Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Animated Film Catch-Up: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

For those just joining us, I'm in the middle of my Dr Pepper and Dortios fueled lost weekend which I call "Animated Film Catch-Up," in which I rent and watch all of the animated films I had a mild interest in seeing over the past year and a half.  We now come to the conclusion of this madcap weekend with....

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise:  Sony Pictures Animation, who brought us the Open Season films and Surf's Up.

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Starring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Ferris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Andy Samburg, Neil Patrick Harris, Lauren Graham, and Will Forte.

The Source of my Mild Interest:  When this film hit theatres in the fall of 2009, I was ready to write it off and not give it a second look, until I read the fine print and saw that the directors were Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.  Lord and Miller were responsible for the cult-classic animated series Clone High, of which I am a fan.  So, I started growing curious as to what Lord and Miller would cook up for the big screen.

Plot:  The tiny Atlantic island of Swallow Falls has had a rough time.  The only available to eat on the island are sardines, and people are sick of it.  Enter young Flint Lockwood, the island's resident misfit with designs on being an inventor.  Flint decides to save the town from their sardine diet by developing a machine that turns water into food.  Of course, when he fires up the machine, things go comically wrong and it winds up launched high into the atmosphere.  Up here, the machine turns the clouds into food, and it starts raining food on Swallow Falls.  This soon gains Flint the recognition and fame as an inventor that he so craved.  But, before you know it, the machine goes haywire.  Can Flint shut down his invention before the world is smothered by giant food?

What I Liked:  Much like Despicable Me earlier this weekend, this is a film redeemed by some very genuine and very funny comedy.  Andy Samburg does a delightful turn as the comedic sidekick "Baby Brent."  Just about every line he says is funny.  Not gonna lie, I do have a bit of a crush on Anna Ferris, and I thought she was delightful as Sam Sparks; the love interest; a budding young meteorologist who attempts to repress her genius-level intellect in order to fit the stereotype of the blonde, bubblehead weather girl.  And unlike similar films, the love interest actually does have her own character arc to work through, which is nice to see.  And then, in the second half of the film, where things do grow giant, it does turn into a wonderful spoof of disaster films. 

What I Didn't Like:  OK, let's see here, we have a misfit who finally hits the big time with his special skills, but things didn't go exactly as planned, so he winds up having to maintain the deception in order to keep his fame and win the girl.  Where have we seen this before?  Oh, yeah...DAMN NEAR EVERY OTHER ANIMATED FILM.  

Final Verdict:  Very cliched, but still very funny.

3 Nibs

And that brings us to the end of another Animated Film Catch-Up.  I'll see you again next year!

Animated Film Catch-Up: 9

For those just joining us, I'm in the middle of another "Animated Film Catch-Up."  This is when I rent all the animated movies I had a vague interest in seeing over the past year and a half, and watch them all in one Dr. Pepper and Doritos fueled lost weekend.  We start day 2 with....


Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise:  Starz Animation.  Umm...VeggieTales, believe it or not. 

Directed by Shane Acker

Starring the voices of Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, and Fred Tatasciore.

The Source of my Mild Interest:  Just like the last one in this series, Fantastic Mr. Fox, this is a film where I'm very mad at myself for having missed it in the theatre.  Dark, gritty, sci-fi tales are still a rarity in North American animation, and it's that rare occurance that you should really make the time for.  Based upon a critically acclaimed animated short film (also called 9), and with one of my favourite directors, Tim Burton, in the producer`s chair to help make this happen, everything about this film just looked like it could be something special.

Plot:  In a post-apocolyptic wasteland, a sentient rag doll named 9 awakens and tries to make sense of his surroundings.  The only thing he finds near him is a mysterious glowing talisman.  As he explores the wasteland, 9 discovers others of his kind, and also some strange mechanical beasts.  But, in his explorations, 9 inadvertantly awakens an ancient evil.  Can 9 and his new found friends stop this evil, and solve the mystery of what happened to humanity?

What I Liked:  The film is dark.  Danny Elfman contributed to a very good score.  This truly is a unique world that director Shane Acker created.  And it was nice seeing veteran voice actor Alan Oppenheimer, still best remembered as Man-at-Arms and Skeletor on He-Man all those years ago, stepping out of retirement to voice the scientist who sets the whole thing in motion. 

