Archive for Merlin

Transformers: The Last Knight

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 484 AD, King Arthur’s wizard Merlin forges an alliance with the Knights of Iacon, a group of twelve Transformers who have hidden on Earth. The knights give Merlin an alien staff, and combine into a dragon to help Arthur triumph over the Saxons.

In the present day, most of the governments on Earth have declared Transformers illegal, and the multinational Transformer Reaction Force (TRF) has been formed to eliminate the alien robots. Despite the absence of Optimus Prime (who left the planet to search for his creator), new Transformers continue to arrive regularly; the newest ship to arrive crash-lands in Chicago, where it is found by a group of children. When a TRF mecha confronts the kids, they are saved by Izabella, a survivor of the Battle of Chicago, and her Transformer companions Sqweeks and Canopy, but Canopy is killed by the TRF in the process. Bumblebee and Cade Yeager arrive and help them escape, but Yeager is unable to save the Transformer, Steelbane, in the ship. Before he dies, Steelbane attaches a metallic talisman to Yeager’s body—an act observed by Decepticon Barricade, who reports to his leader Megatron.

On the far reaches of the Solar System, Optimus Prime discovers that the Transformers’ home world, Cybertron, now disassembled into pieces, is heading directly for Earth. Optimus finds the being in control of Cybertron’s movement, a sorceress named Quintessa, who professes to be the maker he is searching for. The staff which the knights gave to Merlin was stolen from Quintessa, and using her powers, she places Optimus under her control, dubs him “Nemesis Prime,” and charges him with recovering it. Earth, she reveals, is actually Cybertron’s “ancient enemy” Unicron, and she intends to drain his life force so that Cybertron can be restored.

TRF member and former Autobot ally William Lennox brokers a deal between the TRF and Megatron, releasing from their custody a squad of Decepticons who will help Megatron recover the talisman from Yeager. The Decepticons hunt Yeager to his junkyard hideout in South Dakota, where he and many of the surviving Transformers are holed up. During the chaos of the ensuing battle, Yeager is approached by Cogman, the Transformer envoy of British Lord Sir Edmund Burton, who takes him and Bumblebee to England to meet his master. There, Yeager also meets Viviane Wembly, an Oxford professor, who Burton has had the Autobot Hot Rod kidnap. Burton explains that he is the last living member of the “Witwiccan” order, an ancient brotherhood dedicated to guarding the secret history of Transformers on Earth. He also reveals that Viviane is the last descendant of Merlin, and must find and use his staff to prevent the impending destruction of Earth by Cybertron.

Fleeing the TRF, Yeager and Wembly follow clues left by the latter’s father that lead them, Bumblebee, and Cogman to take the submarine HMS Alliance into the sea to find the Cybertronian Knights’ sunken ship, in which they discover the tomb of Merlin and the staff. Wembly activates the staff, and the ship rises to the surface; the TRF arrives to confront the group, but several knights awaken and attack them. The attack is cut short by the arrival of the mind-controlled Optimus, but fortunately, when the normally-mute Bumblebee is finally able to speak, the sound of his voice is enough to break Prime free of Quintessa’s control. A moment later, Megatron arrives to steal the staff; he too has been working for Quintessa all along. As Megatron flees with his prize, the knights attack Optimus for his betrayal, but Yeager, whose talisman becomes the sword Excalibur, stops the fight. Realizing he is the last knight, the knights yield to Yeager, who urges Optimus to protect the Earth once more.

Megatron delivers the staff to Quintessa, who begins draining the life force of Earth/Unicron via Stonehenge. When the military intervenes, Megatron shoots Burton, who dies with Cogman at his side. Using a ship procured by the Autobot Daytrader, the Autobots arrive to join the fight, landing on Cybertron and battling against the Decepticons and Quintessa’s Infernocons. Optimus and his Autobots, backed up by the knights in their dragon form, vanquish their many foes. Optimus defeats Megatron while Bumblebee appears to slay Quintessa. Wembly removes the staff, stopping Cybertron’s destruction of Earth, but leaving the two planets connected. Optimus declares that humans and Transformers must work together to rebuild their worlds, and sends a message calling any surviving Autobots to come home.

In a mid-credits scene, scientists inspect one of the horns of Unicron, which is extending out of the desert. Quintessa, who has survived and is disguised as a human, arrives and offers them a way to destroy Unicron.

