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Bad movie all around.
I've figured it out. The fans are so loyal to this franchise now that they can't bear to speak an ill word about it, even though we now have TWO sequels that absolutely suck. Most of the negative reviews have mentioned the serious problems in this one, and they are very obvious, but I will summarize:
*Way too many characters and different ship crews, all with different motives. Impossible to follow or keep track of. Who is with whom? And why?
*No character development. There isn't much dialogue, period, but no one really learns anything or does anything interesting. Elizabeth is the same brilliant swordsman and pirate that she was (inexplicably) in the second one, and Will is still hardly in the movie at all, and has no interesting scenes. Then there are all the new characters like the Singapore pirates and the new English officers, whom we never learn anything about. They have no character whatsoever and I didn't even know their names by the end of the movie.
*Calypso... What a retarded plot device. No one cares about this character or knows anything about her. Half the time you can't even understand what she's saying, because of the accent. Then she turns into crabs and disappears; the whole thing was built up to be important, but actually it does nothing and is pointless.
*Confusing elements. There is no explanation for how Barbossa came back to life. Like a lot of the bizarre stuff in this movie, it is just assumed to be the case, and it is not questioned by anyone or seen as unusual. The new British naval officers in particular, are totally emotionless and don't find it remarkable to be working with undead mutant pirates. It's just like any other day.
*Not fun. Even if it doesn't have distinct humor, a movie like this should have charm and flavor like the first one did. But this is just dark all over with almost no fun moments. Sparrow is the only character who has any real life in him, and they milk that at the expense of everyone else. Even the enjoyable culture clash between Elizabeth, Will, and the pirates is totally gone now, because they are all pirates and act like they always have been, so there is no variety in character types.
I didn't walk out, because I was expecting it to get better at any moment, but it never did. There were maybe 2-3 good scenes in the whole movie. The rest of it was just mindless and overblown, and often very long. I am also surprised that it squeaked by with a PG-13, as it is the most violent so far and has one particularly disgusting and graphic scene. It is so weird how this stuff is considered "ok" for little kids, when the same content in any other live action genre would be out of the question.
Even weirder... Can kids really sit through this?? At my showing, even the adults were restless and clearly not entertained by this long and confusing saga. I would think anyone under 10 would be crying or begging to leave, purely out of boredom.
At the end of it, there is a pretty distinct setup for another sequel. I will definitely be skipping any more to come.
Bambi II (2006)
WOW. Better than the original, I'd say.
NO Spoilers. Read on, all ye who dare !
I say Bambi 2 is better than the original Bambi. YES.
This is the best Disney sequel yet, even better than enjoyable efforts like the Lion King sequels. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, brilliant, and overall the best in 2D production you've seen in a good 10 years. The portrayal of Bambi's world is beautiful and moody, making the forest its own, living character. They use light and darkness and just solid artistry to give it even more depth and color than the original film had. I'm sure CGI was used in some scenes, but it is not obvious or even noticeable. They went for beauty and surrealism rather than photo-realism, and it's glorious. The drawing itself is superb, with Bambi looking as he did (actually a little better), and the Prince is just masculine splendor in every step.
The story is a lot like the original film's, but without the very slow pace. Bambi 2 moves nicely and doesn't plod around in overly-long forest pans or minutia (a million rain drops falling). Some might say this means its "magic" is gone, but I prefer the adult pacing that gives you something new and interesting happening every few minutes. At the same time, the film pauses where you want it to, gives you a silent moment to watch Bambi's ears fall slowly when he is disappointed, or freeze with him when he's terrified. Sometimes there is silence in the forest, and a character standing still while the light falls just so, to convey wonder or loneliness.
This is a kind of beauty in storytelling that we haven't seen in a long time.
Best of all, the characters don't sing, there are very few modern, trendy references to ruin the timelessness of it, and the whole feel is a good blend of natural, serious scenes and lighthearted innocence in Bambi and Thumper's more fun escapades. The methods here in conveying emotion are excellent; you really feel it when Bambi is sad or trying to earn his father's pride, and there are moments when you feel him growing up. And not just emotional growth, as modern animation is often so limited to, but also that he is maturing in a natural/physical way, so that you can really imagine him becoming a strong and brave prince.
Dad grows, too. Patrick Stewart is wonderful as we get to see the prince struggle with his role as a leader vs. being an affectionate parent. So the film has some modern influence in the way it addresses character development and everyone *sort of* learning a lesson, but it's not bashing you over the head with it the way Nemo and similar films do. This is a natural story that manages, just, to keep to deerhood and not lose us with too many humanlike gestures or colloquialisms.
One aspect about the technique that *is* more humanized is the exaggerated facial expressions, but I did not find this too distracting or overdone. There has thus far been some kind of rule in Disney sequels that characters constantly have to be rolling their eyes, lifting one eyebrow drastically, or saying "Eeeeyew !" with way too much lip action (this seems even more important than the other modern sequel clichés like characters' pants falling down to reveal red-heart boxer shorts), but Bambi 2 largely avoids such annoyances, and it's actually really interesting to see the deer (especially the stag) rendered with facial expression.
The voice acting is excellent all around, and the film resolves itself very well without intruding on or changing the original film in the least. It's simply a very good film that is definitely worth a buy. I suspect the people scoring it a "1" have done so out of spite without having seen it. This movie does its original justice, if not surpassing it in many regards.
Oh, and one more time.... Patrick Stewart !!
Grizzly Man (2005)
Well done, but a sad story.
This film proves what little we already know about wildlife: 99% of the time, it will leave you alone as long as you don't harass it, but the 1% is a differential that ends with you screaming and some guy finding your arm later.
It also proves that we know even less about human nature than we do about bears, as Tim Treadwell is a mystery even to his own species.
