There’s more to see than can ever be seen…

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THE LION KING


Directed By:
Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff
Produced By: Don Hahn
Inspired By: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1601)
Premiered On:
June 15, 1994
Distribution By:
Buena Vista Pictures

Easily one of the most recognized and most popularized of the Renaissance Era if not the entirety of the Disney Animated Films, The Lion King would have reached even loftier heights had the Internet been what it is today. Currently, this film stands at being the highest grossing film of its year, the highest grossing traditionally animated film, and sits at fourth in highest grossing animated film.

Heck, including the live stage musical version of the film The Lion King, as of September 2014, is the top earning title in box office history for both stage production and films, surpassing the record previous held by The Phantom of the Opera which had previously grossed $6 billion.

The basic summary of the film goes that a young lion cub, appropriately named Simba which is the Swahili word for “lion,” who is destined to succeed his father, Mufasa, as king of the Pride Lands. However, the envious greed of Scar, Simba’s uncle, knows no bounds and he forms an alliance with the hyenas to see to it that he becomes king and that they, in turn, will never go hungry again.

Scar’s plan to kill his brother works perfectly and though he manipulates Simba into thinking that the fault lay entirely upon him, the cub runs away into exile, narrowly avoiding the pursuing hyenas. Years past and following an interesting perspective of life, love, and honor from a few old, and departed, friends, Simba returns home to challenge Scar and bring an end to his tyranny over the Pride Lands.

As stated above, the film is inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet but seeing as there are quite a lot of differences between them, chief being an all animal cast and what have you, I’m afraid there’s far too many to make serious note of. I will say though that while the overall narrative is not anything new per say, as the concept of jealous sibling killing older sibling for the crown has been done nearly to death by this point, The Lion King takes a rather refreshing new stance at it.

While there is plenty of humanization in the cast of characters, there are still a lot of nods towards how these animals behave and act in the wild. Case in point, when Scar openly insults both Mufasa and Simba before walking away, Mufasa gets all up in his face asking him if that’s a challenge. Mufasa allowing Scar to remain in the Pride Lands was not done entirely out of love towards his brother, but with pity as well as only one male lion may rule a pride at a time and Scar, by his own admittance, lacks the brute strength necessary to become a king by conquest.

Even the hyenas are, somewhat, true to form despite the grand amount of complaints made to their overall portrayal during Scar’s villain song. Hyenas are one of the more unique species of animal in that they are not only a matriarchal society, but are actually quite large as far as group size in concern. An average clan of hyenas, particularly the spotted hyenas featured in the film, is about eighty members at minimum but do generally forage/hunt in smaller packs like what we see Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed do in the film.

Oh, one other particular thing about the film that I feel worth noting is that, much like Jodi Benson is for Ariel, there is one particular character in the cast who has, for the most part, been voiced by the same voice actor since the original film. That character in question: Puumba, which, I don’t know why, still amuses me to this day.

As to my choice in song, there’s little to no contest. “The Circle of Life” defines the whole entire franchise and is easily one of the more recognized phrases excluding hakuna mata. The song itself is one that I’ve yet to find an equal in as far as melody and lyrics are concerned but visually? There is no equal and likely never will be at least until such a time as this film is remade into a live action adaptation.

Overall, I give The Lion King a solid ten out of five stars. A visual masterpiece that will stand the test of time and a story that can watched over and over again by people of all ages. It is also a franchise that’ll likely continue for several generations to come as well, seeing as there is now yet another new tale to tell in in the form of The Lion Guard

The legend will never be the same…

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THE JUNGLE BOOK


Directed By:
Jon Favreau
Produced By: Jon Favreau & Brigham Taylor
Based On: Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1895) & Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967)
Premiered On:
April 15, 2016
Distribution By:
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Given that it’s Earth Day today, I had plans to actually review the film Ferngully as it is one of the first theatrical films I had ever seen and whose villain is still among my top ten favorites but then I had to go and see Disney’s latest live action adaptation to one of its Golden Age Classics, The Jungle Book.

Now, as per usual with reviews based on current film, there will some small SPOILERS in this review. I’ll try and keep it to the bare necessities but that’s all that I promise. First and foremost, seeing as I’ve already previously touched upon the difference between the novel and the original film, I’ll focus more on the differences between this adaptation and the animated one though I’ll refrain from speaking about Mowgli himself as the film is his story just as the animated one was. I will also admit that this film does base itself more on the book than the animated film does, namely in how the animals present themselves in groups referring to those outside their respected groups as “people,” ironically enough.

Anyway, one of the biggest differences between the films is Mowgli’s relationship with the Seeonee wolf pack. Namely, that he actually is shown having one. Oh yes, it’s touched upon very lightly in the animated film but in this one? Oh man, where do I start? Akela, though referred to strictly by name by Mowgli is as much a father to him as he can be though he strives to maintain the professional distance of an alpha wolf in the pack. As to Mowgli’s adopted mother Raksha… I believe that I will use a direct quote from the film itself here.

No matter where you go or what they may call you, you will always be my son.

That is just so freaking refreshing to see in a Disney movie. Seriously you’ve no idea how utterly rare it is for there to be a significant mother figure in a Disney film, live action or otherwise, that with just a few words emphasizes all that a mother is.

Bagheera is the same if a bit surlier than his animated counterpart, going to extreme lengths to keep Mowgli safe for reasons not fully revealed in the film proper. He’s also a lot closer to Mowgli in this film, something of a second father to him after Akela though, more often than not, a harsh but not wholly unforgiving teacher as well.

The major difference in Kaa is making the hypnotizing snake into a female and I admit, I was a bit surprised by this, even more so when they choose Scarlett Johansen, famous for her role as the Black Widow in the Marvel Film Franchise, to voice her. That is, until I actually heard her speak… Kaa still maintains her hypnotic color swirling eyes but coupled with that voice? Oh man, she quite literally put Mowgli under a spell. Unfortunately, an old, and frankly extremely overused, Hollywood trick gets a place in this film thanks to Kaa, namely the old “finding an enormous piece of snakeskin before meeting said enormous snake.”

Though, to be fair, this might actually explain Kaa’s behavior towards Mowgli. See, snakes are unbelievably hungry after shedding their skin as most of them won’t eat during that time, which can be anywhere from two or more weeks depending on the size and species of the snake. Considering how much Kaa reveals to Mowgli of his past and of Shere Khan, it seemed rather odd that she’d want to eat him.

I mean, I get the idea of hypnotizing him out of his little head but way make the effort of showing him his birth father’s death, the origin of Shere Khan’s scarred face and hatred of man, and even how Mowgli was found and brought to the wolves by Bagheera? Heck, she even tells/warns him outright of man’s “red flower” otherwise known as fire.

Baloo is surprisingly different yet wholly the same insomuch that while he still strives for the bare necessities of life, he’s actually more of a con artist in this version of the tale, as Bagheera calls him such outright. Make no mistake though, he’s got a heart of gold and is made of surprisingly sterner stuff than what one would expect from a sloth bear. He risks his hide for Mowgli more than one occasion and even makes it a point to tell the boy to stay behind him when some bushes are rustling suspiciously and was even the one responsible for saving him from Kaa.

He also has one of the best lines in the film as an animal comments to him how Mowgli is unlikely to succeed any more than those who Baloo had tricked before, to which he replies, “You have never been more endangered than you are right now.

I laughed so hard at that line that I’m still aching and it’s been nearly a week since I saw the movie!

As to King Louie… I think out of all the voice actors that were chosen for their respect roles, the voice of Christopher Walken for King Louie surprised a lot of people. An original character in the film, Louie was easily one of the bigger examples of the film’s time period, that being the jazzy sixties. True, he was a king but one that seemed to command authority based on his uniqueness of being an orangutan, a species not native to India. On a similar vein, Walken’s Louie is in point of fact not a ginormous orangutan as I had originally believed, nor is he a cousin to King Kong as others have joked.

He is in fact a Gigantopithecus, a species of ape that stood around twelve feet tall and had likely gone extinct as recently as one hundred thousand years ago. Aside from this major bodily difference, this version of Louie, much to Walken’s credit, comes off as being a true leader insomuch that he sounds like an outright mafia kingpin amongst the monkeys with his all too casual introduction of, “Call me Louie.”

Seriously, I have expected him to start smoking a cigar or taking a drink of martini or something.

