Category Archives: rankin/bass

Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians ~ This is a fun animated adventure that I actually enjoyed quite a bit. It’s sort of like there’s a Justice League of mythical beings who protect the children of Earth – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy. When the Boogeyman, Pitch Black, rears up to change the status quo for the more evil and nightmarish, these Guardians are called together, but must take in a new member, the reluctant Jack Frost.

There is great voice work here as well as interesting takes and personalities on the different Guardians. Hugh Jackman, being chief among the voicers, is extremely good. Jude Law as the villain, and Alec Baldwin’s Russian Santa Claus are also good. Very entertaining, I wish I’d caught it in theaters so I could have seen it on the big screen.

Guardians strikes me at many levels being similar to the Rankin/Bass holiday specials of my youth. Here are tales of Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. for a new generation, and just as believable as they were back then. You’ll leave this movie feeling refreshed and filled with hope, and not just a little childlike wonder. This is how a Superman movie should leave you. Maybe we can hijack those writers for the next chapter in that franchise.

Rise of the Guardians was a breath of fresh air and good entertainment for the whole family, recommended.

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Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful ~ Let’s see, what the rules again? Wait an hour after eating before swimming. Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia. You can’t put too much water in a nuclear reactor. Don’t pull on Superman’s cape. And never make sequels (or prequels) to beloved classic films.

I saw this movie weeks ago, weeks and weeks ago. I am still conflicted over whether I liked it or not. It was the second film I saw at the new Marlton 8 theater so the accommodations were fantastic, I couldn’t have been more comfortable had I been in my own home. But why did I have, still have such a problem with it?

Oz is a beautiful film. It takes full advantage of CGI and the 3D effects available to the cutting edge of that technology. Here, we have an Oz that both boggles the mind, but brings L. Frank Baum’s imagination to life. It is fantastic, and gorgeous. Props to director Sam Raimi for bringing the unimaginable to our eyes.

The casting, especially that of James Franco and Mila Kunis, while problematic, is fitting. Franco is smarmy, and perpetually playing (or maybe living) the part he played in “Freaks and Geeks.” He is a stoner, and even here, as the eventual wizard of Oz, if he took a second to take a toke, I don’t think anyone would bat an eye. This time, it works for the part, because his character is a slimy sort, not to say stoners are slimy, but Franco’s is. Bottom line, he’s believable.

Kunis, in my mind, has never grown from her role in “That ’70s Show.” Oh, she’s been good in stuff, and been quite believable, but like Keanu Reeves saying “Whoa,” she is always a second away from breaking character and waiting for the canned laughter after a sitcom punchline. I just can’t shake it. Here, she completely fits as pre- and post-Wicked Witch of the West, and is awesome in her passive-aggressive power hungry and clingy psycho ex-girlfriend role. Zach Braff, a traditionally sitcom actor on the other hand is equally awesome as the comedy relief flying monkey, a true highlight of the film.

Sounds like I liked the flick, doesn’t it? The problem comes with its prequel status. It tries so hard to emulate MGM’s classic The Wizard of Oz. All of the cues are there, except for the music of course. It begins in black and white and goes to color after the twister. There are numerous winks and nods to the original film. And every time it happens, I got a strong “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” vibe.

Remember the Rankin/Bass Christmas special “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”? Fred Astaire plays a mailman telling a group of children the secret origins of ol’ Kris Kringle. Every time he hits a prime power point of his origin, one of the kids says, “That’s why he comes on Christmas Eve” or “That’s where the flying reindeer came from.” That what happens in Oz, and every time we see the hints to the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the glowing head illusion, etc. it pulls us out of the story.

If it wasn’t for those little nudge-nudge-wink-wink moments, this would be a great flick, as great as the underrated sequel, Return to Oz of a few years back. And that’s why I’m so conflicted. I liked it, but then again, I didn’t. It’s still in theaters, so definitely give it a viewing for yourself, and see what you think.

Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania ~ I gotta be up front with this one. It’s not bad, but honestly I was expecting so much more from Genndy Tartakovsky’s first foray into big screen animation. “Samurai Jack,” “Dexter’s Laboratory” and especially the most recent “Sym-Biotic Titan” are among my faves on Cartoon Network. Yeah, I know he also worked on “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” but let’s get real, it is sooo not in the same league.

Hotel Transylvania is not bad, but it’s not that good either. Simplistic, and borrowing more than a little from Rankin/Bass’ Mad Monster Party? from decades ago, it struggles more than it needs to by using the voice talents (and I use the word ‘talent’ very loosely) of Adam Sandler as Dracula. It’s like listening to Sandler’s annoying Opera Man voice for almost two hours. Where there’s Sandler, there’s also Kevin James as Frankenstein, as well as a cornucopia of unfunny “Saturday Night Live” veterans.

This one is good for the kids, but might be a bit much to take for the adults. Be warned, the end breaks into a rap celebration that must be missed. Embarrassing for all involved. Seeing Steve Buscemi involved in this movie tells me he owes somebody a big favor, or he needs to fire his agent. As for Genndy Tartakovsky, his next project is rumored to be a big budget animated Popeye. I’m hoping for the best, and not more of this.