'Eight Below' will warm your heart. (may contain spoilers)
I saw a sneak preview of 'Eight Below' tonight. I hear that it's based on/suggested by another film, 'Nankyoku Monogatari.' As I have not seen that film, I can't make any comparisons. What I can say is that 'Eight Below' is one beautifully-done movie.
When I saw director Frank Marshall's name attached, I wondered if this movie would be 'Alive' with dogs. In a way, it is; both films deal with groups that get stranded in the ice-cold middle of nowhere for an extended period of time and have to survive on their own. The difference is that the dogs are left there instead of crash-landing. This movie is about a team of dogs who must survive on their own and a man, forced to leave them behind, who will stop at nothing to rescue them.
Marshall's direction is assured, Don Burgess's cinematography is beautiful, and Mark Isham delivers another wonderful music score. Jason Biggs brings some welcome comic relief in his scenes. But ultimately, the movie belongs to the dogs and Paul Walker. It's not necessarily that I don't like him, but most of Walker's movies just don't do anything for me. As far as I'm concerned, this is by far his best performance to date. He brings depth to a character who is very good at his job, hurt at having to leave his team behind, determined to go back and rescue them, and realizing that he may not like what he finds when he gets there. And the dogs are nothing less than MAGNIFICENT, truly a joy to watch every second they're on screen. You cannot help but feel for them, cheer for them and adore them.
I saw HOODWINKED over MLK weekend. I had actually NOT seen the trailers prior to this, but reading the reviews on sites such as this one and hearing that it was made for $15 million or so made me curious.
This movie is HILARIOUS!!!!! Animation-wise, I had read reviews stating that the animation was not up to par. The way I see it, comparing this movie to Pixar or PDI product is kind of like comparing Jay Ward cartoons to The Lion King or those classic Rankin-Bass specials to Corpse Bride/Nightmare Before Christmas. No, it isn't the highest-level animation, nor, I think, did it NEED to be. Like the Ward/RB stuff, I found the quality of animation (or lack thereof) to be part of the charm. What this film lacks in animation quality (which, by the way, I did not think was bad at all), it more than makes up for in its clever script, hilarious vocal performances (particularly Patrick Warburton as The Wolf, Glenn Close as Granny, Andy Dick as Boingo and director Cory Edwards as Twitchy) and great use of songs.
All I can say in the end is that whatever the trailer looked like, don't use it as a basis to judge this film. See it for yourself.
Oh, yes--MUCH praise must be lavished upon the filmmakers for daring to make a comedy with NO fart jokes, NO poop jokes and NO sexual innuendos--and, in the process, reminding us all that it can still be done.
This film is a perfect example of why I like DreamWorks Animation. Like its title character, they refuse to conform. Don't let the G rating fool you. Even with that rating, "Spirit" possesses a remarkable intelligence and treats the audience as such; it never talks down to the small fry. The horses do not talk or sing (and even Matt Damon's narration is used sparingly). This allows the audience to put 2 and 2 together, and the animators shine--this is the most remarkable horse animation I've ever seen. It also places a greater importance on the music. I've always felt Hans Zimmer's best scores were for animation, and this is the best of the best. His score blends seamlessly with Bryan Adams' songs, which complement the story beautifully. The CinemaScope frame is used to great effect, and the film looks so good you could pick any one frame of film, frame it and mount it on a wall. But more importantly than all of the above, after you see it you will be proud to be free and better yet, your own spirit will be uplifted.
Fox has had a hard time with animated features. ANASTASIA did moderately well; TITAN AE did not. But with ICE AGE, they may finally have their foot firmly in the door.
The animation: Okay, maybe Blue Sky won't dethrone Pixar or PDI anytime soon. But make no mistake, ICE AGE is a visual marvel still. It fits the story perfectly: alternately cartoonish and detailed when it needs to be. (It's not ALWAYS necessary to see every strand of hair on a creature's body.)
Voices and characters: One of the best things about the film. The characters are quite memorable, and the vocal performances are great. Others have objected to Ray Romano's performance as Manfred the mammoth, but I felt that his deadpan delivery was just right to portray the strong, yet emotionally wounded loner. Denis Leary makes Diego a cool cat, whether he's bad or good. But the best vocal performance goes to John Leguizamo, who is simply hilarious as Sid. He makes Sid immediately endearing rather than irritating.
