beccad90

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Reviews

Mr. Popper's Penguins
(2011)

Contrived, but still Charming
Before I begin, let me say this: I like Jim Carrey. I really do. In fact, I watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective back when I was a kid, and I still find it funny today. But, as with most actors and comedians, there is that little thing called shtick. Don't we all see a pattern when we see those familiar faces on the screen? In fact, it seems to generate the same kind of reaction: We become endeared to it at first, but then it gets real by the time the fourth or fifth movie rolls around. Will Ferrel, Adam Sandler and even Carey himself, are all the biggest 'offenders,' so to speak, in this day and age. But, for the sake of this interview, let's focus on the latter, and how this movie relates to his 'shtick.' The movie in question, if it wasn't obvious already, is Carey's latest venture, Mr. Popper's Penguins. Based loosely—the key word being 'loosely'—on the 1938 novel by Richard and Florence Atwater, "Penguins" tells the story of a work-obsessed businessman named Tom Popper, whose life is turned upside down when he inherits six penguins from his late explorer father. As is wont, his cold heart begins to melt by means of the flightless, cold-loving birds. In the meanwhile, he tries to evade suspicions of his bosses, a respected entrepreneur, and a brown-nosing zoo keeper while also rekindling his relationship with his estranged ex-wife and kids. And, yes, that's the plot in a nutshell. But, does that mean it's as mind-numbing as it sounds? No, my friends. It's not as bad as it seems.

First off, let's get the downside out of the way. The plot is thoroughly and shamelessly predictable. It is riddled with so many clichés, that I could sit there, predict every turn the movie was going to take and be right. Also, I sat there and counted six—yes, six—poop or fart jokes. There may have been a couple that I missed during a bathroom break, but I'm sure there were a couple more that I could have counted. I blush to admit it, but I do laugh at potty humor, but only when I don't expect it or it makes the movie actually funny. Again, predictability killed the mood for me.

However, for all its faults, it's more charming than repulsive. Carrey, though he is relying on his standard, over the top shtick, is not overshadowing those adorable penguins. But, aside from Carrey, his six co-stars, and his estranged family, there are two saving graces for this movie. Mr. Popper's secretary, Pippi (played by British actress Ophelia Lovibond) is a prim little poppet with a penchant for alliterating all her sentences with any and every word beginning with the letter P. She does grate a little bit, but she is still quite adorable. The other actress to show her face here is the great Angela Lansbury, who plays the owner of a restaurant that Popper used to eat at with his late father. It is so refreshing to see this woman on the silver screen again, especially for a girl who grew up with the likes of Beauty and the Beast and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (There's alliteration there, too, eh? Oh, darn this movie!). She still retains that grace and charm through all the forced dialogue and situations, and I applaud her for that.

Overall, my feelings for this movie can best be summed up by its summary on RottenTomatoes.com: "Bland, inoffensive, and thoroughly predictable, Mr. Popper's Penguins could have been worse…but it should have been better." But for all its faults, its charming, fun and completely harmless. It's probably best for kids, but animal lovers will love the cuddly penguins, and Carrey fans will like seeing their idol on screen. Give it a shot and decide for yourselves.

Rango
(2011)

Alternate Title: Existentialism by Salvador Dali
If you took Sam Peckinpah, Terry Gilliam, and Disney and put them all on Hunter S. Thompson's brainwaves, you would get Rango. Yes, this movie is as outrageous as it sounds. It's surreal, it's gritty, it's undoubtedly sneaky with its wit and humor, and its all the more fun because of it.

The film stars a chameleon (Johnny Depp), going through an existential crisis, as he has lived his whole life in a terrarium. When that life is quickly—and literally—shattered, he finds himself walking in search of water. Instead, he finds a town called Dirt, where all the residents are plagued by outlaws and a severe lack of water, which is used as currency, it's so rare. Rango, seeking acceptance, assumes the role of sheriff, a role that has been played before, but with more unfortunate results. To make matters worse, someone is dumping water in the desert and draining all of dirt's resources. Who could it be, what is their diabolical plan, and is Rango really the unlikely hero of his own story?

In case it wasn't obvious enough from this summary, the film's tone is surreal, complex and almost shockingly mature for an animated picture. It blends in so very many movie references, blending the gritty, revisionist western with the surrealism of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a too-obvious comparison on the latter's part. Director Gore Verbinski had a unique way of producing and directing this picture: he gathered Depp and all the other actors on a sound stage, in various costumes, acting out their scenes, as a sort of visual reference. Depp affectionately—and appropriately—called this 'Emotion capture,' as it gives the movie a more natural, organic feel, as if the reactions were believable. When it's put on screen, it's full realized in both interaction and appearance.

What most people have touched on when talking about the pros of this movie is, indeed, the stellar animation…and, boy, is it stellar. Granted, some of the human cameos are kind of on the flat side, but our animal heroes are textured and expressive, which is important in this kind of movie. We can reach out and touch these sets if we were able; the roughness of the scales, the harsh desert heat and the sponge and spikes of cacti that crop up throughout are just a few of the details in this grand visual experience. The characters that make up this floundering town are actually interesting to look at and listen to, as the animation and awesome voice work give them all distinct and likable personalities.

Resident include old prospector mouse Spoons, large, but quiet tomcat Elgin, morose, trigger happy little aye-aye Priscilla (Breslin), and, my favorite, the kind, but no-nonsense Beans (Fischer), a rancher lizard who finds herself falling for the goofy, but sincere hero. But, by far, the biggest fan favorite has to be Bill Nighy's rogue, Rattlesnake Jake, who is hands-down, flat-out scary in any scene he is in! How any kid will survive his scenes is beyond me! However, that made him more of a threat that Rango needs to overcome, which is more satisfying in the long run.

