Favorite Non-Disney Animated Movies

Hi guys!

I just thought you might be wondering what my opinion is on non-Disney animated films.  I’m not talking Pixar,Studio Ghibli or other Disney wings because they should get their own list.  I’m talking about other studios like Dreamworks, which while not as consistently my favorites like Disney, they have made some great animated films.

So here we go in no particular order.

1. The Adventures of Tintin- underrated action adventure movie.  Yes, it is motion capture not traditional animation but I figure if it looks, feels, acts like an animated film it is an animated film.  More people should have seen this movie.  It was so entertaining!

2. The Lego Movie- one of the most visually inventive movies I’ve ever seen.  The effects with the legos blew me away.  Great voice work by whole cast, and the script is so well written. Every joke got a laugh from me and then there’s moments that were surprisingly tender.  It is the best movie I’ve seen at capturing how a child plays with their toys and how incapable adults are at understanding that play.

3. Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2- both films are very entertaining with a likable lead character, fun action, beautiful visuals, and great villains.

4. Secret of Nimh- wonderful movie featuring one of the toughest Moms in movies.  She doesn’t want to be a hero but will do anything for her son.  There’s humor, adventure and most importantly real heart.

5. Anastasia- one of the best animated romantic comedies put onto film.  Great chemistry, a fun villain, and decent music.  The story is silly but I still find it very entertaining.

6. How to Train Your Dragon- haven’t seen sequel but want to.  Original was very entertaining.  It’s a predictable story but told very well.  Great voice cast and a great heart to the story of Hiccup and his desire to please his demanding father.  The relationship between him and the dragon is very absorbing. Beautiful flying visuals.

7. Prince of Egypt- some people have problems with the changes from the Biblical story but not me. I am mad for the music, just love it and the scene where Moses communes with the burning bush is breathtaking.  I’m a huge fan of biblical epics and this stands with the best.

8. Arthur Christmas- A movie I thought looked really stupid and then totally surprised me.  Santa’s youngest son Arthur believes in bringing Christmas to every child and when he finds a girl has been missed will do anything to make it right.  I love the idea that even the North Pole has become over-commercialized for Christmas.  I love Christmas movies so this is a big win.  Great voice cast. Real heart.

9. Chicken Run- An homage to Dirty Dozen and other prison escape movies from the 50s.  Great writing and voice work.  Terrific villain and the stop motion animation is fabulous.

10. Transformers 1986- Michael Bay should be strapped down and forced to watch this movie for a week straight to understand how it should be done.  Those bloated, obnoxious mess of movies don’t have 1/10th the heart of this animated film.  Orson Wells is Optimus Prime and he is great.  It’s got action and fun characters and with every Michael Bay monstrosity it looks better and better (Transformers 2 and 3 are 2 of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  I just can’t see 4.  It’s too much.) Boys deserve better transformers movies and this animated film gives it to them. .

11.  Charlotte’s Web- One of the best non-Disney animated musicals.  Sweet songs with great vocal performances by Debbie Reynolds and Paul Lynde.  It’s actually pretty sad but in a way that will teach kids about friendship and sacrifice.

12. Iron Giant- If you haven’t seen this film, stop what you are doing, go out and watch it.  The animation is stunning.  The story has real heart and lovely characters.  It is a total winner!

13. Paranorman- everyone who thinks I’m a total softy when it comes to darker movies will probably be surprised to find this on my list.  I like a good ghost story and this definitely fits the bill.  It’s more for teens than children.  Some of the images are pretty scary and the humor, like the jock actually being gay, is probably more for teens than little kids.  It looks amazing.  Has some genuine scares and the story surprised me.  Very well done.

14. Simpsons Movie- Everyone is always shocked to find out I love the Simpsons.  My favorite show of all time.  My brother and sister and I would watch it every week and 26 seasons later still do.  The movie is overwritten and could have been better but I still really enjoy it.  I love the characters and the HD colors add a nice touch to the movie over the TV show.  Simpsons has given me so many laughs I love it.  Lisa is my particular favorite.

15. Pirates: Band of Misfits- A movie nobody saw but I really enjoyed.  It’s funny with Charles Darwin as our unlikely hero.  The stop motion looks great and voice work is engaging.  A hidden gem!

16. Curious George- So few movies are made well for children under 5.  Curious George is one of those movies.  It is sweet and engaging with lovely songs from Jack Johnson.  One that is unabashadly for the smallest of children and yet adults won’t be miserable.

17. Lord of the Rings (Bakshi)- It’s not as good as the Peter Jackson movies but it is also a different take on an epic story.  To me there is room for multiple retellings of the Lord of the Rings and Bakshi crams a lot of story into this film.  Maybe not a masterpiece but I enjoy it.  The music is wonderful and characters engrossing.  If you like the story of Lord of the Rings give this animated version a chance.  I think this is what the Black Cauldron was trying to be and it isn’t near as successful.

18. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Still my favorite Batman movie (yes, you read right).  Intense without being too violent.  Batman is interesting without being over-the-top.  I hate in the live action movies how the villains are always more interesting than Batman.  Not the case here.  Great animation.  Great voice work.  If you haven’t seen it and love the Nolan films give it a shot.

19. Happy Feet- A flawed film but I love the music and it is so unabashedly cheerful I enjoy it.  It’s the kind of movie I put in when I’m sick and it brightens my day.  Huge talented cast and serviceable story.

