5) Bo Tat in Operation Dumbo Dro
4) Richard Parker in Life of Pi
3) Babe in Babe
2) Mr. Jingles in The Green Mile
1) Artax in The Neverending Story
My mom is really excited about seeing The Zookeeper's Wife and I don't know how to tell her that she should probably lower her expectations. Not only is it currently rocking a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, but this movie has no business being released in March unless it's bad. You would think a movie that's based on a true story, about Nazis, and starring Jessica Chastain would be released in November or December for awards season. I didn't get a chance to see the movie so instead I'm going to talk about my five favorite movies featuring live wild animals. Please note this list contains no cats and no dogs because there are a ton of movies with cats and dogs and that’s a list in and of itself.
5) Bo Tat in Operation Dumbo Dro
I know this movie shouldn't be on the list. I should probably have put Free Willy in its place, but when Operation Dumbo Drop was released on VHS I must have watched it 100 times. For whatever reason, watching Danny Glover, Ray Liotta, and Denis Leary trying to move an elephant was hilarious. The elephant was played by Tai, a female Asian elephant that has had several cinematic roles, including Larger Than Life and Water for Elephants. If you by chance happen to see this movie sometime in the near future don't tell me whether it holds up or not. (I already know there's no way it holds up just let me keep living in this lie.)
4) Richard Parker in Life of Pi
Life of Pi is the 2014 movie of a boy who is shipwrecked and stuck on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Now obviously, there are no scenes of the young actor with the tiger in the boat; instead, there's a lot of CGI used. The CGI artists brought in four real life tigers to base the computer animated tiger’s movements off of, and to mix in shots used when the real tiger was on set. This movie is a crowning achievement in visual mastery – too bad the tiger was treated like shit on set, having almost drowned during filming. There are reports that the Animal Humane Association representative was having a romantic relationship with one of the producers and she agreed to downplay the incident. Poor Richard Parker.
3) Babe in Babe
The pig who dreamed of being a sheepdog. The movie was produced and written by George Miller. Yes, the same George Miller who did all of the Mad Max movies. He says he waited ten years to get the movie done so that the special effects would be just right. It was worth the wait because the movie has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, won an Oscar for the special effects, and the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy. Babe is the movie that began the trend of having talking animals in movies, for better or worse. Since pigs grow so fast Babe was played by 48 different pigs. It really is a charming story, if for nothing else then I just can't get enough of James Cromwell saying, "That'll do pig. That'll do."
2) Mr. Jingles in The Green Mile
The incarcerated mouse Mr. Jingles, beyond being adorable, is an important part of the plot to The Green Mile. Mr. Jingles lives with Eduard Delacroix in prison who believes one day his mouse will join the circus. After Percy steps on him, it is the first time we see John Coffey's healing abilities, and if you didn't feel for Mr. Jingles while he was going through his life and death ordeal then you are a monster. Over 50 mice were used to play Mr. Jingles and some of them were quite ornery. There is one scene where Tom Hanks is seen wiping off his shirt while the mouse sits on him because the mouse pooped on him. You don't poop on Tom Hanks; Tom Hanks is a national treasure.
1) Artax in The Neverending Story
No, I'm sorry but Falcor doesn’t make this list. The number one spot goes to Atreyu's horse, Artax. This is one of the first movies I remember really getting worked up over. And how could you not, watching Artax just give up in the Swamp of Sadness? Artax is not in the movie for long, but his impact was enormous on a young Zach Stone. Also, contrary to rumors on the internet, the horse did not die during filming. It wasn't treated very well while it was stuck in the sand, but it didn't die. In fact, the horse was given to the young actor who played Atreyu, but due to costs had to be left in Germany, where he lived a long horsey life.
Power Rangers Reviewed
I will freely admit I was a big fan of the Power Rangers growing up. Obviously, my favorite Power Ranger was Zack because he had a sweet first name. I made my parents go to the Family Toy Warehouse and get me Power Ranger toys for Hanukkah. I had Power Ranger coloring books and created my own weird monsters; I was all in. Until the Power Rangers movie came out. I was 9 years old, and even then I knew it was too much. Thus I exited my Power Rangers phase. All of which is to say I was interested in a reboot, but I didn't get my hopes up.
The 2017 version plays a lot like the original series: five misfit teens discover strange rocks and are given the gift of becoming powerful warriors. Somehow this small town of Angel Grove is the epicenter of an alien crisis led by Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) who is looking for a powerful crystal to help conquer the world. The movie plays as an origin story. We find out how these five kids get their powers, delve into some new mythology of the Ranger universe; there are training montages, the whole nine yards. But it makes me question who exactly this movie is for.
I don't think it's being made for kids, receiving a PG-13 rating and using way more language and violence than a mother of an 8 or 9-year-old may be comfortable with. I also don't know how fans of the original series will take it, as the movie lacks any of the humor or over the top kitsch that the series had. I guess they were banking on fans of the original wanting a darker, grittier storyline, but the Rangers don’t even suit up until about the 90-minute mark.