Last, but certainly not least, is the main antagonist of the film. Shere Khan is a far worse villain in this film than he is in the animated one. The original version makes it appear as though Shere Khan is the only tiger in the jungle, or at least the only one that hunts in that specific part of it, but in this film it’s much different. Baloo initially dismisses the threat of a tiger being after Mowgli until Bagheera informs him that it’s Shere Khan specifically, which helps to encourage the bear into forcing Mowgli to go the man village even if it hurts them both.

Contrary to the animated version, this Shere Khan is wounded though not in the same manner as the book version. Instead, Shere Khan’s face is horribly scarred by fire and is even blind in his left eye. In point of fact, while Shere Khan has a healthy respect for fire, he does not possess pyrophobia as his animated counterpart does, or at least not to the same debilitating degree.

While I am by no means a master in the art of storytelling, I tend to pride myself in being able to spot guess where a story might be heading and I was downright floored by Shere Khan’s reaction to Mowgli showing up to confront him with a burning torch in hand. This Shere Khan is, without any unnecessary spoilers, far more cunning and patient than his animated counterpart, willing to go to extreme lengths to see that Mowgli is not only killed but that no one, not even Mowgli’s wolf family, would be willing to stand beside the man cub.

One thing that I want to give this film credit for is the music, primarily the opening theme that harkens back to the original film. As to actual songs, as I’m sure many people are already aware thanks to teasers from the trailers, certain songs from the original make it into the film itself.

Kaa’s song, “Trust in Me” is sung during the credits and not the film proper. Of the three, it is actually my favorite to listen to as this incarnation of Kaa makes it into a truly creepy lullaby unlike any other. Baloo does sing “The Bare Necessities” but it really can’t compare to the original only because Bill Murray, for as great a voice actor as he is in this film, is by no means a singer. That and the song itself is purposefully sung as how one would sing any song without any kind of musical accompaniment, at least in the film itself. King Louie’s “I Wanna Be Like You” is easily the best as far as visuals go and rides on the coils of Kaa’s song too only for one reason.

Christopher Walken himself sings it.

Nothing more needs to be said.

One last thing to note before I give my final thoughts towards this film is how much of a success it has garnered in its opening weekend. It is the second biggest live action adaptation of a previously animated Disney film, just behind Alice in Wonderland, and tied with Maleficent in its Thursday preview earnings of $4.2 million. In point of fact, it has earned a total of $103.6 million in its opening weekend, exceeding expectations by 40%. Expectations that had been raised more than once prior to the film’s actual release might I add.

Overall, I give this film a solid ten out of five stars because really, it deserves no less. Visually stunning in scenery and characters alike, this movie is a fantastical rendition of a classical book and an animated classic combined. I’d even go so far as to say that this is easily among the top of Disney live action films as a whole and not just those based on previous films, animated or otherwise.

An Arabian night…

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ALADDIN


Directed By:
Ron Clements & John Musker
Produced By: John Musker & Ron Clements
Based On:Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” (Arabian Fairy Tale)
Premiered On:
November 25, 1992
Distribution By:
Buena Vista Pictures

While it can be argued as to the popularity of the film itself compared to others in the Renaissance, one cannot deny that Aladdin has had one of the biggest impacts insomuch that it is one of the only Disney Animated Feature film to receive a televised series and not one but two straight-to-video sequels. A television series that lasted for eighty-six episodes, making it one of the few exceptions to the “65th Episode Rule” that was prevalent in the 90’s to early 2000’s where most Disney television shows could not extend beyond sixty-five episodes.

As to the film itself, the story goes that the wickedly sorcerous vizier Jafar has been seeking entry into the illustrious Cave of Wonders wherein there lies a magical lamp with a genie. While Jafar has succeeded in finding the Cave of Wonders, he cannot enter it himself as the Cave itself declares that only one who is a “diamond in the rough” can enter and even that individual cannot touch anything within save for the lamp.

Thus enters our titular hero, Aladdin a penniless thief who does his best to survive the streets of Agrabah and who, rather inadvertently finds himself in the company of the local princess, Jasmine, who has sought to run away from the palace lest she be forced to marry a man she does not love before her sixteenth birthday.

… Wait, if she’s fifteen, how old is Aladdin?

(Checks Disney Wiki…)

Ah, he’s eighteen…

Welp, moving on past that den of awkwardness, through some devious trickery, Jafar manages to con both Jasmine and Aladdin, the princess believing the thief had been executed while Aladdin is duped into entering the Cave of Wonders with the promise of a handsome reward should he retrieve the lamp. Aladdin enters the Cave but thanks in no small part to Abu, finds himself trapped with a seemingly useless lamp and an enchanted carpet that is not only able to fly but is actually sentient to boot.

Thankfully, Aladdin rubs the lamp and discovers that the lamp itself is quite worthless compared to what lay within, a “cosmically powerful” Genie who states that Aladdin is his new master and thus can receive any three wishes his heart desires though with a few quid pro quos and such. After tricking Genie into getting them out of the cave, Aladdin makes his first true wish, to become a prince so that he might be able to marry the princess. Of course, Jafar, after a time, manages to put two and two together and realizes just who the pauper turned prince actually is and sees to it that he gets the lamp, and Genie, for himself.

I’d go further into how Jafar is stopped but really, there’s too much karmic justice to be had there for me to spoil it to those who haven’t seen it so I’ll take a moment to talk about something that always intrigued me with Genie: the rules to what wishes he can and cannot grant.

Rule 1: He can’t kill anyone. Now, while I’m quite glad of this fact, that’s a rather odd thing for Genie to be incapable of doing. As most action films can attest, it’s frightfully easy to kill people so I wonder if it’s more of a matter of personal preference on Genie’s part.

Rule 2: He can’t make people fall in love. Yet… as powerful an emotion as love is, that begs the question of whether or not Genie can create other emotions in people. Take the animated film Anastasia for example. Rasputin all but admits to using sorcery to inspire the Russian Revolution and lead to the downfall of the Romanoff family. There are many, and arguably far more dangerous, emotions than just love.

Rule 3: He can’t bring people back from the dead. However… He goes on to add, “It’s not a pretty picture, I don’t like doing it.” This means that Genie can in fact bring people back from the dead but it’s not a true resurrection in the strictest sense of the word. They’d be brought back to life yes but they’d be stuck in whatever state their body is in at the time, making for quite the ugly picture I’m sure.

Last but not least is the unofficial Rule 4: No wishing for more wishes. Now one is a remarkably easy one to get around. I mean, seriously, for as long as I’ve ever contemplated the idea of what three wishes I’d make via a genie, this never once occurred to me. What’s the easy way of getting more wishes but not outright wishing for more?

Well, nobody ever said that you can’t wish for more genies now did they?

Heh, I love me a good loophole…

One last thing that I feel worth mentioning in regards to Genie, and by extension Carpet, is how old he is. Upon being released from the lamp, he states that ten thousand years can give one an incredible crick in the neck. I had initially passed this off as Genie being… well, Genie, until he later spots Carpet. He remarks, quote, “I haven’t seen you in a few millennia.

… Just how long has Genie and Carpet been trapped in the Cave of Wonders? More to the point, who, or what, had put them there in the first place? The Cave proved that the only true treasures within it were Carpet and Genie, why would anyone go to such lengths to keep them hidden? Well, Genie I can understand, but Carpet?

He’s a sentient flying rug. Admittedly, one that can apparently fly from Egypt to Greece to China and back to Arabia far faster than should be possible and not once drop his passengers despite the speeds he must be going. So what exactly is the harm in having him “loose” in the world versus Genie? Heck, the television series showcased just how many other far more malignant magical threats there are that can be far worse than Genie could be even in the hands of a villain like Jafar.

Having said all that, let’s focus on the differences between this film and the original story.

First and foremost, contrary to its source material, that being the famous collection of Arabian folklore and stories in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, or simply Arabian Nights, Aladdin’s story does NOT take place in Arabia but in China. The next major difference is that Jafar, or rather the sorcerer whose name I can’t pronounce let alone spell correctly, tricks Aladdin and his still living mother that he is the brother of Aladdin’s father. The overall plot remains the same from here save for another very drastic difference.

Aladdin doesn’t find a single genie. He finds two. One was bestowed to him by the sorcerer who either didn’t know of the genie’s presence or simply didn’t care as this genie, known as the Genie of the Ring, is actually quite weak in comparison to the Genie of the Lamp.

