REVIEW: Free Willy

April 9, 2014 Leave a comment
Free WillyDirected by: Simon Wincer
Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Jennie Lew Tugend, Richard Donner, Arnon Milchan
Written by: Keith A. Walker, Corey Blechman
Edited by: O. Nicholas Brown
Cinematography by: Robbie Greenberg
Music by: Basil Poledouris; Michael Jackson (theme)
Starring: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Jayne Atkinson, August Schellenberg, Michael Madsen, Michael Ironside, Mykelti Williamson, Michael Bacall, Keiko
Year: 1993

 

Man, I remember a time when I could watch this movie and not think of all the horrors that went on at SeaWorld, don’t you? Thank you, Blackfish, for making the message behind Free Willy so devastatingly real now that I’m a grown man. I hate you.

All kidding aside, however, this was probably one of the first pieces of media with an activist message kids from my era ever watched outside of a “very special episode” of one of their favorite TV shows. (And that was probably the episode of Fresh Prince where Carlton bought the gun after Will was mugged.) Free Willy was the movie that dared us to care about the remarkable relationship between a troubled young boy named Jesse who just desperately needs someone to love him and set a good example for him and his unexpected friendship with a tenacious whale who was taken away from his own family and put on display for a world that doesn’t fully understand him. Read more…

REVIEW: Space Jam

April 2, 2014 1 comment
Space JamDirected by: Joe Pytka
Produced by: Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck, Daniel Goldberg
Written by: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Edited by: Sheldon Kahn
Cinematography by: Michael Chapman
Music by: James Newton Howard; Soundtrack produced by R. Kelly
Starring: Michael Jordan, Billy West, Dee Bradley Baker, Danny Devito, Wayne Knight, Bill Murray, Kath Soucie, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, Theresa Randle, Bob Bergen, Bill Farmer, June Foray, Maurice LaMarche, Colleen Wainwright, Frank Welker
Year: 1996

 

Space Jam, that wonderful marketing ploy that fooled audiences into handing over $230 million to a studio for an overlong concoction of advertisements and which made us all love R. Kelly in an innocent time where that was still an acceptable thing to do. Seriously, the film is a commercial for itself – the marketing synergy between the two entities who merged two completely unrelated but massively successful franchises together to resemble something like a movie, and yet that is honestly also the film’s main draw. It asked us a question nobody outside of a corporate think tank would have ever asked in their right mind – “Who doesn’t want to see Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan play basketball together?” – and convinced us that this was, come to think of it, actually something that would be pretty entertaining to watch! Read more…

April 2014 is ’90s Nostalgia Month!

April 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Alright, this was originally going to happen in March, but that didn’t end up panning out, so I decided to move it to April! First theme month of the year!

What does ’90s Nostalgia Month mean, exactly? It means that, for the month of April, I’ll be reviewing nothing but some of the most quintessential kids movies I watched from 1990 – 1999 — the time period in which I also started school until I was a 7th grader.

Now, not all of these movies will be universally loved by my fellow 90s kids. Heck, I might not even love them that much any more, myself, maybe not even then, but the movies I choose to review for this time period, I assure you, will be ones that I specifically remember being a pretty big part of my childhood. Examples? You want examples? Okay, well, I’ll give you a few hints of what I’ve got planned:

Space Jam - Michael Jordan

3 Ninjas - Rocky, Tum Tum, ColtSo… yeah, this should be pretty fun! In case you can’t wait, though, here’s a starter list for movies that I’ve already reviewed from the 90s — not all of them kids movies, but movies we watched as kids — that we all loved/hated but watched anyway as kids to whet your appetite!

Batman Returns

Batman Forever

Batman & Robin

Billy Madison

The Blair Witch Project

Braveheart

Clueless

Home Alone

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Independence Day

Jingle All the Way

Jurassic Park

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Macross II: The Movie

The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Quest for Camelot

Scream

Titanic

REVIEW: An American Tail

March 22, 2014 Leave a comment
An American TailDirected by: Don Bluth
Produced by: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy; Steven Spielberg (executive producer)
Written by: Judy Freudberg, Tony Geiss (screenplay), David Kirschner, Judy Freudberg, Tony Geiss (story)
Edited by: Dan Molina
Production Design by: Don Bluth
Music by: James Horner
Starring: Phillip Glasser, John Finnegan, Pat Musick, Cathianne Blore, Nehemiah Persoff, Amy Green, Dom DeLuise, Christopher Plummer, Neil Ross, Madeline Kahn, Erica Yohn
Year: 1986

 

I got pretty excited recently when I discovered that this movie was coming out on Blu-Ray. This was a childhood favorite of mine, and I grew up pretty much singing a few the songs featured in the film along with Disney songs that have since proven to be far more enduring and are likely far more recognizable today – even if Community did that awesome reference to “Somewhere Out There” in that one episode. However, I only ever owned the movie on VHS, never upgrading to the DVD, and it got to the point where I decided I’d hold out for a hopeful Blu-Ray release. The patience paid off. Sure, it was a barebones disc, containing a sing-along and a theatrical trailer and little else, beyond an almost superfluous digital copy, but I finally owned An American Tail, once again, now in glorious HD!