Never forget the Power Rangers once fought a rapping pumpkin
For a 90s action series that always featured weird prosthetic costumes, this movie took itself really seriously. There are very few moments of levity, and those few moments came from Bill Hader as the plot-explaining robot Alpha-5, and Elizabeth Banks.
One thing the movie does do well is character development. The five main actors all have good chemistry with one another and you get to know what motivates them, which is pretty unexpected in a Power Rangers movie.
The movie is also considerably less racist than the show, which is a step in the right direction. They have a black and an asian actor as two of the five main characters but they are not cast as the black and yellow rangers. The team feels very inclusive overall, as one of the kids is on the spectrum, while another has questions about her sexuality. There really is something for every person to identify with in one of these Rangers.
If I were making a Power Rangers movie I would want it to be campy fun, not life or death battles. I don't want Bryan Cranston playing Zordon if he is just going to yell at everybody the whole time (fun fact: did you know the Blue Ranger from the original is named Billy Cranston, after Bryan Cranston?) I liked hearing the original theme song in the movie as I think any fan would. But this movie may have been better off focusing on dinosaurs, Megazords, and Goldars rather than the mundane, teenage stuff. D+
Beauty And The Beast Reviewed
My parents are in town this weekend and one of the big things I promised to do was to take them to see an early screening of Beauty and the Beast. I thought that they would love this and that I would be a hero for taking them, but my Mom hasn't been to a movie theater since I left for college, and I had to spend a significant amount of time convincing her she wouldn't get nauseous watching the movie on a 3D IMAX screen.
I love the animated version of Beauty and the Beast. I believe it is a perfect movie and may very well still be the best animated movie ever made. Seriously, if you can make it out of this review without any of the songs getting stuck in your head I'll give you a nickel. So how does one improve upon a perfect movie? You really can't; the best you can do is hope to match it and at times the new version does just that.
I don't think anyone wanted to see a shot for shot remake of the animated classic. And this new version is not that. While the main thrust of the story stays faithful to the source material, what director Bill Condon provides are some modern updates to our favorite lines and a little depth and background to better understand how we got here. But not all of the additions work; scenes that take place before Belle meets the Beast make the movie drag, however, scenes that happen after help provide depth and shading to our characters.
I will admit I wasn't the most accepting viewer at times. Any time I heard a new song it was usually met with crossed arms. While not all of them won me over, others like "Evermore" left my heart fluttering and me muttering 'this isn't so bad I guess.' To no one's surprise, the musical sequences are the movie's best. And who would've guessed that anyone would be able to match the beauty of Angela Lansbury singing the title song, but this new version brought tears to my mother's eyes –so I would say Emma Thompson did a pretty good job.
In fact, the entire cast was fantastic. Emma Watson embodies everything that Belle stands for, while Dan Stevens makes a terrific monster. But for the movie to really work the supporting cast needed to bring the levity and they were more than up to the task. Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Ewan McGregor, and Ian McKellen are wonderful as the inanimate objects that run the house. It is these actors along with the Gaston (Luke Evans) and LeFou (Josh Gad) who help propel the movie to the heights it reaches.
I can't believe that it is 2017 and Disney still had to come out and make a big statement that one of the characters in their movie is gay. But perhaps the most frustrating aspect is that the reveal happens so fast that if you don’t know what you are looking for you would miss it. After all that kerfuffle I wish they had made him MORE gay.
I see movies all the time which is probably why I spend most of my reviews nitpicking. But my Mom thought it was better than the original. When I asked her about the movie she said, "I loved it all - except for the wolves. You would think in this day and age Walt Disney could spend the money and make the wolves look good." For those who only go the movies once or twice a year — count this as a must-see. It’s a faithful adaptation that may not be perfect but will leave the audience enchanted. B+
Kong: Skull Island REviewed
When I was growing up my brother loved the old Godzilla and King Kong movies. He had a giant collection of these movies but he preferred watching the later ones, when his favorite monsters were facing off against enemy monsters. If Godzilla was the antagonist of the movie it was less fun than when he was the hero helping protect the town and kicking the bad guys' butts. I’m happy to let my brother know that in Kong: Skull Island there is a little bit of both.
In 2005 when Peter Jackson did his remake of King Kong it was a loving homage to the original and while critics mostly liked it, the movie was a disappointment at the box office. I think the reason for that is the original story isn't the movie people want to see. Sure, the original is the more iconic story with Kong climbing the Empire State Building and lines like, "It was beauty killed the beast." But audiences want to see King Kong fight and the latest movie has that in spades.
Kong: Skill Island takes place as the Vietnam War is coming to an end in 1973, and a secret scientific organization called Monarch is trying to discover the mysteries and monsters of the world. This mission leads them to Skull Island, where King Kong rules the jungle. But he's not even the worst or most dangerous thing on the island.
