Welcome

Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Public Enemies



****

In Michael Mann's latest crime thriller Johnny Depp stars as notorious 1930s gangster John Dillinger, who went on a spree of bank robberies between 1933 and 1934, before being gunned down as he leaves the Biograph Theatre in Chicago after seeing Manhattan Melodrama. Co-starring are Christian Bale as FBI Agent Melvin Purvis, who lead the hunt for Dillinger, and Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette, the woman who stole Dillinger's heart.

The film may only be two and a quarter hours long, but it beautifully depicts and details the career and personal life of one of the most notorious gangsters of the 1930s. Each bank robbery, car chase and gun fight is intricately choreographed to really make the viewer feel that they are there, and keep you on the edge of your seat as the gripping, powerful action unfolds, and the build-ups to said sequences will really make the heart pound. The mise-en-scene is so detailed to make a really authentic 1930s America. It is all there - the black suits with trilbies, the (now) vintage cars with running boards, even the decor of the '30s cinemas and banks are created with as much detail as possible, to make the unfolding action feel like you are really there, it feels that authentic and is created with such strong Art Direction.

The film, however, is carried from start to finish by its cast. Depp is on top form as Dillinger, making the character cold and calculated to a truly spine-tingling level, yet also makes him sophisticated and charming. Bale makes Purvis a strong, driven and determined character, like many of the characters Bale plays. And Cotillard is wonderful as Frechette, making her so very charming and seductive that she will transfix many male viewers.

In short Public Enemies is a beautifully choreographed film, full of intense action and carried by its three excellent leading stars.


2009.
15.
Stars:
Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, Stephen Graham, Jason Clarke, David Wenham, Christian Stolte, James Russo, Michael Vieau, Giovanni Ribisi, Spencer Garrett, Channing Tatum, Don Frye, Rory Cochrane, Peter Gerety, Branka Katic, John Ortiz, Dominick Lombardozzi, Bill Camp, Michael Bentt, Carey Mulligan, John Michael Bolger, Emilie de Ravin, Shawn Hatosy, Matt Craven, Lili Taylor, David Warshofsky, Leelee Sobieski, Diana Krall.

Empire Award nomination: Best Thriller.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Die Hard 2



****

It's Christmas again and permanently pissed off NYPD Lieutenant John McClane (Bruce Willis) is at Dulles International Airport in Washington, waiting for wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) to land. However, terrorists, led by former Special Forces Colonel Stuart (William Sadler), have taken over air-traffic control, and are threatening to crash one plane after another until their demands to have a South American drug lord (Franco Nero) released from prison are met. McClane, determined to stop him, single-handedly goes off on a one-man mission to stop/take out the terrorists and save hundreds of lives, which is further complicated when it turns out that a Special Forces team led by Major Grant (John Amos) are in league with the terrorists.

The film may lack the massive impact of the 1988 original, not least because it lacks such a spine-tinglingly cold and calculated villain as Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, and the below zero snowy weather means Bruce Willis is wrapped up in thick winter clothing, but it is still a great film and really ticks the boxes as an action film. The 'gun-fight' between Grant's Special Force Unit and the terrorists will have you on the edge of your seat as men are 'shot dead' and snowmobiles go flying, and you will have trouble believing your ears when it turns out to have been faked, as 'both sides' were using blanks. The climactic fight between McClane and Grant, and McClane's subsequent destruction of the terrorists' plane is so well choreographed, and with such an explosive finale that you will be unable to tear your eyes away. Naturally the film's airport officials are sod-all use, which only serves to build up the tension more. And the effects are superb, with the plane crashes/explosions made so well that you will just want to watch those parts again.

Like most sequels it doesn't live up to the original - which is an extremely high standard to live up to - but it is a great film to watch as both an action thriller, and to see what McClane went on to do after defeating Hans Gruber two years earlier.


1990.
18.
Stars:
Bruce Willis, William Sadler, Art Evans, John Amos, Franco Nero, Bonnie Bedelia, Dennis Franz, Reginald VelJohnson, Fred Thompson, Tom Bower, William Atherton, Shiela McCarthy, Don Harvey, Tony Ganios, Peter Nelson, Robert Patrick, John Leguizamo, Tom Verica, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Mark Boone Junior, Colm Meaney, Robert Costanzo, Darren Naylor.

BMI Film & TV Award: BMI Film Music Award (Michael Kamen).

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Little Miss Sunshine



****

The film sees an extended family of six take their Volkswagen T2 Microbus and go on a road trip from Albuquerque to California so that the youngest, seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) can compete in a beauty contest. Taking her there and going with her to support her are her father Richard (Greg Kinnear), whose facing bankruptcy; her overworked mother Sheryl (Toni Collette); her fifteen-year-old half-brother Dwayne (Paul Dano), who has taken a vow of silence until he becomes a test pilot; her gay uncle Frank (Steve Carell), fresh out of hospital after a suicide attempt; and her heroin-addicted, foul-mouthed grandpa, Edwin (Alan Arkin), who's just been evicted from his retirement home. Misfortunes, accidents, realizations, and even tragedies, befall the family over the course of the 800 mile journey, but that never stops them from striving to reach their destination.

Easily one of the best films of 2006, Little Miss Sunshine boasts a wonderful screenplay, full of lovely gags that work thanks to irony, crude references and blunt attitudes, and in Arkin's Edwin's case a foul-mouth and dodgy attitude to women and sex, and a wonderful group of characters that carry the film from start to finish, along with several truly poignant moments.

Without the right cast the film would have failed, but the film instead is carried by the actors who bring true life to their characters.
Abigail Breslin makes Olive a worried, slightly troubled child, but with a truly loving attitude to her family, particularly her grandpa, and, like most kids, an inquisitive attitude to the way the world works and the decisions people around her make, and pulls it off perfectly. Her childish innocence makes the character, particularly in the scene where Olive inadvertently causes Dwayne to realize he is colour blind, and can never become a test pilot. Breslin also breaks the heart in the scene where she finds her grandpa unconsciously slipping into death and, upset and panicky, she alerts her parents to what's going on, through her facial expressions and the look of fear in her eyes.
Kinnear and Collette are a truly perfect pairing as Olive's parents. Their argumentative, frustated discussions make lovely comic interplay, and really keep one's attention. Kinnear also creates a character you want to hate but want to feel sorry for, thanks to the character's insistency that the family should all strive to be winners and totally avoid being losers, but his failing career and life that's going downhill. Steve Carell gives the best performance of his entire career, creating a heartbreakingly depressed character, but one you really feel a deep connection to, particularly when he becomes the only source of comfort for Dwayne as his world falls apart, really making you feel nostalgic for when family would support you in your hour of need and the close bond you feel for them. Dano is hilarious during the first two-thirds of the film as he communicates with his family through notepad and pen, and to great success creates an almost gothic character as he frowns and writes 'I hate everyone' and 'Welcome to hell' when communicating with Carell. In the final third where Dwayne's world comes crashing down around him he really breaks the heart as he screams in frustration and sobs over the dream that has now gone, and will really cause feelings of empathy for those of us who have been in similar situations.
Alan Arkin, however steals the show as Edwin. His outstanding comic timing makes the foul-mouthed heroin addict absolutely hilarious, as is the character's attitude to women, his step-grandson's sex life and Frank's sexuality in terms of how he satisfies his needs when it comes to porno, but he is so kind to Olive that it breaks your heart when he dies of a heroin overdose, and will hit you especially hard if you ever lost someone you love that deeply and it's not at all expected. Arkin truly earned his Oscar for this performance.

The message of the film is that life is full of winners and losers, but that we will never be the best at anything - there will always be others better, yet being a true loser would mean not trying at all. Whether you agree with this or not doesn't matter, as this is a wonderful film that will steal the hearts of all those who view it.


2006.
15.
Stars:
Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Lauren Shiohama, Beth Grant, Wallace Langham, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Matt Winston, Geoff Meed, Justin Shilton Bryan Cranston, Gordon Thomson.

Oscars: Best Screenplay (Michael Arndt), Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin).
Oscar nominations: Best Picture (David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub), Best Supporting Actress (Abigail Breslin).

Monday, 27 September 2010

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York



**

Set a year after the 1990 original, the film sees the McCallister family heading to Florida for Christmas. Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), however, gets seperated from the family at the airport and ends up in New York. Having been looking after his father's (John Heard) bag he finds his cash and credit cards and checks into the Plaza Hotel and has a great time without the family. However, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) have escaped from prison and are in New York, and it's up to Kevin to stop them robbing the cash from the town's biggest toy store, which is set to go to a children's hospital, and the two crooks want revenge for the last time they crossed Kevin.

Let's get it out of the way that there are couple of good things about this film. There are a few good gags - Kevin walking around New York splashing the cash like an adult in a kid's body is quite amusing to watch, and especially as it causes vast amount of frustration for the Plaza's manager (Tim Curry). The fact that, like the original, Kevin uses videos, dummies and, new to this film, a recording of his Uncle Frank (Gerry Bamman) shouting, to scare off adults like the Plaza's manager is also quite funny to watch, particularly when they have horrified reactions and run screaming in a very farcical manner.

