Posts Tagged ‘disney

08
Jul
10

Is “Prince of Persia” Better than its Game-sake?

Who knew Disney could be so violent?

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, and Alfred Molina. Directed by Mike Newell

“Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” is the latest of the video game based movies-genre. It’s not bad but this is a movie which means that within six months after it’s released on video it’ll pretty much be forgotten. It’s not going to hit the iconic status of such previous fare as “Cloak and Dagger,” or even the first “Mortal Kombat” movie but in its own “sands of time” it may be reflected on better than say, “Silent Hill,” “Doom,” or even “Super Mario Brothers” (which has a cult status as being incredibly horrible in its own right).

Turning back to ye olden days of lore we go back to the ancient Persian empire. The story kicks-off with a young Dastan (William Foster), a homeless kid who defends a friend from the royal guard. When King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) takes notice of him, he adopts him into his family.

Cut to the now where Dastan (Gyllenhaal) is grown and living with royal blood brothers Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle). A council meeting is held between the three in regards to invading the holy city of Alamut. Word has it that the city has a weapons forgery and while Alamut has not been taken for at least a thousand years, there’s a first time for everything. Without the King’s consent the three brothers mount an attack on the holy city.

Still the quick-thinking street-thief, Dastan takes his small group, scales the eastern wall, and gets in. A short matter of time later Alamut is taken for the kingdom of Nasraf. Alamut’s protector, Princess Tamina, prays at an altar. Tus sends men to find the weapons forgery which Tamina claims does not exist.

A ceremony is given to King Sharaman, turning the city over to him. At first he’s dismayed that his sons have taken over the holy city but accepts it from them, wanting to unite the kingdoms. During the ceremony Dastan presents to him a religious cloak. Sharaman’s brother Nizam (Kingsley) puts it on him. Sharaman gives Princess Tamina to Dastan as his first wife. Within moments Dastan’s good fortune is shattered: the cloak is poisoned and Dastan is blamed for the King’s death. Dastan and Tamina are now on the run for their lives.

What Dastan doesn’t know, and Tamina is reluctant to tell him, is that the dagger he is carrying is special. How special? It contains the sand of time and when the button on the hilt is pressed the holder goes back in time for one minute (great for parlor tricks). This comes in handy several times however this is a limited supply of “correct” sand to use in it. Tamina steals it back, then Dastan gets a hold of it again, etc. back and forth.

Along the way they encounter Sheik Amar (Molina), an entrepreneur of sorts who runs a city of cutthroat thieves. Their main source of entertainment is ostrich racing. Realizing Dastan and Tamina have a heavy bounty on their heads Amar and his company continues tracking them after they make it out of the city.
And let’s not forget about the real “man behind the curtain”: Nazim. The story of how Nazim saved Sharaman is a pivotal point to the entire movie (and I won’t give it away) but that, and the sands of time, put the entire future of the kingdom into jeopardy. Just sayin’

So, how is the movie? Well, there’s action, adventure, and enough PG-13 violence to go around for a while. I was actually surprised that Disney would show people sword-fighting, getting stuck by arrows, etc. But, maybe it’s a new Disney. I’m not complaining mind you and if “The Black Hole” is any indication of where Disney can go as far as the elements of story, then “PoP” is pretty tame by comparison.

Gyllenhaal has his workout cut-out for him as he jumps, slides, runs, scrambles, fights, punches, kicks, runs up walls, across roofs, ducks, dives, dodges, and whatever other action-verbiage I can’t think up right now. Honestly, it really does seem at times as if he’s in the video game. A few times I wanted to bust out my invisible controller and keep punching the buttons.

Again, it’s not bad. Watchable. Enjoyable even. Someone called it “cheesy” and I disagree; it’s limited by being what it is –a video game movie. I can’t expect Shakespeare out of it anymore than I can expect the same from a superhero movie. There are going to be parts exactly like a video game and yes, it’s largely plotless.
Gemma Arterton (last seen in “Quantum of Solace”) is beautiful and plays her part well. Alfred Molina seems to be having some fun with his role. And should you ever find yourself in a movie in which Ben Kingsley is in it with you, chances are he’s the bad guy.

