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The Pixar Retrospective: A Bug’s Life

Toy Story didn’t just take the world by storm, it was the storm.  Even though we always get movies meant for little more than marketing, Toy Story had the substance to make many of us forget that.  So when the insect-focused follow-up, A Bug’s Life, took to the big screen, similar quality was expected.  And while this is another quality release, it ranks quite low on my ordering of Pixar films.

The story is essentially one of outcasts; Flik is the creative oddball, Dot is the somewhat rebellious child hoping fly, the princess is facing the pressure of one day leading the colony, the circus bugs are working out of their familiar yet unsuccessful environment, etc.

Our villains are a group of grasshoppers, led by Kevin Spacey, trying to keep the ants in their place.  Like the ant colony, only a couple or so of the grasshoppers stand out, since a decent chunk of the movie is saved for the circus bugs.  These characters are really what made the film for me, since the rest of the characters just felt too conventional and left very little impression on me.  And when you miss out on that, the film loses a lot of its impact.  Yes, the story works and there’s nothing necessarily “wrong” with the characters, it just isn’t very fascinating, a few visual moments aside.

In a way the circus bugs are the film’s saving grace and precisely why I’d come back to watch it again.  My favorite would probably have to be the ladybug, partly because he’s given more time and has so many memorable scenes.  And while I can recall almost every moment from the film, this is more out of how many times I had to watch it as a kid, as opposed to its actual memorability.  If I’d only seen it a couple times, the circus bug scenes would probably be 95% of what I’d recall.

The number of people either satisfied or disappointed by A Bug’s Life seem to be about equal.  It’s sort of fallen out of most people’s memories, and that’s not without reason.  Compared to Toy Story and especially many other Pixar films, this one doesn’t have much to help it stand out.  Don’t get me wrong, this is far from a bad movie, it’s just a very conventional one.  Some people think the film deserves a sequel, and while I’m open to the idea, the movie wraps up in a way that we don’t need a revisiting.  Then again, I’d say the same thing about most Pixar films, except for The Incredibles, so that shows where my word goes.

 
 

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A Movie a Day Catch-Up (Part I)

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit lazy on my New Year’s Resolution to watch a movie per day.  Work, friends and family don’t exactly offer several opportunities, but I still try to keep to it and watch as much as I can, which has made for a little over a dozen viewings thus far.  To keep things more spaced out than my 2012 recap, I’ll aim for about five movies per post.  I’ll gradually get more of these to you, so here you go, hopefully the first of many updates.

The Road

This film was torture.  What could’ve (and should’ve) been a poignant, engaging piece turned out to be little more than a dragged out, downright agonizing experience.  If the filmmakers wanted to make us feel as miserable as the characters in the film, then job well done.  Except it felt that awful for all the wrong reasons; a lack of sympathy, awkward and annoying characters, no real story or plot, and numbing boredom.

The Prince of Egypt

Better than much of the material Disney was rolling out around the time, The Prince of Egypt made Dreamworks seem like a serious contender for the next supplier of (near) classic animated features…then we got the Madagascar and Shrek sequels.  Regardless, The Prince of Egypt did exactly what any animated feature should, it told a story while taking full advantage of technology and visuals.  There’s a surprising amount of heart and development to both the story and especially the characters too, much more than what several live action films afford us (see above).

Sideways

As an introvert, I found Sideways a very self-reflective piece.  I swear I saw myself as Paul Giamatti’s character, and it still scares me.  It might be odd to use that word when describing a dramedy, but I think it adds all the more humanity and strength to the film.  Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are a wonderful combination; they’re authentically fleshed out as people who generally don’t get along, but still like and even need each other.  And when you’ve got something as strongly forged as that, the rest of the material essentially writes itself.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Even though The Hobbit is a 2012 release, I didn’t catch it until the new year.  For the longest time I thought I’d just catch the HFR 3D IMAX showing (look at all those caps), if only for the Star Trek Into Darkness prologue.  But the trip and reception didn’t mix well enough for me, so I caught a standard 2D showing.  My thoughts?  It’s good, just not Lord of the Rings good.  What’s odd is that a lot of the things people didn’t like are things that didn’t bother me.  I didn’t mind the opening in the Shire too much, the dwarfs obnoxious behavior aside; Radaghast I honestly found amusing and a decent overall character; and even though the sets are clearly CGI most of the time, it’s still a beauty to look at.  Plus, I kind of think that’s the point, given the book is seen more as a kind of childhood story for some.  The Lord of the Rings is more real and dark, hence the real sets.  My problems do come with the length and an apparent misuse of development, especially given the fact we have to wait for two more parts.  And while it was great to see Smeagol again, I actually found the whole riddles sequence a bit overrated.  Also, none of the main villainous characters really did anything for me.  I still enjoyed the film and would watch it again if I could set aside the time, but it didn’t leave me suspended like The Lord of the Rings did.