It's obvious that he has some kind of disorder or drug-related brain damage, what with his extreme lability of mood, delusions of identity, neurotic and repetitive speech patterns, and general paranoia about the activities of his fellow humans. He knows a lot of interesting people, from his geeky friends who state the mundane as though it is profound ("I don't think he had a death wish at all." "I don't think anyone really deserves to be eaten alive by a bear."), to the Friend/Actor who is not even believable when portraying himself, to his very ordinary parents who are just as confused by him as we are.
In this film, we learn that Treadwell switches addictions from alcohol to bears, and descends into functional madness while attempting to integrate himself into their "secret, inner world." He is paradoxical throughout, both disliking humans and yearning for a love relationship, being fully aware of the dangers that the bears pose, but doing nothing to protect himself from them. (Well, he is fatalistic in his devotion to them, but seems to think that they will not harm him as long as he behaves properly around them. That an older, aggressive bear could become hunger-crazed enough to attack him indiscriminately seems beyond his scope.) At times he shows a thorough understanding of animal behavior and the natural world, at other times a grand ignorance of the reality of life in the wilderness. He seems forever stymied trying to enforce human concepts like justice and righteousness upon the jungle. His sentimentality with the bears and perceived relationships there show in stark relief when the animals display constant indifference or even aggression, and when it is clear that some near-altercation with them has occurred off-camera.
In the end, he is really no more successful with bears than he is with people, understanding the basic rules but never seeing the whole picture in clarity enough to know how to avoid crashing and burning.
Perhaps most indicative of his dysfunction is how he responds to the fond relationship he develops with the foxes, who actively play with him and seek his company and interaction. While he loves them, they are but a footnote on his path to destruction; he prefers the ambiguous and imagined affection from the dangerous bears, to the foxes' genuine displays of it.
"Grizzly Man" is not about a man at all; it is a sad, true story about a wayward being without a species.
On this journey, the audience meets a lot of bears that look alike but who we know were distinct to Treadwell, a creepy coroner who is probably not acting, and a slew of observers who all have their own biased and often badly distorted views of "what really happened." In the creamy middle is the quirky pilot who knew Treadwell best, and the director himself, the voice of reason in this well-crafted work.
The moral: Van Halen was right. "It's business as usual in the woods." Animals make sense; it's people that don't.
WOW... What a ride !
People who compare this movie to the original Star Wars are exactly right. Firefly and Serenity have something that nearly all modern films (and absolutely all modern Sci Fi films) lack. That is character development and the ability to make the audience care about the people they're watching.
My theory is that Joss Whedon knows something that no one else in Hollywood does. He knows how to incorporate humor and personality into his characters so that they are solid as human beings, and how to avoid modern clichés. He can also create a story that anyone will get wrapped up in. Forget your boring "Deep Space Nine"s and confounding "Babylon 5"s. Throw Andromeda into the fire (PLEASE) and ignore everything you've heard about Science Fiction being for geeks or dateless wonders. I wouldn't even call Serenity a 'Sci Fi' since it has so little in common with everything else that is falling under that heading nowadays.
Serenity is like what Sci Fi USED to be. The original Star Wars is for everyone to enjoy, as is the original Star Trek, and Serenity takes its cues from these. At the same time, it is fresh and funny, and sometimes sad and shocking, but it leaves you with this beautiful hope that there really are brain cells firing in Hollywood.
Don't judge this film by the horrible previews you saw. They tried to sell it on the lowest denominator possible, which is an insult to this great series and its characters. See it and be amazed. Then be sure to pick up Firefly, and get ready to fall in love like the rest of us have.
Fox canceled THIS ?!?
OK, so I'd never seen an episode of this until someone sent me the DVDs and insisted that it was excellent. And WOW, it is really a great show. This isn't a lame, futuristic snore like some of Fox's other (ahem) "attempts." Harsh Realm. Space: Above and Beyond. The Lone Gunmen. Oh wait... I forgot. That's all ass from the same person !
Well, if Fox's other crap has left you with a sour palate generally, if you'd rather stare at a wall than watch "Dark Angel" or the horrible show that is "Andromeda," or even if you're just appalled by the painfully tired direction the Star Trek franchise has taken, Firefly is for you.
Yes, Firefly makes "Enterprise" embarrassing. And we all know that Fox has spent the last four years becoming the Jerry Springer of networks. Well, it had no other place to go after The X Files, and now people avoid it like stinky death until Sunday night, which is the only time it is respectable. So we've all been lulled into Fox's Harsh Realm of Low Expectations, and Firefly was poorly promoted right off the schedule.
Now, this isn't to say that the series is perfect. It has some awkward elements that need to be tweaked, but this is still one of the best series to come around in years, and *somebody* would do well to renew it based on the obvious fan concentration.
In the meantime, buy those DVDs and cheer for great writing and character-driven stories.
La marche de l'empereur (2005)
This beautifully made film is one of the best I have seen in years. While movie experiences lately revolve around teen horror, urban violence, and trashy sexual situations, it's a welcome diversion to see what another species goes through just to survive, and it can make a human feel like the laziest, most spoiled life form on earth! The penguins struggle so much and each of their lives is precious to them, and they truly are a loving collective that rely on each other to endure horrid environmental conditions.
The stateside version of the movie is apparently better than some, as the narration by Morgan Freeman is perfect and there are no awkward musical or vocal distractions.