And then there's Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel whose antics with an acorn open, close, and serve as the transitional elements of the film. He's a miniature Wile E. Coyote to his acorn's Road Runner. You know he's gonna get it, but you just gotta cheer for--and laugh at--the guy.
But the success of a film ultimately comes down to its script. The trailers make this film out to be hilarious, and it is. But what a nice surprise to find out there is more to it than mere comedy. It's a testament to the talents of director Chris Wedge and the writers that you will laugh hard one minute and have a tear in your eye the next. They also know when dialogue is not needed, which is commendable.
ICE AGE has the potential to be a big hit. It's got one of the best ad campaigns in years, no Disney competition on opening weekend, and on top of that, it has a solid story with endearing characters. I hope it will be a film for the ages.
I felt this film was kinda like Balto himself--a bit rough around the edges, but with a heart of gold underneath. I didn't care for Boris, Mu(c)k and Lu(c)k this time around, but Maurice LaMarche, Lacey Chabert and Mark Hamill were good as Balto, Aleu and Niju. However, the BEST piece of casting was David Carradine as Nava...he was WONDERFUL. The songs were generally well-done, and "Taking You Home" was beautiful. I really thought the ending of the movie was well-done: hopeful and leaving you with a satisfying feeling without being a traditional "happy ending."
So I have to say I still like the original a bit more, but this film was by no means a failure.
First of all, those of you who saw the talking dogs in the trailer and feared that this was going to be just another talking-animal movie can lay your fears to rest. The dogs talk only in ONE scene, and it's a dream sequence. The rest of the time, with the exception of a few shots where Demon gets a little help from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, the dogs are just dogs. And they are absolutely BEAUTIFUL creatures. You will love them the moment you set eyes on them.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is delightful to watch in this role, and proves himself to be a great comic actor as well as a dramatic one. James Coburn is also good as Thunder Jack, and the scenes where he and Gooding argue are fun. Those two work well together. M. Emmet Walsh and Sisqo are hilarious in their supporting roles, and it's nice to see Nichelle Nichols in a non-Star Trek setting.
Director Brian Levant and the screenwriters have included a lot of physical comedy, but it's FUNNY physical comedy, not gross-out physical comedy. And most of this is set against the Canadian wilderness (standing in for Alaska), beautifully photographed by Thomas Ackerman. Add to this a serviceable score by John Debney and you have a great film for all ages, Gooding and Coburn's funniest, and Levant's best.
I gotta say I enjoyed "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." You may say that this film isn't a "Shrek" or "Monsters, Inc." Of course not! Nor is it supposed to be. It's not always necessary to be so detailed as to show every strand of hair on a guy's head or anything. This film has a CARTOON look to go with a CARTOON plot. But that's not to say this film isn't still a visual knockout, because it is! The cast is excellent and hilarious, especially Rob Paulsen as Carl Wheezer. The soundtrack was good, with "We Got the Beat," "Kids in America," and others. And Goddard! The coolest character in the movie! Immediately after the film I wanted (and still want) a Goddard toy! Again, I found this film really enjoyable.
I knew this was going to be a good show, given the fact that Bruce Timm and the same team responsible for the WB/DC animated shows were doing it.
Even so, this show TOTALLY blows me away every time I watch it. EVERYTHING about it is dead on PERFECT. Kevin Conroy, as always, is great as Batman, as is George Newbern as Superman. Hawkgirl is a great addition, and boy can she hold her own!! But the character that has emerged as my favorite is J'onn J'onnz, aka Martian Manhunter. I love the character design and animation of him, and I don't think they could have gotten a better actor to voice him than Carl Lumbly (who played Stalker in a few episodes of Batman Beyond).
The composing team also does a great job with the music, and I REALLY hope that somewhere down the road, they release a CD of this music.
I'm absolutely delighted that Cartoon Network airs JL in letterbox format as well as full-frame. I, for one, prefer letterbox as it gives the show a more epic and cinematic feel.
