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The absolute worst of the Cold War Sci-fi movies!!!!
20 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Even by the standards of classically cheesy 50s cold war sci-fi propaganda movies; this one totally takes the cake for being the worst of the bunch.

The portrayal of the bad guys is both bland and hammy at the same time (which is a remarkable feat in itself). The models look like cheap constructor-kit toys. And don't let me get started on the MARRIAGE scene. I seriously wanted to hurl at that bit.

And the final proof of badness? Hayden TRoarke looked more credible playing the psychiatrist in I DREAM OF JEANNIE (a sitcom) than he did playing this serious drama story! Nuff said.
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Early Harryhausen work is great escapist fun!
27 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I came to this movie with a lot of expectations. And as you know, usually that mean you;re going to be sorely disappointed.

But I wasn't with this movie! It was everything I imagined it to be - and more. The iconic scenes of the octopus dragging a ship down, and attacking the Golden Gate bridge; were the absolute classic scenes I knew them to be. And this was topped off by the dramatic climax at the jetty - which I hadn't seen before and was the icing on the cake. Totally love the army attacking with flamethrowers - very visually dynamic.

Okay, the dialogue was totally hokey; very narrative intensive and stagy: "We must stop this creature to save our lives." "Yes, we must." "I don't like what it's doing." "Neither do I." "I have feelings for you." "I know, I do too." - cheesy low-grade stuff like that. And is it just me; or is there a constant gay subtext running through this? All those shots of sailors' butts and emphasis of the rigors of life at sea and so forth; pointing at things with pointy objects.

Anyways, the human stuff is all lame, but the monster scenes are totally drool-worthy. I thought it was great escapist fun. Everything I want in a classic monster movie.

PS: If you didn't know, you couldn't really tell that the model octopus doesn't have eight legs - it's not that noticeable in the movie as you never see all sides of the body. It's a total nitpick of the film critics (as usual!) to blame the movie excessively for this. It doesn't hurt the story at all.
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Hoodwinked! (2005)
Cheesy fun mod take on classic fairy tale
8 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was great fun! The characterizations and the story gags especially were absolutely hilarious - had me totally amused.

First the minor down points. The animation looked very simplistic and cheesy - like out of a very cheap kiddie video game. The characters and cars and such were stiff; and had the old "plasticy" look of very early computer animation. And the song numbers, while fun and cute, didn't feel very dramatic, or link with the storyline very well like a good musical number in a story should.

On the other hand, the voice talent was totally top class - particularly Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick, and my perennial fav David Ogden Stiers. And I would never have picked Glenn Close or Jim Belushi if it wasn't for the credits - they totally lost themselves in their characters.

And director Cory Edwards personification of the twitchy rodent was a comic highlight of the story. In fact the whole throwaway gags were very effective in this.

The tragedy is that this is probably going to be thrown into the "doesn't neatly fit in a category basket" when it comes to historic analysis of computer animation. Like a lot of my fav movies, it's probably going to be considered too cute for adults, but too sophisticated for kids. And funny enough, that's just the storytelling I personally prefer.

The great thing about this one is it's got a soft coating, but a bit of a punch on the inside. So applause all round for the production team on this one!
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Funny gay romp with cool CGI scenery
25 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This satirical spoof on 50s-60s Hollywood - obvious inspired by the Rock Hudson story - is very funny, witty and has great comic timing and good performances from its cast.

The settings do feel a bit overly plastic and glamorized with CGI establishing shots that feel like out of a computer game; but I suppose that suits the feel of the Hollywood location and time period.

The plot felt a bit convoluted and cynical, however the humor and charm kept it moving.

Some of the political statements seemed overly simplified and packaged; ironic since that was what the movie was joking about; but for an escapist satire the story worked very well.

I certainly enjoyed watching this fun movie, not sure if I'd want to keep it though,
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One of my top fav shows as a kid
19 March 2006
This is one of my all-time to fav shows when I was a young.

I still think the earlier episodes were the best, especially with Walt Disney hosting and the great animation.

I always used to prefer the animation and comedy shows to the drama.

