Archive for the Disney Category

Meet the Robinsons

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

An orphan who dreams of someday finding a family to call his own finds his fate taking an unexpected turn when a mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson transports him into the future. Based on the book A Day With Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, Meet the Robinsons tells the story of a boy with a lifelong wish to belong, and shows what happens when he meets an incredible collection of characters who just might have the power to make his wildest fantasies come true.

What people are saying:

“…a snappy plot that demands close attention as it whizzes back and forth in the space-time continuum, touching on serious ideas and proposing some rather disturbing alternate realities. And the witty story twists are handled with rare subtlety and intelligence. In the end it may get a little weepy and inspirational. But it’s so charming that we don’t mind at all.” 4 stars

“…the movie possesses an unusually bright and colorful sense of style that immediately sets it apart from its increasingly plentiful brethren.” 4 stars

“Kids will no doubt be entertained but for everyone else this will just be a rather rough watch I think. Characters and plot are simple and the story is full of holes. More interested in trying to pound its message home then telling an interesting story. Too predictable and silly to be interesting so I can’t rank this as a “family” film really, give this to shut your kid up for 90 minutes while you take a breather.” 2 1/2 stars

“The Robinsons are amusing and likable enough for an hour and a half, but a lengthier exposure to any one of them would have any level-headed person desperately seeking out the number of a facility for the clinically insane. The film’s childishly envisioned ‘future’ will likely appeal only to those without a nostalgic attachment to better bygone eras, and will seem nightmarish to anyone else-especially being home to loonies like the Robinsons. On the plus side, the main antagonist’s background gives him more depth than that of the traditional born-to-be-wicked Disney villain, even if he remains ten times more pathetic than the worst of them. The film’s more emotional aspects, particularly at the start of the film, show potential, but as the story progresses, one has to decide whether or not that potential was entirely wasted.” 2 1/2 stars

“With a Mickey Mouse cartoon at the beginning and a quote from Walt Disney at the end, this shiny, dazzling movie will still charm you with its traditional Disney goodness. The voice talents are great, the textures rich, and the story solid and engaging. The Danny Elfman music is award-worthy. Youll want the t-rex, frogs, villain and Caffeine Patch Lady to have their own movies! There were kids from 4 to 14 in the theater when we thirty-somethings saw this movie; no one was bored, everyone laughed and rooted for the underdogs. If its in theaters when you read this, GO NOW, because its wonderful to see on the big screen” 4 stars

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Mulan II

Posted in Animation, Disney, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A month after the events of the first film, General Shang asks Mulan for her hand in marriage, which she accepts. Hearing about their engagement, Mushu is thrilled for them-until the leader of the ancestors informs him that if Mulan gets married, he will lose his job as a guardian dragon and have to leave her and his pedestal, his place of honor as a guardian. The reason for this is because Mulan would be getting married to Shang, thus she becomes a part of his family which requires her to have his family ancestors and guardians.

Wanting to keep his job and his friend, Mushu attempts to tear the couple apart (especially for selfish reasons, but, officially, because he sees that they are not very compatible). Meanwhile, the Emperor calls upon Mulan and General Shang to escort his three daughters- Princesses Mei, Ting-Ting, and Su across China to be betrothed to three princes so that an alliance can be formed with the kingdom of Qui Gong. If the task is not completed within three days, the alliance will crumble, and the Mongols will destroy China.

Mulan and Shang set out, along with Yao, Ling and Chien-Po (from the first film), to safely escort the princesses to their new kingdom. However, due to Mushu’s interferences and the fact that the three princesses are upset by their arranged marriages and actually love Chien-Po, Ling, and Yao, Mulan decides to go against her orders and, despite Shang’s wishes, stop the joining of kingdoms. One night, Chien-Po, Ling and Yao take the princesses out to a village where they impress the girls with their antics. Meanwhile, Mushu tricks Shang into thinking Mulan is taking advantage of him.

They then go through bandit country. Pressured by Cri-Kee, Mushu confesses to Mulan on what he had done. Enlightened about the news (yet mad at Mushu), Mulan tries to talk to Shang when bandits attack. While saving the three princesses, the bridge they are on breaks, and General Shang and Mulan are left dangling off a broken bridge. Since the rope can only support the weight of one person, Shang sacrifices his life to save Mulan and lets go of her hand, falling into the river.

Mulan then continues alone to Qui Gong. Not wanting the princesses to be forced into marriage, and because Shang is dead, she offers herself to marry one of the ruler’s sons. Shang, who actually survived the fall, finds out about it and tries to stop her. Mushu decides to help by pretending to be the Great Golden Dragon of Unity, who forces the ruler to stop the marriage. Mulan and Shang get married and the princesses are released from their vows, again thanks to Mushu. At the end, Shang combines the family temples. This means that Mushu gets to keep his job, and in his happiness, he accidentally reveals himself to Shang, even though Mulan already told Shang about Mushu. Mulan, Shang, and Mushu live happily ever after.