Inglourious Basterds

One of my co-workers lent this movie to me, essentially saying that if I loved Django Unchained, I’ll love this.  I still remembered seeing previews for Inglourious Basterds and feeling like it wouldn’t be my cup of tea.  Still, I took and watched it and, to be honest, my early impressions weren’t far off.  So far the Quentin Tarantino movies I’ve seen have been pretty easy for me to pinpoint my opinion on before I even see it.  The only surprises were Pulp Fiction, which I thought I’d hate and wound up loving, and Django which I figured I’d enjoy, but ended up loving the hell out of it.  Inglourious Basterds managed to accomplish what I thought no Tarantino movie could or should: bore me.  Other than the opening with Christoph Waltz and the “sticky situation”, I couldn’t wait for the movie to end.  Even Reservoir Dogs, a film almost devoid of laughs for me, maintained my interest.  This just did absolutely nothing for me.

 
 

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A Look Back: 2012 in Film (Part II)

Ruby Sparks

There’s an odd connection between actual aspiring writers and movies centered on writers that’s tough to pinpoint.  Ruby Sparks is like a vision coming into physical reality for writers, with a character transforming into something anyone else can see, touch and feel.  The initial promise of such a premise is taken in the directions you’d expect, before taking some surprisingly dark turns.  But fellow fictional writers will know that sometimes to truly understand your characters, you’ll have to put them through the worst possible hell.  It is, to borrow from another certain 2012 release, “a necessary evil.”  Ruby Sparks is, at the very least, compelling and leaves a relatively strong impression.  Things do end up a little to conveniently resolved, but given the road taken, such an ending can feel all the more rewarding.

The Expendables 2

Times at the cinema would be so much better if films like The Expendables 2 were easier to pick out.  Like its predecessor, this is a perfect break and escape from reality.  No, the film isn’t fantastical, but it’s a hell of a great time, suspending you amidst ridiculous action and one-linters.  While other cheap, campy B-grade action movies do little but bore, The Expendables 2 entertains and entertains and entertains.  There’s little serious merit here, but the fact you have so fun watching it the first time around makes everything else irrelevant.

Lawless

Lawless didn’t fear showing a generally grisly side to Prohibition-era America, which is showcased in a scene that makes me queasy upon the slightest recollection.  There are a number of ways to generically label Lawless, ranging from Tom Hardy’s Post-Bane Role to Wait, Shia LaBeouf Has Acting Capabilities?  Being one of the few non-haters of the latter actor, even I think he’s outclassed and generally unfit for such a role.  Thankfully, he’s not misplaced to the point of say, Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games, while every other performance from Tom Hardy to Jessica Chastain and Guy Pearce is spot-on.  It’s just a shame we only get two scenes with Gary Oldman, who completely owns both and shows us a side to Jim Gordon we might’ve forgotten after The Dark Knight Rises.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It’s not every day–or even every year–I can call a film truly resonant with how I generally feel, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower managed to be such a film.  Shame it was a bit of a sleeper, though.  This is a film equally earnest and honest, working better than it probably should thanks to how relatable and irresistible the characters are.  Even Paul Rudd, amounting to a simply sympathetic teacher, manages to bring us into the film more because his scenes with Logan Lerman work so well.  Sometimes comedic, other times seriously dramatic, but always enthralling, The Perks of Being a Wallflower more than earns a personal favorite mark from yours truly.

Looper

Looper was definitely one of the more highly touted films of 2012.  Many people seemed to think it would be the next “it” thing for science fiction action thrillers, with big comparisons being made to Inception.  The film met with almost universal acclaim but seems to have become little more than a dud on the windshield.  While this is a bit of a shame, the film does have, at its core, some very potential shortcomings.  To be fair, like Philip K. Dick’s works, most of these issues stem from the film’s deliberate approach to pose ideas without completely fleshing them out.  It becomes a bit of a backdrop to the story, rather than a consistently integral part.  Some say this works to the film’s strength, I say this is a story that belongs in novel form rather than on the big screen.  Don’t get me wrong, Looper is a very solid film in its own regards, it’s just many of the paths taken are unexpected in a way that necessarily fit.  For much of the second half I forgot we were in the future, or even an alternate reality.  This isn’t a movie you watch for spectacle or visions of another world, it’s a movie you watch for its surprisingly down-to-earth story with alternating thrills and drama.

Argo

In my original review of Argo, I mentioned that while a good piece of filmmaking, it’s not one I’d have honored with several Oscar nominations.  It seems the Academy felt surprisingly similar notions, except they got a couple things mixed up.  Give Ben Affleck the Best Director nom and possibly retract its Best Picture nomination, along with Alan Arkin, despite being one of the best parts of the film.  But I digress.  Argo had a lot to live up to in my books since I’m a huge fan of The Town.  Ben Affleck has a thing about surprising many of us, which is very welcoming.  For a film with so many characters and a rather forgiving runtime, Argo feels surprisingly whole and complete.  Outside of Victor Garber, I think everyone was sufficiently developed.  The plot is expansive in some ways, but the actual story at-hand is very focused.  Not to mention we get possibly the more intense final act of any film from 2012 in Argo, which isn’t in, how do you say, a bang-bang boom-boom kind of way.  Far from my top pick of the year, but definitely one of the most well made releases.

