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Archive for February, 2017

Princess and the Frog

This Disney princess movie got short shrift when it came out. Part of the problem was the marketing campaign; it was billed as a typical fairy tale princess story, but it’s really a more real-world, musical romance. That’s a shame because it deserved more attention. The animation is beautiful, the music is fun and catchy, and the characters are sympathetic and memorable. It’s got all the best qualities of any Disney princess movie, including humorous animal sidekicks. And the villain is phenomenal and the most fun since Scar. There are a few positive additions, as well, such as more variety in female characterizations, although there are fewer total women in prominent roles. The racial diversity is off the charts, too, although having a black lead may have hamstrung the movie with Disney’s typical white audience. It’s a different style of story than people are used to when it comes to Disney princess movies, so it didn’t get the praise it deserved, but it definitely warrants a looks if you haven’t seen it.

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Batman (1966-67)

The old Batman series with Adam West is well-known for its campy humor and action and absolutely ridiculous stories and characters. It’s just fun and entertaining in a mindless sort of way. The sets in the first couple of seasons are well-built, and the iconic characters of Batman, Robin, Batgirl, and some of the other regulars are familiar and charming. The acting isn’t bad, just cheesy. Some of the actors did such a good job with their crazy characters and jokes that they’re known most for their work on this show. It’s all kind of bad in a good way, the sort of thing you’d watch for a laugh with a bowl of popcorn in front of you. There are even subtler bits of humor that you might not catch if you’re not paying attention. The word “tongue-in-cheek” seems to have been made with this show in mind.  My main criticism is how poorly the female “characters” are treated.  Every woman is brainless and breathless, and every female villain is treated as if she’s been brainwashed and needs to be taken care of.  Catwoman comes closest to being a real person, and even she is powerless against her inexplicable love for Batman, making it her sole motivation most of the time.  The worst example comes in an episode when women are put in charge of the city, and they bungle it because they can’t stop putting on makeup and daydreaming.  The men may often be the butt of jokes, but at least most of them are portrayed as competent and intelligent.  In episodes where female characters are scarce, this is hardly noticeable, however, and the show is worth a look if you want a laugh or two.

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Bank Job

Based on a true story, this heist movie has some likeable characters and some suspense and thrills. The acting is mostly okay, although the lead is a bit stiff in spots. It is in turns memorable and forgettable. If you enjoy these sorts of crime stories, it’ll be right up your alley. If not, you’ll find it boring. You never really get much of a sense of the characters and their lives or personalities, so this one is strictly for fun. It has the feel of a light documentary that means only to tell you the facts and not give you much of an insight into the meaning behind it all or get you too attached to any of the people involved. You won’t really care much about them by the time their lives are in danger, but it’s still mildly entertaining as a popcorn film.

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Winnie the Pooh

Disney’s Winnie the Pooh cartoons have turned into quite a different animal from the original books. The older ones are simpler in tone, while the newer ones tend to be a bit more melodramatic. But they’re all cute family fun with humor sprinkled throughout. The animation is always nice, and some of the songs are memorable and fun. The voices, if not the voice acting itself precisely, are sweet and genuine. The stories themselves are always entertaining, if not exactly exciting. DVD collections often combine a couple of different episodes from different eras. Even the movies usually have a bonus episode from one of the television incarnations. They’re all worth a watch, especially if you grew up on these cartoons like many people did. They’re cute and a bit silly and very sweet. The tone might be a bit sappy for some viewers, but it’s still quite entertaining.

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Valentine

If you like slasher flicks, this is a pretty good one. The acting is not bad, and the suspense is fun and consistent. Figuring out whodunit is pretty easy, but a couple of the actors are particularly delightful, and the ending is genuinely entertaining. It’s also fun rewatching the movie with the villain’s identity in mind and paying attention to the little psychological interactions with the other characters and inferring the villain’s motivations. There’s a bit more of that than you usually see in the typical shock-and-gore horror movie. There’s less nudity than you might find in most horror movies, but there’s still plenty of sex talk and innuendos and situations, so you can’t share this one with kids too young. There is still the requisite implied moral of the story that you find in every slasher flick, however, which is that only the virtuous female virgin can escape unscathed. She’s not exactly a literal virgin, but she is the sweetest, least worldly of the heroines. Don’t let this put you off, though. It’s an entertaining, if a bit mindless, popcorn movie.

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Peanuts

Peanuts has been beloved as a comic strip and cartoon series for over fifty years for good reason. It’s sweet, thoughtful, heart-touching, and sympathetic in its simplicity. The stories and jokes are deceptively silly unless you give it a more psychological analysis. The plain animation can’t compare to the modern stuff, but it’s somehow still eye-catching. The voice acting varies in its quality, as does the music, from the brilliant jazzy melodies of the earliest cartoons to the less memorable and plainer tunes of the more modern shows. But no matter how old the specific cartoon is, it’s guaranteed to be worth a watch. Even the redundant episodes of the television series that tended to rehash old strips and tv specials was cute. It’s all slower-paced than most of today’s cartoons but also contains more emotion and suspense than most of them. DVD collections tend to mix newer episodes and specials with older ones, but you can hardly tell the difference. Peanuts is timeless.

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Worst Witch

The Worst Witch was first a series of children’s books, then a movie, and then a tv series. Here, I will look at the movie, which has been a Halloween favorite of mine since childhood. The story will be familiar to anyone who has read Harry Potter or any other book about a young witch or wizard in a magic school. Some of the themes and characters seem to have been almost copied directly, in fact. Of course, the Worst Witch came first, so make of that what you will. The story itself is entertaining, the acting is well-done if not particularly impressive, and the sets are excellent for an old children’s movie. The biggest oddity in my opinion is Tim Curry as the head wizard. He doesn’t feel quite right for the fuss that’s made about him by the girls in the school. The song he performs is holiday-appropriate, but the “special effects” make the movie’s age extremely obvious. The humor is silly and fun, and the characters are comfortably familiar but still entertaining. All in all, it’s possible that my fondness for this one is based solely on nostalgia, but I maintain that it’s a fun and entertaining Halloween movie with plenty of witchy shenanigans.

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