REVIEW:

Disney has not had the best record when it comes to their direct-to-DVD sequels. Very few of them, no matter how good the original was, have been worth watching. Mulan 2 did nothing to change that tradition, but I have been curious as to what happened after Mulan ended, haven’t you?

What is this about?

Courageous heroine Mulan and her hilarious luck dragon, Mushu, are back in this sequel to Disney’s smash hit. But Mushu frets when Mulan gets engaged, fearing he’ll lose his cherished role as her guardian.

What did I like?

They’re back. For the most part, all the character from the original film return. We see Mulan, Shang, the Fa family, Mushu, Cri-kee, the Emperor, Yao, Ling, Chien-Po, and even the matchmaker makes an appearance. Setting wise, there is no change, so there would be no reason to not see the same people, which would justify keeping the same characters, rather than spawning a whole new cast.

Grounded. Of all the Disney princesses (don’t ask me how Mulan is a princess), Mulan is the most realistic and grounded (although, you can make a case for Tiana…without the frog stuff), so it makes sense that this film manages to tackle the topic of opposites attract in her relationship with Shang. It is even brought up that once the initial infatuation is gone, they probably won’t last. This not a topic that is normally mentioned in your typical Disney flick. No, it isn’t necessarily mature or anything like that, just not something you expect to be covered. It was nice that they took the time to go into the problems of their relationship, rather than magically having them live happily ever after. Just a nice change of pace, is all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with happily ever after.

What didn’t I like?

Attitude adjustment. In the first film, the ancestors were ribbing on each other, but they weren’t complete assholes as they have turned into in this film. Who decided they needed to have a change in attitude, I wonder, because this accomplished nothing, except for make them unlikable, including the level-headed lead ancestor. It was like they were bullies to Mushu, then he helped Mulan save China, and they had to be put in their place…resentfully.

Princesses. First, I want to say that the princesses were a nice plot device and match for the guys from the first film. I just wish there wasn’t such a fallback on the arranged marriage trope. Yes, that is tradition in Chinese culture, but this whole scenario was so predictable and uninspired that it brought the whole film down, especially since it was the major plot point.

Music and animation. It is more than obvious this isn’t a big budget production. First, the songs are forgetful and leave you longing for the masterful productions of the original. Second, the animation is down a few levels from the first film. It isn’t bad, but in comparison it is noticeable. Don’t even get me started on non-Eddie Murphy Mushu!

Let’s face it, Mulan II was made for the sole purpose of cashing in on the tremendous popularity of the first film. However, it doesn’t come anywhere near that masterpiece. The film as a whole is a decent attempt, but the execution is lacking. This isn’t the worst of the direct-to-DVD sequels, but I have to say this is one of Disney’s less than stellar outings. Do I recommend this? No, if you’re in the mood for Mulan, then watch the original.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Mary Poppins

Posted in Classics, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) perched in a cloud high above London in Spring 1910. The action descends to Earth where Bert (Dick Van Dyke), a Cockney jack-of-all-trades is performing as a one-man band at a park entrance, where he suddenly senses that his good friend is about to return. After the show, he breaks the fourth wall and introduces the audience to the well-to-do but troubled Banks family, headed by the cold and aloof George Banks (David Tomlinson) and the loving but highly distracted suffragette Winifred Banks (Glynis Johns).

The Banks’ latest nanny, Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester), quits out of exasperation after the Banks children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) run off in pursuit of a wayward kite. Mr. Banks returns home from his job at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, and Mrs. Banks reveals the children are missing. A policeman (Arthur Treacher), arrives with the children, who ask their father to help repair their damaged kite, but he dismisses them and advertises for an authoritarian nanny-replacement. Jane and Michael draft their own advertisement asking for a fun, kind-hearted and caring person, but Mr. Banks tears up the paper and throws it in the fireplace. Unnoticed, the remains of the note float up the dark chimney.

The next day, a queue of elderly and disagreeable looking candidates await at the door. However a strong gust of wind blows the queue away and Mary Poppins floats down, held aloft by her magical umbrella, to apply. Mr. Banks is stunned to see that this calmly defiant new nanny has responded to the children’s ad despite the fact he destroyed it. As he puzzles, Mary Poppins employs herself and begins work, saying that she will stay for a trial period of one week, before deciding if she will take a permanent position. The children face surprises of their own: Mary possesses a bottomless carpetbag, and makes contents of the children’s nursery come to life and tidy themselves (by snapping her fingers).

The trio then meet Bert, who is a close friend of Mary, in the park at work as a screever, where Mary uses one of his chalk pavement drawings as a gateway to an outing in an animated countryside. While in the drawing, the children ride a Merry-Go-Round while Mary and Bert enjoy a stroll though the countryside, during which Bert dances at an outdoor bistro with four penguin waiters. Mary and Bert join the children on the Merry-Go-Round, from which the horses break loose and take their riders on a trip through the countryside. As they pass by a fox hunt, Bert manoeuvres to save an Irish-accented fox from the bloodhounds. Finally the quartet finds themselves in a horse race, which Mary wins. It is here that Mary first employs the nonsense word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The outing is interrupted by a rainstorm, which washes away the chalk drawing and returns the travellers to the park pavement.