Overall, while Rango has a few glaring problems (like seeing the Spirit of the West, who had been built up too much to show his face and be effective), Rango is easily one of the best movies of the year, if not one of the best-animated movies. It's surreal, but rewarding; strange but still gets the message across in a reasonable way that all can understand. Just don't bring the under 7 crowd, as it may be too odd and definitely too scary (*coughRATTLESNAKEJAKEcough*), but for those who can tolerate it, Rango is a trip that you soon won't be forgetting, no matter how many times you watch "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

(I mean, you're already in a reptile house if you think about…Oh, never mind…)

Tangled
(2010)

"Solid, Humorous Story with a Fairy Tale Feel..."
When I heard that Disney was finally going to adapt the classic Grimm's fairy tale, Rapunzel, I was ecstatic. For as long as I can remember, I have been waiting for them to pick it up and put their own spin on it. The final product is the musical comedy Tangled, which, while not as edgy as I would have liked it to be, was still very enjoyable. The tale is kooky, funny, moving, uplifting, and—what else—Disney.

Directed by the co-directors of 2008's Bolt, Tangled is a twist on the traditional tale of Rapunzel, wherein the damsel (played by a sweet-n-spicy Mandy Moore) possesses magical hair, which is kept by the villainous Mother Gothel (played with malice by Donna Murphy) to maintain the latter's physical beauty. When a charming but irresponsible rogue thief named Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) seeks refuge in her tower, she sees this as her ticket out of there, and off to see the floating lanterns released every year on her birthday. These lanterns are released as a memorandum to a kidnapped princess that was stolen on that very same day. Coincidence? I think not.

What makes this movie work is the timing. The trailers tried to appeal way to much to the hip crowd, making it out to look like another floppy animated comedy. But, when I checked out the story, the characters and, finally, saw the movie itself, I realized it kept tighter to the traditional Disney formula of once upon a time and far away, but it was also giving off its own vibe, without trying to be something its not. The jokes all worked, for the most part, and helped tell the story instead of clogging it up with throwaway jokes, which I do appreciate.

The story also shows one of personal growth, especially that of Flynn Rider, whose story this really should have been. He starts off as an irresponsible thief, trying to find a shortcut out of sticky situations with his charm. On his journey with Rapunzel, he falls in love with her spirited nature and even gives his life to save her…but I won't give too much of that away. Donna Murphy's villainous Mother Gothel was also pleasantly over-the-top, but gradually became more threatening as the tale went on. Even though she is not Disney's strongest villainess, she still is a pretty fun one.

The art in this movie also helps tell the story, as well as makes everything look lush and colorful. Rapunzel's hair is one of the most awesome props in the movie, and makes it out to be something more than just looking pretty. It's used as a swing, a rope, a makeshift weapon —besides that darn frying pan—as well as a light and a healing device, which is activated by a special song. Everything else, the flowers, the foliage, water, characters, all look amazing, even if it is in computer animation. The most beautiful scene though, is when Rapunzel and Flynn watch the floating lanterns from the lagoon surrounding the palace. It was here that I started to get a little teary eyed…until the ending.

The only real problems with it were A) I would have liked to see it in traditional 2D animation and B) I would have liked Rapunzel to be a bit edgier (and a tad skeptical, but how WOULD you feel if you spend your whole life in a tower). However, as is, I think it's one of the best Disney films out there so far.

All in all, Tangled is a fantastic watch, with beautiful animation, a solid—as well as funny— storyline, and fantastic songs and voicework. While not as good as Dreamworks' earlier 2010 release, How to Train your Dragon, OR even 2009's The Princess and the Frog, it still holds up.

A Miser Brothers' Christmas
(2008)

Yep, They've Still Got It!
Finally, after 34 years, the brothers are BACK! Produced by Warner Brothers Animation, who hold the rights to the original Rankin/Bass classics, and Cuppa Coffee studios, this special turns the spotlight to the Misers, turning them into heroes. When Santa is outed with a bad back, the two brothers are forced to cooperate and deliver toys in the big man's place. While the Miser Brothers' mischief and constant bickering have been blamed for Mr. C's condition, this is truly the doing of the North Wind, a semi-dashing, conniving spirit who wants to take Christmas for himself. Now, the brothers must band together not only to do Santa's job, but save Christmas from their blustery windbag of a brother...pun GLADLY intended!

I must say I was ecstatic when I heard my favorite characters from The Year Without a Santa Claus would be getting the spotlight. While that is a good thing, I am kind of sad to say that it doesn't hold up as well as the original film from which they came. Granted there are some good things: George S. Irving and Mickey Rooney, both actors pushing 90 at the time, reprised their roles as Heat Miser and Santa Claus, respectively. Though sounding a bit aged, both held their own (Rooney and John Goodman have always been the best to portray The Big C, in my opinion), and that's pretty impressive. The new voice of Snow Miser, Juan Chiron, though different from the late Dick Shawn, was pretty darn good, maintaining Snowy's lighthearted demeanor. But, with every good thing, there must be a bad thing.

First of all, the plot is flimsy. We've seen it before, we'll probably see it again, but the writers could have been a little more original. Second, a lot of the voices are HORRIBLE. Mrs. Claus, for instance, was voiced by the late Shirley Booth in the original; and while I can't say that I particularly liked Booth's voice, at least it was tolerable. This version's Mrs. C was just ridiculous! The actress was just trying way too hard to impress the kiddies instead of the audience as a whole, which, to me, is what a family movie--or special, in this case--is truly about: finding something everyone can like. But, I digress. I also didn't really care for the North Wind. He was just a clichéd, full of himself villain, and while vanity is a good point for developing many villains, they could have made him a bit more threatening. Again, balance is essential for good family entertainment.

That being said, while the movie's condescending tone can grate on my nerves, I can say that the Misers themselves were still fun to watch and you should check it out. However, I do recommend the original 1974 movie, The Year Without a Santa Claus, being that it was a bit more enjoyable. You'll also understand the characters a little more after seeing it. But, still look at this special, as well. You'll still see that the brothers still got it!

