Archive for January 17, 2009

Fantasia 2000

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2009 by Mystery Man

 

PROGRAM:

  • Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor-I. Allegro con brio – abstract patterns resembling butterflies and bats explore a world of light and darkness which are conquered by light at last.
  • Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome– this segment features a family of frolicking humpback whales that are able to fly due to a supernova. At one point, the whale calf is separated from his parents when he’s trapped in an iceberg, later finding his way out with his mother’s help. The final section, the Via Appia gives the impression of the larger pod of adults in migration.
  • George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue– an episode of 1930s-era New York City, depicting the day in the lives of several people within the Depression-era bustling metropolis, as scenes drawn in the style of Al Hirschfeld’s famous cartoons of the era, including an animated cameo of Gershwin the composer himself at the piano. The little girl in the hotel is based on the Eloise character created by Kay Thompson and the red-haired man is based on John Culhane, the author for the “making of” books for both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.
  • Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major-I. Allegro – based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier. The setting is appropriate – the concerto was written as a gift by Shostakovich to his musically gifted young son, and the percussive rhythms also suit a story about a soldier. However, the ending is a happy one in contrast with that of the original story.
  • Camille Saint-Saëns’s The Carnival of the Animals, Finale– A flock of flamingos try to force a slapstick member who enjoys playing with a yo-yo to engage in their “dull” routines, designed to delight children with the on-screen hysterics; music arranged by Peter Schickele. A number of real yo-yo tricks, including “Walk the Dog”, “Rock the Cradle”, and “UFO”, are featured.
  • Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice– a segment from the original Fantasia featuring Mickey Mouse. However, the music was re-recorde by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by James Levine. As in the original, Mickey brings a broom to life with the magical hat left by his master to carry water to a cauldron, but is in danger when he can’t stop the broom.
  • Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4– based on the story of Noah’s Ark, with Donald Duck as first mate to Noah. Donald musters the animals to the Ark, and misses, loses, and is reunited with Daisy Duck in the process; music arranged by Peter Schickele, including a wordless soprano solo by Kathleen Battle as part of the No. 1 March (‘Land of Hope and Glory’).
  • Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite – 1919 Version– the story of a spring Sprite and her companion Elk. After a long winter she restores the life to the forest but accidentally awakes the fiery spirit of destruction (the namesake Firebird of the piece) in a nearby volcano. The Firebird proceeds in destroying the forest and seemingly the sprite. She is restored to life however after the destruction and the forest life is reborn with her after some encouraging from the Elk. The story is considered an exercise in the theme of life-death-rebirth deities.
  • REVIEW:

    As a fan of the original Fantasia,I was overly-excited to see this film when it was first released, especially since I was able to see it on an IMAX screen.

    That being said, not everyone is going to care about seeing a picture like this. To put it as simply as I can, it is an orchestra concert with pictures on the screen, and while in a perfect world, everyone would care about listening to real music such as this, that is not the case.

    As such, this is not the film for everyone, but if you enjoy quality animation and good music, this is for you. (Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Firebird Suite, and Rhapsody in Blue are my favorites.)

    5 out of 5 stars

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    The Bucket List

    Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2009 by Mystery Man

    PLOT:

    Blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers (Freeman) and billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole (Nicholson) meet for the first time in the hospital after both have been diagnosed with cancer. They become friends as they undergo their respective treatments. Carter is a gifted amateur historian and family man who had wanted to become a history professor, but in his youth had been “broke, black, and with a baby on the way” and thus never rose above his job at the McCreath body shop. Edward is a four-times-divorced corporate tycoon and eccentric loner who enjoys nothing more than tormenting his personal valet/servant, Matthew (Hayes), whom he calls Thomas. He quickly befriends Carter, making Matthew serve Carter as well as him and ordering his doctor (Morrow) to familiarise himself with Carter’s health.

    Both are diagnosed with a year or less to live. Carter begins writing a “bucket list,” or things to do before he “kicks the bucket.” After hearing he has less than a year to live, Carter wads it up and tosses it on the floor. Matthew comes in the next morning and picks it up with other things that are on the floor. Edward finds it among the items and reads it. Edward pushes Carter (by suggesting he add things like seeing the world, skydiving, “fun things,” etc.), and promises to finance the trip. Despite the protests of his wife, Virginia (Todd), Carter eagerly agrees.