REVIEW:

Can you believe it has been 10 yrs since the first Transformers was released? 5 years later, this franchise is still going, though there is some debate about whether it should or not. With this 5th film, Transformers: The Last Knight, the trailers promise something darker and more character driven. Did they tell the truth? Let’s find out!

What is this about?

Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. Saving our world falls upon the shoulders of an unlikely alliance: Cade Yeager, Bumblebee, an English Lord, and an Oxford Professor.

What did I like?

Continuity. In the first few films, outside of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream and a couple of others, we had a new lineup of Transformers in every picture. Starting with the last picture, Transformers: Age of Extinction, we seem to be keeping with a steady lineup, only bringing in one or two others…at least on the Autobot side. The Decepticons were all new, except for a returning Barricade, who was last seen running away from the climactic battle in the first film.

Tone. The trailers and all the talk leading up to this film led us to believe that this was going to be the darkest, most serious film in the franchise. In the opening scenes, it seems as if that were going to be the case until we meet Merlin. This iteration of history’s greatest wizard sets the tone for the whole film, a tone filled with comedic action, rather than dark drama. Personally, I prefer it this way. For goodness sakes, this is a film about giant robots that transform into cars and jets. Why on Earth would we want it to be serious?

Welcome back. Barricade isn’t the only returnee. Josh Duhamel makes his return, after last being seen in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. His character seems a bit more battle hardened and conflicted this time out, as he is having to work with the TRF, a group that exists to eradicate all the Transformers. The military seems to still be on their side but working with them out of necessity. Tyrese Gibson was also set to return, but there was a schedule conflict with filming The Fate of the Furious.

What didn’t I like?

History lesson. There seems to be a trend lately of putting fantasy characters into historical events. Wonder Woman showed us that she was in World War I, X- Men Origins: Wolverine (as well as The Wolverine) placed Logan in every war in history. Now, it appears as if the Transformers, who we saw arrive in 2007, have been here since the Middle Ages, if not before (according to this film…we won’t go into the convoluted history of the previous films). My question is why? There was no need to put them there, other than to make it convenient for the plot. I mean, seriously, what did they have to do with Frederick Douglass?!?

Human element. I know I said this about the first film, and maybe some of the others, but there is just too much emphasis placed on the humans in a movie called TRANSFORMERS!!! This is no more apparent than in the amount of time spent trying to develop our new female characters, one of which I suspect was chosen based solely on her resemblance to Megan Fox. Also, the final battle should have been an epic confrontation of clashing, twisted metal, but instead, we get humans jumping out of airplanes and trying to get a date. One more thing, when “Nemesis” Prime comes and Bumblebee takes him on, there is no reason for Mark Wahlberg to get involved in the battle. Seriously, what can a human do against one as powerful as Optimus Prime?

Who are you? The only new Autobot introduced is Hot Rod who, though he’s living in England, somehow has a French accent. He has this cool ability to stop time, but we never really get to know him outside of that. He’s not the only one we don’t get to become acquainted with. Megatron has a crew that he asks to be released in exchange for helping the TRF (no clue how it is that these guys are in “jail” and Megatron is just running free). These guys aren’t given anything to do and most are killed in the next 10 minutes! So, instead of giving us a cool new Autobot to get to know and some interesting Decepticons, this time is spent with the schizophrenic C3PO rip-off, Cogman. There is some comedy there, but not worth the trade off. Actually, he reminds me of Alan Tudyk’s character from a previous film, I forgot which one, Dutch.

Final verdict on Transformers: The Last Knight? It makes a valiant attempt to keep this franchise relevant, but truth be told, other than die-hard Transformers fans, no in the US is clamoring for these films. Most people seems to hate them for whatever reason. Personally, I think a new director would do wonders for this franchise. Props to Michael Bay for bringing them to big screen a decade ago, something never thought possible, but now it is time for someone else to take over, preferably a fan of the original cartoon. With that said, this is actually probably the 2nd or 3rd best film in the franchise in my book. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do, but I wouldn’t get in a rush to see it. The theater I was in this afternoon was mostly empty, so I’m sure there will be plenty of seats for you.

4 out of 5 stars

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7 Faces of Dr. Lao

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

It is the dawn of the 20th century, and an elderly Chinese man rides a jackass into Abalone, Arizona, his only visible possession a fishbowl occupied by an innocuous-looking fish. This magical visitor, Dr. Lao (Tony Randall), visits Edward Cunningham’s (John Ericson) newspaper and places a large ad for his traveling circus, which will play in Abalone for two nights only.