My grade: B-

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

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30
Oct
09

November Movie Releases

“The Box” – James Marsden and Cameron Diaz are a couple with a kid living in dire circumstances when a mysterious stranger gives them a box that has a button on it. Pressing the button will reward them with $1 million however, it will also kill someone else in the world they do not know. Based on the Richard Matheson story, “Button, Button.” Decide if you will press it on November 6, 2009

“Disney’s A Christmas Carol” – Jim Carrey voices Ebeneezer Scrooge in this CG take on the Dickens classic. Also stars the voices of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Tom Hanks, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Opens November 6, 2009

“The Fourth Kind” – Milla Jovovich in a thriller based on the real-life story of a town in Alaska where people have been disappearing and where they fear there’s a government coverup. Opens November 6, 2009

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” – Ewan McGregor stars as a down-on-his-luck reporter who gets the inside scoop on a secret psychic military unit. Also stars George Clooney and Kevin Spacey. Based on the 2004 book of the same name. Opens November 6, 2009

“Precious” – Based on the “Push” novel about a black girl who grows up being abused by her mother, raped by her father, and ends up poor, angry, illiterate, unloved, and unnoticed. Opens November 6, 2009

“2012” – It’s not the year 2525, but it’s just as disastrous… Roland Emmerich is behind this apocalyptic movie staring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, and Oliver Platt. Opens November 13, 2009

“Pirate Radio” – Set in the 60’s. A group of DJ’s give a new meaning to “the boat that rocked” by broadcasting rock music from a boat in the North Seas while most of the broadcasters in England are still clinging to jazz. Stars Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gemma Arterton, Emma Thompson, and David Frost. Opens November 13, 2009

“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” – Remake/reboot of Harvey Keitel movie finds Nic Cage in the title role as a no-holds-barred cop as crooked as the crooks he takes down. This time it’s set in New Orleans. Opens November 20, 2009

“The Blind Side” – A young, African-American teenager from a broken home is taken in by a well-to-do white family. He must rise up against new challenges in his life and the family finds out more about themselves as well. Stars Sandra Bullock. Opens November 20, 2009

“New Moon” – Episode Two of the “Twilight Saga” based on the books. Opens November 20, 2009

“Planet 51” – When an astronaut lands on a planet that fears alien invasion, he has to avoid capture and reclaim his ship to return to Earth. With the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman, and John Cleese. Opens November 20, 2009

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” – Based on the Roald Dahl about a sly fox who lives in idyllic life that slips back into his thieving ways. This agitates the farmers and endangers the animal kingdom which must bond together in order to survive. Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman. Opens November 25, 2009

“Ninja Assassin” – Asian pop star Rain is one of the world’s deadliest assassins, taken from birth and trained in a secret society. When his best friend dies he breaks free, vanishes, and waits to exact his revenge. Opens November 25, 2009

“Old Dogs” – John Travolta and Robin Williams are two business execs on the verge of the Biggest Business Deal of Their Lives and have to take care of 6-year-old twins. Uh, yeah. Opens November 25, 2009

“The Princess and the Frog” – Disney’s re-imagining of “The Princess and the Frog,” taking place this time in Louisiana. Opens November 25, 2009

“The Road” – Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel about a father and son walking the desolate earth of a post-apocalyptic future, armed with a single pistol. Stars Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Robert Duvall. Opens November 25, 2009

17
Jun
09

Movie Review: Up

up

 

The Spirit of Adventure.

Starring the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Delroy Lindo, and John Ratzenberger. Directed by Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson

Nice, charming, amusing and dare I say, delightful.