    The pair then begin an around-the-world vacation, embarking on race car driving, skydiving, climbing the Pyramids, and going on lion safari in Africa. Along the way, they discuss faith and family, and learn from each other that Carter has long been feeling less in love with his wife and that Edward is deeply hurt by his estrangement with his only daughter, who disowned him after he sent some people to “take care of” her abusive husband.

    In Hong Kong, Edward hires a prostitute (Rowena King) for Carter, who has never had sex with any other woman than his wife; but Carter declines, finding that the love he had for his wife is still strong. He asks to return home, and in gratitude for helping him, he tries to reunite Edward with his daughter. Edward lacks the courage to face her, however. He angrily storms off, and Carter returns home to his wife, children, and grandchildren.

    The family reunion is short-lived. In the preparation for a romantic interlude with his wife, Carter suffers a seizure and is rushed to the hospital. The cancer has spread to his brain. Edward, who is now in complete remission, visits him there, and they share a few moments together, where Carter reveals the origin of the “world’s most rare coffee” (Kopi Luwak), along with the factors that contribute to its unique aroma and taste. They share a good laugh, and Carter crosses off “laugh till I cry” and insists Edward finish the list without him. Carter then goes into surgery, but the procedure is unsuccessful, and he dies on the table.

    Edward delivers a eulogy at his funeral, explaining that he and Carter had been complete strangers mere months before his death, but that the last three months of Carter’s life were the best three months of his (Edward’s) life. He then crosses “help a complete stranger for a common good” off the list. This list item was one that Carter added. Edward says Carter had helped him (Edward), a complete stranger, with Carter knowing it before he (Edward) did. We see Edward finally attempt to reconcile with his daughter. Much to his surprise and joy, she not only accepts him back into her life but also introduces him to the granddaughter he never knew he had. After greeting his granddaughter with a kiss on the cheek, Edward crosses “kiss the most beautiful girl in the world” off the list.

    Edward goes on to live to 81 years of age. When he finally passes away, he has his ashes, which were placed inside a Chock full o’ Nuts coffee can, placed alongside Carter’s (also in the same type of can) on the top of Mount Everest, which Carter (who has been narrating the film) mentions that Edward would have liked, as it was against the law. Matthew does this, and as he does so, crosses off the last item on the Bucket List (“witness something truly majestic”) and places it with them. He closes the small black box and reburies it in the snow. This closing makes it unclear whether Carter’s ashes initially arrived during a trip made by Edward or at Edward’s behest.

    REVIEW:

    I had the opportunity to watch this with my girlfriend this afternoon as I’m sick as a dog and feel as if I need to be making out my own “bucket lsit.” She said the film was rather depressing. As for me, maybe I’m heartless, but I didn’t feel the same way. Yes, it ended on somewhat of a sad note, but you kind of get the idea that its going to when you decide to watch the film initially, not to mention the opening narration kind of hints that way.

    Morgan Freeman always delivers in every role I’ve seen him in. This was no exception. I will admit, though that it was hard to see a man who had played God on his death bed.

    Jack Nicholson, like Freeman, has never really had a bad role. My favorite is his turn as The Joker in Batman.This role finds him as a Scrooge-esqu type of billionaire who needs to see the error of his ways before its too late, and he really gets into it, not to mention add that Jack-ness to it.

    Speaking of Jack, Sean Hayes (Jack from Will & Grace) is actually pretty good in his role as the assistant, complete with smart-ass remarks. Freeman and Nicholson may be the focal point of the film, but Hayes gives just as important a performance.

    I really like the concept of the bucket list. Perhaps I shuld make one myself before I kick he bucket. Of course, I’d need to find a rich roommate/friend to help me get them all done, but anything’s possible, right?

    The funniest scenes of the film are when they are about to skydive and on the race track. Both scenes really lighten the mood of the film and show that these actors do have a sense of humor.

    When I first saw the trailer for this film and saw Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in a movie about two guys dying, I was thinking that I wanted to stay away from this “artsy-fartsy” film. However, turns out that this is a bit of a comedy, and quite the enjoyable film. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well.

    4 out of 5 stars

    Fat Albert

    Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2009 by Mystery Man

    PLOT:

    Doris (Kyla Pratt) is a sad teenager still recovering from the death of her grandfather, ignoring her foster sister, Lauri’s (Dania Ramirez), efforts to bring her a social life. Upon learning that her parents will be away for the weekend, Doris sadly lets a tear hit her TV remote, as the Fat Albert Show is on. The tear opens up the TV world to the real world and Fat Albert (Kenan Thompson) and the gang (Keith Robinson, Shedrack Anderson III, Jermaine Williams, Alphonso McAuley, Aaron Frazier and Marques Houston (minus Bill’s little brother Russell (Jeremy Suarez)) go to help her. Doris insists that she is fine, but the gang can’t leave yet – their show is over and they have to wait until the next day’s show to go back. They follow Doris to school the next day and are amazed by the new technology like laptops and the internet.