Though quiet, Abalone is not peaceful. Wealthy rancher Clinton Stark (Arthur O’Connell) has inside information that a railroad is coming to town and is scheming to buy up the place while the land is cheap. Cunningham, who is also romantically pursuing the town’s librarian, Angela Benedict (Barbara Eden), a beautiful young widow still grieving the death of her husband, opposes Stark’s power grab.

After doing some research, Cunningham visits the circus site that has sprung up at the edge of town and confronts Lao with the fact that Lao’s alleged hometown vanished centuries before. Lao deflects Cunningham’s questions and he “leaves in a cloud of befuddlement”.

That night there is a town hall meeting to discuss the proposition to sell all of the town to Stark. It becomes apparent, largely through the obsequious deference paid to Stark by Mayor Sargent, and the objection of old maid Mrs. Cassan to questions from Cunningham and his love-interest, Angela Benedict (sitting nowhere near him), that greed has possessed most of the town’s citizens and they are just one step away from selling out.

Dr. Lao’s enigmatic entrance, however, and the sound of the chair he pulls back scraping the floor, momentarily catch everyone’s attention, and are a forerunner of changes to come.

Mr. Stark’s premise for selling the town is that its 16-mile long water supply pipe from a neighboring town is decaying and would be too expensive to replace. His answer to Angela’s inquiry as to why he’s interested in the town, then, uses the analogy of her ability to turn a bad child into a good one; he is a businessman and knows how to turn a bad venture into good. More detail he does not give.

Cunningham introduces everyone to George C. George, a Navajo Indian who lives in “another city, close to our own”, and points out that the lives of its residents depend on Abalone’s continued existence.

Stark reluctantly allows the townspeople to ponder their choice “until Friday night” and the meeting is adjourned.

After the meeting, Stark’s henchmen assault George C. George, and Dr. Lao uses his magic to rescue him.

The next morning, as Lao puts up posters around town advertising his circus, he is assisted by Angela’s young son Mike (Kevin Tate), who learns that the mysterious wanderer is 7,322 years old.

The circus opens its doors, and the townsfolk flock in. Along with the main cast, the gawkers include Luther Lindquist and his shrewish wife Kate, and Mrs. Cassan, a foolish widow who clings to her self-image of a young beauty. Lao uses his many faces to offer his wisdom to the visitors, only some of whom heed the advice. Mrs. Cassan has, to her dismay, her dark future pretold by Apollonius of Tyana, a blind prophet who is cursed to tell the absolute truth, no matter how cruel and shocking it may be. Apollonius tells her she will never be married and will live a lonely, meaningless existence, having accomplished so little she might as well have never lived at all. Stark has a disquieting meeting with the Great Serpent, Mike befriends the pathetic Merlin, and Angela is aroused from her emotional repression by Pan’s intoxicating music. After Medusa turns the disbelieving Kate Lindquist to stone, Lao calls an end to the proceedings as the guests flee. Merlin appears, restoring the woman to life, her experience causing a much-needed reformation in her character.

Later that night, Mike visits Lao and tries to get a job, displaying his novice juggling and conjuring skills. Lao instead offers some advice and observations about the world (“… the whole world is a circus, if you know how to look at it …”), which Mike doesn’t understand, and Lao claims to not understand either.

Meanwhile, during the show, Stark’s two henchmen have destroyed the newspaper office. Cunningham and his pressman discover the devastation, go drown their sorrows, then stagger back to learn that the damage has been magically repaired by Lao. They rush out an abbreviated edition of the paper, which Cunningham delivers in person to Stark.

The next night, Lao stages his grand finale, a magic lantern show in which the mythical city of “Woldercan,” populated by doubles of the townfolk, is destroyed when it succumbs to temptation personified by Stark (as a sort of devilish tempter). The show ends in explosions and darkness, but as the house lights gradually come back up, the townsfolk find themselves now in a town meeting, voting on Stark’s proposal. They reject it, and a redeemed Stark tells them about the coming railroad while noting that they owe a debt of gratitude to Lao. A dust-storm blows up, and as the townsfolk scatter, Angela opens up to Ed, finally admitting that she is in love with him.

