Monday, November 12, 2012

My Week In Movies - November part 1

Anybody who has ever spent any significant amount of time in an arcade or even in front of a game console needs to go see Wreck-It Ralph (2012), a totally unique and charming film from Walt Disney Feature Animation. Filled with real life video game character cameos and lots of gamer in-jokes, the film follows Ralph - a bad guy from an 80's arcade game who travels into other video games looking for a chance to be a hero instead of the villain. My biggest rule for a comedy is to stay funny throughout the whole picture, Wreck-It Ralph succeeds. In addition to all the great video game jokes, the characters eventually enter a game called Sugar Rush which is sort of a Mario Kart in CandyLand game. There, the jokes and references switch to candy and food and there are plenty of great puns and familiar candy brands that the writers had fun with. This is a great time at the movies. I was worried it wasn't going to be very good since the marketing for the film has been shoving clips down our throats for the past 6 months - but it turned out to be a wonderful, well-done movie!

Before Cinderella III, The Lion King 1 1/2 and Lilo & Stitch 4 there was The Return of Jafar (1994), the very first time Disney made a direct-to-video sequel to one of their beloved animated features - in this case Aladdin. Even though it's just television animation, which is several...several bars below the theatrical original, I've always thought this was a pretty decent follow-up as far as humor, story and music. None of it is as good as the 1992 original film, but it's all still pretty fun. It's hard to track down a DVD of this film now, but you can go to any Goodwill and buy the VHS for $1.97.

I have wanted to see This Is Cinerama (1952) for as long as I can remember. The film is nothing more than an introduction to a new film process called....wait for it...Cinerama. Cinerama was the movie industry's attempt to lure folks away from their new TV sets and back into the theatre with a screen so huge, it wraps around the audience. It took three projectors to show the film theatrically. Turner Classic Movies secured a nice print of the film, presented in Smilebox - which is a letterboxing format that curves the picture on a television set to allow the full scope of the enormous screen. I thought it would be interesting to see a movie whose sole purpose was to simply show off a new size of screen but there is only so much "nothing" you can watch before it gets boring. There's no story just lingering shots of boat rides, helicopter rides, concerts and landmarks. The opening shot is a roller coaster ride, which is pretty neat even on a 42" screen and the finale was filmed at Florida's Cypress Gardens theme park which was very beautiful. But in between was a gosh-awful bore.

From the very first time I saw the trailer for Madea's Witness Protection (2012) I knew something was up with this latest Tyler Perry production. Whereas all of his previous films have been black melodramas sprinkled with comedy, Witness Protection is Perry's bid for a bigger audience by playing it strictly for broad laughs. When Eugine Levy and his family end up in the care of the Federal Witness Relocation program, they end up in the home of Madea. If you are unaware of Madea, she is played by Tyler Perry in drag - she's a huge old woman who don't take nuttin' from nobody! Hi-jinks ensure as Madea tries to adjust to having a wealthy white family staying with her. Whereas most Tyler Perry films end with some heavy duty drama, this one sees Madea and Levy traveling to New York in disguise to fool some investment bankers. It's comedy ahoy! In all honesty, I laughed several times - very loud and very hard. I thought this was a solid comedy!

I wasn't expecting anything from another visit from the Madagascar gang and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012) was even more lame than I could have imagined. The Madagascar machine is on full auto-pilot here with nothing new to offer except Chris Rock's Marty the Zebra wearing a Rainbow Afro wig. That gag must have gotten so many laughs around the Dreamworks office that the wig is the center of attention for almost half the film not to mention the song dedicated to said wig. Ugg! Also, I can't have one regular bear, with regular bear eyes and a real bear growl surrounded by cartoon animals. It doesn't work that way.

Finally got a chance to see Disneynature's fourth film, Africian Cats (2011). I love the Disneynature films because they are one of the few old-school Disney things the company still does. However, this flick about lions and cheetahs was pretty boring. It's essentially 90 minutes of animals chasing each other. And what's with all the slow-motion? I felt the scenes were completely cut of their true drama by slowing down all the action. What's the point of a chase scene if it's slow? The narration is provided by Samuel L. Jackson, who delivers a down to Earth explanation of what you are looking at but this movie in nowhere near as good as the more recent Chimpanze, from the same series.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) is another mid-80's attempt by the Walt Disney Studios to find their voice in the changing movie market. This time they go for a mature, psychological thriller penned by Walt's friend Ray Bradbury. The result is a concoction of creepy images, strange occurrences and some half-decent special effects which unfortunately don't add up to much. The idea of a Disney Thriller was done much better in The Watcher In The Woods. Still, this is one Disney movie that I hadn't seen - so at least now I can check it off my list.

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