    Fat Albert also notices Lauri and falls in love with her. In another attempt to help Doris, the gang persuades some cheerleaders to invite them all to an outdoors party. With some reluctance, Doris agrees to attend. While they’re there, Lauri dances with Fat Albert. Lauri’s annoying ex-boyfriend Reggie (Omarion) attempts to make her jealous by dancing with Doris. When Lauri doesn’t notice him, he tries to kiss Doris. Doris runs from the party and Fat Albert warns the boy to stay away from Doris. The next day, Doris goes to school, but asks the gang to go to the park instead of following her. Weird Harold, normally very clumsy, joins in a basketball game and is able to play perfectly. Mushmouth, who can’t talk normally, is taught how to speak by a little girl. Dumb Donald goes to the library and is able to read and remove his purple face-covering hat.

    When Doris gets them and takes them back to her TV, Bucky, Dumb Donald, and Weird Harold jump into the TV but the show ends before the others can enter. Fat Albert and Bill have an argument in private about going back (Fat Albert wants to stay in the real world with Lauri). Searching for guidance, Fat Albert meets the real Bill Cosby and tells him of the dilemma. Cosby tells him that his character is based on Doris’s grandfather, which explains Doris’s confusion over why Albert seems so familiar to her. Cosby then tells Fat Albert that he has to return to the TV, or he will turn into celluloid dust. Devastated, Fat Albert tries to tell Lauri that he has to leave, but she doesn’t believe he’s from the TV and thinks that he is just being insensitive.

    The next day, Bill, Mushmouth, and Rudy jump back into the TV. Fat Albert waits and goes to a track meet that Doris and Lauri have, then takes them home and jumps into the TV (this convinces Lauri that Fat Albert wasn’t lying to her). At the end of the movie, Bill Cosby and his old friends (who the characters in the show were based on) stand in front of their old friend Albert Robertson’s grave. Doris is also there. Then the group of men have a little race, showing no matter how old they are, they are still kids at heart, the same kids from the TV show that they helped Bill Cosby inspire.

    REVIEW:

    I remember growing up and watching reruns of this cartoon on Saturday morning (back when cartoons used to come on). My mother would always say to me, you keep eating you’re gonna end up like Fat Albert, or if you don’t ennunciate better, folks are gonna call you Mushmouth. Needless to say, this film brought back memories.

    Kenan Thompson does a top notch job of bringing Fat Albert to life. Not to mention, he was cast by Bill Cosby himself, so if he was sub-par, this would not have made it to the screen.

    The rest of the Fat Albert’s gang aren’t exactly forgettable, but are just overshadowed by Fat Albert. They do each have their moments, such as Mushmouth learning how to talk from the little girl in the park, Bill nagging them to get back in the cartoon, Dumb Donald learning how to read and realizing he has a face, Weird Harold’s basketball prowess, etc. I wish they would have brought Russell to the real world with them, though. Aside from Fat Albert, Rudy gets the most screen time, but that’s not really any different from the cartoon, although his character seems a bit different than I remember.

    Kyla Pratt, who is best known as the voice of Penny Proud on The Proud Family,shows off some real acting chops (and doesn’t look half bad when she gets all dressed up for the party). Dania Ramirez has never looked better. Omarion gives an effortless performance as the bully, Reggie. (why are all bullies named Reggie?)

    As a fan of the cartoon, I like that they kept true to it. I’ll admit, though, it has been awhile since I’ve seen it, and some things did seem a bit different. I’ll have to go bak and watch a few episodes before I can say with 100% authority whether it was just my memory or actual differences.

    I wish they would have actually let Fat Albert get together with Lauri and Rudy hook up with Doris. Just seemed like in this feel good film, it would have been the thing to do.

    Bill Cosby’s appearance and explanation of Fat Albert’s origin really added something to the picture, as did the end scene where the real life gang is shown.  Shame that was at a cemetery and we couldn’t see the real Fat Albert.

    This is a very good film, maybe not the best, but definitely something you can watch over and over again. The vibrant colors and light tone allow for one to be thoroughly enjoyed throughout the film, not to mention the nostalgia factor. Check it out for yourself.

    4 out of 5 stars