Most amazing is how this film makes the audience reflect on human habits of life and procreation. While some will criticize that penguins are acting more on instinct than "love" when it comes to their chicks, this relates exactly to humans, who only reproduce out of a biological imperative to spread their DNA, and love is a by-product of that rather than the purpose. So humans will deride that fact while unknowingly replicating it, as proved by the overwhelming preference of humans to have "their OWN" offspring rather than adopt a less fortunate one abandoned by someone else. This is especially embarrassing in light of how easy it is to survive as a human and what a surplus of food and resources we have, while the penguins struggle by the day just to provide enough food for a single baby, and would never think of abusing, neglecting, or abandoning it unless their own lives were at stake. It is so poignant to see how one penguin in the film reacts to the loss of her chick, and should make people reconsider their affirmations that human love is superior, or even different in the least, from what penguins experience.
Overall, this was an excellent and moving experience that was enjoyed by everyone at the screening I attended. There are even some funny moments, and the baby penguins really stole the show with their fuzzy, waddling cuteness. Too, it was realistic without being traumatic, as the G-rating is strictly adhered to and there is no blood or serious brutality (it is a lot less violent than your average nature documentary on TV). This is a good thing, since the film is gritty enough due to the environmental factors, and would certainly evoke excessive tears if it were too gory or morbid.
This is definitely one of the best films you'll see all year. Take the kids, and hopefully reflect a bit more on how many orphans there are in our over-stuffed, over-sexed society. The message is what a better society it would be if only people could be more like penguins...
I think I'm just getting WAY tired of the whole CG Animated movie formula, what with the famous comedians voicing all the characters, the outrageous animation style, and the annoying pop culture references. This sometimes works and can add to a film, but it shouldn't BE the whole film. Even more dull here is the lack of character development synchronized with dialogue and mannerisms that are totally exaggerated to the point of being just irritating. I don't know where the "Acting" went in these movies. it used to be that you could find all the subtlety and realism that is found in live action; now animated films are just one long comedy routine, everyone is at some wild end of the emotional spectrum ALL THE TIME, and every action is punctuated with falling over or hitting someone else in the head. No animated character is "annoyed" anymore - he has to be raving and outraged. And and no one is "pleased," but must be jumping up and down and doing backflips. I think the believable acting standards must have disappeared as soon as animators stopped having to actually *draw* them.
And those are the *developed* characters. You also have the ones that are nothing and go nowhere, like the hypochondriac giraffe that has no other personality traits, and the hippo that has no purpose beyond spouting urban slang that will soon be very dated and embarrassing - if it isn't already.
Basically this is one of those movies that has to be throwing something AT you all the time, either physical pratfalls (it felt like someone fell over comically every two minutes), animation that is trying too hard to be amazing, or babbling dialogue that is neither funny nor character-deepening. And as far as the design goes, these characters *have* to look ridiculous because the movie can't read any other way.
Overall, it's an example of everything that is annoying about computer animated films, and resolves very little beyond the conflict created by the lion's dietary needs once he's displaced in the wild. It's so depressing that a movie like this is already considered a "blockbuster," while a much better film like Brother Bear was not even given a chance. Hopefully, time will prove that it isn't the animation style that makes an animated movie good.
The Incredibles (2004)
8.6 ?? This movie was LAME.
Right about now I'm thinking that there must be something wrong with *me.* After all, the world is saying that this is an 8.6 movie, and people are giving it 10s. And I thought it SUCKED.
The pacing is horrible. The first hour is positively boring, unfunny, and the action scenes are so fast that you can hardly tell what's going on. There were a few great moments, but not enough to make me really care about any of the characters. I was actually going to *walk out* because it was simply dull. But then every once in a while, something interesting would happen and I'd want to keep giving it a chance.
OK, so in the last 20 minutes or so, the story actually picks up. And by that I mean you can *follow* what's happening, because the pacing is better and not all crazy and frenetic. For a while the characters slow down and reflect on what's happening to them, and they seem to be real people. There's also some good (creative) action toward the end, and the villain's plot is the only truly well-crafted part of the story.
It's annoying that the humor attempts are mostly just cheap things that they throw in on the side (kid on big wheel) that have nothing to do with the story, or repetitive sight gags like Mr. Incredible accidentally breaking some household object because he doesn't know his own strength. Meanwhile, there are HUGE tracts of dialogue that are absent of cleverness, or just too fast, mumbled, or obscured by FX sounds.
I did not care for the design of this movie generally - often the characters' eyes were dark and flat. They did not have that shine in them, the living sparkle that would draw me in. While I sat there I thought about other animated films where the eyes seemed positively beaming with emotions, and here everyone seemed like a wind-up toy. Maybe I am just too "old-school" animation, but it seems like there is so much focus now on light and shading and detail of the surrounding scenes that the distinction and liveliness of the characters has been lost.
I loved The Lion King and the Toy Story movies as much as anyone else. I saw Shrek 2 three times. I also disliked Home on the Range, Treasure Planet and Atlantis for the same reasons the critics did.
But for some reason this movie just did NOT deliver for me. Bland script, uneven action, minimally sympathetic characters... Not to mention some rather annoying, obligatory add-in scenes like the goth daughter who is suddenly more popular at school and the cute guy asks her out, and Samuel Jackson's character who is totally undeveloped.
I also found it really weird that the villain did not have *ONE, single* humorous or clever line.
So apparently I'm in some 1% that disliked this movie. But be warned, people:
I was once like you.
One day you're going along enjoying all these movies, and then suddenly they all suck but no one agrees with you.
Deux frères (2004)
Slow in spots, but entertaining.
I'm not sure this film is worthy of its 7+ score here, but it's at least interesting. Some parts of it are very gripping and get you feeling like "Wow, this is excellent," but there are just as many places that drag. Overall, though, it was worth the ticket price. The tiger cubs are adorable, and the adult tigers steal the show. Too bad there were so many unexplored human characters that kept popping up randomly, as it gave the thing a feeling of generalised unconnectedness. It was like a series of 10-minute stretches of dull material punctuated by several really amazing and involving scenes, and the whole movie goes like that.
