Archive for the Kids Movies Category

THE OOGIELOVES in THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE (2012)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, Apocalyptic Films, Deformed Freaks!, Demons, Evil Puppets!, Fantasy Films, Fun Stuff!, Just Plain Bad, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, Kids Movies, Musicals, Mutants!, Peter Dudar Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by knifefighter

THE OOGIELOVES in THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE (2012)

A Satirical Lesson in Writing and the Dangers of Drug Use

 By Peter N. Dudar

With Help From Vivian (age 5)

Vivian:  Daddy…Daddy, wake up. You promised we could have fun today.

Peter:  Gimme a few more minutes, honey. Daddy is still tired.

Vivian:  Now, Daddy!  You said we could go see THE OOGIELOVES today. C’mon, get up!

Peter:  What the hell are THE OOGIELOVES?

(Vivian throws the covers off her dad and drags him out of bed. Daddy chugs down a cup of coffee and then herds the family off to the car to go see the new Matthew Diamond film, THE OOGIELOVES in THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE.)

Peter:  You know, I don’t remember promising this. In fact, today was the day I wanted to talk to you about something very important. I wanted to talk to you about the dangers of drug use.

Vivian:  What are drugs?

Peter:  I’m glad you asked. Drugs are substances used to alter the physical and mental faculties of the human body. For instance…how do you feel right now?

Vivian:  I’m really excited. I can’t wait to see this movie.

Peter:  Now, you see…grown-ups don’t ever feel that kind of excitement ever, ever, ever. Some adults need a little help to feel that kind of enthusiasm. They need stimulants to maintain that kind of high. I can see by the way you’re shifting around in your car-seat that you’re pretty jacked up. Cokeheads look the same way after they’ve done a few lines. Seeing YOU doing it almost scares me a little. Looks like I’ll just have to grit my teeth and ride this one out. What is this movie about, anyway?

Vivian:  It’s the Big Balloon Adventure. It’s Schluufy the Pillow’s birthday, and the Oogieloves have to throw a party for her, but the balloons get all lost and stuff, and they have to rescue the balloons.

Peter:  Wait, back up a second. They’re throwing a party for a pillow?

Vivian:  Yeah, this is gonna be so great!

Peter:  Sounds like the guy who made this movie is on drugs.

(They get to the theater and take their seats. The movie begins, and the Oogieloves come out and explain what we’re about to see. Apparently, this is an interactive movie, and they will cue us for when we are supposed to get out of our seats and dance).

Vivian:  Okay, Daddy?  When we see the butterflies, we’re supposed to jump up and dance.

Peter:  This is such a drag. THE POSSESSION is playing in the theater right next door. Are you sure you don’t want to get up and go sneak in?

Vivian:  I want to watch THIS movie!

(In the film, the Oogieloves are beginning their day. J. Edgar, the vacuum cleaner, is some type of adult/authority figure. He’s gone off to get five magic balloons for Schluufy. On the way home, the vacuum accidentally lets the balloons float away. He gets back to the stately Oogielove Manor and tells the three grown-up sized kid puppets of his mishap, so they swear by Odin’s hammer that they will retrieve all five balloons. Okay, I made that last part up.)

Vivian:  This is so amazing…I love the music and the colors.

Peter:  Yes…this brings us to narcotics and hallucinogens. The natural state of euphoria you’re experiencing is akin to an adult dropping some acid or ingesting some psychedelic shrooms. You may even feel like getting up and dancing. There are other types of drugs…ecstasy, for example, that will make a person lose their inhibitions and just trance out to the music. Those drugs are all very dangerous, and you should never, ever touch them. But here in the theater, it’s groovy. Get up and shake that thing. Daddy’s just gonna sit here and munch on some popcorn.

(The movie continues. Goobie—the genius of the group, Zoozie—the playful sister, and Toofie—the jokester whose pants always seem to fall down at awkward moments, begin their quest for the balloons. They are aided by Windy Window-a magic pane of glass with a hot southern accent, and J. Edgar-the vacuum. Schluufy the Pillow remains sleeping on the couch).

Vivian:  Daddy, how come Schluufy never wakes up?

Peter:  Well, honey…Schluufy is a metaphor.

Vivian:  What’s a metaphor?

Peter:  It’s a tool writers use to draw a comparison between fiction and reality. I believe that Schluufy, there, is supposed to symbolize crack babies. See how she lays there like a vegetable?  No arms and legs or anything, but still sleeps peacefully with that big, goofy smile?  Crack babies are infants that are addicted to drugs because their mommies were users during pregnancy. They do that all day long. That’s why the Oogieloves want to throw a big party for her. They feel bad that she’s so messed up, so they want to be really, really nice to her. Maybe the magic balloons they are off to rescue will restore her brain capacity or give her new legs or something?

Vivian:  I still don’t understand.

Peter:  Neither do I. Somebody was obviously tripping when they sat down and wrote this.

(The Oogieloves find the first balloon at the top of a tree. The tree boasts a tree house in the shape of a giant teapot. Inside are Dottie (an ancient-looking Cloris Leachman) and her niece, Jubilee (Kylie O’Brien). They go into this whole dance number that gets Vivian out of her seat to dance. Daddy yawns and checks his watch. The song ends, and then Toofie climbs the tree and recovers the first balloon. When he gets to the ground, his pants fall down. Vivian howls in laughter).

Vivian:  Did you see that, Daddy?  That was so funny!

“Goofy Toofie, Pull Up Your Pants!”

Peter:  Yeah. Hysterical. Which brings us to marijuana. Marijuana, or reefer, contains an active ingredient called THC, which messes with the doohickeys in your brain and makes everything funny as hell. The hilarity you find in Toofie’s pants falling down is childish and stupid. Marijuana makes childish, stupid things seem really, really funny to adults. And it gives you the munchies. Speaking of which, I kinda wish we had some Girl Scout cookies. Ain’t you old enough to be a Girl Scout yet?

Vivian:  Shhh…I’m watching the movie.

