2000
The first five seconds hooked me. It was great up until seeing a graying corpse with a humongous lump in its throat (courtesy of the queen bitch, Courtney, who decides it'd be funny to stuff a hunking Jawbreaker down her friend's throat). That was an incredible turn-off right there.

The movie was all down-hill from there. There's no real ending, and though I won't reveal it, it was incredibly disappointing. After everything that happens and everything Courtney does, you expect a bigger bang of an ending. Plus, the acting is really, really bad. Sorry, Ms. McGowen, but you weren't frightening at all. And these people were supposed to be high schoolers? 'Julie' looked like late twenties at the least! One comes away from this movie feeling very depressed. After nearly 2 hours of awful acting, people lugging dead bodies around, and kinky sex (which isn't bad, as long as it's done right, which it certainly wasn't in this movie! 'Help me, I've forgotton how'? Please!), the ending was disappointing. Clueless was way better. I'd give this stinker a 0 but the scale doesn't dip down that far.
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The movie itself took two hundred years ...
1 February 2000
Warning: Spoilers
I was leery the second I took a seat. I haven't trusted a movie with Robin Williams in it for the last five years, and when I saw he was in "Bicentennial Man" I immediately thought it would be awful.

I was right.

The first hour or so of the movie was pure bliss! Andrew trying to act human and 'Little Miss' (played by the little Pepsi girl *hehe*) was perfect, and I enjoyed Sam Neill (of Jurassic Park and Merlin fame) as Sir. That was great. But as time wore on, the movie got worse. Part of that comes from the fact that it never wants to end; as soon as something begins to resolve itself, you think "Ah, it's over soon" only to find the movie start a whole next chapter. It's tedious, boring, and a repeat of what's already happened, just slicked up to make it look different.

It FELT like two hundred years had gone by because the movie didn't know when to resolve itself. It was all climax but no finish. Also, way, way, WAY too much sex talk, and too explicit. God, I had to see this with my parents, my little sisters, and my grandmother, so don't let the PG-13 rating fool you. I was expecting something more appropriate for the whole family, not having to listen to talk about sperm and to see a love scene while my 7 year-old kid sister sits to my left and my grandmother on the right.

After a while, you just wish Andrew would stop getting tiny little improvements to became a 'real' human and just do it all at once. This way, the audience doesn't have to watch two hundred years crammed into two and a half hours (though it feels much MUCH longer). And I won't give away the ending, knowing how people hate spoilers, but trust me when I say it is SO anti-climax you want to sob, or at least demand your money back. Oh, where did you go, Mrs. Doubtfire?
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For the Love of your Sanity...
26 September 1999
... keep clear of this snoozer. I got dragged to this flick by a friend who thought this would be a real dramatic film. Uh-uh. Was this one ever out of the ballpark.

This movie is told almost entirely in flashback, which made it incredibly confusing at times, not to mention incredibly slow. The whole premise was Chapel and Jane's relationship. They hate each other, then they love each other, then they hate each other ... throughout the movie, all I saw was Jane getting used continuously, and yet she still stays with him. Gimme a break. This is the '90's. She should know by now that you don't need a jerk to complete you or anything, yet that seems to be the underlying message. She came off as completely whiny and needy.

Though the movie plays almost entirely by flashbacks, it all begins (and ends) at one fateful baseball game, the last of Chapel's career. Gee, how could this movie end? Will Chapel win the game in the last inning and win back the love of his life? Or will he lose the game and will Jane take off forever from him? It's not a real brainer.

It was a complete waste of seven bucks. But go see it if you have a serious insomnia problem. This movie will clear that up real quick.
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Tarzan (1999)
Wow!! An 11 out of 10, if possible...
5 July 1999
... or no, a 15, maybe.

This is right up there with 'The Lion King' and 'Mulan'. I had the treat to see this last night, and through it all, even the toddlers in the theater loved it! People have said this is a breakthrough animation-wise, but story-wise, this is like mind-blowing. Tarzan himself is the first truly deep Disney male character since ... I can't think of a really deep Disney male character, except perhaps Simba from The Lion King. Tarzan has everything that makes you realize that, though he's raised by apes, he's truly human, and even his upbringing can't hide that (C'mon, if you were raised your whole life thinking you were an ape, and then suddenly find out you're really something else, wouldn't you also be disturbed?)

From the first to the last scene was awesome. Tarzan and the ape Kala's backgrounds were told briefly, poignantly, and emotionfully. There's (intelligent) humor and love, which only add to the film, and there's an obvious love between Tarzan and Jane. Someone here said they're not in love, that it's obvious, but I have to strongly disagree. The scenes between them are funny and give you a feeling that there's a strong attraction (and not just because Jane's interested in studying apes). And even Jane's father, though he's a small background character, he helps the plot along, and while you'd describe him as "dithering", he has his own funny bone (When Jane is describing Tarzan to him by drawing a picture on a blackboard, she starts to go on about his 'wonderful eyes', and in the midst of her daydream, her father comments, "Would you like me to give you and the blackboard some private time?" Riot!).

No, Clayton's not a Jafar or a Gaston, but he's not really the enemy here; he's just an antagonist to help along Tarzan's inner conflict. The real enemy would be Tarzan's battling against his 'true' world (the one with humans) and the one he's grown up with (the one with apes). Clayton just resembles a threat to Tarzan's ape family. In the past, villains were a direct challenge to the hero; here, he is a threat, sure, but he's not the whole movie here. I like it better this way. In real life, there's rarely a big evil soul against you, and Clayton seems like a realistic greedy, nasty guy, rather than the cliche megolamincal weirdos of most animated features.

I loved Phil Collins. And while it's great hearing Ariel sing, I think background music was better for this particular movie. I couldn't see Jane or Tarzan singing; it makes the whole thing almost unrealistic.

