Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)

PG, 94 minutes, Adventure

StarringRay RomanoJohn LeguizamoDenis LearyQueen LatifahSimon Pegg

It struck me as confusing, reading the title. Scientifically speaking, the dinosaurs should have been all killed off before the rise of mammals. Don’t worry, I’ll explain the reasoning in a moment. Admittedly, I skipped this movie when it first came out. Same with the second installment. Ice Age was alright, but it took a while for it to grow on me. Years later, I got braver, but I still had that obstacle of obtaining the second movie. Well now it’s time to end my confusion and explore a new adventure.

So why do dinosaurs still roam the frozen Earth? It’s simple, they live underground… because reasons. Manny and Ellie (Romano and Latifah) are now in a full blown relationship and are expecting a child. Manny gets so caught up in preparing for the baby, that he offends Sid (Leguizamo). Sid wanders off and discovers three eggs that he takes for his own.

When the eggs hatch, Sid finds himself the “mother” of three baby dinosaurs. Their very annoyed real mother shows up and takes them away, Sid and all. Manny and the herd give chase only to discover a lost world where the dinosaurs have survived underground due to thermal temperatures keeping things nice and toasty.  Among the gargantuans is one wild weasel who acts as their guide. However, when the herd becomes aware of a much larger threat than the protective dino-mom they’ll have to escape quickly before they’re swallowed whole.

This book–I mean, movie–was definitely a throw back to classic literature. It mixes elements from The Lost World by Doyle and Moby Dick by Melville while also making various movie references. This time ’round, they went so all-out with the nods I’m sure someone got whiplash. While I like this entry better than Meltdown, I can’t help but wonder if they were strapped for ideas or if they were just trying to get a patchwork story pumped out as quickly as possible.

I will say that the rushed feeling made me realize I don’t like certain characters. While everyone gets their bits, I came to feel like Crash and Eddie were just background noise without any real purpose. And Ellie… She just annoyed me. She was weird in the first movie, but much like her brothers she felt unnecessary. I really only care for Manny, Sid, Diego, and Scrat, so I feel like these additional characters are just a distraction.

The imagery present was impressive, though. The “Mody Dick” dinosaur left a lasting impact with its menacing glare and nightmarish entrances. Oh my gosh–when it emerges from the clouds with glowing eyes–WHOOOO!!! *ahem* Composure. Basically everything even eluding to this beast is cool and I’d say it makes the movie.

We also have Scrat. This time around he’s involved in a bizarre romantic battle with the femme Scratte (NO, I DIDN’T MEAN LESBIAN!) and has rejected his previous love, the acorn. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the conclusion of the conflict had me howling with laughter.

I feel like that’s it: A pieced together story with an annoying female lead and a cool villain. …Scrat. I wish I could say more, but I can’t. This movie exists. It’s as though it’s a set up for things to come, but it will just leave you questioning the importance of it all.

Rating: Don’t bother.

Watch: If you’re watching the rest of the series.
Don’t watch: If you’re already over the series.


Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)

PG, 91 minutes, Adventure

Starring: Ray RomanoJohn LeguizamoDenis LearyQueen Latifah

I’ve stated before that Ice Age has been a mainstay for Black Friday sales. I think I’ve seen them for at least the past three years and they may have been mixed in years before. For some reason I spent just as long hunting down a discounted copy of the second Ice Age film. Oh, you have it for five bucks? Screw that, I’ll wait and get it for cheaper. I know. I’m a bit of a tightwad, but I’d rather wait and save a few bucks, thanks. So I went for a while without it, but this year I got lucky. It was waiting in my Christmas stocking.

Things have changed in Ice Age: The Meltdown. I think. We’re suddenly shown this established animal society that is enjoying the heck out of warmer weather. It felt sudden to me probably because there wasn’t much of a society set up in the first film. Either way, everyone is living in peace and cussing at once another. Yes, I said cussing. In an animated children’s movie.

Then comes the doomsayer warning of a flood. No one believes him at first, but when you mix Scrat into the story… well, you know. As a massive dam begins to break apart and everyone runs for their lives, Manny (Romano) finds himself face to face with another mammoth, Ellie (Latifah). With the water level rising and new predators entering the scene, Manny has to find a way to protect his herd before the worst happens.

