Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN (2014)
Okay, I'm always complaining about how DreamWorks makes these animated movies for kids that deal extensively with midlife crises and fatherhood issues that no kid could care about. But this is actually a great example of how you can touch on issues like parenting and social pressures and fulfillment in a way that (a) doesn't hitting you with an anvil and (b) is used to inform the characters rather than move the plot along. This is, of course, based on the Jay Ward characters from Rocky & Bullwinkle, though it's a great deal more action-packed and alters the characters slightly (in this version, Sherman is Peabody's adopted son). But the wit is, to my surprise, intact. There's a lot of great pun-based and snippy humor that doesn't get too snarky or defeatist; there's a real sense of optimism and, hey, it's nice to see an American movie--especially one for kids--where being smart is a good thing. Above all that, it's just fun. I found myself enjoying this one even more than I enjoyed The Lego Movie, which makes this my favorite animated film this year so far. The opening scenes of this movie would have made the best short animated film of 2014. And then it just continues from there, and it gets better. ****

THE WIND RISES (2013)
Fictionalized biopic of Jiro Hirokoshi, the man who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. This is Hayao Miyazaki at his most impressionistic, not really telling a linear story so much as a collection of scenes, some of them emotional, some simply marveling at what human beings have achieved so they can fly. There's a dark undertone to the whole thing; it takes place in the period between the World Wars, and as much as the wind can symbolize hope, it also symbolizes the coming storm, and we're never allowed to forget what these planes are going to be used for. The film addresses that, too. Engrossing, lyrical, bittersweet, a little remote, but beautiful. ****

HELL BABY (2013)
Not exactly a spoof of demonic possession movies; more like a demonic possession movie played for laughs. It's a funny movie, but it's also subject to some of the tiresome tropes of those movies. But I enjoyed it. Not much to say about it, but I thought it was funny. Keegan-Michael Key stole the whole movie for me. Written and directed by Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon. ***

DOWN THE HATCH (2014)
Another great, semi-grossout Mickey Mouse short. I love this one just for having Ludwig Von Drake in it, but the gags--Mickey and Goofy shrink themselves and then get accidentally swallowed by Donald--are fantastic. ****

5 comments:

Tallulah Morehead said...

I thought Down the Hatch was a stand-out in this series of new Mickey cartoons. As someone who's never been to Disneyland, you may have missed some of the in-gags in the early portion of the cartoon. The exterior establishing shot of the "Hall of Science" is very much the exterior of Tomorrowland from 1966 to 1997, which contained "Monsanto's Hall of Science." The Shrink Ray was the primary ride gimmick in the old Monsanto Voyage to Inner Space ride in Tomorrowland from 1966 to 1982, where the shrink ray shrank you down so small that you could sail into the water molocule of a snowflake (All referenced in the cartoon), and featuring the Sherman Brothers song Miracles From Molocules, again referenced in Mickey's dialogue. Even those hanging hexagons in the Hall's back grounds are from the ride decor on the old Voyage to Inner Space ride.

I do wish they'd gotten Ludwig Von Drake's voice more accurately.

SamuraiFrog said...

Thanks for all of that; I never would have known any of that. That's fantastic how much they're getting in so many in-gags. I really love this series of cartoons.

Corey Burton's been the voice of Ludwig Von Drake since 1988, so I have that thing where I'm more used to his voice from shows like Mouseworks and House of Mouse than I am Paul Frees' voice. That said, I like Frees' better. I have a series of Disney music CDs with two Von Drake songs on it, and I saw a lot of episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color when I was a kid and Disney Channel actually showed such things.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I know only Paul Frees's Ludwig, from when I was a kid, and the Wonderful World of Color shows were first-run. I had a long-playing vinyl LP of Ludwig Von Drake, with songs ("I am Professor Ludwig Von Drake,/ I am a genius,/ Make no Mistake") I played to death as a kid.

For me the irony is, I know Corey Burton. I've worked with him. You can buy a CD with Corey, Ben Wright and Daws Butler and me all acting together. But I didn't know Corey was now Ludwig Von Drake. His impressions are usually eriely accurate. (His Orson Welles gives you shivers. It's like Welles just walked into the room.)

SamuraiFrog said...

Corey Burton also played Count Dooku on The Clone Wars, and for a couple of episodes (the credits blew by too fast on TV), I wondered how they got Christopher Lee to do the cartoon.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I've not seen any of the Clone Wars shows, but it wouldn't have surprised me if they had gotten Lee. He's always done a lot of voice-over work, which is almost the only work of which he is still capable. I'm sure Corey's Lee is right on the nose. (I have an old double-disc vinyl LP of a radio adaptation of Dracula, one which follows the novel very closely, in which Christopher Lee is the only cast member, playing every role, even Mina, Lucy and the vampire brides.