Friday, December 31, 2010

The Fighter

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams, and Jack McGee

Directed by David O. Russell

Release Date: December 10th, 2010

A tale of overcoming advesary, The Fighter is a tale of "Irish" Micky Ward living in the shadow of older brother Dicky Eklund, whose claim to fame is knocking down "Sugar" Ray Leonard. For nearly 10 years, Micky (Wahlberg) has been coached by brother Dicky (Bale) and managed by his mother Alice (Leo). Soon, Micky is tired of the neglect and abuse from his mother and the mismanagement by his brother due to Dicky's addiction to crack cocaine. When Dicky goes to prison, it becomes clear that Micky's one chance to turn his career and life around, he's got to take it despite the accusations and hurt feelings. In the end, both Micky and Dicky have to fight to change for the better.


More of a character story than a traditional boxing story, The Fighter is an emotionally gripping story with an amazing cast. First of all, Christian Bale is staggeringly fantastic as Dicky, making the character the egotist he was and a sympathetic figure to his addictive personality and shortcomings in life. Bale is so charming and likeable that it it becomes clear why Dickie is such the celebrity he was in Lowell, Mass., and why he and his family get hit so hard by the tragedy of his crack addiction seen in a documentary made by HBO. Mark Wahlberg (after the critically panned roles in The Happening and The Lovely Bones) does a commendable job as Micky Ward. Wahlberg gives the audience a symapethic character that the audience can relate to, as Micky is beset by family dramas and his less than stellar boxing record. Finally, there are the supporting actresses, Melissa Leo as Alice Eklund and Amy Adams as Charlene Fleming, Ward's girlfriend. Both actress give stellar performances, Leo as a coniving, greedy manager who praises Dicky above all else, and Adams is great as Charlene, the tough girlfriend willing to fight Alice and Micky's 6 abrasive sisters.

The Fighter is a great drama with commendable boxing sequences. For Oscar Season 2010, you've got to see Christian Bale's Best Actor Nominated role as Dicky Eklund.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Breakfast af Tiffany's

Starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Buddy Ebsen, and Mickey Rooney

Directed by Blake Edwards

Release Date: October 5th, 1961

In New York, a budding writer (Peppard) has met a most interesting person: wild and free socialite Holly Golightly (Hepburn). Dubbing him Fred, Miss Golightly soon becomes an integral part of the young man's life, falling in love with her while trying to understand the mystery of Holly Golightly. As Paul a.k.a Fred tries to melt the heart of Holly, she is attempting to woo the richest men in the country for her own reasons.

Audrey Hepburn was a marvelous actress, a beauty that few have surpassed and Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of her crowing achievements among her marvelous career. The film has a few problems, but the biggest is Mickey Rooney's racist depiction of an asian man; suffice it to say, the screenwriter should have been embarrassed to create such a caricature, even in 1961.Also, despite how amazing Hepburn is, Pepard is merely playing the reliable boy-friend role in the film. I liked Peppard in the film, but it clear to see that Hepburn is truly the more energetic/memorable of the two; Peppard is just good. Still, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a wonderful romantic comedy that made Hepburn an icon.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy

 Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast At Tiffany's - Paramount Centennial Collection (Mastered in High Definition)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

North by Northwest

Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, and Josephine Hutchinson

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Release Date: September 17, 1959

Mistaken for a man who does not exist, Ad man Roger Thornhill (Grant) must venture from New York to Mount Rushmore to track down a vast conspiracy and clear his name for a framed murder and save the girl (Saint), who may be more than she appears.

From beginning to start, the film is a whirlwind of action and intrigue which helps when asked to follow Thornhill on his adventures. Hitchcock is and always will be known as a master of intrigue, which is no more apparent than when Thornhill is being chased by two henchmen on an elevator; until the moment is given levity/paranoia when Thornhill's mother (Huthchinson) asks them if they're really going to kill him. Hitchcock makes Thornhill a man against the world: being chased by every police officer from New York to South Dakota. On the acting front, Grant is a master at playing the charming leading man, being an average Joe thrown into an extraordinary situation. Grant makes Thornhill into a belivable protagonist, always trying to explain the situation but no one believes him. James Mason playing the sinister Phillip VanDamme is a treat, subtly conveying his authority without seeming too over-the-top.
 
Rating: * * * * * of  5

Click here to buy

North by Northwest (50th Anniversary Edition)

North by Northwest (50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Book)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Family Guy Presents: It's A Trap!

If the creative staff admit in the text crawl the didn't want to make this movie, why should we, the audience, watch this movie? Should I applaud their honesty? I think that if this declaration were ironic, THAT would be funny. But no, this movie is a dud. For every one funny joke, such as a reference to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, there's 20 unfunny jokes, like Emperor Palpatine murdering two annoying kids in a public pool. Avoid "It's a Trap!".

Rating: * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy

Family Guy: It's A Trap!

Family Guy: It's A Trap! [Blu-ray]

Leap Year

Starring Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, and John Lithgow

Directed by Anand Tucker

Release Date: January 8th, 2010

Anna (Adams) has her whole life figured out: perfect job, perfect boyfriend, perfect apartment, and soon she figures he'll give her the perfect proposal. Only to her surprise, Jeremy (Scott) gives her earrings instead of an engagement ring. Soon, Anna is off to Ireland to meet Jeremy so that she can propose to him on Leap Day, according to an Irish tradition mentioned in passing by her father (Lithgow). Once her plane is delayed and only two days to get to Dublin, Anna must rely on Declan (Goode), a cynical taxi driver who may change her life's perspective in the process.
Sure, you know how the movie's gonna end up, but that's not why I enjoyed the movie so much. Honestly, I enjoyed the chemistry between Adams and Goode, and the level of comedy on camera between the two. Adams is most certainly showing her natural talent as a comedianne, and Goode displays his rogueish charm and brings a smarmy attitude toward Anna (Adams)'s penchant toward romanticizing Leap Day and all other Irish traditions.
 
Rating: * * * * of 5

Click here to buy

Leap Year

Leap Year [Blu-ray]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

True Grit (2010)

Starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Release Date: December 22nd, 2010

 Everything has a price, as Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) soon learns in the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen. Adapted from the 1968 novel by Charles Portis, the Coen brothers craft an interesting mixture of hard-nosed western adventure with their trademark witty dialogue and quick-witted humor.