20. Charlie Brown Christmas Special- I realize this was for TV but I couldn’t not include it.  One of the best Christmas movies ever made.  Perfect soundtrack.  Lovely message and delightful characters. It focuses on the Christ message of Christmas in a way that is powerful without being overbearing.

 

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Movie 41: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

atlantis poster Today is a good example of why I am glad I started this project.  In 2001 when Disney’s 41st animated film Atlantis: The Lost Emperor came out I was underwhelmed by it.  I remember thinking it was boring (an adjective I try to never use in my reviews because it doesn’t mean anything).  It seems hard to believe because the movie I watched today was a fast paced delight.  I am truly shocked how much I enjoyed it!  (I was 20 by the way in 2001 so it wasn’t like a child who might be more likely to find this boring).

This review is going to be a little different than some of my others because I want to give you guys the chance to go into the film spoiler free.  I am spoiler proof.  For some reason repetition doesn’t bother me and I legitimately do not care if I know the ending to things.   But that said, I think for this type of action adventure movie it will be more fun to not have every detail dissected like other Disney films which most people have seen.

Go out, rent it and give it another shot!!!!  At the very least I don’t think you will have a terrible time at the movies and I bet you will enjoy it!

Here’s the trailer to give you an idea of the story (it is a very good non-spoilery trailer.  They don’t even give away the villain and I won’t either)

The Production-

I can talk a little bit about the production without giving anything away.  After Hunchback the crew wanted to stay together but go in a radically different direction so Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, Don Hahn and others set out to make Disney’s first science fiction movie and one of their few original stories.

There is a definite steampunk feel with its influences from Jules Verne and Victorian/futuristic mashups.  The ship could be the nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

ship2

They visited museums, researched a variety of cultures and created their own version of Atlantis.  According to my research it had Mayan, Greek, Cambodian, Indian and Tibetan elements.

atlatnis language
The Atlantean language was created both written and spoken.

They even hired the guy who created the Klingon language to make one for Atlantis.  That is just cool.

atlantis

They had good writers including Joss Whedon who worked on the project for a while and then Tab Murphey took over and it has a Whedon team feel to it.  Milo is the lead in the movie looking for Atlantis but he quickly gets joined by a rag-tag crew that is very diverse for Disney and full of surprises.  It’s like the Steampunk Avengers!

atlantis crew

The voice acting is mostly unknowns except for Michael J Fox as Milo, James Garner as Captain Rourke, John Mahoney as Whitmore, Jim Varney as Cookie and Leonard Nimoy as the King.

They also hired Mike Mignola, creator of the Hellboy comics,  as a production designer and you can see his influence in the film even down to the hands he uses in his drawings:

“I remember watching a rough cut of the film and these characters have these big, square, weird hands. I said to the guy next to me, “Those are cool hands.”

And he says to me, “Yeah, they’re your hands. We had a whole meeting about how to do your hands.” It was so weird I couldn’t wrap my brain around it”

I love that comic book influence on the film and yet it avoids cliches in a lot of the characters (yes they fulfill certain tropes like the tough talking female mechanic but then she has moments of softness).  There’s a moment where you feel like Milo is alone and it actually seems like he is being left and then the movie is very clever with what happens with the characters and story.

I liked every character in the movie, and I’m not normally a sci-fi person.

They were also influenced by anime at the time and particularly Hayao Miyazaki and his amazing adventure stories, and I think they pull off a lovely homage.

kida

Some of the mysticism is a little convoluted with the blue crystals and everything but for this kind of story I bought it.  And the imagery is beautiful.

The only thing parents will want to be aware of is Princess Kida wears very skimpy clothing and bathing suits throughout the film.

Kida02

The score is by James Newton Howard and it is excellent but there are no songs (funny coming from the troop of Hunchback and Beauty and the Beast!).  But I’m glad because they really weren’t necessary.  The score is all we need to create tension.

The movie is also very funny.  Characters like the Moleman and Cookie were a lot of fun.

It is also one of the few Disney movies that doesn’t really have a strong romance.  It just allows you to focus on the characters.  I like that.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

I’ll say it again I was genuinely shocked how much I enjoyed Atlantis: The Lost Empire.  It was exciting, beautifully drawn, with a fun troop of characters to root for.

atlantis crew1Unlike in 2001, I did not think it was boring this time around.  In fact, it seemed to clip along quite quickly.  There also isn’t tons of exposition.  They just present the world, language and everything else and let you figure it out as the characters do.

I liked the women in the picture.  Kida isn’t the perfect savage you expect.  Mechanic Audrey had some layers to her.  Not every decision was easy, and Helga is not someone to get pushed around (she surprised me!  Totally kicked butt!).

audrey

wilhemina All the characters have their moment and there is humor and tough action.  I loved the sound design.  In fight scenes you hear punches and grunts.  It helps immerse you in the experience.

There are some holes in the story and things happen in relatively tidy ways but isn’t that usually the case for these kind of movies? I mean if you start to take apart Indiana Jones movies they are very tidy too and completely implausible but it’s a B Summer movie with great action and fun characters so you go with it.

In any case, for whatever reason, I didn’t buy it at 21 but really enjoyed it at 33.  Maybe I’m not the same person I was back then?  Go figure!