Skyfall

I can already hear the boos coming on this one: I’m not a James Bond fan.  The whole spy movie genre is a bit elusive to me, but I can set things aside to enjoy them if I so desire.  Daniel Craig’s first outing as 007 in Casino Royale does hold up as what you could call a good movie that just happened to be associated with James Bond.  Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, was about as solid as the T-1000 at the end of Terminator 2.  Thankfully, Skyfall brought integrity back and offered a few eye-catching surprises along the way.  This is still very much a Bond film with some hard-boiled action/thriller elements pushing their way in for the final act.  Skyfall doesn’t transcend or turn its back on its faith, which means fans of the series will still get the most out of it.

Flight

I’m trying to remember if Denzel Washington has ever given a subpar performance, much less been in a bad film.  He’s able to easily outclass the best actors Hollywood has to offer and, go figure, his only Academy Award isn’t for one of his top-notch performances.  We can now add Flight to his almost intimidating resume, in which his character goes through so much in its accurate portrayal that it could be labeled synonymous with gripping tragedy.  Without giving anything away, the ending is a bit of a buzzkill and makes what comes off as a long, hard journey abruptly hit some sort of a roundabout.  Still, even for such a good year, you’re not going find many films with a lead performances that commands and demands as much Denzel does here.

Wreck-It Ralph

I can remember seeing the trailers for Wreck-It Ralph and thinking “whatever, just get Pixar out of their slump already!”  Then the film’s style brought comparisons to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and I suddenly grew intrigued.  Said film is among my favorites and one that I enjoy even more with subsequent viewings.  I can’t see Wreck-It Ralph achieving the same effect, but it was surprisingly fun, enjoyable and one I’d be all for seeing again and again.

Lincoln

We had quite a few Oscar bait films this year and Lincoln shamelessly abides the criteria.  If there’s any surprise we’re thrown it’s the amount of comedy, usually courtesy of Tommy Lee Jones.  Obviously an actor like Daniel Day Lewis brings the iconic personality we think of when we imagine Lincoln, though it can definitely become overbearing.  I must reiterate that this performance is literally 50% elaborate storytelling.  No, this is hardly a deal-breaker and, in the hands of Steven Spielberg, we have a nicely handled and borderline immaculate film.  The only downside is it isn’t the year’s most compelling release since it takes about as much chances as I do with the ladies.

Silving Linings Playbook

This is the movie that actually drove me to travel nearly an hour away just to see what the hype was about.  I’m a bit of a sucker for rom-com/dramedies since, when handled well, they strike me like few others.  Two hours of watching and cumulative driving later and I can easily say that it was a wait and trip well spent.  Silver Linings Playbook hits the dysfunctional character note like so few movies and the results are pure bliss.  Comedy and drama run equally high and effectively with no weak links.  Silver Linings Playbook is tough to describe and justify, but if I had to sum it up, I’d say go see the movie and experience it yourself.  Even if it doesn’t crack your top movies of the year, it’s guaranteed to be among the most entertaining and rewarding.

Life of Pi

A scene from Life of Pi showed before a screening of Prometheus and my reaction was, to quote my friend, “so confused.”  That scene was literally all I caught of the film before deciding to eventually see a 3D screening.  I always feel uneasy when thinking Ang Lee since I just can’t separate that name from 2003’s Hulk, a film that continues to leave a repugnant taste in my mouth.  But rest assured, Life of Pi is no Hulk.  Life of Pi is one of the most beautiful, fascinating, well directed and edited films of 2012, bringing an odd story to light that keeps us riveted, regardless of whatever crazy direction it might take.  One pleasant surprise is the ending, which avoids the happy Hollywood archetype but doesn’t take the slummy road either.  Simply put, Life of Pi is a wondrous piece of work and a movie I can’t wait to experience again from the moment it comes out on Blu-ray.

Killing Them Softly

I had my eye on Killing Them Softly for a few months, though shortly after I saw the summertime trailer it drifted off and became but a distant memory.  It’s fitting then, that the film itself will likely suffer the same fate as its previews.  Killing Them Softly certainly isn’t a bad film, it’s just a bit of a drag and feels too incomplete for its own good.  This is really a film that I thought was good for killing time, it’s just I wish it had been done with a better, more investible and worthwhile piece.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The whole idea of splitting film adaptations into multiple releases is just weird.  Monetary reasons aside, it kind of defeats the point of having an adaptation in the first place.  Typically a film adaptation is used to give us the short, sweet and entertaining version of a story.  If we’re lucky, we’ll occasionally get some good twists, but it’s often just the motion picture equivalent to spark notes.  So the fact we’re getting nearly 10 hours for a book that’s less than 400 pages is really just overkill.  Now, taken in its own regards, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a conflicted and inconsistent film.  It’s tough for me to tell whether the film wants to be a comedy or fantasy drama.  Even during its most serious moments, I kept thinking “is anyone on our side going do die?”  Granted, that’s probably the way the book is, but it cut back on the sense of urgency that The Lord of the Rings had.  That, I think, is a key reason this semi-adaptation of The Hobbit falters, in spite of retaining some laughs, entertainment and occasional majesty.