Mattie Ross has two concerns on her mind: the first is to hire U.S. Marshall Ruben "Rooster" Cogburn to track down criminal Tom Cheyney (Brolin), and the second is to see that Cheyney pays for the crime of murdering her father in cold blood. Unfortunately, Cogburn (Bridges) is unwilling to be bossed around by a 14 year-old girl and is also dealing with an upstart Texas Ranger (Damon) also on the hunt for Cheyney who killed a U.S. Senator. The road will be long and hard; will Mattie be able to make the two lawmen respect her dedication to honour her father and bring his killer to justice?

The Coens do a fantastic job of adapting Portis' novel to the big screen, this time more faithfully than the '69 film starring John Wayne as "Rooster" Cogburn. Also, D.O.P. Roger Deakins does a beautiful job making the lush outdoors of Texas and New Mexico seem harsh and grim for Mattie's expedition to find her father's killer. Visually, the film is shot with muted colors which makes the situation that the characters are in seem more grounded in reality to better accumulate audience memebers to the film's settings. As for the actors, all top billing actors do an outstanding performance, particularly Bridges as the curmudgeonly Cogburn adn Steinfeld as the no-nonsense Mattie. Also of note, Josh Brolin gives a very subdued, minimal performance as Cheyney.
 
Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy
True Grit
True Grit (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Alfred Molina, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell , Richard Coyle, and Ronald Pickup
Directed by Mike Newell

Release Date: May 28, 2010

Based on the popular video game series, producer Jerry Bruckheimer brings the Prince of Persia to the big screen starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Alfred Molina, and Ben Kingsley.

Many years ago, King Sharaman (Pickup) discovered a young street urchin named Dastan whom he saw much potential and courage in; so much so that the King adopted the young man into his family and made him a brother to princes Tus and Garsiv. Fifteen years later, all three princes have grown and now Dastan (Gyllenhaal), has become well known as a warrior and layabout. The three princes attack the holy city of Alamut, from the word of their uncle (Kingsley)'s spy that weapons are being made for enemies of Persia. Soon, a myserious object falls into Dastan's hands and the princess (Arterton) is tagging along to make sure that Armaggeddon does not befall mankind due to the Sands of Time...

Obviously, the advertisements for the film were aimed at fans of Bruckheimer's last Disney epic, Pirates of the Carribean, and with good reason. The "Pirates" movies were able to adapt a simple premise into a big-budget adventure film with a lot of entertaining action and fun for kids and adults. Prince of Persia is very similar, as the film is able to adapt the popular video game to please fans and be able to tell an entertaining story with plenty of scenes with swash-buckling swordplay and parkour jumping on rooftops. The cast is definitely having fun with the material, particularly Gyllenhaal and Molina. Kingsley is a tad too stoic at times as Uncle Nizam, but still does a commendable job in his part.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is a fun adventure for fans of the video game and adventure movie fans.
 
Rating: * * * * of 5

Click here to buy
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time [Blu-ray]

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Features and other information

First of all, Happy Holidays to everyone! To my friends, family, and all of you who follow Critical View!

Second, I've decided to brainstorm some new ideas for reviews, so look for that after Christmas. I'll be posting different features while continuing written reviews.

Third, January will only have weekly posts due to time constraints. After that, it'll be business as usual.

Finally, let me know if there's a particular genre/actor/director/ you'd like to see me review during 2011. I'm taking requests.

Later!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Unstoppable

Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, and Rosario Dawson

Directed by Tony Scott

Release Date: November 12th, 2010

An exciting action movie with great stunt work and good performances from Washington and Pine. If you're a fan of Tony Scott's other films, such as the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 or Man on Fire, you'll enjoy Unstoppable.

Rating: * * * * of 5

Click here to buy
Unstoppable

Unstoppable [Blu-ray]

Jennifer's body

Starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfreid, Johnny Simmons, and J. K. Simmons

Directed by Karyn Kasuma

Release Date: September 18th, 2009

When "Juno" hit the world, its use of hipster dialogue from the mind of screenwriter Diablo Cody was touted by large as fantastical, the sort of language rarely seen since Kevin Smith in "Clerks". However, many people found Cody's unconventional quips to be too tongue-in-cheek, that the conversations about adoption too self-aware for its' own good. Soon after, word of Cody working on a comedic horror film began to buzz and people were excited to see her next work after winning an Academy award for Best Screenwriting. The critics were divided to say the least.

After a small concert, Jennifer (Fox) starts a little differently, at least that's the way Anita "Needy" (Seyfried) sees it. Soon, Jennifer starts behaving more and more aggressive to both Needy and the other students around campus. When local boys start disappearing and Needy discovers the horrible truth about Jennifer's new behavior, she'll have to stop her ex-BFF from killing Needy's boyfriend (Simmons).

At the very least, I had higher expectations than how the movie turned out. I never expected "Jennifer's Body" to be the next "Evil Dead 2", but the finished film is a deplorable mess of high school cliches, bad storytelling, and a lack of both horror and comedy in the story.

First of all, Diablo Cody needs someone to review her use of high-school slang in all of her future films; the terms she uses here, including such lovely phrases as "tragedy boner", are face-palmingly stupid and sound forced and stilted coming from the actors. Speaking of forced and stilted, Megan Fox is horrendously wooden as Jennifer. Fox is a terrible actress and can barely emote; she looked great on the poster, and that must have been good enough for the producers of this movie. Thank goodness for actors like Seyfried and Simmons, who are at least trying to pick up the slack that Fox dropped like a sack of potatoes.
 
Finally, there is the movie's lack of either comedy or horror in the film. First and foremost, the film should be somewhat frightening to the audience, otherwise why make the movie? I never, for the entire 90 minutes, felt one ounce of fright or terror from when the movie tried to scare me. Even when they try to make Jennifer look monstrous, the CGI the filmmakers used is headscratchingly awful. Call me a purist, put maybe it's time to put away the computers and bring back the latex and fake blood to the special effects department. Then there's the comedy: see my paragraph on Diablo Cody's dialogue. 
 