Despite my limited knowledge of X-Men--or perhaps because of it--I love this show. The animation, voices and music are GREAT, and it is not from Japan (no offense to anime fans). I love how Nightcrawler and Beast look. And to those who said that characters like Beast were being ignored, the episode "Beast of Bayville" proves otherwise and also proves that the series is living up to its name and evolving, which takes time. I hope the evolution continues.
It seems that Genndy Tartakovsky was only getting warmed up with "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Powerpuff Girls". With those shows he proved he was a comic genius; with "Samurai Jack" he demonstrates that he is a genius, period. Every single aspect of the movie premiere is top-notch. Phil LaMarr is wonderful as Jack. James Venable's score beautifully captures the tone and has just the right mix of traditional Oriental and electronic sounds. I liked the fact that there did not seem to be any unnecessary dialogue (in fact several scenes--most notably the beginning--have almost no dialogue at all). The animation and backgrounds are very stylish and striking, and the filmmakers even allow the art to escape the confines of the square 1.33:1 TV ratio with some split-screen and widescreen shots used to great effect. It is my hope that the series continues to be as good as the premiere is. This will be on you "must-watch" list.
Disney hasn't made a movie like this since "Black Cauldron" 16 years ago, and I'm glad they finally decided to do it again. Sure there are a lot of plot holes. But the voice cast, especially Michael J. Fox, is right on the money, as it always is in Disney films. James Newton Howard, whose score for "Dinosaur" was one of the best things about that film, turns in another winner here, although I wish the mixers had turned it up a notch--it's a bit hard to hear in some places. Visually, this movie is a knockout. This is only the fourth traditionally animated film Disney has shot in the widescreen format. (The other three are Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and Black Cauldron. A Bug's Life was also shot widescreen, but that was CGI.) The expanded 2.35:1 aspect ratio greatly enhances the visual effects and Mike Mignola's character designs.
So basically, it's not groundbreaking cinema, but it's a nice way to spend an afternoon and a nice time at the movies.
"The Zeta Project" is one of my favorite TV shows--animated or otherwise--on the air right now, and is further proof that WB produces the best animated series of any other studio right now. Zeta has been featured in "Batman Beyond" before, but this series is a bit lighter in tone. But don't be deceived; action, humor and even a truly sincere moment here and there abound in "Zeta". As with all the WB's shows, there is nice animation, cool music, and a voice cast that is right on the money. "Zeta" is the most fun you can have watching a cartoon these days.
Take the best of Tex Avery and Jay Ward, throw in MARVELOUS performances by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow, mix in some SPECTACULAR computer animation, add some cool songs, a dash of crudeness, a pinch of Disney jabbing, and a touch of a sincere "don't judge a book by its cover" message, stir, sit back and enjoy.
I was fortunate enough to watch this film in its original CinemaScope format (THANK YOU, Fox Movie Channel!), and I'm glad I did. Jack Cardiff directed a TERRIFIC cast (Holden, Howard, Capucine, and Franklin) in this story about a mother who sends for her daughter's biological father when she fears that the daughter may be turning savage, the concern being reinforced by the fact that the girl's best friend is a full-grown lion with whom she has an EXTREMELY close friendship. The cast is terrific, especially Franklin, who is both irresistibly charming yet downright scary when she really taps into the African way of life. The direction, performances, Edward Scaife's beautiful widescreen cinematography of the African landscape and Malcolm Arnold's wonderful score make this film great.
Even the Pokemon-illiterate can enjoy this edge-of-your-seat adventure.
I'm at the point now where I can name the well-known Pokemon, but I still consider myself mostly Pokemon-illiterate. I never much cared for the TV show, and I don't play video games anymore. So why, you may ask, would I go to see the movies? Well, I confess that I love seeing animation on the big screen. I don't know if they spend more money or what, but animation to me almost always looks better on the big screen. I loved the first movie, didn't like the second. And now that I've seen the third, I gotta gay I love it, too.