How to Train Your Dragon
(2010)

'Sweeping, Action-Packed, and All With Plenty of Heart'
Ah, good ol' Dreamworks. As their most successful-albeit overused-cash cow is the Shrek series; it's pretty hard to distinguish any other of their movies as gems. However, while a humorous approach has been taken to their movies, many of them have had different results. For example, the 2004 movie 'Shark Tale' was an utter disaster, while 2008's 'Kung Fu Panda' was funny as well as plenty entertaining. Their latest romp, 'How to Train your Dragon,' definitely falls into the same category as the latter, but also succeeds in distinguishing itself as a completely different movie.

Based on the book series by British author Cressida Cowell and directed by Disney alum Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch), the story centers around a young Viking lad named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, whose nasal tone compliments him both physically and mentally) whose absent- minded ideas and wry sense of humor make him outcasted by other Viking teens, as well as shunned by his father, the mighty Stoick (Gerard Butler, also perfect). But, when one of his inventions actually manages to capture the mysterious Night Fury, he finds himself befriending it in secret, as well as learning from it to become the first 'dragon trainer.' But when he finds himself at odds with not only the town, but with the dragons themselves, he also finds himself with the key to making peace betwixt the dragons and Vikings.

The plot itself-even in a nutshell-is pretty enticing, but the trailer proved otherwise. It looked formulaic and joke-ridden from the first trailer, which made my skeptical side say, 'no way, Jose!' However, during the second trailer, I was reeled in. It was more dramatic, more depth defying, and definitely more plausible. From there, I was eager to see it…and, let me say, its money well spent.

At first, it seems that the plot is going to be a little formulaic. You know the story: The underdog, who everyone hates and can't seem to do anything right, proves the town wrong with his groundbreaking, but effective methods. That has indeed been done before, but, surprisingly, this plot enhances the story instead of slowing it down. Anything that seems to be a cliché only gives the story the wings to fly...excuse the pun.

The other big issue I had was with the side characters. No, I don't mean the brash, but helpful Gobber (played by a highly entertaining Craig Ferguson) or the beautiful, fiercely driven Astrid (America Fererra). I mean some of the other teens who are thrown into the dragon training ring with Hiccup, who is inept at first, but his friendship with Toothless helps him make his way up. Anyway, I thought that these four teens: The pigheaded jock, Snotlout (Jonah Hill, another cash cow), the adorable, girth-wide nerd Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz- Plasse, aka Superbad's McLovin), and, my personal favorites, the jugheaded, head-butting twins Ruffnut (a gravelly-voiced Kristen Wigg) and Tuffnut (A snarky TJ Miller). The latter have become a cult following that is huge in the online and fandom communities, much to the moviegoer's surprise. However, in the movie, these teens are only here to serve as the play- it-by-numbers obstacles that our main hero has to overcome on his own, though there are definitely more pressing issues. I would have liked to see more of them in the film, despite the fact that they might take away from the story. It just would have been nice to see someone sympathize with Hiccup.

Oh, and one more thing-the dragons, man! All of them also have different types and personalities, which I think is kind of awesome. The flying scenes are pretty cool too, described by many to make 'Avatar' jealous. There's a lot to look at, so why not? Overall, this movie has more heart than most of their works (Save 'Kung Fu Panda'), as well as unbelievably creative settings and creatures. It's definitely worth the time to be swept off your feet by this instant classic.

Where the Wild Things Are
(2009)

"Gritty, Weighty, and All the Same Childlike...Pure Sendak!"
Maurice Sendak, who recently passed away, was one of the most controversial yet still imaginative authors to ever have been published. The stories he wrote are very much like Grimm's Fairy Tales: whimsical and fun, but still dark and threatening. He didn't pander or sugarcoat his stories simply because he didn't feel a need (as well as a rather unpleasant childhood that introduced him to mortality in a less gentle light than most kids, but that's another story). These come through in such books as 1981's Outside Over There, 1970's In the Night Kitchen, and, in the case of this review, 1963's Where the Wild Things Are.

The funny thing about the latter is that this book is only 9 sentences long! That's a short book, even by children's standards, despite the story being told more with pictures than words. So, naturally, director Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers had to go out on a limb with the extra effort if they were to successfully make a movie based on it. The effort is an interesting and impressive venture; No embellishment, no sugarcoating, just a stripped- down, but still whimsical tale of a child's curiosity and imagination.

The story is pretty much the same: Max, (Max Records, believably a kid), an imaginative, but frustrated kid gets into a fight with his stressed-out mother (Catherine Keener), runs away, and soon finds himself floating to a strange land, wherein dwell creatures that are both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. It's a simple story, but, as said before, they get across a lot with what they have.

The performances in this movie are stellar. Max Records plays Max as...well, a kid. He doesn't pander to the audience or become cloying and 'pwe-shuss' at any point in the movie. He's angry, bratty, imaginative, playful, greedy, attention-seeking, kind and all those other things a normal kid is. This doesn't make him a bad person, but it does make him humble and endearing when coming across what he sees and experiences with the titular "Wild Things." Speaking of which, these creatures not only look great, but are also something of (which has been made abundantly clear by most of the critics, but it's still there) a representation of Max himself. Take the imposing, but enthusiastic Carol (James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano), for instance. He's Max's pent-up frustration, creativity and longing for love. Loudmouth Judith (Catherine O'Hara, a scene stealer) is Max's brazen independence. Gentle Ira (Forest Witaker), is Max's artistic ideals. Shy Alexander (Little Miss Sunshine's Paul Dano) is Max's longing to be heard, as well as his fragile naïveté. And the gentle KW (Lauren Ambrose) is the feeling of maternity that Max has not felt from his own mother in a long, long time. Once he discovers these fragments and puts them together, he realizes that there is more love to be had at home than he realized.