Jennifer's Body: dull, pretencious, and neither frightening nor comedic.
 
Rating: * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy

Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body (+ Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jonah Hex

Starring Josh Brolin, Will Forte, Megan Fox, and John Malkovich

Directed by Jimmy Hayward

Release Date: June 18th, 2010

In the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War, unrest and chaos rule the western lands of America. Soon, an old Conferderalist General (Malkovich) has returned and is planning a devastating attack on U.S. soil. It will be up to Jonah Hex (Brolin), infamous bounty hunter, to stop the General and save America.

During the theatrical run of Jonah Hex, many critics were largely negative of the movie and many called it one of 2010's worst movies. Now, I will say that the filim is not perfect and that there is a more faithful version to the comic version of Hex. For one, Megan Fox's performance is remarkably bad; she has no chemistry with Brolin and her facial expersions are either bored or looks trying to think too hard. Second, many fans may complain that this version of Jonah Hex is unfaithful to the comic due to the supernaturual powers he possesses in the film whereas in the comics he has no such abilities; I can see the complaints, but I had no problem with this addition to the character as it is integral to the story in the film. If fans would rather see a more faithful adaptation of Hex, see the DC Showcases animated short film starring the voice of Tom Jane. Despite these problems, the film is still a fun, enjoyable story with great performances from the cast (such as Brolin really gritting his teeth as Hex or Will Arnett in a small role as a US general), stunning cinemateography, and an interesting story about revenge and betrayal. However, the film is only 75 minutes and I hope that one day there will be a longer "Director's Cut" available for home video viewing.

Jonah Hex is a fun, western adventure with some minor complaints.
 
Rating: * * * * of 5

Click here to buy

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex [Blu-ray]

Extract

Starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, J.K. Simmons, and Ben Affleck

Written and Directed by Mike Judge

Release Date: September 4th, 2009

Boring.....is the worst thing you can say about a movie. Say what you will about such bad movies like Batman and Robin, Troll 2 or Super Mario Brothers, but at least they're entertaining, there's something funny or amusing about them. This movie, written and directed by Mike Judge of "Office Space", is horrendously boring, so much so that I had yet to crack 1 smile in the first 30 minutes of the film. Don't bother with Extract; if you're a fan of Judge's, rent Office Space again, or check out "Idiocracy", Judge's dystopian comedy starring Luke Wilson.

People remember Mike Judge because he creates better stories than this: King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, and Office Space are all well-known comedies that have become pop culture landmarks and definitely have their fareshare of fans and memorable jokes. Extract, on the other hand, is not funny despite the cast of well-known comedic actors and Judge himself as writer and director. Extract is one of those forgettable films that didn't deserve to be this mediocre.

Rating: * of 5

Click here to buy

Extract
Extract [Blu-ray]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The men who stare at goats

 Starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey

Directed by Grant Heslov

Release Date: November 6th, 2009

Reporter Bob Wilton went to Iraq to prove himself as a journalist, and to escape his recent divorce. Soon, he crosses path with Lyn Cassady, a former Army soldier recruited into a secret battalion known as First Earth, whose goals were to win wars with psychic powers and non-lethal means.

Structurally, the movie is a bit of a mess. The story is told chronologically with inter-cut flashbacks set to tell the origins of First Earth and "Project:Jedi" while Lyn and Bob have their adventures in the desert. Unfortunately, the flashbacks are where most of the interesting aspects of the story take place and they are meant to be exposition to the main plot  of the story; which means that the present day exploits of Bob and Lyn are mostly dull and make you hopeful that there will be another visit to Fort Bragg circa 1982. Also, I need to just let this be said: Ewan McGregor saying the word "Jedi" over and over in this movie gets real old, real fast.

Overall, the film is pretty good, but is definitely a tonal shift from what audiences expected from the advertised trailers.

Rating: * * * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy
The Men Who Stare At Goats

The Men Who Stare At Goats [Blu-ray]


The Men Who Stare At Goats Bobble Head

Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs

 Starring the Voice talents of Bill Hader, James Caan, Anna Farris, Mr. T, Bruce Campbell, Andy Samberg, Al Roker, and Neil Patrick Harris.

Directed by Chris Miller and Paul Lord

Release Date: September 18, 2009

Absolutely entertaining and an appetizing feature, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a delightful adaptation of Judi and Ron Barrett's beloved book.

All his life, Flint (Hader) has wanted to be a world famous inventor and to make his parents (Graham and Caan) proud of him. Unfortunately, inventions such as the Monkey Translator, Spray-on Shoes, and Ratbirds always seem to blow up in Flint's face. But, Flint's hometown of Swallows Island is in trouble: their #1 export of sardines is hated by the world and bankrupting the town. Will Flint's newest invention, Flint Lockwood's Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (or the FLDSMDFR), be enough to save the town and make Flint's dad proud?

The movie is a delightful comedy that is exaggeratedly goofy and silly, but does have genuine moments of warmth and tenderness for Flint's predicaments with his dad. Sure, there's a lot of obvious jokes like the gigantic food and all the food related puns, but the true comedy can be found in the film's cast of actors. Bill Hader is enormously entertaining as Flint, bringing the madcap scientist to life with a silly zest to prove himself as an inventor to the town and new gal in town, Sally Sparks (Anna Faris). Then there's Flint's best friend Steve, a monkey who is voiced by Neil Patrick Harris to only say 1-2 words at a time, and you'll be giggling each time you hear him scream "Helping!". Other supporting talent includes such actors as James Caan, Andy Samberg, and Mr. T, but no one can do awesome like the actor who plays the gluttonous mayor, Bruce Campbell.

Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs is a funny and entertaining animated film that will make you bust a gut laughing while you ooh and ah at the yummy food on screen.

Rating: * * * * * of 5


Click here to buy
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Single-Disc Edition)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) [Blu-ray]

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Blu-ray 3D)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Starring the voice talents of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Willem Dafoe

Directed by Wes Anderson

Release Date: November 25, 2009

A sight to behold, full of sparkle, wit, and sheer animal craziness.