(The movie continues, and the Oogieloves find themselves in Milky Marvin’s Milkshake Manor. The Oogieloves get caught in a milkshake-drinking contest to win back the second missing balloon. Marvin Milkshake (Chazz Palminteri begins another dance number that is actually the best song in the film. Sadly, I’ve already forgotten how it goes. The Oogieloves’ fish, Ruffy, wins the drink-off, and they escape with the second balloon.)

Vivian:  I’m having so much fun. I wish this would never end!

Peter:  That sounds like the cry of a heroin junkie. Now, that’s some heavy-duty stuff that you don’t want to mess with. Junkies are the lowest. It’s like throwing all your pride and your hope away. Remember that commercial where the girl breaks an egg open into a hot pan and tells us it’s our brain on heroin?  Plus, sharing needles can lead to some really bad blood-diseases. You’ll end up like brainless Schluufy, drooling all over yourself. Do you want that?

Vivian:  No, Daddy.

Peter:  That’s my good girl.

(The movie continues. The Oogieloves find the third balloon in an airplane hangar where Rosalie Rosebud (Toni Braxton) is ready to embark on her next world-tour. Rosalie is a self-centered diva who trips on her popularity and is addicted to roses, which ironically make her sneeze uncontrollably. She, too, breaks into a dance number, and I really hate this song. But Viv loves it, so I get up for the first time and dance with my daughter. There is only one other family in the theater, and they, too, are up and dancing. Goobie somehow rescues the balloon and the Oogieloves move on.)

Vivian:  She really loved her flowers.

Peter:  Yes, and that’s called addictive personality disorder. It’s a metaphor for alcohol. Now, alcohol is a depressant. It numbs the senses and makes you a little tired. Rosalie needs her roses to help cheer her up, but, because of her allergies, it’s really bringing her down and destroying her life. You dig?

Vivian:  You’re so weird, Daddy.

(The movie continues. Next, they track down the fourth balloon stuck at the top of an 18-wheeler belonging to Bobby Wobbly the Bubble-Blowing Cowboy (played by an unrecognizable Carey Elwes). Bobby Wobbly freakin’ loves bubbles, but he doesn’t understand why people just aren’t into bubbles anymore. Vivian disagrees vehemently and vocally as I just shake my head. There’s no end to this movie. They launch into ANOTHER song and dance, and I get up and join Viv again. It’s either that or fall asleep. This movie is assaulting all my senses, and I’m wishing the  movie projector would fall apart or something…)

(After this escapade, the Oogieloves track down the final balloon stuck at the top of a windmill. But the Oogieloves can’t cross the grassy field by foot. Instead, they have to ride to it in a giant sombrero piloted by Lero and Lola Sombrero (Christopher Lloyd and Jaime Pressly). In order to get the giant sombrero to hover across the field, everybody has to dance really, really fast. I’m bummed at watching the great Christopher Lloyd reduced to a one-line cameo and beating on bongos while Lola shakes and dances across the screen. Eventually, they rescue the final balloon, and then it’s back off to Oogieloves Manor for the party.)

Vivian:  They did it…they rescued all the magic balloons!

Peter:  Big duh!  What did you think would happen?

The Oogieloves. A children’s dream come true, or an adult’s worst nightmare?

Vivian:  Now they can have the party for Schluufy. I’m so happy.

(They wake up Schluufy the Pillow, and sure enough, the damn thing can’t do more than mumble incoherently and coo a lot. But she feels loved and looks happy. The Oogieloves rock out to one last dance number, and then, finally, the film is over.)

Vivian:  Did you like the movie, Daddy?

Peter:  I found it to be derivative.

Vivian:  What does that mean?

Peter:  It means that the screenwriter borrowed liberally from other sources. It’s obvious that they stole ideas and concepts from Sesame Street, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, The Teletubbies (and to little surprise, creator Kenn Viselman, actually has production ties to the Teletubbies), and Yo Gabba Gabba. But I did have fun watching YOU have fun, and that, to me, makes the last hour and a half all worthwhile. Did you like it?

Vivian:  I loved it. But I’m sad now that it’s over.

Peter:  And THAT, dear one, is called coming down. It’s a bummer. We had so much fun and excitement, but it all has to come to an end. But at least we’re not slumped over a toilet bowl and yarking our brains out, so bonus for us!

Vivian:  I don’t understand.

Peter:  I don’t, either. But let’s just be glad it’s over. How many stars would you give this movie?

Vivian:  I give it a hundred zillion, million, billion stars, all the way around the earth and back.

Peter:  I give it two. I’m going back to bed now. I have to work tonight.

Vivian:  Thank you, Daddy. I love you.

Peter:  I love you, too. And remember…drugs are bad. Just say ‘NO’.

The End

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

THE OOGIELOVES. A sure sign that the End Times are comin’

Quick Cuts Presents THE MOST PLEASANT SURPRISES OF 2011

Posted in 2011, Fantasy, Horror, Kids Movies, Quick Cuts, Superheroes, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS – Most Pleasant Surprises – 2011
Featuring the Cinema Knife Fight Staff!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Today, we’re asking our panel the question:  What movies were the most pleasant surprises for you this year?

Not necessarily the best films of the year, but those movies you weren’t expecting anything from but really liked.

DANIEL KEOHANE:  I was very happily surprised with GREEN LANTERN.

(A collective groan breaks out among the rest of the panel.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  GREEN LANTERN?  Really?

DANIEL KEOHANE:  I know.  People panned it, but I really liked it.  I wonder if the DVD version was slightly altered.

L.L. SOARES:  Stop making excuses for yourself!

DANIEL KEOHANE:  No, really.  Everyone said the back-story was too long in the beginning, but it was only about a minute long on the DVD.  I watched it, alone, and really found it an enjoyable DC Comics movie.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Whatever you say, Dan.

DANIEL KEOHANE:  I sense I’m being patronized.

JENNY OROSEL:  I’m going with SOURCE CODE.

There’ve been a ton of “go back into the past and make changes” flicks made since the advent of sci-fi. But this one totally kept up with the suspense, which is impressive considering just how much of the movie is the same scene being repeated over again.