I especially loved the fun educational shows like the ones on the atom, driving and Donald in Mathemagicland.

And especially the ones with Ludvig von Drake - he was excellent!!!

And the music was totally awesome - especially the original theme.

One of my fondest memories of childhood!!!

Definitely top class!!!!
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This is the one that finally won me over to Chaplin.
1 August 2005
Yes, well ... I've always said Buster Keaton was my favorite classic comic of all-time. Especially masterpieces like THE GENERAL, and SHERLOCK JUNIOR, Keaton was actually **funny**; while Chaplin tended to be **just** simply cute and sweet (obvious connection to modern humour there).

Now I've just seen this one, and I've finally admitted that Chaplin does have the knack to be out-and-out rib-ticklingly hilarious. Of course, I could also have remembered classics like "Easy Street" and of course "Modern Times" (which I really have to check upon again); but definitely in this film, there were scenes that were so perfect and spot-on hilarious, with impeccable timing and pure side-splitting hilarity.

Not only the famous "playing with the world scene"; but the whole opening segment with the Big Bertha gun; including the bit with the anti-aircraft gun, the walking through the smoke scene, and of course the upside-down aircraft bit. Pure comic genius!!!

And to top it off; the absolute satirical punch of the Dictator Hynkle - the speeches, the gestures, the bits with the microphones, the competition with Napolini... And I think Jack Oakie has to be totally on par with Chaplin in this movie. The sheer gusto of the big guy's performance is breathtaking. Especially the classic "food fight" scene! This film has all the great comic bits!

Another actor that doesn't get enough credit I think in most discussions of this movie is Henry Daniell. I just saw him a few months back in TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS - the difference in character between that and this is quite amazing. Further proof that with the right material, a very serious drama actor can be a great choice for a comic movie. (Am I the only one who Garbitch reminds of Professor Snape? Not knocking either character or anything, though.)

And the final big point - just look at the date this film was released (1940 - right in the middle of WWII.) Talk about topical! Can you imagine any filmmaker today who would have the guts to make this type of movie about a subject matter that was hitting the headlines so blatantly? It would be like the Farrally brothers today doing a trash comedy about Osama Bin Laden - (and I know just mentioning the idea is going to have some people flame me ferociously!) And to think modern filmmakers think they're "so current and trendy - not like the olden days when people just made frivolous entertainment." Ha! Double Ha!

Thie is a true comic masterpiece. It made my top 100 list.
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South Pacific (2001 TV Movie)
Very good adaptation, shows great showmanship - and preserves personality!
16 July 2005
I think this version of the classic stage musical works very well. It manages to capture the drama and a lot of the comedy of the original stage play, as well as fleshing out the locations and presenting the character drama very well.

I especially like the way that the musical numbers are presented "dramatically"; not just glorified pop songs that are tacked on to the storyline as in a lot of contemporary musical films (like EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU and even MOULIN ROUGE). It helps that the songs are purposely written for the story. The lyrics are delivered like dialogue that has been set to music, and I can tell the actors have been told to play their characters even through the song numbers.

It's the main reason I think Glenn Close actually works as the lead female role here - even if she may be technically a bit old for the young love-lorn romantic; she certainly has the personality, and presents her role with enthusiasm; which goes along way in musical presentations.

And Robert Pastorelli as the mischievous Luther is also very well-cast and has the right "feel" for the role; even if he isn't the sort you would normally associate with a classic musical role.

As as an Aussie I have to congratulate Jack Thompson for playing the role of the Commander, who I think is one of the most underrated non-singing comic support roles in a musical. He puts a lot of personality in the role, and his balance or enthusiasm and dramatic gravitas was very well presented.

Harry Connick Jnr is still one of my favourite modern singers, and he handled the military aspects and the romantic ballads very professionally. His personality seems somewhat subdued in this production; though I personally attribute that to the rather bland character that I think Cable is. I haven't seen any performance of this character I would regard as memorable.