But seriously, give this movie another shot.  Go out, rent it, and let me know what you think.  I bet a lot of you will be pleasantly surprised like I was!

Overall Grade- A-

It might be a little hard for kids under 7 to follow so keep that in mind.

Books Into Movies

I thought you guys might enjoy this. It is books I think would make a good movie (or a new version would be good). I think True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle would make a great Disney movie. I can’t figure out why that hasn’t been adapted.
What books do you think would make good movies?

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

Just thought I would share this video with you all of books I think would make good movies. Some of them were movies like The Chosen and Hiding Place but they could be much better movies or new versions.

I have also decided a cast I think would be good and director.

I think it turned out pretty well.  Have you read any of these?  What books do you think would make good movies?

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Movie 40: Emperor’s New Groove

emperors posterDo you think David Spade is funny?

Just like with Tarzan and Phil Collins,  it is easy to figure out if Emperor’s New Groove is a movie you will enjoy.  The lead character Kuzco is voiced by David Spade and if you think his brand of sarcastic humor is funny you will probably like the movie.  If not, this one can be a skip.

Luckily I do think he is funny, and I do enjoy this movie.

For some reason we are usually quick to dismiss comedies, whether animated or live action, as being less worthy of praise than dramas or musicals.  I’m not sure why this is because if anything making people laugh is harder than making them cry.  That’s at least my experience.  In writing for Nanowrimo the sections where I am trying to tell a joke are brutal and what I think is funny others don’t give a chuckle.  So I stand up for comedies, especially Disney comedies.

While Disney has comedy in most of its movies there are 5 I would classify as outright comedies-

1. Jungle Book

2. Robin Hood

3. Aladdin

4. Hercules

5. Emperor’s New Groove

Each of these comedies for me has strengths but as far as non-stop laughs I think Emperor’s New Groove is the best.  Jungle Book has great music, Robin Hood adds some adventure and dry wit, Hercules goes gospel, and Aladdin has the funniest single performance in Disney, but it feels like Emperor’s has a joke every 2 sentences and for me 99% of them make me laugh.  Therefore, it is a successful comedy.

I also appreciate the comedy is funny for adults and children.  It’s not like Shrek with innuendo and lewd humor.  Most of it is very sarcastic asides, oftentimes breaking the 4th wall (the characters talking to the audience).

The story is also cooky enough to also make laughter easy.  It’s all so ridiculous it puts us in a mood to laugh.  In fact, when I first heard about a Disney movie about a man being turned into a llama I thought it sounded so stupid, but then I saw it at my college theater and laughed a lot.  Such low expectations made it feel even better than it was but it has held up and still makes me laugh.

Production-

The production behind this movie is interesting.  They had originally assigned Roger Allers from The Lion King to direct a serious picture called The Kingdom of the Sun.  They hired Sting to write the songs and his wife made a documentary on the mess (not available I checked everywhere).

Delays kept happening and Michael Eisner was feeling the heat from McDonalds and other companies who were waiting for a movie.  He put the pressure on Allers to produce a film but it was still slow so Eisner asked writers Mark Dindal and Chris Williams to write a 2nd script just in case.

It got up to a year and change before the release date.  Sponsors were getting nervous so Eisner pulled the plug on Kingdom of the Sun, Allers quit and Dindal and Williams completely retooled their idea into what we see today.

Poor Sting was left with only 1 song in the credits. The only other song is sung by Tom Jones called Perfect World which is our intro to Kuzco.

The movie did fine at the box office but word of mouth has made it very popular.

There are celebrity voices just as in the Lion King including David Spade, John Goodman, Ertha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick, Jon Fielder

The animation really isn’t that special.  It is supposed to be an Incan world but just like with Hercules there is no attempt to be true to the time period or lore of the native people.  This is a comedy and it stands only upon its writing, which I liked.

The Story-

kuzco

The introduction is very good.  We see Kuzco as a llama in the rain telling us what a sad situation he is in.  He then begins to narrate the story in flashback starting with what a greedy pig he is (but in a comical way)

He’s so greedy in fact that he is going to build a summer home called Kuztopia on the site of a village where our hero, Pacha lives voiced by John Goodman.

kuzcotopia

He fires Yzma his ‘assistant’ and she grows angry and decides to poison him.  Yzma is a great villain voiced by Ertha Kitt.  Maybe not the most complex but very funny.  I love when they try to use a trap door and it ends up taking her to crocodiles ‘why do we have that lever.’

Unfortunately her poison plot doesn’t go as planned:

the-emperors-new-groove-32

Yzma has an assistant named Kronk who is hilarious.  He is a loveable buffoon who loves to cook and battles angels and devils on his shoulders (literally).   The writing for Kronk is consistently funny.

kronk squirrel kronk

Yzma tells Kronk to get rid of Kuzco but he puts him on Pacha’s wagon and figures he’s done for.

Pacha finds Kuzco as a llama and is reluctant to help him since he was so rude about the summer home, but being a good guy and hoping he can convince him to change his mind, Pacha rescues him in a very funny section of slapstick (it reminds me of Captain Hook and the crocodile scenes in Peter Pan).

Pacha is very caring towards Kuzco despite his continued bad attitude and rudeness (creating a lot of the humor).  For example, there’s a nice moment where Kuzco is cold and Pacha gives him his poncho for the night.