L.L. SOARES:    One movie that surprised me in a good way was RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. As a long-time fan of the original series of APES films, I was crushed when Tim Burton ruined the concept with his horrible 2001 remake of PLANET OF THE APES. It was so bad that I feared it would bury any chance of the series continuing, and for a while there, it looked like I was right. But RISE gave us a prequel to the first film, telling us how intelligent apes were created and how they began their “conquest” of humankind. While it had a lot of CGI effects, RISE gave us a straightforward, smart little movie without the grandiose trappings of Burton’s failed remake, and breathed new life into the series. Let’s hope RISE leads to more good APES films to come.

To a lesser degree, I was also surprised by SHARK NIGHT 3-D. I went into this one with no expectations. It was rated PG-13, it had cheap CGI effects, and it was yet another movie made in 3D. And yet, I had a good time watching this one. It was a lot more entertaining than it had any right to be.

NICK CATO:  For me, the most pleasant surprise for 2011 was CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011).

As a life-long fan of all things CONAN, I went in to this 2011 CGI-enriched epic not expecting all too much. But halfway through the film, when I realized they had taken parts from several of Robert Howard’s classic Conan stories, I couldn’t help but love this film (CGI and all). The early scenes of young Conan making his mark among his clan are fantastic.

MICHAEL LOUIS CALVILLO:  The movie that took me places I didn’t expect to go (I felt a lump in my throat a few times), was HUGO. We all know Scorsese is the man, a master of cinema and all, but this family film blew me away. Hands down, it’s the best “kid’s movie” ever made.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  You liked HUGO more than I did.  While I thought it was a really good movie, I wouldn’t call it the best “kid’s” movie ever made.  I actually found it more of a movie for adults than for kids.

L.L. SOARES:  I think HUGO appeals to kids and adults alike.  I liked it, but it didn’t grab me like it should have. And I wouldn’t call Scorsese “the man” anymore, unfortunately. His glory days have been over for a while. That’s not to say he won’t find his mojo again someday, however.

MICHAEL LOUIS CALVILLO:  I stand by my high opinion of HUGO.

MARK ONSPAUGH:  My turn to get in on the action.

Both CAPTAIN AMERICA and THOR are my picks.  I was never a fan of the comics, but I’ve always loved Norse mythology and anyone kicking Nazi butt since I was a kid…

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  You can’t go wrong with kicking Nazi butt.

MARK ONSPAUGH:  Both movies are well done and a lot of fun – especially CAPTAIN AMERICA.

L.L. SOARES:  I liked both of them. I’m a longtime fan of Marvel Comics and it was cool to see these characters come to the big screen. But I’m much more partial to THOR. Not only did I like the comics a lot more as a kid, but I just think he’s the more interesting character.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I liked these movies, too, but I was expecting to like them, so they didn’t exactly surprise me.

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  I was really looking forward to HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 but I’m generally leery about sequels. I have to say I enjoyed it even more than I thought and I liked it better than the first HUMAN CENTIPEDE.

(L.L. SOARES & NICK CATO both applaud):  Great pick!

MICHAEL ARRUDA (rolls his eyes):  Puh-lease!

As for me, there were a bunch of films that surprised me this year, but the one that surprised me the most, in terms of how bad I thought it was going to be and how good it turned out, would be the FRIGHT NIGHT remake.  I was dreading this one big time since I’m a huge fan of the original, and I had no faith in Colin Farrell as a vampire, but I was proved wrong.  The folks who made this one got it right, and Farrell made an excellent vampire.

SUPER 8 was another movie I expected not to like, but I ended up liking it a lot.  RED RIDING HOOD was another.

And then there were DRIVE and X-MEN:  FIRST CLASS, two movies I had zero expectations for, high or low, and both turned out to be among the best films of the year.

So, there you have it, our picks for the most pleasant surprises for 2011.  We’ll see you next time on another QUICK CUTS.

—END—

CORALINE

Posted in 2009, 3-D, Animated Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Kids Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: CORALINE (2009)
by Michael Arruda and L. L. Soares

FADE IN

(Inside a 3-D animated kitchen, a stop-motion animated MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES confront each other.  LS has buttons for eyes and is cooking an animated pot roast.)

MA:  Are you the “Other” LL?

LS (ripping the buttons from his eyelids):  Naw, it’s just me having some fun, that’s all.

MA:  Fun?  Didn’t that hurt?

LS (eyes bleeding):  Not really.

MA:  But you just ripped your eyelids off!

LS (touches his eyes):  So I did.  Oh well.  I’ll just have to grow new ones.  (He grows new eyelids over his eyes).

(Camera pans backwards to reveal the real MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES watching their animated selves on a flat screen computer monitor.)

MA:  Do you find it difficult reviewing a movie like CORALINE when this column specializes in horror films? I do.

LS:  Stop your whining. We’ve done this before. We can review anything!

MA:  Thanks for sharing, Mr. Sensitive.  Jeesh!  Hey, I’m glad we review films on the fringe of horror as well as straight horror, but I was just pointing out that in a column like this, it’s more of a challenge, that’s all.

LS:  Maybe we should let our animated selves do this one.

(They look at the monitor.  The animated LS is walking around the kitchen with his head in his hands, while the animated MA is juggling his ears and nose).

MA:  I think we can handle it. (Addresses audience)  Welcome to another edition of Cinema Knife Fight.  Today we’re reviewing the new animated 3-D PG-rated kids film CORALINE, based on a Neil Gaiman book, and directed by Henry Selick.  First let me start off by saying—.

LS:  Did you see it in 3-D?  A few weeks back your theater didn’t show you the 3-D version of MY BLOODY VALENTINE, and I think you got ripped off.

MA:  No, I didn’t see it in 3-D.

(LS grows red in the face and shouts expletives to the point where it appears his head might explode.)

MA:  Careful now.  You’re not animated, you know.

LS: I’m not?