Overall a very high standard production that plays the story very well - and really kicks the stuffing out of the earlier film version, quite frankly.
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Story regains the the dynamics of Episode IV!!!
31 May 2005
The first thing I want to say is that the dialogue in this movie is exceptional. The opening scenes especially feel really dynamic and casual, serious without being pretentious. I'm really regretting the fact that this is the climactic appearances for Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, because I get the impression they've finally found the right fit for their characters.

This story is really very much on par with Episode IV, especially with the pacing and the plot dynamics. It's snappy, with a great balance between light-heartedness and serious themes. I personally think the balance is spot-on here. We've finally gotten rid of the 90s-style self-conscious p/c delivery that was apparent in the first two episodes, and finally have characters that really move and talk with each other.

And once again, the art direction in this film is totally breathtaking. The ship designs sets, locations, costumes and props feel just right - alien but still some familiarity. The art deco-style look of the central planet is very chic (same reason I personally loved TITAN A.E. btw), Naboo still looks like a romantic paradise, and the outer war planets and the Wookie world look suitably grim yet photogenic and appropriately thematic.

(Main spoilers here)

Now for the (minor) quibbles. General Grevious really doesn't work that well. The character is way too clichéd and forced, and the coughing and wheezing feels too unbelievable for a droid character - even one that apparently has a little natural biology buried within it. I know he's meant to be an escapist stooge villain, a blow-hard menace - bur even so, the character still feels thin and under-developed; not really that convincing as a serious threat.

And the ending feels a bit too pat and anti-climactic, with too much of a forced shoehorning to Episode IV. Yeah, it was great to see the babies delivered to their adopted homes, to see the big transformation of Anakin to Vader, and to hear the familiar old character themes in the music; but even so the ending actually sort of just peters out, nothing really awe-inspiring or climactic. Even if it is a downer ending, it could have been a bigger one. Something like the final ousting of Bail Organa out of the capital and the Emperor forcing his rule maybe. Or something else big and majestic.

But enough of the whining, this is still 99.99% effective. It still is the most awesome sci-fi legendary storytelling we have. Great job; kudos to everyone involved!!! PS: The scene where Yoda knocks the Emperor's guard out of the way got the biggest laugh with the audience I was with - it's a good highlight moment.
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Very good little B-grade character caper movie.
3 May 2005
I was very impressed by this movie. It contained a totally awesome cast lineup, was genuinely funny - very remarkable on such a low budget. And it also moves fairly tightly and briskly, with none of the pretentiousness of most B-grade "arthouse" fare.

The cast ensemble was an absolute dream in fact. Stalwarts like Jeff Goldblum, Steve Zahn, David Cross, David Hyde Pierce - and that lady who now plays the wife in "Scrubs". They were excellent.

And Elijah Wood is totally awesome in this. I once said that he had totally lost his comic touch or interest after the NORTH fiasco. Well, I now have to completely eat my words. He showed a lot of the brilliant personality that he displayed as an all-time great child actor - especially as Huck Finn. This is the role that I would class as his definitive transition role from child protégé to credible adult actor. It contains most of his charm and personality that were the highlights of his early career, with the professional maturity of his later work.

And once again I am totally blown away by Tom Wilkinson. His was a great role for a jobbing British actor in Hollywood; and he handles it wonderfully. This would be the perfect foil to his dramatic antagonist in Mel Gibson's THE PATRIOT (see my review); and a great foretaste of his comic flair as Doctor Chasubile in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

This movie really worked a lot better than I thought it would. I was expecting some dour, slow-paced cynical "modern" serio-comedy with garish visuals and poor pacing - like RUSHMORE, or ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, or ADAPTATION; i.e. **way** self-consciously smug, with far more drama than comedy. But instead I got a snappy, witty, intelligent little character comedy with enough imagination and pacing to really keep it rolling along. It lacks the real punch of a classic movie like THE STING, Jim Carrey's THE MASK, or even ZERO EFFECT; but on its own terms it is very watchable, and totally deserves a lot more success. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone. A movie that's definitely worth renting.
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Evolution (2001)
Interesting concept - rather dully delivered
6 April 2005
This is weird. Yeah, the alien lifeforms are weird, Seann William Scott's character is weird, classical independent drama actor Julianne Moore attempting to do broad slapstick comedy is weird, David Ducovny doing a half-baked parody of his famed X-Files persona and baring his ass is weird; and Ivan Reitman attempting to copy the success of his hit GHOSTBUSTERS with a sci-fi movie comedy grounded in science exobiology theory is weird. Hell - even the art direction is weird.

