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9/10
Personally, this was a fantastic conclusion.
19 August 2019
So, a fun fact about me is that I have been a fan of "Rocko's Modern Life" since I was a kid growing up in the 1990s. Created by Joe Murray and having its first airing on Nickelodeon in 1993, the series centered around a wallaby named Rocko (voice of Carlos Alazraqui), presumed to be in his 20's. With his friends, a steer named Heffer (voice of Tom Kenny) and a Woody Allen-esque turtle named Filburt (voice of Mr. Lawrence), he goes on various misadventures around the fictional city of O-Town that are often over-the-top and insane in nature. The show lasted for four seasons, and was not only a hit with younger audiences back in the day (myself being among them), but was also a hit for adults, not just because of the wacky, yet creative art style and the numerous pop culture references, but because of how relatable it was on how the titular character tries to make sense out of everyone and everything around him.

Now it's two decades later, and to this day, the show continues to have a cult following. Around this time, Nickelodeon was also in the midst of greelighting 45-minute specials of some of their older shows, and Rocko was on the list (with Murray's approval) alongside the previously released Hey Arnold! and upcoming Invader Zim specials. Fully entitled Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling and under the direction of both creator Joe Murray and Cosmo Serguson, it was finally released this year, but instead of being shown on Nickelodeon itself, it would be shown exclusively on the Netflix streaming service, which, in my opinion, was the best option, since the kids who grew up watching the original show are now adults. That, and no commercials, which is also a plus.

The special takes place after the events of the episode "Future Schlock", where Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt are still floating around in space for 20 years. They eventually get home after finding the re-entry button for the rocket to discover that O-Town has changed a lot since they left. However, it changed for the better, and more importantly for the worse for Rocko, as he finds out that his favorite show "The Fatheads" has been off the air for years. Not only this, but on the other end of the spectrum, Rocko's neighbor, Ed Bighead (voice of Charlie Adler), makes a huge mathematical mistake at his place of work, Conglom-O, causing them to enter bankruptcy. Both Rocko and Ed share their dilemmas, and they both come to an agreement on a plan to save Conglom-O and O-Town: to reboot "The Fatheads" with Conglom-O as its sponsor. To accomplish this, Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt go on a search to find the show's creator (voice of Joe Murray), while Ed stalls the Conglom-O CEO from making a mess of it all by making it without the creator.

Without giving too much away, I was looking forward to this with open arms. Though I would've preferred it to be a feature-length film instead of a 45-minute special that would've taken an hour time slot if it did air on cable TV, I still think this more than delivered on its promises. It has many throwbacks to the show itself (including the show's opening) that die-hard fans like myself could easily point out, while also bringing something new to the table, such as being up to date with today's issues and trends (i.e. vlogging, buying the newest smartphone, the fact that there is a big-chain coffee shop at every corner, etc.). However, the most important issue the special brings up is the subject of change and how, even as we grow older, change is an inevitable force, whether you want it to happen or not, and it really isn't all that bad. Also, if you happen to stumble upon this on Netflix and see that it's labeled as an LGBT film, there's a reason for that and it does add to the message of change, but I dare not spoil it.

The animation in this is spot on with the show, considering that Joe Murray himself helmed the project, though it is obvious that it was hand-drawn digitally instead of the traditional cel-based method used in the show back in the 90's. Regardless, it is well-paced, still impressive, and I could not see it any other way. The musical score is also a definite plus, complete with the inclusion of the famous theme song originally performed by members of The B-52s, and a nod to the original theme used in season 1. Let's also not forget that they managed to get most, if not, all of the cast from the show back to reprise their roles for this special.

All in all, if you are a Rocko fan as much as I am, you will definitely dig this Netflix exclusive, and though this was made strictly for the fans, younger audiences might also get a kick out of it. However, I do recommend those who haven't seen the original show, including those who have kids who haven't seen it, to pick up the complete series on DVD via Shout! Factory and watch that first in order to fully appreciate this special.
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6/10
A decent flick with good intentions, but like many other Hollywood biopics, it takes too many liberties.
15 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Though I was born in 1990, I grew up listening to classic rock since childhood. Queen is also one of my favorite bands alongside Pink Floyd and Aerosmith. A movie centering around Queen's legendary frontman, the late, great Freddie Mercury, was something I have been interested in seeing. After finally viewing the picture on HBO, my feelings on it were quite mixed.

It's true that biopics are in fact hard to make, especially ones based on someone as iconic as Freddie. One thing I knew right off the bat as a moviegoer going in is that this isn't some independent film that would dig deep into the nitty gritty with Freddie's personal life and the band itself in a more accurate fashion. This is a Hollywood picture through and through, so there's bound to be inaccuracies and fictionalized events, and after doing some quick research online post-movie, this film directed by Bryan Singer definitely has that. Even Brian May, Queen's lead guitarist and the film's music co-producer said that much of it was pure dramatization.

For example, Queen didn't leave EMI early in their career, nor were there any reported disagreements or quarrels between them and EMI's CEO, or any window smashing for that matter. Another was that the conflicts between Freddie and his bandmates also didn't get to the point where they split up from one another for a time (they never did, and no, Live Aid wasn't a reunion). In the end, it's not surprising that both critics and some audiences weren't afraid to call out the pure fiction the film depicts, especially Queen loyalists. I'm also not going to note how the studio deliberately went the safer route in addressing Freddie's sexual lifestyle, 'cause everyone else has said it already.

But, if one were able to put all that aside, like I did, one could still see this as just a decent picture in its own right. It has some pretty good casting, especially with the band members like Rami Malek as Freddie, Guilym Lee as Brian, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor (drummer), and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon (bassist). The use of Queen songs in the soundtrack is obviously appropriate, with a few additions from other artists (i.e. MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" for some strange reason). However, aside from the numerous historical inaccuracies spanning from how the band started to the supposed split up, the film has a bad habit of being rather melodramatic to the point where it just drags on for too long.

There's not really much to say about the movie other than it's your standard Hollywood biopic on a musical icon that we sadly lost to the AIDS virus, but is still considered a musical legend and a rock god to this day. I'd say give it a watch if you want to give it a chance or see what the fuss is about, but if you really want to know the true story of Freddie Mercury's life and the history of Queen in film form, your best bet is to watch a documentary.
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Wild (I) (2014)
10/10
Inspiring tale of self-discovery.
25 June 2019
After filming the critically-acclaimed "Gone Girl" with director David Fincher, actress and film producer Reese Witherspoon obtained the filmmaking rights to a biographical novel by author Cheryl Strayed. The novel talks about Strayed's story of redemption where, after a lifetime of abusing herself, embarks on a journey of self-discovery by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a trail on the west coast that begins at the border of Mexico and ends at the Canadian border. The film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, would be entitled "Wild", and would feature Witherspoon (who is also the film's producer) portraying Cheryl, and as she makes the difficult trek through the trail, we also witness the events of her past that led to her decision to take on the PCT, from her difficult life with her family since childhood, her eventual experimentation with heroin, selling herself for sex, and the troubled relationship with her mother.