It’d been a while since I’d seen the film when it finally arrived in my mailbox. I believe it was once part of the Netflix streaming catalog, as I had actually watched it once a few years ago, but even before that, it’d also been an even longer amount of time since I had seen this Don Bluth-directed classic, so I still had my nostalgia goggles on when I popped the disc in to my PlayStation and settled in. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ)

March 12, 2014 Leave a comment
The Wind RisesDirected by: Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Edited by: Takeshi Seyama
Cinematography by: Atsushi Okui
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Starring: (Japanese) Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Steve Alpert, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita, Mirai Shida, Jun Kunimura, Shinobu Otake, Nomura Mansai; (English Disney dub) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy, Darren Criss, Mae Whitman, Mandy Patinkin, Jennifer Grey, Stanley Tucci, Elijah Wood, Ronan Farrow, Zach Callison
Based on the manga Kaze Tachinu by Hayao Miyazaki, the novel The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori, and inspired by a true story
Year: 2013, 2014 (US)

 

Review is based on the Disney/Touchstone English dub.

Touted as the last film to be directed by legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises understandably will carry a lot of weight with fans of the director, Studio Ghibli, and animation in general, with the film even being nominated recently in the Academy Awards’ Best Animated Feature category. The director has, since the 70s, made a name for himself as a whimsical filmmaker with a fine attention to detail, both visually in the work his crew puts out and within the worlds and personalities of the characters he portrays in his films, which rarely feel anything like the stereotypical animé Western audiences are more familiar with, and yet also so distinctly different from Western animation from any era. Understandably, he’s going to be missed, and while Studio Ghibli has plenty of talent to build off of and directors who have proven to be more than capable of creating films in the same mold as the elder Miyazaki, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing the like of his work ever again (so long as he’s actually serious about staying retired). Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: The LEGO Movie

March 6, 2014 Leave a comment
The LEGO MovieDirected by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Produced by: Dan Lin, Roy Lee
Written by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller (screenplay)
Edited by: David Burrows, Chris McKay
Cinematography by: Pablo Plaisted
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman
Year: 2014

 

I actually saw this movie weeks ago. Like… I couldn’t stand the wait and saw it the opening weekend, in fact. I was just so freaking excited for the movie, and it was going to be my first post-“2013 IN REVIEW” review, and – well, it still is, but not nearly as early as I intended. (Hey, life gets in the way. I’ve been working more from home, getting more tired at work, and then my sister had the audacity of getting married, which required some clothing search. ANYWAY…) Read more…

2013 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year

February 16, 2014 3 comments

Rush - Chris Hemsworth

FINALLY! The moment I’ve been building up to for far too long! It’s been a busy month… and a half… for me, but I’m finally done, and this is my last of my 2013 in Review articles! (Consequently, while none of these are exactly final reviews, many of them may as well be and portions of what is stated here may show up in a future review. For the sake of my sanity and my time, however, I’ve decided to present what I felt the need to write without very many edits!)

The format I’ve chosen for my annual Year in Review articles is a bit insane, I know, but while it’s time consuming, its also quite fun, and it’s just as much about sharing all the films released in the last year (or at least most, as I probably missed some in the sections where I went over films I didn’t get around to seeing) as it is about me locating films that you and I have both overlooked, which is also why a lot of the films I didn’t see this year made repeat appearances, as I couldn’t resist the urge to watch them, and it’s not like I’d be able to do another year in review for them, too, you know? This year, one of those movies I didn’t see at first but did during my writing these articles even made it onto this list, My Top Films of the Year!

The Wolf of Wall Street - Jonah Hill, Marching Band

So why don’t I call it “The Best Films of the Year”? It’s simple, really – it’s subjective, yes, but it’s also because even I switch around the order at times. I guarantee you that at some point in the past and future, I might have ordered these films differently. It took some time and thought, and this is ultimately what I felt comfortable enough with to publish, but I’ll tell you that this was a hard process, particularly in the top 10.

All of this year’s Best Picture Academy Award nominees are on this list. Seriously – I’ve even decided to mark the Oscar nominations this year. They were all very good and justifiably nominated, and while I might have my preferences as to who should win, they’re all remarkable, worthwhile films if you should ever consider watching them. Some of the other movies on this list, however, are also quite awesome, some of which I like better than the films that were nominated, and one of which I’m still very annoyed didn’t at least get the tenth vacant slot in their nominees list, just out of principle for how awesome it was. (I’m just going to tell you now, that movie is Inside Llewyn Davis.) How annoying!

The World's End - Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan - beer

So what of the rankings? Lists like these tend to demand them, so I include them, and I do think they are helpful in making priorities in our very busy lives as to what to see first and give preference to. Since the rankings are so subjective and sometimes even arbitrary, my main rule is to go with my gut on these things. Seriously. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a mixture of favoritism, enjoyment, entertainment, and, yes, the actual skill behind the scenes and within them. As such, films that were without a doubt brilliant masterpieces that will go on to receive tons of accolades and be remembered forever may be outranked by flash-in-the-pan popcorn films that have very little to say except, “Hey, look at this awesome thing we did!” but were also very skilled at doing so and are films that I will revisit time and time again whenever I want to be entertained. It’s hard to rank films of these sorts against one another, and if I felt that I could be that much more objective about these things and take out the entertainment factor, I would probably top load this list with all the heavyweight dramas and such. But I don’t think I can, so I don’t put up any airs of being able to do so.

But, you know, I think that’s alright. Variety is the spice of life, you know, and to say that dramas should be exalted at all times above the comedies and action films is, I think, false doctrine when it comes to film criticism and lessens the true value of joy and wonderment that isn’t always found in those serious dramas – so long as that joy and wonderment is done very well, of course.

So, with that all in mind, I feel I’ve prepared you for this eclectic list of my picks for not just the best films of the year, but also the ones that are my favorites, the ones I find most enjoyable, and the ones that blew me away with their spectacle. Read more…

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