That evening, the children ask Mary how long she’ll stay with them. With a sombre expression, she replies, “I shall stay until the wind changes”. The next day, they all visit Bert’s jovial Uncle Albert, who floats whenever he laughs, and join him in a tea party in mid-air (though Mary finds it childish and ridiculous).

Mr. Banks grows increasingly irate with his children’s stories of their adventures, but Mary effortlessly inverts his attempted dismissal of her services into a plan to take his children with him to the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, where he is employed. On the way there, as they pass the bank, the children see “The Bird Woman”, and they want to feed the birds, but George will have none of it as he expresses his uninterest in what Mary Poppins says and orders his children to “come along” and not mention her name for the rest of the day. Upon arriving at the bank, Mr. Dawes—Mr. Banks’ extremely elderly employer—aggressively tries to persuade Michael to invest his money in the bank to the point of actually snatching it out of his hand without waiting for his permission. When Michael protests, the other customers misunderstand, and start a run on the bank that forces the bank to suspend business. The children flee and wander into the slums of the East End of London. Fortunately, they run into Bert, now employed as a chimney sweep. He takes them safely home, explaining that their father does not hate them, but that he has problems of his own, and that unlike the children, has no-one to turn to but himself.

At home, a departing Mrs. Banks employs Bert to clean the family’s chimney and mind the children. Mary Poppins arrives back from her day off and warns of the dangers of this activity, but is too late as the children are both sucked up the chimney to the roof. Bert and Mary follow them and lead a tour of the rooftops of London that concludes with a joyful dance with Bert’s chimney-sweep colleagues. A volley of fireworks from the Banks’ eccentric neighbour, Admiral Boom, who mistakes them for Hottentots, sends the entire gathering back down the Banks’ chimney. Mr. Banks arrives home, forcing Mary to conclude the festivities. Banks then receives a phone call from work ordering him to return immediately for disciplinary action. As Mr. Banks gathers his strength, Bert points out that while Mr. Banks does need to make a living, his offspring’s childhood will come and go in a blink of an eye, and he needs to be there for them while he can. The Banks children approach their father to apologize, and Michael gives Mr. Banks his tuppence in the hope that it will make things all right. Banks gently accepts the offering.

A somber and thoughtful Mr. Banks walks alone through the night-time streets, for the first time noticing several of the buildings around him, including the cathedral and steps on which the woman was sitting earlier. At the bank, he is formally humiliated and sacked for causing the first run on the bank since 1773 (it is stated that the bank supplied the money for the shipment of tea destroyed in the Boston Tea Party). However, after being at a loss when ordered to give a statement, Mr. Banks invokes Mary Poppins’ all-purpose word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” to tweak Mr. Dawes. He gives Dawes the tuppence, tells the old man one of Bert’s and Uncle Albert’s jokes and raucously departs. Dawes mulls over the joke, finally “gets it” and floats up into the air, laughing.

The next morning, the wind has changed direction, and so Mary must depart. Meanwhile, the Banks adults cannot find Mr. Banks, and fear that he might have become suicidal. However, Mr. Banks, now loving and joyful, reappears with the now-mended kite and cheerfully summons his children. The greatly relieved Mrs. Banks supplies a tail for the kite, using one of her suffragette ribbons. They all leave the house without a backward glance as Mary Poppins watches from a window. In the park with other kite-flyers, Mr. Banks meets Mr. Dawes Jr., who says that his father literally died laughing. Instead of being upset, the son is delighted his father died happy, and re-employs Mr. Banks to fill the opening as partner. Her work done, Mary Poppins takes to the air with a fond farewell from Bert (who was selling kites), telling her not to stay away too long.

REVIEW:

Someone actually suggested this one to me in the spring, but certain personal events put it on hold indefinitely. Today, I finally get the chance to make good on that promise.

Along with the classic hand drawn animation films of its heyday, one the Disney studios greatest productions had to be Mary Poppins.

This is everything one wold expect from a Disney film. It has bright, brilliant colors, great songs, a heart warming story, and that Disney magic. All of which have allowed it to withstand the test of time.

I was not aware, but should not be surprised, that Mary Poppins was actually a book. I suppose I should go the library and check it out. On that note, another nanny that has gained some popularity in recent years has been said to be Mary’s sister, and that is Nanny McPhee. Now, I don’t know how true or false this is, nor do I care to speculate on it, but I will look into it and see. My suspicion, though, is that they are two similar characters and people just want them to be related for some strange reason.

The songs in this film are great. Often times, a musical will have those 1 or two songs that you’ll be singing months after you watch, and the rest will be forgotten soon after they are over. Well, almost all of these songs are sure to be stuck in your head, with a couple of exceptions, and those aren’t necessarily bad, just not as catchy.

When Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released, they all said it was the first to mix live action with cartoons. Well, those same people need to look at the scenes that take place in the sidewalk chalk art. Unless I’m seeing things, it looks very much like humans interacting with cartoons, in a cartoon world, no less!

As I said before, I have not read the book, but if this story is anywhere close to the source material then it will be a good read, because the audience can’t help but be enthralled by the plights, exploits, and adventures of each member of this cast, and how they all interact with each other.

It appears, though, that Disney altered the characterization of Mary Poppins. I’ve read that she was supposed to be a bit cruel and stern…ironically like the nanny she replaces or yo cold even go so far as to say Nanny McPhee, if you’d like.

I would have liked a bit more emphasis on the mother, but that’s just a personal preference, rather than a slight against the films. Also, the staff seems to be great comic relief. Using them a bit more might have been a good idea, as well.

Julie Andrews at this time was fresh on the scene. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, this is her big screen debut. What a debut, huh? Just think, though, things just went up from here, even if she has spent the majority of her career as either a nanny or in her later years as some sort of regal figure, such as a queen.

Dick Van Dyke is constantly getting flack for his cockney accent. People are saying that it ruins the film. Personally, I like it. His accent works for his character and throws a bit of spice into a cast that all seem to have the same cookie cutter British accent.

So, what is the final verdict on Mary Poppins? Well, this is hands down one of the best non animated Disney films. I think only Old Yeller is anywhere near as good. With a few minor exceptions, I have to say that this film is, to quote Mary Poppins, “Practically perfect in every way”.

5 out of 5 stars

Winnie the Pooh

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is based on three stories found in the Milne books. Two stories are from Winnie-the-Pooh: “In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail and Pooh Finds One” and “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump”. The other story is found in The House at Pooh Corner: “In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings”. Some elements, such as the gang thinking that Christopher Robin has been captured by a monster, are based on events from the film Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin

Pooh wakes up one day to find that he is out of honey. While out searching for more, Pooh discovers that Eeyore has lost his tail. Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, and Roo come to the rescue, and Christopher Robin decides to hold a contest to see who can find a replacement for Eeyore’s tail. The prize for the winner is a fresh pot of honey. After many failed attempts for what would replace Eeyore’s tail (such as a cuckoo clock), Kanga suggests they use a scarf, but it unravels.

The next day, Pooh goes to visit Christopher Robin and he finds a note that says “Gon Out Bizy Back Soon”. Because Pooh is unable to read the note, he asks for Owl’s help. Owl’s poor reading comprehension skills lead Pooh and his friends to believe that Christopher Robin has been abducted by a ruthless and mischievous monster they call the “Backson”. Pooh and his friends plan to trap the Backson in a pit, which they think he’ll fall into after following a trail of items leading to it. Meanwhile, Tigger, wanting a sidekick to help him defeat the Backson, recruits Eeyore to be a second Tigger. He dresses up like the Backson and tries to teach Eeyore how to fight. Eeyore, who is doing this against his will, escapes from Tigger and hides underwater.

After a failed attempt to get honey from a bee hive, Pooh’s imagination combined with his hunger get the better of him, and accidentally falls into the pit meant for the Backson. Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Owl and Eeyore (who had found an anchor whilst he was hiding to replace his own tail) try to get him out, but fall in themselves. Piglet attempts to get Pooh and friends out of the trap (though continuously irritating Rabbit with overintrepretations of his instructions, who is further miffed [though hiding it] when realising that Owl could have flown them out of the pit), but he runs into Tigger, still in his Backson outfit, and mistakes him for the actual monster. Piglet escapes from Tigger on a red balloon, which knocks some of the storybook’s letters into the pit. After the chase, Tigger and Piglet fall into the trap as well, where Eeyore reminds Tigger that he, being “the only one”, is “the most wonderful thing about Tiggers”. Eventually, Pooh figures out to use the fallen letters to form a ladder, and the animals are able to escape the pit. They soon find Christopher Robin, and tell him about the Backson, but he clarifies, saying he meant to be “back soon”.

Later, Pooh visits Owl only to find that Owl was the one that took Eeyore’s tail, not realizing it belonged to Eeyore. Owl had been using Eeyore’s tail as a bell pulley for his door. Pooh chooses to leave and return the tail to Eeyore instead of sharing a pot of honey with Owl. Christopher Robin is proud of Pooh’s kindness and rewards him with a large pot of honey.

Following the credits, it is revealed that the rumored Backson actually exists deep in the woods, but is much friendlier than imagined. He discovers the trail of objects that the animals left, and picks up each one, planning to return them to whoever owns them. He ends up falling into the pit that was originally meant for him and waits for someone to arrive and help him out. He adds, “I sure hope that fellow will be back soon”.

REVIEW:

I believe that it was around this time last year that I left a comment on someone’s blog that it won’t be long before they start remaking animated films. Sure enough, here is our first foray into that area. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Winnie the Pooh isn’t necessarily a remake, as much as it is stories from the book and other films in the Pooh franchise being spliced together with certain details being changed. For instance, remember the Huffalump and that catchy song? Well, in this film they did almost a parody of it and called it the Backson.