The "Pikacu and Pichu" short is, just like its two predecessors, merely a showcase for more Pokemon. Didn't leave an impression. The feature, however, is great. Entei is now my second favorite character from these movies, second only to Mewtwo. Like Mewtwo, Entei has a reason for doing what he does, even if it is misguided. Also, he (again, like Mewtwo) is one of the reasons why you must experience this film in the best sound system possible, because his voice comes out of all the rear surround speakers. Ralph Schuckett does another good job with the musical score, and the two songs I heard I LIKED. I also liked the use of the little girl Molly and her imagination as the reason for the happenings, and the inclusion of Ash's mom, no doubt making this a more personal battle for Ash. Oh yes, the animation is quite nice (best of the three), and the action rarely lets up once it starts!
No doubt some will bash this simply because it is Pokemon, but all I can say is if you can get past "Pikachu and Pichu," TRY giving it a chance--even if you know nothing about Pokemon, you might still enjoy it. I sure did.
Like Scamp and his dad, this film is rough around the edges, but has a heart of gold underneath.
You know, it's getting to the point where Walt Disney Television Animation might just as well be called Walt Disney Sequel Animation. These sequels range from excellent ("Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas" and the fantastic "Lion King II: Simba's Pride") to horrible ("The Return of Jafar"). (This is, of course, my personal opinion.) Now Disney brings us their latest sequel. "Scamp's adventure," and while it is flawed, it is still entertaining.
The quality of animation is not up to par with Disney Feature Animation; still, the animators do a good job of bringing the characters to life. Lady and Tramp have not aged a day since 1955. Trusty still talks about his sense of smell and "Ol' Reliable," and Jock still gives him grief about it. There's a nice fight between Tramp and a huge dog in the dog pound, and once again we are treated to a spaghetti dinner with the two romantic leads (though it is highly doubtful that this will become a classic scene like its predecessor.)
I really don't care for most of the songs (though Roger Bart and Susan Egan--the singing voices of Scamp and Angel--sing their parts very nicely). Both Melissa Manchester and Norman Gimbel have done much better work in the past. Danny Troob's score is okay, but nothing memorable. And some of the junkyard gang seem like excess baggage; that is, they really don't do much.
The voice work, on the other hand, is quite good. While I don't like Jeff Bennett as the dogcatcher, he is very good as Tramp. Chazz Palminteri does a nice job as Buster, leader of the junkyard gang, and Alyssa Milano gives what may be her best performance as Angel. Then there is Scamp (who is the spitting image of his dad). He is voiced to PERFECTION by Scott Wolf. Wolf does a superb job of showing Scamp's wild streak and his soft side.
All in all, while "Scamp's Adventure" is flawed, it still makes for rather entertaining viewing. It is my hope, however, that Walt Disney Television Animation will turn their attention to more original material for their future releases.
If you're like me, when you saw that this movie was about the Lion of Oz, you immediately thought of Bert Lahr's performance in the 1939 film. And you thought you knew the character pretty well.
And you come to find out, there's more to him than you thought.
Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser have written two of my favorite animated films (the underrated films "Balto" and "Cats Don't Dance"), and once again, they do a nice job with the script here. Like I mentioned above, there's more to this Lion than you thought. They do a nice job of tying into the original story at the beginning and the very end, but the majority is brand new material. The voice cast (Dom DeLuise, Bob Goldthwait, Jane Horrocks, Tim Curry, et al) does a serviceable job, though I believe they have given better performances. The animation is good, and of higher quality than some direct-to-video productions I've seen.
The only things I did not care for were the songs by Michael and Patty Silversher. They have done much better work before (their theme song for Disney's "Tale Spin" has got to be the single most irresistibly catchy theme song ever). Here, the songs just really didn't seem to do much, and I didn't really care for the vocalists' performances much. (Dom DeLuise has done MUCH better singing before.)
But this film is called "Lion of Oz," after all, and fortunately the best aspect of the production is the title character (appropriately called--Lion.) The animation of him is very good, and Jason Priestley's performance is wonderful. I love the way he delivers his lines, especially the "asides." His performance is the best one.
In closing, "Lion of Oz" has a few flaws, but it still makes for enjoyable viewing.
A hilarious buddy film that just HAPPENS to be animated.
Now that "Emperor's New Groove" has arrived, I will forgive Disney for that bad film (IMO) that was "102 Dalmatians."
I thought this is one of Disney's best films in YEARS.