What I Didn't Like:  The plot does get a little repetitive after a while.  You can feel the padding, which is a common complaint for short films expanded into feature-length productions. 

Final Verdict:  I'm walking away from this one going, "Meh.  It was alright." 

3 Nibs

We're almost at the end!  Last one is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Guess who's back...back again.   U62: The Targ is back...tell a friend.

It's deja vu all over again in Episode 4.21: I See the Light, in which I once again open the show by explaining where I've been for the past few weeks.  I then go on to surmise that March is the crappiest month on record, I reveal one of guilty pleasures, and I geek out over the Captain America trailer!

Don't have a full show this week...I'm still not back up to 100%.  I'm running about 80%, but darn it, that's enough to put on a show!

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Animated Film Catch-Up: Fantastic Mr. Fox

For those just tuning in, you've caught me in the middle of my occasional "Animated Film Catch-Up," where I sit down and rent all the animated films I've had a mild interest in seeing, and watch them in one movie marathon weekend.  We've reached the halfway point, where we're watching....

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise:  20th Century Fox, who haven't made a film since Titan A.E. tanked in Y2K. 

Directed by Wes Anderson

Starring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, and Michael Gambon. 

The Source of my Mild Interest:  Truth is, this is the one film this weekend where I am very disappointed that I never got to see it in the theatre.  I love stop-motion animation.  It's a great medium, and it's still kind of rare to see a stop-motion animated film, so I like to support.  Plus, it's directed by Wes Anderson.  Wes freakin' Anderson!  The dude who done brought us The Royal Tennenbaums and The Life Aquatic and Rushmore!  He did an animated film!  How awesome is that?  Granted, I'm not a huge Anderson fanboy...put me down as a casual fan.  But still...he did an animated film. 

Plot:  When he finds out his wife is pregnant, Mr. Fox swears to retire from his dangerous occupation of raiding chicken coops.  A few years later, though, when they buy a fabulous tree home right across from the fabulous farms of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, Mr. Fox can't help but slip back into his old habits.  However, Mr. Fox's raids don't go unnoticed, and soon Boggis, Bunce, and Bean declare war on all the animals in the valley!  Can Mr. Fox come up with a plan to save his family and his friends? 

What I Liked:  Man o man, Wes Anderson's style is all over this film.  From the music choices, to the dialogue, to way the shots are set up...this is a Wes Anderson film done in animation.  That is most evident in the subplot as Mr. Fox's young son Ash tries to win his father's approval.  The style of stop-motion animation is neat, too, as it looks more like one of those British kids shows than the slick Hollywood productions of, say, Corpse Bride.  Some wonderfully offbeat music choices, too.

What I Didn't Like:  The film is so dimly lit, it's almost in sepia tone.  And Anderson's personal flairs do get a little distracting some times.  Like the scene with the wolf.  What was the point of that?

Final Verdict:  A great addition for Wes Anderson fans.  If you're looking for some light entertainment for the kids, this might be a little over their heads.

3 Nibs

And that brings us to the end of day 1.  We'll pick up again in the morning.

Animated Film Catch-Up: Despicable Me

For those just tuning in, I'm doing my annual marathon screening of every animated film I had a mild interest in seeing over the past few years.  I call this my Animated Film Catch-Up.  We continue now with....

Despicable Me

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise Illumination Entertainment.  Umm...this is their first film!

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russel Brand, Will Arnet, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, and Julie Andrews

The Source of My Mild Interest:  Well, we got a new kid on the block for animation studios.  Illumination Entertainment, made of some former Blue Sky and Dreamworks executives, where they promptly set up shop at Universal Pictures to be Universal's animation provider.  Add to it some shockingly good reviews (including some saying that it was robbed for not getting a Best Animated Film Oscar nomination), and I figured it would be worth checking out.

Plot:  Gru is one of the world's foremost super-villains, and he's finally come up with a plot that will make him #1.  He's going to steal...the Moon!  But in order to accomplish this, he needs a shrink ray, in order to shrink down the Moon and make it pocket-sized.  Now, the shrink ray is currently in the possession of his arch-rival, the villain Vector.  When Gru discovers that Vector has a sweet tooth, Gru figures he'll adopt three little girls, and when the girls sell cookies to Vector, he can steal the shrink ray!  However, these three little girls promptly turn Gru's life upside down.  Will Gru be able to steal the Moon and become the world's top super villain?  Or will these little girls melt his heart before then?