When I first saw this picture a while back, I never thought I would be as captivated in Cheryl's journey as I am to this day. Her story of having to trek through over one thousand miles of rough terrain in order to get a new start in life is a fascinating and inspiring one. As we see her struggles both on and off the trail, we delve futher into Cheryl's character and why she goes to the extreme in order to recover from her past.

One thing to note about the picture is the brilliant cinematography that brings out the color of the environments, and how they chose not to keep the camera steady to keep with the natural aesthetic, despite the fact that, even though the PCT spans through several U.S. states, practically all of the film is shot in Oregon (my home state). I also love the musical choices for the soundtrack, with the highlight being Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" serving as the film's theme.

I absolutely love this film, not just because it's one of the best independent pictures I've seen, but because it's a powerful tale of cleansing one's soul through determination and perseverance. This is a must-watch for anyone looking for an empowering story put on motion picture film.
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Tom Thumb (1958)
6/10
Something different from the mind of George Pal
9 June 2019
"Tom Thumb", released in 1958, is a rather unique MGM musical in that it was directed by George Pal, the man behind the stop-motion animated characters known as the "Puppetoons" (i.e. 1947's Tubby the Tuba), as well as the producer of science fiction classics like 1951's When Worlds Collide and 1953's The War of the Worlds.

Based on the Grimm fairy tale of the same name, the film stars future West Side Story star Russ Tamblyn in the title role, as a boy the size of a thumb, sent by a forest queen (June Thorburn), to live with a married couple (Jessie Matthews and Bernard Miles) who wished for a kid. During his adventures, he would also befriend woodwind musician named Woody (Alan Young of Mister Ed fame), George Pal's "Puppetoon" magic also makes an appearance when Tom's toys come to life (with the voices of Stan Freberg and Dallas McKennon, whose grandson I'm good friends with). Finally, there are the two bumbling thieves, Ivan and Antony, (Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers pre-Pink Panther respectively) who trick Tom into stealing money from the village treasury.

As someone who enjoys watching classic movies (I watch TCM often, so that should be a clue) and is a film major at university, I can say that this film has a certain charm to it that makes it still enjoyable today, and still makes for a good film to show to the kids. The Puppetoon animated segments were quite impressive for the time, and Tamblyn's athletic skill and choreography really shines. The songs are also a nice touch, with one of them being written by Peggy Lee, three years after her work on the Disney picture Lady and the Tramp.

The only thing that doesn't age well at all is the film's compositing effects (or "green screening"), which is rather poor and one of the toy characters, Con-Fu-Shon, is definitely not PC, as it can be seen as an Asian stereotype, because, well...it is. Let's not beat around the bush.

With those positives and negatives in mind, it is an interesting relic from the '50s, and can still make for a nice film for the kiddywinks in order to keep them quiet for an hour-and-a-half.
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10/10
Aside from the Dollars trilogy, it's one of Leone's best spaghetti westerns.
9 June 2019
After director Sergio Leone's famous "Dollars" trilogy (consisting of 1964's A Fistful of Dollars, 1965's For a Few Dollars More, and 1966's The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) wrapped up, he figured that he was officially done with making spaghetti western pictures. However, as you can tell, this did not turn out to be the case, and thank god for that.

Once Upon a Time in the West, released in 1968, is a spaghetti western that should not be confused with being a part of the "Dollars" films, in that there's no Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, or Eli Wallach in sight, and instead of United Artists, the film was released under Paramount Pictures. Still, it would be as influential and intense as Leone's prior films, and as someone who loves westerns in general, I would rank it as one of the best.

The film centers around a woman named Jill (Claudia Cardinalle), who was once married to a farmhand named McBane, only to become a widow upon arrival to Sweetwater Ranch, as she finds her newlywed husband and all three of his children dead, shot by a murdurous assassin simply named Frank (Henry Fonda, in his first controversial role as the bad guy). Her life and land, which contains the only source of water for miles, are in jeopardy as the railroad gets closer to completion. A desperado named Cheyenne (Jason Robards), though notorious in the territory and accompanied by a gang, is mistakenly labeled a prime suspect. He offers his services to protect her and her land to find the real killer, which she eventually accepts upon realization that he didn't do it. Additionally, a mysterious harmonica-playing gunslinger (Charles Bronson) joins in to help Jill, as he too is hellbent on hunting Frank down for an unknown reason.

This film has all of the spaghetti western traits you'd expect from Leone. Much of it is beautifully shot in Techniscope (like GBU), lots of long shots and tense moments, an epic score by Ennio Morricone, the works. It would also serve as the start of another film trilogy revolving around three time periods in history that toughened a nation. Right as the movie begins, you know you're in for something interesting, as it centers around three bandits waiting at a train station (an homage to Fred Zinneman's 1952 film High Noon), and we stay on them as the opening credits roll for about 10 minutes with no music. Just the sound of natural ambiance, trickling water, and a rhytmic squeaking windmill. Now that's good tension build-up.

Leone's "Dollars" trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West marked not only the beginning of a new era of western pictures, but also the end of the old era, showing the true grittiness and cold-blooded nature of the wild west. On its own, West is not only one of the best westerns I've sat through, but is also one of my personal favorite films of all time. It's a long movie, so check this one out if you haven't seen it whenever you can find time for it.
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9/10
...and a Cartoon Network series is born.
3 July 2018
I watched Cartoon Network religiously when I was a kid, and one of the programs I remember watching on the channel was "What a Cartoon", which was a 30-minute block of one-off cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions that also served as a way for Turner Broadcasting, CN's parent company, to acquire new intellectual properties, or IPs, for the channel. 1996's "The Chicken from Outer Space", which was created, written, produced, and directed by indie filmmaker John R. Dilworth, would be one of those shorts that would spin-off into one of those acquired IPs.

The short focuses on an old farmer, his wife, and more importantly, their pink dog named Courage, who live on a remote farm out in the middle of a desert (this would later be known as Nowhere, Kansas). A UFO lands in front of the home, and out comes its only occupant: a chicken with red eyes with malicious intent of taking over the world. Courage, who is coined as the "cowardly dog" in the opening credits, tries to explain to the farmer and wife (with no words) that an invader from outer space has landed, but they don't believe him. In fact, the farmer constantly scares the hell out of Courage with a mask in response. So it's up to Courage alone to defend his home from the chicken.

If you've seen some of his other works, including his commissioned work for Viacom, or more famously, his independent short "The Dirdy Birdy" (1994), you can see that this is exactly the kind of film one would expect from Dilworth. It is wacky, funny, and "out-of-this-world" (pun most certainly intended), especially during the scenes where Courage duels against the chicken while a "horrific" scene involving the farmer takes place. The way Courage also communicates with his owners, the chicken, and himself without any dialogue is also clever and unique, in that it took notes from the silent film era (think Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, or Buster Keaton) while also giving it a cartoon twist. Courage morphing into various creatures while explaining to his owners that an alien invader has landed would be an example of this in action.