Two Years ago (12 Fox Years), Mr. Fox (Clooney) and his wife Felicity were stuck in a fox trap. Felicity (Streep) asks Mr. Fox to find the couple to find a better way to live as she surprises her husband with the news that she is pregnant. Soon, Mr. Fox has changed his ways from chicken thief to newspaper columnist while son Ash (Schwatzman) tries to deal with living in his father's shadow and contanstly being shown up by his cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson). But, life as a journalist is not enough for Mr. Fox and is soon making up plans to ransack local famers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. What will this news mean to Mrs. Felicity Fox? Has Mr. Fox put the valley of other animals, including lawyer Badger (Murray), in danger?

Base on the novel by Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson has adapted Fantastic Mr. Fox into stop motion animation. The Animation is wonderfully crafted, which looks gorgeous as the detail is fully realized in such aspects such as the individual hairs in the animals hairs or one of Anderson's traits, fully realized layouts of the animal's homes. I fully support stop motion animation as it is a talent and an art style that is grossly underrated in today's movie going audience. The story is great, utilizing Mr. Fox as an engaging protagonist not above being selfish one moment then coming to the resuce in the third act. However, that is not to say this film is for all ages, as there are numerous references/visual cues to swearing (called 'cuss' in the film) smoking, alcohol, and death.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a joy to watch and will sure to entertain any fan of Wes anderson or Roald Dahl.

Rating: * * * * of 5

Click here to buy Fantastic Mr. Fox

Click here to buy Fantastic Mr. Fox (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

EVERY ZOMBIE DEATH ON THE WALKING DEAD

yeah.....this is just awesome. So, here's a link for a video of every zombie death on Season 1 of The Walking Dead.

http://www.comicvine.com/news/every-zombie-death-from-amcs-the-walking-dead-season-1/142657/

The Polar Express

Starring the voice talents of Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye and Michael Jeter

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Release Date: November 10, 2004

Based on the children's storybook of the same title, director Robert Zemeckis and frequent collaborator Tom Hanks bring together a new holiday fable about one boy's exploration to the North Pole while on a mysterious train. 

In the 1950's,  a young boy wrestles over his decision whether to keep believing in Santa Claus or to give in to his growing skepticism. Soon, he hears a roaring sound outside his bedroom window and soon a gigantic train is parked outside his home, waiting to take him to the North Pole. Many aboard the fabled Express train are awaiting to possibly meet Santa or to view one of his many elves, but our wayward hero is wrestling with his belief in the holiday spirit. Will his crisis over Santa be resolved when he meets his destination?

First of all, I have to critique Zemeckis's use of motion capture technology when developing the story of THE POLAR EXPRESS to the big screen: it's very hit or miss. Some sequences, such as when the train is barrelling out of control or our hero braving the harsh winds and snow, are dazzling to behold; meanwhile, many of the character animations are somewhat stalted and many of the characters eyes are glassy looking which many critics complained made the characters look "inhuman". So in short, the technology is ok, but needs to be improved the next time some other director uses this technology for their motion picture. Also, why was Steven Tyler in this movie? I get the fact that the story, visually and aesthetically, is meant to take place during the 1950s, so why is Steven Tyler, the front man for a rock and roll band which began in the 1970s, in this movie?

Still, for all its' shortcomings, The Polar Express is a fun and entertaining holiday film that families will certainly enjoy with their other Christmas favorites.

Rating: * * * * of 5

Click here to buy

The Polar Express (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)

The Polar Express [Blu-ray]

Monday, December 13, 2010

How the Grinch stole Christmas! (2000)

Starring Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambour, Clint Howard, and Christine Baranski

Narrated by Anthony Hopkins

Directed by Ron Howard

Release Date: November 17, 2000

The original 1965 TV animated feature has become a holiday classic, imitated and featured in countless forms of media. Therefore, it should be no surprise that someone would eventually remake these beloved Dr. Seuss stories in live-action in hit or miss faction. Journey back to the year 2000, where director Ron Howard and comedic actor Jim Carrey team up to bring that feature into live action with such actors as Molly Shannon, Taylor Momsen, and Christine Baranski.

For many, the live action remake is inferior to the TV animated adaption, being too long and "unfaithful" to the source material. Well, let the naysayers nay: I still enjoy this film for all its' craziness and over-the-top set design. The design of Whoville and its' inhabitants may be too bizaree for some, but I found the design of the Whovian (not Doctor Who) to be whimsical and fit the tone of a christmas season to a tee; the design of the townsfolk, while different than the TV version, kept the townsfolk somewhat human-like, while still making some deviation toward a strange non-human species that Seuss would most likely approve of. Finally, there's the main character of the story, the titular Grinch, the What who despises the Christmas season. Sure, Jim Carrey is exaggeratedly different than the more subdued version Boris Karloff gave on TV, but I sure found the fun and joy that Carrey had performing as the character.

How The Grinch stole Christmas!: some may have found the added backstory to the Grinch unnecessary, but I liked developing the character as more than just a heartless grump without any developed motivation to hating the holiday season. For me, I liked Howard's wacky and warped take on the Seuss classic.

Rating; * * * * of 5

Click here to buy
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Widescreen Edition)
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas [Blu-ray]

ELF

Starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner, Jon Favereau, Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart, and James Caan

Directed by Jon Favereau

Release Date: November 7, 2003

Every year, a studio tries to create a holiday "classic" by trying way too hard and failing, leaving no memorable impression on the audience. Then in 2003, something amazing happened: a story about a 6'4" Elf coming to New York City...

All his life, Buddy the Elf (Ferrell) has felt different amongst friends and family at the North Pole. His adotive father, Papa Elf (Newhart), tells Buddy that he's not actually an elf, but a human who wandered into Santa's sack and soon became an elf for most of his life. Papa then tells him that his father, Walter Hobbs (Caan), lives in New York, but is in big trouble. Upon hearing this, Buddy is determined to track down his father, because HE'S ON THE NAUGHTY LIST!