Tarzan himself was wonderful! Charismatic, emotional, outgoing, and at the same time, goofy and boyish. The scenes between him and his ape mother, Kala, were so tender. I haven't seen such wonderful emotions in live-action movies. And even Kerchak ... let me tell you something about him. Even my mom said he was real. I don't think he was too mean. He felt threatened by Tarzan's presence. It wasn't out of superiority. When Kala first shows baby Tarzan to him, Kerchak is worried about the existence of other humans in the jungle, which might endanger his family of apes. He only worries about his family, too, and I suspect that, while he keeps a stoic face over the death of his own baby ape in the beginning of the movie, he's not ready to adopt another baby (if one of your kids died, would you be so willing to adopt another right away? I know I wouldn't).

The Lion King, Mulan, and Tarzan all have the same thing in common; they all show true emotion and character, unlike the basic fairy tale fluff like Cinderella and Bambi (nothing against fairy tales, but I like to see true-to-life stuff, you know?).

This is a must-see. If Disney keeps this up, adults may start to change their views of animated stuff. It ain't just for lil' kids anymore! :)
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Pocahontas (1995)
No way, Jose...
2 July 1999
I saw this with my family in theaters the week it came out, and I was incredibly disappointed. The rest of the family hated it, too, which was odd considering we've always loved Disney animated films since forever.

It was a bunch of things that made this movie sour. There was no real plot... I mean, Pocahontas and John Smith must try to reconcile harsh feelings between the settlers and the Native Americans, but it proceeded slowly and didn't flow real well, and other than the fact that everyone must 'try to get along', there really WASN'T a plot. There was also the violence; two people are shot, and some of the more passionate scenes were a little overdone. I think the thing that confused most of the folks was how Pocahontas magically spoke English all of a sudden; one moment, she couldn't understand John Smith, and the next, she could suddenly converse with him.

And the ending was awful.

I'd say this ranks as one of the worst movies I've ever seen. I usually expect more from Disney; if you want a really good Disney movie, rent The Lion King or Mulan.
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21 March 1999
The underlying message in this movie was well-done, about child abuse. It only made me want to kill Bone's father more and more, and to put real-life child abusers on Death Row.

But the movie itself is horrible. I rarely hate movies, but I really hate this one. Graphic, disturbing ... I nearly puked, and I had a hard time watching the whole thing. It took me a few hours afterwards until I started to feel better. While it shows a clear message, it definitely doesn't have your triumphant moralistic feel from Amistad or Schindler's List. No happy endings, no happy anything! There ISN'T an ending. You're left hanging.

I wouldn't watch this movie ever again, because it's neither entertaining nor pleasing to the mind. The dialogue and plot are thin and doesn't really get resolved. And when I mean graphic, I mean GRAPHIC. There's blood, bruises, and a lot of other extremely unpleasant scenes.

Child abuse is a terrible thing, but the movie itself doesn't work. It's ranked up on my Worst Movies of All Time List.
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Mulan (1998)
A True Masterpiece
28 February 1999
Every Disney movie is always advertised as "a masterpiece", but Mulan is one of the few that REALLY fit the bill. The animation itself is simple and flowing, reminiscent of ancient Chinese art. But the animation for this is really something else. In fact, this is the best thing since The Lion King.

Mulan is a young girl who does her best to bring honor to her family. Then, when the Hun army invades China, one man from every household must serve in the Imperial Army. Since Mulan has no older brothers, her crippled father must serve. And it's obvious, early on in the movie, that it's impossible for him to fight with a crippled leg. There's a great likelihood that this man is going to die in battle.

So, out of the sheer love for her father, Mulan disguises herself in his armor and takes his place in the army.

This movie isn't about some gal going off to war to prove herself, or break free from the caste system, like so many other Disney heroines. And it isn't about "finding your prince and living happily ever after". Mulan goes for the simple love of her father and because of the her dedication to her family. She risks losing everything to SAVE everything.

Mulan is a wonderful movie because the main character is realistic. She's not perfect, she has her faults, and we all identify with her because we all try out best to please our fathers. This is one of the few movies I watched with my dad that he really liked, and he isn't that fond of animated stuff. It's a great film.

And that's what makes a true masterpiece.
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Gargoyles (1994–1996)
24 February 1999
Having lived in the New York metropolitan area my entire life, Gargoyles was even more fun to watch since many of the landmarkings were places I've hung out at) The animation in itself is mindblowing. The sights and sounds of the show are true to life of Manhattan, even if you've never been there, it makes you feel like you're there.

The storylines were great. Mythology, elves, sorcery, and modern day New York, London, Japan, and Scotland (and even gay Paris!) come together to form a wonderful series that would have made Walt Disney proud. While many former Disney creations had very obvious morals (and quite a few "And they lived happily ever afters ..."), Gargoyles is the first to show a distinctiveness I've never seen, from Disney or otherwise. The emotions are real, the stories realistic (as far as you can see realistic about elves, anyway), and storylines reappear again and again. The animation and the gargoyles draw the kiddies, while the history, mythology, and more mature storylines will definitely keep the adults glued to the TV.

The show gives lessons on gun control, dealing with blindness, death, family, love, and life, without the artificial and often unrealistic way of going about it (examples including Cinderella, Barney, and lots of other shows and movies I can mention). It's not just for kids. Disney has done for Gargoyles what Warner Bros. did for the Batman Animated Series. I could watch this show with my grandmother (who doesn't like ANYTHING made after 1960) and she enjoyed it thoroughly and is now a die-hard fan. Watch it with your kids.

Sad to see the show having been canceled though. Maybe if enough people email Disney or write letters, it can be brought back. If you have the time, write an email to Disney and tell how much you love the show. Gargoyles live.
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