The most that the Genie of the Ring could do was free Aladdin from the enchanted cave whereas the Genie of the Lamp granted him riches, power, and a castle that was twice as magnificent as the sultan’s own. Also, because really I find this far too amusing not to make note of, that whole scene with Jasmine using her, ahem, feminine wiles on Jafar? That’s in the original story too.

As to my choice in song for the film… I’ll admit, if I was going with a song that fits the film as a whole, I’d say that the song “Arabian Nights” should be the one as a good tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement to the original source material. If I were focusing on the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine, I’d definitely say that “A Whole New World” definitely takes the entire cake. I’ll confess, it is, thus far, my favorite of the romance songs from Disney. However, in honor of the man who brought the miraculous power of laughter to the masses, my choice in song is “A Friend Like Me” as sung by Robin Williams, the voice of Genie.

Aside from being a stunning array of animation that I’m sure left many an animator with cramped hands, there is no better demonstration to what wishes Genie is capable of granting. More to the point though, this song helps demonstrate how much of a “diamond in the rough” Aladdin actually is. Considering all that he sees Genie is capable of granting him and the near limitless potential of three wishes, Aladdin focuses on something that even Genie admits that he cannot grant: love. He could have anything and everything that he has ever wanted in life but the one thing he wants is something that not even magic can grant…

Good job, Al. Good job.

Overall, I give Aladdin… Ah, who am I kidding, most of the Disney Renaissance get a solid 10 out of 5 stars from me and this one is no exception. It’s visually stunning, its music is nothing short of phenomenal and positively delightful to sing along with, and it’s a story that may be well known but can still be enjoyed by anyone, no matter how old or young they may be.

A tale as old as time…

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


Directed By:
Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise
Produced By: Don Hahn
Based On: Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast” (1756)
Premiered On:
November 22, 1991
Distribution By:
Buena Vista Pictures

If there is but a single film of the entire era of the Disney Renaissance that defines it as a whole, Beauty and the Beast is easily one of the top contenders for a multitude of reasons. It is, at the time of this post, the only Disney Animation Studios film to be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards and was the only animated film period until 2009 with Pixar’s film Up and the year after with Toy Story 3. However, considering there was nearly a two decade long gap between those Pixar films and this one, that says quite a lot for Beauty and the Beast as a whole.

Despite not winning Best Picture, having lost out to a film that redefined the psychological horror genre, Beauty and the Beast went on to win Best Original Score and Best Original Song for its titular “Beauty and the Beast,” which I’ll discuss a bit more later when I get to the music.

Besides the Academy Awards, the film won three Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score – Motion Picture, and Best Original Song – Motion Picture for its titular song. It also went on to win five Grammy Awards as well for Best Album for Children, Best Pop Performance by a Group or Duo With Vocal, Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture, Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television, and Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

All of those awards for the same titular song too might I add.

Speaking of the music, I feel it worth honoring that the man responsible for all of the lyrical songs in this film, The Little Mermaid, and the songs “Arabian Nights,” “Friend Like Me,” and “Prince Ali” from Aladdin worked on them on his deathbed.

For you see, my dear readers, Howard Ashman had been diagnosed as being HIV positive in 1988, midway through production of The Little Mermaid. Though failing in his health that did not stop him from continuing to write songs for Disney and he continued his work in his home in New York. On March 10, 1991 producer Don Hahn and the animators of Beauty and the Beast visited Ashman at the hospital where he weighed a mere 80 pounds, had gone completely blind, and could barely speak. Though the film would not be released until far later that year, they had told him outright that the film was incredibly well received by the press.

He died four days later at the age of 40.

The film Beauty and the Beast is dedicated to him with these words: “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.

Here’s to you, Mr. Ashman. Here’s to you.

On to the basic summary of Beauty and the Beast, as I do not wish to go to the same lengths as I had with The Black Cauldron, though I will give some of my deeper, and slightly soapboxing, thoughts on a few scenes in particular.

Our story begins in a castle wherein a prince has recently turned away a beggar woman seeking shelter from the cold winter night and has offered up a mere rose as payment. The beggar woman turns out to be a powerful enchantress whom, seeking to punish the prince for his arrogance, casts a multitude of spells upon him and his domain.

The forest surrounding his castle, and even the building itself, becomes a place of terror and nightmares, the woods filled with hungry and ravenous wolves and once cherubic figures and statues turned into grisly gargoyles. The castle’s numerous staff turned into living items such as teapots, clocks, feather dusters, and even a candlestick. Last but not least, the prince himself is turned into a hideous monster of a beast and is given two “gifts” from the enchantress.

One is a magical mirror that allows him to see the outside world that he, in his new form, will never again be welcomed in. The other is the same rose she had offered, now enchanted to represent how much time the Beast has to break the spell. All that he needs to do is to find it in his heart to love another and to earn their love in return before the last petal falls on the eve of his twenty-first birthday. If he succeeds, he and his will be restored back to their human forms but should he fail, he will forever remain a monster.

Thus, through a series of rather unfortunate events Belle, a girl who loves books to such a degree that Wikipedia outright calls her a bibliophile, comes to the Beast’s castle, exchanging herself to be his prisoner in her father’s place as the bumbling inventor had, rather inadvertently, found his way into it. Though their relationship is admittedly quite rocky at the start, the two of them slowly start to grow closer together.

There’s far more to the film than just that, including the likes of the most arrogant Disney Villain known as Gaston who has vied for Belle’s affections simply for her appearance and the fact that she is the only person, male or female, who doesn’t swoon at his feet. I’m not exaggerating that bit either as Gaston’s “villainous” song is having an entire bar singing his praises.

Now if you’ll pardon me a moment while I get on top of my soapbox here, there are a few scenes of note that I feel worth mentioning.

The first scene, which is the film’s first song and Belle’s “I want” song aptly named “Belle,” is one that I don’t necessarily have a problem with as far as Belle is concerned. Rather, it’s the people of the village that she and her father live in all but outright gossiping behind her back about her oddities, calling her odd, strange, funny, and even commenting that she might not be that well either physically or in the head. Heck, the bookstore owner, arguably the only person in town with any common sense and fairness towards Belle, is astonished that she’d want to read the same book for a third time.

Being an avid book lover myself, this always got on my nerves as a kid and it wasn’t until I was older and I learned the… ah… lackluster history in regards to what women were “expected” to do back in an age where idiocy was in far more abundance than common sense. Even so, I still can’t wrap my mind around a town like Belle’s being so stupidly focused on the fact that she likes books and doesn’t “socialize” like she does with the rest of them. Then again, considering that Gaston himself admits to never having learned to read, I’d hardly be surprised that anyone else in this town could write their own names never mind reading them.

Though, to be at least somewhat fair, towards the townsfolk, there is something of a joke towards Belle’s love of books insomuch that her extremely brief cameo in the film The Hunchback of Notre Dame has her walking the streets of Paris whilst reading. Considering how often I’ve done something similar myself when I was younger, I’m of the opinion that this was the first time she had read her favorite book and had, unwittingly, walked to Paris and back again without ever once realizing it.

On to something that has divided fans of this film for some time now is the addition of a scene that was missing in the original release. A scene that focuses on the deleted song from the film that was later included, and adored, in the Broadway musical called “Human Again.” Speaking frankly, I’d have liked this scene if they had animated back then rather than nearly a decade later. Though they try their best to match it, there are several minute differences in the animation styles that are just jarring to see.

However, there are two major things of note in this scene that I feel worth mentioning, though one can admittedly be attributed to an earlier song “Be Our Guest.” In the case of “Be Our Guest” we only truly see that the cook of the castle, an iron stove, has the same semblance of humanity as most of the other objects due, such as eyes, a mouth, something to resemble arms, etc. However, we also see a multitude of forks, spoons, and other accessories moving about.

In the song “Human Again” there are a blush brush, a hair brush, a hair comb, a bottle of perfume, and even a freaking dustpan that were all clearly human once before never mind the possibility of the suits of armor having been knights and/or soldiers to the prince. Admittedly, many of the staff were turned into an object that bore some significance to their post in the castle, such as the maids being turned into feather dusters and the chief cook into a stove, but there comes a puzzle into all this in one particular moment in the sequence.