Not only was Dilworth's idea picked up for a now much-beloved television series for Cartoon Network, but it was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. While it lost to Nick Park's "A Close Shave" (one of the "Wallace & Gromit" shorts), this was still a huge success for Dilworth, and three years later, he would be able to continue the wacky adventures of Courage for 52 half-hour episodes.

While it is rough around the edges compared to the series it would later take off from, this is a short I highly recommend giving another look at if you are itching for nostalgia. However, if you're in the more younger crowd and have seen some episodes of the series "Courage the Cowardly Dog" beforehand, this is also definitely worth a look if you are interested to see where it all began.
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10/10
One of the greatest animated movies and one of the greatest movie musicals ever made.
8 July 2017
With the release of director Bill Condon's live-action remake already among us in DVD and Blu-Ray form, I figure that it'd be appropriate to look back at the original animated musical released in 1991 and directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. The Disney Renaissance was just kicking off with the releases of "The Little Mermaid" (1989) and the wildly underrated "The Rescuers Down Under" (1990), the latter not being a musical. Regardless, those two movies, along with the invention of CAPS (Computer Animation Production System), opened up a new wave of motion picture animation that would give Disney's animation studio a new breath of life after a long slew of mediocre successes and failures at the box office, their biggest flop being the animated fantasy film "The Black Cauldron" (1986). It wasn't until 1991 when their next project really pushed it to the limit.

Based on the French fairy tale, "Beauty and the Beast" first opens up with a prologue about a selfish prince and his refusal to help an old woman in need. It turns out that old woman was really an enchantress, who decides to teach the prince a lesson he would never forget. How? Turn him into a hideous monster, of course, with his subordinates who also live in his castle sharing the punishment. Then we cut to Belle, a young country girl who's the talk of the town, and the vying target of local hunk Gaston (our villain). Belle's father, an inventor heads off to the fair to show off his work, only to be ambushed by a pack of wolves. He becomes the prisoner of the prince, now a beast, after seeking shelter in his castle, and when Belle gets wind of her father taken captive, she goes to try and free him. She offers to be his prisoner in exchange for her father's freedom, and as we soon find out later in the picture, she's his only hope of breaking the enchantress' spell if the Beast plays his cards right.

Looking at this film in 2017, this movie still holds up just as well as it did back when it was first released 26 years ago. The animation is still as crisp, smooth, and as impressive today as it was back then. Keep in mind that this was a time where artists still had to draw frame after frame, even though they used computers. The ballroom scene in particular is still one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. The songs and score by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, who also worked on 1989's "The Little Mermaid" and 1986's "Little Shop of Horrors", are some of their best work to date, with the title song (sung by Angela Lansbury) and "Be Our Guest" (sung by the late "Law & Order" star Jerry Orbach) being the highlights.

Being a child of the '90s, I had the opportunity of seeing this film at a rather young age. After all, I was a hardcore Disney kid, and I remember this as being a spectacle at the time. I wasn't alone in that regard, as this movie was turning the heads of both audiences and critics, including the late Roger Ebert, who quoted it as "one of the greatest movie musicals ever made". Even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (a.k.a. the Oscar people) made an exception to the "no animated films for Best Picture" rule and made it a nominee in that category for 1991. Let's just say that if your animated movie can change a rule that the A.M.P.A.S. set in stone, you've done something right.

Overall, this is a movie worth looking at again before the release of the live-action remake starring Emma Watson later this month. In my opinion, though not my number one favorite Disney film, it is one of their greatest animated pictures and in a spot somewhere in my top five. It is a must-see for any film lover, and even if you're not a fan of these kind of movies, there is something you can at least admire about it.
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2/10
An extremely pointless short that ends up being unintentionally hilarious.
8 July 2017
You know what a lot of us remember from back when we were in elementary school? Those educational shorts that our teachers would force us to watch as part of their curriculum, whether they were about a certain subject such as science or music, or just about everyday common sense. This one falls under the latter, and if there is one studio that intentionally talks down to its audience as if they were preschoolers, it's Coronet Films.

"Lunchroom Manners" is considered to be their most notorious one of their entire catalog for the above-mentioned reason. It's the story of a boy named Phil, who watched a puppet show in his class revolving around a messy character named "Mr. Bungle" and his antics in the lunchroom.

The idea was that the teacher was encouraging her class to act respectfully during lunch and not make a mess. Fair enough, and that's the same message they were trying to convey in this short...except they go through every, single, solitary action this kid takes. He goes to wash his hands. He uses a hugely unnecessary amount of soap. He dries his hands. Goes to the lunchroom. Waits in line instead of cutting to the front, and to quote the king of Siam from "The King and I" (1956) , "et cetera, et cetera, et cetera". Now I dunno what children in the '60s were like at the time, but I seriously doubt that any schoolchild at the time was this stupid to the point where they have to go through a step-by-step program about something so simple as having lunch.

So what of the film itself? Well, in short, it's incredibly funny for all of the wrong reasons due to the absurdity that an educational short had to be made about the bare-assed basics of maintaining good human hygiene, as if this was that big of an issue at the time next to, I dunno, the fear of nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union? This wasn't the only one of its kind, either, as there were a few that were made before this one, specifically from Young America Films, and if you've watched a fair share of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", you'd know exactly what I'm talking about.

"Lunchroom Manners" is a rather pointless educational short and above all, a cinematic oddity through and through. Even though I'm giving this one star, it's worth looking at if you want to have a good laugh, though I highly recommend looking up the Rifftrax version, as the roasting commentary is borderline hilarious.
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1/10
On behalf of every Oregonian, we apologize for almost assassinating the Western genre.
8 July 2017
You know, as an Oregon resident, there is a benefit to living here, especially since a lot of movies were filmed here, from "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" (1993) to practically every movie made by Laika Studios (i.e. "Coraline" [2009]). Unfortunately, we have our fair share of bad movies, and this dull, tedious western from 1948 is one of the worst, to the point where an episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" was devoted to it. It really is that bad.

So what's the story behind this thing? Well, this duo of deputies hired by a big rancher named Charlie Cooper is rounding up the mares of some wild horses on his order, despite being told by smaller ranchers and his daughter not to. Our hero, ironically named Duke (though he's nothing like John Wayne), stops the deputies from illegally rounding up the wild horses, while also being framed for horse theft shortly after. Things go too far, however, when Cooper's head deputy shoots his employer and frames Duke for the murder, with the only proof being Duke's black bandanna. So it's up to Duke to clear his name, stop our villain, and get the girl in the end.

Watching this movie, I can't help but think that this is basically a dumber version of "The Man from Snowy River" (1982) before it was even made. The main character is an unrelatable, smug prick without a brain, the villain is as wooden as can be (also without a brain), and the execution of the plot is practically all over the place. Oh, and did I mention that this movie is as boring as boring can be? That last point is possibly the biggest sin this movie commits, because last I checked, westerns were supposed to be suspenseful thrill rides, not snore-fests equivalent to that of a Lifetime movie.