I don’t consider this entry to be notable for much. It’s fairly similar to the first film, but humans are completely out of the picture now and for some they’ll remain missing for the next few films. Instead of the running from the cold with a human in tow, Manny and the others are running from warmer weather with a mammoth behind them. It’s the same movie. It gives the false impression that the ice age is coming to an end and made me realize the first film gave me a false impression about the ice age beginning.

Two things that I can note are Scrat and the cursing. The cursing is where I’ll start. I didn’t get it. I mean, I got the retarded second grader humor, but I didn’t get the why. The use of “damn” and “ass” where slapped together in nearly the same joke and both were majorly eye roll-inducing. Child humor is stupid. Kids cuss because it’s new and funny, but you don’t need to pass it on. At least not twice within the same minute and a half.

Now Scrat. He’s the real reason I watch this series. It became most apparent in Meltdown that Scrat isn’t just a character, he’s a all-out allegory. Scrat’s most precious treasure is his acorn and in trying (innocently) to protect it, he sets off a chain of events that destroys the community around him. He chases after the acorn, but is repeatedly denied and put into dangerous situations. No matter how hard he tries, his goal is always just out of reach. Even in death, Scrat is denied the only thing he really cares about. THAT’S LIFE! It’s friggin’ hilarious, but the reality of it is still there: Life stinks no matter how hard you work at it and then you die. Scrat is your everyman. I salute you, you furry wreck.

As the series progresses, this film is going to become more and more of a stepping stone. It introduces three recurring characters, but it really can just be skipped. I suppose it could be said that it suffers from “middle book syndrome” in that it only really sets stuff up, but since it’s a clone of the movie before it. Sadly, haven’t missed much in all my years of waiting.

Rating: Watch it once.

Watch: Continuous-ish storyline carries over into subsequent films.
Don’t watch: Clone of the original, kids cussing.

Ice Age (2002)

PG, 81 minutes, Adventure

Starring: Ray RomanoJohn LeguizamoDenis LearyGoran Visnjic

For some reason I haven’t been able to look at the piles of DVDs during Black Friday sales without seeing an Ice Age title or two… or four. It’s been like that for years, so somehow it’s profitable for the franchise holders to make something off of a two dollar purchase. I suppose it’s because all I focus on is the price tag, so I’m somehow missing the bigger picture. Brand recognition; gateway kibble; corporate battling–screw it. I love cheap movies.

While the story is well enough known to everyone under the age of twelve, it should be obvious to anyone that Ice Age takes place during, well, the ice age. Manny the mammoth (Romano) hates the world and Sid the sloth (Leguizamo) has been abandoned by it. After the two run into one another, Sid begins to pester Manny for company. Lost in his own dark thoughts, Manny decides to hang around Sid in order to watch him fail.

Nearby a pack of sabertooth tigers attack a human village. Desperate to save her child, a human mother barely manages to escape the beasts. Before she gives up the ghost, she entrusts her child to the stunned Manny and Sid. Now a lone sabertooth scout, Diego (Leary), has come looking for his human prize and he must find a way to outsmart the odd couple before the world is blanketed in snow.

Here we have Fox’s most notable entry into the CG world. Riding on the curtails of Shrek, Ice Age made a lasting impact mostly with the younger generation of the time. It does, however, have my admiration solely due to one character: Scrat. While unimportant to the main story, Scrat, a sabertoothed rodent, is there for the simple pleasure of watching him perform slapstick maneuvers as he attempts to save his precious acorn. He’s hilarious. …Shut up! I can feel you judging me!

The story is simple and the main focus of background lies on Manny. The other characters are just the comic relief and the antagonist. There isn’t much there, so for a kids movie it’s alright, but as an adult I feel like they were trying to say something and just missed the goal. What story there is may not exactly be thought provoking for a young audience even if it is on the dark side. I’d consider this the movie equivalent of a picture book about persevering against death.

I suppose that’s it. There’s really just enough to say about this movie to warrant a blog post, but probably not much more. It’s alright. You’ve probably seen it or I’m sure you know kids that have. If you ever get stuck watching this for the seventh time because your little sister wont stop begging you, then I suppose you’ll be sick of it. There are worse things to get trapped with. But as I’ve said, I’m in it for Scrat. And the cheap, cheap price tag.