Belle finishes reading the tale of Romeo and Juliet and the Beast asks her to read it once more, but instead she asks him to read it to her. He admits that while he had learned it had been a long time since he had actually bothered to read. Being a prince, he’d have a higher education than even Belle as far as reading and writing is concerned, especially considering the sheer size of his library. It wasn’t until I heard a particular line in the song “Be Our Guest” that it all suddenly made sense.

Ten years we’ve been rusting…

Holy Sugar Honey Iced Tea.

That… That is so unbelievably horrific for such a seemingly innocent little line…

No, seriously, think about this for a moment or three. Putting aside the Beast for the moment, look at Chip Potts, Mrs. Potts youngest child turned into a teacup. He is all of six years old, seven or even eight at the oldest, and has likely been so for over ten years, meaning that while the Beast was clearly aging and growing older as the years went by, none of the staff of the castle were meaning that the enchantress, perhaps realizing that the staff were guilty only by association to the prince, didn’t deserve to be cursed under the same circumstances. If and/or when he died, the curse may have been lifted from them, allowing them a chance at normalcy once more.

Of course, considering they spent nearly a decade as household objects, normalcy is a relative term. Goodness knows that if magic weren’t heavily involved Chip and the rest of them might have forgotten how to even walk seeing as not a one of them had anything resembling legs let alone feet.

It gets far worse when one adds the Beast into the equation. If he’s close to turning twenty-one at this point, that would mean that he had been all of eleven years old at the time of the enchantress’ visit. I’m sorry, but even at five years old I knew better than to invite a total stranger into my home for the night and with him being a prince, the Beast had far more reason to do so as she may well have been an assassin in disguise rather than a cold blooded witch of an enchantress.

I’d use a far more suitable word but I try to keep this blog PG-13.

Seriously though, the enchantress is a blanket word for one of the worst Disney Villains to ever exist and yet has no continuing role in the film proper. I mean really, how many of the castle’s staff had been cursed that night and had only been at the castle in a short period of time? Could you imagine starting work at the castle, a job that would pay extremely well and help you support your family, and then be turned into say, a coatrack, for TEN YEARS? If your family didn’t think you dead and moved on/away then they’d at least have aged significantly in that time and time, easily one of the most precious things in all of Creation, cannot be regained once it has been lost.

… Sigh… I suppose now is as good a time as any to discuss my choice in song for the film as a whole, which I’ll state outright is not the song “Beauty and the Beast” despite how apt a choice it is. Aside from being a literal titular song and the dance sequence between Belle and the Beast being one of the most recognized romantic moments in cinematic history… Alright, not really helping my case here but bear with me a moment. The song itself is one that shows how two entirely different individuals can come together despite their differences but that’s not how I feel the film itself is about.

Instead, my choice in song is “Something There” as sung primarily by the Beast and Belle. It’s not romantic dance in a ballroom but it’s the moment where I feel that the two of them start to actually fall in love with one another. True, this follows the Beast rescuing Belle from the wolves and her helping tend to his wounds and him giving her a library as a thank you… Dang, I’m not on my A-game today at all with this…

Alright, alright, just… Just watch them. Listen to the lyrics but just look how the two of them act and interact with each other.

Overall, I give this film ten out of five stars because anything less would really be an injustice. This film represents everything that is Disney, from animation, to song, to story, and to heart. True, there may some moments which may startle or even frighten younger audiences, the Beast for all the awesome that he is, is still a rather frightening sight when enraged, but what little darkness there is, is outshone by the light in this film. It is one that I can wholeheartedly say is among my top three personal favorites of Disney Animation of all time from Golden to Silver to Renaissance to Millennial and here in our current Revival Era.

G’day mate…

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THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER


Directed By:
Hendel Butoy & Mike Gabriel
Produced By: Thomas Schumacher
Based On: Margery Sharp’s The Rescuers (1959)
Premiered On:
November 16, 1990
Distribution By:
Buena Vista Pictures

Thus far the only Disney Animated Feature Film to be a direct sequel, The Rescuers Down Under is sadly one of the most forgotten of the Renaissance era if not all Disney films as a whole, live action or otherwise. The film itself is not, strictly speaking, a film of its era, much like how its predecessor was every bit the 80’s with how gritty and dark it was. Nor is it a film that has been, shall we say, shelved and buried beneath its betters like The Black Cauldron or Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The best way that I can describe this film is that it’s a film that does not truly feature its titular characters, at least not to the degree one would expect in such a film.

The film’s story focuses heavily on a boy named Cody who lives on the Australian outback and, much like Penny herself, is able to communicate with and understand the speech of animals. He acts as something of a young Australian Ranger, helping and aiding any of the animals whenever he can, most recently a ginormous golden eagle named Marahute.

Unfortunately for Cody, though he’s made a friend with the last of the greatest of eagles, he unwittingly makes an enemy out of Percival C. McLeach, a poacher who wants to capture and/or kill Marahute just as he had done to her mate. He captures Cody, intending to hold him prisoner until the boy spills the beans on where Marahute and her nest of eggs can be found, which leads to our titular Rescuers, Bernard and Bianca, coming to the boy’s rescue.

From here… This where the film gets really, really off track, at least as far as its focus is concerned. Though one of them is arguably concerning the overall plot of the film, there are two very long and frankly near pointless scenes that make no sense as to why they are shown. Chief among them is one pertaining to Wilbur, an albatross and brother to the film’s previous mode of international mice transportation Orville.

Following a spectacular landing, Wilbur had damaged his back to a point where he is sent to a hospital ran by mice where we seen him refusing to undergo surgery and makes a made escape that inadvertently cures him of his ailment in the process. Considering how little we see of his brother in the previous film, I honestly don’t know why this long scene had been made into the film.

The second scene, or rather scenes, involves Cody trying to break out of McLeach’s lair with the aid of all the animals he captured. The first attempt involves them making a large pole to try and reach the keys while the second, fair longer and again rather odd segment, involves a spastic little frilled lizard named Frank.

Beyond these two random events, there is only one major issue I have with the film as a whole and that is in the character of Marahute the golden eagle. Don’t misunderstand me; Marahute is a gorgeous bird and an amazing work of animation, easily one of the pinnacles of the Renaissance era.

Therein lies the problem though in a film where every animal except for Marahute are anthropomorphized to varying degrees, with some animals speaking outright or possessing clearly human eyes, mannerisms, or facial expressions. It was one thing for Cody to be unable to understand her, his gift might not extend to birds, but the mice clearly show that they can understand other animals and so should have been capable of hearing Marahute’s actual voice.

Heck, this sort of animation oddity was actually done correctly in the film Brother Bear wherein Koda’s mother, when we first see her, is every bit the realistic bear but when we see her again later on, she is more humanized. They even give her a voice as Kenai’s flashbacks concerning her whilst in his bear form allow him to understand her better than when he was human.

Contrary to its predecessor that had songs being sung in the background, The Rescuers Down Under has no actual lyrical music played in the background. Despite this, there is one scene in particular that has received nothing but the highest of praises and with good reason. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the segment simply known as Flying with Marahute…

Overall, I give this film… eh, three out of five stars. It’s a film that I can see anyone enjoying at least once but not one that I think anyone would want to watch again and again and again until the entirety of it is memorized into one’s brain. Frankly, I feel that this was a film that could have excluded the Rescuers entirely and should have focused more of a story on Marahute herself, because blast it that flight scene is amazing, or even Joanna, because despite clearly the villainous sidekick in the film, she stole the show whenever she was onscreen.

The seaweed is always greener…

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THE LITTLE MERMAID


Directed By:
Ron Clements & John Musker
Produced By: John Musker & Howard Ashman
Based On: Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (1837)
Premiered On:
November 17, 1989
Distribution By:
Buena Vista Pictures

The Little Mermaid is often described as the first of… Well, to be perfectly honest, the first of a lot of things really. It was the first film of the Disney Renaissance and is commonly attributed as being the source of the “atypical” Disney Princess tropes that followed in its wake. It was also one of the first Disney Animated Films to have an animated series be made for it though, in this particular case, a not-quite-canon series of adventures that occur before the events of the film itself.

Ariel herself is also the first, and thus far only, Disney Princess to be voiced by her in-film voice actress for all of her English speaking roles, from television, to musical soundtracks, to video games with the only exception being the Broadway production.