Django Unchained

Tarantino is a very inconsistent director with me.  I liked but didn’t care much for Reservoir Dogs; Pulp Fiction is, as we all know, a classic; Inglourious Basterds did what I thought no Tarantino movie would do in boring me; and Kill Bill just never appealed to me, hence why I haven’t bothered with them.  While I figured I’d enjoy Django Unchained based on the trailers, I was completely unprepared for the unrivaled level of entertainment I got out of it.  If Django Unchained is simply entertaining, then Silver Linings Playbook is a snorefest.  Now, if we break the film apart there are points that can be criticized, but there’s so much fun and enjoyment to be had that any shortcomings quickly become irrelevant.  A true crowd pleaser, Django Unchained can definitely earn more than a couple wholesome theatrical viewings.

Les Miserables

And finally we have 2012’s last impression according to release date (and alphabetical order): Les Miserables.  I’ve gone on to call Les Miserables the most frustrating film of 2012 because of how much I wanted to enjoy and be soaked into its story, only to be let down at almost every corner.  Detachment, spontaneity and weariness are how I’d describe the adaptation we’re afforded, which only accomplishes the visual class of Hooper’s previous effort, The King’s Speech.  I’d want to give the film another chance down the line, but one sitting was laborious enough.

 
 

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The Pixar Retrospective: Toy Story (1995)

To discuss Pixar around this time of the year is rather odd; not just because films from said studio tend to come out during the summer, but because Doug Walker’s Disneycember has returned.  So yes, I am guilty of copying Mr. Walker’s idea and format with a Pixar retrospective.  But I feel these films are deserving of such attention that another person might venture their opinion over the internet.  They’re always a joy to discuss, regardless of quality or the common verdict.  Films by Pixar bring people together like few others, which makes them all the more fitting for another person to discuss.

Toy Story

It’s tough to find a movie trilogy as unanimously recommended as Toy Story.  Pixar’s first full-length feature took the film industry by storm, literally invigorating animated works at the exact time Disney started slipping with audiences.  Toy Story seemed to be that rare film which easily lent itself to marketing while simultaneously proving itself a terrific standalone piece of art.  So yes, you could say this film held a certain place in the heart and mind of one silly five-year-old.

A story of toys coming to life when humans aren’t looking is certainly going to ignite interest from less tidy viewers.  In fact, I’m almost amazed a similar attempt hasn’t been shoved out, featuring keys, cell phones and wallets in the place of dominantly action figure-esque toys.  But I digress.

Quite a number of things make Toy Story work as well as it does.  Despite beginning to show age, the world is very believe simply from a design standpoint.  The human characters and environmental glimpse we’re offered rings true to our world, taking pointers sans comedic jabbing.  Making such a comment is admittedly odd, as this is a film about children’s toys.  But said establishments help us believe this story so much more.  To a child who’s naturally out of tune with the over-complications of life, this is plausible reality.

There’s just enough surrealism at work to both suspend and compliment our beliefs and knowledge.  The fact we have characters this colorful yet honest certainly isn’t of harm to the film, either.  Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have one of the best, most realistic and memorable relationships ever put on screen.  They’re really at opposite ends of a spectrum while retaining similar fundamentals.  Woody and Buzz walk a road of rivalry-to-friendship that goes from initially implausible to completely believable.

To my (recent) surprise, the film is rather short on laughs.  Most of these come from the at-times riotous supporting characters, namely Mr. Potatohead, Ham and Rex.  Otherwise, this actually feels like a serious drama to a more adult viewer.  And this is where I feel Toy Story completely succeeds as a film for all ages.  Children get a world that looks fun and feels real, adults get a collection of completely memorable characters fronted by a bonding many of us still need to learn from.  I’d be a dead-faced liar in court if I said this is one of Pixar’s more entertaining features, but I’d be just as guilty if I said it isn’t one of their most effective.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Finding Nemo 3D

I always encounter a bit of a problem when movies are re-released these days.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for an older film coming back to theaters so that it can be experienced to its highest degree.  But the fact is we’re still in the middle of the 3D cash-grab phase that’s seldom utilized well.  Case in point was the re-release of Beauty and the Beast last year.  It’s a fantastic movie and looks absolutely great, but even the dancing sequence hardly justified a 3D-fication.

Then we have Finding Nemo, which has received the re-release treatment despite being less than a decade old.  And we all know Disney love to jump at the opportunity to tease us with a Blu-ray release a couple months down the line.  It borders on sadistic tendencies.