What I Liked:  This is a genuinely funny movie.  And it doesn't come from pop culture references!  It relies quite heavily on good ol' slapstick.  There's some great voice acting going on, too.  Steve Carrel came up with some kind of weird accent for Gru, but it works.  There's some neat concepts, like "the Bank of Evil," which provides funding for super-villains.  And throw in a great jazzy, hip-hop flavoured score, and it's just cool.

What I Didn't Like:  Plot, as you can imagine, is very cliched.  The plot actually isn't that strong, as there's several asides done strictly for comedic purposes.  That gets a little cloying after a while. 

Final Verdict:  It's a cute film that brought the funny.  I kind of liked it.

3 Nibs

I could squeeze in one more before the evening is done...I'm going with Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Animated Film Catch-Up: How to Train Your Dragon

For those just joining us, I'm currently in the middle of another Animated Film Catch-Up, in which I rent all the animated movies I had a mild interested in seeing and finally see them.  For 2011, we're starting off with....

How to Train Your Dragon

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise:  Dreamworks Animation; Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.

Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois

Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Jonah Hill. 

The Source of My Mild Interest:  It's well-known that I'm a Pixar fanboy.  I think I started looking down on Dreamworks when I saw Shrek 2, which I still maintain is the most godawful animated film ever made.  But you know, How to Train Your Dragon got so many good reviews.  It's phenomenal how many good reviews it got.  I dare say it's Dreamworks best-reviewed film to date.  Something like that, I just had to check it out.  Plus, also, it was directed by Chris Sanders.  Sanders directed the Disney film Lilo and Stitch, and when he quit Disney and set up shop at Dreamworks, it was a quite well-publicized event.  It's one of those things where I'm still not sure if he quit or if he was fired, but he's at Dreamworks now and How to Train Your Dragon was his first assignment. 

Plot:  The Viking village of Berk is constantly under attack by dragons.  One young Viking named Hiccup wants nothing more than to be one of the dragon slayers, but he's wimpy, nerdy, and a bit of an inventor.  During one raid, one of Hiccup's inventions actually manages to wound a dragon, a viscious and feared night fury.  Hiccup finds it, but can't bring himself to kill it.  He begins nursing him back to health, and dubs him Toothless.  The knowledge Hiccup gains with Toothless enables him to become a skilled dragon fighter, as he learns how to easily pacify dragons.  But, a war is brewing, as Stoick, the leader of Berk (and Hiccup's father), vows to find the dragons' nest and end this once and for all.  Soon, Hiccup is torn between his father and his new friend.  Can Hiccup do what it takes to bring peace to the Vikings and the dragons? 

What I Liked:  I have to agree with several other blogs I've read online.  The cynicism that once dominated all Dreamworks films seems to finally be melting away, and in its place, we're getting genuine emotion.  Don't get me wrong, the plot is still formulaic as hell, but I actually found myself caring for these characters.  The struggle between Hiccup and Stoick, as they actually struggle to find a connection as father and son, is very genuine.  Plus, there is some fantastic animation at play, especially in the flying scenes.  And, as I remarked when I saw the very first trailer, I like that Toothless was very obviously modeled after a cat.

What I Didn't Like:  As I said, the plot is formulaic as hell.  Dreamworks really knows what works for them, and they don't deviate that much.  And for the life of me, I still can't figure out how the Vikings are Scottish and all their kids are American. 

Final Verdict:  Wow.  When I did this a year ago with Kung Fu Panda, I was pleasantly surprised, I really enjoyed MegaMind, and How to Train Your Dragon flat-out blew me away.  Nice to see that Dreamworks is finally starting to kick things up a bit. 

3.5 Nibs

Time to break for supper.  We'll probably do Despicable Me next.  

Animated Film Catch-Up: 2011

I've been plotting to do this for a while now, and since I'm so darn bored this weekend, this seemed like the right time.

It's time for the latest installment of Animated Film Catch-Up!

Here's what I'm doing. I love animated films. There was once a time in my life when I'd run out to the theatre and see the latest animated film that just came out.  But then, something happened.  The marketplace started getting flooded with animated films.  And most of them were just talking animals making pop culture references.  It became boring.  It became repetitive.  It became expensive.