MA: Let him do the hard stunts (points to the monitor).  But I agree with you.  I do feel ripped off, and it’s not like I’m seeing the film at a second-rate theater.  We’re talking a major multiplex at our area mall.  The fact that they choose not to show 3-D prints must be a cost-saving measure, and I think it’s lame.  I also suspect this theater is not alone, and that there are lots of theaters out there who opt not to show the 3-D print.  I wonder how many of our readers saw the 3-D version compared to the regular version.  Feel free to let us know.

Anyway, back to the movie.

CORALINE is a wildly imaginative tale about 11 year-old Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who has just moved with her parents from Michigan to Oregon into a new home, a very old house with character.  Bored because her busy writer parents can hardly find the time to pay attention to her, Coraline discovers a secret door hidden behind some wallpaper.  When she opens it, she finds only a wall of bricks.

But one night, with her new doll in hand – a strange toy given to her by her new friend and neighbor Wybie, a doll that looks a lot like her – Coraline returns to the door in the wall and this time finds a bizarre corridor which she of course decides to climb through.

LS: Yeah, it’s a very strange tunnel, that looks organic. Alive. Like a birth canal, perhaps?

MA: I’d agree with that description.  On the other side of the tunnel, she finds a parallel world, a house that looks similar to her house only more cheery, and parents who look just like her parents, only with buttons for eyes.  These “Other” parents, as they call themselves, treat Coraline wonderfully, listening to what she has to say, feeding her hearty meals and decadent desserts kids love, and basically acting the way Coraline wants her real parents to act.

Of course, things aren’t really as they seem.  It turns out, the goal of these “Other” parents is to sew buttons onto Coraline’s eyes as well and then keep her there with them forever.  When Coraline refuses, the evil “Other” mother (both mothers are voiced by Teri Hatcher) captures Coraline’s real parents, and it’s up to Coraline to rescue them and put an end to the evil “Other” mother’s reign forever.

LS: Don’t forget the poor ghost children. Children the “Other” mother captured before Coraline. They’re dead but their ghosts cannot go to the afterlife until she finds their eyes. So Coraline is trying to rescue them, as well as her parents. A tall order for an 11-year old girl.

MA: Along the way, Coraline is helped by a talking cat (voiced by Keith David)), the “Other” version of her friend Wybie, and yes, some ghosts of previous children held captive in this “Other” world, as LL mentioned.  The story builds to a thrilling conclusion, especially given that this is a PG-rated movie bound to be seen by lots of kids.

(An animated black CAT walks into the room)

CAT: You gents wouldn’t happen to have any cat food lying around this place, would you?

LS: No, but if you like rats, here’s a big one (points to MA).

MA (to LS mockingly): Ha, ha! (to Cat) Sorry, Mr. Cat, our cupboard is bare, but if you’re looking for eats, I hear WILLARD’S down the street does a good business (drum beat).

CAT:  No thanks. BEN there, done that (another drum beat). (Exits).

MA: I have to admit, I really liked CORALINE.  I found it most imaginative, and I was really drawn into its world of lavish colors, eccentric characters, and grim subject matter.  To me, it was just the right blend of light and darkness.  Unlike MONSTER HOUSE from a few years back, which I thought had an over-the-top hit-you-smack-in-face horror style, a style that proved more loud than scary, CORALINE is much more subtle, yet also much more creative.  There is a deep, dark, creepy feel to this movie which blends in seamlessly with its bright, colorful animation.  It sounds like a clash of styles, but it really isn’t.  It works incredibly well, I think because its story is taken seriously.  There’s not a lot of over-the-top silly humor, yet there are humorous parts, and it’s not a spoof of the genre in any way shape or form.  It reminds me of a well told fairy tale, the kind that kids enjoy, but adults cringe as they read it when they realize, “this is kinda creepy.”

LS: I hate to rub it in, but in 3-D, it even adds more depth to the animation.

MA:  Don’t worry about rubbing it in.  It’s okay.  It doesn’t bother me. (walks towards the back of the room, picking up a baseball bat on the way).

LS:  It’s not the kind of 3-D where things are jumping out at you; it’s more a chance to provide depth perception so that you really feel like you’re looking into a real world. (Behind LS, MA lifts a baseball bat and angrily starts smashing a TV set, sending sparks flying everywhere).  The use of 3-D is very subtle, yet very effective. I’m actually very impressed with the new 3-D technology, (MA hurls TV through a window, swearing) and I see there are plenty more films coming, including the upcoming MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, that will also be in 3-D.

Too bad I can’t just send you a pair of 3-D glasses for the next one, but I’m afraid that unless it’s a special print, they won’t work.

MA (returns to LS and takes a deep breath): That’s fine.  It really doesn’t mean all that much to me.

As I sat there watching this film, I allowed myself to enter its “Other” world, and I was struck by how “adult” the experience was.  I didn’t necessarily feel as though I was watching a kids’ movie, lets put it that way, although there’s certainly nothing inappropriate in this film, in terms of violent images or language.  Yet, it succeeds as a creepy little tale, and I love the fact that it was able to pull it off.

There were certain images that stuck with me.  I loved the door behind the wallpaper, for instance.  If you’ve ever been in a really old house and looked around, you’ll find all sorts of quirks and oddities that really can get your juices flowing wondering about their history and meaning.  This little door looked exactly like something you could easily find in an old house, and thus added a sense of realism that say, that old wardrobe in NARNIA, lacked.  Not that old wardrobes aren’t real, but a hidden world reached through the back of wardrobe seems less rooted in realism to me than a door which might lead to an unknown part of a house, which could easily house an entirely different world altogether.  (Easily?  Okay, I’m a writer with a big imagination, so maybe not easily, but would you believe, plausibly?)  Perhaps this is too fine a point, I don’t know.  Let’s just say that for me, that little door in the wall worked.