There are a lot more drawbacks to the film. Most of the film is a rehash of the original. Kevin gets in a fight with older sibling Buzz (Devin Ratray) resulting in him being sent to bed early, his family oversleep and have to dash for the plane, Kevin ends up on his own, and loves it, gets scared by a local old coot (Roberts Blossom's Old Man Marley in the original, and Brenda Fricker's pigeon lady in this), before befriending them after hearing their back story, and crosses Harry and Marv and leads them into a house full of booby traps (in this film his Uncle Rob's house which is being renovated while Rob and family are in Paris) that he prepared. The climactic chase through the booby-trapped house is actually really sickening to watch. The amount of pain Harry and Marv are put through is a lot worse than the pain in the original. In this series of misfortunes you can actually hear the bones crunch and crack as they get battered, which will make you wince and put a lump in your throat. Cartoon violence is great fun in a cartoon, but when it happens to live action flesh and bone it is horrible to watch. There is also nothing childish or innocent about Kevin now he's older and now he's just a cocky kid, who's one step away from ADHD.

In short this is a very disappointing film, especially after the lovely original, and is almost enough to put you off cartoon violence. After watching this give it a few days then watch some Simpsons and Looney Tunes and you should be able to appreciate the beauty of cartoon violence again.


1992.
U.
Stars:
Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Brenda Fricker, Tim Curry, Gerry Bamman, Terrie Snell, Devin Ratray, Rob Schneider, Eddie Bracken, Hillary Wolf, Maureen Elisabeth Shay, Mike Maronna, Jedidiah Cohen, Senta Moses, Daiana Campeanu, Kieran Culkin, Anna Slotky.

People's Choice Award: Favorite Comedy Motion Picture (tied with Sister Act).

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Night at the Museum 2



***

Set two years after the original (2006) the film sees Larry (Ben Stiller), CEO of Daley Devices, a direct response TV company that sells inventions inspired by his time as night watchmen at the American Museum of Natural History, visit his friends at the museum for the first time in a few months, only to learn that interactive holograms are set to replace most of the exhibits - bar Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), Rex the T-Rex, the Easter Island Head (Brad Garrett) and Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek), while the others are donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., and will no longer come to life as the Golden Tablet won't be there. However, just before the exhibits return to their crates Dexter steals the tablet and sneaks it into his crate. When they get to Washington all the exhibits there come to life too and Larry goes over after getting a call from Jedediah (Owen Wilson), explaining the situation and telling him how Ahkmenrah's evil Pharoah brother Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) is attacking them, and, when he gets there, finds that all of the good people of history are having to go to war with history's villains, lead by Kahmunrah.

First, let's go over the highlights...
The effects are very good, there's no denying that, with the highlights being the 50-foot-tall statue of Abraham Lincoln (also Azaria) coming to life, the highjacking of some ancient aeroplanes, and Larry and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) diving into paintings in the National Gallery by Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat). The paintings scene also provides good gags as Larry and Amelia get turned black-and-white in one and their interaction with the paintings' occupants provides good quality comedy. The leading villains are a truly excellent creative decision. Hank is both entertaining and chilling as Kahmunrah, and I feel that it was the right choice to make a Pharoah the main villain, due to the amount of underlying fear the characters had over Ahkmenrah, prior to his tomb being opened, in the original. Choosing Napoleon and Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) as Kahmunrah's right-hand men was also a very good decision as they are two of the biggest, most feared villains in history, and it would have been a bit too soon after World War II to have Hitler.

Now for the downsides...
In almost every essence this is a retread of the first film. Both films feature exhibits coming to life, brawling and making Larry's life a living nightmare. Both films the existence/future of the exhibits is in jeopardy. Both films Larry falls in love - the first with Carla Gugino's history expert, the second with Amy Adams's Amelia Earhart. The other major flaw in the film is that there are far too many way too underdeveloped characters. There are countless new characters in this one - they even include Einstein bobbleheads (Eugene Levy), Oscar the Grouch (Caroll Spinney) and Darth Vader (Thomas Morley). Considering there were too many underdeveloped characters in the original, add about twenty more, with even less development and you have a lot of confusion. As with the original there are several cases of misjudged casting, once again the most notable being Ricky Gervais as the Natural History Museum's curator. He is wooden, irritating and may as well not be included in the film. Robin Williams once again disappoints as he is just so flat and bland as Roosevelt, a real let down to those of us who fondly remember his top-notch performances in 1992's Aladdin and 1993's Mrs Doubtfire.

All in all, though, this is an enjoyable adventure, packed with action and excitement that will entertain both adults and children.


2009.
PG.
Stars:
Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Alain Chabat, Jon Bernthal, Christopher Guest, Bill Hader, Patrick Gallagher, Jake Cherry, Rami Malek, Robin Williams, Mizuo Peck, Brad Garrett, Jay Baruchel, Ricky Gervais, Eugene Levy, Jonas Brothers, Clint Howard, Mindy Kaling.

People's Choice Award nomination: Favorite Family Movie.

Spider-Man



****

Based on Stan Lee's world-famous comic books the story follows school nerd Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), whose life changes when he gets bitten by a genetically enhanced spider on a school trip to a genetics lab. Bitten by the spider he gains the abilities to shoot web, climb walls, gains extra strength, speed and general fighting skills, as well as exceptionally sharper eyes, ears and reflexes. After his beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) is fatally shot in a carjacking Peter decides to use his powers for good, fighting crime and gaining the love and attention of media and the general public, and becomes 'Spider-Man'. However, physically powerful armoured terrorist the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), who rides a flying platform, complete with blades, and a virtually ever-lasting set of bombs, killing, destroying and kidnapping as he goes through New York.

This excellent film quite rightly started a franchise. The effects are excellent, and greatly supported by the film's top-notch editing; the aerial scenes with Spidey web-slinging his way through the city are truly outstanding, very eye-catching and memorable, and the fights with the Green Goblin above the city won't fail to impress. This also highlights the fact that the film features beautiful shots of New York City that truly capture the incredible city's essence down to a tee, that are both beautiful to look at and make you want to be there so badly. The characters are also excellent, thanks to the excellent screenplay and a very good cast. Tobey Maguire is perfect as the school nerd, yet tough and cool as Spider-Man. Dafoe is wise and slightly over-bearing, as Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin's true identity, yet powerful, intimidating, cold and sadistic as the Green Goblin. And Rosemary Harris is truly heart-warming as Peter's beloved Aunt May.

The film also features poignancy - the death of Uncle Ben is guaranteed to break one's heart, especially if you've ever had to watch someone die; and comic relief - Peter's difficulty getting used to his new abilities is absolutely hilarious as he shoots web everywhere without meaning too, and unintentionally uses it to splat schoolyard bully Flash Thompson (Joe Manganiello) with a tray full of food in the school canteen at lunch. So, all in all, there is never a dull moment, making this one of the all-time greatest superhero films, and great family entertainment. Just as good is its 2004 sequel, though the 2007 was more disappointing.


2002.
12.
Stars:
Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Michael Papajohn, Elizabeth Banks, Joe Manganiello.

Oscar nominations: Best Visual Effects (John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, John Frazier), Best Sound Mixing (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Ed Novick).

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Night at the Museum



***

Based on the 1993 children's book by Milan Trenc the narrative follows loveable loser Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), a divorcee who takes the job of night watchman at New York's American Museum of Natural History in order to provide some stability for his 10-year-old son (Jake Cherry). Simple enough, one would think, were it not for one major problem - at night all of the museum exhibits come to life, thanks to a magical Egyptian artifact, making Larry's job a living nightmare.

First, let's go over the highlights of the film...
The effects are excellent, the highlights being a T-Rex skeleton coming to life and rampaging through the museum, and a lot two inch model Roman warriors and cowboys coming to life and engaging in battle. There are some excellent comic moments coming from the alive museum exhibits - such as Dexter the monkey (Crystal the Monkey) stealing Larry's keys and slapping him, the Easter Island Head (Brad Garrett) calling Larry "dum-dum" and demanding "gum-gum", and Larry finding a way to reduce the brutish Attila the Hun (Patrick Gallagher) to tears. There are also some good performances in the film. Stiller is very entertaining as the down-on-his-luck Larry, who dreams of being an inventor. Arguably, Mickey Rooney steals the show as wizened security guard Gus. Mickey Rooney is always entertaining to watch, but truly stands out in this as the little old guy with ADHD/anger management problems, that longs to beat up Larry, who is at least four decades his younger, causing a laugh a minute when he's onscreen.

Now for the downsides...
There are several cases of misjudged casting in the film, most notable of all being Ricky Gervais as the museum's curator. Gervais isn't that good an actor in the first place - much better in TV sitcoms such as The Office (2001-2003) - and here he is quite wooden, and gives off a tedious, irritating air as he performs. Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt is also a case of misjudged casting as he seems to be trying too hard to portray his character and making Roosevelt very stiff and bland, which will particularly disappoint you if, like me, you fondly remember his performances in Aladdin (1992) and Mrs Doubtfire (1993). There are also a few too many exhibits I feel that get focused on for only a couple of minutes. This is a downside as, I at least, feel that the majority of the characters are underdeveloped. Yes, when all put together they make a fun, enjoyable adventure, but they don't feel real enough as characters thanks to said underdevelopment.

However, don't let the downsides put you off too much, because this is still a very enjoyable piece of family entertainment that is full of thrills and features some good gags.