They end up making it back to a bridge and it breaks trapping Pacha.  To his horror Kuzco says he is not going to help him and that he is going to have him arrested once they get to the castle.  Pacha yells back ‘we shook hands’ calling back to an earlier conversation.  Then Kuzco trips and they both end up suspended and we get a funny scene with a nice message on trust and teamwork

On the other side of the bridge it is going to be 4 more days together so they end up at a diner in a very funny scene.  Yzma and Kronk are also at the diner but neither of them know it.  This is just classical physical comedy

Kuzco realizes Yzma tried to kill him and the llama was just a mistake and they find out Yzma and Kronk are at Pacha’s home.

Pacha’s family is one of the best family’s in all of Disney, and his wife is pregnant which is the first time a pregnant woman has been on an animated feature.  Go pregnant women! But seriously cool to show all types of women not just pretty adolescent girls.

pregnant pachas wifeThe kids are very funny locking Kronk and Yzma in the closet and give Pacha and Kuzco time to run away.

Finally they get to the castle and as they look for the potion Yzma is there and we get a great chase sequence that I think  is just as good if not better than the wizards duel in Sword in the Stone (still don’t get all the love for that movie) . They turn into all different shapes and sizes depending on the potion they drink.

the-emperors-new-groove-109

My favorite is probably when she turns into a cat and has a new voice:

In the end, Kuzco is changed back, Kronk is head of the junior chipmunks and Kuzcotopia is no longer built on Pacha’s village.  (Even that you get a good joke with a man Kuzco threw through a window saying ‘it wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time’.  That’s funny to imagine an old man frequently being thrown through windows)

Movie Review/Conclusion-

It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to know whether it is for you or not.  The tone and type of humor is obvious from the start and it either makes you laugh or it doesn’t.  For me, it does, and I think that is worthy of praise.

There is some nice messaging and I think the villain is pretty good but all that would be nothing if the jokes weren’t so consistently funny and so plentiful.

So give it a shot.  It’s humor your whole family can enjoy which is actually kind of rare.  Nothing inappropriate or offensive.  Just sarcastic, silly comedy.

The animation is on the Saturday morning level and it is probably on par with good Disney afternoon episodes of Ducktales or Tailspin in that department.

The voice acting is uniformly good and the Tom Jones number at the beginning is fun (if you have a boy who hates musicals this is a good one for him).

My score is going to seem high but it truly did make me laugh that much, and it is one I find myself wanting to rewatch again and again.

Overall Grade- A-

Disney Renaissance Best and Worse

DisneyRenaissance

So I recently finished reviewing the Disney Renaissance and I know how everyone loves lists, so I will do my best at ranking these films (and I will try to not have everything be Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid.

Best Villain-

Gold- Ursula

Silver- Scar

Bronze- Gaston

Best Artistry-

Gold- Tarzan

Silver- Beauty and the Beast

Bronze- Hunchback of Notre Dame

Favorite Lead Character/Hero-

Gold-  Belle

Silver- Mulan

Bronze- Ariel

Favorite Side Character-

Gold- Genie

Silver- Sebastian

Bronze- Lumiere

Even More Minor Characters-

Gold- Wilbur, Rescuers Down Under

Silver- Mushu

Bronze- Zazu

Best Vocal Performance-

Gold- Robin Williams, Aladdin

Silver- Samuel Wright, Little Mermaid

Bronze- Pat Carroll, Little Mermaid

Honorable Mention- John Candy, Rescuers Down Under

Best Original Score-

Gold- Lion King, Hans Zimmer

Silver- Rescuers Down Under, Bruce Broughton

Bronze- Little Mermaid, Alan Menken

Best Song- (this is tough)

Gold-Part of Your World- Menken and Ashman

Silver- Be Our Guest- Menken and Ashman

Bronze-Friend Like Me- Menken and Ashman

Honorable Mentions- Out There (Menken and Schwartz),  Under the Sea (Menken and Ashman), A Star is Born (Menken and Zippel), You’ll Be in My Heart (Phil Collins), Reflection (Wilder and Zippel)

Best Villain Song-

Gold- Poor Unfortunate Souls, Menken and Ashman

Silver- Be Prepared, Elton John and Tim Rice

Bronze- Savages, Menken and Schwartz

Honorable Mentions- Gaston (Menken and Ashman),

Worst Villain-

Gold- Radcliffe

Silver- Clayton

Bronze- Shan-yu

Saddest Moment-

Gold- Mufasa’s death

Silver- Quasimodo getting mocked and tied up by gypsies

Bronze- Beast dies

Best Comedy-

Gold- Aladdin

Silver- Hercules

Bronze- Rescuers Down Under (not a comedy but the funny moments were so funny)

Scariest Moment-

Gold- Mcleach and the knife throwing, Rescuers Down Under

Silver- Mob Song, Beauty and the Beast

Couldn’t think of anything else scary in Renaissance.  That’s strange.

Cringe-worthy Moment

Gold- Burning down house with family in it, Hunchback

Silver- Hellfire, rape and murder song, Hunchback

Bronze- Pocahontas teaching John Smith about how gold is stupid, Pocahontas

Honorable Mention- Basically all of Pocahontas except Savages number

Underrated

Gold-  Rescuers Down Under

Silver- Mulan

Bronze- Hercules

Most Romantic Moment-

Gold- Belle and Beast dancing

Silver- Kiss the Girl

Bronze- Jasmine and Aladdin kiss

Grand Champions-

Worst- Pocahontas

Best- Beauty and the Beast

Co-Best- Little Mermaid (I love both so much!)