Re: "Not for Children" : If by "children" you mean the whiny kind that has been raised on Teletubbies and has never watched the Discovery Channel or seen a wildlife documentary, then Yes. This movie is not for *that* kind of children. It's really sad that Kids' entertainment is so filtered now that the occasional moral lesson that is actually founded in reality is not allowed to get through.
Van Helsing (2004)
Proudly in the "Liked It" Camp !
NO SPOILERS. NONE !! Charge forth !!
I was pretty sure (nay, *positive*) that I was going to hate this one. Well, it's another CGI Action movie (budget was over $150 mil, so you know what's coming), as has become the trend recently, and I generally hate those.
This one would be a flop without Hugh Jackman, but thankfully he's here and looking better than ever, and playing something like a shallow version of Wolverine. The movie is an aggregate of several types: A vampire movie, an action movie, a classic monster movie, and an Eye Candy movie that totally delivers. MOST of the effects are pretty good - only a handful miss the mark, and Jackman, well... He is the Ultimate Eye Candy, especially when clad in Turn of the Century romanticism. The female viewers will surely be satisfied (no complaints here on the detailed leather costumes, glittering weapons, and flowing black cloaks!) and the vampire people and action movie buffs will get their fill, too.
Some aspects of it are annoying, like the constant use of computer effects, unfortunately at the expense of dialogue and character development. And that strangling outfit Beckinsale wears is ugly and eventually irritating to look at. Some of the dialogue is a little "off," too, but I guess that's to be expected in this type of flick.
Where you'd expect it to crash, 'Van Helsing' does provide a detailed and almost believable plot that gives the monsters credible reason to interact. There were a few times during the screening I attended when you could hear people muttering worried "Oh no"s at the key points of the story; the thing was pretty darn involving, perhaps disturbingly so.
It was obvious that some explanatory scenes had been sharply cut (unfortunately), but the film was coherent and tended to answer its various questions as it went along. It was nice to see the characters and the audience simultaneously confused over certain plot elements, and then learn the reasons together.
Most of all, 'Van Helsing' could have been helped by fewer effects and much more dialogue. And as others have mentioned, it goes too far toward making the main characters invincible. Part of a great action movie is a great hero (and a beautiful co-star and a bumbling sidekick, of course), but that relies on his being human enough to fail sometimes and feel pain, or at least lie on the ground for a while after he's taken such a pummeling. Maybe that is the distance between Van Helsing and Wolverine.
Overall, this was a terrific, guilty pleasure, even for someone who isn't into monster flicks. Go for the antiquity, the scenery, the incredible costumes and cool weaponry, and an awesome Dracula, too!
Score: A solid "B," for doing what it sets out to do.
Ok, admittedly I'm not Japanese, so I only saw the Americanized version of this, the one that Disney felt needed to be crammed full of all the voices from their previous movies and crappy sequels. (I haven't seen a credited cast, but I am pretty sure Lilo, Kovu, Zira, Megara and many others are here.) So that was a lame, *used* approach to take to this new, original work, but not that important. So, Spirited Away... Interesting, colorful, intricate, etc. All you expect from Miyazaki, plus the usual unexplained things that just leave you hanging, tons of unanswered questions and plot details that would tie together nicely if only you could understand them. Most of this guy's movies are just like... really artistic independent films. Totally beautiful, but who knows what any of it is supposed to mean?
It's just meant to be a random slice of life, I guess, and that's ok if you like that kind of movie. Maybe it is that Sen is childish in the beginning and "grows up" as the story moves on. Well, probably there is some really deep message in "Spirited Away" that everyone else gets, but I do have to laugh at the mention of how technically brilliant it is that Sen and her mother look alike. (Davy and his dad look alike in All Dogs go to Heaven 2, so that must be a technically brilliant film as well..?)
Meanwhile it does have some cool, dramatic scenes and very cute characters (and delightfully scary and grotesque ones) so it's an excellent watch as a trip to the Creative Museum. I give it an A for design but a D for overall story resolution, something I look for in a movie.
And Disney... How about giving a listen to those millions of NEW voice actors who would love to audition for your stuff?
Bottom Line: Decent, but Kiki's Delivery Service is still the best I've seen from this director.
The USA network has put out quite a few clunkers over the years, more than a cable channel of this type should be entitled to, but Counterstrike was one of their few, shining successes. I remember being 13 when this was on, and staying up until midnight so I could watch it. I think it was on Wednesdays (school night), and my father would always tell me that it was too late to be up watching TV, but I would beg and insist that I had to see it.
Ok, so most of the time I didn't really follow those complex, international-intrigue plots, but the whole premise of this rich guy that had his own Justice Squad to stomp out evil... It was just totally cool to see such a heroic good vs. evil action show that was gritty and believable and set in the modern era. It gave it such realism to address big business, corrupt politicians, terrorism and other real-life evils. For once, we had a hero show that didn't rely on gimmicky costumes or over-the-top villains or some imaginary "Gotham" as the funky parallel to the modern world because the show wasn't bold enough to address real issues. At the same time it had the "Touch of USA Network," but finally in a *good* way: slight overacting, serviceable amounts of blood and explosions, and just enough, uh, "adult situations" to make it perfect after-hours fare. If "Counterstrike" were on today it would certainly and sadly earn a PG-14, its morals and messages not permitted to reach the audience that badly needs to know them. This show had such a mature angle on idealism. Like 'America's Most Wanted,' it was born out of one anguished person taking a stand against cruel deeds to try to better the world.
"We must fight evil. No matter where, no matter when. No matter the cost."
This was a brave, proud series that I and many others would love to own on DVD.
Brother Bear (2003)
That's Entertainment !