Carl Fredricksen (Asner) was just a kid when two important events occurred: his boyhood hero Charles Muntz (Plummer), world explorer extraordinaire, is ostracized and called a fraud when scientists question the bones of a rare bird he returned with. He subsequently returns to South America vowing to only return to Stateside after he has captured the elusive, rare bird. Also, Carl meets fellow Muntz-fan and future wife Ellie. In a silent montage we watch Carl and Ellie grow up, get married, buy a house, try to have kids, Carl become a balloon salesman, and the death of Ellie.

Carl is now 78-years-old and the home he rebuilt and grew old in is now the only small plot of land not owned by a corporation planning to build. Aside from loneliness his life is interrupted by the construction crew and Wilderness Scout Russell (Nagai), who pesters Fredricksen in order to earn his Elderly Assistance badge (we didn’t have that in Boy Scouts). When an altercation with Carl’s mailbox leads to a further altercation with a construction crew member, Carl is sent to court for damages and is sentenced to spend his days at Shady Oaks retirement community.

On the day he is to be picked up Carl releases thousands of balloons that are strung through the chimney. It’s up, up, and away as he heads to Paradise Falls in South America just like his boyhood hero, Charles Muntz. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned because while in mid-air, there’s a knock at the door. Russell had hid under his front porch and would like to come inside. Thus begins a friendship between two unlikely people who need each other more than they would admit; Carl needs someone to help him out on his adventure and Russell needs a father-figure in replace of his dad who left his mother for another named Phyllis (a nod to the “Mary Tyler Moore” show). Along the way the duo become a group adopting a talking dog named Dug and the rare bird that Muntz had went to retrieve (which Russell nicknames “Kevin”). Matters get worse when Carl and Russell meet Muntz himself who will do anything, including murder, in order to capture the bird.

This movie works on sheer simplicity; there are no hidden layers, the love story was laid out within the first 10 minutes, etc. It’s about two characters whose growth comes through adventure and it’s better than I thought it would be.

Thinking back there weren’t any certain scenes better than the others; the movie is pretty even. I watched this in Disney Digital 3-D and the color was amazing. There is one particular scene in which the floating house is being dragged in front of a red-purple sunset. That and the color on the bird (which looks like a gigantic, rainbow-colored Dodo), are fantastic. Aside from that you get attached to the characters; Russell’s life really affects you.

One final note for the “trivia” crowd: John Ratzenberger plays Construction Foreman Tom. And a final personal note: I enjoyed this more than “Wall*E.”

My grade: A

10
Jul
08

Movie Review: Wall*E

 

 

More serious than I thought…

 

Starring the voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, and Sigourney Weaver. Directed by Andrew Stanton

 

The Future. Planet Earth. The world is now skyscrapers made of cubes of trash (in between still-standing high rises) and dilapidated highways; it’s the remains of humanity after the Buy N Large Corporation conquered humanity and took everyone into space, leaving behind garbage and toxicity. The last working robot Wall*E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth-class) compacts the trash into cubes and is responsible for creating the trash-scrapers.

 

Over the past 700 years that mankind has abandoned the Earth Wall*E has diligently done his job and gained a personality. His “home” (a giant garbage truck) holds objects of his curiosity as well as replacement parts and an iPod that he uses to watch, “Holly Dolly!” on VHS. Apart from a cockroach, Wall*E has no friends.

 

When a giant spaceship lands and drops off another robot called Eve (Extraterrestial Vegetation Evaluator) Wall*E becomes fascinated with her; Eve, not so much. Immediately Eve goes to searching the planet for any vegetation and Wall*E tries shadowing her, instantly finding out that Eve has a trigger-happy arm and a quick temper. When Wall*E gives her a plant he put in a shoe and faster than you can say “Mission Accomplished,” Eve calls for the ship to return and goes into a comatose state. Once the ship picks up Eve, Wall*E goes on an adventure.

 

I’ll stop the story there with the exception of saying that the human race lives on a spaceship called the Axiom where they fly/bump around on “hover” chairs and weigh about 300 pounds on average. Seriously.