So, I started doing Animated Film Catch-Up.  About every year and a half or so, I'll head down to the local video store, and I'll rent all the animated films I had a mild interest in going to see.  And then, I'll watch them all in one Dr Pepper and Dorito-fueled lost weekend! 

On the list for this weekend:
  • 9
  • Fantastic Mr Fox
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Despicable Me
  • How to Train Your Dragon
As always, I'll be tossing up reviews here on the blog as soon as I'm done watching them.

I think I'll work my way from the bottom of this list up to the top.  That means we're starting with How to Train Your Dragon.  See you in 2 hours or so!

Captain America Trailer!

Heck, yeah!

I've blogged about this in the past, but I've always had a soft spot for Captain America.  When I was a kid, I got a Captain America action figure for my birthday one year, and we were inseperable for the rest of the summer. 

I'm also a big fan of the concept of "superhero period pieces"...you know, a superhero movie set in another time.  That's why The Rocketeer and The Shadow are two favourite guilty pleasures of mine.  It's also why I'm somewhat curious about the new X-Men film coming out this summer, as it's set in the 1960s.  So that's why I was doubly thrilled when they announced that the Captain America movie would be a rollicking World War II adventure, featuring Cap taking on the Nazis.

Chris Evans, who already earned his superhero cred by playing the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films, takes on the role of Steve Rogers, the 90-pound weakling whose deemed unfit for military service, but makes him the perfect candidate for the super-soldier program.  Injected with the super-soldier serum and zapped with the activating Vita-Rays, Rogers is elevated to the peak of physical condition, and joins the Allied efforts as Captain America.

Hugo Weaving, still best remembered as the villainous Agent Smith in The Matrix Trilogy, takes on the role of Captain America's arch-enemy, the Nazi commander known as the Red Skull.  In the comics, the Red Skull goes on to lead the terrorist organization known as HYDRA.  HYDRA also makes an appearance in the film, and this time they're depicted as being a Nazi splinter group. 

Rounding out the supporting cast we have Tommy Lee Jones a Col. Chester Philips, the military officer who is Captain America's CO; Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine, the scientist who develops the super soldier process; Sebastian Stan as Captain America's sidekick Bucky Barnes, and Hayley Atwell as Captain America's girlfriend Peggy Carter. 

For connections to the other Marvel Films, Dominic Cooper will be playing Howard Stark, Tony Stark's father.  Turns out Stark Industries developed a lot of the technology used in the super soldier process.  And Samuel L. Jackson will one again be making a cameo as Nick Fury. 

Behind the camera, the director is Joe Johnston, who gave us such films as The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, and, most recently, the remake of The Wolf Man.  Johnston has said that the one movie he hoped to emulate in making Captain America was Raiders of the Lost Ark, as that is also an adventure film set during World War II that used all the movie making technology available in the present day.

One bit of movie news that raised a lot of eyebrows was the announcement that Alan Menken, who wrote the songs for such classic Disney films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, will be composing a song for the film.  The popular speculation is that, early in the film, the US Army determines Captain America to be too valuable an asset to risk losing on the battlefield, so they send him out as part of a USO Show.  It's rumored that Menken will be writing the song for that USO show.  The film score proper is going to be composed by Alan Silvestri.

Captain America: The First Avenger hits theatres on July 22. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life's Little Disappointments

So, for a Friday night movie, I thought I'd fire up The Spy Who Loved Me...generally regarded to be Roger Moore's finest hour as James Bond.

But my DVD wouldn't play in my player.  Any of my players.  I'd never run into this problem before, and couldn't figure out why.  The only thing I could think of was that old problem known as disc rot.

So it seems I'm in need of a new The Spy Who Loved Me DVD...and, wouldn't you know it, it's currently out of print.  Looks like I've got to wait for the new James Bond movie to be released before it gets reissued.

So I find myself online, catching up on movie trailers.  And sadly, I find myself coming face-to-face with several of my expected disappointments for 2011.

First up, as you know, I'm a huge Pixar fanboy, and always look forward to their latest films.  However, I'm just sighing and shrugging my shoulders at the latest trailer for Pixar's offering in 2011, Cars 2.