Not really bad. Not really good. Just ... weird.

Like a acid-trip-inspired memory of a 50s B-grade sci-fi drive-in fodder that appeared on late nite television kinda weird.

Interesting, but really - was it actually worth the effort?

Nice try anyway.
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Yup, it's an irredeemable flop!
6 April 2005
And to think my all-time fav genre is sci-fi comedy! Here's a prime textbook case at how not to do one.

It's a comedy with only a microscopic trace of humor, a sci-fi that really could just have easily been set in present-day Earth with no sci-fi elements at all, and an action film that contains only the standard D-grade action story setups and climaxes - and done at a lackadaisical by-the numbers contract-delivery pace.

The only element that has the slight bit of remote interest is Randy Quaid as a rather quirky bodyguard robot. At least it's an interesting exercise at how to play a totally fanciful out-of-this world concept with no real-life equivalent. Yeah - the sort of role that your standard modern drama school graduate would be scratching their heads trying to get a grip on; and your academic drama scholar would be tearing their hair out till they looked like Homer Simpson over the fact "its not the type of role -or story for that matter- that has any credibility or truth to the human experience" (blah blah!) The fact that he is even a tiny bit watchable in that deserves a bit of a finger-clap - maybe.

It could have been so much better - a few puppet-type aliens hanging around, a bit more showing of the light gravity bits, a dig at your serious Arthur C Clarke space drama like MOONDUST - anything at all to make this remotely interesting as a cinema experience - or even a storyline.

But what we actually get is the real sort of movie that the conservative critics have accused all summer-style movies of being: brainless formulaic uncreative popcorn entertainment plying to the lowest common denominator that is churned out when the bloated Hollywood studio system is working on autopilot.

Actually - this is the movie that makes the normal summer blockbuster movies look like works of literary genius. The critics should have been aware of the old saying: "Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it."
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Showtime (2002)
Passably good self-indulgent Hollywood spoof.
6 April 2005
I thought this film worked for the most part. The idea reminded me a lot of the similar - and IMHO more superior - LAST ACTION HERO; in that we have an action film that pokes fun at the conventions of action films.

I really love Robert de Niro in this. For a long time I was a bit sceptical of the gushing hype around him as a brilliant actor - "best in the world, ever" type thing. To me, the top actors can do everything from light escapist entertainment, to deep serious profound life- delving drama. It isn't the ones who just play artsy-fashionable grunge character roles that please the academics and serious film buffs, and hardly anyone else. But Bob in this role has finally proved to me he's truly an all-rounder. His prestigious critical reputation may be tarnishing a bit by doing more broadly entertaining type roles; but to me he's finally shown that he can do pretty much everything you throw at him - any faults are now usually the production or the script. He's got the range and experience to pull virtually any character off down pat.

And Eddie Murphy does cement himself as a top professional comic actor. His role in this however. does seem to be a shade lighter riff of his role(s) in BOWFINGER. And I have to complain that the lighting and make-up in this film doesn't really compliment him that well. His extended African-style brow ridge comes up very prominently in a lot of scenes, which is a bit of a distraction. But, as stated on the DVD commentary, he does prove that he is the type of star who is funny, but when he holds a gun - it's serious.

Storywise, the show is pure escapist fun. It does feel a little bit like a lot of standard Hollywood action scenarios and shots are just cobbled together, going through the same old formulaic motions. But in this particular case, that actually what makes it work. The story relies on the setups and climaxes being familiar - almost clichéd. The viewer needs to be orientated very quickly as to what is happening and WHY it is happening. Not much room for anything TOO fancy or unusual. Don't get me wrong - staying with the old scene clichés can get stale REAL fast. The industry constantly needs fresh blood and ideas all the time. But it needs to be in moderation, and for a tangible reason - not just show off the glitzy new concepts for the heck of it. A bit of old and a bit of new actually works best.