Elf is a delightful comedy that is a treat to enjoy each year around the holidays. First of all, the set design and costuming for the North Pole and its' inhabitants is a wonderful throwback to the old Rankin Bass stop motion holiday specials such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Each moment in the North Pole is as if viewing a live action example of those specials brought to life and I truly enjoy these moments in Santa's Workshop. Soon, Buddy ventures into New York City, Ferrel definitely bursting off the screen with joy and exuberance as the gigantic elf searching for family and christmas cheer in NYC. The supporting cast is fantastic, from Caan, Newhart, and Asner, to the lesser known actors such as Faizon Love as the Gimbels' Toy Store Manager.
Give Elf a chance this holiday season, you'll be singing in a store soon enough, asking people what their favorite color is.
 
Rating: * * * * * of 5

Click here to buy
Elf (Infinifilm Edition)
Elf [Blu-ray]

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Happening

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschannel, John Leguizamo, and Alan Ruck

Release Date: June 11, 2008

I have heard that this is one of the greatest unintentional comedies made in the last decade, the discussion of hot dogs never made more glorious: I didn't see that movie. I found The Happening to be one of the slowest, dumbest movies I've had the misfortune of seeing; it's not scary (AT ALL), all the ridiculous dialogue just irritated me rather than make me laugh. Seriously, where was all the cheeziness I was promised? M. Night Shymalan has certainly fallen from grace long after his successes with such thrillers as The Sixth Sense and Signs. Now, he's known for the catastrophes known as Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender.


Where is his place in life? Maybe it's time M. Night reevaluate his career and maybe let someone else write the script while he directs his next film. That's the one saving grace of the film, it's visual style. Even with the ridiculousness of our main characters fleeing from wind and trees (oh god is that just too stupid to take seriously), the concept seemed solid and the images on screen look great, it's the delivery of the story where The Happening falls apart. This movie is ridiculous, with stilted dialogue, horrendous SCIENCE! explanations, and the crown jewel of this film, Mark Wahlberg's horrendous, stilted performance . It's no wonder he's been bashing this movie long after it's release. M. Night is no Hitchcock, and he's also not the next Ed D. Wood Jr.

All in all, this movie is horrible and I wasn't scared, laughing, or entertained; I was bored.

Rating: 1/2 of 5
(Let me know what you guys think about the movie in the comments)

Click here to buy
The Happening
The Happening (Special Edition + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

GLEE: A Very Glee Christmas

Glee

"A very Glee Christmas"

Season 2, Episode 10

Original Airdate: December 7, 2010


Good: Dressing Sue up like the Grinch, and singing "Welcome Christmas"

Bad: Mocking Brittany for believing in Santa when an episode several weeks ago dealt with all aspects of faith, even Finn believing in "Grilled Cheezus". Oh, and Rachel's still an annoying, OCD clingy girl who doesn't understand the words "No" or "Go away".

Glee can still be good, but when it's bad, there's a lot of problems.

Rating: * * * of 5

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Walking Dead: "TS-19"

The Walking Dead

"TS-19"

Season 1, Episode 6

Original Airdate: December 5, 2010

So it has come to the end of the season, and what a ride it has been for Rick Grimes. In 3 Weeks, he's been introduced to a zombie apocalypse, dealt with ethical and moral dilemmas, turned to acts of desperation and rage, and has always looked for 3 things: his wife, his son, and hope. Last week, Grimes and his small band of survivors drove out to the CDC in Atlanta, hoping they were looking for someone working on a cure. This week, they found out that the center has only one resident, Dr. Edmond Jenner. The group thinks their prayers have been answered: someone working on a cure, food, shelter, and running water are available to them after weeks of no answers and searching. But, somethings is amiss with the good doctor, and several members of the group are lost in a sea of remorse and despair. Has Shane finally cracked, trying too hard to make Lori love him again? Will Lori ever tell Rick of her affair with his best friend? Finally, moments before the CDC blew up, Dr. Jenner whispered something into Rick's ear moments before his death: What was this horrifying secret shared between the scientist and the law man?

This was a great ending episode to the season, although I felt like Jacqui's death was unnecessary due to the character being pushed too far in the background we hardly got to know her or felt sympathy for her actions in the episode's final moments. However, there is a stunning back and forth dialogue between Andrea and Dale that displays the gripping moments of the show and the outstanding talents of the show's cast. Let's just hope that the "new" writing staff knows how to write for the characters as Season 1's writing staff.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Walking Dead writers...fired?

Okay, if you haven't heard by now, Frank Darabont has fired the writing staff for The Walking Dead and will hire freelance writers for Season 2. Um, okay, that's pretty stupid. I have a bad feeling about this.

Plus, that's pretty crappy to fire people so close to the holidays. Merry Christmas Frank Darabont....ya jerk.

On my last day of student teaching....



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.....For the record, I do like fishing, I'm just bad at it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Office: China

"China"

Season 7, Episode 10

Original Airdate: December 2, 2010

..........Okay, occasionally Michael is correct about something. For every time he thinks that yelling "Bankruptcy" is declaring it, he'll have a comptent argument over the concern of China's possibility of becoming a superpower. Initially, I thought this was a stupid idea for Michael to worry his man-child intelligence over, but it eventually worked in his favor as in one brief moment, the Dunder-Mifflin office saw Michael being smarter than know-it-all Oscar. And that's where the episode truly shines. Instead of standing on a soapbox and screaming about China, the writers explored the irritation Oscar expressed since he is usually seen as the smart one in the office. So then the scene is set: Oscar has invited to Michael to coffee to drill him over an intellectual conversation, effectively humiliating him and reasserting himself as #1 smart guy. Then the writers went back to talking about China, having Michael give a speech about how America is number one; seriously, guys, you could've picked a different topic and the point still could've got across. Oh well.

The subplot dealt with Dwight trying to shortcut supplies in the office building to save money, so Pam has to try to reason with Dwight. Sometimes I wonder if Dwight is getting too bizarre, a tad too cartoon villain-y. Still, the cold opening was brilliant.

Rating: * * * of 5

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Walking Dead: "Wild Fire"

The Walking Dead

"Wild Fire"

Season 1, Episode 5

Original Airdate: November 28, 2010

"Do not enter Atlanta, it's not what we thought it would be. The City...It belongs to The Dead now", Rick mournfully relays into a walkie-talkie hoping that Morgan is listening on the other end. Soon, Rick hears that Jim has been bitten and is trying to convince the small group of survivors left after the geek attack at the end of "Vatos". Initally, the party is trying to find the right words to get through to Andrea, still broken up after losing her sister Amy.