The visuals in this movie are also great. The place where the island is doesn't have any magical places aside from the Wild Things themselves, but its full of trees, dirt and desert plains that are barren and empty. But, it's what they do with it that makes it impressive. They have huts made of branches, a dirt clod fight, long walks along the desert, and even the building of a huge hut. It's so massive, just like an imagination.

The only problem with this movie is that it can gets pretty depressing at times. It's probably supposed to be pushing boundaries, as the original book did, but the conversations, dialogue and themes can become quite weighty, and brings the movie to a grinding halt. This is especially true towards the end, when Carol becomes more and more savage, and tensions rise between Max and the Wild Things. But, that being said, it does give the movie some conflict and raises the stakes for Max's safe return home, despite his strong bond with these creatures.

Overall, this movie is, like the book, a portrait of childhood at its core. There's no talking down to the audience, but at the same time, it's more for nostalgic adults than kids. But, the adults that enjoyed the book will enjoy what Jones, Egger, Sendak, and this movie have to say. It also looks beautiful, with fantastic sets, creatures, and characters to ogle at. There's so much love and detail put into this movie that all that can be said is...well...

I'd eat this movie up, I love it so...even though Roger Ebert beat me to that, it's still true.

Julie & Julia
(2009)

Pleases the Pallate and Funny Bone
As a movie after my own heart--and cravings--I thoroughly enjoyed this cinematic treat (Pun gladly intended). Meryl Streep is a winner as Julia Child and does her a world of good. She gets Child down to a T, all the way down to her funny little voice and height, which gained many, many laughs from the audience. Amy Adams, though not as sizzling as Streep, is a pleasure to watch as Julie Powell, a frustrated secretary and writer, who challenges herself to cook all 520 recipes in Child's famous "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Adams, who earned my attention in "Taladega Knights" and "Enchanted" is a delight to watch on screen, though her character is a bit anal at times. The plot is as rich and enticing as a delicatessen dessert (Get used to it, there's a lot of food analogies in this review) and makes you laugh at times. Many, many times. Oh, and don't watch this on an empty stomach. I'm craaaaaving that raspberry creme Powell makes to accompany a SAVORY beef stew...you see what I mean? Food, food everywhere and not one bite to eat!

Titanic - La leggenda continua
(2000)

Unimpressed...
I hate giving mediocre reviews. I just don't like criticizing much. But, to expand as a 'critic,' per se, I'd like to make an exception.

So, I have chosen to review a movie about one of the most tragic disasters in the world, which cost thousands of lives and pound upon pound of steel hurtling into the icy depths of the Atlantic. I'm sorry to say, though, that this is not the strong, near-accurate portrayal given in the beautiful James Cameron version.

This is the version butchered by an Italian filmmaker, titled, "Titanic: The Legend Goes On."

The plot of this movie is hard to decipher. There are so many of them interwoven that they simply overlap (unlike "Despereaux", which linked them together seamlessly). But, I will give it a try. The main story centers around two lovers named Angelica and William. Angelica's story is an obvious rip-off of Cinderella, what, with her cruel stepmother Gertrude and her two whiny, flirtatious stepsisters (Hortensia and Bernice, who even LOOK like Drizella and Anastasia of "Cinderella"), who force her to do CHORES. Then, there's William, who, admittedly, has optimism that I admire a lot, but the rest of him lacks any depth. So, William is a rich boy traveling with a few friends and a 'nanny' when he falls spontaneously in love with Angelica when he runs into her in the corridor. From there, you can tell what happens.

What are really overlapped are the subplots. There is one about a detective hunting down a group of jewel thieves, a bunch of animals organizing a party downstairs, one of William's accomplices tries to woo over an aspiring singer...you get the general idea. Now, the reason these overlap is because the editing is terrible. That's right, it's straight TERRIBLE. Why? Because it skips over from shot to shot like a slideshow.

Same thing with the plot. They wanted to cram so much activity into this one movie (though one or two SUBTLE subplots are okay) that it looks like the movie is jumping from plot to plot to plot and literally off the screen. It looks like everything's just bouncing, moving way too quickly for any movie to move. For heaven's sake, SLOW DOWN!!!

Oh, and one more thing: everyone seems to remember one scene in particular that has made this infamous. Three Words: It's Party Time. A dog starts rapping in the middle of a scene for no reason AT ALL, something that many would call a 'Big Lipped Alligator Moment'. I guess the reason this got so much attention was because this, along with many other scenes, were completely random. That's just the trouble with this movie

I have to give it some credit, though not TOO much. The singer was an interesting character, very strong and able, but her just standing there when the ship sank was a bad choice. The dialogue is well-written at times, with a few good lines, but that's about it. Honestly, though, they could have put more effort in. Had they added more depth and less overused plot-lines, it would have sufficed.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(1996)

"...Disney's Strongest, Most Stirring Tale of Prejudice and Acceptance..."
HOND (as the movie is abbreviated) is a movie that came out when I was 6 years old, and I was a big fan of the movie from the start. As I got more into anime and Tim Burton, I always held a love of this movie. I have recently rediscovered the movie and now see it in a different light. It is Disney's strongest, most stirring tale; one that tells of prejudice and acceptance. It touches on many sensitive aspects, very rare in Disney films, such as the Christian religion, damnation and bigotry, as well keeping the trademark Disney themes of overcoming great adversaries and believing in oneself.

The story came from that of Victor Hugo's 19th Century novel, which, oddly enough, was a cry to preserve the sanctity of the holy building in which it took place. Anyway, it is an adaption that tells the story of Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), who desires to be a part of society, but his master, Frollo (Tony Jay, in his most riveting performance) keeps him confined out of fear and scorn for the poor beast. But, when he is crowned "King" in the annual Festival of Fools, he captures the heart of outspoken and beautiful Esmeralda (Demi Moore), whom he helps escape Frollo's wrath.