Ok, it's no epic, but "Brother Bear" is definitely a fun movie that's worth seeing. Personally, I enjoyed it much more than Finding Nemo or Shrek or Lilo and Stitch. The music is awesome and inspiring, the story is sure to evoke tears at some point, and the ending is QUITE good. (For once, Disney does what should be, instead of what might be the "socially correct" thing.) I'll just say that when I first went into this thing, I was *sure* it would end one way, and it actually went the OTHER way, and that was a pleasant surprise.
Now, the Bad?
The pacing is bad. Brother Bear jumps through too many different moods and tones and never finds its true style. One minute it's deep and spiritual, the other it's funny and down-home. It's also a little too much "Animal Togetherness" to the point where it's unbelievable. (Mammoths letting *bears* ride on them?!) It also jumps too quickly from scene to scene, especially on some of the musical numbers. The Animation is "OK," but looks surprisingly flat. The actual bear animation is great, but there is rarely any shading or depth to the characters, which is unfortunate as well as strange. (Shading is supposed to be the norm now... isn't it?)
But Kenai and Koda are simply *great* characters! Koda's lines come off perfect EVERY time, which is amazing, especially for a child actor. The script is funny even without the stereotype comic relief characters, even without Disney's standard, "One-Gag Characters," which show up here in the form of two Bighorn Sheep. People say the Moose are the best, but it's really the bears you feel for.
This is a nice little story with terrific music and a lot of heart. Imperfect? Sure. Similar to Ice Age? Definitely. But it's still a good movie. It's better than most of the movies I've seen in a long time.
Score: B. Seen it twice already, and going again tonight !
Majo no takkyûbin (1989)
Very good through the majority.
There is not much to be said about this sweet little movie that hasn't already been said, only to mention the abrupt pace change that happens about 75% of the way through. The story veers a little and the scenes do not connect as well, then the film ends rather suddenly. However, the beginning and middle are beautiful and refreshingly gradual and detailed. This is a pleasantly surprising film for having a solid build-up that anyone can follow, not the usual "Confuse-You-Into-Submission" that anime tends to inflict on viewers.
Overall a very satisfying film that merits multiple viewings, though it is wrenching to hear Mr. Hartman's work and see the dedication at the end. Perhaps it is the kindness and simplicity of this film that so echoes him personally, crystallizing this loss in a way that other performances do not.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
I recently saw this again and was struck by how lame it was. The characters are so sketchy and shallow, and the worst part is that the script is even set up to keep them that way. There is this one scene where "the gang" is eating dinner and they go through a brief exploration of everyone's personality. (And by "brief," I mean... about three sentences per character?) So when everybody has had their 15-word personality expose, Milo actually turns and looks at Mole and goes, "So what's Mole's story?" ("This is the only time we're going to get any character details on any of you, so we'd better include everybody.")
Also I happened to rent Stargate around the same time, and I will state for the record that msc23 is absolutely correct; "Atlantis" is a BIG ripoff of Stargate, following it point for point and in some cases scene for scene.
Decent, though repetitive
In some ways, this is your typical animated film from Dreamworks. The plot is uneven, the main characters look like the same ones you've seen before, and Jim Cummings voices everyone else. This is too bad because it has some positive elements like satisfactory character development (for the main roles, anyway) and an engaging story. Brad Pitt is a poor choice for Sinbad, though, and it's obvious that he was selected for his "Big Celebrity" appeal instead of any talent. This is also the second ocean-going movie of late that has included a repetitive plot device to help it along. In "Finding Nemo" it was: "Big, carnivorous fish/whale chases and attacks our little friends" and that happens three or four times. Here it's "Giant, poorly-blended, computer-generated monster goes after our little friends." This happens about three times, and in the shadow of Dreamworks' *earlier* repetitive plot device, which was, "The cavalry keeps chasing our heroes and won't leave them alone," multiplied by three or four.
Even with these failings, "Sinbad" is an interesting watch for being weird and unpredictable. I think this is one of those movies that would have made a lot more money if it had come out before CGI rose to power. For me, there is no greater thrill than sitting in a dim theater, waiting for the start of a brand new, 2D film that I've never seen before, so I went to this one with heart open and had a pretty good time. It only didn't hold up well on a second viewing due to its minimal, undetailed script.
"Sinbad" isn't a great film, but I would recommend it for anyone the first time. It is a fun watch when you don't know what's coming.
Dances With Horses
Everything you need to know, you learned from "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron."
1. Most viewers are too just plain DUMB to understand the concept of Point of View in film. From Spirit's point of view, humans were pretty much the enemy. Especially the mean ones that wanted to cut his hair and tie him up and kick him with spurs. This is all pretty straightforward and simple enough even for little kids to get, but many viewers see it and are just, really STUMPED as to why the Cavalry is portrayed as the enemy. They are just incapable of seeing it from the horse's point of view.
2. You can make hundreds of movies about white settlers who are good guys and Native Americans who are bad guys, and it's ok. But as soon as you make Native Americans the good guys, that's "Racist," "too politically correct," and "Un-American." Also, some viewers do not seem to be capable of realizing that, when it comes to cowboys and Indians, white settlers were pretty much the bad guys. It would be very interesting to see how those people would view things today if the situation were reversed...If Indians had gotten in their canoes and paddled over to Britain and other parts of Europe and tried to take it all by force. I guess then all the Indians would be the "Good Guys," and it would be considered Racist and too politically correct to portray any British people as being peace-loving or honorable.