Stark’s henchmen are confused by their boss’ apparent change of character and decide to trash Lao’s circus in a drunken spree, during which they break Lao’s fishbowl. The inhabitant is revealed (to the accompanying sound of bagpipes) to be the Loch Ness Monster, which balloons to enormous size when exposed to the open air. After it chases the two thugs into the storm (and temporarily grows seven heads to resemble the seven faces of the inhabitants of the circus), Mike alerts Dr. Lao and then helps conjure up a cloudburst to wet and thus shrink the beast back to its original size.

Morning comes and the circus is gone, leaving a red-colored circle on the desert floor. Mike chases after a dust plume, which he thinks is made by Lao, but only finds three wooden balls. He is able to juggle them expertly. The closing scene shows the disappearing Dr. Lao riding his donkey over a nearby rise as his voice-over repeats his advice to Mike from two nights earlier, reminding Mike that the Circus of Dr. Lao is life itself, and everything in it is a wonder

REVIEW:

I noticed today that there is a Ray Harryhausen documentary on Netflix streaming which I need to watch at some point. In the meantime, I was in the mood for some stop-motion this afternoon and they had recommended 7 Faces of Dr. Lao a while back, so what better time to watch it than now, right?

What is this about?

In the most remarkable role of his career, Tony Randall plays six characters in this fantasy adventure about a mysterious Chinese doctor who assumes different guises in order to teach his message of pride and self-reliance. Enigmatic circus showman Dr. Lao gives the denizens of a sleepy Western frontier town the chance to peer into a looking glass and see their foibles.

What did I like?

Oddly enough. I recently found out that Tony Randall’s career was mostly The Odd Couple and starring with Jayne Mansfield in a couple of her bigger films, such as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? I can’t say that I’m too familiar with his work, but the few projects that I have seen him in are impressive. Here, he plays the titular character, as well as 6 others and a cameo as himself later on in the film. Dr. Lao and Merlin are his most impressive characters, followed by Apollonius, but these are the only ones that speak. Pan dances, Medusa stares, the Abominable Snowman sells popcorn, but the serpent is more of a visual spectacle than a good character. I wasn’t able to pay attention to him, though, because of some internet issues that were going on that required me to call my cable/internet provider. That point aside, Randall shines as he lets himself go and have fun playing these different characters that are far different from the straight-laced, uptight guys he normally plays.

I Dream of Jeannie. There are two classic tv shows that I will always go out of my way to watch, no matter how many time I see each episode, and they are I Love Lucy and I Dream of Jeannie. Barbara Eden is quite the looker. There was a picture floating around a few months back where she, a woman in her 80s these days, was back in her old Jeannie costume. She didn’t look half bad in it, either. She wasn’t cast in this film for her looks, though, as she gets to showcase her talent for acting, something we all forget she can actually do, and perhaps the reason she didn’t go on to become a bigger star.

Learn. It is obvious that whoever did the special effects on this watched some Ray Harryhausen flicks in their day, because the creatures have the distinct look about them, rather than just some generic stop-motion creation. These creatures not only have the menacing look to them, but also a life of their own. This is something that Harryhausen was able to do with his creations, and apparently he has passed it down to a new generation. Keep your eyes out for the final trick of the Loch Ness monster!

Use. I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to see the creatures used for the entire film. Usually, when it comes to creatures in these type of films, we get a glimpse of them during the early scenes, but don’t really see them until the final scenes. Thankfully, the filmmakers were smart enough to realize that these creatures were the focal point of this film.

What didn’t I like?

Mariann. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but notice that Barbara Eden’s character almost paralleled Mariann from The Music Man. There were some differences, but for the most part they were the same character. I’m not sure which came first, or if that was even done on purpose, but I wasn’t a fan. Leave Mariann to her own devices.

Attitudes. The book that this is based on was a tad bit more biting in terms of it satire of the society at the time. I loved it, but what is it that I didn’t like? Well, the attitudes of the people, and the fact that, whether you want to believe it or not, these same attitudes exist today. I just heard some lady on the news insisting that Santa Claus “just is” white. *SIGH* When will people open their minds to new things?

Merlin. Maybe this is because I’ve recently started watching Merlin episodes on Netflix, but the fact that he was made to be an absent-minded sorcerer. This is no different from most iterations, but the one that usually is constant with him is that he is capable of competent magic. I felt that he was holding back. No need to show off for the local yokels, but when the little boy showed, I thought for sure he would have done something special. Mayhaps I’m just overthinking, though.