It's been widely reported why Cars -- generally considered Pixar's lesser effort -- is getting a sequel.  It's because, in terms of merchandise sales, it's Pixar's #1 film.  And while a Pixar trailer generally leaves me tingling in anticipation...there's just nothing here giving me a tingle.

Another movie that I've been mildly looking forward to, is the live-action movie version of The Smurfs.  When I was a kid, The Smurfs was what always kicked off Saturday morning.  And I still maintain that, if a Smurfs movie were completely animated and they stuck to its medieval setting, it would be a pretty good adventures film.

But it's a live-action affair, with the Smurfs being thrust into the real world.  It looks to be on the same level of the live-action Alvin and the Chipmunk movies.  I still think that Hank Azaria as Gargamel is inspired casting, though.

Apparently that Scottish smurf is Hefty.  Why did they make Hefty Scottish?  That seems like such a random choice to make.

So, yeah.  Nothing but disappointment on this here Friday night.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Road to Red Deer

When I was a kid, long road trips seemed to begin with spending an evening making a mix tape, because it would be difficult to bring along all my albums.  Now that technology has advanced "mix tape" seems to have been replaced with "MP3 player playlist."  

A blog I follow just put a posting out, asking for favourite road trip tunes.  I posted what I think is the bestest playlist I've ever devised for my MP3 player.  Since she just shared it on Facebook, I figured I'd make a blog entry about it. 

My original posting follows:

I have devised the greatest playlist ever for my MP3 player. I call it "Road to Red Deer," because I find myself driving down to Red Deer lots for family functions.

The list:

To Boldly Go/End Credits (from Star Trek) - Michael Giacchino

Speed Racer (from Speed Racer) - Michael Giacchino

Go Speed Racer Go (film edit) - Ali Dee and the Deekompressors

Chelsea Dagger - The Fratellis

So What - Pink

If I Never See Your Face Again - Maroon 5 ft. Rhianna

Fratelli Chase (from The Goonies) - Dave Grusin

Can't Buy Me Love - The Beatles

A Hard Day's Night - The Beatles

I'm on a Boat - The Lonely Island

Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado ft. Timbaland

Hot n Cold - Katy Perry

Stay Home - Self

What I've Done - Linkin Park

New Divide - Linkin Park

The Touch - Stan Bush

Who's There - Smash Mouth

Batmobile to the Airport (from Batman [1966 film]) - Nelson Riddle

Theme from Back to the Future - Alan Silvestri

Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane

(end original posting)

I've since bought new albums, and would love to add to this list, but I'm too afraid of disrupting its awesomeness.  It also just happens to be the exact length from the south side of Edmonton to downtown Red Deer on Highway 2. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Upcoming Dreamworks

So.  DreamWorks.  That "other" computer animation studio.  As you know, I'm a huge Pixar fanboy, and I've never been too impressed with DreamWorks.  It all happened when I saw Shrek 2, which as I've blogged many times before, is worst god damn piece of crap animated movie I've ever seen.

But DreamWorks seems to be turning it around.  When I finally got around to renting Kung Fu Panda, I was delightfully surprised.  How to Train Your Dragon got glowing reviews, but I haven't rented it yet.  And I went to see MegaMind in the theatre, because I love superheroes in animation, and again, I enjoyed it.

A vlog I like called the Nostalgia Chick summed it up pretty good.  DreamWorks first few films seemed to carry the attitude of "SCREW YOU, DISNEY!"  But now that DreamWorks is finally getting over that, their films are starting to increase in quality.  They're still not Pixar, but it's nice to see DreamWorks finally making an effort.

(And it's NOT nice that Pixar seems to be taking a few steps backward.  Have you seen the Cars 2 trailer?  That'll be another blog entry.)

Anyway, Dreamworks just announced their entire schedule through the end of 2014, so I thought I'd take a look at the slate and offer my thoughts on it.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Guess who's back...back again.   U62: The Targ is back...tell a friend.

For Episode 4.19: Back to the Beginning, I explain where I've been for the past few weeks, we talk about some freeze frame moments, and I begin plotting my next animated film catch-up!

Don't have a full show this week...I was so creatively drained, but I felt like I owed you something, so here's what I threw together.  If that's not a glowing endorsement, I don't know what is.

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