 

I just finished reviewing Dinosaur (oh my…) and here’s how we currently stand rating-wise

A+  we have 6 B+   we have 4 C+   we have 2 D       we have 3
A     we have 9 B      we have 1 C      we have 3 D-      we have 3
A-    we have 2 B-     we have 1 C-     we have 3 F        we have 1

 

What are your favorites from the Renaissance?  Please share.

Thank you to everyone for your comments.  We might not always agree but I enjoying conversing with all of you!

 

Movie 39: Dinosaur

dinosaur posterI knew it would happen.  Eventually a movie would get the dreaded F.  Even a movie that I really didn’t enjoy like Three Cabelleros or The Aristocats I still found things I liked.  Literally the only thing I liked in Dinosaur, Disney’s 39th animated classic, is the music by James Newton Howard.   Everything else really sucks.

Production-

Dinosaur is directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton and it was the first movie for Disney to use all CGI.  At the time it cost $100  million to make and Disney said in the screening kit  “The visual effects will make it an instant classic”

Boy have they not held up.  I hate CGI and these dinosaurs look particularly bad. Honestly they look like their plastic toys from Mcdonalds

Here’s the toy-

mcdaladar1760Here’s the dinosaur from the film-

twidh_0518_dinosaur_500

Take out the backdrop they look the same. In fact I actually think the toy looks better…

The velociraptors look so bad.  It boggles the mind.

valocaraptor
That’s an actual screenshot from the movie. That’s how bad it looks.

VelociraptorsJust as a comparison the velociraptors in Jurassic Park made 7 years earlier in 1993.  It looks so much better-

jurrasic park
Jurassic Park had way better dinosaurs 7 years earlier than this film

Just like Jurassic park there are backgrounds that are real, which is cool at the beginning when it is lush and pretty.  The first 5 minutes was shown in the trailer and it is beautiful if you take out the CGI dinosaurs

The Story-

So the visuals, which were supposed to make it so special, have not held up.  How about the story?

Unfortunately I saw little to like about that either.  It starts out a lot like Tarzan with a Carnotaurus (why not just do  a T-rex. That’s what we all know as the villain of the dinosaurs…) kills a herd of dinosaurs.  An egg is saved and taken by a bird dinosaur (I don’t know all the names sorry!) to an island and it is found by lemurs (although the film refers to them as monkeys).

These lemurs look fine in a photo but the way they move in the movie feels so choppy- like the monkeys in Indiana Jones 4 that look so bad.  It’s kind of amazing when you think about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which blew me away in creating realistic apes.  How far we’ve come (I realize motion capture isn’t exactly the same but still the computer fur and movement looks so much better).

lemursJust like Kala in Tarzan a nice female lemur named Plio decides to raise the baby dinosaur (why not have the male raise the baby dino and the mother resist?  That would be new and different just anything other than the tired story we get). We even get the baby urinating on the male.  Like a bad sitcom with dinosaurs (actually there was a sitcom with dinosaurs and it was much better than this!)

There are friend monkeys just like Tarzan’s friends and one is called Zini and he is unlucky in love but he thinks he’s a smooth talker- never seen that before…

Various things happen and then we get a giant meteor shower that destroys the jungle.  Even this scene looks awful.  The characters look washed out, the explosion looks fake.  Like I said, the music is only thing I like.

So with the land now desolate and ugly they start searching for a new home and find on the other side of the ocean a herd of dinosaurs like Aladar.  You would think when you come across your own species as a dinosaur and you’ve been living with monkeys you’d be pretty excited but not so much.

In the herd we get every cliche.  There’s the love interest, jerk, crony,  wise talker, and everything else.  The big conflict for the rest of the movie is to find the nesting grounds.

dessert

As they march the leader Kron refuses to wait for the weaker dinosaurs.  He’s a Darwinist and believes ‘only the strong prevail and the weaker should be left to die’.  At first I thought this was a joke from the filmmakers.  I mean really?  A movie about dinosaurs is going to tackle Darwinism?

The whole species is basically killed by the sun…

Wouldn’t it make sense to keep the herd strong with as many as possible and not just kill off the weak?  They constantly show these predators out there,  and I think if there was a thinning herd that is good for nobody but this movie isn’t smart enough for that.

And it is all handled in such a preachy and stupid way it really doesn’t matter. Kron is bad.  Aladar is good.  People are thirsty.  They stomp their foot and find water (no joke) and the carotaurus appears sporadically and radically changes sizes throughout the movie.  At one point he is as big as a velociraptor, at others as tall as high mountains.

Part of the problem too is the dinosaurs show no emotion on their faces.  They look exactly the same when they are happy, sad, angry, and everything else and they don’t really have any arms to show emotions.  It makes t all very stale.

The writing is also laughably bad.  I tweeted that Michael Bay and George Lucas must have secretly wrote this script because it sure seems like their type of movie.  We get line stale lines like these:

“What’s happening?”