The movie has many big names, as well as some lesser known, who deliver a wonderful performance. Tony Jay*, known for his deep, compelling voice in video games and cartoons, probably delivered his finest performance in this film, that of a tortured and corrupted religious figure. Paul Kandel delivered the performance of the versatile Clopin, the narrator of the story, if you will. The three gargoyles, one of which is voiced by Jason Alexander, gives the movie a touch of loyal Disney sidekicks.

However, this movie received a G-rating. I feel, due to it's dark undertones, that it should have been given a PG. Many of the themes will go over the heads of kids under 7, and it may seem frightening at times, as well as the VERY thinly veiled element of lust, so parents, be warned.

Overall, the movie is a tapestry of beauty and a powerful message of Justice and Courage; taking a stand for what's right.

*-Sadly, Jay died in 2006 due to complications following lung surgery, but his performance will never be forgotten

WALL·E
(2008)

"...Pixar May Have Very Well Outdid Itself This Time..."
From the time Pixar debuted their first full-length animated film, "Toy Story" in 1995, a genre was born and technology began to pop up in the cinema. Almost Fifteen years and 9 films later, Pixar rules the roost of computer-animated films that it inspired. But, with it's latest film, Wall-E, Pixar has broken it's traditional mold, incorporating live action footage with state-of-the-art computer animation with objects and characters that look so realistic, you can touch them.

Onto the story. Wall-E, as everyone has said, is a romantic story at heart. Definitely true. The two main characters, who get most of the screen time (and use it wonderfully), are: Wall-E, a childlike robot that lives on Earth after all the humans left, making junk into priceless treasures; and EVE, a beautiful 'directive' that searches for signs of life and, instead, finds Wall-E. The two venture into space to discover a long-lost secret left on earth. (I'm not gonna give away too much of the plot).

The way that they used less dialogue and more visual appeal, they were able to convey emotional depth through expression, which I really like (Yes, I'm a sucker for visuals and art, I know).

To conclude, I must say that with all the hype that this movie has received, Pixar may very well have outdone itself this time around with this masterpiece.

Kung Fu Panda
(2008)

Feel the Thunder!
From the time I was a little one to now, I have always loved movies and anything else with an Asian flair. From Mulan to Samurai Champloo, Asia's rich and interesting culture have always been in my must-have book, and I have loved them since childhood. Kung-Fu Panda takes an interesting look at this genre, as well as a modern one.

Po, a chubby, yet lovable Panda (Jack Black) works in a noodle shop with his Goose father (David Hong), but dreams of Kung-Fu and fighting with the Fearsome Five, a team made up of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross) and Mantis (Seth Rogen). When the old turtle sage Oogway announces a tournament for the selection of the Dragon Warrior, Po tries to attend, but, because of late arrival, is shut out. When he falls into the stadium after another failed attempt to get in, he is unwittingly selected as the warrior. Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is now faced with the task of training a panda with great knowledge but little skill in Kung-Fu. Meanwhile, the evil Tai Long (Ian MacShane) has escaped from prison, and is now threatening the village. Can Po live up to his new title and the dreams that keep him going? When the film was advertised, I became very interested. Seeing promo after promo peaked it. When I read the article on this film from USA today, I was surprised to see that a number of adults had gone to see it in the opening weekend! I figured, that's good enough for me, so I got my mom to take me to the theater to see it...and absolutely loved it. It is probably the best film from Dreamworks yet. The characters are what really draw you into the movie and the action/fighting sequences are expertly timed. The voice cast is perfectly cast. Jack Black plays our furry, chubby, kung-fu loving hero Po. Angelina Jolie is the bad-ass tigress who, although brash and thinks Po is a joke at first, is brave and learns to trust in her new comrade. Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Michael Clarke Duncan and Lucy Liu also round out the cast. The effects and animation also make the movie a must see!

Kaubôi bibappu
(1998)

A Perfect Anime 10!
The year is 2071. Earth is now but a wasteland and civilization has expanded to the further reaches of the galaxy. Unfortunately, that means there are also some of the galaxy's most feared criminals. Here's where our heroes come in. Who are our heroes, you ask? A cool as ice bounty hunter, his stoic, but paternal ex-cop partner, a sexy, sensitive con-woman and an odd little hacker named...Edward Wong Hau Peppilu Trilovsky III (A name she--yes, she--has given herself)...oh, and not to forget a little welsh corgi named Ein. This ragtag group of intergalactic misfits are off on an adventure to collect the reward of infamous criminals, with both hilarity and tragedy strewn along the way.

This is the premise of one of the best anime ever created, in a nutshell. Though it doesn't have the serious, dark overtones that typically fill the anime/manga universe, it is certainly is worth a watch. The dialogue is wonderfully witty, the dark overtones are reduced to undertones, and it has one of the best dubs ever recorded. Mary McGlynn, director and voice actress for various anime (Wolf's Rain and Naruto, to name other titles) has selected fantastic anime dubs a good name. The acting really emotes, especially Steve Blum's 'cool cat' performance of Spike. *...sigh...* Oh and the music...oh GOD, the symphony that is the music!!!

CB's music is composed by the legendary Yoko Kanno, who also composed several other big titles. Her emotional pieces are a treat for the ears (check out Wolf's Rain to prove my point) and CB is no exception. The music is as diverse as the multicultural characters that appear in CB. From whizz-bang jazz of the 'Bond' fare to whistling western flutes to acoustic guitar strains to even mid-70's 'blaxploitation' funk, it's all in here...and makes every moment believable.

Overall, the series is not the brooding anime/manga fare, as I have stated before, but a 007-esque romp that could be made into a smashing movie...which, coincidentally is due out 2011...and I PRAY it holds up to the fantastic masterpiece that is Cowboy Bebop.