As to the actual summary of the film itself, the story goes that a young mermaid princess named Ariel has something of a… obsession one would say of any and all things human related, particularly in human made items that she scrounges up from shipwrecks. Unfortunately for Ariel, her father, King Triton, is of the exact opposite opinion of his youngest daughter. Things come to a head between father and daughter when Ariel happens to rescue a young prince from drowning and immediately falls in love with him at first sight.

This… leads to one of the most frightening displays of parental rage I’ve ever seen in any animated film…

Following this, Ariel, rather foolishly mind you, makes a bargain with the sea-witch Ursula that, in exchange for her voice, she will be turned human and will have three days for the prince to fall in love with her and display this affection via a kiss. Not just any kiss mind you but one of true love. However, should Ariel fail in receiving a kiss from the prince by the sunset of the third day, her life and soul will be Ursula’s forever…

I’d continue on towards the climax and ending of the film but really, if there’s one fault that I can name of The Little Mermaid it’s that it’s popularity is at such a high degree that there are few who haven’t seen the film yet know perfectly well how it ends. That and in all honesty, there is a particular aspect of the film that I want to focus on more, namely King Triton and his… ahem… temper…

Of all the fathers we’ve seen in Disney films, animated or otherwise, King Triton is certainly not the worst of them but he is easily one of the few that can loose his temper with the slightest provocation. More to the point, it can reach a degree that does more harm than good. Using the animated series for example, there was an episode wherein Ariel happened to find a magnifying glass and despite its harmlessness, King Triton immediately destroyed it right in front of her.

Ariel, of course, swam off while her father tried, and failed somewhat, to cool down where she immediately happened to find a human bracelet that she put on, not noticing that the key to take the thing off was still stuck to the piece of coral it was hanging off of.

Finding that she couldn’t take it off on her own and that her attempt to remove the thing via the key led her to be literally sucked down into the ocean abyss, Ariel came to one conclusion. That her father would do something so bad, so terrible, to her that she would never be able to go home again.

Let me repeat this: Ariel was so scared of her father’s wrath that she’d rather brave living in the ocean’s abyss where all manner of Lovecraftian horrors dwelled, than to try and go home to defend herself and the trinket she had unwittingly bound onto herself.

… I do not pretend to be an expert in parentage, for I have not yet been fortunate enough to have a child of my own, and I certainly don’t disagree that if a child has done wrong that they should be punished for it accordingly but… What does that say of Triton, who was never shown to have ever raised more than a… admittedly sea-shaking voice to Ariel, that she’d rather live in an abyss than risk his wrath once more or, in the case of the film itself, would give up everything and everyone that she has ever known because her father had hurt her more than he had ever hurt her before? What does it say of him as a person, and not just a parent, that he would destroy everything that his child held dear, no matter that it did no harm to her or anyone else simply because of his own hatred…?

… Welp, now that I’ve gone and darkened the mood, I might as well blacken this to a midnight pitch with the differences between the film and the original novel. Now, be warned my readers, that this is where things well and truly become dark, and I do not exaggerate. Few if any of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories had what one would call a true happily ever after ending. That all being said let’s begin with the first major difference between the film and the novel.

Mer-folk have no souls.

Yep.

Not a mermaid or merman has anything resembling a soul and while they can live quite a while, somewhere about 300 or so years give or take a decade, when they die their bodies disintegrate into sea foam and all that was them ceases to be and is lost forever to a wide and uncaring ocean.

The Little Mermaid in the story, who has no name aside this titular title, sees and falls in love with the prince in the same manner as Ariel but pursues him willing both to gain his love but to also attain a soul of her own. She does this by way of bargaining with a sea witch whose deal is quite different from Ursula’s own. The major difference being that instead of taking the Little Mermaid’s voice like Ursula did Ariel, she takes the next best thing.

Her tongue.

Yep.

Cuts it clean out and gives the Little Mermaid a potion to take upon reaching the shore, leaving the poor girl a mute for the rest of her life.

A potion that, upon consumption, will make the Little Mermaid feel as though she has been run through by a sword but will grant her human legs. Legs that will make her feel constant pain and agony whenever she walks or dances, but she will still be gracefully as a dancer regardless. Should the Little Mermaid manage to win the prince’s heart for herself, the day following their marriage a piece of the prince’s soul will flow into her and become her own.

However, should she fail, then on the day after the prince’s marriage to another, her heart will break and she will die as foam upon the sea. The Little Mermaid accepts and though she becomes a dear friend to the prince, his affections lie with a girl whom he, wrongly, believes to have been the one to save him from drowning.

The story takes an even darker turn when the despairing Little Mermaid is suddenly visited by her older sisters the night of the prince’s marriage, mere hours away until the dawn and the Little Mermaid’s death. Each of her sisters have lost their long, flowing hair, the price they paid for the sea witch to grant them a means of saving their youngest sibling’s life. A means the witch has provided by way of an enchanted dagger that the Little Mermaid must drive into the heart of the young prince. She must then allow his blood to drip upon her legs, thus restoring her back into a mermaid where she will live a long, and soulless, life once more.

The Little Mermaid comes close, really close, to following through on this but in the end, love conquers still. For no matter that the prince has fallen in love with another, no matter that she will die in mere moments as the sun starts to peak onto the horizon, the Little Mermaid can’t bring herself to kill him and so she does the only thing left for her to do. She takes the dagger in hand tosses it, and herself, both out the window of the sleeping couples’ room and down into the sea where she vanishes into foam upon the waves.

However… this is not the end of our Little Mermaid. For in her selfless act of love, the Little Mermaid has proven herself worthy of the chance to attain a soul of her own. She becomes, quite literally, something of a guardian angel in the form of an air spirit where she, and countless other once soulless creatures that proved to have the same merits as she, must commit themselves to 300 years of good deeds served to mankind before they gain a soul of their own and are at last welcomed in the White City of Heaven.

So yeah, once more, while not the most wildly adapted story, there were more than a few justifiable liberties taken between the story and the film.

Moving on to happier notes, let’s me try and narrow down what song in the film best fits it as a whole. It was a tough choice all around as most of the songs are easily remembered and sung time and time again the world over. After all, the film did end up winning two Grammy Awards, one for Best Album for Children and Best Score Soundtrack for a Motion Picture. Heck, the song “Under the Sea” won the Academy Award for Best Song and the film as a whole even won Best Score, which it technically won again via the Golden Globes.

Despite this though, I am of the strong opinion that the song that best fits the film is Ariel’s song called “Part of Your World.”

Aside from being a spectacular look into the life of a mermaid hoarder, which is no small exaggeration given the sheer amount of human junk and treasures alike that Ariel has managed to not only collect but safely stow away in a relatively small grotto… You can see the sheer amount of work that went making this look like an underwater world with how the light shines through the water and how Ariel’s hair moves as she sings and dances around the grotto. That and you get a pretty good hint that Ariel is already getting close to paying whatever price necessary to become human or at the least learn all the answers to the questions she has of us and our world above the waves.

Overall, I give The Little Mermaid a solid seven out of five stars. I’d give it an even ten but honestly, even back when I was a kid there were more than a few face-palming moments to be had, mostly in the form of Scuttle. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a funny character yes but he’s something of the… Jar Jar Binks in this otherwise fantastically amazing film. Seriously, I always mute it when he starts talking, that’s how annoying his voice is to me. That and, to be fair, this film is a bit… dated in some sensibilities regarding age and what one should and can do at said age…

Ev’ry boulevard is a miracle mile…

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OLIVER & COMPANY


Directed By:
George Scribner
Produced By: Jim Cox, Tim Disney, & James Mangold
Based On: Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1838)
Premiered On:
November 18, 1988
Distribution By:
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

While Oliver & Company is far from being the first Disney Animated Film to deviate from its source material, and it certainly won’t be the last, it is arguably one of the loosest of adaptations produced by Disney yet. Based on the story Oliver Twist, Oliver & Company is about a small kitten, the titular Oliver, who falls into a company of dogs who roam the streets of New York City stealing anything and everything they can.

Mostly so that their owner/master can pay off his debt to a guy who really ought to have thought better than to give out a loan of any sort to a bum on the street if he seriously wanted his money, plus interest, paid back in full within a ludicrously short amount of time. A loan shark Sykes may be but a certified genius he is not.