2006.
PG.
Stars:
Ben Stiller, Jake Cherry, Carla Gugino, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Rami Malek, Patrick Gallagher, Mizuo Peck, Crystal the Monkey, Ricky Gervais, Brad Garrett, Pierfrancesco Favino, Kim Raver, Paul Rudd.

Saturn nomination: Best Fantasy Film.

Die Hard



*****

Before Die Hard Bruce Willis was barely known and struggling as an actor. However, the success of Die Hard made him one of the biggest names in Hollywood over night.

Using his frankly cocky charm he breathes life into New York cop John McClane, who is visting estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) at her office in Los Angeles, on the same night the skyscraper is taken over by German terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his twelve cronies (Clarence Gilyard Jr, Alexander Godunov, Bruno Doyon, Hans Buhringer, Gary Roberts, Andreas Wisniewski, Wilhelm von Homburg, Lorenzo Caccialazna, Gerard Bonn, Rick Ducommun, Al Leong and Dennis Hayden). While the staff - stayng late for the office Christmas party - are held hostage, McClane (who was in the bathroom when the terrorists turned up) is off running around the partially incomplete tower, picking off the terrorists one-by-one and trying to get the whole of the LAPD and FBI to come and rescue the hostages and take out the terrorists.

Director John McTiernan (who already had 1987's Predator under his creative belt) packs the skyscraper adventure with gunfights, explosions and non-stop relentless action as McClane (who could be seen as an antihero due to his smoking, constant swearing and bloody dispatches of the terrorists) listens in on the terrorists' walkie-talkies to try and figure out what their horrific plan is.

Along with writers Jeb Stuart and Steve DeSouza (adapting a Roderick Thorpe novel) McTiernan successfully redefines the action genre as a one-man-army. Willis makes his way through a series of clever setups - when he goes barefoot at the start to combat jet lag, you know his feet will be prominent later, and they are, gettier bloodier and bloodier by the second as they go over sharp metal and broken glass. His vest gets dirtier and dirtier by the second, going from white at the start to dark brown with splashes of red by the end. And his only pal is a single LAPD sergaent (Reginald Veljohnson), with whom he communicates by radio, while all other cops and federal agents are either too ignorant or too trigger-happy to realize what's happening.

Superby acted by Willis as a guy who would rather be somewhere else McClane became a hero for the '90s, who re-utters his "yippee-ki-yay motherf***er" catchphrase in three sequels (1990, 1995 and 2007). Rickman, however, steals the show as Gruber, making Gruber cold-hearted, cunning, spiteful, sadistic and seriously bone-chilling, and in him creating, in my view, one of the best antagonists of all time. Carried by the two actors from start to finish Die Hard is a true rollercoaster ride of a film, that, more than deservedly, has become one of several films between 1985 and 1995 that "redefined the action genre".


1988.
18.
Stars:
Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald Veljohnson, Alexander Godunov, Clarence Gilyard Jr, Paul Gleason, Hart Bochner, Robert Davi, James Shigeta, Bruno Doyon, Hans Buhringer, Gary Roberts, Andreas Wisniewski, Wilhelm von Homburg, Lorenzo Caccialazna, Gerard Bonn, Rick Docommun, Al Leong, Dennis Hayden, William Atherton, De'voreaux White, Joey Plewa Taylor Fry, Noah Land.

Oscar nominations: Best Editing (Frank Urioste, John Link), Best Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Al DiSarro, Brent Boates, Thaine Morris), Best Sound Mixing (Don Bassman, Kevin Cleary, Richard Overton, Al Overton), Best Sound Editing (Stephen Hunter Flick, Richard Shorr).

Friday, 24 September 2010

Hercules



***

Based on the Ancient Greek myth about Heracles (known in the film by his Roman name of Hercules), son of Zeus, this is Disney's 35th mainstream animated feature.

The plot centres on the titular Hercules (Josh Keaton as a child, Tate Donovan as an adult), son of Zeus (Rip Torn), who is snatched as an infant by Pain (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (Matt Frewer), on the orders of Hades (James Woods), who doesn't want there to be another God that could overthrow him. Hercules is left to grow up in Ancient Greece, but struggles to fit in due to his Godly strength. As an adult he learns that he isn't a mortal man and reunites with Zeus and learns of his true heritage. Determined to be a mighty, worthy God and hero he and flying horse Pegasus (Frank Welker), his best friend as an infant, go to Philoctetes (Danny DeVito), a.k.a. 'Phil', a satyr who has spent decades training heroes, but has never found a truly worthwhile one. Hercules proves himself in his training and starts going out to be a hero, taking on every monster Hades can throw at him.

First, let's go over the highlights of the film...
The animation is very bright and very detailed, capturing the design and essence of Ancient Greece to a tee. The monsters sent by Hades are awesome, visually, and really capture the image in your head that comes from reading the myths. The visuals of the climactic battle with an army of Titans resurrected by Hades is visually stunning as it is filled with fire, lightning, hail and so many other elements that are eye-catching and gripping. Danny DeVito and James Woods as Phil and Hades is perfect casting. Danny DeVito does what we expect from him as an actor, in creating a bad-tempered little fella, and making him comical due to his bad temper and tantrums. James Woods's distinctive vocals make Hades very spine-tingling and cold, just like a well-voiced Disney villain should be.

Now for the drawbacks...
Zeus, I feel, was underused as a character. He is meant to be the ultimate God, yet his parts just weren't long enough, and it's a let-down to readers of the myths as Zeus is very prominent and frequently featured in them. Also, each of Hercules's battles with a demon/monster/titan thrown at him by Hades feels a little too rushed, with the action all too crammed. Hercules fights and defeats at least a dozen in a short space of the film's running time, and I feel that it would have been a lot more memorable if they had just taken three but dragged them out to make them epic fights. There are also some truly irritating characters, most of all The Muses (Lillias Thomas, Vaneese Y. Thomas, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan) - painting characters that come to life to sing and narrate. Their constant breaking into song, distracting from the story and their flustered narration is very dull and gets very tedious very quickly.

All in all, however, it is an enjoyable film that is friendly for all of the family, so you should buy a copy for your kids - it will keep them entertained.


1997.
U.
Stars:
Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, James Woods, Danny DeVito, Rip Torn, Frank Welker, Bobcat Goldthwait, Matt Frewer, Amanda Plummer, Carole Shelley, Paddi Edwards, Hal Holbrook, Barbara Barrie, Lillias Thomas, Vaneese Y. Thomas, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Samantha Eggar, Paul Shaffer, Keith David, Jim Cummings, Wayne Knight, Charlton Heston.

Oscar nomination: Best Original Song (Go the Distance - Alan Menken, David Zippel).

The Little Mermaid



****

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 fairy tale The Little Mermaid is the 28th mainstream animated feature from Disney.

The story centres around Ariel (Jodi Benson) a 16-year-old mermaid Princess, curious about the human world, and who has fallen in love with 18-year-old Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) having watched him on the deck of his ship. Desperate to be with Eric she goes to sea witch Ursula (Pat Carroll), who agrees to turn her human for three days in exchange for her voice. In these three days Ariel must kiss Eric and, or else she will be turned into a mermaid and will belong to Ursula. Ariel reluctantly agrees and goes to live on land where she and Eric become fast friends and start to fall in love, with a little help from crab Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright). However, it seems they will never kiss as Ursula and her beloved eels Flotsam and Jetsam (both voiced by Paddi Edwards) constantly sabotage, as Ursula is desperate for Ariel's soul, which she plans to use to rule the seas by using it to force King Triton (Kenneth Mars) - Ariel's father - to give up his trident and crown for Ariel's soul.

The Little Mermaid is really Disney on top form. The animation is truly beautiful, with lots of detail gone into the sea life, making it one of the all time most stunning and eye-catching Disney worlds. The characters are absolutely wonderful. Sebastian, the all-singing Jamaican crab, is truly brilliant, thanks to a wonderful vocal performance by Samuel E. Wright, and some excellent gags in what is an outstanding screenplay. Scuttle (Buddy Hackett), a seagull and close friend of Ariel, is also very amusing thanks to his general stupidity - his believe that a fork is to be used to comb hair, being one of a number of stupid cock-ups he makes over the course of the film. Ursula, however, steals the show as one of the all-time greatest Disney villains. Like all the best villains (Cruella De Vil, Scar, Jafar, et cetera) she initially appears a bit harsh and brash, but never the less kind and concerned for the protagonists/supporting protagonists, but is later shown in her true colours - spiteful, homicidal, sadistic and unwilling to stop till she gets what she wants, all of which was created in the character by the aforementioned top-notch screenplay and a truly spine-tingling vocal performance by Pat Carroll.

Coupled with a truly memorable and catchy soundtrack that includes the Oscar-winning Under the Sea and lovely songs such as Kiss the Girl, Poor Unfortunate Souls and Part of Your World, The Little Mermaid is a truly enjoyable film, and an excellent example of the standards of the more contemporary Disney animations.


1989.
U.
Stars:
Jodi Benson, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Kenneth Mars, Buddy Hackett, Paddi Edwards, Ben Wright, Edie McClurg, Frank Welker, Kimmy Robertson, Caroline Vasicek, Will Ryan, Rene Auberjonois.

Oscars: Best Original Score (Alan Menken), Best Original Song (Under the Sea - Alan Menken, Howard Ashman).
Oscar nominaton: Best Original Song (Kiss the Girl - Alan Menken, Howard Ashman).