But being a sucker for certain movies, my friends and I succumbed to shelling out $14 a piece for this re-release.  Finding Nemo isn’t a movie that necessarily benefits from big screen viewing, but the potential for 3D was definitely present.  It’s a very colorful and detailed movie, but one less grand in scope.  To that degree the 3D isn’t too bad.  Like most 3D post-conversions, this one doesn’t really pop off the screen, but that’s not such a bad thing.  That is, until you realize you paid enough to see two movies just for some subtle detail.  For the few 3D nuts out there, I’d put Finding Nemo’s 3D re-release somewhere between Titanic and Toy Story for how good it was.  The Toy Story double-featured 3D re-release (there’s a mouthful for ya) was fairly negligible while Titanic had probably the best post-conversion to 3D I’ve seen thus far.

Really the best, most positive-thinking way to go about viewing this re-release is as something for parents to show their kids if they haven’t seen Finding Nemo already.  A theatrical viewing is far from necessary but I guess it’s nice to have a movie you know for a fact will be good.  And let’s be honest, anyone reading this probably doesn’t need to know whether or not Finding Nemo is a good movie, because it is.  It’s one of Pixar’s best, it tugs the heart and laughter strings perfectly and, just like a proper Disney release, offers some great references which adults will enjoy and pick up on.  The movie has the look and heart of a child with the details and understandings of an adult, which makes it the perfect family film.

 
 

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Weekly Stumblings (10/8)

Short selection this week, but there’s always more and more content in the endless void that is the internet.

Hot Chocolate on a Stick: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1xiTWW/whipperberry.com/2010/12/hot-chocolate-on-a-stick-gift-idea.html

Oreo Stuffed Funfetti Cookies: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/5Xb7Rx/www.bakersroyale.com/cookies/oreo-stuffed-funfetti-cookies/

Knoword: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/6adIYg/www.knoword.org/

Famous Objects from Classic Movies: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1IR4XY/famousobjectsfromclassicmovies.com/

Silk: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1D1Jyz/new.weavesilk.com/?ika

 

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Blog

 

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Double Feature: Fantasia & Fantasia 2000

Anyone who’s followed Doug Walker knows his favorite Disney animated film is the original Fantasia.  He’s touched on this at least two times between his Top 20 favorite films and last year’s Disneycember.  As a kid, Fantasia was almost this silent horse figure to me.  I’d watch it repeatedly–much like the original Star Wars films, but it never really crept up in discussion with others.  But hey, not all dark secrets need to remain locked away, just like my virginity.  Disney have protected me well.

One of the few Disney films I haven’t seen (or hadn’t, as of this post) is Fantasia 2000, which came out around that sour transitioning period from elementary to middle school for me.  Since then my interest in the movie catapulted, especially when I saw bits and pieces of the grander parts.  And since I was in the middle of a walk to my nearby BlockBuster (yes, we still have one here) I decided to treat myself to a double feature of both Fantasia films.

Heading in, I feel like the proper way to tackle these films is to talk about each segment individually since that’s essentially what these films are.  Admittedly they’re both achieving similar results by attempting to create an experience of sound and visual, but when you look back on these movies, you think of them in bits and chunks.  I’ll simply have to make them slightly more interesting than your generic track-by-track review off of Amazon.

So first up we have the original Fantasia which, believe it or not, is over 70 years old now.  And the film still looks great to this day, outdoing several contemporary releases from more than just artistic and visual standpoints.  It was supposed to mark a new direction for Disney, but fell short of being a monumental enough hit; kind of the same way The Dark Knight Rises’ box office isn’t big enough since it was outdone by The Avengers.  Because as we all know, the inferior crap earns the most money.  But I digress.

Fantasia opens with the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, gradually transitioning from the choir to colors, shapes, patterns and the like meant to compliment the music.  This is just a wonderful and vibrant combination of sound and visual with the music being passionately represented by what are often abstractions.  It’s a piece that sticks with you well after even one viewing.  I’d also say it’s one of the film’s most memorable selections, simply because it embodies what I think the film is really about: Music and visuals expressing and complimenting each other.

The opening of the Nutcracker Suite has become synonymous with Christmas, so it’s only fitting that the collection of pieces included depict the changing seasons.  This is where hints of a story come into play, but it’s less about a story and more this barely cohesive guideline.  It works for telling something but never gets in the way of the overall experience.  Like the weather and seasons, you’re picked up and swept away as the music sways through the peaceful and upbeat sections.  Besides, how can your attention not be caught after seeing mushrooms and flowers moving around just a notch shy of salsa dancing?

By now The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has become THE piece most would synonymize (yes, I made that up) with Fantasia.  I mean, you’ve got the titular character of said piece on the cover of the film’s box art, what else is there to say?  This is also where the film finally tells a definite story, one that, upon recent viewing, I’ve elected to refer to as “Moses after officially taking up sorcery.”  Maybe Mickey was somehow born from Moses, maybe he was just adopted.  Either way, this remains an enjoyable, charismatic scene that, like the previous two segments, sticks with you.  Whether that’s because it’s most frequently used when referencing the film or the fact it’s a good piece I leave for you to decide.