For starters, the voice cast is EXCELLENT. David Spade is sensational as Kuzco, the emperor-turned-llama. (Kuzco is a rarity for a Disney film: a main character that we're actually NOT supposed to like!) John Goodman is in Dan Conner mode (his character from TV's "Roseanne") as Pacha, the kind-hearted llama herder. Eartha Kitt is great as Yzma, and Patrick Warbuton steals the show as Kronk, Yzma's dimwitted henchman. Spade and Goodman are wonderful together, and they make a great buddy team. And that's essentially what the film is: a buddy film.
It should be said that there is no groundbreaking animation or Broadway showtunes in this film. And you know what? GREAT!!! Contrary to what some may believe, there is no Golden Rule that says all movies shalt have those two things in order to be entertaining. The animation is clean, vibrant and colorful; the opening song performed by Tom Jones is very catchy; and the story WORKS. But that is just what I was expecting from a movie directed by Mark Dindal, who also directed the wonderful, overlooked "Cats Don't Dance." Dindal injects "Groove" with the same energy level he did "Cats," and the results pop off the screen.
If you want groundbreaking animation and Broadway tunes, go put "Aladdin" back in the VCR. But if you want an entertaining film that will make adults laugh as much as--if not more than--kids, then shake your "Groove" thing over to see the "Emperor."
When this series first aired, I didn't give it a look; don't know why, it just didn't look that good. Now I watch it all the time! Yes, it might say something about my IQ level, but I like it. Dino Tyranno is my favorite character. Nice blend of CGI and cel animation.
Move over, Pokemon. You've had your day in the sun, and now it's time to make room for the REAL champions, DIGIMON. This movie has everything "Pokemon 2000" didn't. The animation, and the scenes of the Digimon inside the Internet in particular, is SPECTACULAR. Nice plot that fully reveals itself only at the end, and some hilarious dialogue. (The parents in the theater were laughing harder than their kids were.) It also has a good soundtrack, featuring music by Smash Mouth, Barenaked Ladies, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I'm not really sure why the MPAA gave this a "PG" rating when "Pokemon" got a "G", but that really doesn't matter. Fox did a good job with this one. It's an enjoyable film.
Face it, America: 1) Nobody makes monster movies like the Japanese; 2) Godzilla impostors just don't cut it; and 3) technically polished special effects alone do not an entertaining movie make. Emmerich & Devlin learned this the hard way. Fortunately, the real thing is back to remind us what a Godzilla movie should be--campy, yet downright irresistible.
If you hate the big guy, feel free to use your browser's "back" button right now.
I love Godzilla's new look. It restores a sense of "menace" that had previously been lacking. This plus the guy in a suit gives him something a CGI lizard couldn't dream of having--SOUL. ATTITUDE. And CHARM.
Yup, I said it--I find Godzilla charming.
Though the effects are not really polished (nor should they be), they are quite good for a Godzilla film. The "spaceship" is a bit reminiscent of the one in Disney's "Flight of the Navigator," and it wreaks havoc by first demolishing a skyscraper, a la ID4. (Note the Emmerich-Devlin connection here. Coincidence?) And Godzilla looks SO much better photographed in a 2.35:1 widescreen ratio! The King of the Monsters demands a king-sized screen. (And a king-sized surround system too.)
Why do I like Godzilla so much? His films are campy, but everyone from the audience to the filmmakers (especially the translators and dubbed actors) know it's camp. It's as if the films are in on the joke, but Godzilla manages to rise above it. Also, Godzilla is the only monster with the ability to play both hero and menace at the same time. He is actually neither hero nor menace, but rather a man-made force of nature. He can't help what he is, and he doesn't choose sides; it's just that if you get in his way or fire a missile at him, you just might get hurt. Yet when he faces a formidable opponent, you just can't help but root for the guy. At the end of the film, the female reporter asks why Godzilla always saves humanity despite our constant attempts to destroy him, to which the reply is 'maybe [the TOHO] Godzilla is a part of us.' I can't speak for others, but as for me--
If you want a great adventure series for the whole family that is not a cartoon, look no further than Animal Planet's excellent series "Call of the Wild." Buck, the canine hero of the Jack London novel, faces adventures in the town and surrounding area of Forty-Mile with his human friend Miles as well as John and Adoley Thornton. There is something for every taste here: action/adventure, drama, and a little humor and romance. Nick Mancuso (John) and Shane Meier (Miles) work well together, but the real chemistry is between Meier and Buck. Buck is fantastic! This series has everything going for it: well-written scripts, a nice cast, a nice music score, and GORGEOUS on-location photography that is nicely presented in a "matted" letterbox format. It is truly a breath of fresh air. Here's hoping many people will hear the call for a long time.