3. As soon as you make a movie about ANYONE, that person is interpreted to be representative of his or her entire racial or cultural group in perpetuity throughout the universe, and you will be accused of stereotyping. So if you make a movie about a small tribe of anonymous, peaceful indians, and a small group of anonymous, mean, Cavalry soldiers, your audience will get very upset. They will say things like, "What, so ALL of the indians were good, and ALL of the Cavalry soldiers were bad??" even though your movie said nothing of the kind, and was in fact a very limited portrayal of only two small groups of people. That is irrelevant, because viewers will apply unfounded stereotype no matter how few people are actually involved in your movie. You could make it about a single family of peaceful Indians and a single family of mean white settlers, and many viewers would cry stereotype. This is because such viewers do not see people as individuals, but as stereotypical representatives of their respective groups. To them, one woman in a movie is a symbol of all women, one indian in a movie represents all indians, and one white settler in a movie is just like every other. And because this short-sightedness lies with the viewer, there's no way for you moviemakers to get around it, so there's no point in trying. If you tried to tell these people that there were once like, hundreds of Indian tribes in the U.S., and that they were often very different from eachother in their lifestyles and philosophies, and that some were warlike and others were peace-loving, so it would be literally *impossible* to be portraying or stereotyping them all by having just one small, individual tribe in your movie... I guess those people would just look at you blankly.
4. Many people are unaware that "Calvary" is something else entirely.
5. If there is a movie with a vaguely historical setting, some viewers will assume that it is supposed to be a literal documentary that contains only historical facts. No, no, no... it doesn't matter at all that "Based on a true story" never appears. If it's set in history, it MUST be historically accurate, down to every rock formation. People will actually criticize your movie if the Painted Desert is not where it's supposed to be; animals having eyebrows is ok, animals being smarter than most audience members is ok, but some viewers just WILL NOT be silent when a river or waterfall appears in a place that is not geographically accurate.
6. Murphy's Law is still very much in effect. The "Horses Pulling Locomotive Over Mountain" scene actually WAS based on a real event that truly happened in history. The ONE place your movie is historically accurate, is the one place where the viewer's erroneous assumptions fail you. They look at this scene and tell you how unrealistic and impossible it is.
7. Just because you see it in a movie, that doesn't *necessarily* mean it's real, but it depends on the movie. For example, it actually takes *years* for a horse's mane hairs to grow out to a foot long, and foals would probably grow up in that time, too. And horses generally don't jump in to save eachother in roaring rapids, or survive 50 foot plunges into rivers and over waterfalls. Also, most birds don't have teeth, and most animals can't plan elaborate schemes, or talk (or even *narrate*)... UNLESS the movie involves bats, spiders, snakes or sharks. THEN absolutely everything is true in it, even if it's completely a fictional film. All 300+ species of sharks are man-eaters, every bat wants to drink your blood and nest in your hair, and every snake and spider wants to chase you and bite you. Are we all clear on this? If the movie is about some animal that most people are totally ignorant about and terribly prejudiced against, then every bit of it is true and you should never question it. So "Spirit" is very unrealistic, but "Jaws" and "Anaconda" are like... Pretty much documentaries. Really, they practically Discovery Channel and PBS fodder.
8. Many people think that every horse color has some meaning, and that it holds true in any film involving horses. For example, white is the "good" color and black is the "bad" color. Both of these are suspiciously absent in "Spirit," but that doesn't mean the audience will be open-minded about color. They will still read blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty into Rain, and dark-colored wildness into Spirit, and that this is some kind of message about light being tame and decent, and dark being of questionable virtue. Nevermind that the filmmakers intentionally used similar colors to establish brotherhood between Spirit and Little Creek, and that Spirit's mother is also a wild horse, and even lighter-colored and more blonde-haired than Rain. Some viewers will only see what conveniently fits their preconceptions.
9. A Movie that focuses mainly on beautiful vistas and good animation instead of complex plot and character development, will likely not be that successful. Even when your eye candy is truly amazing and your main characters are beautiful horses, this holds true.
10. Not everyone likes Bryan Adams (or knows that it's supposed to be "Bryan," not "Brian" or "Brain.") so it's not a good idea to dominate your movie with too many of his songs played all the way through. Some of us really like these songs, but out of sensitivity to the other people, you should probably play them more quietly in the background or just play a verse or two and then let it go instrumental. Also, even the fans don't care for the minimal, repetitive lyrics.
11. "Remember Who You Are" is THE LION KING's Moral, NOT Spirit's. This Katzenberg/Disney rivalry has gone too far.
12. "Spirit" is not a bad film, but it lacks in substance and tries (unsuccessfully) to compensate for this with action, songs and lovely visuals. It is one more mediocre offering to cement the fact that there is nothing wrong with traditional animation, only with studios that believe it will sell when not given properly detailed story and character. It has nothing to do with the medium; even the mighty SHREK would have failed with these flat characters and this limited, repetitive plot.
A little weak, but has potential.
I wasn't going to tune into this one, but then I found out it is filmed on the old Maple Ridge "Bordertown" set, so I decided to check it out for some nostalgic value.
It is pretty similar to Bordertown in its character setup: you have a crusty, old-fashioned US Marshal teaming up with a more refined guy who also solves crimes but finds the Western frontier pretty uncivilized, and does everything by-the-book. Then there is a lady in the mix, not the doctor in this case, but close enough.
The New Stuff is the forensic angle that has already earned it TV Guide's "Western version of CSI." That is a bad reputation, when your show is like, another already-existing show set in a different time and place. Then again, I guess the joke is on TV Guide, because it's more like "Updated version of Bordertown, including Town." I think the forensic stuff is interesting but will play out quickly. This show will need more than that, and soon. (After all, you don't have to watch Peacemakers to get CSI... You can just watch CSI.) Also I can
do without the high-speed action sequences. That was novel in "Gladiator," but is now about as original as playing that annoying "Woo Hoo" song when you're trying to plug your show. Oh wait, Peacemakers does that, too. (Hey, while we're at it, how about some "Matrix" effects?)