The longest individual segment from the film, Rite of Spring, has always stood out to me.  A key part of it was definitely the dinosaurs, something I was obsessed with as a kid.  Seeing it now I have to say the music used is quite dark, which the visuals have a tendency to compliment, especially during the opening half with smoke coming up to indicate lapses in time.  There are other parts like the T-Rex, the drought, volcanoes erupting and terrain shifting which build to make an enthralling 15 minutes.  In some ways I’d argue this as my favorite part from the film because it’s always the one that draws me in the most.  And go figure with the dark engagement, since it’s followed up by…

The intermission, also where we “meet the soundtrack,” which provides a brief demonstration of a few instruments in a bit of a visualizer style.  It’s entertaining and gives us a nice idea of what some of the individual selections of instruments are like, but is strictly what it’s labeled as: an intermission.

Afterwards we move to a far more colorful and upbeat piece with Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, something I’d prefer to call “a more fulfilling film than Hercules could ever muster to.”  Much of what we get here can be disputed as silly and certainly romantic, but my guess is that’s in keeping with Greek tales (please don’t hurt me, hardcore scholars).  I think it’s a good piece overall, especially with the centaurs and cupids, but I’d be lying if I said it was very engaging.

Then we get Dance of the Hours, which is supposed to provide stretches that apparently represent the times of the day, but I probably wouldn’t draw that reference were it not pointed out.  Of all the pieces between both Fantasia movies, this one is probably my least favorite, since hippos and elephants dancing is less fascinating and more…odd.  I’m all for ballet style too, it’s a key reason Black Swan worked–not as good as it should’ve, but that’s another debate–it’s just this isn’t a piece to really grab you and, even with a reasonable runtime, it simply drags.

Thankfully, the film’s closing is far more rewarding with a return to the darker and more engrossing Night on Bald Mountain, followed by the wonderfully calming Ave Maria.  Apparently the two were picked because they’re so different from one another, but I always found the transition from one to the other to be very seamless.  Rampaging and viscous darkness succeeded by an almost brooding calm that builds to something faintly triumphant is such a wonderful combination which only does one thing for the entire film: Complete it.

This brings us to Fantasia 2000, a surprisingly shorter but expectedly interesting sequel that, in most respects, lives up to the standards set by its predecessor.  One area I’ll admit that the film loses points is with the cameos from celebrities, which make my attempts at wit and satire look about as successful as a George Carlin stand-up performance.  Set that aside and we have a real treat of a film that consistently delivers what it should, especially given the fact it’s a more modern film.

So what better way to kick things off than with Beethoven’s renowned Symphony No. 5, which does a fantastic job assuring us the visuals will be terrific and do well to accompany the music.  There are points here and in the other pieces that don’t seem to take advantage of a few sways in the music, but they’re minor distractions at worst.  Admittedly, however, the intent for this opening to simply depict abstractions is quickly disproved since we’re given some sort of a narrative, even thematically.  But this remains a solid opening and serves to foreshadow the inevitability that I’d never reach anything remotely close to this film’s artistic prowess.

Pines of Rome has become a favorite for many people, which is very easy to see and understand.  I’ll admit the eyes on the whales are a bit distracting, but otherwise it’s a great segment which builds to one fantastic climax sure to get your jaw stuck on the floor.  This is definitely a segment to watch and feast on Blu-ray.

Rhapsody in Blue is in the running for my favorite piece from the film since it rings with today’s troubled times while paying homage to the 30’s and 40’s.  The art style here is phenomenal and a rare treat when most animation nowadays is either the standard 2D style that Disney became synonymous with or the highly detailed 3D courtesy of Pixar.  It’s a bit on the long side, but the connections made between characters pulls you and grips you surprisingly well, especially for an almost comedic piece.  From the get go with the outline of the buildings I knew this was going to be a great segment and it did not disappoint in the least bit.

As is Disney tradition, their adaptation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier alters things in a way that gives audiences young and old the most accurate depiction: That all obstacles have a totally happy ending.  Like the Pines of Rome, there’s a 3D-esque look to this piece that almost makes it seem transcendental for Disney, especially for the time.  The plotline is a bit out of touch, but the core story is easy to get behind.  As a bit of a side note, since I only just saw the film recently, this piece immediately reminded me of Hugo with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character.  Thankfully, that was one of my favorite parts of that film, so it helped to strike a chord with me.  Definitely not the strongest part of the movie or the most memorable, but it’s not totally forgettable, unlike Dance of Hours (fortunately).