LS: Stuff like that “little door” is pretty much standard issue in the world of Neil Gaiman. The author of the SANDMAN comic book series, and several novels like NEVERWHERE and the recent GRAVEYARD BOOK, has a pretty remarkable imagination. And his books geared more toward children, like CORALINE, show that he’s able to use that imagination quite easily to tell children’s tales as well. There is a very strong fairy tale feel to all of this, and it seems like something that comes pretty effortlessly to Gaiman. His being a very solid writer, there’s always going to be a level that will work for adults as well. So frankly, going into this one, I was pretty confident that the storyline would be impressive.

Gaiman also does a great job straddling the fence between fantasy and horror, and CORALINE is no exception. It starts out very fantastical, but as it develops, there are definitely some horrific elements to keep horror guys like you and me happy. The spider-like “Other” Mother, for example. So our reviewing this film isn’t so out of the norm after all.

MA: I also really enjoyed Dakota Fanning in the lead.  I don’t always notice or appreciate the actors’ voices in these animated movies, but I thought Fanning really gave life and personality to the Coraline character, beyond what the animators did. Her voice possessed a tremendous energy that gave a lot of “oomph” to the character.

LS: I agree. Fanning does a great job.

MA: The other voice that stood out was the character of the Cat, voiced by Keith David, who has made a ton of movies, going back nearly 30 years.  Of course, my favorite Keith David performance of all time was his role as Childs in John Carpenter’s THE THING, back in 1982.  As Cat, David’s voice is both sonorous and eerie.

LS: Yep, he’s a stand-out, too. I actually liked a lot of the choices for voices in this one. I thought Terri Hatcher was simply perfect for the Mother/Other Mother’s voice. There’s something very “normal” and motherly about her voice, and she fits in perfectly (maybe because she is a star of a mainstream hit show like DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES adds to the familiarity factor). I thought she was a great choice. There are also some other interesting choices like the British comedians Jennifer Saunders (who most people know as Edwina from ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS) and her comedy partner Dawn French as Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, the dotty old women downstairs who were once actresses, and the terrific Ian McShane (Al Swearengen from DEADWOOD) as the Russian acrobat the Amazing Bobinsky (who also has a jumping mouse circus – a crucial plot point), who lives in the attic apartment. Even John Hodgman (the “PC” guy from those Macintosh commercials, who is also a regular on the DAILY SHOW) does a good job as the Father/Other Father. All in all, a well-cast group.

MA: And I should also say that it wasn’t just animation here, but puppets.  Director Henry Selick used the same kind of puppetry back in 1993 with NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a film I didn’t like as much as most other people.  Evidently, CORALINE is the first stop-motion animated film in 3-D.  So, if you’re into technical stuff like that, you might want to check it out just for that reason.  It does look terrific.

LS: I know that a company like Pixar has set the bar pretty high with their realistic CGI style, but I always have a soft place in my heart for stop-motion animation. Maybe it was all those Rankin and Bass holiday specials I saw as a kid, like RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and A YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS. While it may not be as dazzling as the Pixar stuff, there is a certain “comfort food” element to old school stop-motion animation. And it certainly works well here with 3-D, which fleshes everything out nicely.

In fact, the scenes where the Other Mother makes scrumptious meals for Coraline look so good that I wanted to reach into the screen and grab a chicken leg!

CAT (pops head in): Did someone say chicken leg?

LS: Get out of here, you mangy alley cat!

MA:  One thing I wasn’t sure about was why the “Other” mother had to sew buttons onto Coraline’s eyes?  Why not just keep Coraline a prisoner in the parallel world the way she was?  I guess you have to be a puppet to live there.

But other than this, I thought it was great.  Sure, CORALINE isn’t an adult horror film, so if you’re in the mood for hardcore horror, it’s not going to satisfy, but if you’re in the mood for a subtle, creepy exercise in near-perfect creative storytelling, you might want to give CORALINE a try.  It’s better than your standard kids’ movie.

LS: I agree.  I was very impressed with CORALINE. I thought it was far superior to the last horror-themed animated film we reviewed, IGOR, which was pretty dismal in comparison. And the storytelling by Mr. Gaiman, as adapted for the screen by Mr. Selick, was top-notch. However, while I was very impressed with the film, and enjoyed it, I didn’t exactly love it. But that’s only because I’m not the target audience for this thing. I actually had a lot more fun at MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D. But that’s just me. As you like to point out, I’m a Neanderthal. What can I say, BLOODY VALENTINE touched on a nostalgic note that will resonate with old-school slasher film fans.

(A guy in a miner’s uniform and gas mask pops up)

MINER: Gee, thanks a lot!

LS: But CORALINE is clearly the superior film when it comes to script and its very pure sense of wonder. This film will resonate most with tweener girls and young teenagers, and on that level, it seemed to work well. The audience I saw it with (which appeared to be mostly high school and college-age kids) applauded afterwards and was clearly appreciative.

I thought this was the best kids’ movie I’d seen in a long time, and I know adults will love it as well. The main theme, of a daughter who simply wants her mother’s love and attention – but it could easily be any child’s same desire from a parent -is something just about all kids, and anyone who has been a kid, can relate to.

It’s smart and vivid, and my only complaint is that it does get a bit convoluted toward the end, when we think the story is over, and yet the threat remains. It seems whenever Coraline does what she has to to defeat the central evil of the story, there’s still more to do, which gets a tiny bit tedious.

Let’s see. All of the voice actors do a fine job. The story is compelling. The stop-motion animation is good, and a nice change from the usual CGI cartoons we get these days. The 3-D effects even add a level of realism to the look of everything. What’s not to like?

MA: I agree. So that’s our review for this week. Now go out and see CORALINE. You’ll enjoy it.

LS (Raises two big buttons and a needle with thread): Now let me sew – er, put – these new 3-D glasses on you, so you can enjoy the film more next time.

MA:  Gee, thanks, but it really doesn’t matter all that much to me.

HIGH-PITCHED VOICE FROM OUTSIDE WINDOW:  Hey!  What the—?  What happened to my car?  Someone smashed my car. Is that a TV in my windshield?

