Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rugrats in Paris: The Movie - 7 stars out of 10

Rugrats in Paris: The Movie - 7 stars out of 10

There is little to indicate that “Rugrats in Paris”  is anything more than a long episode of Rugrats, but that is a good thing. The concept and heart of the TV show is preserved in this feature presentation that serves as a great throwback to a favorite childhood cartoon show.  Most of that babytalk owes its success to great voice actors like Christine Cavanaugh and Elizabeth Daily, as well as cameos by Susan Sarandon, Casey Kasem, John Lithgow, Debbie Reynolds, and Tim Curry.  One of the key factors to the success of Rugrats was always the clever script.  From exaggerated situations and pop culture references to the comical transformation of common phrases by using babytalk, this film appeals to children and adults alike.  There are some great Godfather references (especially the rocking horse head in the crib) and they also used the karaoke-singing sumo wrestlers very well: "that's got to be one stinky diapee..."  One of the boldest pieces of this children’s puzzle is that Nickelodeon was not afraid to take a few jabs at Disney.  The Parisian park is called EuroReptarland and the Ooey Gooey Land theme song is a blatant joke about It’s A Small World.  There's even a Lady and the Tramp reference.  It was very smart to use the feature films as an opportunity to make big changes in the daily cartoon (adding baby Dill Pickles and giving Chuckie a mommy).  These films turned the changes into significant events and consequently revitalized the cartoon show for more seasons to come.  One of my only complaints is that it's called "Rugrats in Paris" but, aside from a few Parisian landmarks (and Spike peeing on the Eiffel Tower), the majority of the film takes place in an Asian-inspired amusement park.  I suppose that this is part of the plot (as indicated by Didi’s complaining that they don’t get to enjoy the true Paris experience), but the title creates a certain expectation and I would’ve enjoyed more cartoon interpretations of Montmartre, the Seine, and other landmarks.  “Rugrats in Paris” left me satisfied mostly because it confirms that this children’s show is as good as I remember.  Definitely add this one to your list as kids and adults can all enjoy it together, even if they aren’t familiar with the tv show.

[Pictured; The gang's all back for another feature film!]

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Leap Year (2010) - 2 stars out of 10

Leap Year (2010) - 2 stars out of 10

“Leap Year” not only fails to avoid all of the chick flick stereotypes, but it embraces them.  The entire film is a long string of clich├ęs, complete with two opposite personalities forced together by circumstance, a roll down a muddy hill, missing a train by a minute, and the two opposites being forced to pretend that they are married.  Oh yeah, and then they're pressured into kissing in front of a group of people.  I wonder if the screenwriters ever saw "The Proposal"?  They even included the potential-romantic-moment-interrupted-by-a-slightly-intoxicated-vomit.  How about tossing in a she-left-before-he-got-to-tell-her-he-loved-her-but-then-the-audience-realizes-that-she-didn't-leave-on-the-bus-and-is-walking-out-of-the-store-behind-him moment?  The one stereotype that this film did get right was the iconic romantic speech that perfectly encapsulates their journey together.  I’ll admit that I cried and that they managed to create a truly magical moment.  The final 4 minutes almost made it worth watching the whole thing, but the film was way too much of a cookie cutter.  I was surprised to see that Amy Adams signed on for this script after breaking away from her “Enchanted” persona with amazing performances in “Julie & Julia” and “Doubt.”  I enjoyed the atmospheric setting and the inclusion of cultural songs like "Irish Rover" and "Tell My Ma," but they still managed to stereotype the Irish as jolly, quirky folk with a strong affinity for alcohol.  The final four minutes of “Leap Year” are fantastic, but I can’t recommend sitting through 90 minutes of fluff to get there.

[Pictured: I almost packed up and walked away after the first half hour of the movie, but I’m glad that I held on for the final 4 minutes]

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mad Doctor (1933) - 7 stars out of 10

The Mad Doctor (1933) - 7 stars out of 10
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBAlauy5cS8


An army of skeletons, a buzz saw blade about to cut a hero in half, and a mad doctor who tries to cut off a dog’s head and attach it to the body of a chicken to see if a puppy will hatch from its egg.  Sounds like a pretty demented horror film, right?  What if the hero was Mickey Mouse and the dog was Pluto?  “The Mad Doctor” may be the darkest thing ever created by Disney.  It seems extreme by today’s cartoon standards, and this short debuted in 1933!  Many theaters refused to show it and it was even banned in the United Kingdom.  Disney has never hesitated to create scary material that features the occult (just look at “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” The Haunted Mansion, and “The Watcher in the Woods”), but it is pretty shocking to see Mickey Mouse in this atmosphere.  If you love Pluto as much as I do, this cartoon is a little bit hard to watch.  The short is filled with classic cartoon gags, but used in a very dark light.  This is definitely not the happy-go-lucky Disney that we see on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”  Especially the giant spider skeleton.  Disney has always had a dark side and “The Mad Doctor” is a reminder that every animated film is not intended for small children.


[Pictured: Not something that you typically expect to see from Disney]

Monday, August 24, 2015

Headhunters (2012) - 8 stars out of 10

Headhunters (2012) - 8 stars out of 10

“Headhunters” is a gripping Norwegian thriller that begins with an art robbery and evolves into a lot more.  It is the sort of film that you may approach with skepticism but will quickly find yourself completely hooked.  “Extreme” is the definitely the word to describe this film.  There is a lot of blood and excrement, and the main character ends up being doused in it more often than you might expect.  Outside of the slightly over-the-top violence and unpleasant outhouse scene, this film has a solid story with good acting by all of its leads.  Aksel Hennie does a great job of capturing our empathy in spite of his character flaws.  Realistically, both leads are bad guys but they easily establish who is the protagonist and antagonist.  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was really intense, and I actually found Julie ├ślgaard to have the most impressive performance as Lotte.  The twists are subtle, allowing a slightly altered perspective to surprise you rather than a shocking revelation.  I wouldn’t put “Headhunters” on my list of favorite thrillers, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re tired of the cookie cutter American rendition.


[Pictured: There is no shortage of blood and intensity in this film]