Easily the most infamous musical part of Fantasia 2000 is The Carnival of the Animals, sparked by the question “what would happen if you gave a yo-yo to a flock of flamingoes?”  I think the real question to ask was given courtesy of James Earl Jones (“who wrote this?”).  Despite its reputation, I don’t mind the piece at all.  In fact, I rather enjoy it since A, it’s fun and upbeat and 2, it’s short and harmless.  Is it the worst piece of the entire film (outside of the cameos)?  Probably, but that’s like saying Peanut Butter M&M’s aren’t as good as Reese Pieces.

Cue a retread of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and we move on to Pomp and Circumstance, which might as well be called “Noah’s Graduation Ceremony.”  A tired joke perhaps, but it is easy to think about some sort of graduation when the animals board the ark.  Given that our key player here is Donald Duck, you can tell it’s going to be a less serious film.  Also, did anyone else see the piece as a big throwback to An American Tail with Donald narrowly missing his love over and over?  If there’s any piece that I’d argue the animation as being less than impressive, I’d probably point to this one.  That said, there’s some fun slapstick humor to be had and it did get a few decent laughs out of me, which is something we can all use more of.

And we wrap things up with the Firebird Suite, which I hotly anticipated (pun not intend) after each piece ended.  As viewers of the film know, this is some of Disney’s best animation, easily holding up over a decade later.  The story and use of color here is top notch, surpassed only in scope by Pines of Rome and rivaled in emotion only by Rhapsody in Blue.  I actually took a Nature Writing course (no, I’m not a hippie) in college and one article I read was that controlled forest fires are actually necessary and beneficial for tree and plant life since it essentially rejuvenates them in the long run.  This might not necessarily be the message of the piece, but it’s some good food for thought; especially so when you take the message of becoming bigger, better and stronger after things have hit their worst.  It’s a terrific tale of recovery and a definite contender for the Top 5 pieces between both Fantasia films.  And most importantly, we get another solid conclusion to a very worthwhile release.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Weekly Stumblings

The great thing about blogs is that even though you can orient them towards a certain topic, veering off-course is never too crazy or unexpected.  Besides, when you’re your own boss, who’s gonna stop you?

Anywho, some of my readers may or may not be familiar with a little site known as StumbleUpon.  If you don’t, check it out.  But be warned: One does not simply stumble one more time.  In a nutshell, you give the site your interests and then it randomly brings one webpage up at a time that it thinks you’ll like.  From there you like (or dislike) pages so it can offer similar and better selections for you.

I only just started using it a week ago and have liked over 100 pages.  Many of these have included fat-inducing dessert recipes that will probably destroy my weight maintenance goals.  But there are quite a few pages which offer something quite different and interesting.  And since I love to share finds–even with complete strangers–I thought I’d offer another recurring feature for my blog which I simply call “Weekly Stumblings.”  Given how much I love the site and the fact I still get a bit of free time from my job, it shouldn’t be too tough to keep these coming.  And it means I’ll have at least one post to provide each week.

And these will be posted every Monday so that the few followers I have might have something to help brighten the worst day of the week.  So here are the first of many Weekly Stumblings:

Stripes: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2WazJ4/blogoscoped.com/files/stripes.html

What Song Are You Listening To?  http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/7S0Cn5/kottke.org/11/05/what-song-are-you-listening-to

Black Mirror: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2FJXGl/rorrimkcalb.com/arcadefire.html

Musical Square Lights: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/9GDCbS/img44.imageshack.us/img44/6182/music.swf

Hats Micael Reynaud: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1zH1lc/lh6.googleusercontent.com/-EsD8QYy0C84/Tlw7ZWzsB_I/AAAAAAAACps/3wrxrhikIN0/w401/Hats_Micael_Reynaud.gif

Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2XYnO9/www.healthyfoodforliving.com/?p=34410

Pillsbury Funeral: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1NIYqv/www.cs.columbia.edu/sip/sipit/funeral.txt

Should You Buy That Gift? http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2Wjxcu/www.mint.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/mint-gift-flowchart2.png

Why I’m Broke: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2OYc7b/www.thisiswhyimbroke.com/?p=y

100 Ways to Cook: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/8nh9UU/www.endlesssimmer.com/100-ways/

25 Beautiful Animal PIctures: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2wfUq0/www.beautiful-animals.com/25-most-beautiful-animals-photography-on-stumbleupon/

35 Brilliant Advertisements: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2jAzUI/www.rsvlts.com/2012/07/19/35-brilliant-advertisements/

Where the **** Should I Go for Drinks: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1yYrLo/wherethefuckshouldigofordrinks.com/

Paris Panorama: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1QGIv5/www.gillesvidal.com/blogpano/paris.htm

Book Quotes as Illustrations: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1uCI8s/www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/favorite-book-quotes-become-fantastic-illustrations

CN Tower Timelapse: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1W419k/wvs.topleftpixel.com/flash/cntower_timelapse.swf

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Blog

 

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The Films of 2012 You Shouldn’t Ignore