—END—

(Originally published on Fear Zone on 2/8/2009)

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

IGOR

Posted in 2008, Cinema Knife Fights, Kids Movies with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: REVIEW OF THE MOVIE “IGOR” (2008)
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(FADE IN : the scene is the interior of a gothic castle. A mad scientist’s laboratory, to be precise.  L.L. SOARES  is hunched over with a pillow strapped to his back , beside a giant switch in the stone wall)

LS:  Now, master?

(Michael Arruda wakes from unconsciousness, stretched out on a slab. There are electrodes attached to his skull)

MA: Huh? What’s going on here?

LS (shouts): PULL THE SWITCH!

MA (breaks binds, leaps up, and shouts):  Pull the string!  Pull the string!  That’s a Bela Lugosi mad scientist line from the Ed Wood movie GLEN OR GLENDA (1953), and it’s more creative than anything you’ll find in IGOR.  (Lays back down and replaces electrodes and straps).  There.  Continue please.

(LS pulls the switch, electrocuting MA, who screams in agony)

LS: Ah, such music to my ears.(pulls switch back up) Okay, I guess that’s enough for now.

MA: What the hell are you doing to me?

LS: I’m torturing you for making me see the new animated film IGOR!

MA: Hey, that’s not my fault. You suggested we review this one.

LS: I know, but I can’t rightly torture myself, can I?

MA:  You could look in a mirror.

(LS zaps MA again).

MA (grins):  Whoa!  What a charge!

LS:  Sure, I suggested we review a kids’ movie for a funny change of pace. But I had no idea what I was in for. Surely you must have tricked me into this somehow.

MA: Heh, heh. (MA suddenly bursts from the straps and growls in a Bela Lugosi voice)  You’ve made me stronger!  Now, I talk in a real “Ygor” voice.

LS:  No one’s going to get these jokes, you know.

MA:  There are still Universal monster movie fans out there.

LS:  Um…Okay, so I guess it’s my turn to introduce the movie? Are you ready? Here goes:

IGOR is the new animated film by director Anthony Leondis (whose previous “masterpiece” was LILO AND STITCH 2, which I believe went straight to DVD). It takes place in the dreary city of Malaria, where it always rains. The king of Malaria is an insect-looking dude with a huge head called King Malbert (voiced by Jay Leno). You know you’re in trouble when Jay Leno is your leader.

MA:  Malbert is one ugly dude, looking like a cross between a Blue Meanie from The Beatles’ YELLOW SUBMARINE (1968) and one of the creatures from Disney/Pixar’s MONSTERS, INC (2001).

LS:  Yep, he’s almost as ugly as the real Jay Leno.

MA:  Hey, I like Jay Leno!

LS:  Figures.  Once Malaria was sunny and bright and populated by farmers, but the rains washed away all the crops. So the farmers were replaced by evil scientists who try to one-up each other in an annual “science fair” where they unleash their vile inventions. The worst of which is then used to threaten the outside world, who then pays Malaria not to unleash it. Kind of a variation on the whole “Weapons of Mass Destruction” thing.

It’s actually kind of a clever industry. A society based on evil science, though, has its own hierarchy. and here, the malformed and hunchbacked citizens make up the lowest echelon of that society, in the form of “Igors.” This is the servant class that serves the scientists in their experiments.

Igor (voiced by John Cusack) is a baby-faced Igor (since “Igor” is also the name of his profession) who works for the inept Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese). Igor wants to be a scientist, but is cursed by his station in life to be a simple servant. However, when Glickenstein blows himself up during an experiment, Igor takes over the lab and goes about inventing something of his own – LIFE –  in the form of a monster named Eva (Molly Shannon). She’s huge and made up of big and little parts stitched together, and she wouldn’t hurt a fly, which makes her an awful evil weapon. So Igor goes about doing what he can to make her evil. In his quest, he is aided by Scamper (Steve Buscemi) a rabbit who Igor has made immortal, which is ironic because Scamper constantly tries to commit suicide, only to be regenerated again. Igor’s other assistant is Brain who is, basically, a brain in a jar with some robotic parts that help him move around (voiced by WILL AND GRACE’s  Sean Hayes, who I find annoying). Brain has the word “Brian” written across his jar because he is stupid and can’t spell. (laughs weakly).

MA:  BORING!!!  Not you, the plot.  Kill me, why don’t you!

LS:  That can be arranged.  But I’d rather torture you instead. And I’m not even done yet!

Eva is a big softie, but Igor is intent on making her evil so that he can rise from his lowly assistant position to one of fame and fortune as Malaria’s most evil scientist. Unfortunately, Igor himself is too nice a guy to try too hard to change her.

Eva draws the attention of another scientist, Dr. Shadenfreude (Eddie Izzard), who has made a living out of stealing the inventions of others, since he has no creativity of his own.  Shadenfreude seems like the lost cousin of Sigfried and Roy, and he’s one of the better characters here, which isn’t saying much. He, along with his evil girlfriend Jaclyn (Jennifer Coolidge) plan to steal Eva from Igor and use her as their entry in the evil science fair.

That’s the plot in a nutshell.

MA: Man, that’s one big nut! Why did you feel compelled to tell us all that?

LS:  Because I’m a friggin’ sadist, of course!

And the movie isn’t even as exciting as it sounds! I normally like John Cusack but he’s too nice and a bit of a sad sack here. Aside from Izzard, the real standout is the always great Buscemi as the suicidal rabbit. And Molly Shannon does a good job as the good giant monster Eva.

I didn’t expect to love this movie – and, guess what? I didn’t. But it wasn’t as awful as I expected, either. While the entire thing was predictable and sappy at times, it was easy enough to sit through and didn’t bore me to tears at least, so that makes it at least better than the remake of PROM NIGHT, which remains the worst movie I’ve seen this year.

MA (laughing):  It amazes me how much we disagree on the PROM NIGHT remake.  I enjoyed PROM NIGHT much more than IGOR. In fact, for me, PROM NIGHT’s one of the better horror movies of 2008.

LS:  (ignores him) IGOR is a decent enough flick for the kids (it’s rated PG, I guess because of the monsters and a few double entendres, but I see no reason why it couldn’t have been rated G). As for parents and other adults – you could do a lot worse. I know there must have been a lot worse animated films this year.