The Last Unicorn
(1982)

A True Classic that Plucks at your Heartstrings...
So, I'm browsing a site called Animated Lust(Rated PG) (No, it's NOT....and I mean NOT...an animated porn site)and I stumble upon this film and am enticed by it's rich plot and beautifully crafted characters. I knew it was going to be good.

Now, My brother, Sean, is always finding corny, cheaply animated films (can you say "The Nutcracker Prince (1990)?" But, then Sean stumbled upon this gem and, out of all the films that he randomly selects, has any touched me so deeply as The Last Unicorn. It's really heart wrenching, but great to watch.

Some of the elements,despite this is an animated film, are not-kid friendly. For example, one scene where a character is tied to a talking tree and the tree has a big...urm...chest area (Yes, I know It's Crazy). There is some cursing, but in only two small spots, nothing much after that.

The voice cast is superb: Mia Farrow, Agela Lansbury, Christopher Lee... they all do a superb job as their characters. Even people like Tammy Grimes (She did a momentous performance as the long suffering yet kind-hearted Molly grue) and Rene Abourjunoes are impressive.

The soundtrack is not as impressive. A few of the songs are done by America (they did A beautiful rendition of the title song), but two of the films songs, Now That I'm a woman," Sung by Almathiea, and a love song between Prince Lyr and Amathiea, should've been done by someone else. They are not the best singers.

The plot (Warning: Contains spoilers):

A unicorn (Mia Farrow) learns from two passing hunters that she is the last of her kind. Sent off from a butterfly's message of a red bull (it gives you wings...just kidding), she journeys into the world outside her forest to finds others like her...Along the way she is captured by the eccentric Mommy Fortuna (Angela Landsbury, one of the legends in this film) for her midnight carnival, full of illusions. There she meets a bumbling wizard named Shmendrick (Alan Arkin), who, despite his poor sideshow skills, possesses true magic, and manages to free her and a harpy, the only truly immortal creature there besides the Unicorn. They then have a run on with some bandits, run by a Robin-Hood wannabe named Cully. After Shmendricks' sour, yet comical encounter with an enchanted, big chested tree, they are about to walk out when Cully's former lover, the open-hearted Molly Grue (My favorite character, portrayed magnificently by Tammy Grimes),demands to accompany them because she is amazed, yet angered at the unicorns appearance...that and she points out to Shmendrick that he was going the wrong way (Possible flirting?) On their journey to King Haggard's (voiced by Another Legend, Christopher Lee) castle, Haggard's Red Bull attacks the unicorn and Shmendrick changes her into a fair human maiden, which stirs the emotions of Molly, but, even more, the unicorn, whom is called Lady Almathiea upon arriving at King Haggards castle. Almathia also attracts the attention of Haggard's son, Prince Lyr (Jeff Bridges, not very impressed by his performance). Long story short, Haggard was responsible for the disappearance of the unicorns because the Red bull drove them into the sea. The message lied within, given to Molly Grue in cryptic riddles by Haggard's pirate-like cats, they find that the Red Bull's lair is guarded by a talking skeleton (Rene Aboujunoes), and they manage to escape, and , luckily, Schmendrick's spell wears off and Almathiea is turned back into her unicorn self. She learns, however, human compassion and regret, things she could not feel before Schmendrick turned her into a human...

This tale is a beautiful woven film adapted from the 1968 novel written by Peter S. Beagle. I give it a 9/10.

The Parent Trap
(1998)

Lohan's Best Performance!
Lindsay Lohan, known for being an easy press target, used to be cute! This movie is a good example of her red-headed, freckled goodness! In this late 90's remake of a Hayley Mills classic, Lohan plays both homely Napa Vallley girl Hallie Parker and Prim and proper London native Annie James...who unexpectedly meet at summer camp and don't exactly take a fancy to each other. But, when both put in the isolation cabin due to their antics, they learn they are twins separated at birth. So, predictably...they swap places, meet their parents...but there is an ugly surprise: Hallie's dad is about to wed snooty newspaper reporter Meridith Blake...this could thwart their efforts to bring their parents back together...or will it? This was, overall, a very entertaining film. Lohan was adorable. The performances of Natasha Richardson and Dennis Quaid as the parents were also very memorable! I recommend this if you like the cute redhead version of Lohan...

Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
(2006)

Who knew Brenda Song could kick major butt?!
Brenda Song is probably best known for being London Tipton, the dimwitted daughter of a wealthy hotel owner in The Suite Life of Zach & Cody. She proves in this film she can do more than be a pretty face! She said in a behind the scenes documentary for this film that she took karate classes as a child (even though she wanted to do ballet) and the really paid off! She kicks major booty in this DCOM.

The Basic Plot: Wendy Wu (Song) is a young lady hopeful of being Homecoming queen, but it is not until a young monk (Shin Koyomada) reveals to her that she is part of a prophecy...and that an evil force has been released and it is her duty to bring it down...but Wendy will have to hang up her prom gown and her hopes of becoming homecoming queen as well...

This is unlike any DCOM I've ever seen! Amazing special effects and martial arts choreography. I give it and 8/10

Night at the Museum
(2006)

Amazing, Funny and a great family film all at the same time...
Night at the Museum is a great film for the whole family with all kinds of laughs and value abounding! Ben Stiller delivered an excellent performance and so did legends Dick van Dyke, Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney. Many newer actors, such as Carla Gugino (Spy Kids Movies) also deliver greatly.

The Basic Plot: Hard on his luck Larry Daily (Stiller) has had to put up with evictions, loss of jobs and a divorced ex who has custody over his young son. His luck changes when he earns a job as a night guard at the natural history museum...where the original night shift, Cecil (Dick van Dyke), and his two accomplices, Gus (Mickey Rooney) and Reginald, are planning to retire. What he doesn't realize is that he will be in for the ride of his life, for when the lights go off and the night is young, everything in the museum comes to life...LITERALLY!!! This is all because of a curse caused by an ancient Egyptian tablet brought to the museum in the 1950s and has impacted the museum ever since. Is Larry the one who can fix the curse and stop a villain, or villains from stealing the tablet?