I had my preconceived notions of this film before I even watched it, but it got rave reviews, so I decided to see what the hype was about. Let me make one thing clear…this is not a bad film, if this is your first outing with Pooh. However, most of us grew up with the Saturday morning cartoon and probably watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at some point in time.

I think the biggest drawback for me with this film was that they didn’t come up with a new story. If you’re going to release a new Pooh film, then for goodness sakes give us a new story!

I have to give kudos to much of the voice cast, especially Jim Cummings who sounds almost identical to Sterling Holloway’s tenor timbre. I was impressed. Also receiving lauds from me is Craig Ferguson. While he doesn’t sound anywhere near the original voice of Owl, he brings the character to life in his own way and maintains his personality.

The rest of the cast, though, I felt was sadly miscast. My biggest qualm is with Bud Luckey as Eeyore. For those of you who don’t know, Peter Cullen, best known as the voice of Optimus Prime, provided the voice of Eeyore since at least the 80s. I have to wonder why he didn’t for this film, unless there was some schedule conflicts with the Transformers films or he just didn’t want to be a part of what he felt was not going to be any good, which I can totally understand.

Finally, Christopher Robin is too British for my taste here, but I can live with that. What I can’t fathom is how they made Kanga almost a bitch! in every incarnation I’ve seen, Kanga has been uber-mothering, and not more or less a female version of Rabbit. Ugh! That was so frustrating.

The songs in the film are horrible. It was as if they hired some commercial jingle writer to compose all of them in like 10 minutes. The only exception is Zooey Deschanel’s  memorable take on the theme. The rest are quite forgettable.

Disney took a risk with this film. Not only was it a near remake, but it was released against arguably the most anticipated film of the summer, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt II. I do congratulate them on using hand drawn animation. We don’t get enough of this today. While this film isn’t my favorite in the Disney collection, it isn’t the worst they’ve put out. The sure family fun and sweetness factor makes it worth watching, and be sure to catch the Nessie short, as well. With all that said, this isn’t worth adding to your DVD collection,. just a couple of viewings.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Tarzan

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the 19th Century, an English couple and their infant son escape a burning ship, ending up on land near uncharted rainforests off the coast of Africa. The couple craft themselves a treehouse from their ship’s wreckage, but are subsequently killed by Sabor, a rogue leopardess. Kala (Glenn Close), a gorilla whose own son was killed and eaten by the vicious leopardess, hears the cries of the orphaned infant, and finds him in the ruined treehouse where the parents’ dead bodies lie in a dark corner. Kala takes an instant liking to the baby. Kala is attacked by Sabor, who wants to kill and eat the baby, but Kala manages to get her tangled in the ropes holding the derelict rowboat, and she and the baby escape.

The kindly Kala takes the baby back to the gorilla troop to raise as her own, despite her mate Kerchak’s (Lance Henriksen) disapproval. Kala raises the human child, naming him Tarzan (Alex D. Linz as a young boy, Tony Goldwyn as a young adult). Though he befriends other gorillas in the troop and other animals, including the young female gorilla Terk (Rosie O’Donnell) and the paranoid male elephant Tantor (Wayne Knight), Tarzan finds himself unable to keep up with them, and takes great efforts to improve himself. As a young man, Tarzan is able to kill Sabor with his crude spear and protect the troop, earning Kerchak’s reluctant respect.

The gorilla troop’s peaceful life is interrupted by the arrival of a team of human explorers from England, consisting of Professor Porter (Nigel Hawthorne), his daughter Jane (Minnie Driver) and their hunter-guide Clayton (Brian Blessed). Jane is accidentally separated from the group and chased by a pack of baboons. Tarzan saves her from the baboons, and recognizes that she is the same as he is, a human. Jane leads Tarzan back to the explorers’ camp, where both Porter and Clayton take great interest in him—the former in terms of scientific progress while the latter hoping to have Tarzan lead him to the gorillas so that he can capture them and return with them to England. Despite Kerchak’s warnings to be wary of the humans, Tarzan continues to return to the camp and be taught by Porter, Clayton, and Jane to speak English and learn of the human world, and he and Jane begin to fall in love. However, they are having a hard time convincing Tarzan to lead him to the gorillas, due to Tarzan’s fear for their safety from the threat of Kerchak.

When the explorers’ boat returns to pick them up, Clayton persuades Tarzan that if he shows the group the gorillas, then Jane will stay with him. Tarzan agrees and leads the party to the gorilla troop’s home, while Terk and Tantor lure Kerchak away to avoid having him attack the humans. Porter and Jane are excited to meet and mingle with the gorillas, but Kerchak returns and threatens to kill them after witnessing Clayton threatening some gorillas with his rifle. Kerchak heads directly towards Clayton but Tarzan is forced to hold Kerchak at bay while the humans escape, and then leaves the troop himself, alienated by his actions. Kala reluctantly takes Tarzan back to the treehouse where she found him as a baby, and shows him his true past.