Things take an interesting turn however when Oliver ends up in the loving arms of a young girl from an incredibly rich family, leaving Oliver to chose between life on the dangerous streets of New York with those or living safe in the home of a child who treats him with all the love and affection he could ever dream of.

No, seriously, there’s a whole song sequence completely devoted to how Jenny, the girl, and Oliver having the time of their young lives doing all manner of things from playing piano together, to rowing on a lake in Central Park, to even sharing ice cream and enjoying a horse and buggy ride. Give the girl credit, she well and truly loves Oliver and despite being a kitten that has spent all of a day or two tops living on the streets, he’s a surprisingly well manner feline too.

Of course, things don’t come up all sunshine and roses, especially on the streets of New York as Dodger and company “rescue” Oliver and unwittingly lead Faggin, their owner, to come up with an admittedly brilliant plan to “ransom” the cat to his obviously rich owner. An obviously rich owner who is all of seven years old soon to be eight mind you but hey, it’s a fair plan considering the bling Oliver was sporting at the time.

Thankfully, Fagin’s conscience proves stronger than his fear of Sykes as he gives Oliver back to Jenny rather promptly at realizing that she, a mere child, has only so much to give in terms of her piggy bank. It’s right about then that Sykes comes swooping in with the intention of ransoming Jenny and its up to Oliver & company to chase the man down and rescue the girl from his clutches.

Seeing as there are far too many differences between the book Oliver Twist and the film, I’ll just skip ahead to the music of the film. Now, with the likes of such stars as Bette Midler and Billy Joel adding their voices to the cast of characters, it was actually rather hard to pinpoint just what song in particular best fit the film as a whole.

The song most commonly associated with the film is the one sung by Dodger (Billy Joel) called, “Why Should I Worry?” It’s a pretty great song as far as lyrics go but visually speaking, man is it a treat to see Dodger all but owning the streets of New York with blatant casualness while Oliver is struggling to keep up with him. Despite this though, the song that I feel best fits the film is the one sung by Rita as she and the others in the company try and teach Oliver the way of the streets in the song, “Streets of Gold.”

That and there’s nothing more amusing than seeing a cat barking like a dog.

Overall, I’d give Oliver & Company a good… meh, six out of ten. It’s a good film and a fun one to watch for all ages but really, it’s not one that I can imagine watching over and over again. It’s not quite to the same degree of “obscurity” as The Black Cauldron, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, or other similarly “forgotten” films but it comes pretty close to it and with fair reason. It’s not quite a cat person or even a dog person film, more like a… New York film if anything. The backgrounds and visuals of a 1980’s New York City is a sight to see though, unfortunately, some terrible awkward questions will likely arise in younger audiences pertaining to a certain two towers now absent in the skyline of the Big Apple….

Thus, we draw an end to the “Dark Age” of Disney Animated Films and will now begin the Disney Renaissance with the film that well and truly started it all.

Tell me… Do you bleed?

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BATMAN V SUPERMAN:

DAWN OF JUSTICE


Directed By:
Zack Snyder
Produced By: Charles Roven & Deborah Snyder
Written By: Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer
Premiered On: March 19, 2016
Distribution By:
Warner Bros. Pictures

As usual with any currently playing film, this review will contain MINOR SPOILERS. You have been warned.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice… The question for this review is not where I should begin but rather where have others with far greater expertise and experience than I? I suppose I shall begin with those whose thoughts and opinions actually mattered most to me, those whom I call friend and family. Most of my friends who saw the film before I all had one common complaint amongst them, that this film took the term “hit the ground running” to the utmost extreme.

I can’t say that I disagree with them though perhaps not entirely in the same way. This film comes off as being more of a literal comic book adaptation than most other such films before it in the sense that a lot of events occur quickly and we, the audience, are transitioned further along in the story at a far faster pace than what one would normally see in such a film. Where most films have a steep but steady climb, this one takes near superhuman leaps ahead and there were many times where I felt like someone had been hitting the skip forward button on the remote though none of the overall plot or minor ones were lost to me.

I say that this makes the film a more literal comic adaptation because such things are not only common in most comic books nowadays it is oftentimes completely necessary in order to keep readers interested. An over-arcing plot that takes a few issues to go through is one thing but there are many times where the whole of a story, or even a chapter of one, has to be told in thirty pages or less, and that’s how this film felt to me with its pacing. It was a story trying to be condensed down into a singular chapter.

Seeing as plenty has been said and done with how Superman had been portrayed in the previous film Man of Steel, I’ll move on to the titular Batman. The chief complaint I’ve heard was the choice of Ben Affleck prior to the film’s release but in the days following it, that issue has all been buried under a multitude of others, chief amongst them being Batman’s willingness to use guns, something many a die-hard fan is all but foaming at the mouth over.

Never mind that Batman used a gun ALL THE TIME during the Golden Age of Comics and was even okay with killing people too. More to the point though, in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman used guns on his “batpod” and the original Tim Burton films, Batman outright tried to gun down the Joker via the Batwing.

More to the point though, at least pertaining with my family’s view on the Dark Knight, Batman is portrayed as being excessively violent to a point where he has begun to outright brand certain villainous scum with his mark, despite knowing full well that those who bear his mark are nearly always killed in prison as a result. At first, I too was extremely unhappy about this despite how marvelous a job Ben Affleck does at portraying both Bruce Wayne and the Batman in and out the costume, when I noticed something in particular.

There’s a moment, a very short moment, in the film where Batman walks past a uniform, one that has been defiled with the words: “Hahah jokes on you BATMAN,” clearly the work of the Joker with the uniform itself belonging to a former Robin. It has been a longstanding piece of Batman history that he has taken more than one Robin under his metaphorical wing but that one Robin in particular was killed, rather brutally, by the Joker and said Robin’s uniform put up in an honorable display in the Batcave.

However, each and every incarnation I’ve ever seen of this tribute to the fallen Robin has had the costume in pristine condition so why would Batman keep the costume in such a state with the words of Robin’s own murderer there in sickly yellow paint for him to see on a daily basis? Until the release of the upcoming Suicide Squad, it’s all pure conjecture and guesswork at this point but I have a strong feeling that whatever the Joker had done to Robin in this cinematic universe is vastly different than what had occurred in the comics.

Another element in the film that I have heard disfavor towards was the strange dream sequences we see Batman have, particularly one wherein we see an alternate future wherein Batman is the last of a line of defense against Superman and those whom stand with him. Following this dream sequence is a close encounter of the speedster kind with whom I can rightly guess to be the Flash coming back to warn Batman of the final straw that broke Superman’s back.

This, combined with a few minor details of the “dream” has me with a very strong assumption that the “dream” was not so much a dream but an actual future that Batman has somehow remembered thanks, in part, to the Flash’s interference with time. It has been shown time and time again in a vast multitude of media that changes in the time can affect those involved in a multitude of ways.

Heck, in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, there was a episode wherein only Green Lantern and Batman remembered all of the events that transpired despite making it so that the time-travelling villain in question never succeeded in traversing through time and thus making it so that the whole sequence of events never occurred in the first place. Even Wonder Woman, who was there for a majority of the adventure, did not recall anything that had occurred.

In Batman’s vision of the possible future, we see things that frankly Batman would otherwise have had no way of knowing about let alone actually dreaming. Fire erupting from the core of the Earth in great massive pits was coincidence I’ll admit, the symbol of Omega the Greek letter that represents “the end” in Christianity was happenstance perhaps given the plentitude of godly allusions already made towards Superman, but the parademons the literal cannon fodder of Apokolips and its literal New God and Master, the dreaded Darkseid who is without equal in the entirety of the DC Comics universe?

No. No way, something strange is afoot here and is made all the more apparent with an apparently insane out of his bald little head Luthor’s mad ravings towards Batman at the end of the film. Somehow, someway, Luthor is not only aware of the New God’s existence but is in some fashion in communication with him or his forces. It would be too much of a stretch either considering the man’s access to information that he frankly couldn’t possibly have known to look for in the first place without some aid.

The addition of Wonder Woman, and the minor cameos of the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, were… mixed I’ll admit. Personally, I loved Wonder Woman in this film, as her presence served to not only emphasize that there was more of these so-called “metahumans” out there beyond just Superman and, arguably, Batman, but she was in it just enough to get us wanting for more of her story in her own upcoming film.