So as an Oregonian, even though we did get a funny episode of "MST3K" out of it, let me just say that on behalf of everyone in the state, we apologize for almost assassinating the western genre with this trite. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch a better western with Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, or Randolf Scott to wash the awful taste out of my mouth.
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8/10
The beginning of a series of shorts featuring the coolest cat in film.
8 July 2017
With the success of Blake Edwards' 1963 comedy caper film "The Pink Panther" starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Claudia Cardinale, the iconic cat that we see in the opening credits, created by Friz Freling and David H. DePatie, would be spun off into a series of shorts released under United Artists, further cementing the character into pop culture for years to come. The first one of these shorts, and arguably one of the best of the bunch is "The Pink Phink", directed by Freling and released one year after the release of the original feature he made his debut on.

The plot goes like this: The Pink Panther, the silent cool cat himself, disagrees with the decorator's choice of color for a house, which happens to be blue. The panther then decides to make the changes himself by painting the house pink, much to the dismay of the decorator, would eventually be known as "The Little Man" and later as "Big Nose".

For an animated short, it's a simple premise, but really, a simple premise is all it needs, because the short itself is simple in and of itself. The animation, while not as minimalistic as a UPA cartoon, is pretty minimal, and understandably so, because the budgets for animated shorts at the time were at an all-time low. Some would even outsource their animation out of the states. However, like a lot of animators and directors in Hollywood at the time, they were still able to adapt to the budget cuts and still make an entertaining short on par with a lot of the classics that came before it. In fact, "The Pink Phink" won the Oscar for Best Cartoon Short Subject, meaning it doesn't have to be the animated equivalent of the Mona Lisa to be good. Not only is it simple, but it's also rather funny.

The film would be followed by many other shorts starring The Pink Panther, which would later lead to spin off series that would be associated with the character, such as "The Inspector" and "The Ant and the Aardvark". Overall, "The Pink Phink" is definitely worth a look if you're a fan of Blake Edwards' "Pink Panther" movies and animation in general.
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Furby Island (2005 TV Movie)
1/10
I can see why this never went anywhere. Good.
8 July 2017
Alright, before you say anything, I watched this as part of a online stream with a group of forum friends, as our custom is watching some forgotten (for good reason) trite and oddities from a couple decades ago. This obviously falls under the trite category, and because I am a glutton for punishment, I sat through this thing. Thankfully, this thing is only 45 minutes, and I can safely say that I survived this thing.

"Furby Island" is what I think is an animated pilot for a supposed TV series based on the Furby toy line by Hasbro. You know, the company behind "My Little Pony", "Transformers", and "G.I. Joe", all of which also had television shows that were at least decent in comparison. The plot's like this: two kids and their adventure-seeking parents land on an island to discover plants and animals that haven't been discovered yet. The kids go into a cave, they trigger something Indiana Jones- style and they end up on Furby Island. Shenanigans happen after that, which I won't get into, because I don't want to be reminded of this crap again.

First of all the CGI animation is rather horrifying, even by made-for- TV or direct-to-video standards. It's equivalent to that of those old, cheesy pre-rendered cutscenes you see in video games for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, or the first Xbox, and I don't mean that in a good way whatsoever. Keep in mind, this was 2005, the same year that "The Incredibles" was released. The voice acting is also rather dull, and the story, even for something made for children, is borderline uninteresting.

If this was meant to be a TV pilot, I can see why it was never picked up. This thing is absolutely atrocious, even for something made for children. If I had kids, I wouldn't subject them to this crap. Even the worst direct-to-video Disney movie is more tolerable. Stay the hell away from this thing, and for the record, the IMDb rating for this "movie" (and I use that term loosely) is a big, fat lie.
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The Mummy (1999)
7/10
A rather fun adventure romp!
8 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The original version of "The Mummy" from 1932 was one of a series of monster movies made famous by Universal Pictures. Directed by Karl Freund, and following in the footsteps of the likes of Todd Browning's "Dracula" (1931) and James Whale's "Frankenstein" (1931), it was a horror classic about a mummified Egyptian priest called Imhotep who was inadvertently brought back to life after an archaeologist reads an ancient spell, and then prowls the city of Cairo intending to revive his lover, the Princess Ankh-es-en-amon. It was a hit, and it became one of several movies that make up the Universal Monsters franchise.

65 years later, because the revivals of different movie monsters were becoming hits in the '90s, the studio decided to remake the original 1932 film, only instead of having it a straight-up horror movie, they take the Indiana Jones route and made it a swashbuckling adventure movie. As a result, we have a movie that's more of an original work than a direct remake of a black and white movie from the 1930s.

3,000 years ago, the high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) suffers a fate worse than death as punishment after desecrating the tomb of Anck-Su Namun (Patricia Velásquez), wife of Pharaoh Seti I and Imhotep's lover. The punishment: live mummification and the worst of all Egyptian curses where, if brought back to life, would unleash hell upon all of the land, plagues and all. Unfortunately, 3,000 years later, two teams of treasure hunters set up a digging site in the lost city of Hamunaptra and come across Imhotep's sarcophagus, and the book of the dead (not to be confused with the one in the "Evil Dead" trilogy). One night, one of the treasure hunters, a librarian named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) decides to give said book a read. Bad idea, as the book contains the passage that brings Imhotep back to life. Imhotep's revived, he still wants to bring back his lover Ankh-Su Namun, and everyone's screwed. So it's up to our ragtag team of heroes, which include Evelyn, her brother Jonathan (John Hannah), and Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) to reverse the curse and save the world.

Whether you think the history behind Ancient Egypt or figures like Ankh-Su Namun or Imhotep are accurate or not (fun fact: it's not even close) is irrelevant for a movie like this. What matters is that this is is an adventure flick done in the style of Spielberg and Lucas' "Indiana Jones" franchise. Yes, the plot can get pretty silly at times and the main hero of the picture, Rick, is more of a wisecracking jackass best suited for an action comedy. That's also not to mention that some of the CGI hasn't really aged that well since the movie's release in 1999. However, for your standard adventure movie fare, "The Mummy" is a fun movie in its own right, and a lot of the effects seen in the movie were groundbreaking for the time, so I gotta give credit where credit is due.