While Daryl, Glen, and Dale are burying the dead and burning the geeks, everyone else is trying to talk to Andrea, who hasn't moved from the spot where Amy died. While Lori tries her best to get through to Andrea, the best part was when Rick tried to talk to her, and she just pointed a gun at him saying "the safety is off". After Dale gives a heartfelt monologue about losing his wife and how Amy and Andrea were the first people that Dale cared about after his years of mistrust toward others, Rick and Shane have a disagreement about where to go now: Rick wants to go to the Center for Disease Control to find a cure, while Shane wants to an army base 100 miles away to better protect the survivors. Soon, it becomes clear that Shane wants to kill Rick to regain his position as group survivor and the only man in Lori and Carl (Rick's son)'s lives.

After the group loses Jim to wanting to turn as a zombie than endure the roadtrip to the CDC (you'll have to see why the group decides to follow Rick's plan rather than Shane's), we meet a new character at the CDC. Is this man friend or foe? We'll have to wait and see at the Season Finale next week.

Rating: * * * * * of 5

Faster

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Jennifer Carpenter, Carla Gugino, Blood Moongood, and Maggie Grace

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

Release Date: November 24, 2010

After spending a decade behind bars, there's only one thing on Driver (Dwayne Johnson)'s mind: avenging his brother's murder. Soon, the best wheelman crime has ever seen is on a fast track to those who killed his brother and find out who set that event into motion.

Before you give up on this movie upon seeing that it stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, give Faster a chance. Because in all honesty, the movie is much better than the ads make it out to be. For me, the ads make the movie look like the standard bang-bang zoom-zoom brainless action movie with no memorable characters or events beyond the casting choices or the money put into the stuntman's paycheck. To my surprise, Faster is an updated film noir that takes an indepth look into one man's obsessive journey to complete a crucial moment in his life. The movie actually has many quiet moments where the characters absorb the situations they are in and how dark their lives truly are.

If you think Dwayne Johnson can't act, or that he can't carry a film, check out Faster; the film is actually quite enjoyable and Johnson does a commendable job as a man with inner demons that he can only silence with payment in blood.

Rating: * * * * of 5

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Starring Paul Kelman,Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Keith Knight, Alf Humphreys,Cynthia Dale,Helene Udy , Rob Stein , Tom Kovacs , Terry Waterland,Carl Marotte, Jim Murchison , Gina Dick , Peter Cowper,and Don Francks

Directed by George Mihalka

Release Date: Feb 11, 1981

Ok, I admit that this film is combination of Halloween, Friday the 13th and Canada...but I don't care because this is a great underrated 1980s horror film. Now, before you go running off to Netflix to rent the 2009 remake (in 3-D!), give the original a first glance and you'll be glad you did. The town of Valentine Bluffs has a sad history with St.Valentine's Day: 20 years ago a group of miners were caught in a cave-in while their supervisors left early to go to the town Valentine's Dance. The lone survivor went insane, killed his supervisors and dedicated his life to making sure the town never celebrated Valentine's Day ever again. Present Day, the teens of Valentine Bluffs don't believe the local legend and want to celebrate even with the rise of the deadly miner back in town. This film scores major points in my book by making the connection to valentine's day effective and creepy, instead of just a stupid gimmick where the killer could have dressed up like a cherub (....like in Valentine). Also, the death scenes are effective, chilling, and innovative, which is the opposite of the reviews i 've heard from the 2009 remake. If you're in the mood for a horror film after seeing "The Thing" or "Night of the Living Dead" for the 100th time, check up on this "bloody" chilling flick.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy
My Bloody Valentine (Special Edition)
My Bloody Valentine (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]

Coraline

Starring the voice talents of Dakota Fanning, Ian McShane, and Teri Hatcher

Directed by Henry Selick

Release Date: February 6, 2009

Director Henry Selick is a stop-motion genius. He first dazzled audiences with A Nightmare Before Christmas then followed up with James and the Giant Peach (the less said about Monkeybone, the better). Now, he adapts Neil Gaiman's novel about a young girl who discovers another world in the wallpaper of her new home. On a personal note, I had to move around several times with my family when i was younger, so I understood Coraline's frustration in finding her new surrounding are boring and why she'd repeatedly return to the other world. As stated previously, Selick is a master at the art of stop-motion animation, so all the characters are lively and detailed, and the environments they set in the story are gorgeous to look at with outrageous and amazingly bright colors that are visual treats for the eyes. Though watch out, as Coraline becomes wary of the dangers of the Other World, so should you as the viewer. Also, Dakota Fanning is just wonderful as Coraline, the energetic and playful protagonist. Teri Hatcher brings alot of range when portraying Coraline's mother Mel and the seemingly wonderful Other Mother. Strange, moody, and a visual treat. Coraline is just a wonderful film.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy Coraline (Single-Disc Edition w/ 3D)

Click Here to buy Coraline (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo w/ 3D) (2009)

9

Starring the voice talents of Elijah Wood, John C. Reily, Martin Landau, Jennifer Connely, and Christopher Plumber

Directed by Shane Acker

Release Date: September 9, 2009 (9-9-09)

After mankind has gone it will be up to 9 voodoo dolls to save the earth from deadly machines. In the tradition of such memorable dystopian tales like The terminator or Wall-E comes 9, a tale about heroism even when our main character is made of cogs and cloth. The story is good, although the backstory/set up is a tad vague so i wish there had been more explaination about where and when this takes place; but then again that could be better left unsaid (maybe this is an alternate 1946 or maybe 9 takes place hundreds of years in the future). Two key aspects of this film are the amazing CGI animation that would make Pixar envious and the action sequences that are thrillng and spectacular to view. If you're going to take little ones, I'd just like point out there are a few deaths implied and shown on screen.