Many have called this the precursor to the Justice League film and while I cannot argue this, especially with the final conversation between Bruce and Diana, I honestly felt that this film was more about building up the other heroes, Wonder Woman most of all because of a few lines.

I will go on the record though by saying that for as much as they showed off that Aquaman is also in this film he really isn’t. Cyborg’s segment was done far better and Flash, for as quickly as he was in and out of his scenes, had a longer screen time.

Then there is the inclusion of Doomsday in the film… Doomsday, the one and only being in all of the DC Universe with the claim of having killed Superman and is, arguably, one of the deadliest creatures in the entirety of comic books, bar a few extremely powerful exceptions. I shan’t spoil how the film’s Doomsday came to be, but I will give a brief overview of his powers. Much like his comic book counterpart, Doomsday is a literal immortal biological weapon of mass destruction that not only immediately regenerates from whatever killed him but increases in strength and fortitude to such a degree that the same method cannot be used again.

For example, shoot him the head with a gun and bullets won’t be able to pierce his skin. Cut him open with a mystical sword and no sharpened edge will slice his now impenetrable skin. Worse yet, Doomsday starts off as nothing more than a savage animal. He doesn’t think, he doesn’t plan he simply reacts.

What would happen if such a creature were to gain sapience, a will, of its own?

Lastly, there was one review in particular I read that frankly has me scratching my head in utter befuddlement, namely a complaint that this film was humorless and that there was nothing funny going on. I’m sorry but… we are talking about Batman right? The hero who is oftentimes joked as being physically incapable of smiling? The same Batman who, in the animated series, freaked Harley Quinn to the point of chills when he actually laughed? More to the point though, neither Batman nor Superman are known for being humorous in any way, at least not in their more recent incarnations in DC Comics.

Batman comes from a city that is almost literally bursting with all manner of criminal activity and insane lunatics while Superman faces against foes who might not be fully capable of killing him but can still dish out an obscene amount of damage to his city.

Overall, I give this film… eh, 7 out of 10 and that’s with a whole lot of generosity on my part. It is certainly not the greatest of superhero films, only barely squeezing into my top ten strictly for Ben’s performance as Batman and us actually seeing Batman fighting regular people in costume for once. Is it the best DC Comics film though? I’d say in parts but not entirely. I’ll always like Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker despite how much I loathed Christian Bale’s bronchitis ridden performance of Batman. Seriously, I can’t watch any of those films without the subtitles on that is how hard it is for me to understand a darn thing Batman is saying, never mind freaking Bane.

Is it the absolute worst film ever made to feature comic book heroes? Oh HECK no! If we’re talking about the modern adaptations, there’s Catwoman where the star actress herself was there to accept the Golden Raspberry with an Oscar for another film in hand and had this to say: “First of all, I want to thank Warner Brothers. Thank you for putting me in a piece of shit, god-awful movie… It was just what my career needed.”

Heck, Marvel Comics’ first attempts at making Captain America, the Fantastic Four, and the Punisher were all box office flops of the utmost degree that one would be extremely (un)lucky to find them to watch for themselves. While I haven’t seen the original 1989 Punisher, I will say that the 1990’s attempt at Captain America and 1994’s The Fantastic Four were together a hundred and eighty-odd minutes of my life that I’ll never, ever be able to get back no matter how hard I try.

So while this film may not be the best, it’s far from the worst and I sincerely recommend giving it a watch on the big screen. Take my and others’ opinions as being strictly that, our own opinions, but do not let them make your own without even experiencing the film for yourself. Any film, good or bad, deserves that much.

Connecting the Sun to the Moon…

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Trying for something new here that is, in essence, me getting atop a soapbox about a particular subject and offering up my own thoughts, opinions, and predictions. These soapboxes will occur on the rare occasion when I’m feeling like getting my thoughts out on a certain subject and not having enough of a physical audience with which to banter back and forth on, so while this won’t be all too common, don’t be surprised when they crop up now and again. As the title of today’s post suggests, I’ll be talking about the upcoming newest generation of the Pokémon franchise, Sun & Moon.

To be fair, I’m far from being the first to broach this subject and even further from being an all-time expert on the Pokémon franchise as a whole. Regardless, I’ll try to bring up some rather interesting points and future possibilities I hope to see in the new generation.

First and foremost, the name of the game is Sun & Moon, which a great number of PokéFans out there are guessing that this game will be heavily influenced by Japanese myths, especially those pertaining to the story of the sun goddess Amaterasu and the moon god Tsukiyomi.

Admittedly, this does make the most sense not strictly because of it pertaining more to local myths and legends in Japan but because the story of Tsukiyomi and Amaterasu follows a similar vein as most version mascots/Legendary Pokémon have for the last several generations. If they are not direct opposites in powers, such as Xerneas and Yveltal or Groudon and Kyogre, then their purposes/reason for existence is vastly different like it is for Palkia and Dialga or Ho-Oh and Lugia.

However, the main point I want to focus on in this post is one thing that I think most people have overlooked outside the possibility of new Pokémon. That being evolutionary stones, primarily the precious few that cannot be purchased in stores. Moon, Sun, Dawn, and Dusk Stones are, thus far, the only evolutionary stones which cannot be purchased in store but can be found in a variety of other means either as dropped items, won in contests/other trainers, or even held by certain species of wild Pokémon. Yet what is most curious of all is what species of Pokémon these evolutionary stones affect.

Moon Stones can be used on a small number of Pokémon consisting mostly of those from Generation I. Nidorans, both male and female, both resemble rabbits thus tying them to the popular Japanese myth of the Rabbit in the Moon. Clefairy are famous for gathering and celebrating beneath the light of a full moon. Jigglypuff are famous for their voices lulling people to sleep day or night but whose evolved form of Wigglytuff strongly resembles a rabbit.

Admittedly, I was confused by the inclusion of Skitty until I noted that its facial marking is distinctly shaped like a crecent moon, a marking similarly found on Teddiursa which changes to a full moon circle upon it leveling up and evolving into a Ursaring, and both bear-like Pokémon having distinctive ties to the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellation. Last, but certainly not least, is Munna and its evolution Musharna, both based on the mythological dream eating tapir, much like Drowzee and Hypno of Generation I.

Speaking of the Moon, it should be noted that one of the strongest Fairy-type attacks in the game, thus far, is the attack Moonblast, which is only learned by Fairy-types with a few notable exceptions. Those being Swablu, whose Mega Evolution turns it into a Dragon/Fairy-type, Lunatone and Cresselia, both based on the crescent moon themselves, and surprising of all: Oddish.

I say surprising because Oddish, aside from using the Leaf Stone to evolve into a Gloom, can also utilize the Sun Stone into evolving into a Bellossom. In point of fact, all but one Pokémon in particular are Grass-types that make use of the Sun Stone to evolve. From Sunkern to Sunflora, Cottonee to Whimsicott and Petilil to Lilligant, what is rather notable about these Pokémon in particular is that of the three pairs, only Sunkern and Sunflower are directly connected to the Sun in any fashion with the two being based on sunflowers and their seeds.

Still, it should be noted that Cottonee and Whimsicott both require sunny skies in order to safely traverse through the air whereas Petilil and Lilligant are based on lilies, which are in turn a popular springtime flower in the West. Finally, there’s the odd one out in the bunch, the Pokémon Helioptile and its evolution Heliolisk, which are Electric/Normal-type Pokémon who generate electricity from basking in the light of the sun with Heliolisk in particular bearing a frill distinctly shaped like the sun.

Dawn Stones are notable in that, at the time of this post, only two Pokémon can utilize them and even then they must be of a certain gender to do so. This is particularly notable in that both Pokémon would otherwise evolve into a Pokémon that distinctly looks like the opposite gender that they are. Case in point a Kirlia, male or female, would normally evolve into a Gardevoir, a Pokémon that appears distinctly female, doubly so when its Mega Evolved, whereas if a male Kirlia is given a Dawn Stone, it evolves into Gallade, a veritable knight to Gardevoir’s princess.

Contrary wise, a Snorunt, male or female, would evolve into a Glalie, a Pokémon whose Mega Evolution has something strongly resembling a beard. If a female Snorunt is given a Dawn Stone though, it evolves into a Froslass, a Pokémon that is based on the Japanese mythical creature known as a yuki-onna.