I have to say the villain of the piece actually is very good, with the right balance of humor and menace. And the henchman played by T J Cross is very cool and fun - especially the prison interview scene, which really cooks.

And finally, kudos to William Shatner for really providing the comic highlights of the story. The guy is a pure comic gem, and deserves all the applause he can get. I think he's earned it!
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Nice little B-grade action war story
26 February 2005
This was a fun little action/war story I saw as a telemovie today.

It stars Stuart Whitman, who I know better as the American in THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, and is about a team taking a German rocket scientist to the allies towards the end of WWII.

It was very reminiscent of films like THE HEROES OF TELEMARK, THE WILD GEESE, WHERE EAGLES DARE, and A BRIDGE TOO FAR. The action shots were fairly well staged, especially the battle between the armaments (ie tanks, planes, guns, etc). The characters were very two-dimensional, but sustained storyline interest fairly well. Most of the plot was predictable, but the "noble" ending was rather cool and heart-warming.

Not a great classic by any means, but not a complete turkey either. I thought it was a pretty cool time-waster for a slow afternoon.
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Pure fun, but not without its faults.
8 February 2005
I totally loved the idea of this movie, a comic book old time Boy's Own adventure story brought to life. Jude Law's character reminded me of old British boyhood adventure stories like Biggles or Raffles - characters that he should definitely take a crack at in the future.

Yeah the use of Laurence Olivier in this movie does set a dangerous precedent. And this is obviously NOT appealing to those nose-sniffing pretentious viewers who expect every film to have some "deep and meaningful" philosophical discourse, like a frigging wailing English Literature essay. But for those of us who enjoy good solid creative entertainment with flair and imagination, this does work at least ninety-five percent.

The flying platforms are totally cool. I understand they are based on ones used in previous stories, but that just makes me want to see those stories as well. Some of the ideas don't stack up too well, like the magical airplane that turns into a submersible and can repair itself automatically. And some shots don't match up perfectly. But it's still a cool feel and a great storyline.

My biggest complaint with this movie is that the lighting was very dark for most of the picture; I was squinting for the first two thirds. I feel a bit hypocritical since I've often complained of CG movies being unrealistically bright and cutesy; but this went to the opposite extreme. I hope the image improves on DVD, which is direct light of course.

Summing up, a great cinematic experience though not quite Top 100 material - and definitely the movie I want to give to my Dad for his birthday or Xmas this year!
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Tintin and I (2003)
I loved this insight!
29 January 2005
Tintin was one of my favorite heroes as a kid. I used to borrow the books from the school library every chance I got. My favorite one was "The Red Sea Sharks" - so much action and humor.

This documentary was a brilliant exposition of the background story of Herge and his development of Tintin. The film-maker's personal experience in interviewing Herge and the story of his relationship with the artist who was the inspiration for the Chan character was very moving.

A great documentary of a very talented and well-loved artist. A great example of someone who has become internationally renown, and has brought joy of millions of children (and the young at heart) all over the world.
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Pale imitation of original, but not too bad on its own terms
16 January 2005
Okay, so I'm a HUGE fan of the original movie - it's right up there in my top 30! And yes, this one misses a lot of the originality, personality and timelessness of the original.

But putting that aside, this isn't a too bad little movie in its own terms. John Goodman and Haley Joel Osment put a lot of heart into their characters. I still can't believe Haley could pull off a musical comedy type role, where he actually sings **in character**, with a toe-tapping style and loads of charisma. Never figured the critically-acclaimed tyke had it in him.