“My brother’s moving the herd”

“If you ever interfere I will kill you”

“stay away from him”

“Aladar, no.  Just go”

“What’s with you?  At least I know to get out of the rain”

What was this written by 5 year olds at a script convention? Every line explained the obvious like that.  We see he is moving the herd! It’s the twilight school of dinosaur script writing…

Eventually they get to the nesting grounds.  The carotaurus eats Kron and that’s it. 82 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

This movie sucks.  If you like it great. I don’t get it.  It looks awful.  Almost unwatchable.  The story is stupid and plodding.  The script is laughably bad.

The voice work is fine and the score is very good.

That’s it.

Overall Grade- F

Movie 38: Fantasia 2000

Fantasia2000_Poster“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'”

It seemed appropriate to start this review with those words because this could have been great.  Indeed it has moments of greatness but Fantasia 2000 certainly didn’t work for me.

Out of 38 films I’ve only given 6 A+ so far  (and 6 D’s, 17 A’s so all you that think I’m too harsh please!).  Those 6 are: Fantasia, Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast.  All 6 I would not change in any way.  To me they are perfect.

Yeah, I know.  I know.  You out there think the original Fantasia is boring.  I’ve heard it a million times.  Those of you who find it boring would you also find going to a classical music symphony orchestra for the night boring? It’s ok.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I love it.

What made the first one special is it was a concert.  It took itself very seriously as a concert.  But then you got these amazing images to go with the concert as almost like a bonus.  So instead of putting out $150 to go to a gallery opening and a symphony you could pop in Fantasia and enjoy both (well, go to the movies back then but still it was cheaper and easier than a symphony and museum).

That’s what I think most people get wrong with Fantasia.  They approach it as a movie, but it’s not really.  It’s a concert performance art piece, and as an adult it blows me away.

Now we get to the problem of Fantasia 2000.  It’s a clip show not a concert.  Everything from the laughably short segments, to the celebrity introductions, to the less than iconic music choices, make it feel like a clip show not a classical music experience.

This would be ok I guess if the animation was great.  Unfortunately with the exception of 2 segments it falls woefully short (well 3 if you count replay of Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

The main problem is the reliance on CGI and at this point the technology just doesn’t hold up.  Everything looks like plastic instead of art, and I did not feel creatively inspired or challenged by it at all.

Sigh…

By the way, the original is 2 hours which I recommend people divide up.  If length is the only barrier than watch a segment a day!

Fantasia 2000, on the other hand,  is technically 75 minutes but if you take out the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the lame celebrity introductions it is well under an hour, which again makes it feel less of a concert experience and more of a 1 hour television show on Disney channel.

So, let’s talk about the segments:

1. Beethoven’s 5th-

This is probably trying to pay homage to the Toccata in Fugue of the original where we see animated lines and shapes.  Here we get paper butterflies dancing around.

beethoven 5th

This segment is fine but it is frustrating because Beethoven’s 5th is one of the most iconic songs ever written and I find it amazing they couldn’t think of anything darker, more foreboding than triangles flying around. It doesn’t expand upon the music or give me something exciting.

Beethoven’s 5th would have been great for a On Bald Mountain-like sequence with thunder and lightning.  It’s so menacing there are a million ways they could have gone but triangles?  It doesn’t make sense to me.

steve martinThen we get the first of our celebrity introductions.  With the exception of Quincy Jones these are all lame, usually joking and making terrible puns.  This again adds to the clip show feel and takes away from the concert environment. Honestly just fast forward through them, especially  Pen and Teller introducing The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (ridiculous.  Show’s they were treating this like a lark and not a serious work of art).

Pen and Teller introducing Walt's masterpiece with a bunch of lame jokes  Geesh...
Pen and Teller introducing Walt’s masterpiece with a bunch of lame jokes Geesh…

I’m going to ignore those for the rest of the review but for the record we get Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Bette Midler, Penn and Teller, James Earl Jones, Quincy Jones, and Angela Lansbury.

2.  Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi-

This segment is frustrating because it is a clever concept with some beautiful images but then the whales begin to fly and the cgi also takes flight.  It looks like plastic whale figures not art. The music is pretty but I just didn’t like the look of the whales.

whales2
You can’t really tell in this picture but when they move around it looks like plastic.

3. Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin-

Done in the style of Al Hirschfield’s caricatures with Gershwin’s music (think United Airlines theme song!) is by far the best segment of the movie.  It is artistic. and interesting to look at.  The music is well performed and I enjoyed it.

It tells the story of a day in the life of New York City and moves from one vignette to another.

rhapsody+in+blue+fantasia

It is also seems to me to be the longest segment which is a good thing since it is the best.  I couldn’t find a complete clip but here’s some of the best parts:

4. Piano Concerto No 2 in F Major- I. Allegro by Dmitri Shostak- 

I really don’t understand their music choices.  Why not do Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi?  Classical music with real heft to it.  Most of these songs I had never heard of before.

This segment tells a story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier and it is basically about a one-legged toy soldier, a mean jack-in-the-box and a ballerina.

balleterina and soldier

It would be fine but the CGI looks terrible, especially on the Jack in the Box.  These kind of special effects just haven’t aged well and the story is not interesting enough to overcome the bad look.  Either way it certainly isn’t art like the original.

jack in the box5. Carnival of the Animals Finale by Camille Saint Saens-

Another piece of music I had never heard of and this segment is incredibly short.  I swear it was under 5 minutes.