 

What I didn’t expect from this movie was how lonely an atmosphere Pixar could create. Desolation, trash, toxicity, dirt; it takes hard work to make it all believable and to give a “possible” future based on mankind’s current “rate of expansion” (there’s more than a double-entendre in that). This movie is full of messages and might turn away audiences looking for a “cutesy” movie. But then again, don’t most Pixar films?

 

Aside from the “human consumerism leading to obesity” (we’ve proved that) there is the “love conquers all” theme which is where “Wall*E” is the most endearing. Whereas Eve is temperamental and trigger-happy, Wall*E is shy and carries himself in a Charlie Chaplin/Buster Keaton sort of way.

And the movie does have its comical moments, a lot more than you’ve seen in the previews and trailers. Added to that are the references to “2001,” “Star Trek,” “Flight of the Navigator,” and Atari. Oh yeah, and watch for John Ratzenberger’s cameo.

 

My grade: B+

20
May
08

Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian

 

 

 

Narnia is darker the second go-around.

 

Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, and Sergio Castellitto. Includes voices of Liam Neeson and Eddie Izzard. Directed by Andrew Adamson.

 

Story: At a castle, royal nephew and heir to the throne Caspian the 10th is saved from death by Doctor Cornelius. It seems that Caspian’s uncle King Miraz just had a son and the whole “nephew is rightful heir to throne” has rubbed him the wrong way for long enough. Caspian goes into the woods (Narnia) and blows an ancient horn…

 

Meanwhile, it’s been a year and the Pevensie kids (Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan) are standing at a subway station going… somewhere. As they stand in the bus station their “world” falls away and instantly they’re back in Narnia, but Narnia doesn’t look or feel the same…

 

Back to Caspian who awakes to find that the furry, talking creatures of Narnia are NOT extinct as previously thought. The badger and dwarf Nikabrik argue over what to do with this Telmarine, and he states that he’s the true heir to Narnia, and that he can unite the land.

 

Back to the Pevensies. They look around and find that they are in Narnia, but how long after they left is undetermined. Each of them wonder: where is Aslan, and what happened to Narnia after they left?

 

To cut to the chase, Caspian unites the Narnians and goes to confront the King. Peter and company head off to find Aslan and what happened to Narnia. Both parties confront each other and a plan is made to dethrone Miraz. This leads to fighting and more fighting, and the story pretty much ends there.

 

This follow-up to 2005’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is darker and more action-oriented; those who complained that “Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe” will probably enjoy “Prince Caspian” more. As for myself, I had a few problems with it.

 

My first big problem: what happened during the 1300 years the Pevensies weren’t in Narnia? We find that Aslan left the kingdom to its own devices. Following that the Telmarines took over. I would’ve liked some exposition or visual account for what happened during those years instead of the glossing over that happens here. It’s as if everyone on screen knows what’s going on and if you don’t understand, sorry about your luck.

 

The other problem I had with the film was that the “magic” and “wonderment” was gone. Part of what I liked about “Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe” was that Narnia had “magic” waiting to be restored and that if restored, everything would right itself. Pure fantasy, say yes, but the kid inside all of us identified with that. “Prince Caspian” took the “rightful heir that needs to be on the throne” formula and threw it into war. And maybe I was hoping for something closer to “Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe,” and that Adamson wanted to make a statement on war: how children perceive it, how adults react to it, etc. There’s a lot of fighting that goes on for that statement…

 

Last is a water character (you’ve seen it in the trailers). Aslan calls him up. What is he? Why is he? A little background info here? Yeah, thanks.

 

Overall, I liked the film. With the “Narnia” series you like them, not love them. They are well made and for the most part enjoyable. I would go and see another “Narnia” film, just to know what happens next.

 

Watch for the “return” of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) and a mouse called Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard). And if you’ve ever seen the movie “Cronicas,” Damian Alcazar has a role as Lord Sopespian.

 

My grade: B