If you’re in the mood for some good, clean, classic sci-fi fun with some stop motion thrown in there for good measure, then 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is the film for you. In some places, this is places in the category with the likes of Old Yeller, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, and the like. It isn’t violent, no foul language, and is quite family friendly. I say give this a chance. You never know, it could be something you enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

The Sword in the Stone

Posted in Animation, Classics, Comedy, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The Sword in the Stonefollows the future King Arthur’s life during his adolescence and education by the wizard Merlin. The film starts with the introduction of the situation when Uther Pendragon died, leaving England kingless and in no law and order. Then, a miracle, the Sword in the Stone appears in London, proclaiming that whomever pulls it out is the rightful King of England. However, none succeed in removing the sword; believing the miracle had not worked, the sword was forgotten and England returned to the Dark Ages.

Some years later, the wizard Merlin predicts to Archimedes, his owl, that a person of some significance would drop in on him later that day. We then see Arthur, a 12-year-old orphan training to be a squire who lives with his foster father Sir Ector and his older foster brother Kay who call him Wart. Wart accidentally falls from a small tree onto Kay, who is trying to shoot a deer. Kay chases after Wart, who volunteers to find the arrow in the wolf-filled forest. One wolf takes an interest in Wart, which acts as comic relief. Wart falls out of a tree and into Merlin’s cottage.

The two introduce themselves (as well as the ever-indignant Archimedes), and Merlin announces he will be Wart’s tutor. Merlin packs up and accompanies Wart back to Sir Ector’s castle, who has been worrying about the boy. While first refusing Merlin’s offer to tutor Arthur (and does not believe Merlin’s claim to wizardry). Merlin creates a “Wizard Blizzard” over Ector (in the month of July!), who allows him to stay – and puts Merlin in the rickety and leaky ‘Guest Room’ tower. Later, Ector’s friend Pellinore arrives with news from London. There will be a jousting tournament on New Year’s Day, and the winner shall be crowned King of England. Ector immediately proposes that Kay be knighted and compete for the title.

For his first lesson, Merlin transforms Wart into a perch and himself into a trout. In the moat, Wart is chased and attacked by a huge pike, while Merlin is temporarily disabled, having been trapped in an old helmet and, momentarily, forgeting the magic words. Wart works to outsmart the beast, but Archimedes flies down and plucks Wart from the pike’s jaws.

Wart, having told Ector about the fish lesson, is confined to the kitchen. Merlin arrives to teach Arthur, and magics the dishes into an assembly line. Merlin transforms Wart into a squirrel. Though Wart begins by learning about the principle of gravity, two female squirrels become infatuated with both of them, and the lesson turns into male-female relationships and romantic love. After the girl rescues from Arthur from a wolf (the same one who has been following him throughout the film), Merlin transforms both of them back into humans. While Merlin’s squirrel companion is horrified and then outraged, Wart’s companion is visibly heartbroken.

Meanwhile, the cook has discovered the dishes washing themselves, and calls Ector and Kay to stop the spell, but they are instead pummeled by the scrubbing brushes, mops, etc. Merlin and Wart arrive and Merlin stops his spell, but Ector accuses him of using black magic. Wart defends Merlin, but Ector will not listen, he announces that Kay’s squire will be Hobbes (who we do not meet), not Arthur.

For his last lesson, Merlin transforms Wart into a sparrow. This time, Archimedes teaches Wart the principles of flight. While Wart is skilled and clearly enjoying it, a hawk attacks, forcing Wart down “The Magnificent Marvelous Mad Madam Mim”‘s chimney. Mim is a witch whose magic uses trickery, which she claims is more useful than Merlin’s educational wizadry. Wart (still a sparrow) is unconvinced, and Mim (knowing that, in her book, all good things are bad), decides that she will have to destroy him; she turns into a fat pink cat and chases him around her cottage.

Merlin arrives and challenges Madame Mim to a Wizard’s Duel (the combatants try to defeat each other by changing themselves into various forms to destroy one another). The rules: Only animal transformations, ‘no make-believe things, like pink dragons and stuff’, ‘no disappearing’ (which Mim breaks very early), and ‘no cheating’. The two turn into various animals. Then, Mim loopholes by turning into a large purple dragon. However, Merlin transforms himself into a germ and infects her with a debilitating disease. She is defeated, bedridden and furious. Wart ‘s lesson is that knowledge is the greatest power.