Well before 2011 was over people were already claiming 2012 to be one of the best years for film.  After all, the only thing better than sequels, remakes and adaptations are above average sequels, remakes and adaptations.  But while films like The Hunger Games and The Avengers bask in the financial intake, there are a slew of movies being overshadowed.  Not that they need help to generate revenue, but those who want something a bit different from the publicized crop can venture a look.
Lawless

A Depression-era film starring shouter Shia LaBeouf might not be the best way to kick a list off, but films that deal with law-shrugging gangsters still seem to resonate with many people–and who can blame them?  Plus, we have The Road director John Hillcoat at the helm here with a cast that includes Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman, who make relatively good film choices.  And as an added bonus, we have Jessica Chastain filling in the pretty-face card.  The trailer certainly looks enticing and the film should be a good way to keep our attention between the summer and fall film slaughters of 2012.

Trailer:

Moonrise Kingdom

A few people are keeping their eyes open for this latest film by Wes Anderson, which got very positive reactions at the Cannes Film Festival.  After all, what’s not to like?  It’s a dramedy by a talented and acclaimed director, the premise and scenario is different, the cast includes Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel and–brace yourselves–it’s not adapted!  Between this and the trailer, which implies a perfect balance of charming and awkward comedy, there should be more anticipation for Moonrise Kingdom than Men In Black 3.  Of course, we all know the chances of that happening.

Trailer:

ParaNorman

Even with the misstep that was Cars 2, Pixar still appear to have quite a following lined up for Brave.  But what about the other animated movies?  Frankenweenie has been showing before literally every movie and, quite frankly, sounds more like a bad porno title than anything.  Then there’s ParaNorman, which has a very off-beat vibe based on the trailer…but that’s why it might be worthwhile.  There’s a bit of Tim Burton meets Nick Park here, except the former aspects should be handled well.  And if that turns out to be accurate, then we should have our second promising animated flick this year.

Trailer:

Red Lights

Most movies that deal with the paranormal are little more than campy, B-grade throw-outs, but here’s a movie that could prove to be a little different.  The cast is decent enough, which should help Cillian Murphy continue his slow climb of recognition; shame he’ll probably be as old as Christopher Plummer before becoming a household name.  That aside, Red Lights should work since it might take its audience seriously.  Granted, it’s unlikely this will be a game-changer (since Hollywood hardly know the definition), but the movie can at least raise the standards for its siblings to come.

Trailer:

Premium Rush

Okay, let’s be honest: the main reason people will see this movie is because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  The man seemed to become an overnight sensation and favorite thanks to 50/50, which isn’t difficult to reason.  Beyond that, this film looks to be a fairly by-the-numbers chase/action-thriller, but that’s just the point.  Everyone knows all the action movies they want to see this year, so hopefully Premium Rush will be a fun by-the-numbers film.  In fact, calling it Speed on a bicycle really doesn’t sound all that crazy after giving it some thought.

Trailer:

Gangster Squad

Oh look, another gangster/mafia film!  Except where Lawless may or may not look merely decent at this point, Gangster Squad could potentially bring us back to the former mafia glory of the 90’s.  Almost all of Ryan Gosling’s recent films have been acclaimed, critic-favorites Sean Penn and Nick Nolte are alongside him and, just for good measure, Josh Brolin, Giovanni Ribisi and Emma Stone have parts too.  Not everything about the film is promising, however; let’s be honest, the title is just silly and Ruben Fleischer is at the helm.  This would be fine, except a little number known as 30 Minutes or Less made his other effort, Zombieland, look like Resident Evil with Citizen Kane-like execution.  We’ll just have to hope Ruben has learned from his misstep, much like we’re hoping for Pixar’s redemption after a merely subpar sequel.

Trailer:

The Words

What is it with the sudden surge of movies about writers?  Ghost Writer, Being Flynn, Ruby Sparks and this: The Words.  Though Bradley Cooper did stretch his acting wings in Limitless, this just might make him a card worth taking seriously.  Based on the trailer, it almost looks like the movie wants to shoot for some sort of Academy recognition.  Now, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, but the film does look promising.  Drama, some light-hearted humor and, more than likely, a typical Hollywood ending, should make this a modest hit with casual critics–if such thing exists.

Trailer:

Looper

Hey look, it’s Back to the Future meets Inception!  There’s a good chance people have noticed the poster for this movie, but don’t know anything about it.  Audiences seem to enjoy the movies that do away with some laws of logic while keeping others, and Looper is looking to fit the bill wonderfully.  Just don’t expect it to be nearly as huge as either of the aforementioned films, since it’s clear this is more an adrenaline fix than food for thought.

Trailer:

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Film, Movies

 

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Quote Reviews: The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

“How’s your thirst for adventure, Captain?”

The story and themes are very much reminiscent of Indiana Jones and serve little beyond giving an action/adventure set up, but that’s precisely what Tintin is here to accomplish. Combine this with shockingly immaculate production, animation and top-notch editing, and we have a truly enjoyable experience that holds up for an optimal theatrical experience.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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