The movie reached #1 at the box office upon release, and the director of the film, Stephen Sommers, has stated in an interview that a day after the movie was released in theatres, Universal Pictures contacted him over the phone and said "We need another one!". Thus, the film spawned two sequels: "The Mummy Returns" in 2001, and "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" in 2008. A video game would also be made and published by Konami in 2000, and yes, even an animated television series would be released. As for the movie itself, it's still a fun romp to watch, and with the new re-imagining already released in theatres this year starring Tom Cruise, it would definitely be worth seeing this film again before going to see that one, and even if the newer one sucks, at least you have this one and the original 1932 film to keep you company.
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7/10
Not a bad conclusion to a great anime series.
8 July 2017
Before the two anime adaptations, "Fullmetal Alchemist" was originally a manga (Japanese graphic novel) written by Hiromu Arakawa and published in Square Enix's monthly magazine "Shonen Gangan". It was the story of two brothers who used the ancient arts of alchemy to perform a risky taboo: to transmute their dead mother to bring her back to life. As a result, the younger brother lost his entire body, while the older lost his leg. At the last minute, the older brother bounded the younger brother's soul to a suit of armor, sacrificing his right arm. With the older brother outfitted with artificial limbs made of steel (called auto mail), they then set out on a journey to find the legendary Philosopher's Stone and use it to get their bodies back to normal.

While the manga was still being written, an anime series would be produced by Bones and Aniplex with Arakawa's approval. When it was released internationally (in my case, being a selection on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block), the popularity of the franchise soared, and critics took notice, with one saying that it was a perfect blend of action, comedy, and hard-hitting drama. They weren't lying in that regard. When the series ended, it was not the end of the story, so a feature-length movie was produced. This is where "Fullmetal Alchemist - The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa" comes in.

Directed by Seiji Mizushima, who also directed a majority of the episodes of the television show, the film takes place two years after the events of the last episode of the series. It's 1923 in Munich, Germany, and since his sacrifice leading to the separation from his younger brother Alphonse (Aaron Dismuke), Edward Elric (Vic Mignogna) has spent his time in our world studying rocketry with his friend Alphons Heiderich (E. Jason Liebrecht). One day, Ed saves a Gypsy girl who has the power to read minds, which throws Ed into a devious plot by the Thule Society and the Nazi party that could start a war between the world he's in and his home world, all while his brother Alphonse sets out on a journey to find his brother at the same time.

Going in blind, the average moviegoer would barely understand what the hell is going on in this movie, if at all. This is why I would say to people when discussing the series as a whole to watch all 51 episodes of the original series before watching this, despite being an original story derived from the show (according to anime critic Ryusuke Hikawa). As for the movie itself, story-aside, the film captures the action, comedy, and drama of the show just fine, and also includes the show's musical score blending with tracks made for the movie. As someone who is a fan of the franchise, I can say that it's a definite plus. The downside is that the film is geared toward a limited audience. Again, if you haven't watched the entire series (the original, not "Brotherhood"), pretty much all of the movie won't make a lick of sense.

While I do agree that "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood" is a much better work with a superior ending, the original series and the movie itself is actually not too bad either. I kinda like it, and would give it a recommendation to fans of the series. Is it the best ending they could come up with? No. But it'll suffice.
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8/10
Great film if you're a fan, but can be hard to wrap your head around.
8 July 2017
If you've read my review on "Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa" already, you would know that I am a fan of the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, which was originally a series of Japanese graphic novels (often called "manga") written and designed by Hiromu Arakawa for "Shonen Gangan", a monthly magazine published by Square Enix. Yes. That Square Enix. It was turned into two anime television series sometime later, one starting in 2003 while the manga was still being written, and another in 2010 (dubbed "Brotherhood"), a few years after it was finished. Both of these anime series would premier in the United States on Cartoon Network's late night block, Adult Swim.

"Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos" (pronounced Mē-lŏss) is the second feature film in the franchise. While "Conqueror of Shamballa" is spun off of the 2003 series (and serving as its official ending), this movie is spun off of the 2010 series and is an original story, taking place somewhere near the halfway point of the show's run. It starts with a prisoner, an alchemist, breaking out of prison in Central City, despite only having a few weeks left in his sentence. The Elric brothers, consisting of Edward (Vic Mignogna), a young state alchemist dubbed "Fullmetal", and his younger brother Alphonse (Maxey Whitehead), decide to go after him. They end up near the edge of the country border, to a town called Table City, where they cross paths with a young girl named Julia (Alexis Tipton), who belongs to a society called the Milosians. Thus, the Elrics end up becoming a part of a conflict that could either bring peace and prosperity or the extinction of an entire people.

Even though I did say that this movie took place somewhere near the middle of "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood", I cannot say where exactly this movie is placed in the storyline. Even if I did know, the movie pretty much serves as just feature-length filler, and I don't really see that as a bad thing here. However, I do understand that there are a few fans of the franchise that will have a tough time wrapping their head around the overall plot. The animation is also pretty good for a theatrical release, though it's not the best work I've seen from Bones, the studio that has also worked on both the 2003 series and "Brotherhood", as well as other anime series and movies.

So, to sum up, I actually enjoyed this one. Could it be better? Yes, but what I got out of it is a rather thrilling (and sometimes brutal) adventure flick based on a Japanese franchise I hold as near and dear as "Cowboy Bebop". However, if you plan to watch this picture, I would recommend watching at least half of "Brotherhood" first. It may not help you fully understand everything this movie unfolds, but it would make it a little easier than it should.
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Why Me? (1978)
8/10
The five stages of grief summed up in five minutes (actually 10)
8 July 2017
You know, when you're given an ultimatum by your doctor that you have only a limited time left to live because of your illness, it can be very distressing and difficult to deal with, regardless of how long. However, when you are told you only have five minutes to live, that's when it starts to become absurd. This is best illustrated in this short film simply called "Why Me?", made by our neighbors to the north, Canada.

The short depicts Nesbitt Spoon (Marshall Efron), whom, after a check- up, is told to see the doctor in his office. When the doctor (Richard Gilbert) tells him the bad news, which I mentioned already, Mr. Spoon practically goes through all of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance, all within his final five minutes of life on this planet.

This just goes to show that even though the thought of our impending death isn't a funny thing, it can be made funny. In the case of this picture, it's morbidly hilarious due to the absurdity of the scenario, and I'm sure that everyone, regardless of how healthy they are, can relate if they were told that they only have just five minutes of life left and reacted the same way. It's short, sweet, and to the point, and worth a look.

The short can be seen for free at the National Film Board of Canada's website (nfb.ca) or on their YouTube Channel.
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9/10
As Canadian as Canada can be. Catchy, too!
8 July 2017
Ah, Canada, the neighboring country to the north of the United States, known for its obsession of hockey, is the birthplace of the band Rush, has many a public service announcement that jumps straight to the point with no f***s given, and yes, being one of the key sources of income for the logging industry. There are a few shorts and feature films from Canada's National Film Board that pretty much sum up the entire country in general. What we have here is one of those shorts, and to this day, out of all of the films in the NFB's library, this is the one that's the most requested and beloved amongst the Canadian people.