The moral of the story is that the under-appreciated "Bordertown" has inspired yet another similar kind of show (You know who you are, Dr. Quinn and Due South) that seems to be OK, but will need some tweaking if it plans on staying long. I will hang around for a while and hope this one grows on me or shapes up to meet its potential.
My Little Pony Tales (1992)
Take away the serious, good vs. evil plots. Take away the interesting fantasy world the ponies lived in. Take away Megan and her special relationship with the magical ponies. Take away the appeal that horses have for girls, by turning the ponies into people that wear backpacks instead of saddles and run around on their hind legs. Add too much humanization of the pony characters so that there is no point in their being ponies. And worst of all...Add all the mundane stories that can be found in EVERY OTHER kids show on TV !!
Equals: Dumbed Down Version of an earlier GOOD SHOW, but this one is just some stereotypical, unoriginal cartoon that almost no little girls liked, because it had no real suspense or drama, and was no longer about horses.
"Oh, I have a crush on so-and-so from math class, and he doesn't know it yet!! Please don't tell him!" "I procrastinated on my HOMEWORK and now I have to stay up till midnight to finish it ! What lesson have I learned from this??" "I was supposed to babysit, but I went to a rock concert instead and let my parents down!! Oh, I feel terrible !" "I want to save up my allowance to buy X, but I keep spending it on candy! HowEVER will I afford X??" Blah blah blah, Little Guy vs. Bully episode, Crash Dieting episode, Hanging out with the popular kids and what did we learn from that, I'm still beautiful INSIDE even though I'm not as pretty as so-and-so, I'm going to be in the school play isn't that exciting, I just got an afterschool job and now I don't have time to do my assignments and I'm going to have to learn a lesson from it....
Who the hell cares? If boring "Modern 90's Kid" plots interest you, see "Full House" "Growing Pains" or any other typical show. This is truly an embarrassment to everything "My Little Pony" was.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993)
A dark and very different incarnation of "Trek"
My understanding of Star Trek was the impression offered by the original Star Trek, and followed up by The Next Generation... So when this ehm... series appeared, it was a letdown. Because they don't explore (They don't really "Trek" at all.) They just sort of hang out on this space station and all the different alien species there argue with eachother. And there is a lot of political conflict and stuff that's hard to follow unless you're tuning in with some regularity, because you have to know which species get along and which ones don't. Oh, and this is a very *dark* series, literally. Somebody decided that the original and next generation Enterprises were too "comfortable," I guess, so everything in Deep Space 9 is very hard and poky and uncomfortable. There are hard, metal gratings and railings everywhere, no carpets, and the station is very dark and ominous looking. And like I said, they don't usually Trek or *go* anywhere. They just kind of... sit around and interact with the alien species.
Now, how this is "Star Trek" totally eludes me. It has little in common with the earlier series, and they don't trek the stars, so it should have been titled exactly what it is:
"Star Non-Trek: Aliens Hang Out and Argue on a Dark, Uncomfortable Space Station"
Occasionally they go places in little shuttlecraft thingies (those are the only really interesting episodes.) but it's mostly just a lot of bickering and scheming and political strife and wars between Ferengis and humans, Cardassians and Bajorans, etc. There are a couple of interesting characters (Dr. Bashir, Odo and Dax, but of course they had to kill her...) and some dry, boring ones (Sisko = Bore) and I found the overall results pretty unsatisfying.
But if this is your thing, then fine and have fun. And if you like TOS and TNG, you may not like DS9, and vice versa. They are totally different in feel and execution: The earlier ones are more fun and lighthearted, while DS9 is dark and moody.
Different strokes, like they say. But "Trek," it ain't !
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Totally gripping! Quite good.
YES, it has TONS of recycled elements in it, and you can tell it's been heavily edited, and the secondary characters (like Doc Crusher) don't get half the screen time they deserve...
But I found this movie to be extremely involving, and I couldn't look away. I was worried, wringing my hands and my heart even sped up a few times, and a movie hasn't done that to me in *many years*!! This one has the same, intense plot as Star Trek 2 -- And even though Khan is still the best Trek film, Nemesis should be praised for its riveting battle scenes and (especially) the incredible performance of its villain, Tom Hardy.
It has its flaws, as some scenes are a little outlandish (I think Jerry Seinfeld said it best: Only *men* would ever get the idea to go to another planet and just DRIVE AROUND!) but this movie is not a bad Trek instalment at all. It is a lot better than SOME I can think of (First Contact- Blech!) and I enjoyed it immensely. Kudos to all the cast and crew. I will be very sad to see the NG cast retire (Come on, guys! Just one more? Pleeease?) but this is a great farewell voyage.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
I hated it!!
I thought this movie was really stupid. I must be the only Trekker who didn't like it, and I don't get how anyone could. The story is just so aggravating and the characters can't seem to get their act together. Probably the worst thing about it is Data, who is totally out of character for the whole thing. He gets his emotions switched on again, and all his logic and sensibility and former personality just somehow disappear (?), so his behavior is unbelievable. Then there's this annoying Borg Queen character who just... Doesn't seem to make sense as a representative of the Borg, so her presence is really irksome in every scene. It had a lot of other annoyances, too, but it's been a while since I saw it, so it's all a little hazy. Suffice it to say that this was a very unsatisfactory movie in just about every respect, and I couldn't wait for it to be over.
The only good thing about this movie is the abundance of action scenes, and of course the effects. All of that is very cool, but not enough to let me enjoy this movie. If you want cool Borg stuff, check out the Next Generation TV series, where this alien race was dealt with in much more engaging and realistic plot lines that did not rely on character manipulation for effect.
"Star Trek: First Contact" ranks just behind The Motion Picture and the Search for Spock as the worst Trek film, in my book.