Whatever the reasons might have been from the creative team, I like to think that the Dawn Stone was made to represent a new dawn in perception, particularly in the concept of its now how others perceive us but how we perceive ourselves and the conscious choice to bring what we are within to the outside world. I get this mostly from the description of the Dawn Stone being “it sparkles like a glittering eye.”

Dusk Stones, with one notable exception, are utilized by Ghost-type Pokémon to achieve evolution but it’s the kinds of ghostly Pokémon that piques my interest, especially when one considers that the Dusk Stone is described as being “dark as dark can be.” Mismagius, which evolves from a Misdreavous, is obviously based on witches and the like whereas Chandelure is based on the Japanese equivalent of a will-o-wisp, a creature predominately found in the darkest of nights to “help” guide lost souls. What makes these two Ghost Pokémon particularly interesting is that Mismagius, while devious, is generally a helpful Pokémon whereas Chandelure is notable for burning the souls of the dead thus condemning them to an eternity of wandering the Earth.

Moving on… There’s Aegislash, which can recognize the innate qualities of leadership in people and that whomever they recognize as their master is destined to become akin to a king if not a king outright. Rather surprising given that its base form, Honedge, is said to suck the life force out of anyone that dares to wield it while its secondary stage, Doublade, is said to be neigh unstoppable in the art of swordsmanship.

This of course has nothing to do with the Moon but I thought it interesting nonetheless. Last but not least is Honchkrow and Murkrow, both resembling ravens and are primarily based on Mafia leaders and witch’s ravens respectively. In point of fact, Murkrow are often used by Team grunts and Honchkrow by a leader most notably Giovanni of Team Rocket, Cyrus of Team Galactic, and Lysandre of Team Flare.

Finally, to wrap up this long soapbox of ideas, there’s the Pokémon that evolve only in certain times of the day and almost always with the highest affections towards their trainer as the catalyst. For those that evolve under the light of the Sun with just a bundle of happiness, it’s Riolu into Lucario and Budew into Roselia. Happiny is similar though it requires the aid of a held Oval Stone in order to become a Chansey. A Tyrunt will evolve into a Tyrantrum regardless of friendship so long as the appropriate level is reached and the sun is shining brightly.

For the night, there’s Amaura that, like its predatory cousin Tyrunt, can evolve no matter the degrees of friendship so long as the appropriate level is reached. Contrary wise though is Chingling which can only evolve into Chimecho with high happiness. Two particularly interesting examples of distinctly nighttime evolutions are for Gligar and Sneasel whom can only evolve into their next forms at night when they are traded whilst holding a Razor Fang and Razor Claw.

While there’s much to be debated and left to be seen for Sun & Moon, I can’t help but wonder if the version Legendary Pokémon will turn out to be the source of these evolutionary stones and, given the habits of those nighttime orientated Pokémon, if the “Moon” will be by far the most ferocious if not outright malicious Pokémon yet, perhaps even be the yet undiscovered “third” to the pair of Moon Legendary Pokémon, Cresselia the Pokémon of Dreams and the Hopeful Crescent Moon and Dark the Pokémon of Nightmares and the Dark New Moon.

Of course, I’m not forgetting the Eevee evolutions Espeon and Umbreon, both of which require high happiness and either the day or the night respectively save for one game. In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness key items known as a Sun or Moon Shard is needed to evolve an Eevee into an Espeon or Umbreon, the one and only exception to the norm.

There is far more to these two Pokémon than mere evolutionary requirements. Espeon is known as the Sun Pokémon, a title it shares with Sunflora and Volcarona and one its signature moves is the move known as Morning Sun. This move, alongside Umbreon’s Moonlight, heals a Pokémon based on weather and time conditions. While not that likely, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find this two Pokémon in particular to garner a Mega Evolution.

Welp, that’s all I got for today. Tune in next time I have a soapbox where I’ll likely focus my thoughts and opinions on the state of comic books, either the possibility of a modern retelling of Marvel vs. DC or a literally Marvel versus DC as far as how they handle characters they don’t want to use anymore. Of course, as I stated way back in the beginning, these soapbox posts will occur once in a blue moon.

Or shortly after I see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, whichever comes first…

To catch a rat…

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THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE


Directed By:
Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, & John Musker
Produced By: Burny Mattinson
Based On: Eve Titus’ & Paul Galdone’s Basil of Baker Street series
Premiered On:
July 2, 1986
Distribution By:
Buena Vista Distribution

The Great Mouse Detective is yet another of the… I hesitate to say “forgotten” Disney Animated Films for while it certainly can and has been a favorite amongst die-hard fans, it’s not as renown as others of its generation for good or for ill. Well, that’s not entirely true. It has oftentimes been incorrectly cited as being the first film to integrate computer-generated imagery, in this film’s case that being the gears of the clock tower Big Ben, but that honor actually goes to its predecessor, The Black Cauldron. However, The Great Mouse Detective is more commonly recognized by animation historians as being the film to truly begin the Disney Renaissance.

Seeing as I went a wee bit… alright, a heck of a lot overboard with the previous film’s plot summary, I shall only do the bare necessities for this one. That and this is essentially a dramatic mystery, where’s the fun in spoiling the villainous plot? Our story begins with a mouse toymaker’s young daughter, a miss Olivia Flaversham, witnessing the kidnapping of her father by a bat with a peg leg…

… A bat with a peg leg… There’s a pirate joke here somewhere, I’m sure of it…

Anyway, Olivia is discovered by a Doctor David Q. Dawson, a recent returner to London after a tour of duty in Afghanistan… Alright, a pause here but is anyone else but me wondering how, precisely, animals such as mice are able/capable of doing what we humans do and yet we completely and utterly fail to notice? Back to the plot, Olivia confesses that she’s trying to find a Basil of Baker Street, a renowned mouse detective across all of England. Dawson brings Olivia to Basil and together, the three mice uncover the plot of Basil’s arch-nemesis, the Napoleon of Crime himself, the wicked, the vile…

Vincent Price!

… No, wait, sorry, Professor Padraic Ratigan who so happens to be voiced by Vincent Price.

While not wanting to spoil the villainous mastermind’s plot any, I will say that this film goes back and forth with how it presents itself. One minute we’re exploring a human toystore, complete with rather creepy if not outright disturbing looking toys on a grander scale to our intrepid heroes, and the next… Well, to put it bluntly, we’re at a tavern wherein Dawson not only ends up drugged/drunk but gets up on stage to join a group of can-can dancing mice.

There times, few and far between though they might be, that I can’t help but wonder how anyone could describe such a scene aloud and not earn a raised eyebrow or twelve from his audience. Props to the storyboard team for managing it either way.

Now, the one and only remaining bit of the plot that I’ll speak of without risking spoilers for of the mystery of Ratigan’s plans, is that Basil and Dawson get captured and placed in the most elaborate death trap device I’ve ever scene in an animated film. It is, quite literally, a Rube Goldberg machine, which is best described as a device that is designed to accomplish a simple goal through a vast variety of overcomplicated means.

… Alright, has anyone ever played the game Mouse Trap? To those of you who have played this board game, if only the construction and application of said mousetrap, that is what a Rube Goldberg machine is but for those who haven’t check out this music video.

Speaking of music, The Great Mouse Detective features all of two, technically three, songs in its entirety. The choice for which fits the film best is easily that of Ratigan’s crew, and the main rat himself, singing his praises in the song, “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind.” It’s during this song and its brief but oh so disturbingly horrific interruption that we get a true gleam of Ratigan’s character and how far he’ll go to get what he wants.

As to the differences between the film and the novel series, I’m afraid that having not actually read them myself there’s not much I can say beyond the film’s plot being original in and of itself. The characters of Basil, Dawson, Ratigan, and even Basil’s housemaid are all based on the characters from the books with only an odd difference or two to distinct them. In Basil’s case for example, his violin playing in the book was so atrocious that he took to playing the flute instead while Ratigan was perhaps the most extreme difference in that he was not a rat like in the film but a mouse pretending to be one to further instill fear and respect in his goons.

Overall, I give The Great Mouse Detective five out of five stars. It’s a really great film with a lot of fun visuals and the mystery of Ratigan’s plans, while not the stuff of legends, is certainly going to keep the kids guessing up until the grand reveal and well after. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t necessarily a bad plan or even a stupid one but rather one that had me questioning whether the populace were actually mice or sheep.

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