Atlantis: The Lost Empire



****

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is the first mainstream Disney Animation to be a sci-fi, and what a sci-fi it is.

Set in 1914 the film follows Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), an aspiring young linguist fascinated by the legend of the lost city of Atlantis, who feels it's possible to reach Atlantis, but is denied funding by all, until he meets millionaire Preston Whitmore (John Mahoney), an old friend of Milo's late grandfather, who is willing to fund the expedition. Led by Commander Rourke (James Garner) Milo joins a submarine crew on the quest to find the lost underwater city. After a hell of an adventure they reach Atlantis, only for Rourke to show his true colours and reveal his plan to take the Heart of Atlantis up to the surface and auction it for riches beyond everyone's wildest dreams, which would cause Atlantis's civilization to all die out.

The animation is truly spectacular. The animation team truly went all out to create the underwater lost city of Atlantis and bring it to beautiful, glorious life, making it colourful, vibrant and so beautifully detailed you will be unable to take your eyes off it. The characters are also excellent. Michael J. Fox, with help from the film's excellent screenplay, creates the perfect geek in Milo. Just as wonderful are the crew that go to Atlantis with Milo. Corey Burton is hilarious as French geologist 'Mole', who is over-excitable and even eats the dirt. Jacqueline Obradors is excellent as the tomboyish teenage engineer, Audrey, making her tough, cocky, and just so darn enjoyable to watch. Other memorable characters include the expedition's doctor, African-American/Native American Joshua Sweet (Phil Morris), sarcastic and moody Italian demolitions expert Vinny (Don Novello), Rourke's seductive second-in-command Helga (Claudia Christian), and disgusting old redneck cook 'Cookie' (voiced by Jim Varney in his last ever role, the film being released 16 months after Varney's death from lung cancer). All of these characters are really brought to life by the cast and the top-notch screenplay, and the film would be nowhere near as good without them. The film also features constant adrenaline-fuelled action, from the sinking of the submarine early on in the expedition, to the explosive climactic battle with Rourke at the end, so there will never be a dull moment in which your attention will go.

All in all this is an excellent quality Disney film thanks to its outstanding animation, quality characters and top-notch screenplay. Buy or rent a copy - I promise you won't regret it.


2001.
U.
Stars:
Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Jacqueline Obradors, Phil Morris, Claudia Christian, Corey Burton, Don Novello, Leonard Nimoy, Florence Stanley, Jim Varney, John Mahoney.

Annie Award nominations: Individual Achievement in Directing (Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise), Individual Achievement in Voice Acting - Male (Leonard Nimoy), Individual Achievement in Voice Acting - Female (Florence Stanley), Individual Achievement in Storyboarding (Chris Ure), Individual Achievement in Production Design (David Goetz), Individual Achievement in Effects Animation (Marlon West).

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bambi



*****

Based on Felix Salten's 1923 novel Bambi, A Life in the Woods, Bambi is Disney's fifth animated feature.

The narrative follows the life of the titular Bambi (Bobby Stewart as a baby, Donnie Dunagan as a child, Hardie Albright as an adolescent, John Sutherland as an adult), from his birth; to his early childhood, where he becomes best friends with rabbit Thumper (Peter Behn as a child, Tim Davis as an adolescent, Sam Edwards as an adult) and skunk Flower (Stan Alexander as a child, also Davis as an adolescent, Sterling Holloway as an adult), and experiences winter and spring; to his adolescence when his beloved mother (Paula Winslowe) is killed by hunters; to his life as a young, fully grown stag where he fights for the love of doe Faline (Cammie King as an adolescent, Ann Gillis as an adult), and has to help save those he loves and cares for from a forest fire that a group of hunters unintentionally cause.

Bambi features truly beautiful visuals with all of the animals drawn with such great care, detail and accuracy that they capture the look of the real animals they're based upon to a tee. The animals are also really interesting to watch as they apparently are a perfect representation of the lives that the animals they are meant to be live in their natural habitat, and we are also taught how a doe picks her mate through the fight that the two stags engage in to win her heart.

Bambi is also the most heart-breaking of all of Disney's films. The death of Bambi's mother will reduce even the hardest men to tears, as Bambi's cries for his mother will seriously hit you hard, especially if you have ever had to look on as a youngster is informed of the death of somebody that they love and then watched them grieve.

All in all thanks to its superbly written screenplay/narrative, wonderful characters such as Bambi, Faline, Flower and Thumper, and hard-hitting moments Bambi deservedly remains one of the most beautiful and timeless of Disney films, and truly earned its title of most successful film of the 1940s, thanks to over $267 million in box office reciepts - a very impressive feat considering cinema tickets on average cost 40 cents in those days.


1942.
U.
Stars:
John Sutherland, Sam Edwards, Sterling Holloway, Ann Gillis, Paula Winslowe, Hardie Albright, Donnie Dunagan, Tim Davis, Peter Behn, Cammie King, Stan Alexander, Bobby Stewart, Fred Shields, Will Wright, Margaret Lee, Mary Lansing.

Oscar nominations: Best Sound Mixing (C.O. Slyfield), Best Original Score (Frank Churchill, Edward H. Plumb), Best Original Song (Love Is a Song - Frank Churchill, Larry Morey).

Chicken Little



**

The first mainstream Disney animation to be 100% computer animated, the plot follows Ace "Chicken Little" Cluck (Zach Braff), a geeky young chicken, who is ridiculed for claiming "the sky is falling" a year earlier. All this changes when he wins his school baseball team the final game and is hailed a hero. However as the sky begins "falling" again he and best friends duckling Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), piglet Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn) and goldfish Fish Out of Water (Dan Molina) - who wears a scuba helmet full of water at all times in order to live on land - investigate it and find that alien spaceships are the cause.

The animation is beautifully detailed, with a lot of care and attention gone into its creation, there's no denying that. However, the screenplay isn't that well written, with gags that don't live up to Disney's usual standards, and a plot that falls short constantly, part only to the fact that the film's world is Planet Earth with no one specific type of animals as the occupants. The characters get quite tedious, thanks to a lack of gags and the aforementioned poorly written screenplay. There are, though, some quite neat references to 2005 big hits War of the Worlds and King Kong.

All together not that much better than the lousy direct-to-video/DVD sequels/prequels/midquels that Disney constantly churn out, there is still more than enough that will entertain small children, so there are worse films that you could buy for your kids.


2005.
U.
Stars:
Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn, Dan Molina, Garry Marshall, Sean Elmore, Matthew Michael Joston, Evan Dunn, Amy Sedaris, Mark Walton, Don Knotts, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Mark Dindal, Patrick Stewart, Wallace Shawn.

Annie Award nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Animated Effects (Dale Mayeda), Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production (Joseph C. Moshier), Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production (Ian Gooding, Dan Cooper, David Womerseley, Billy George).

Aladdin



*****

The story/folktale of Aladdin is one of the most beloved of all time, dating back almost 1200 years, but for "Generation X" (people born 1982-2000) and "Generation Y" (people born 2001 onwards) this wonderful Disney animation is what we associate the word "Aladdin" with.

Set in Agrabah, the plot follows the titular Aladdin (Scott Weinger), a street-rat who, along with small monkey Abu (Frank Welker), his best friend and partner in crime, has to steal in order to eat. When Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin), daughter of the Sultan (Douglas Seale), runs away from home she befriends Aladdin in the marketplace and the pair very quickly start to develop feelings for each other. However, the palace guards catch up to them and Aladdin is imprisoned and left to await execution. He is later aided in escape by the Sultan's Grand Vizier, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), and is sent into a Cave of Wonders (also Welker) to retrieve a Lamp. However, thanks to Abu's greediness the Cave closes, trapping Aladdin and Abu, but their life changes when Aladdin rubs the Lamp and out comes a Genie (Robin Williams), who can grant him three wishes. Once they escape the Cave, along with a Magic Carpet Aladdin uses his first wish to become a Prince, so that he can marry Jasmine. At the palace the pair, after a little while, fall in love. However, Jafar gets his hands on the Lamp and gains control of Genie. After becoming the most powerful Sorcerer in the world (wish one) it looks like he's set to destroy Agrabah and take over the world, and only Aladdin can stop him!

Aladdin features better animation than any other Disney in my view. The characters, the streets of Agrabah and every other little thing (props, backgrounds) are drawn with great detail, and are brighter, and more vibrant and colourful than those of any other Disney film. The characters are also much more vibrant and exciting than they have been in any other Disney film. Aladdin is so irresistably charming, cocky and kind-hearted, and his love for Jasmine, Abu and Genie is so heart-warming, particularly if you associate it with the love you feel for others. Abu is hilarious as he pretty much talks through the noises a monkey makes with its throat and also seeing a kleptomaniac monkey that will weild swords is actually really unbelievably funny to watch. The funniest, most memorable character, however, is Genie. Seeing how poor his work has been in the last few years it is hard to believe that less than twenty years ago Robin Williams, along with Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy (all of whom have also churned out some very poor work over the last few years), was one of the funniest actors in Hollywood. In the Genie he creates a truly farcical, melodramatic, slightly camp and loveable character, that will instantly become one of your all time favourite Disney characters, and the Genie/Robin Williams truly gets the best gags of the film.