"Log Driver's Waltz", directed and animated by independent filmmaker John Weldon, is a three-minute animated piece made as part of the Canada Vignettes series hosted by the NFB, and is based on the national folk song of the same name written by Wade Hemsworth. Sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, as well as the Mountain City Four, it tells the story of a young woman's admiration for her boyfriend, a log driver. If you don't know what one is, it's someone who moves cut logs to sawmills by driving them down a river. During the short, we see the blonde-haired log driver himself who probably does his job a little too well, from hopping from one log to another, dancing/bouncing on it, playing the accordion while on it, and riding it down a hectic white water river that would, in reality, kill an average person. So, based on what we see in the film, the titular log driver is the most bad-ass Canadian who ever lived.

Let me start off by saying that the song itself is ungodly catchy. Like, after you've heard it, it will not leave your head for sometime. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but as someone who enjoys folk songs, I don't mind. Regardless, the main thing I love about this short is the flowing (no pun intended) and bouncy animation that never stops and fits with the song altogether, which, as a cartoonist myself, I have to admire. It's all hand-drawn, makes good use of rotoscoping, especially at the beginning where it transitions from live-action footage to animation, and is as pretty to look at as the Canadian wilderness itself.

This was a short I first saw on Turner Classic Movies as part of an animation festival back in early April, and I have to say, I'm glad this was included in one of the four blocks shown. I can see why it's the most requested film from the NFB and why many hold it in such high regard. It's a nice little film that can pretty much cheer up anyone who is feeling down, and is a great representation of Canada and its historical culture. As for getting the song out of your head when the film's finished, I got three words for ya: good luck. Even as of now, that song hasn't left my head, and actually, I don't mind it.

The film can be viewed for free on the National Film Board of Canada's website (www.nfb.ca) or on their YouTube channel.
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5/10
The video game, without the video game.
24 January 2017
Let me just say that I absolutely love the Ratchet & Clank games. I've been playing them since I first got my PlayStation 2, which the series debuted on. They were great third-person shooters that never took themselves seriously, even to the point where they got away with putting innuendos in the titles of almost every installment. As a result, the series became one of the staples of the PlayStation brand.

However, as what has been proved time and time again with movies like "Doom", "Hitman", and more infamously, "Super Mario Brothers", adapting a video game into a movie is a lot harder than it sounds, and while this movie is not as bad as those, it's something else. Lemme ask you this: Have you ever browsed YouTube and searched up all the cutscenes of a certain game you like combined in one video? Well, I have out of boredom, and I can tell you right now that that's exactly what this movie is.

The film is a re-imagining of the story told in the very first game on the PS2. In short, Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti), the head of Drek Enterprises, is destroying planet after planet in the Solana Galaxy to build the perfect planet, and two unlikely heroes, a lombax named Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), and a defective robot named Clank (David Kaye), are the galaxy's only hope in stopping Drek and his two cohorts, robot leader Victor (Sylvester Stallone) and mad scientist Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman).

People have been giving this movie a lot of hate since it came out, and after watching this film, I can understand why. It's the video game, but without the video game. Granted, the animation is decent, and the voice acting is what you'd expect if you've played the games. In fact, they brought back several of the main voice actors who played the characters in the games, so I can say that it is a major plus. Story-wise, it's the generic "I wanna be a hero" plot line that has practically become the mother of all clichés. Even though this is a family picture, you can bet that adults like myself who watch the film are going to groan for hearing this type of story for the umpteenth time. As for the jokes, there were quite a few that I chuckled at, and I love the tongue & cheek references to the PlayStation brand.

Overall, all I can sum up for this movie is, my god, did it try. It is a harmless movie for kids and fans of the games. However, if you've played the current game on the PS4, which uses this movie as cutscenes, or aren't a fan of the games, there's really no point in watching this movie. It's nowhere near the worst video game-based movie out there, but for all intents and purposes, stick with playing the game. It's actually a lot of fun.
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7/10
It's...just water.
6 January 2017
You might be familiar with the Christmas TV special "Olive, The Other Reindeer", produced by Matt Groening. If not, you might also be familiar with Matt Groening's other project, the mildly raunchy sci-fi comedy series "Futurama". If you stuck around after the end credits of either one of these, you saw the a logo with the words "The Curiosity Company", which is Mr. Groening's production company. It also featured a rather odd image of a rippling water reflection, complete with a dripping water sound. If you wanted to know where all those weird sound effects and visuals in the logo came from, here is your answer.

"A Study in Wet" is a 1964 short experimental film by Matt's father, Homer Groening, consisting of water reflections, surfing footage, and the sound of water dripping into a bathtub, as he points out around 50 seconds in. We aren't given a rather logical reason as to why he filmed this, other than the fact that some of us "haven't really listened to water" or really observed its behavior. Regardless, what we are left with is a somewhat mesmerizing and trippy experience for a whole six minutes, and I can't help but be reminded of a David Lynch short film while watching this.

There are filmmakers who only want to tell a story or take you on a unique experience that will change the way you look at life. Then there are filmmakers who only make certain movies, simply because they can. "A Study in Wet" would most likely fall in the latter category. I'm pretty sure there's a deeper meaning behind it all (if there even is one) but I can't find it. All I can say is, it's a memorable piece with unique composition fit for an art museum.
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Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999 TV Short)
7/10
A holiday guilty pleasure
6 January 2017
Even though I'm 26 years old, I can't help but have a soft spot for some Christmas specials I saw as a kid. This is one of those specials that I have said spot for, and it happens to be produced by the same man behind everyone's favorite jaundice-skinned family "The Simpsons" and the animated sci-fi comedy "Futurama".

Based on the children's book by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh, this TV special focuses on a small dog named Olive (Drew Barrymore), who hears a radio broadcast where Santa mentions he's canceling Christmas due to Blitzen hurting his leg. However, when Santa mentions "all of the other reindeer", Olive mis-hears it as "Olive, the other reindeer" (hence the title), and thus, she treks her way to the North Pole with her penguin buddy Martini (Joe Pantoliano) to take Blitzen's place for the year, all while an irate postman (Dan "Homer Simpson" Castellaneta) chases her down so he can prevent Christmas from happening.

Now I fondly remember watching this one time on Cartoon Network, back when I watched that channel religiously, and I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Watching it as an adult, as silly as the plot is, I can say it's rather innocent family entertainment that anyone can smile at if they're in the right mood. The 2D-on-3D animation is really not that bad for a television special, it's only an hour long, and there are a few catchy songs thrown in for good measure.

It's not the best Christmas special out there, and the art style might turn some people off, but if you give it a chance, it's rather harmless. For me, I kinda like it, and I think a lot of kids and adults today will still enjoy it around the holiday season. I say give it a watch.
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10/10
The movie that made John Belushi an immortal figure of comedy.
28 August 2016
When people first hear the name National Lampoon, some would think of the parody magazine that existed way back when as a competitor to MAD. However, most people would think of the four Vacation movies starring comedian Chevy Chase as the clumsy family man Clark Griswold. But National Lampoon was also known for one other thing: being behind one of, if not, THE greatest frat comedy in film history. That movie is National Lampoon's Animal House, the film that would make the late John Belushi a household name next to Saturday Night Live and eventually The Blues Brothers two years later.