Encouraged by Kala to follow his heart, Tarzan decides to leave with Jane, Clayton, and Professor Porter after saying a tearful goodbye to his adopted mother. When they return to the ship, they are all ambushed by pirates and it is then revealed that Clayton desires to capture and sell the gorillas in England for a fine price. Tarzan and the others are then locked up in the hull of the ship, but are rescued by Terk and Tantor and race back to the gorilla home.

Clayton and his men arrive back in the jungle and capture the gorillas. Making their way back to the gorillas’ home, Tarzan recruits some miscellaneous animal friends (baboons, rhinos etc.), and together they fight and/or scare away the rest of Clayton’s men, imprisoning them in the very same cages they planned to imprison the gorillas in. As the rest of the gorillas (including Kala) are freed by Jane, Professor Porter, Terk and Tantor, Kerchak and Tarzan together battle Clayton. Kerchak is fatally shot while Clayton chases Tarzan into the vine-covered trees, where Tarzan gets the drop on him, destroying Clayton’s gun. Clayton pulls out a machete, in his haste to kill Tarzan, ignoring his warning about the vine wrapped around his neck. Once Clayton cuts the vine holding him up, he and Tarzan fall, but while Tarzan lands safely, Clayton is killed when the vine snaps his neck, leaving him hanged. Tarzan goes to Kerchak’s side and asks Kerchak for his forgiveness, but Kerchak instead asks for Tarzan’s for never accepting him as one of the herd and names him the new leader of the pack and calls Tarzan his son for the first time ever as he dies.

The next day, as Porter and Jane prepare to leave on a row boat, Tarzan reveals that he now plans to stay with the gorilla troop to continue his position as their new leader. As the ship leaves shore, Porter encourages his daughter to stay with the man she loves, and Jane jumps overboard to return to shore; Porter shortly follows her, telling the non-money-grubbing captain to tell the British that the crew never found them, “After all, people get lost in the jungle every day.”

REVIEW:

I’m a bit saddened to write this review because it was just brought to my attention that Tarzan was the end of the Disney Renaissance. I suppose that there are worse films that could have ended one of the best eras in Disney history, one that began with The Little Mermaid.

It may be hard to believe, but Tarzan has only been on the big screen a few times, and this is the only one time that he’s been animated.

The plot of the film is Tarzan getting orphaned by the death of his parents, who are killed by the leopard, Sabor. Kala, who had recently lost her child the same way, hears him and goes to save him. In the process she adopts him, much to the dismay of Kerchak.

As the film progresses, Tarzan struggles to gain the respect of Kerchak, who seems to be the only one that doesn’t seem to be able to get past his outward appearance.

Eventually, humans come to the jungle to study the gorillas. Well, two of them come to study, the hunter, Clayton, wants to sell them to the zoo.

After some interesting montages that show Tarzan learning how to walk and talk like human, we finally get to the climax which culminates in a battle between Tarzan and Clayton and ends rather darkly.

For those of you like me that don’t really care for all this computer animated junk that they keep shoving down our throats these days, this is the film to blame, because it is the one that really mixed the two mediums effectively and not make it look like two separate things.

Speaking on the graphics, watching Tarzan surf through the trees is a real treat. I seem to remember hearing that they used Tony Hawk as inspiration for that. Wise choice animators!

This is not a musical, but there is music in the background that is some of the best in Disney film. Phil Collins really outdid himself, if you ask me.

Apparently, in true Disney fashion, they took some liberties with the source material to make this more family friendly. Having not read the original book, I can’t really comment on this, one way or the other.

In the end, Tarzan delivers a great story, awesome music, breathtaking graphics, and yet it is underrated. Of course, in the realm of Disney films, that isn’t saying much. There are many, many great films. While this doesn’t stack up to something like say Pinocchio, it is more than worth many, many viewings.

5 out of 5 stars

Home on the Range

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Maggie is the only cow left on the Dixon Ranch after Alamida Slim (a cattle rustler capable of stealing 500 in a single night) stole all the rest of Dixon’s cattle. Mr. Dixon sells Maggie to Pearl, a kind and elderly woman that runs a small farm called Patch of Heaven.

The local Sheriff arrives to tell Pearl that her bank is cracking down on debtors. Pearl has three days to pay the bank $750, or her farm will be sold to the highest bidder. Hearing this, Maggie convinces the other cows on the farm (Grace, a happy-go-lucky character, and Mrs. Calloway, who has had leadership gone to her head) to go to town to attempt winning prize money at a fair.

While the cows are in town, a bounty hunter named Rico (who Buck, the Sheriff’s horse, idolizes) drops a criminal off and collects the reward. Stating he needs a replacement horse to go after Alamida Slim while his own horse rests, he takes Buck. When Maggie find out that the reward for capturing Slim is of exactly $750, she convinces the other cows to try and capture him to save Patch of Heaven.