This film is an 8/10 performance recommended for the whole family.

Flushed Away
(2006)

Laugh Out Loud Funny
Flushed Away has to be Aardman's best film. It has Aardman's trademark British Humor and something unlike Aardman films: Computer animation and stop animation fused together.

The Basic Overview:

Roddy (Hugh Jackman, also in Happy Feet), a handsome mouse living in a penthouse, but with no real friends, is repulsed when a sewer rat named Sid intrudes into his home and when Roddy tries to flush him back, Sid gets the last laugh and Roddy is "Flushed Away" into a sewer town where a young lady mouse named Rita (Kate Winslet) captains the Jammy Dodger and lives with her many siblings, parents and Grandmother (Who is an avid fan of Tom Jones). Roddy is swept into helping her stop the Toad and his minions from an ingenious plot to flush the town of Rats away. Can they do it in time...and will Roddy learn to find a friend in Rita?

This is by far Aardman's funniest and best quality animation yet! A perfect 10!

Happy Feet
(2006)

Stunning Choreography, Robin Williams, Dynamite Songs and Haunting Moments equal Happy Feet
The film looks cute at first glance, but once you see what these penguins can do, you'll be blown away and say: "Hey, this isn't just a kid's movie..." Who knew Brittany Murphy could sing so well? The basic plot: Mumble (Young: E.G Daily, older: Elijah Wood)is raised in a world where penguins find their soulmate through song, like his mother (Nicole Kidman) and father (Hugh Jackman, also in Flushed Away). Well, he can't sing, that's for sure...but he can dance something fierce. This leads to rejection of his peers, like the lovely Gloria (Britanny Murphy), and the elder penguins. He finds friends in a gang of Rockhopper Penguins (One played by Robin Williams). They persuade him to look to the so-called "Penguin Guru," an emperor penguin called Lovelace (Robin Williams). He doesn't get his answer right away and is blamed for the shortage of fish just because of his "Happy feet." But is it...or is it something else...

This film has very funny yet sad quality to it. Robin Williams handles dual roles very well. Britanny Murphy, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman sing very well and the dance numbers are well choreographed.

Stuart Little
(1999)

Excellent Family Comedy with many famous talents...
Stuart Little is a comedy perfect for the entire family with may great talents.

There are many familiar faces, such as Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, known for playing Sarcastic Gregory House of House, MD., Johnathen Lipniki of The Littlest Vampire, SNL's Julia Sweeny, and a cameo of Golden Girls' Estelle Getty (She Played Sophia).

There are also many great voices, such as Michael J. Fox (Currently associated in a controversy of his Parkinson's disease ad)as the "little" hero, Stuart, Nathan Lane and Vincent Pastore as a particularly menacing cat named Smoky.

The CGI effects are stunning. Stuart looks very life-like and so do the cats, who are pretty much the real thing.

The film is based upon the book by E.B. White, best known for his book-turned-film, Charolette's Web (Look for the Live action film in theaters December).

The Little family is looking to adopt a child...and what they got was Stuart, a white, orphan mouse. Mr. and Mrs. Little immediately take to him and choose him. However, George Little is far from impressed...to have a mouse for a brother...but, whom is even more dismayed is the family cat, Snowbell, being his name would be ruined of his cat buddies were to find out about Stuart, a "Mouse with a Pet Cat..." So, as Stuart spends time to his new family the leader, Smoky, plots to rid the family of Stuart once and for all...But Stuart is ready for them...

This is a sparkling, charming adaption of E.B. White's novel.

"Little Hi, Little Lo...Little Hey, Little Ho!"

She's the Man
(2006)

Amanda Bynes IS the Man...well...sort of...
This is one of the funniest movies that Amanda Bynes has done...EVER! I mean, it's the first full scale adult humor flick I have seen her in. Everything else has been for a relatively younger audience (Don't get me wrong though. I liked What A Girl Wants).

Okay, here's the plot of the film in a nutshell: Viola Hastings is a soccer loving tomboy who has her hopes up for joining the soccer team, but when the school cuts her team because of gender discrimination and she dumps her idiot boyfriend for agreeing with them, she does the unthinkable...she goes to her out of twin brother, Sebastian's school...as Sebastian! When she falls for her...or his...new roommate, Duke...and he likes Olivia...but she likes Sebastian...er, Viola as Sebastian...and he's dating Monique...an interesting love triangle...er, rectangle, ensues...Confusing, no? It's got an awesome soundtrack, as well! I bought it off of iTunes, primarily for one song, but I wound up liking the other songs.

Favorite Character: Viola, because she is an independent tomboy who's never afraid to do what she wants.

Favorite Moment: When Duke and Viola (As Sebastian) Hug each other, turn around and scream! Classic!

10/10. Absolutely hilarious and adult...not too adult, though...probably for those 15+. See it! It's worth the watch!

The Year Without a Santa Claus
(1974)

A Holiday Classic that gets to the heart of Christmas' big cheese
Based on the book by Phyllis McKinley, The Year Without a Santa Claus really gets to the heart of Christmas. It's a fun, 'what if tale' that commences when, one year, Santa (Mickey Rooney) has lost heart because he believes the world no longer believes in him, so he decides to takes the holiday off. But Mrs. Clause (Shirley Booth) won't have it, so she sends two of Santa's finest, but clumsiest elves and a young reindeer to Earth to find someone that truly believes...but she also has ways of helping out herself.

So, why is this special so dear to me? Well, for one thing it's an interesting, what if spin on Christmas, about Santa taking a year off and Mrs. Claus finally taking center stage and taking on the challenge of returning the Christmas spirit to her once-jolly husband. Furthermore, the characters are all fun and interesting, but there is one...sorry, two, that seem to stand out not only for me, but the rest of the Rankin/Bass fans out there.

