Archive for January, 2018

Charlotte’s Web (1973)

This children’s classic is definitely more for children than anyone else.  The moral and plot are far too gentle and sweet for anyone of a more realistic perspective.  The animation is good enough, and the voice cast and their work are splendid.  The songs are a bit too cutesy and numerous for the most part, but a few of them are lovely and catchy.  For the most part, the tone is obviously meant to appeal to the youngest viewers.  It’s not a bad little cartoon, but it tends toward simplicity.  If you saw it when you were a kid, you probably loved it, but as an adult, it feels a bit duller than I remembered.  The main attraction is the voice cast, not the music or the bittersweet ending.


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Chain Reaction

This film from the early days of Keanu Reeves’ action career is a bit of a popcorn flick but still a lot of fun.  There’s a surprise casting choice for the initial villain, some other excellent casting choices, good acting all around, and plenty of explosions and chase scenes.  There’s nothing intellectually stimulating, but there are some cool-looking techno gadgets.  The plot pretends to revolve around advanced scientific jargon, but it still holds up pretty well after all these years.  If you’re a Reeves fan, you’ll like it.  If you’re a mindless action movie fan, you’ll like it.  There’s little to complain about except the dearth of interesting female characters.  There’s even quite a bit of racial diversity in the cast, and the main female character is compelling and well-played.  If you want something fun that doesn’t make you think too much, this is a good one.

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The Cell

An unusual movie to say the least, The Cell follows a psychiatrist and an FBI agent as they attempt to use a new technology to literally get inside the head of a serial killer.  The acting is very good, but the real star of the show is the amazing visuals.  The visuals are astounding, full of shocking and intriguing sights and metaphors.  Most of it is mental and not in the real world, and it’s all very bizarre.  It’s a fascinating look inside psychology that’s probably not particularly realistic but terribly engrossing.  It falls prey to that common movie fallacy in which the untrained, inexperienced noob winds up saving the professional.  But it’s still an attention-holding dream.  Or nightmare, to be more accurate.  More full of horror than anything else, this movie is not for everyone.  It is fascinating, horrifying, intense, and perhaps a bit too scary and disturbing for more sensitive viewers.  There is a sort of bittersweet, happy ending, but it will still leave you with a strange sense of unease.

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Cat’s Eye

This film is based on a few Stephen King short stories and has the same underlying level of horror that most of his stuff does.  There isn’t a lot of supernatural elements, though, as most of the worst acts are committed by humans in these tales.  The overarching plot that links the mini-stories, albeit just barely, has a cat on a quest of some sort.  The point isn’t made clear until the end of the movie.  The acting is very good, and the individual stories tend to be very tense and frustrating, although the final portion of the movie somewhat less so.  Overall, it’s very well-done.  There’s a sort of happy ending at the very end for at least some of the characters, but most of them just continue to live the horror.  There are some references to other King stories, which will amuse his fans.  Even non-fans will enjoy this movie, though, providing they like thrillers or horror movies.

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Cats Don’t Dance

This animated film is cute, fun, and toe-tapping.  It tells the tale of a group of animals trying to make it in old Hollywood, despite being blocked by a sort of bias against animals and an egomaniacal little girl.  The songs are fun and catchy, and the voice cast is outstanding.  The animation itself is well-done, and there are plenty of in-jokes in the backgrounds and dialogue.  There’s humor and action and a little bit of inspirational moralizing.  It’s an upbeat, slightly silly sort of story that can be enjoyed by most audiences.  It’s not profound, and it won’t expand your mind, but it’s a lot of light-hearted fun that takes a lot of jabs at Hollywood itself.

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This Broadway musical is one of the longest running in history.  In 2001, it was filmed and put on DVD.  The cinematography is engaging, and the music is enchanting.  Andrew Lloyd Webber is a master at putting a plot to song.  The plot in this case is somewhat flimsy, but the songs more than make up for that.  The choreography and singing on the part of the players are amazing.  They’re very cat-like, at least as far as anthropomorphic creatures can go, helped by the incredible makeup and costumes.  There isn’t a line of dialogue in the show; everything is sung, and that works out well for the story and the characters.  The whole thing is based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot, and it shows.  It’s very poetic and metaphorical.  If you get bored with singing and dancing, though, this will not amuse you.  The athleticism and agility on display are impressive, but there are long moments of plotless performing.  The music will draw anyone else in, however, even if they’re a little unclear on the story.  It plays out like a children’s story but is impressive enough for the adults in the audience.  The few effects that were added to the DVD release are nice but unnecessary.  If you’re a Broadway buff, this would be an important addition to your collection.

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Neverending Story

If you’ve seen the movie that was based on this book and/or its sequels, you’ll be familiar with some of the plot points and story elements, but that’s it.  The tone, characters, and general direction of the book are completely different.  For starters, the main character, the boy from the real world, is portrayed as whiny and pathetic.  His main problems, according to the story, are a lack of motivation and being overweight.  The whole plot is set up as his personal journey toward self-discovery and change.  He deals with problems within the fantasy world along the way, but the moral seems to be “don’t be such a douchebag, and you won’t be overweight anymore.”  His mental changes are supplemented by physical changes over the course of his journey in a way that is implied to be permanent, despite the fact that his weight loss was magically induced.  In the movie, his connection to the fantasy world is touching, and his rescue of it feels epic.  But in the book, there is always a fairy tale-style distance, and nothing is more important than his inner and outer changes.  The main catalyst for these changes, however, seems to be letting go of his past self, completely and utterly, through total memory loss.  Not necessarily the best way to go about personal change.  There’s still the requisite happy ending of sorts, but there’s a complete lack of whimsy and wonder of the sort that made the movie so enchanting.  It’s an interesting read, but don’t expect the same trip.

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