The plot is rather simple: it's 1962, and two college freshman, Larry and Kent (Tom Hulce and Stephen Furst respectively) are new to Faber College and want to join a fraternity. They first go to Omega house, which is full of nothing but stuck-up snobs that would make the folks of Downton Abbey blush, some of which include Doug Niedermeyer (Mark Metcalf) and Greg Marmalard (James Daughton). Then they decide to check out the most notorious fraternity on campus, which they ultimately choose, the Delta house, full of sex-crazed, fun-loving, drunk reprobates that are not afraid to sing "Louis, Louis" all night long, with Bluto (John Belushi) being the one that steals the show. However, what the folks at the Delta house don't know is that the Dean, Vernon Wormer, is desperate to expel the fraternity for all of the hi-jinks they've pulled off, even to where he secretly puts the whole house on "double secret probation". Does this stop the Deltas? Well, take a guess. What follows is some of the funniest live-action slapstick ever put to screen.

The name "Animal House" is quite fitting for this movie, as the Delta fraternity is nothing but animals that make the college their own personal playground at the expense of Wormer and the Omegas. They get more angry, while we sit and laugh at their antics, one after the other, leading up to the ultimate ending where the Delta house strikes their ultimate blow against their oppressors. It's like an early epic comedy on par with Hot Shots or any of Mel Brooks' films, only its satire is not anything based on pop culture, but on college life as a whole. When I first watched the film at the age of 13 (thanks Dad), it was probably the funniest movie I've ever seen up to that point. Some of the scenes that still manage to get a chuckle out of me include the ROTC scene where Kent is yelled at by Niedermeyer while two of the head Deltas are aiming golf balls at his horse, the girl's dorm scene with Belushi, the cafeteria/food fight scene, and yes, even the entire Toga Party segment. Today, almost 40 years after the film's release, the movie is still one of the greatest comedies ever made. What makes me love this movie even more is that it was filmed in my home state of Oregon (REPRESENT!!!), and I even got the privilege to see it in the movie theater a few days ago with a friend of mine as part of TCM's BIg Screen Classics series. A fun time at the theater was had by all.

If you want to know where famous college movies like American Pie, Old School, and Revenge of the Nerds got their sense of humor, you need not look further than this film right here. I cannot say much more on how much I love this movie without repeating myself, so all I can really say is simply this: see this movie if you haven't.
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Variety show meets WWII
13 August 2016
In 1941, America took a turn for the worse when the naval base known as Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, and was issued a declaration of war from Nazi Germany, thus pulling the country into the second World War. While our military forces were combating the enemy overseas, at home, we also contributed to their effort by buying war bonds, recycling important materials such as metal and rubber, among other things. Hollywood, especially, had a big part in this, with every major studio producing propaganda and war-themed shorts (both animated and live- action) and feature films that encouraged our troops overseas as well as took our minds off the mayhem. Why did I give you this little history lesson, you ask? Well, when I said that Hollywood had a big part in supporting our own troops and allied forces, they did more than just make films.

In 1942, actors John Garfield and Bette Davis, along with the former president of the Music Corporation of America, Dr. Jules Stein, opened up an exclusive club reserved only for servicemen called the Hollywood Canteen. There, men who were on leave from military service, whether local or from one of the allied countries, got to relax and enjoy food, drink, dancing, and entertainment from some of Hollywood's greatest performers until they were ordered to return to active duty. Many of the performers also served as waiters, dishwashers, and cooks, believe it or not. The canteen would stay open up until the end of the war in 1945. In 1944, however, the place was so popular amongst the public that Warner Brothers Pictures decided to make a musical motion picture based around the establishment.

This two-hour picture, filmed entirely in black-and-white, had one of the biggest star rosters in film history at the time, with most of the stars playing themselves, including founders Bette Davis and John Garfield, as well as Peter Lorre, Joan Crawford, Joe E. Brown, The Andrews Sisters, Jack Carson, Roy Rogers (along with Trigger, "the smartest horse in the movies"), among others. There is a story underlying this, though. It's about two Army soldiers who served in the South Pacific, with one of them, named Slim, falling in love with film actress Joan Leslie, who reminds him of his past fiancée. On the third night, Slim becomes the millionth customer, and wins a date with Joan. It then becomes a romantic drama between the two, as they both have feelings for one another. Thus, Joan makes it her goal to give Slim the best night he's ever had before he goes back to active duty.

Aside from the story, the film is mainly a variety show, featuring several musical numbers and skits performed by the stars. A musical, it may be, but it's not the kind of musical where a character sporadically breaks into song a la Rodgers & Hammerstein in order to move the plot along. Even though the underlying storyline is put aside throughout a good portion of the picture, the film does not stray from its main attraction: the canteen itself and what it accomplished for our troops. The film got mixed reception from critics upon release, but audiences were all over it, with 40% of the ticket sales going to the real canteen.

The film was enjoyable to watch, and serves as a time capsule of a bright moment in U.S. history during a dark time. Warner Bros. even made a parody/tribute of this film two years later via an animated Merrie Melodies short entitled "Hollywood Canine Canteen", which featured dogs that were reminiscent of Hollywood stars. This short can be seen as a bonus feature on the DVD. As for the film, an entertaining, yet informative watch for history and WWII buffs.
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Anastasia (1997)
8/10
Far from historically accurate, but still a good family flick.
13 August 2016
In the late 1990s, we had two animated movies that were based on a certain event in a country's history. In 1995, Disney gave us an American "history lesson" (and I use that term loosely) with Pocahontas, but in 1997, 20th Century Fox did exactly what Disney did, except give us a look at a bit of Russian history (again, using the term "history" loosely) about the daughter of Czar Nicholas II, Anastasia Romanov, simply called...well...Anastasia. However, one thing to consider when going into this film is that this is a family picture ("kids movie" for short), so if you're looking for a true-to-life history lesson a la a PBS or History Channel documentary, you might as well throw that out the nearest airlock.

In this film, Anastasia, voiced by Meg Ryan, is a princess that went missing for several years after the attack on the Romanov family during a party, which was led by the Romanov's former confidant Rasputin, voiced by Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future fame, who is an undead, evil sorcerer in this movie. Anastasia, now with a case of amnesia and dubbed Anya, eventually joins two con men, Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladimir (Fraiser's Kelsey Grammar), who are convinced that she really is the missing Romanov princess, and travel to Paris, France, where her grandmother, the Dowager Empress, resides, to hopefully reunite them, all while Rasputin is seeking her unfortunate demise.

I won't judge this movie on historical accuracy, as all (or most) of us can tell that the general audience for this film is younger children, though adult audiences will also be entertained, since there was a lot of effort put into the creation of this film. That, and I wouldn't dismiss it as a "Disney knockoff" right away, because the directors of the film, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, were former Disney animators, so it's easy to confuse this for a Disney picture like Beauty and the Beast. As a family film alone, it is pretty damn good. The artwork and animation is great, the songs are enjoyable, and the voice acting is pretty decent.