And overall, the voice casting is pretty much on par with imitating the original. Maybe the script is a bit to contemporary and clichéd, with the action story feeling a bit ham-fisted. Shanti does feel a bit too contemporary to the story. And the resolution for Mowgli between settling down with the humans and having his animal friends in the jungle does seem a bit too pat. But at least it's fairly watchable. A bit above the cheesy TV cartoons that are mass-produced now. If only slightly.
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Fantasy squelched by schmaltz
12 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a reasonably interesting and fascinating look at J M Barrie, and his relationship with the Llewellyn-Davies family, and his inspiration for one of the greatest literary pieces in English - Peter Pan.

The recreation of the original stage productions was very interesting and impressive. The actors playing the actors were very fun and sincere, and the whole backstage subplot was certainly a highlight of the film.

Johnny Depp has certainly come a long way in his career, and this role is certainly a demonstration of the nuance and emotional depth he can achieve in his performances now. Very dramatic serio-comedy with a large dose of imagination seems to be his specialty. I can remember when he was just a young teen magazine heart-throb starring in a TV drama show with ambitions of being a pop star. And I thought the oldest son George was very convincing and well-played, with another good performance that mixes light comedy and light drama.

(Spoiler Warning)

But this storyline is totally killed by the deadly slow pacing, self conscious "serious" drama delivery, maudlin story developments, and heavily clichéd "big sentimental tearful" moments. The final scene had me heading for the doors in stomach-churning nausea. In fact the whole final fifteen minutes or so just about erased the whole effect of the rest of the film, which I thought was rather tolerable. Let's face it; this script has "pretentious award-nominated" practically stamped all over it. It doesn't really say anything meaningful to a contemporary viewer. It's just a cynical exercise in emotional manipulation which is what's passing off for "serious, legitimate, proper drama" in modern cinema.

Sure, the idea that people need to keep their inner child and be accessible to the vivid imagination within is a commendable theme. But illustrating it with a sentimental character death and feel-good phrases presented by a weeping child is not the most creative or interesting way to present the idea. It's almost like we're going backwards to the sensibilities of the Victorian Age all over again. I guess Peter Allen got it right - "Everything Old Is New Again".
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Totally cr*ppy!
11 January 2005
The saying "sequels ain't equals" is definitely demonstrated in this completely lackluster follow-up to the earlier brilliantly witty "Fritz the Cat".

While both films portray an anthropomorphic view of 70s counterculture using animals, and both use the shock value of drugs, sex and cursing to stir up a reaction; this movie by a totally different production team completely lacks any of the charm, personality, or essential feeling that made the earlier film so appealing.

While I am not a member of this counterculture and don't relate to it personally very well, I did try to keep an open mind while watching both movies, and neither one really shocked me that much - maybe because they're getting older and I've witnessed more shock value in recent movies. With the original FRITZ THE CAT I got the impression that the "naughty" stuff was true to life, and helped make the characters real and interesting. With NINE LIVES the whole thing just felt like some very bad schoolboy joke that merely shows off the "smutty" bits for their own sake, and doesn't go anywhere with them. It all seems just a bit overdone. The take on Nazi Germany had a teeny bit of satirical value, but it hardly seemed to be worth the trouble, and the idea has been done a lot more effectively elsewhere.

Summing up: don't waste your time with this one, unless you're a fanatical completest. But go and enjoy the original FRITZ THE CAT, if you feel you can handle it.
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Osmosis Jones (2001)
Great idea, well presented.
5 January 2005
This was a very clever idea, that effectively shows a live-action sequence, then presents the interior of a character's (Frank - Bill Murray) body in animation. The voice characters play cells and viruses withing Frank's body. I thought it was an excellent idea, very educational and entertaining at the same time. It reminded me of the classic Disney educational animated specials like "Donald Duck in Mathamagic Land" and "Goofy on Defensive Driving", and the Ludvik von Drake shorts about the atom and such stuff.

The voice casting was uniformly excellent, with a great range and personality. There were several great sight gags and action sequences in the animated sections, as well as some brilliant film spoofs (I particularly loved the TITANIC spoof and the JAWS - or general monster movie - spoof especially).