That night, they hide among a large heard of steers, when Alamida Slim appears. Before any of them can do anything, Slim beings a yodeling song which sends all the cattle (except Grace, who is tone deaf) into a trance that causes them to dance madly and follow Slim anywhere. Grace is able to bring Maggie and Mrs. Calloway back to their senses just before Slim closes the path behind him with a rockslide to stop Rico and his men from chasing him.

As Rico discusses with his men what his next move will be, Buck starts talking with Maggie, Grace, and Mrs. Calloway as old friends and miming actions. This causes Rico to believe Buck is frightened by cows, and sends Buck back to the Sheriff. Buck escapes, determined to capture Slim for himself to prove his worth. Maggie, Grace, and Mrs. Calloway are left behind, but they meet a peg-legged rabbit named Lucky Jack, who leads them to the Slim’s hideout mine.

At the mine, Slim reveals that he has been stealing all cattle from his former patrons. When his former patrons can’t support their land anymore, he buys the land when it is auctioned off, under the guise of the respectable-looking Mr. O’delay, using the very money he gets from selling the cattle he stole.

After arriving to Slim’s hideout, the cows capture Slim. They run off with Slim’s accomplices and buyer in pursuit on a steam train. Rico arrives. When the chase stops, Rico is revealed to work for Slim.

Slim dons his O’delay costume and leaves the cows stranded in the middle of the desert with the train, while he goes to attend the auction. However, the cows arrive using the train to the farm and expose Slim. Slim is arrested by the police, and Patch of Heaven is saved by the reward money.

REVIEW:

 This film was said to be the demise of hand-drawn animation. Disney even publicly stated it wold be their last foray into that medium. A couple of years later, with a new guy in charge, we got The Princess and the Frog and this summer we’ll be treated to Winnie the Pooh. So, I guess Home on the Range didn’t kill hand drawn animation after all.

I’ve read some reviews about this film being the worst Disney animated picture, ever. I highly disagree. Sure, this film doesn’t stack up to many of the classics, bt it is a far cry from, say, Pocahontas.

The first thing I would change about this film is that it seemed like it wanted to be a musical, yet they just stuck some songs over it instead of having actual singing. To this, I say WTF?!?

So, what is this film actually about? Well, as with most westerns, it involved cattle rustling, but this time the cows fight back against their yodeling adversary and his nitwit nephews, with the help of a cocky, egotistical horse and jack rabbit.

You can say that the plot seems a bit clichéd and unoriginal, but how often do we see a cattle rustling movie from the cows point of view…and with a yodeling cattle rustler riding a buffalo, on top of that?

I’m not a fan of this boxy-type animation. It worked for Hercules because of the setting, but the old west isn’t ancient Greece. Last time I checked, cows were fat and round and didn’t have pointy hips.

Disney is usually great with their voice casting, and Home on the Range is no exception. The combination of Roseanne Barr, Jennifer Tilly, and Dame Judi Dench (an eclectic trio, don’t you think?) compliment and contrast each other so perfectly that you’d think they were sisters.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Buck the horse seems to bring the characterization from his Jerry Maguire role to this animated equine.

Randy Quaid made a good comedic villain. However, the most impressive of all was Steve Buscemi as Wesley.

No, his voice wasn’t impressive. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it was what yo expect. The impressive thing was how close the animators drew this guy. Looking past his diminutive stature, you would almost think it really was him.

The first time I saw this film, I was on the same page as many critics and film bashers. Of course, I was also distracted by evil children that I was being forced to watch (and make sure they didn’t tear up the house), so my opinion was a little skewered. Today, I had no such distraction and was able to actually sit down and watch. I must say that this is quite enjoyable. Granted, I think if this was going to be the last hand drawn animated film, it could have been better, but a good time can still be had by all.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Rescuers Down Under

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the Australian Outback, a young 8-year-old boy named Cody (voice of Adam Ryen) rescues and befriends a rare golden eagle called Marahute, who shows him her nest and eggs. Later, the boy is captured in an animal trap set by wanted local poacher Percival C. McLeach (George C. Scott). When McLeach finds one of the eagle’s feathers in the boy’s backpack he is instantly overcome with excitement, for he knows that capturing the bird would make him rich because he had caught one before (presumably Marahute’s mate). McLeach kidnaps the boy and attempts to force out of him the whereabouts of the rare eagle. McLeach throws Codys’ backpack to some crocodiles, fooling the local Rangers into thinking that Cody was eaten.

Meanwhile, a message is sent to New York to the Rescue Aid Society headquarters, and Bernard and Bianca (Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor), the RAS’ elite field agents, are assigned to the mission, interrupting Bernard’s attempt to propose marriage to Bianca. They go to find Orville the albatross who aided them previously, but instead find Wilbur, Orville’s brother. Bernard and Bianca convince Wilbur to fly them to Australia to save Cody. In Australia, they meet Jake, a kangaroo rat who is the RAS’ local regional operative. Jake later flirts with Bianca, much to Bernard’s anger. He serves as their guide and protector in search of the boy. At the same time, Wilbur is immobilized when his spinal column is bent out of its natural shape, convincing Jake to send him to the hospital.