There is no messing around with this movie, no waiting till the third act for the monster to finally reveal himself. As soon as the crew gets on the island King Kong starts throwing trees at soldiers' helicopters and making them explode. The CGI and visual effects are great; they are what we've come to expect in our modern blockbuster movies. The scenes show off frantic visuals and help set the pace for more fights for our soldiers.
I love a good action scene as much as the next guy but it can't be the only thing in the story; luckily this movie has an all-star cast. John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, and John C. Reilly make up a veteran core of actors, and each one of their characters are certifiably insane. They fulfill all the long-standing tropes for the monster genre, including the mad scientist and angry war general, but each plays it so over the top it propels the movie to the right amount of crazy.
Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston are also the in the movie and serve as the de facto protagonists. They play a wartime photojournalist and a mercenary jungle tracker, respectively, and serve as the heart of the movie. Their job was to make sure we were emotionally connected to Kong and to speak to the evils of violence and war – but I didn't care about any of that, not in a movie featuring a giant CGI ape. Just cut back to John C. Reilly saying crazy things and Samuel L. Jackson trying to swear as much as a PG-13 movie will allow him and I'll be all set.
As a bonus, since the movie is set in the 70s and produced by Warner Brothers you know the soundtrack is going to be good–and it is.
This was the best movie I didn't know I needed to see. I had no expectations, but it still surprised me. Kong is just a dumb, fun action movie that is probably better-suited for a summer release alongside other dumb blockbusters, but here in March, the movie stands alone as a great popcorn flick. Kong: Skull Island is kind of a perfect reflection to the madness going on in the world. Just featuring more giant gorillas punching helicopters. B
P.S. Make sure you stay to the bitter end, there is a cool after-credits scene that fans of the genre will want to see.
So I wasn't able to see Logan this week because they weren't screening it in Cincinnati, but the movie has a 93 on Rotten Tomatoes, so here I sit, shaking with anticipation. In that vein, I decided to count down my top five favorite Hugh Jackman movies.
But this was not as easy as I expected. For some reason, I thought Hugh Jackman would have been in more movies. He got his first big break in 2000 and since then he's only been in 34 movies and a lot of them do not stand the test of time. But since I need my adamantium fix, I decided to stick with the list and see where it would take me.
Like I said, Jackman doesn't have a lot of movies out there but I will defend this one with the best of them because Chappie made me laugh. The graphics were great, both the acting and the story were completely over the top, and Jackman was great as the cocky villain; it feels like he should be playing that role a lot more than he does. The story felt reminiscent of Robocop or Short Circuit equally in its technology aspect and its humor.
I know a lot of people aren’t down with this movie and I understand your hesitation - it's long, at times it is poorly paced, and some of the casting choices are questionable. But Hugh Jackman is solid as Jean Valjean. I will be the first to admit I have seen this show three times on stage, so the chances of me not liking the movie were slim, especially since director Tom Hooper stuck so closely to the story. I'll give Hooper credit—he took a big chance by having his actors sing live on camera and not all of them can pull it off (sorry Russell), but Jackman takes the entirety of this movie and puts it on his shoulders for the good and the bad. Overall the movie looks great; it's beautifully shot, and I find it hard to believe that you didn't get at least a little emotional while watching.
X-Men Days of Future Past
After some duds like X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine I was hesitant to go back, I didn't want to get hurt again. But X-Men: First Class was actually pretty good and the best thing it did was lay the groundwork for X-Men: Days of Future Past, which connected the first and second generation of X-Men characters in plot that played out like comic book nerd heaven. The movie had every opportunity to be a jumbled mess with all that time travel, but it wasn't. A credit to Brian Singer who works well with Jackman, who in turn is great playing off the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen. And let's not forget that Quicksilver scene.
Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors out there and I feel like a hipster saying it, but I liked him before The Dark Knight for movies like this, Memento, Batman Begins, and even Insomnia. You could see the beginnings of something great in this movie. It has a fantastic plot; it's dark and has terrific character development, with a little twist at the end. If the story and the acting aren't convincing none of it works, but Nolan pulls it off to near-perfection. So close, in fact, that Nolan would go on to make a perfect film his next time around.
X2: X-Men United
Given the choice I may actually watch the original more often, but X2 is a better movie. For starters, they were able to raise the stakes in the story with some interesting social commentary. That's one thing the X-Men franchise has done throughout its history: dealt with xenophobia, marginalization, and race. With the success of the original, X2 got a bigger budget and it showed in the effects, including Nightcrawler’s amazing opening scene. Comic book nerds also rejoiced at the ending of the movie, which alluded to the Phoenix, one of the greatest X-Men storylines of all time. At that time, we didn't know that X-Men: The Last Stand would be such a big pile of shit, but the potential for something great was there and we all walked out of the theater hopeful. It's that feeling of giddiness that puts this in the number one spot.