The live-action is somewhat overshadowed by the animation, but Bill Murray does play an eccentric everyman character very well - very reminiscent of his early role in CADDYSHACK, where I first noticed him. The whole zoo setting seem a little off-beat, it made me think of FIERCE CREATURES, though not as much fun. The daughter was okay, if a bit bland. And there's a great comic bit featuring actor Will Dunn as a science student which sets off a great gross-out gag.

I agree with the comments this is primarily seen as a kids movie, even though it does contain a near-death scene. But this movie definitely fits my definition of a great story idea, that is very well presented - which is the reason it made my top 100.
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Incredibly great fun storytelling
27 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This is a top class, incredibly great fun computer animated story that spoofs comic book heroes and Bondian adventure stories, in the guise of a look at a "typical" American suburban family.

Think the premise of the LOST IN SPACE movie where a sci-fi-ish type story acts as the basis for character conflicts of a small family group. Now think of the THUNDERBIRDS movie where those conflicts are played out on a large action-packed stage in a faraway tropical island. Now ... imagine a film where those ideas was played in such a creative way that they actually ***worked***!!! Then you have THE INCREDIBLES.

(Spoiler Warning)

The set-up is brilliant; starting off with a TRUMAN SHOW type idea of superheroes being interviewed about their work, and their reaction to their lifestyle. Then we have a set-up which demonstrates our main heroic lead, Mr Incredible, saving the day with bank robbers and a cat - all while on the way to his wedding with another superhero - Elastagirl. Then the complications set in; some unscrupulous lawyers are taking advantage of the consequences of our hero's good deeds, and superheroes fall out of favor with the general public. They all go into hiding.

Cut to several years later where the ex-Mr Incredible and Elastagirl, aka The Parrs, are trying to live "normal" lives as a suburban family; with their children - a angsty teenage daughter, a hyperactive young son and a baby. Mr Parr has a dead-end job at an insurance company with a midget of a boss; the two eldest children are having difficulties coping with the pressure of school life, and the tension is starting to cause things to break - literally. Then, suddenly, Mr Incredible is secretly called away to a dangerous mission requiring the work of a superhero again. But everything isn't as cosy as it seems...

In the style of playing a typical sitcom-type domestic drama up against the shenanigans of comic book escapist fantasy and James Bond type adventure, Brad Bird has managed to hit a winning combination that plays to the strengths of both genres without falling for the pitfalls of either mostly. Craig Nelson and Holly Hunter as the voices of the two leads manage a good balance of warmth and strength to their performances. In addition to writing and directing, Brad Bird does additional duties as the voice of the hilarious fashion Meister Edna Mode, with some of the best one-line throw-away situations in the story; and Bird's son Nicholas (who played Squirt in FINDING NEMO) gets to play a young boy watching on the sidelines who acts as a Greek chorus to the domestic situation. And Kevin Smith stalwart Jason Lee has a great role in the obsessed fan who becomes the prime antagonist.

The computer animation has again moved ahead with this film, the water effects (especially with the wet hair) was particularly impressive. I always thought that computer-drawn humans in the past have tended to look very anorexic; but finally they had some muscle added to their figures. And the set detail on the island, which is the stage for most of the action sequences, is very rich and colorful; it seems to be a homage to my fav Bond movie YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE with a bit of the THUNDERBIRDS, FANTASY ISLAND and THE PRISONER thrown into the mix. Plus the comic timing and panache of the whole story really holds the whole thing together - making for one helluva tight movie!

Great fun story, that should hold up for quite a few years. My biggest regret is that the brilliant scene in the initial trailer wasn't included. Oh well, can't win 'em all now - can we?
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THE worst musical film ever!
24 December 2004
I rank this film as a total disaster.

One of the basic requirement I would consider to acting in a musical is to be able to sing and act at the ***same*** time!!! (Or, in the case of most musical films, mime to the playback machine and act at the same time). None of the actors in this movie give the slightest indication they are capable of doing this. Instead, whenever a musical number starts up, they almost visibly switch from acting mode to singing mode, with no continuity in performance.