Jafar is ranked, for me, as one of Disney's greatest villains. Like the all-time greats (The Wicked Queen, Scar) he appears majestic, yet he is also cold, calculated, homicidal, sly and cunning, and, like Scar in 1994's The Lion King, he has a truly spine-tingling voice full of cold hatred and malice that will keep you gripped from start to finish. The film also features a magnificent Oscar-winning score that includes the Oscar-winning A Whole New World, One Jump Ahead, Friend Like Me and Prince Ali, that is really catchy with such lovely to watch action in the aforementioned musical numbers. With all of these factors combined Aladdin is, in my view, one of the all-time best Disney films and will be loved by both children and adults alike.


1992.
U.
Stars:
Scott Weigner, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale, Jim Cummings.

Oscars: Best Original Score (Alan Menken), Best Original Song (A Whole New World - Alan Menken, Tim Rice).
Oscar nominations: Best Sound Editing (Mark A. Mangini), Best Sound Mixing (Terry Porter, Mel Metcalfe, David J. Hudson, Doc Kane), Best Original Song (Friend Like Me - Alan Menken, Howard Ashman).

The Aristocats



****

Set in Paris in 1910, the story centres around aristocratic cat Duchess (Eva Gabor). She and her kittens (Toulouse, voiced by Gary Dubin, Marie, voiced by Liz English, and Berlioz, voiced by Dean Clark) are set to inheret everything when their ridiculously rich owner (Hermione Baddeley) dies, and when they die everything goes to the butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby). Edgar overhears Madame Bonfamille reciting this to her eccentric elderly lawyer Georges Hautecourt (Charles Lane) and, seeing dollar signs, decides he needs to dispose of the cats so that he can inherit everything. After drugging the cats he sneaks out in the dead of night during a storm and leaves them stranded in the countryside. The cats, who wake up scared and lost, can't believe their luck when Thomas O'Malley (Phil Harris), a street smart alley cat comes along and promises to help them get home. This starts off a treck home full of adventure, music when they meet O'Malley's friends, and very soon O'Malley and Duchess begin to fall in love.

The Aristocats was the last film to be given the go-ahead by Walt Disney himself before his death in December 1966, and every time I see this film I thank Disney for giving it the go-ahead. The city of Paris is beautifully drawn and really captures the old, yet intricate and very interestingly built/designed architecture to a tee, making this film a true testimony to the drawing skills of the artists who worked at Disney four decades ago. The characters are truly wonderful. O'Malley is such a charmer it is genuinely hilarious just to watch his wooing of Duchess. The original Austin Powers - albeit in feline form! Toulouse is quality comedy as he is constantly trying to act the tough alley cat, and considering he's less than a foot tall it is just so funny to see him hissing and spitting as he tries to act tough. Edgar is just as funny thanks to his constant bumbling and bufoonery, plus the fact that he ends up being dragged down by other characters - even if they don't intend to. Arguably the funniest character is minor one Uncle Waldo (Bill Thompson), a goose they meet in Paris, due to him being the first ever drunken goose in history, and you can't help but laugh at a drunken goose, and the genius idea that caused him to be created. Coupled with a truly lovely soundtrack that includes the really memorable and really jazzy track Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat, among other really catchy tunes and you truly have a wonderful, hilarious film that is most definetly the most jazzy film Disney has ever made.


1970.
U.
Stars:
Eva Gabor, Phil Harris, Gary Dubin, Liz English, Dean Clarke Roddy Maude-Roxby, Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers, Paul Winchell, Lord Tim Hudson, Vito Scotti, Thurl Ravenscroft, Hermione Baddeley, Charles Lane, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, Nancy Kulp, Monica Evans, Carole Shelley, Bill Thompson.

Sant Jordi Award: Best Children's Film (Wolfgang Reitherman).

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Bolt



****

Bolt is Walt Disney Animation Studios' fourth mainstream computer animated feature after Chicken Little (2005), The Wild (2006), and Meet the Robinsons (2007), and the studio's 48th animated feature over all. It is also the first feature film from the studio to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature since 2002 when Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet were both nominated.

The plot centres around Bolt (John Travolta) a dog who plays a superdog in a TV series. To make sure he gives off the most realistic performance out of any actor in history everything is set up to make him believe that he is a true superdog and that his young owner Penny (Miley Cyrus) is in danger. However, Bolt ends up in a box going to Manhattan and when he gets out the box he realizes he must get home to rescue Penny. Joining him on his cross-country treck home are cat Mittens (Susie Essman) and Bolt's biggest fan, hyperactive hamster Rhino (Mark Walton) on a journey full of fun, adventure, adrenaline and some shocking truths for Bolt that will change his life forever.

In this film it is a thrill or a laugh a minute. The action of the opening scenes when Bolt and Penny are filming the TV series is a truly adrenaline-fuelled sequence, filled with 'explosions', 'machine guns' and 'motorbike chases', and is so well edited that the action never slows down for a second and is your heart is constantly racing as you watch it. The main comic relief of the film, despite quite a number of the characters being very comical, comes from Rhino. Never before has a hamster been so enjoyable to watch thanks to the outstanding vocal performance from Walton, as well as the screenplay and character's animation that make him hyperactive, cute, worringly geeky and a bit too tough for his own good in equal measures that will make the character, to us the viewers, irresistable and so fun to watch. His most funny moments, arguably though, are when he is in his exercise ball acting all tough and ready to fight, only to be pushed away or to end up rolling without intending to. I can't explain why this is so funny - you just have to watch it.

The animation is truly spectacular, done with such care and detail that it is easy to forget while watching the film that this isn't a picture made by Pixar, as it is to the same standard as their films. The whole film, however, is carried by the characters. Rhino, as mentioned above, is truly the comic relief. Mittens is also very fun to watch as never before have you seen such a tough cat, especially in the scenes where she acts like the Godfather around the New York pigeons. Bolt, however, is the most memorable character. It has been so long since a dog was (one of) the main protagonists in a mainstream Disney animation - the last time being 1988's Oliver & Company - that it is really refreshing to see it. Bolt, in equal measures, is courageous and heroic, and every bit the wonderful creation as Disney hero should be, yet is also so sweet in the moments where Penny plays with him and he gets really over-excited over his squeaky carrot, and heart-breaking, in the climactic fire in the TV studio where he desperately tries to get himself and Penny out of the burning building, and almost cries as Penny starts to slip in and out of consciesness. The character of Bolt was created by Pixar Chief and Head of Animation at Disney, John Lasseter, who is the film's producer, and clear parralels can be drawn between Bolt and Buzz Lightyear of Pixar's Toy Story trilogy (1995, 1999 and 2010), which was created by Lasseter, as was Buzz. Both of them believe they are what the media has depicted them to be and both realized the truth after being stranded in the real world, and it is interesting to see how many parralels/similarities you can spot between the two over the course of the film.

In short, Bolt is a wonderful animated film that will be loved by children and adults alike, and is entertaining and mature in equal measures.


2008.
PG.
Stars:
John Travolta, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Miley Cyrus, Lino DiSalvo, Todd Cummings, Jim Mertens, James Lipton, Malcolm McDowell, Greg Germann, Grey DeLisle, Diedrich Bader, Nick Swardson, Kari Wahlgren, Randy Savage, Chloe Moretz.

Oscar nomination: Best Animated Feature (Chris Williams, Byron Howard).

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fantasia 2000



***

Almost six decades after the original, and just in time for the start of a new Millenium, Fantasia 2000 uses works by some of the all-time great composers - Beethoven, Respighi, Gershwin, Shostakovich, Saint-Saens, Dukas, Elgar and Stravinsky - and visualizes the compositions with animated sequences.

First things first, Fantasia 2000 is inferior to its predecessor due to the fact it is less original, however, it is still agood film. The new animation sequences are all beautifully designed and intricately in time with the music. The most memorable ones, arguably, are a take on the story of Noah's Ark accompanying Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance - Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4 , that sees a hilarious Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo) acting as Noah's first mate, and being seperated from lover Daisy (Russi Taylor) as they herd all of the animals on to the Ark, and a Great Depression-era New York accompanying Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, with the whole sequence drawn in the style of Al Hirschfeld's famous cartoons of the era. These sequences are so vibrant and well made that you won't be able to take your eyes off them, and you will fall in love with the animation of them.

Although James Levine's wonderful conduction of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra really carries the film the fact that they chose to use the archive footage of The Sorcerer's Apprentice starring Mickey Mouse (Wayne Allwine) is a very welcome addition. It is so good to see such a classic piece of animation used in a much more contemporary film and it remains just as fresh today as it was in 1940.

In short, Fantasia 2000 may not have the complete wow factor of the original but it is still a good film and a testimony to just how good Disney animation truly is. It falls just short of four stars, however, due to the lack of originality and some poorly scripted dialogue between Mickey Mouse (Wayne Allwine), Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo) and the hosts.


1999.
U.
Stars:
James Levine, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Deems Taylor (archive footage), Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn and Teller, Leopold Stokowski (archive footage), Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Russi Taylor, Angela Lansbury.

Annie Awards: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Character Animation (Eric Goldberg), Outstanding Individual Achievement for Effects Animation (Ted Kierscey), Oustanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Feature Production (Susan Goldberg).
Annie Award nominations: Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Theatrical Feature, Outstanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in and Animated Feature Production (Paul Brizzi, Gaetan Brizzi, Carl Jones).