Introducing the Miser Brothers, those two rapscallions who control hot and cold climate under the watchful eye of Mother Nature herself. Snow Miser, who controls snow, hale, and overall chilly weather is carefree and easygoing, having a great enthusiasm for all things below 32 degrees. His stepbrother, Heat Miser, is the complete opposite: a temperamental windbag who controls all things warm, like the sun, volcanos, and generally blistering heat. The two are opposite forces, often butting heads, but do take to Mrs. Claus' pleas to bring cold weather to a town under Heat Miser's Territory...with a little 'persuasion' from Mother Nature herself, of course.

Overall, check this movie out and get into the holiday spirit!

Naruto
(2002)

Unlike any Anime I have ever seen...Believe It!
Overview:

Plot: Good

Characters: Excellent

Music: Great

Animation:Great

Dubbing: Good

Reasons to watch: Naruto Freakin' Rocks! The action, animation and everything are stunning! The characters are so likable. I like the concept of a Ninja Training academy. I wish I went to a school like that...believe me! The animation rocks! The noses look a little more accurate. Butt-kickin galore! I'm just glad this anime doesn't play with cards and does it the old-fashioned way! So, Listen here, you dub-haters...I L-I-K-E the dub...BITE ME!

Flaws: The anime uses filler arcs so the anime won't overlap the manga. I feel they went a little overboard, even though I liked the one that centered around Lee and Gai-sensei. Some of the voices in the dub are very annoying (Sakura and Ino) while some are awesome (Rock Lee, Kakashi and others) and some are okay (Gaara and Others).

Fave Character: Gai-sensei, because, despite he's not the greatest or best-looking jonin and can come off as a little flamboyant, he has an open, kind heart and cares about his students, especially Rock Lee.

9/10. If you want hardcore action, crushes galore and lots of humor, Naruto is for you...Believe It!

Little Women
(1994)

Magnificent!
Overview:

Plot: Excellent

Characters: Excellent

Reasons to Watch: Louisa May Alcott's Greatest treasure was Little Women, even though she declined writing the book at first. This film is a great treasure, beautifully done with an all star cast featuring academy award winner Susan Sarandon, Wynona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes and Christian Bale.

Basic Plot: During Civil War America, Abigail "Marmee" March (Sarandon) and her four Daughters, Passionate Meg (Trini Alvarado), Spirited writer Jo (Ryder), fragile musician Beth (Danes) and Romantic artist Amy (Dunst and Samantha Mathis) try to get by while learning the lessons of life's agony and love's magic.

Favorite Character: Jo (Wynona Ryder), because she is an independent writer who is never afraid to speak her mind.

10/10. Beautiful, touching and merry, Little Women is a triumph to all.

The Incredibles
(2004)

Pixar's Absolute Best
Overview:

Plot: Excellent

Characters: Great

Music: Good

Animation: Great

Reasons to watch: You know, Pixar movies just get better and better...and so far, this is the best one...super, you might call it. The Incredibles is really "incredible" with a great voice cast (Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson and heck, even director Brad Bird provides a voice), creative plot and wonderfully developed characters. It will make you laugh and move you at the same time.

Basic Plot: Bob Parr (Craig T.Nelson) and his family- wife, Helen (Holly Hunter), teenage daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) and sons Dash and Baby Jack-Jack-may seem normal at first glance, but they really are superheroes with great powers. Bob was known as Mr. Incredible in his years as a superhero and Helen was Elastigirl. their two children, Violet and Dash, also have superpowers: Violet can become invisible at will and Dash can run faster than any normal child. They are in hiding because supers have been accused of hurting people more than helping them. Bob,however, pines for the glory days and would give anything to relive them. When he gets an invitation for a new job after being fired from his old one, Insuracare (His insuracare boss is voiced by Wallace Shawn), by a mysterious woman named Mirage, he feels as if his glory life has been regained, but soon, he learns it's all a ruse to trap him. The villain: Syndrome (Jason Lee of My Name is Earl). It isn't too long before Helen and the kids find out and they (after Violet hires a babysitter for jack Jack, featured in the animated Short, Jack Jack Attack, a hilarious feature on the DVD)rush to his aid. Can they save him before Syndrome releases the ultimate weapon of Destruction-The Omnidroid?!

Fave Character: Violet Parr, because she is the one I can most relate to: A teenager who struggles to find herself, especially if you have superpowers. I also love Edna Mode (Played by Director Brad Bird). She is a riot!

10/10! Pixar's Best!

Corpse Bride
(2005)

Burton Film Finally Takes My Breath away...well, it would...if I had any ^-^...
Overview:

Plot: Great

Characters: Excellent

Music: Good

Animation: Fair

Overview: Personally, I have never been a fan of Tim Burton Films, So, when I first heard about it in a USA today newspaper in an article about the latest Burton-Depp film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Burton's partnership with Depp (Johnny Depp, I mean), I immediately thought..."Nightmare Before Christmas all over again...Oh, BOY!" Well, as a birthday present, I gave my brother, Sean, Corpse Bride on DVD, since he's got probably 50+ DVDs (Mainly Disney Films) in his room. A little more than a month later, I wanted to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (One of me and Sean's rarity of Favorite movies), but couldn't find it...then I came upon Corpse Bride and decided, "What the heck? I'll give it a shot..." I discovered I most certainly underestimated this Academy Award Nominated film...

Reasons to watch: The voices. A barrage of talented actors and actresses lend their voices to cleverly crafted characters.

Fave Character: I personally loved Victoria Everglot (Voiced by Emily Watson)because her voice was perfect and she had a pleasant, kind air about her.

10/10 for this film. Magnificent! One of Burton's best films. Also Stars Albert Finney, Joanna Lumely, Tracey Ullman and Christopher Lee.

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