Christmas comes, and Kay is now knighted. Coincidentally, Hobbes has come down with the mumps and Ector reinstates Wart as Kay’s squire. Arthur runs to tell Merlin, who is disappointed that Wart still prefers war games to academics. Wart tries to explain that, as an orphan, he cannot become a knight and that a squire is the best position he can attain and that he was lucky to be Kay’s squire. Merlin however becomes angry and transports himself to 20th-century Bermuda (he did that unwittingly, through his howling exclamation of “Blow me to Bermuda!”).

Sir Ector, Kay, Arthur and Pellinore (and Archimedes), travel to London for the tournament. As Kay’s turn to fight approaches, Wart realizes that he has forgotten Kay’s sword at their inn. Kay yells at him to go get his sword, or not to come back at all. The inn door is locked (everyone is at the tournament). Archimedes notices and points out to Arthur a sword in an anvil on a stone in a churchyard. When he touches the sword, a light streams from heaven. Briefly surprised by the light, Wart backs away twice. In the end he pulls the sword from the stone, unwittingly fulfilling the sword’s prophecy.

Wart returns with the sword and hands it to Kay, but Ector recognises “the Sword in the Stone” and the tournament is halted. Unable to believe that a child succeeded, the crowd demands that Wart prove that he took the sword. The assembled audience follow Sir Ector and Wart to the churchyard and Ector replaces the sword in its anvil. The arrogant Kay and others attempt to pull it out, but it remains immovable. Pellinore and Sir Bart the Black Knight insist that Wart be allowed to try. As Wart pulls the sword from the stone for the second time, the heavenly light shines down again. Sir Bart asks Ector what the boy’s name is; Ector says “Wart”, quickly correcting it to Arthur. Sir Bart cries “Hail!! King Arthur!!”, and the crowd follows suit. Ector (commanding Kay to do the same) then humbly kneels, and asks for forgiveness for his short-temper.

Trapped in his throne room by cheering crowds, Wart feels unprepared to be a king. Wart calls out to Merlin for help, who appears (in Bermuda shorts, sunglasses, etc.). Merlin is elated to find that Wart will be the King Arthur that he has seen in the future. Merlin tells the boy that he will rise and lead the Knights of the Round Table. (After making sure he doesn’t want a square one instead) He continues to talk about the future, revealing other anachronistic information, including that they’ll make a movie about this.

REVIEW:

There are numerous films that tell a million different versions of the legend of King Arthur, but only Disney can do it like this.

Arthur is portrayed as a young squire who happens to pull the sword from a stone and becomes king in the interpretation. nothing wrong with that, except that, as one person put it on a message board I was reading, the people just accept that he goes from scrawny squire to king. I don’t see the issue, but apparently, those of the cynical persuasion do.

Merlin and Archimedes really bring in the comedy. Merlin is the absent minded professor while Archimedes is the voice of reason. The contrast between the two is classic!

Madame Mim is a nice little villain, but she’;s on the screen for less than 20 minutes, doesn’t really pose that much fo a threat, and is no Maleficent, Jafar, or even Scar! Still, she’s good for this film, even if she could have been used a bit more in place of scenes with Sir Ector.

One thing I have always had an isse with in this film is that it seems to make some major jumps, especially at the end. If they’re going to jump like that, they need to say how much time they skip.

Classic Disney films are some of the best in cinema, and this is no exception. It definitely goes in the book as one of the most underrated, though. Check it out and you won’t be sorry!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Shrek the Third

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

King Harold (voiced by John Cleese) falls ill and his ogre son-in-law Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and daughter Princess Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz) are next in line to be King and Queen of Far Far Away. Shrekdeclines, insisting that an ogre as king is a bad idea and that there has to be someone else for the job. With his final few breaths, the king tells Shrek that there is one other heir who can become the new King of Far Far Away: his nephew, Arthur Pendragon (voiced by Justin Timberlake). After a mournful funeral, Shreksets out on a quest to bring back the new king, along with Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (voiced Antonio Banderas). As they’re sailing off, Fiona runs to the dock and announces to Shrek that she is pregnant and he is going to be a father. Shocked, Shrek begins to have nightmares about his future children on the journey to find Arthur.