MA:  Such as?  Not that I’ve seen every animated movie this year, but I haven’t seen one I’ve liked less than IGOR.

LS:  It didn’t exactly make me wax nostalgic, since the things I watched when I was a kid – old Universal horror movies and decent kids’ movies – were way better than this. But it was tolerable at least. Keep in mind, though, that “tolerable” is not exactly a seal of approval. If you need to see this movie, wait to rent it on DVD.

So what do you think, Michael?

MA: I think your plot summary was much too long.  While it’s nicely done, very nicely done, I might add, it’s hardly worth it, providing this much detail for a movie that no one’s going to see.  Tolerable?  You’re being generous.  IGOR was horrible.

The first problem I have with this movie is why isn’t it spelled YGOR?

(MARTY FELDMAN pops out of the wall in a secret compartment)

MARTY: Because it’s spelled I-gor!

MA: Thank you, Mr. Feldman!  And he’s right, you don’t see the Igor spelling, pronounced “eye-gor” until Mel Brooks’ s YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).  Ygor (pronounced “ee-gor”), is the correct spelling, and it’s been that way since Bela Lugosi initially starred in the role in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939), the third of the Universal Frankenstein movies, and the last with Boris Karloff in the role of the monster.

You can call me a horror movie snob if you like, but that bugged me.

LS: God, if I call you anything, it would be “a most tedious fellow.” And you said I was boring!

MA: No, I said the movie’s plot was boring.  Are there any spare brains laying around here you could purchase for yourself?

(MARTY FELDMAN pops out of the wall again holding a brain in a jar labeled “Abby Normal.” A laugh track whoops it up.)

LS: What is this, an episode of LAUGH-IN?

MA:  Next, as a kids’ movie, IGOR doesn’t hold up.  I have two sons, and though they’re getting older now, through the years we’ve seen our share of computer-animated kids’ films.  Some are extremely well done and funny (SHREK, ICE AGE, BARNYARD ANIMALS), some are even modern day classics (TOY STORY 2), but most are simply OK (MADAGASCAR, OVER THE HEDGE).  Still, there have been a few that were downright awful, and I’m afraid I’d have to place IGOR in this category.

First and foremost, it’s simply not that funny.  The humor isn’t very sharp and most of the jokes don’t work.

LS: Wait a minute! You’re telling me this movie was supposed to be a comedy?!!

MA: Worst of all, it completely fails as a parody.  One of the things that made the SHREK movies so funny was the way they poked fun at fairy tales.  What the Shrek series did with well known characters like the Gingerbread Man and Pinocchio was absolutely hilarious, creating memorable scenes of laugh out loud comedy.

IGOR doesn’t even come close here, doesn’t even try.  There are really no “In” jokes from any characters from any of the old classic Frankenstein movies.  Not that most people today would get those jokes, but that brings me to another point— why?  I asked that question throughout this movie.  Why make it?  What’s the point of an Igor story?  It plays like a horror-themed kids’ movie written by someone with no knowledge of horror movies.  The film doesn’t even get the Igor character right.  The character is based on a cliché of a character, rather than an actual character.  It’s insulting to those of us who have watched these movies over the years.

LS: Listen “Mr. Kids’ Movie Expert,” do me a favor. The next time I ever suggest we review a horror-themed kids’ movie, hit me with a very large fish!

MA: Sure thing! And, for true laughs and a true Frankenstein parody, the champion remains Mel Brooks’s YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), now a classic in its own right.

LS: You’ll get no argument from me, there.

MA: So, IGOR fails as both a kids’ computer-animated comedy and as a homage to the classic Universal horror movies.

As you would expect, I’m not against the idea of a kids’ horror movie, but I still haven’t seen one I really like yet.  Do you remember MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967)?  That was an animated feature length film by Rankin/Bass featuring the voice talents of Boris Karloff and (gulp!) Phyllis Diller.  I’ve always wanted to like this movie, but no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I still reach the same conclusion- it stinks.

LS: Aww, c’mon. You’re just a crab. MAD MONSTER PARTY is terrific. It’s a million times better than IGOR! And it’s got some great songs, like “It’s the Mummy!” (starts singing)

MA:   Oh please don’t say that.  Now I’m going to want to watch MAD MONSTER PARTY again to see if I like it.  Time to bust out the barf bags.

And while lots of folks enjoyed Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) I didn’t like that one either.  So, I guess there’s still room out there for other attempts at this genre, if any filmmakers out there want to try.  I somewhat enjoyed MONSTER HOUSE (2006) a few years back, but that one was played straight, so it was a little different, and Disney/Pixar’s MONSTERS, INC. wasn’t bad either.

I agree with you about one of the best parts of the movie being Steve Buscemi as the suicidal rabbit.  By far, he was my favorite character.  Buscemi also lent his voice talents to the aforementioned MONSTER HOUSE and MONSTERS, INC., by the way.

(LS has fallen asleep against the wall and is snoring away)

MA (Hits LS over the head with a large fish, waking him up):  Hey, you asked for it.  I pretty much agree with all your points on this one, except I liked it even less than you did. So, now that we’re done, how about us switching places, and I get a turn pulling the switch?

LS:  Sure.

(LS straps himself onto the table and puts electrodes to his head.  MA hunches over and straps the pillow to his back)

MA:  Now, master?  (MA turns to the audience) And for the record, if we were sticking to the original 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, my name would be Fritz, not Ygor, and also for the record, I never called you master!  Hunchbacks didn’t start using the word “master” in a Frankenstein movie until J. Carrol Naish as Daniel in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944), so technically this movie should friggin’ be called DANIEL!

LS:  My God, will you shut up?

MA:  It’s alive!  It’s Alive!  IT’S ALIVE!!! (Produces lit cigar and places it in LS’s mouth)  Here, have a cigar.

LS: Gee, thanks! (puffs on cigar) Cigar, good!

MA:  Cigar very good!