Ah, what a gem this was and still is! Sixteen years later, this series still has not lost its sparkle. This is due to the obvious care that was put into this production. Kudos to the animators for successfully animating a slew of WAY cool transforming robots (which, I am sure, is not very easy to do). Kudos to one of the best voice casts ever assembled for a production for bringing the characters wonderfully to life. (The cast list reads like a miniature "Who's Who" among voice artists.) Special thanks must go to Frank Welker, who brought Megatron (among other characters) wonderfully to life. And then, of course, there was the Autobot leader who became so beloved by kids everywhere that he rose to the status of genuine icon for many a child: OPTIMUS PRIME. Now, I liked "Beast Wars" and thought that Gary Chalk was good as Optimus Primal, but the one TRUE voice of the REAL Optimus Prime will ALWAYS belong to Peter Cullen. They could not have gotten (nor will ever get) a person so perfect for the role as him. He brought both gentle warmth and fearless commanding to Prime, and those traits are what made him last, in my opinion. Here's hoping the series will continue to do the same.
This film is not for kids, but rather for the kid in us.
It is so nice to see Bruce Willis come down off his action throne and let us see that he really is a talented actor. He shines in this film as the near-40-year-old image consultant who has totally lost touch with his inner child--until he meets him face to face. This is one of those rare films that doesn't talk down to its audience and truly offers something for the WHOLE family. It is about caring for each other, keeping some of the child inside you, and realizing that you don't grow up exactly the way you thought you would. Willis seems to be building an impressive track record for working with kids (just witness "The Sixth Sense" with Haley Joel Osment), and he has great chemistry with Spencer Breslin here. There is some nice photography and music, and the ending is wonderful and uplifting. A great film to see with EVERY member of your family.
Sorry, folks, "Mewtwo Strikes Back" was MUCH better!
I saw this because I liked MSB and I thought the trailer for this one looked cool. Sorry, people, but I was mostly disappointed.
"Pikachu's Rescue Vacation"--Its one redeeming quality was that at least there were no unnecessary shots of Pokemon against those weird backgrounds. Other than that, unmemorable.
"Power of One"--Granted, there were some nice climactic action scenes, but the story just did not gel for me. And while I know that Lawrence III (the 'collector') is supposed to be a one-dimensional villain (by that I mean totally consumed with greed), he just did not have enough presence on screen or plotwise for me to consider him a real threat; instead, he merely came off as a nuisance. Mewtwo, on the other hand, had plenty of screen time and let it be known that he was truly a force to be reckoned with. And the term "villain" could not be loosely applied with him. Yes, what he did was wrong, but his motive was one I can identify with: being angry because of circumstances beyond your control (in this case, his "birth"). He saw the error of his ways and decided to change. Mewtwo is still the most well-voiced (thanks to Philip Bartlett) and well-developed character in the Pokemon world.
Music--I didn't care too much for the songs I heard. The music score was good, but not as good as MSB. For people who complain about the "bubblegum pop" in MSB, hear me out: There are 16 songs on that soundtrack album. Unless I miscounted, only 8 appear in the film (and mostly over the title/end credits). Therefore, MOST of the "bubblegum" is on the soundtrack album, NOT IN THE FILM ITSELF!! And remember, the songs and the instrumental music score are TWO SEPARATE THINGS. The MSB score nailed the action and drama perfectly, more so than the second did.
I guess it's time for me to get off my soapbox now, but here is the final word: The best part of my "Pokemon 2000" moviegoing experience was seeing the entertaining trailers for Disney's "The Emperor's New Groove" and--some people may hate me for saying this--Fox's "Digimon: The Movie."