Monday, 20 September 2010

Fantasia



*****

Today creating images to interpret music is very common, but 70 years ago it was revolutionary, and Fantasia truly became a milestone in animation, stereophonic audio recording and cinema due to its 120 minute long creation of the revolution. Quite rightly so.

Conducted to passionate perfection by Leopold Stokowski Fantasia consists of eight wide-ranging sequences of ambitious, amusing, beautifully detailed and experimental animation, accompanied by pieces of work by some of the all-time great composers - Bach, Tchaikovsky, Dukas, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Ponchielli, Shubert and Mussorgsky - played by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

If you're a musician then the best animated abstraction will be that that accompanies Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, as the music is in perfect sync with the images, clearly making it the most intricately and carefully created sequence.

The most memorable sequence, however is Mickey Mouse (Walt Disney) at his most delightful as the Sorcerer's Apprentice, trying to halt the self-replicating brooms that he had conjured to do his chores. The pace and Mickey's body language and reactions (timed perfectly to go alongside the music) make this a truly magical, memorable and even farcical sequence. Other memorable sequences include a chorus line of dancing, anthropomorthic mushrooms - part of a series of smaller sequences that go with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite - and ballerina hippos daintily dancing and fleeing from caped alligators to Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours - both of which, like all the other sequences are so beautifully and intricately animated and in sync with the music, and so wonderful and enjoyable to watch.

All in all Fantasia is intricately created, beautifully detailed and so uplifting that you will instantly fall in love with this irresistable film, which more than deservedly became a milestone in cinema history, and inspired thousands of artists and experimental film makers to interpret/express music through art/images.


1940.
U.
Stars:
Leopold Stokowski, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Deems Taylor, Walt Disney.

Oscars: Honorary Award (Walt Disney, William E. Garrity, J.N.A. Hawkins), Honorary Award (Leopold Stokowski).

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Robin Hood



****

The legend of Robin Hood is one of the most beloved of all time and there is still vast amounts of debate over whether it is actually true. Although the legend has been brought to life on screen many times this is the most unique and, arguably, the most memorable one. All of the characters are anthropomorphic animals, and each one is an accurate animal match-up to their character. Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) is a fox, sly, cunning and swift, just like the heroic outlaw is described in the legend. Little John (Phil Harris) is a bear, which is the perfect choice as there is much emphasis on the irony of Little John's name in the legend as John is said to have been by far the largest of the Merry Men, and, on hind legs, a bear is at least seven-feet-tall. The main antagonist Prince John (Peter Ustinov) is a lion, as the lion is considered the King of all animals, as well as the fiercest and most cunning of them all as well.

The plot goes like this...
Prince John is ruler of England after getting his hypnotic right-hand snake Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas) to get John's brother King Richard (also Ustinov), also a lion, to go into battle in The Crusades. He is rising taxes with the help of local law enforcer the Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram), a.k.a. 'Old Bushel-Britches', a wolf, and keeping the money for himself. After being robbed blind and humiliated by Robin and Little John he puts out a reward for Robin's capture, but nobody is willing to turn in Robin as he is giving them back the money that was taken from them, with a little extra. Furious at the townsfolk Prince John trebles the taxes and anyone unable to pay them is jailed. Robin later hears that Friar Tuck (Andy Devine), a badger, is being sentenced to death as he stood up to the Sheriff and even hit him with a wooden pole, and so he and Little John stage a huge breakout, which, if successful, will get everyone out of jail, or, if a failure, will get them all killed.

WOW! What a film! The characters are absolutely fantastic. Little John disguising himself as Sir Reginald, Duke of Chutney, to get in there with Prince John, and becoming the poshest cartoon character ever in doing so, is comic gold. Equally as funny is Prince John's tantrums and cries for his late, beloved mother whenever things don't go his way, which is a massively entertaining contrast to the majestic, cunning side seen when he is on his throne giving orders to Sir Hiss, among others, as is his constant abuse of Hiss, who has a bad habit of irritating him. Arguably the most comical character is Scottish hen Lady Cluck (Carole Shelley) who gives off the impression of being lady-like, only to then take down so many of the royal soldiers and guards (hippos, elephants and rhinos) in a fight at the archery tournament when she, Robin, Little John and Robin's love interest Maid Marian (Monica Evans) take on Prince John, the Sheriff and all of the royal guards. That fight is one of the highlights of the film, being turned into a proper farce by its quick pace and over-the-top action, and is also very detailedly animated. Among the highlights of that fight are a load of hippos and rhinos ending up in a large tent and running around the field in it - a runaway tent trampling and bowling over anything in its path is so fun to watch; Lady Cluck taking down rhinos and hippos with ease; and Prince John hiding behind a barrel of ale when Robin knocks his sword out of his hand.

The subplot of Robin and Marian's love is a very heart-warming one as they both stayed in love with each other despite not seeing each other for several years, and the way they declare their true feelings for each other when it looks like Robin is about to be executed will bring a tear to your eye. Couple that with the lovely characters and animation and you have a truly excellent Disney animation on your hands that will entertain both old and young without fail.


1973.
U.
Stars:
Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Peter Ustinov, Monica Evans, Terry-Thomas, Pat Buttram, Andy Devine, Carole Shelley, Ken Curtis, George Lindsey, Billy Whittaker, Roger Miller, Dana Laurita, Dori Whittaker, Richie Saunders, John Fiedler, Barbara Luddy, J. Pat O'Malley, Candy Candido.

Oscar nomination: Best Original Song (Love - George Bruns, Floyd Huddleston).

The Jungle Book



*****

Loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's beloved book The Jungle Book was the last film that's production was overseen by Walt Disney, who died of lung cancer ten months before the film's release.

The tale follows Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) a 10 or 11-year-old "man cub" who has been raised in the jungle by wolves since he was found by panther Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot) as a baby. However, tiger Shere Khan (George Sanders) has returned and wants to kill Mowgli due to his hate for the human race. Bagheera is entrusted to take Mowgli to the nearby human village, but Mowgli doesn't want to go. Along the way they meet Baloo (Phil Harris) a bear who becomes instant friends with Mowgli and takes him under his paw. Mowgli also has run-ins with python Kaa (Sterling Holloway), who wants to eat him before Shere Khan can, and also ape King Louie (Louis Prima) who wants to use Mowgli to help him create fire.

Unlike Rudyard Kipling's book, which focuses on Mowgli's final days in the jungle and his journey home, the film focuses on the relationships he makes in his final 48-72 hours in the jungle, and it is this that makes it such an endearing classic Disney film. The bond between Mowgli and Baloo will really make you feel nostalgic for the days when you were a small child being doted on by your father, as will the relationship elephant Colonel Hathi (J. Pat O'Malley) and his son Junior (Clint Howard), as both relationships are so heart-warming and in both relationships the bond is such an affectionate one and is a truly accurate representation of a father-son bond as Mowgli and Junior really look up to Baloo and Hathi respectively, the way that boys always look up to their father figures in those first twelve years or so.

As for the rest of the characters, the film has some truly wonderful characters, brought to glorious cartoon anthropomorphic life by a fantastic ensemble of voice actors. Sanders will truly make your spine tingle as the cunning Shere Khan, thanks to his sly and sinister voice. In equal measures Holloway will really creep you out as the cunning python Kaa, and also make you laugh your socks off at his reactions to getting pushed out a tree by Mowgli (twice) and his fearful attitude to Khan, as well as his almost tantrums at getting outwitted by a human child, and the classic getting a knot in his tail. There is also some lovely comic relief from a moronic quartet of vultures (Buzzie - also voiced by O'Malley, Flaps - voiced by Chad Stuart, Dizzie - voiced by Lord Tim Hudson, and Ziggy - voiced by Digby Wolfe), who instantly befriend Mowgli. They have some wonderful comic moments and seeing their stupidity on screen in their conversations with each other is made even more funny by the fact they all speak with Liverpudlian accents, having been designed to look like The Beatles in an ingenious reference to '60s culture.

Couple these things with a witty, vibrant screenplay, and a wonderful soundtrack, that includes The Bare Necessities, I Wan'na be Like You and That's What Friends Are For, and you truly have one of the most wonderful Disney films of all time on your hands, and it is truly a tribute to the late, great man himself.


1967.
U.
Stars:
Bruce Reitherman, Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, J. Pat O'Malley, Louis Prima, Chad Stuart, Lord Tim Hudson, Digby Wolfe, Ben Wright, Clint Howard, Verna Felton, John Abbott, Leo De Lyon, Darleen Carr, Hal Smith, Terry-Thomas.

Oscar nomination: Best Original Song (The Bare Necessities - Terry Gilkyson).

The Sword in the Stone



***

The Sword in the Stone is Walt Disney's 18th animated feature, and was the last one to be released before the death of the great man himself in 1966. The film is based on T.H. White's novel of the same title, released in 1938.

The brief prologue shows the King of England who has no heir dying, and to choose a new King a sword is stabbed into a stone in a small courtyard in London. It is written on the sword that whoever can remove it from the stone will be crowned King. Many try and none succeed, so England is left Kingless and the stone stays forgotten.
The main strand of the film is set some years later and follows 12-year-old Arthur (Rickie Sorenson, Richard Reitherman and Robert Reitherman), a.k.a. Wart, who lives in a castle with his foster father Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot), and Ector's brutish son Kay (Norman Alden). Venturing into the forest one day he meets magician Merlin (Karl Swenson) and his sharp-beaked pet owl Archimedes (Junius Matthews). Merlin is horrified to learn Arthur is illiterate and promises to educate him. He goes to stay at the castle and he takes Arthur on a number of memorable adventures - including turning them into squirrels so they can go through the trees, fish so they can explore the moat, and turning Arthur into a sparrow so he can explore from the skies with Archimedes - all of which lead Arthur to the sword in the stone where he discovers his destiny.