And on top of that, the song numbers don't fit into the story at all. It is EXTREMELY obvious that the songs are standalone pop compositions, that do not link to the narrative structure. Sure, some regular musicals occasionally have a number that adds flavor to the story and have very little dramatic impetus, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Here, ALL the songs are just emotional padding. It would have been a lot easier to just tack them onto the soundtrack as basic emotional cues, like in a regular movie, and forget the musical idea at all.

To me, the ideal situation is a musical is to have the character or characters involved in the action. The music is playing in underscore behind the scene. And then, almost imperceptibly, the dialog just so happens to become rhythmical; the character may start humming or something, and almost before you know it you get a musical number. One that seamlessly integrates into the storyline, giving the feeling that it just naturally occurs there. That way, you at least temporarily get by the unusual conceit of having a song pop up in the first place - even if common sense dictates it is unnatural.
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A rare commodity - a 70s revival comedy that actually works!
17 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I love this movie. This is one of the rare examples of a broad comedy for the 70s made in tribute to the old screwballs of the 50s-60s that actually succeeds! I have developed a great deal of admiration for Peter Bogdanovich after watching his work, and I deeply admire him as one of the few directors to successful bridge the gap between the old classic Hollywood studio era, and the modern contemporary style.

Surprisingly, Barbra Steisand and Ryan O'Neal actually create a very effective comic partnership in this story, in the typical "mistaken identity leads to wild comic shenanigans" plot line. I particularly love the climactic chase through the mardi gras parade, and the comic climactic court battle featuring a heavily-endowed Walter Matthau. And this film is also notable as the feature debut of that master comedienne Madeline Kahn.

This certainly deserves a round of applause for taking a old Hollywood staple, and still making it work; unlike so many other attempts at "reinventing" a classic Hollywood motif which turn out to totally miss the style and panache. The only other director from this era who came even close to capturing the classic feel was Jim Henson.
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Great classic monster movie
16 December 2004
I've only just seen this move, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is one film that actually lives up to the publicity and hype surrounding its reputation. The iconic scene of the creature carrying the fainted lady is there intact, as well as every classic monster stalking concept that has since been borrowed for most monster thriller stories since, I thought the reveal of the hand clawing at the riverbank was brilliantly done, as well as the attack of the native workers in the tent. And also the human drama plays along very nicely alongside the chase elements. The sexual rivalry between the two male leads over the female, as well as the philosophical dispute between business and scientific research was very well done. The ethnic boat captain was a great comic character also.

The only scene I didn't like was the bit in the aquarium where everyone is "discussing" the need to mount an expedition, and they all give profound speeches and almost instantly agree to go. To me this seems a bit overly preachy and forced, even for classic films of this time. But that was really the only weak scene. Everything else worked brilliantly.

This definitely is one movie that well deserves its reputation as a fun escapist masterpiece.
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A fun comic romp with real-life allusions.
21 November 2004
This is a very funny Ealing comedy about a community in central London who, through an unusual set of circumstances, discover they are not English, but are an annex of the French province of Burgundy.

The film features comic actor Stanley Holloway (best known as Alfred Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY), as well as a host of other classic comic actors of the period.

The story was apparently based on a news item at the time, when the Canadian Government "officially" gave a hotel room to a visiting European member of royalty. The idea actually reminded me of the real-life case of the Hutt River Province in Western Australia, where a landowner "seceded" from the Australian Government due to a wool quota dispute. (It was never acknowledged by the Western Australian or Australian Governments).

This is a great script that plays with a lot of political and economic issues, rather like the TV show "Yes Minister"; as well as being a great little eccentric character piece as well.
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Good for young kids.
16 November 2004
This is a *very* cutesy, simple story based on a very old comic strip, in the days when those were sweetly fun, gentle humor.

I remember showing this movie to entertain a group of children at a social function, while the adults did their own thing. The older kids were totally bored and hated this movie, while the younger ones (below say about 8) were totally entranced.

That may not be much of a recommendation, but these type are in fact a bit hard to find. So if you're looking for some diverting entertainment for very young kids who like gentle pretty stories, this probably will work.

The animation is very simple, and the songs are rather basic and bland. It's not for everyone.
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