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The Land Before Time

Time has rendered this film only more awe-inspiring
I had very fond memories of watching "The Land Before Time" - well over 20 years ago. It was a very simple, easy to follow, and very subtly a teaching moment type of movie. Of course, being a child of around 6 years of age at its release, the teaching moment was simply "DINOSAURS! COOOOL!!"

Fast forward a couple of decades. Having scrolled through a vast online movie depository - come on, does it matter which one? - the title "The Land Before Time" triggers a memory. "D-D-D-D-DAAANGEE- E-E-RRRR!" Hmm. My kids are at school - I say let's board the bus and go hit up memory lane!

Two days later, after having watched it twice myself, once with my two kids - twice - I started deeply analyzing why this had struck such a chord. I could find absolutely nothing I disliked, nothing that my adult sensibilities would have outgrown. The characters were as innocent, innovative and wily as I had found them to be so long ago. The animation is lively, seamless and warm. The painted backgrounds are vivid, colorful and primal. The score serves to solidify the personalities, the predicaments and the victories of the characters that it is underpinning. The voice acting, especially the youngest of the cast, is heartfelt, brought to life by talented children who, by all accounts, loved their involvement in the production.

The combination of Bluth, Goldman, Pomeroy, Spielberg, Lucas and Horner at the helm produced a beloved, classic and timeless movie that nearly 30 years of age has done absolutely nothing to tarnish. No wonder, then, that it was the highest grossing animated film of the, well, time!

My children are fond this movie, sure...but I like to think that I found a conduit to my own happy childhood memories, amplified when my kids come in close and accompany me on that memory lane field trip. At this rate, they might tire of "The Land Before Time" sooner than their father. It's a chance I'm willing to take!

"The Land Before Time" gets 10 of 10 stars.

Toy Story 3

How in the world did Pixar make adults CRY over TOYS??!
The best magic tricks in the world are ones that cannot be unraveled, reverse engineered or dissected to figure out exactly how they are pulled off. This philosophy is doubly applicable to Pixar's "Toy Story 3", the storyline-ending outro of the beloved Toy Story, uh, story.

I feel it relevant somehow to divulge my age, as it somehow validates the powerful emotions evoked throughout the film. I am a 28 year old male, who, fifteen years ago, was fresh into the teen years of supposed adolescence at the release of some weird, 3d animated movie (wait, they can animate with computers?) entitled "Toy Story". This was a pretty bold move, a calculated stroll to the edge of the cliff and a daring leap off into the thin air of creativity and innovation. And it was a hit, ensuring 3d animation a place right alongside (more or less) 2d animation. And naturally, Pixar would be at the forefront, leading the cavalry charge of digital animation ranging from great to gawd-awful.

"Toy Story 3" starts off as comfortably as possible, with our friends Woody and Buzz Lightyear doing what they do the best...playing with Andy in his world of make-believe adventure. We are then treated to some familiar Pixar progression, like abandonment, solidarity, coming back to friends, and the passing of the torch. Clearly, in the eleven years between this point and when "Toy Story 2" wrapped, a computer revolution or four has occurred, allowing a world of unsurpassed clarity, reality and imagination to shine through like never before. TS1's spark is TS2's candle, and that in turn is TS3's blazing sun.

Roll the last fifteen minutes of film. It became clearly obvious that the figurative tables have been turned, because a good number of the adults in the audience (including myself) were sniffling and teary-eyed, while the kids were looking up, likely thinking "jeez mom and dad, they're just toys, get over it".

Wasn't it conventional wisdom that just the kids get emotional over losing plastic playthings? With "Toy Story 3", Pixar has shown us one of the greatest magic tricks in modern showbiz history, likely not to be outdone or duplicated, that we all have very real and deep connections to our childhoods and to the things and people that allowed us as kids to be free, and innocent, and pure, and most importantly, to dream. This, to me, is a life lesson worth remembering, to infinity and beyond.

"Toy Story 3" gets 10 of 10 blazing stars

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

The video game series sets the precident for the movie
It isn't often that a video game is so vivid, so enveloping, that it is looked on as a possible movie franchise on all those merits. Usually, just the action (Doom, Final Fantasy), or just the body (Lara Croft...Tomb Raider) or just some other one aspect makes for a great game, but an underwhelming movie. I had the pleasure of watching this movie in an early screening on Monday night, and it is definitely a step above and beyond the aforementioned videogames-turned-movies.

The hallmark from the very beginning of the Prince of Persia franchise (a primitive DOS programmed, side-scrolling adventure through a castle to rescue a locked-up princess) was not only having a great story, but telling it in such a way to keep the player in that world. This film, surprisingly enough, doesn't play out quite as closely to the video games as I had expected. Still, without spoiling either the games or this movie, I can say that it shows Jordan Mechner had full involvement in the movie. Many storytelling elements present in the "Prince of Peria: The Sands of Time" video game can be found here, and made for a very entertaining romp through the vast lands of Persia.

I would say that my main gripe is the under-use of parkour, the running/fighting style the Prince deploys in the video games. This is a hard gripe to substantiate though, because of how difficult parkour is to execute, let alone master, nonetheless I had expected something resembling the wall-running, banner-ripping moves seen in the "Sands of Time" video game trilogy. It's harder still to be too down on a little parkour, due to Disney's desire that this film would be the first in a Prince of Persia movie franchise, equal to or greater than the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise. Therefore, I await with anticipation the creativity that more parkour would bring to the stories this most agile Prince can tell.

"Prince of Peria: The Sands of Time" gets 8 of 10 stars.

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