First, let's go over the highlights/good points of the film...
There is some excellent comedy in the film, just like a good Disney film should feature. Merlin's eccentricities and use of magic to sort out anything and everything will really make you laugh, due to the quirkiness and fast pace of it. Archimedes is just as funny, as you never think of an owl with a short temper and a bit of an attitude and the way he berates the humans and considers himself superior to Merlin in every way is excellent comic writing Bill Peet's (who adapted the source material) part. There is also some great comedy from the moronic Kay's failing attempts to master jousting and swordfighting. This is a great example of humour coming from irony as Ector is constantly maintaining that Kay will get there, despite the fact that Ector is a knight himself, and Kay (his adult son) should know how to fight and joust by now. The most memorable moment, arguably, is a showdown between Merlin and witch Madame Mim (Martha Wentworth), where they battle each other by turning into animals. The pace and timing of their transformations makes great comedy, and it is a well designed sequence. However, it builds up to an anti-climax when Merlin transforms into a virus and gives Mim measles, and after such an enjoyable battle you are hoping for a massive, hilarious ending to the fight, whereas this one really makes your face fall.

Now for the downsides of the film...
Arthur - the film is about Arthur, who became a legendary King of England, yet he is the only character with an American accent. Although almost the entire cast was American they all used a British accent, except for the main character - bad decision. To top that his voice changes thanks to the three different youths they hired to voice Arthur, and it's noticeable. The other problem with the film is that every event moves too quickly, which could make it hard to keep up with, particularly for younger viewers. The film lasts just under 80 minutes and it is clear that the writers were intending to make it that short and just cram the action, where as a lot of sequences would (probably/hopefully) have been a lot more memorable had they paced them out and made the overall film at least 20 minutes longer.

However, the film is, all in all, an enjoyable and entertaining adventure that will satisfy both adults and children.


1963.
U.
Stars:
Rickie Sorenson, Richard Reitherman, Robert Reitherman, Karl Swenson, Junius Matthews, Sebastian Cabot, Norman Alden, Martha Wentworth, Alan Napier, Thurl Ravenscroft, James MacDonald, Ginny Tyler.

Oscar nomination: Best Original Score (George Bruns).

Saturday, 18 September 2010

One Hundred and One Dalmatians



****

Based on Dodie Smith's 1956 novel One Hundred and One Dalmatians became the most successful film of the 1960s, grossing over $215 million in box office reciepts - an impressive feet considering cinema tickets on average cost less than $1 back in 1961.

The narrative starts with dalmatians Pongo (Rod Taylor) and Perdita (Cate Bauer) giving birth to fifteen puppies, recently after their respective owners Roger (Ben Wright) and Anita (Lisa Davis) marry. However, Anita's old friend Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson) has moronic brothers Jasper (J. Pat O'Malley) and Horace (Frederick Worlock) kidnap them so she can turn them into a fur coat. Pongo and Perdita run away from home to rescue their beloved sons and daughters, only to find that Cruella has kidnapped a total of ninety-nine puppies. The pair gather all the puppies together and head back to London, with Cruella, Jasper and Horace hot on their heels, with Cruella not willing to give up until she gets the puppies she needs for her coat.

Once again Walt Disney created a top-notch animated feature with this film. The animaton/cartoons are wonderful; they are very detailed, very carefully drawn and very bright, and create the perfect animated sequences - a true testimony to the skills of the animation team at Disney. There is also some great comic relief, particularly from Jasper and Horace as you very rarely find such a moronic pair of henchmen. Their constant bufoonery, bumbling, and fighting with each other will crack you up, as will the fact that Horace sometimes realizes what the dogs are doing to trick them and escape, only to be told by Jasper that he's being an idiot. The film is, however, carried from start to finish by Cruella. Like all the great Disney villains (The Wicked Queen, Captain Hook, Jafar, Scar) she can often appear majestic and sophisticated, but like almost any Disney villain who gives off that appearance she will end up full of burning rage, and throw a tantrum if things don't go her way. And thanks to Betty Lou Gerson's wonderful voice performance Cruella is truly one of the most cunning, terrifying and spine-tingling villains in the history of Disney animation.

In short this film is an outstanding example of a quality Walt Disney animation that can stand the test of time, thanks to the animation, the characters, and let's not forget that spine-tingling song Cruella De Vil.


1961.
U.
Stars:
Rod Taylor, Cate Bauer, Betty Lou Gerson, Ben Wright, Lisa Davis, J. Pat O'Malley, Frederick Worlock, Thurl Ravenscroft, David Frankham, Martha Wentworth, Mimi Gibson, Barbara Baird, Mickey Maga, Sandra Abbott, George Pelling, Ramsey Hill, Tudor Owen, Tom Conway, Bill Lee.

BAFTA: Best Animated Film.

Lady and the Tramp



*****

Lady and the Tramp is Walt Disney's 15th mainstream animated feature and was so successful that it became the highest grossing film of the 1950s, earning over $93 million in box office reciepts in the United States and Canada alone - an impressive feat considering the average cinema ticket would cost about 60 cents.

The plot follows young cocker spaniel Lady (Barbara Luddy), who lives with a refined upper-class couple (Lee Millar and Peggy Lee) in Maine. When her owners go on vacation she is looked after by Aunt Sarah (Verna Felton), who takes a dislike to her and tries to get her fixed with a muzzle. Terrified Lady runs away and is found by Tramp (Larry Roberts), a streetwise stray silver mutt who she already knew. Tramp promises to look after her and help her get home and slowly yet surely the two fall in love.

Lady and the Tramp is truly classic Disney. The animals of the film (mostly dogs, but also cats that are also voiced by Peggy Lee, an alligator voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft, a beaver voiced by Stan Freberg, a hyena voiced by Dallas McKennon and a rat) are all carefully drawn to look as exact to the real animals as it is possible to get with cartoons. In all fairness the rat is designed to look more menacing, but that was an excellent decision on the animation team's part as the rat is used to raise dramatic tension, and also because in 1909 (the film's time setting) being bitten by a rat was almost always fatal, so they were looked at as much more menacing than they are today.

There are very good comic characters such as Lady's close friends and neighbours - bloodhound Trusty (Bill Baucom) and Scottish terrier Jock (Bill Thompson). The pair make a very good comic double act and are very contrasting - Trusty is a slow-minded old dog, with a great running gag coming from his supposedly lost sense of smell, where as Jock is very hot-headed and brisk. There is also great comedy from Tramp, simply because of his cheekiness, laid back attitude and his taking great chances at every chance. This is greatly needed due to the truly dramatic tension in the climax where the rat goes to attack Jim Dear and Darling's baby, with Tramp and Lady racing against time to stop it. Your heart is really racing when the rat looks about to pounce on the baby, partly due to the tense music and the lightning flashes from the outside storm, but mainly because you're really worried the rat will pounce before Lady and Tramp get there, and you know that if it pounces that the baby will die, and you are guaranteed to sigh with relief when Tramp pounces on it. There is also great poignancy at the end of the climax when it looks like Trusty has been killed in his efforts to save Tramp from the pound and Jock howls over his lifeless body. Jock's grief will really tug at the heartstrings, especially if you've seen a dog in pain or grief. It will therefore be a huge relief that will put a massive smile on your face when we see in the epilogue that Trusty survived, albeit with some serious injuries.

However, the characters, the comedy, the drama and the poignancy never outshine Lady and Tramp's romance. The romance is truly heartwarming thanks to the music played, and it will really make you smile to see such a loving pair on screen. The most memorable romantic moment is when the pair share a plate of spaghetti in the backyard of an Italian restaurant, provided by the owner (George Givot) - who has befriended Tramp a while before the film's opening - and they share a string which leads to them kissing. Your heart simply soars in that moment and it has become such a big moment that it has been mocked/referenced in so many other films and TV shows since.

All in all this lovely animated film is a truly heart-warming family film that will warm the hearts of anyone who views it, and has truly stood the test of time thanks to its lovely characters and wonderful screenplay.


1955.
U.
Stars:
Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Bill Thompson, Bill Baucom, Lee Millar, Peggy Lee, Verna Felton, George Givot, Thurl Ravenscroft, Bill Lee, Max Smith, Bob Hamlin, Bob Stevens, Alan Reed, Stan Freberg, Dallas McKennon.

BAFTA nomination: Best Animated Film.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Dumbo



*****

Dumbo is Walt Disney's 4th Animated Feature, based on a storyline written by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl for the prototype of a novelty toy ('Roll-a-Book').

The plot follows baby elephant Jumbo Jr, who is nicknamed Dumbo by the other circus elephants (Noreen Gammill, Dorothy Scott and Sarah Selby) due to the exceptionally large ears that he was born with. When the circus is set up his mother (Verna Felton) goes berserk when some boys start making fun of her son, and is locked up, while Dumbo is just used as another clown. Little mouse Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy) quickly befriends Dumbo and his mother and intends to help Dumbo become a star. This proves difficult at first, but when he discovers Dumbo can use his ears to fly things look set to change for the greatly oppressed elephant and the little mouse.