I think I got through about 80% of this movie. I mean, it was on for a LONG time before I finally decided to stop it. But I don't know how long exactly, because my Toshiba does not have a timer counter on it while the DVD is playing, but it felt like almost 2 hours and maybe a little more. I just know I started getting really drowsy, especially in the latter half of it.
In brief, it's a boring movie. It's boring because you don't care about the characters, so it's not fun to watch them do stuff. Amidala and Skywalker are just a couple of mopey teenagers who have this non-existent "romance" that goes on and on, groundlessly, and Christensen's acting (with exception of a few good scenes.) is totally dull and flat. Natalie Portman's performance was better in Phantom Menace; at least she took her queenly duties seriously, while here she is just girl-next-door ordinary and uninteresting. And even if you *wanted* to like Anakin, you really can't, because you know he's going to turn into Darth Vader.
Now there are some interesting scenes with Obi Wan, but not enough to offset the dragging minutes and minutes of blahblah political meetings between the Jedi and the hours (?) of inexplicable "love" between the kiddies. In short, "Attack of the Clones" really goes through its paces like an angsty Teen Movie dressed up in CGI, until the end which, I'm told, has a big long battle sequence. But I turned it off before then, despite trying really hard to get through it and telling myself that I needed to finish it just to be able to SAY that I'd seen it.
Dang, it was just so BORING! And I don't turn movies off very often-- The last time was for 'The Love Letter' (Ugh.) and the time before that was for 'Event Horizon' (UGH!) ... I think Phantom Menace is the better of the two so far.
Species II (1998)
Gratuitous parody of the first. Really dumb.
From its very first scene, "Species 2" is shocking, because "Low Budget" isn't even strong enough: It looks and plays like a student film. Even the space scenes look cheap and half-finished, and this is well before the story dives into themes that are either bland cliche or ridiculously overdone. It screams "B Film" of the variety you thought had died 40 years ago. There are buckets of blood and tons of fleshy explosions, gory, squirming tentacles everywhere, and much of it is filmed with the victim perfectly centered in the frame, usually with his or her face in clear view to exaggerate the cartoonish horror of it all. YES, it's that kind of movie... Extended shots of corpses lying with their innards strewn about, and blood everywhere, vivid, gloppy red, and glistening under gratuitously bright lighting.
There is even an over-the-top lesbian scene which could have been snipped directly from the Spice Channel. And let's face it. I am a chick, so I can see boobs whenever I want. So long, drawn out boob-shots aren't that interesting to me. In the first "Species" there can at least be found some male counterpoint to the female exposure, (I am *more* than willing to sit through boob shots if it means getting some glimpse of Mike Madsen in the deal.) but that is not the case here. This movie seems to be all about Boy Stuff, being littered with "babes" and guys trying to score all the time. It does not satisfy female tastes even in the roundabout way that the original film did.
Even worse, this film does almost nothing with character. While the original had a solid cast that spent significant time fleshing itself out, this movie skims over everything except the activities of the main alien, who is not interesting. In the first "Species," we got to watch Natasha Henstridge begin as an ignorant and speechless child, and gradually integrate with humans by learning their language and behaviors through trial and error. Here, the alien is a split personality jock (who looks like a 1980s Tom Cruise), and dislikable from the very start, not at all rewarding to watch or learn about. The other characters just seem to be going through the motions, and there is none of the seriousness or realism that we saw before. To complete the unbelievable cliche, they have even added a wise-cracking black guy to the cast... You know that one? The one who's always saying "booty" because that's the word-of-the-year?
"Species" had one very noticeable weak area, and that was the ending, and the poor decision to stage it in the sewers. This movie does have a fairly nice wrapup, as it takes place in a barn and there's some good old fashioned walloping, stabbing and wrestling-- perhaps the only high point of this dumb movie, and the only capacity in which it is superior to the first.
Still, it's a drag and a shame. And like I said... literally shocking in its amateur execution. Watch this one first, and it will make the original "Species" look like the 'Citizen Kane' of SciFi Horror.
"Species 2" is really ideal for Mystery Science Theater.
Avoids an F only because of Madsen's presence, and the very end.
Well crafted Alien Hunt!
Aliens never looked quite so much like supermodels, even down to having the perfect complexion and being blonde and naturally (?) hairless, I suppose to make the transition to slit-eyed, spike-spined swamp thing especially disturbing. But even more impressive than "Sil" (Natasha Henstridge) is the attention given to the supporting players, an unlikely fivesome that develops and interacts realistically and will probably grow on you as the thing moves on. The supporting lady lead (Marg Helgenberger) probably could have been cast better, but Forest Whitaker's neurotic "empath" is downright lovable, and Mike Madsen has the burly Tough Guy nailed and the female viewership well in hand with his usual gravel-voiced, doggy-eyebrowed masculinity. There are a few gratuitous scenes (Examples include the repetitive nudity, and the happenstance of a pool of oil, while our heroes just happen to be carrying flamethrowers.) but there are just as many instances of real-life nuance that make it believable, such as the awareness of odor (Our heroes actually react to the scent of death... Which never happens in, say, Species II.) and the "follow along" story method, which has us observing the alien and gradually learning more and more about it and trying to figure out its behavior on our own. The deceptive sympathy is a nice touch, too, as we often find ourselves thinking of this blonde beauty (Especially when she is a child.) as an innocuous victim of scientific exploitation, rather than the predatory and remorseless antagonist it truly is.
The overall execution of "Species" is sufficiently intimate due to the easy, build-up pacing, and it looks very polished and professional. This is not an all out gore party, and not a babbling Sci-Fi picture either; it's a pleasant montage of several different genres, and well worth a Movie Night with the lights off. Please skip the sequel, though-- it's very far from this, and so shoddy and quarter-assed that the two couldn't possibly interbreed.