Rating: * * * * of 5

Click Here to buy 9

Click Here to buy 9 [Blu-ray]

Gandhi

Starring Sir Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills , Martin Sheen , Rohini Hattangady , Ian Charleson , Athol Fugard , Saeed Jaffrey , Geraldine James , Alyque Padamsee , Amrish Puri , Roshan Seth , Ian Bannen , Michael Bryant , John Clements , Richard Griffiths , and Nigel Hawthorne

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Release Date: December 6th, 1982

A fantastic epic that details the political exploits of Mahatma Gandhi and his crusade to free India from British tyranny. Kingsley gives a fantastic performance as Gandhi, evoking the spirit and humble appearance of India's most famous nonviolent revolutionist. Director Richard Attenborough really captures the scope and look that was early 20th century India, illustrating the vast differences between the elite British and the slums in which the Indians were forced into. My only real criticism with the movie is its' failure at keeping a concise record of when events shown on film occur between gandhi's early life as a South African lawyer in 1893 and his death in 1948. Twice during the film the captions read to the extent "some time later", which doens't fully answer what year this is taking place in Gandhi's life and muddies up the chronology of the film's events. Still, this is a great drama and very much worth seeing.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy Gandhi (Widescreen Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Click Here to buy Gandhi (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Superman: The Movie

Starring Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, and Ned Beatty

Directed by Richard Donner

Release Date: December 15, 1978

Before the superfluous sequels, and the endless back and forth on Batman Vs. Superman/JLA movies, there was just a story about a man crashing down from the heavens.

Long ago, far from our galaxy, there was a planet named Krypton. A scientist, Jor-El (Brando), is fearful that the red sun from which their planet revolves may soon explode and destroy all life on the planet. Jor'El's peers do not believe in such ideas and ridicule Jor-El, until the planet shakes and trembles. Soon, Jor-El is sending his infant son, Kal-El, into a rocket toward a distant planet named Earth....

Superman: The movie is a fantastic action adventure ride that gives one a sense of who the man behind the cape is. Christopher Reeve was made to play the Last Son of Krypton. Reeve is charming, strong, mysterious, and tryuly carries the hope and despair of a planet's last survivor. In the supporting cast is Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), and Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor). Then, there's the scenery chomping fiend known as Marlon Brando who says Krypton like 'kriptin'. Yeah, he gets a few good moments mixed in with a lot of weird additions obviously created by the actor.

Still, for all its flaws, Superman: The movie is an enjoyable comic book movie with alot of affection for the Man of Steel.

Rating: * * * * * of 5

Click Here to buy Superman - The Movie [Blu-ray]

Grindhouse Presents: DEATH PROOF

Starring Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan , Sydney Tamiia Poitier , Tracie Thoms , Mary Elizabeth Winstead , Zoe Bell , Michael Parks , and Quentin Tarantino

Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Release Date: April 7th, 2007

On a lonely night, a group of women meet a man named STUNTMAN Mike. Sure, he's charming, he's an interesting man to chat and have a few beers with. But soon, they'll find themselves caught in his headlights....

Tarantino continues to make movies that define "cool". Here, his snappy dialogue comes from the lips of gorgeous women and the #1 badass-Kurt Russell. While it isn't as action-packed as Planet Terror, Tarantino's fewer action scenes seemed to laced with dynamite and adrenaline, as the cars move like speed-demons and the chase at the finale is amazingly entertaining and breath-taking. Also, be on the look-out to Tarantino's subtle refernce to his own first theatrical movie, Reservoir dogs.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click Here to buy Grindhouse Presents, Death Proof - Extended and Unrated (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Click here to buy Death Proof [Blu-ray]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Morning Glory

Starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Patrick Wilson, Diane Keaton, and Jeff Goldblum

Directed by Roger Michell

Release Date: November 10, 2010

Not too soft or too serious, and a very enjoyable film. Harrison Ford is gruff, but still the enjoyable performer he has always been; Rachel McAdams is adorable as the young, up and coming producer willing to try anything and everything to make the Nation's #4 morning talk show into a hit. The movie, for the most part, is an enjoyable light-hearted comedy with quick-witted comedy and some wacky moments such as Diane keaton dressed as a sumo wrestler or the weather man (Matt Malloy) freaking out upon being forced on-camera to ride a rollercoaster. Personally, I felt that the building relationship between Ford and McAdams was far more impressive than the romantic sublot with Patrick Wilson as a fellow producer at the same News channel McAdams works at (sorry folks, but I think their begruding relationship was the crux of the movie, not the romance).




Morning Glory is a fun, enjoyable film that has some fun to it and does have a couple moments of dramatic tension.
 
Rating: * * * * of 5

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Toki o kakeru shôjo (original title)

Starring the voice talents of Riisa Naka, Takuya Ishida, Ayami Kakiuchi, Sachie Hara, Mitsutaka Itakuru, Mitsuki Tanimura , Yuki Sekido , Fumihiko Tachiki , Kaitou , Andou Midori , Uesugi Moriko , Sekimi Nowake , Katsura Utawaka , Mitsutaka Itakura

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Release Date: July 15, 2006

At one point in our lives, we have all wanted to correct a mistake we made, or do something different. That is one of the reasons Time Travel fiction is so popular; people wonder about the path not taken, or how to make our lives better by correcting the past. 'The Girl who Leapt through time' explores both the popularity of time travel fiction and the concept of changing your life for the better.

Makoto Konno (Riisa Naka/Emily Hirst), a high school junior at Tokyo's shitamachi, has recently discovered that she has the power to "time leap" to return back in time by taking off in a sprint and then leaping in to the air. How did she discover this power? By narrowly avoiding a fatal accident at the train tracks by her school. Soon, Makoto is using her newfound abilities for everything from getting to school early to singing karaoke for ten hours. But, does that mean Makoto's journeys back through time are without consequences?