The trio’s journey soon leads them to Worcestershire Academy, an elite boarding school, where they discover that Arthur (“Artie”, as he prefers to be called) is a scrawny 16-year old underacheiverpicked on by virtually everyone, from the cool kids down to the retainer wearing Dungeons and Dragons geeks. Far removed from the courageous legend his name evokes, Artie stands literally at the bottom of the high school food chain. He is constantly showered with insults, used as a punching bag by the school Jousting Team, led by the obnoxious Lancelot du Lac (voiced by John Krasinski), and cruelly scorned by Guinevere (Latifa Ouaou), the girl he had always loved.

At the school pep rally Shrek tells him he’s going to be the new king of Far Far Away. Artie is only too excited to be on his way to the throne, until Donkey and Puss inadvertently scare him by talking about responsibilities of being king. Panicked, Artie tries to take control of the ship and ends up crashing it on an island where they meet Artie’s retired wizard teacher, Merlin (voiced by Eric Idle).

Meanwhile, a revenge-lusted Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett) has gone to the Poison Apple Bar, where he encounters a slew of fairy tale villains including Captain Hook (voiced by Ian McShane), the Evil Queen (voiced by Susanne Blakeslee), a Cyclops (voiced by Mark Valley), Rumpelstiltskin (vooiced by Conrad Vernon), Mabel the Ugly Stepsister (voiced by talk show host Regis Philbin), the Headless Horseman (Conrad Vernon), Stromboli the Puppet Master (Chris Miller), and an assortment of outlaws, black knights, pirates, ents, and witches. Although they initially despise Charming, he persuades them to join him in a fight for their “happily ever after”. The villains feel their side of the story has never been told and now is the time to do it.

Charming and the other villains invade the kingdom and pillage for a time before attacking the castle, disrupting Fiona’s celebrating of becoming a mother. They capture all of Shrek’s fairy tale friends: Gingerbread Man (also voiced by Conrad Vernon), Pinocchio (voiced by Cody Cameron), The Big Bad Wolf (voiced by Aron Warner), and The Three LittlPigs (also voiced by Cameron), Dragon, and Donkey and Dragon’s children. Fiona and Lilian (Julie Andrews) try to escape through an underground passage, along with Doris the Ugly Stepsister (voiced by Larry King), Cinderella (voiced by Amy Sedaris), Snow White (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sleeping Beauty (voiced by Cheri Oteri) and Rapunzel (voiced by Maya Rudolph); the ladies are captured, however, when Rapunzel betrays them and leads them into a trap. They learn that she is in love with Charming, who plans to make her his queen once he claims the throne.

Captain Hook and some of his pirates track Shrek and company to Merlin’s island, where they attempt to capture Shrek and kill the others. Shrek and Artie tag-team them effectively, however, and send the villains running, but not before Hook mentions Prince and the takeover of Far Far Away. Concerned for his wife and his future children, Shrek urges Artie to return to the safety of Worcestershire; Artie, however, has other ideas. He cons Merlin into coming out of retirement long enough to use his magic and send them all back to Far Far Away; the spell works, but accidentally causes Puss and Donkey to switch bodies because they were touching each other. They find that Charming is bent on revenge against Shrek for ‘stealing’ his “happily ever after,” and plans to kill Shrek in a play later that night. Charming’s men arrive shortly, but another clever ruse by Artie tricks the knights into not taking them into custody. They then break into the castle, where play rehearsal and set design are in full swing, and where Charming is becoming not good at rehearsing and is also not good at mock battles, killing two faux Shrek in a row. In Charming’s dressing room, Shrek menaces Charming but Charming is able to summon his men, who burst in and take the four captive.

Charming prepares to kill Artie, believing he’s the next king. To save Artie’s life, Shrek tells Charming that Artie was just a fool to take his place as King of Far Far Away. Charming believes Shrek and decides not to kill him. Artie, who had just been growing to trust Shrek, is crushed by this and runs away. Donkey and Puss are thrown into the tower withFiona and the other ladies, where Fiona is growing frustrated with the other princesses and their lack of initiative. Queen Lilian soon grows fed up, and successfully smashes the stone wall of the prison by head butting the walls. While the women launch a rescue mission for Shrek, who is being held captive elsewhere, Donkey and Puss work to free Gingy, Pinocchio, the wolf and pigs, Dragon, and the Dronkeys. As they prepare to enter the castle and join the ladies, they encounter Artie, and Puss and Donkey explain to him that Shrek lied so Charming wouldn’t kill him. Artie seems hesitant to believe them.