Dumbo to this day remains one of the most beloved Disney films of all time, and it's easy to see why. The visuals of the film are beautifully detailed, and the circus animals are so well animated that you can't take your eyes off them. The film also has some tearjerking moments, most memorably of all the scene where Dumbo visits his mother in the cage she is kept locked up in and she cradles her baby in her trunk. This will really make you want to cry, thanks to the heart-string tugging song that accompanies the scene (Baby Mine), but also due to the tears that both Dumbo and his mother shed, and all-in-all the scene will make you empathize with Dumbo, as it can really make you think back to when you were a small child and the times when you would (often accidentally) get seperated from your mother against your will and how upset and lost you feel without her. Fortunately there is some wonderful comic relief, the most memorable bit of said comic relief being a scene where Dumbo and Timothy drink out a bucket of water, into which a full bottle of champagne had earlier been dropped by one of the clowns, and immediately get drunk and start seeing huge varieties of different coloured elephants form from bubbles. This scene is both a triumph in the animation department and so funny it will stick in your mind for a long time. There is also some great comic relief from the African-American crows (Cliff Edwards and Hall Johnson Choir) that help Dumbo learn to fly. They are such a quality troupe of comical characters that they are irresistable to watch.

With all of these elements combined Dumbo is a truly heart-warming, memorable tale that will have a deep impact on viewers.


1941.
U.
Stars:
Edward Brophy, Herman Bing, Verna Felton, Cliff Edwards, Hall Johnson Choir, Sterling Holloway, Margaret Wright, Noreen Gammill, Dorothy Scott, Sarah Selby.

Oscar: Best Original Score (Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace).
Oscar nomination: Best Original Song (Baby Mine - Frank Churchill, Ned Washington).

Pinocchio



*****

Pinocchio is Walt Disney's 2nd animated feature film, based on the story The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) by Carlo Collodi.

The story centres around Pinocchio (Dickie Jones), a small wooden puppet who was made by woodcarver Geppetto (Christian Rub) and brought to life by the Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable), after Geppeto wished upon a Wishing Star. With cheerful cricket Jiminy (Cliff Edwards) acting as his conscience Pinocchio has to prove himself brave, truthful and unselfish in order to be turned into a real boy. Determined to prove himself worthy he heads off for school the next day, only to run into crafty fox Honest John (Walter Catlett) and the bumbling feline Gideon (Mel Blanc), who decieve him into believing that he should live the carefree life of an actor. This starts off a series of events that lead Pinocchio from being a marionette held hostage by gypsy Stromboli (Charles Judels), being taken to Pleasure Island with a load of other kids by The Coachman (also Judels), where all the other children are turned into donkeys, and Pinocchio gets the ears and tail, and to the bottom of the ocean searching for monstrous whale Monstro, who has swallowed Geppetto, his cat Figaro and goldfish Cleo.

Pinocchio is an all-time Disney classic and it isn't exactly hard to see why. The film's score is so memorable, particularly Oscar-winning song When You Wish Upon a Star, and I've Got No Strings. The characters are even more memorable, and also very comical. Pinocchio is so irresistably funny and charming, with his innocent, gullible nature and constant inquisitiveness, which is almost as funny as his reaction to cigars - a puppet's face slowly going green is so comical, especially if you've ever seen someone confident that they can smoke have a bad reaction to it. Pinocchio's most memorable moment is when he lies to the Blue Fairy and with every lie his nose grows a few inches. This will make you laugh your socks off, particularly if your parents or grandparents ever told you that would happen if you lied. The other most memorably funny character is Gideon. Although he is mute, apart from some beer related hiccups provided by Mel Blanc, his stupidity, speediness and over-the-top nature makes him a truly farcical character. Other comic moments come from Figaro and Cleo, as Figaro constantly acts like he hates Cleo, but is secretly flattered by the fact Cleo adores him and even flirts with him, making them a truly lovely comic duo, and the moment when Figaro kisses Cleo at the end will have you laughing so much.

The film also boasts lovely animation. The characters are all so beautifully drawn and brought to such vibrant life by the voice cast - most especially Pinocchio, Jiminy and the Blue Fairy. The sequences are also beautifully animated, most memorably of all the climactic scenes where Pinocchio and Jiminy search for Monstro on the sea floor, get inside and then, with Geppetto, Figaro and Cleo stage a massive escape, are truly well designed and edited, making them a triumph in cartooning/animation. The film also creates great poignancy in the final scenes where Pinocchio is killed in the escape from Monstro and Jiminy, Geppetto, Cleo and Figaro greatly mourn him, and will make you want to cry as Pinocchio is such a lovely, charming protagonist. It will therefore make you let out a huge sigh of relief when the Blue Fairy fulfills her promise and resurrects him, only as a real boy this time. This will guarantee to put a huge smile on your face as the love between him and his 'Papa' Geppetto is so heart-warming to watch.

All in all this is a beautifully created, heart-warming tale that will really put a huge smile on your face and you will cherish for a long time, and is also a true Disney classic and a triumph in animation/cartooning.


1940.
U.
Stars:
Dickie Jones, Cliff Edwards, Christian Rub, Evelyn Venable, Walter Catlett, Charles Judels, Mel Blanc, Frankie Darro.

Oscars: Best Original Score (Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Ned Washington), Best Original Song (When You Wish Upon a Star - Leigh Harline, Ned Washington).

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Lilo & Stitch



****

Dr Jumbaa Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers) has been put on trial by the Intergalactic Council for creating illegal genetic experiments. His most ferocious one, Experiment 626 (Chris Sanders), however, escapes and crash lands on Hawaii, Earth, where he is adopted as a dog by orphan child Lilo (Daveigh Chase) and named 'Stitch'. Jumba and Agent Pleakley (Kevin McDonald) are sent to recover 626, as is gigantic Captain Gantu (Kevin Michael Richardson). On Earth Stitch becomes an outstanding Elvis impersonator, enjoys surfing and shows his outstanding strength and ability to talk.

Lilo & Stitch is a truly fresh Disney animation. The characters are colourful and vibrant. Stitch is an irresistably charming character that you will instantly fall in love with. Jumba and Pleakley's constant bufoonery and arguing make them a truly wonderful comic double act. And the relationship between Lilo and Nani (Tia Carrere), Lilo's older sister by 13 years, is a truly accurate representation of a sisterly bond as the two sisters constantly argue, yet at the end of the day they love each other and are truly close. The animation is beautifully detailed and intricately designed. The surfing scenes will make your jaw drop as they are so carefully designed/created that they are at the same standard as live-action surf scenes in films such as Point Break (1991). The scenes in outer space are also really detailed, colourful and vibrant, and if you are into art and design you will feel envious of what the film's artists have created.

Couple all of this with a really catchy soundtrack that features a lot of lovely Hawaiian music and some top-notch Elvis Presley and you have a truly wonderful animation in the form of Lilo & Stitch, which has since become one of the biggest franchises in Disney history thanks to a three direct-to-DVD sequels in 2003, 2005 and 2006, a TV series (2003-2006) and an anime spin-off in Japan (2008-2010).


2002.
U.
Stars:
Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Jason Scott Lee, Kevin Michael Richardson, Ving Rhames, Zoe Caldwell.

Oscar nomination: Best Animated Feature (Chris Sanders).

The Emperor's New Groove



****

Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is the most selfish teenage ruler you could imagine. He is more than willing to demolish people's houses so that he can have his own summer place and he even throws an old man (John Fiedler) out a window for interrupting his 'groove'. Longing to gain control of the empire, his ancient advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her moronic lacker Kronk (Patrick Warburton) poison him, only for it to turn out to be a potion that turns him into a llama. Kronk then goes to throw the unconscious llama Emperor over a waterfall, but can't do it and throws the sack containing Kuzco onto a villager Pacha's (John Goodman) cart. Pacha is shocked to find the emperor as Kuzco planned to demolish his village to build his summer home there, but Kuzco agrees to relocate said summer home if Pacha helps him get home, so the two go on their full out treck home, with Yzma and Kronk in hot pursuit.

The Emperor's New Groove is a very good addition to Walt Disney Animation Studios line of animated films. The animation is very well done, and the designs of all of the various animals to feature within the film is very detailed and impressively drawn. The screenplay is consistently funny. Kuzco's cocky, self-obsessed attitude will not fail to make you laugh and the regular references to Yzma's ancientness are also well done to entertain the audience. However, the most memorable comedy comes from Kronk. His stupidity means that he's never fully aware of what he and Yzma are doing, and even assumes that the lies Yzma tells are actually truth - to the extent where he believes they are visiting Pacha's village as Pacha is some kind of distant cousin and it's a family reunion. On top of that his ability to speak squirrel will just crack you up and his regular debates with his conscience (the usual angel and devil) are very memorably funny, especially since the rest of the characters are confused by his behaviour.

All in all this film is consistently funny and very well animated, making it a must see for Disney fans.


2000.
U.
Stars:
David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick, Kellyann Kelso, James Lopez, Robert Bergen, Tom Jones, John Fiedler.

Oscar nomination: Best Original Song (My Funny Friend and Me - Sting, David Hartley).