"The Girl who Leapt Through Time" is a fascinating story about the relationships between friends and the fears of how our actions affect others. Finally, the heroine of our story, Makoto Konno, is a highly entertaining character who is treated like a real person who makes mistakes, suffers heartache, and panics at the suggestion of romance between her friends.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click Here to buy The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Click Here to buy The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Limited Edition)

Click Here to buy The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [Blu-ray]

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Walking Dead: Vatos

"Vatos"

Season 1, Episode 4
Original Airdate: November 21, 2010

Some of you may have noticed a character in the past few episodes hanging around Dale at the compund and wondered who he is. Now, if you didn't already know, this is Jim; the reason why it's important to note this character's name is because it's the first episode where we get to explore this character and how he fits into the survivors' camp. Initally, we begin the episode with Amy and Andrea discussing the different ways they were taught fishing by their father during their respective childhoods. The scene works very well exploring the dynamic between the two sisters and also subtly explores their remorse and fear over what had happened to their parents in Florida without spelling it out for the audience. After that, we get to see jim on a hill above them digging into the ground, the mood of the scene getting darker and darker before the credits sequence begins.

When I wrote my review of the pilot episode, I talked about my opinon of how the developers of The Walking Dead should follow some familiar ground while also venturing into unfamilar territory in terms of both the story adn the characters, both from the comic and TV created. That being said, SPOILERS AHEAD (don't say I didn't give you fair warning): As the episode winds down, we see the survivors' camp attacked by "geeks", and several survivors are killed such as Ed and Amy. However, we find out that the reason that Jim was digging in the ground that day was to prepare graves for the dead survivors. Some may call it ESP, I'd prefer to thinking of it as Jim's assumption that they are all just one more day toward either becoming "walkers" or just dead. In between this, we saw Rick and his group journeying through Atlanta to find Merle Dixon (no such luck). However, the foursome did stumble upon another group of survivors and met another new interesting character, Guillermo.

"Vatos" brought up alot of new character development, but also saw the departure of a few characters viewers maybe wanted to see stick around just longer. Just as well, because you're either quick or you're dead, and those survivors are gone.

Rating: * * * * of 5

The Venture Brothers: Operation P.R.O.M.

Season 4, Episode 16

Original Airdate: November 21, 2010

.....It was just too much for words, so here's what it all boils down to: Hank and Dean have a prom in the hangar, then Brock kills mutant fly women. Sheer wacky awesomeness. Plus, new status changes within the "Venture Universe".  The only thing that sucks? This season's over.......

Rating: * * * * * of 5

Whisper of the Heart

Mimi wo sumaseba (original title)

Starring the voice talents of Cary Elwes, Courtney Thorne-Smith, David Gallagher, Brittany Snow, Harold Gould, and Naohisa Inoue

Directed by: Yoshifumi Kondo

Screenplay written by Hayao Miyazaki

Release Date: July 15, 1995


A sweet love story about a junior high girl lost in her own world of fairy tales until she meets a young violin maker who prompts young Shizuku to follow her own dreams of becoming a talented writer. Leave it to Studio Ghibli to make the most formulaic genre of young love into an engaging and heartwarming tale of love, teen angst, and beliving in one's self.

This is absolutely one of my favorite films of all time and I highly encourage all fans of animation, romance, and fairy tales to check this movie out for themselves. Whisper of the Heart is a joy to behold and the characters in it are engaging, fun, and their US adaptations are enjoyable to listen to again and again.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click Here to buy Whisper of the Heart

The Cat Returns

Neko no ongaeshi (original title)

Starring the voice talents of Anne Hatheway and Cary Elwes

Directed by: Hiroyuki Morita

Release Date: Jul 19, 2002

More a spinoff than a sequel, The Cat Returns brings back two characters from 1996's Whisper of the Heart, Muta (or if you prefer "Moon") and the Baron from Shizuku's story. Here, the story involves a 15 year old girl named Haru who through an act of kindness, is introduced to a world run by cats and through a series of unforseen circumstances has been betrothed to Prince Loon. So, our young protagonist is told to seek out the Cat Bureau run by the mysterious, proper and heroic Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (but i prefer to just rememeber him as Baron Humbert). Compared to Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns is a shorter story with a change in animation, but that necessarily isn't bad. TCR has a more exaggerted style of animaton where the characters have more "cartoonish" physicality which is a tribute to the fluid style of the animation and adds to the nature of the story's fantasy-like nature. Finally, i'd like to compliment two of the voice actors for the English language adaption: Anne Hatheway and Cary Elwes. Hatheway brings a nervous, teenage like vocal range in order to make her portrayal of an insecure 15 year old girl more authentic. Elwes is just perfect, returning from Whisper of the Heart to bring The Baron (so to speak) to life once again.

Rating: * * * * of 5

Click Here to buy The Cat Returns

My Neighbor Totoro

Tonari no Totoro (original title)

Starring the Voices of Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, and Tim Daly

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Release Date: April 16, 1988 (Japan) May 7, 1993 (United States)

Another adorable film from Japan's answer to Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki. Set in 1940s Japan, the story centers on two young girls, Satsuki and her younger sister Mei, who have moved to the country with their father so they can be closer to their mother who is recuperating in a hospital. During their exploits into the forrest they come across the gigantic Cat-like being they name Totoro. This is a good entertaining movie that leaves you with a sense of delight and happiness, as it is near impossible not to crack a smile when Satsuki act like sisters or playfully tease one another. A solid film from one of the greatest men to impact animation as we know it.

Rating: * * * * of 5

Click Here to buy My Neighbor Totoro (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Kaze no tani no Naushika (original title)

Starring the Voices of Allison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman, and Edward James Olmos

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Release Date:

Japan
March 4, 1984

North America
February 22, 2005 (uncut re-release)

Miyazaki's first film is also one of his finest accomplishments. Nausicaa is a great action adventure, though a tad heavy on the environmental issues that Miyazaki adds into all of his films. But maybe sometimes we need someone to bring it home with how much damage we as people do to the planet. Great voice acting from the American cast, especially Alison Lohman as the titular princess of the wind valley and Patrick Stewart as Lord Yuma, the greatest swordsman in the land. Lohman really brings the emotion and energy as Nausicaa who wants to protect her people from the rage of the insects (including the monsterous ohmu) or the warring Tolmekians. Her young, energetic voice really nail a character that when the whole world around her is encircled in blood and violence, she tries to appeals for peace and order for the betterment of the world. Patrick Stewart brings his legendary bravado voice to Lord Yuma. Stewart's voice is just amazing, that's all that needs to be said about his devotion to bringing the character over from Japan.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Click here to buy Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)