It is about a flamingo and a yo-yo .

flamingo2

It is in obvious homage to the hippo ballerinas but the thing about them is they didn’t know they were funny.  They were hippos dancing taking it completely seriously.  That made it funny and amusing.

hippos fantasiaIt was also set to a ballet by Ponchielli called ‘Dance of the Hours’ making a ballet make sense it just happened to be with hippos.

The carnival is just a piece of classical music, not a ballet so it is music with a flamingo and a yo-yo (why not do something with Yo-yo Ma?  That would have been funny?)

6. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas-

Biggest mistake they made in this movie was including the iconic Sorcerer’s Apprentice piece from the original.  It showcases the artistic and musical weakness of the pieces we’ve been watching.

sorcerer3Every beat of this segment is timed perfectly with the music . It all makes sense and is filled with beautiful imagery of bubbles, shadows and brooms.  For 12 minutes I was transfixed.

7. Pomp and Circumstance- Marches 1,2, 3-

Now after seeing Mickey it will be great to see Donald in a piece, right?  Well, kind of.  This segment isn’t awful but it isn’t the Sorcerer’s Apprentice either.

Pomp and Circumstance is like the wedding march, so associated with an event, graduation, that it is distracting to hear it accompanying anything else.  It’s kind of like if you heard the melody for Jingle Bells as a country song.  It just feels weird.

noah

For some reason they decide to use the music to tell the story of Noah’s Ark with Donald Duck as Noah.  This is a strange choice because Donald is an animal and the whole story is about animals going on the boat.  Why is Donald the only animal that wears clothes? In fact, at the beginning Donald is naked on a hammock and he is embarrassed.  Why aren’t the other animals embarrassed?  I know I’m overthinking it but it was distracting from what little art was in the piece.
There is even a scene where Donald see’s 2 regular looking ducks getting on the Ark.  Isn’t that so strange?

noah and ducksWe get an attempt at humor (so many lame jokes in this movie.  It’s a concert not a comedy club!!!). with the animals that didn’t make it on the ark.

dragons Donald gets separated from Daisy on the ark.  (They are the only animals that appear to talk although we never hear their voices which isn’t that one of Donald’s charms?)

They get reunited and our scene is over.

Fantasia 2000 Donald and Daisy Duck

I do like the light of the piece but not enough to think of it as art.  Not enough to be blown away and inspired creatively.

8.  Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky-

This is the other strong segment along with Rhapsody in Blue.  It is a nice homage to the original that used Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring for the creation story (love that segment!).

Kind of like a combination of On Bald Mountain and the Nutcracker Suite in the original it tells the story of a Sprite who is waking up the world from Winter (like the fairies in the Suite of the original).

She is beautifully drawn. spring spirit

As she is waking up the earth she comes across a boulder that will not respond to her.  She blows on it and inadvertantly wakes up the Firebird which is the spirit of the volcano.

If anything this segment is not long enough but it is lovely and comes closest to capturing the spirit of the original.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

Originally Walt Disney wanted Fantasia to be a regular event with animators presenting concert films like they did documentaries and other features.  Unfortunately the original did not make enough money so it was never attempted until Fantasia 2000.

What amazes me is why make such a half-hearted effort when you finally do decide to make the sequel?  Why have all the celebrities making stupid jokes?  Why do so much on the computer with CGI?  Were they just so in love with the technology they couldn’t see its lazy look?

Why pick the music they picked when they could have been so much more epic?  Why make everything light  when you could have a mixture like a good concert should have?  I mean they had Beethoven’s 5th for crying out loud!

I just wish they had taken the concert idea more seriously.  Instead we got a clip show with mostly mediocre results.

And if you are going to be mediocre don’t remind us of the greatness in the middle with the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  That just made it all worse.

Like I said I like Rhapsody in Blue and Firebird.  The rest I could live without.

Overall Grade- D

Disney 2000-2009

2000sSo now we are starting the part of this project I am probably looking forward to the least- the Disney 2000s.  To be honest, if I could just watch 12 Pixar movies instead I would be a lot more pumped but I promised to go into the project open minded and I will do so with each of these films.

In fact, most of them aside from Emperor’s New Groove, I either haven’t seen or haven’t seen in a long time.  So I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised kind of like I was with Rescuers Down Under.  Hopefully I will find a hidden gem.

So, I am curious, my wonderful readers, which one (or more) out of these 12 do you like and why?  Get me pumped!  Which is your least favorite?  I promise I will not let your likes or dislikes affect my view of the films so don’t worry about that.  Just share in the comments or message me on facebook or twitter at @smilingldsgirl.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Movie 37: Tarzan

posterSo do you like Phil Collins?

I ask because in the end enjoyment of Tarzan will radically lie whether you like Phil Collins or not.  Also, if you aren’t a big fan of The Lion King style of movie,  I don’t know if you will like Tarzan.

I, however, am a fan of both, so I do like it.  It isn’t perfect but there is a lot to like in Tarzan.

Production-

Released in 1999 it marked the end of the Disney Renaissance and the last film to make a lot of money before the slump of the 2000s (it’s going to be interesting reviewing the next decade).

Directed by Disney  regular Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, Tarzan is adapted from the movie adaptations and novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and the Apes.

It’s actually the only Tarzan movie I’ve ever seen so I can’t tell you how close it is to any other version.

TARZANFirst of all, the whole movie looks gorgeous.   Tarzan kind of surfs on the trees and the backgrounds zoom in and out and are so lush .  The water scenes look stunning.  If I was just going on visuals it would get an A++++.  I could turn off the sound and just watch it and be entertained.