When he refuses to undergo surgery and instead attempts to flee, Wilbur’s back is unintentionally straightened by the efforts of the mouse medical staff to prevent him escaping through a window. Cured, he departs in search of his friends. At McLeach’s ranch, Cody has been thrown into a cage with several of McLeach’s captured animals after refusing to give up Marahute’s whereabouts. Cody tries to free himself and the animals, but is thwarted by Joanna, McLeach’s pet goanna lizard. McLeach ultimately tricks Cody into thinking that someone else has shot Marahute, making Cody lead him to Marahute’s nest.

Bernard, Bianca, and Jake, half-aware of what is happening, jump onto McLeach’s Halftrack to follow him. At Marahute’s nest, the three mice try to warn Cody that he has been followed; just as they do, McLeach arrives and captures Marahute, along with Cody, Jake, and Bianca. Joanna tries to eat Marahute’s eggs, but Bernard found the nest first and replaced the eggs with stones in order to protect them. Wilbur arrives at the nest, whereupon Bernard convinces him to sit on the eagle’s eggs, so that Bernard can go after McLeach. McLeach takes Cody and Marahute to Crocodile Falls, where he ties Cody up and hangs him over a large group of saltwater crocodiles and attempts to feed him to them, but Bernard, riding a type of wild pig called a “Razorback”, which he had tamed using a horse whispering technique earlier used by Jake, follows and disables McLeach’s vehicle, preventing the use of its crane to put Cody at risk. McLeach then gets out his Winchester Model 1912 and tries to shoot the rope holding Cody above the water. To save Cody and get rid of McLeach, Bernard tricks Joanna into crashing into McLeach, sending them both into the water. The crocs chase McLeach, while behind them the damaged rope holding Cody breaks apart. McLeach tries to fight off the saltwater crocs, but only Joanna reaches the shoreline while McLeach realizes the crocs swim away because of the enormous waterfall and falls over the waterfall to his death.

Bernard dives into the water to save Cody, but fails. Jake and Bianca free Marahute in time for her to retrieve Cody and Bernard. Bernard, desperate to avoid any further incidents, proposes to marry Bianca, who accepts eagerly while Jake salutes him with a newfound respect. All of them depart for Cody’s home. Wilbur, whom they have neglected to relieve of his task, incubates the eggs until they hatch, much to his dismay

REVIEW:

 Disney is not known for making sequels to their animated films. Well, let me take that back…they don’t normally release them in theaters. The Rescuers Down Under and Fantasia 2000 are the exceptions to this rule.

This film continues where The Rescuers left off. This time our pint-sized heroes are dispatched to save a little boy in Australia.

Why Australia, you may ask? Well, for one thing, the vast countryside allowed the animators rom to show off their talents, and at the time this film was being made, America was obsessed with all things “down under”, thanks to Mel Gibson’s rising career and the Crocodile Dundee films. That is the belief, anyway. Of course, I have to wonder, if not Australia, then where?

The plot of this film, as I mentioned has our heroes saving a little boy who was kidnapped by an evil poacher that wanted the majestic golden eagle, Marahute. Especially since he already finished off (we assume) her mate. Marahute is also caring for 3 eggs that are soon to hatch. If these eggs hath, then she isn’t as valuable anymore, so McLeach and his lizard…not real sure what kind she is…also seek to get rid of them.

Believe it or not this film was released in the midst of the “Disney Renaissance”. There are no songs, though. As a matter of fact, this film is kind of dark, especially when you consider the Disney films that were released around the same time.

Some have said that the villain, McLeach, is too sadistic to be a Disney villain. To be honest, he’s no worse than classic villains such as Maleficent, The Wicked Queen, or even Shere Khan. The only difference really, is that he seems to be more realistic, unlike the previous Rescuers villain, Madame Medusa, who was more of a comic effect type.

The animation here is as gorgeous as if were live action. The scenery is very well done and the characters are what you wold expect from Disney…flawless!

The voices really fit the characters and their personalities, unlike some animated films these days.

The action scenes are pretty good, but I could have done with a few more flying scenes. I don’t know, it just seems to me that if you have a giant eagle like that, why not take advantage of her ability to soar.

One thing that has me scratching my head about the animals, it was the same way in the previous film as well, is how is it that only certain animals can talk, mostly mice, but others can’t.Wouldn’t it have been nice to hear Marahute say a few words? Maybe I’m alone in thinking that, though, as I’m sure some will say that her silence spoke louder than any words ever would.

Final verdict on The Rescuers Down Under? Well, it is obvious that the animation and technology have improved since the days of the first film. The story is told better, but I felt more of a connection to the previous one. This one seemed to focus less on our heroes until near the film’s end for some reason. It was kind of odd. Aside from that, this is a really good film and, I think, one of the most underrated of the Disney film. If you’re looking for a good family adventure flick, though, give this one a shot, but be wary of the scary images and more mature tone.

4 out of 5 stars