As the kingdom watches, Charming stages a theatrical performance in which he heroically rides to the rescue of Rapunzel in a (fake) tower and sings, somewhat badly. To Charming’s profound annoyance, the chained Shrek wins the audience’s support by ridiculing his singing and acting. Just as Charming is about to kill Shrek, Fiona and her friends, along with Puss, Donkey and the Fairy Tale characters, leap onto the stage to confront the villains. It goes awry, however, as the villains largely outnumber the heroes and take them prisoner again. In the nick of time, Artie arrives and convinces the villains to stop and turn over a new leaf, proving himself to possess effective leadership skills. He says something that Shrek told him when they were sitting around a fire at Merlin’s island- “Just because some people treat you like a loser, it doesn’t mean you are one. The thing that matters most is what you think of yourself. If there’s something you really want or someone you really want to be, then the only one standing in your way is you.” The villains drop their weapons and release their captives.

Charming, furious at having been thwarted, lunges for him with his sword. Shrek blocks the blow and appears to take it in his own chest, leading Charming to believe he’s won; but Charming missed, and the sword is lodged harmlessly under Shrek’s arm. Shrek informs Charming that he needs to keep looking for his own happily ever after, because he’s not giving up his own. As Shrek pushes Charming aside, Dragon slyly knocks over Rapunzel’s tower, which lands on Charming, killing him. Charming’s crown is sent rolling across the stage by the impact and is caught by Artie. Shrek tells him that the throne is his if he wants it, but it is his decision to make. Artie lifts the crown toward the audience, who cheer him loudly, then sets it on his own head. While the kingdom celebrates their new monarch, Merlin appears and restores Puss and Donkey to their proper bodies, though their tails were temporarily mismatched.

As Far Far Away is left in the capable hands of young Artie, the move ends as Shrekretires with Fiona to their swamp a few months later, becoming the parents of ogre triplets.

REVIEW:

Shrek has become Dreamworks’ Mickey Mouse of sorts. He’s everywhere. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the appeal of Mickey in that the big green ogre is a bit overexposed, and this unnecessary third film (and subsequent 4th and 5th films) are proof of that.

Mike Myers returns to voice Shrek. There was a time when I loved Myers’ work, but now he just seems to be doing the same joke over and over and over again. As Shrek in this film, he seemed to be just reading the lines and no feeling was put into it.

Cameron Diaz might as well not have been in this film. Other than the whole Fiona pregnancy thing, there really was no reason for her to be there other than as a nagging wife. I hate to say that because I love Cameron and Fiona, but it just didn’t work this time.

Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas return as the sidekicks Donkey and Puss in Boots, respectively, and actually have some pretty good interaction. However, and I think this is a result of the script, each of their characters seems to not fit into the story after the halfway point. At least, that’s how it seemed to me.

Justin Timberlake provides a fresh face (and voice) as Artie. He was definitely the highlight of the film.

The princesses seem to fit the stereotypical rich girls that you would expect to live in an L.A.-type city. It works for them. I was most impressed with Amy Poehler as Snow White…partially because she had the most lines.

Prince Charming comes into his own as a viable villain here. Obviously, he’s trying to still please his mother, the now deceased Fairy Godmother, and get his (and her) happy ending. He actually does good job at it, and keeps some comic relief and overall buffoonery that you would expect from a non-serious villain.

Eric Idle as Merlin….need I say more? His take on the wizard is reminiscent of the Disney version from The Sword in the Stone, only more eccentric and absent-minded. Typical Idle, though. Too bad, he and John Cleese couldn’t have been reunited in some scenes as kind of a mini- Monty Python type thing. Maybe Merlin could have brought the king back to life, or at least broke the spell. Oh well.

Shrek  and Shrek 2 were both huge hits for Dreamworks, and so was this one, but for me, this just felt like it was made to capitalize on the popularity of the character and not to keep the story moving on or entertain the fans. While there are some entertaining momentshere and there, they are few and far between, and it is for that reason that, as much as I would like to give this film a good rating, it was just average. Sure, you can sit down with your kids and watch it. It’s pretty safe for the family and all, but if you’re looking for the magic the first two films had, you’ll be disappointed.

3 out of 5 stars