(Cigar explodes in an animated blast of fire and smoke, leaving LS’s face covered in cinders.)

MA:  Very good, indeed.

LS (unseen from the smoke):  WHY YOU!! Wait til I get out of these straps….

MA: Oh, that reminds me.  PULL THE SWITCH!

(Electricity crackles, accompanied by screams, as we FADE TO BLACK)

—END—

(Originally published on Fear Zone on 9/25/08)

© Copyright 2009 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Two Highlights of 2009: ANTICHRIST and WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

Posted in 2009, Art Movies, Extreme Movies, Kids Movies, LL Soares Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2009 by knifefighter

(Since Michael and I are currently working on a BEST OF 2009 list of movies that most impressed us, I thought I’d post some solo reviews here of movies I enjoyed this year that didn’t appear in Cinema Knife Fight columns. The following are just two highlights of a good movie year.~LS)

ANTICHRIST

Lars von Trier is an acquired taste. Not everyone likes his films. Most of them, like BREAKING THE WAVES, DOGVILLE and DANCER IN THE DARK are actually pretty challenging for the viewer. Von Trier’s approach and subject matter is definitely the work of a true auteur, but he is no stranger to controversy. ANTICHRIST is no different.

This isn’t von Trier’s first foray into horror. His early TV series, THE KINGDOM, (collected as two full-length films for American distribution), may have been his masterpiece. It’s layered, fascinating, and features some really great acting. It was also the source material for the Stephen King TV series KINGDOM HOSPITAL, which only seemed to hit its stride toward the end of its run, and never reached the level of quality found in von Trier’s original.

But where THE KINGDOM is perhaps von Trier’s most accessible work, ANTICHRIST is not an easy ride. This time around, von Trier gives us some of his most shocking and violent imagery, and it’s far from clear and straightforward. But it is, in several ways, even more successful as a horror film.

It is broken into several chapters, and begins with a strange, slow-motion sequence where a couple (Willem DaFoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) make love, while their child gets up out of his crib, walks around the house, and eventually falls from an open window.

The couple suffer from great grief after the death, as any parents would, but where DaFoe’s character seems to be able to go on with his life, his wife can’t let go. She has become emotionally crippled by depression and can’t leave their apartment. Her doctor also prescribes lots of medications.

DaFoe’s character is a therapist and tells her he wants her to stop taking all the medications, and he’ll help her get through this using therapy. She agrees. Part of the therapy involves the two of them going to a cabin in the woods where they used to vacation when they were younger. The forest is called Eden.

Once they get there, things seem to be improving, and she seems on the verge of a breakthrough. But this is deceiving. Instead, she slips into violent insanity, harming both her husband and herself. There are some pretty rough scenes involving stuff like genital mutilation (it seems that, since they were having sex when the boy fell, their very sexuality needs to be punished – and it’s pretty graphic). There’s also something about ancient witches who used to live in the forest, and there are animals who talk, in particular a fox who tells DaFoe that “Chaos reigns.”

Not everything in ANTICHRIST is clear and easily figured out. There are some aspects that will have you scratching your head. But there are also images that will haunt you long afterwards. This movie is not for the squeamish, but it does venture into territory we don’t often see in movies. It’s a powerful, transgressive film, and one of von Trier’s best works.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

This is a movie I’d been waiting to see for a long time. Supposedly, when it was first finished, Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, was deemed too dark by test audiences. There were rumors it might not get released. But the more I heard about it, the more I wanted to see it.

Now that it’s finally been released, I can understand the criticism. WILD THINGS is not your typical kids’ movie by any stretch. In fact, it could be argued, it’s not a kids’ movie at all. It just happens to have a kid as its main character, but the themes it explores are quite deep.

Sendak’s original book was fairly simple and involved the wolf-costume wearing Max feeling lonely and going to an island full of oversized monsters. It was about stuff like rebellion and loneliness.

But if the movie was completely faithful, it wouldn’t have lasted half an hour. So there’s a backstory now, and the monsters are much more developed, and have an awful lot to say.

Max (Max Records) is a lonely, hyperactive kid (some would say a brat) who doesn’t seem to have any friends. But he does have boundless energy. His single mom (Katherine Keener) supports him and his older sister, Claire. When Max surprises Claire’s friends by chucking snowballs at them, they chase him down to his snow fort and destroy it, leaving him crying in the ice. Then, when he goes home, his mother is enjoying time with her new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo). Max feels neglected and angry and makes a scene. He then runs out of the house.

This is where reality becomes fantasy. Max runs down to the shoreline where he finds a boat. After sailing across a vast sea, he comes upon the island of the monsters.  The monsters are huge and destructive. They seem a lot like big kids. In fact, they seem a lot like Max. At first, they want to eat Max, but he tricks them into sparing his life by telling them he’s really a king.

The monsters believe him and make him their king – because they yearn for guidance, just like Max probably yearns for a father. He has them do fun things like fight wars and sleep piled up on top of each other. But eventually, the novelty wears off, and the monsters are restless again.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is about growing up. Not just for Max, but for the strange beasts he rules over as well. The monsters are complex, fascinating characters in their own right, especially Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini), who loves to destroy things – a habit that often alienates him from those he loves best. Another monster, K.W.(Lauren Ambrose) is the object of Carol’s affection, but she leaves the group several times, looking for something more. Max does what he can to bring Carol and K.W.together. But there’s only so much he can do.

He gets the creatures to join together to build the ultimate fort, where they can all live together. But the monsters’ restless nature eventually ruins things, and Max gets to watch his own behavior mirrored in the others, and he grows in the process.

WILD THINGS will make you think and feel. It’s so much more than a children’s movie. It’s a solid achievement from a director who also gave us such recent classics as BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION. Instead of collaborating with screenwriter extraordinaire Charles Kaufman this time around, though, Jonze co-wrote the screenplay for WILD THINGS with novelist David Eggers. It’s very satisfying and quite adult, especially in the tone of the film. These monsters explore issues of identity and mortality in their own strange way, and it’s a really interesting film.

© Copyright 2009 by L.L. Soares