The film was such a success that it became co-director Don Bluth's comeback after a slew of mediocre to bad animated films he directed throughout most of the decade, and his highest grossing film to date. Not only that, but it warranted a direct-to-video follow up film starring the villain's sidekick, Bartok the Bat (voiced by The Simpsons' Hank Azaria in both films).

Overall, the film serves as a great choice to have playing during a family movie night, unless you're extremely picky on historical accuracy, in which case, go do something else for 97 minutes.
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2/10
Great animation cannot save this turd of a flick.
13 August 2016
Before I decided to write this short review (in the summertime, no less), let me tell you that I have seen this movie not once, but twice. The first time was when it aired edited with commercials on Comedy Central, and at that time, I didn't like it. Then I watched it when it was available for streaming on Netflix (which it isn't anymore) in its unedited form. I still didn't like it. I think you get the gist of what I think of this holiday travesty of an animated motion picture.

I'm not an Adam Sandler fan by any means, though I will admit he's had some good films earlier in his career. I know a good movie when I see it. This movie, on the other hand, was made at the time when Sandler started to throw farting and "number two" jokes at the audience. That, and the case of this film, our main protagonist is probably one of the most unlikable movie characters ever conceived for cinema (but not as much as Jar Jar Binks, let's just say that). In "Eight Crazy Nights", Sandler plays a character named Davey, a public drunk who pretty much hates everybody and has constantly gotten himself into a lot of trouble, to the point where he has a criminal record longer than Santa's naughty list. In other words, he's a total jerk. He's then put on probation under the supervision of a retired basketball referee named Whitey (unfortunately, also played by Sandler), who has a voice that'll make you envy the deaf. There's more to why Davey is like this, because later in the film, Whitey explains how Davey's life went spiraling downhill, but the question is, would you care after seeing what kind of crap (literally and metaphorically) Davey pulls off on him?

I'll give credit where credit is due. The animation is indeed well-done, as it was done by those who used to work at Warner Brothers' animation department on films made in the late '90s like "Cats Don't Dance" and "The Iron Giant", but all of the good animation that was used in those movies has all gone to waste on a Happy Madison production that is not funny, disgusting at times, and is just downright mean-spirited all around. I know what you're thinking: What about "Bad Santa"? Well, here's the thing, "Bad Santa" was funny, and even though the main character was also an jerk, he wasn't insulting or unlikable, and you can sympathize with him.

If you're an Adam Sandler fan and still believe that this movie is funny, more power to you. The film is available on DVD cheap as chips if you don't have it, but as for me, this film has no welcome place on my DVD shelf.
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The Old Mill (1937)
10/10
One of the greatest animated shorts ever made.
13 August 2016
Before the release of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", the animators at the Disney studios had to run tests to see if the special effects they could use at the time would even be possible. "The Old Mill" was one of those tests, and did it pay off in the end? You bet it did. Released in 1937, the same year that saw the release of the aforementioned "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "The Old Mill" would in itself be a milestone in Walt Disney's Silly Symphony series. It was unlike any other animated short released at the time, in that it was the first picture to use the "Multi-plane camera", which allowed the 2D animation to look more 3D. The use of realism and experimentations with light, color, and rotoscoping (animating by drawing over real-life images) also gave the film a distinct look amongst all of the other animated shorts released at the time, making it more like a moving painting as opposed to a moving cartoon strip.

There isn't really that much of a story, except that we see the different animals occupy an old, beat-up windmill, such as birds, frogs, insects, mice, bats, etc. Suddenly, a storm sweeps over the land, causing the windmill to spin, and various parts of it becoming more and more loose as the storm intensifies, thus threatening all life within. As it goes on, you see the mill come apart, piece by piece, the wind flowing into the holes of a tree, making it sound like a haunting choir, and the animals trying to keep safe from the harsh weather, until finally, a flash of thunder strikes the mill, nearly demolishing it as the storm dies down. In the end, all of the animals survive the endeavor and begin anew as a new dawn approaches over the remains of the old mill.

Imagine for a moment that you were an average joe in 1937, stepping into what was then called a movie-house, and seeing something like this for the first time before the feature begins. For many an audience, it was unlike anything that they have seen before, even by Disney standards. But it was simply a taste from what's to come from the studio later that year. Today, the film still holds up as it did back then. The animation itself is worth noting, as it's so smooth and true to life. The music, which helps move the film along, completely sets the mood, from its happiest moments to the most grim.

The film, along with the release of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", would show that animation has a place in the industry and can be just as respected as any other motion picture. It has the power to tell unique stories that live-action films could not, and can make moviegoers emote. They began to feel uneasy when the storm came. They shook with fear and worried when the mother bird protecting her eggs as the mill wheel turned, and they sighed with relief that nothing bad happened in the end. This was what going to the movies was going to be like from there on, and as a result of that effort, Walt's team won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject.

Today, it's a historic piece of animated art, still enjoyed by both kids and adults alike, and as of 2015, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry division of the U.S. Library of Congress. The film can be found on the first volume of the Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphony sets, or the Diamond Edition of the 1942 film "Bambi". If you have either one of these, by all means, definitely give it a watch.
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9/10
Proof that cartoon animals will always be the screen's clowns
11 August 2016
"A Car-Tune Portrait" is a cartoon short directed by Dave Fleischer that proves one and all that no matter what you do to make yourself look different, your true nature is going to come out one way or another, and it is especially the case when it comes to the various cartoon animal characters that many moviegoers around this time period are immediately exposed to before the feature film begins.

Right as the picture begins, we are shown some of the characters being drawn by an "animated" hand (it's really a photograph of one moving frame-by-frame) and we transition to a concert hall where a lion conductor informs us that for the first time, we will be shown that the cartoon animals we often see can be more dignified and self-contained by performing classical music. The song the animals play: none other than Franz Liszt's Hungarian Symphony No. 2 (or simply "Number Two"). Everything's all fine and dandy as the tune begins, but as the picture goes on, the characters' true nature begins comes out and becomes a musical frenzy.

While not the first animated short to use Franz Liszt's "Number Two", this is the animated cartoon that practically started the trend of using it as a musical joke throughout the entire picture as opposed to just a small section of it. I'm pretty sure that's what went through the mind of director Dave Fleischer. Several other shorts from different studios would soon follow years later with this concept, including the 1946 Oscar-winning short "The Cat Concerto", directed by Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera. As for this short, it's well done. The animation is smooth and precise, as usual with cartoons made by the Fleischer brothers, and the build-up to the slapstick was genius at the time. Nowadays, it's seen as another short that happens to use "Number Two" as a primary basis of comedy, but let's be honest, it never gets old when done right.

The film is in the public domain and not under any form of copyright, therefore it is freely available to watch on the internet, specifically YouTube, and in my opinion, it's worth a watch, especially if you're interested in finding out where "Number Two" as a joke got its roots in animation history.
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