To create some of the look they actually created a new technology called Deep Canvas which allows 3D painting and you can tell.  It looks great!

The reason why I said it reminded me of the Lion King is they are both very pop influenced films.  We even get the hook structure of pop music from the dramatic beginning with a bold title card just like Lion King.  All of the 5 songs Phil Collins wrote have a pop feel where Lion King did have Be Prepared, which was a little different.

Tarzan also has the comedic song/side characters, Terk and Tanto, which may as well be carbon copies of Timon and Pumba.

Incidentally, Tarzan was made into a Broadway musical and it was considered a big flop, but I actually prefer the music they added and the way the songs are sung by the characters not background.

The Story-

The story is pretty predictable but it is engagingly told.  We start out with our dramatic beginning showing us how Tarzan is adopted by the apes.  This might be a little scary for young kids under 5.

You either get hooked in with this intro or you don’t.  You either like Phil Collins singing or you don’t.  I’m always hooked.  I think it is pretty engrossing.

So Tarzan gets adopted by Kala voiced by Glen Close (another similarity to The Lion King lots of celebrity voices who don’t have to sing much).

mom

Kala rescues Tarzan but her mate Kerchak does not like the idea of having the ‘man cub’ (to use the Jungle Book) in the herd. So, he is hostile towards Tarzan from the beginning.

As Tarzan begins to cry Kala  sings the best song of the movie and my favorite lullaby- You’ll Be in my Heart.  If I am rocking one of my nieces it is the perfect song.  I LOVE it!

I actually prefer the Broadway version with the mother singing it the whole way so here it is:

We then get a bunch of  middling scenes with Tarzan feeling excluded and having a hard time making friends.  Eventually he makes 2 friends (the Timon and Pumba stand ins)

tarzan-tantor-terk

He grows up and there is a song called Son of Man. My Mother hated the song because son of man is a title of Christ, and she felt it was sacrilege for a pop song to have the same name as the Lord. (We got into the biggest fight one time over it.  Sigh…)

Terk, his guerrilla friend was voiced by then talk queen Rosie O’Donnell and it is not my favorite vocal.  She kind of grates on me.

Eventually Tarzan hears a sound and follows it to find a woman running in distress, being chased by monkeys.

damsel in distress

Some people will no doubt groan at the Jame, damsel in distress, trope but I don’t mind it here.  She’s strong in other ways and I don’t think every female character has to be strong.  They just have to have a personality of some kind (that’s what drives me crazy in Bella.  She’s damsel in distress and no personality).

Plus, I am a mess in the outdoors and an animalphobe so if I was being chased by monkeys I would be screaming louder than Jane so I guess I relate.

I had a really hard time finding clips for this movie for some reason but I do like the encounter of Jane and Tarzan first meeting.  It is very well done.

This is the first movie I can recall where Disney uses the big eyes common in Japanese animation such as Studio Ghibli.  Some people don’t like the large eyes but it doesn’t bother me.

Jane is in the Jungle with her father and their guide Clayton to try and study the guerrillas.  Clayton is a snooze of a villain who like Radcliffe in Pocahontas is only there for the GOLD! Greed is only on his mind in the form of guerrillas to sell for money!

tarzan-jane-green-skirt

Unlike Pocahontas who teaches John Smith her ways, Jane teaches Tarzan her ways which was very well done and then Tarzan shows Jane his world.  I really like the chemistry between Jane and Tarzan.   I liked that neither was stupid or patronizing.  They seemed sincerely interested in each other and their views. Minnie Driver is very good as Jane’s voice .

i-can-see-there-s-so-much-to-learn birdsWe also get a song sung by Terk called Trashing the Camp which is basically the Hakuna Matata of the movie and it’s ok.  I’m sure little kids love it.

Eventually the time for Jane to leave comes and Tarzan realizes he doesn’t want her to go.  Clayton convinces him if he shows them the guerrillas Jane might stay.  Kerchak has forbidden this for the safety of the herd.

Tarzan decides to anyway and at first it goes well.   It’s just beautiful!

meeting apes

But Kerchak comes and is enraged at Tarzan for betraying their home.  They fight and Tarzan leaves.  It is then that Kala takes Tarzan to the tree-house where she found him.  He learns who he is and decides to wear his father’s clothes and go with Jane and since Kerchak has forced him out what choice does he have?

The day of departure comes and they get on the ship only to find Clayton and all his men roping  everyone up and going to get the guerrillas to sell.

Terk and  Tantor help free Tarzan and the gang and they get back to help the herd and there is a great final battle with one of the gnarliest villain deaths in Disney history.  It is maybe too intense for little children to see a man hang himself? I don’t know.

Our ending with Jane and Tarzan ending up together in the jungle is predictable but I think done very well.  I liked it.

Movie Review-

I own this movie on blu-ray because it is so beautiful to watch, and I don’t mind the music, so I really enjoy it.  The vocal performances are good and I think Tarzan and Jane have nice chemistry and are a believable couple.

The comedic characters don’t work as well for me, but they aren’t terrible, and the villain is super one-note, but I still think it is a very satisfying picture.

I love You’ll Be in My Heart and like I said I just love watching him fly through those trees.  It’s stunning.

Overall Grade- B