Rating: Watch it once.

Watch: It’s short, it’s simple, it has Scrat.
Don’t watch: Because you wore out your VHS copy as a kid and you’ll be darned if your child is going to ruin your sanity anymore.

Sci-Fi Saturdays: Sunshine (2007)

R, 107 minutes, Sci-Fi

Starring: Cillian MurphyRose ByrneChris EvansMark Strong

I came across something striking in the hallowed Bargain Bin: a movie with a short list of actors I’ve liked. The cast included Scarecrow, The Human Torch, Ujio, and a Bond girl. Even better was the story which involved a desperate struggle in space. Screw it–I’m buying this!

What I got was Sunshine. Oh how I love deep space disaster flicks! The crew of Icarus II set out towards our dying sun with the intent of shooting a bomb with all of the remaining volatile material on Earth into the core of the star before our home freezes over. The previous crew of the first Icarus disappeared shortly before reaching their target, so the only hope humanity has left is its back-up crew. On board is the scientist responsible for the creation of the bomb, Robert Capa (Murphy).

It seems as though all is going well until the crew discover the original Icarus adrift in space. When a course correction to rendezvous with the derelict vessel threatens to destroy them, the crew has to work frantically to save their now damaged ship. With no chance left of completing the mission without repairs and supplies, the crew have no choice but to explore the mystery of the fate of their predecessors.

Something I like the most about these types of films is the hopelessness established by the extreme distance from civilization. You can’t just open the door to the ship and scrounge for food and water. To make matters worse, they’re heading right into a star. Questions come to my mind: Would you freeze or burn in the wake of a star? If neither, at what point would you neither freeze nor burn, but simply succumb to the vacuum? This is the most extreme of environments and the issue of getting everything right is pressed hard.

The technical designs in this movie aren’t really anything special. They mostly just get the job done, but I will say that the plant nursery is pretty dang cool. With flowing water and fresh air, this the definitely the place to go relax. Oddly, the doesn’t utilize it. Instead several crew members spend their time burning and blinding themselves in a nearly barren and totally boring observation lounge. It gives you the sense that the crew really doesn’t have their priorities straight.

Enter the real conflict: People being stuck inside of a confined space for far too long. They’re getting stir crazy and they’re getting sloppy, which is not something you want with people in charge of Earth’s fate. So as things get more and more screwed up, the characters are pressed harder and harder to succeed.

While this may not be the best science fiction entry to date, Sunshine still has something offer. This film is about coping against mounting odds and figuring out what’s most important. Will you succumb to the darkness? Or will you shine brightly like the sun?

Rating: Watch it once.

Watch: Quick and good survival drama.
Don’t watch: You probably won’t like the ending, at least not the first time around.

Friday (1995)

R, 91, Comedy

Starring: Ice CubeChris TuckerRegina KingTommy ‘Tiny’ Lister

Some titles should have been on The List long before The List even started. It’s been two decades, yet people keep asking me, “Have you seen Friday?” Two guys smoking weed while worrying about money? Doesn’t sound like my kind of film. Still, I finally gave in. Enough is enough. I’ve now seen Friday.

Craig (Cube) just lost his job and he’s mad about it. His parents expect more from him, but instead he keeps focusing on the negatives in his life. His dad always wants to have man-to-man talks while he’s on the crapper. His sister is annoying and won’t hook him up with her cute friend. And his stoner friend, Smokey (Tucker), just puffed up the stash he was supposed to be selling. Instead of doing anything about his situation, Craig just shuts down and sits in front of his house all day.

Now people are looking towards Craig. The local druggie is looking for a fix, Craig’s work friend is looking for help, the block’s bully is looking for something to steal, and the drug dealer is going to kill Smokey if he doesn’t get money back soon. It’s time that Craig gets up and does something, but the pressure might get to him before he does.

As you may have gathered, I wasn’t expecting much from this movie. I’m not into drug culture and I don’t really find it funny. I’ve been labeled a prude over it, but if it doesn’t interest me, then it doesn’t interest me. What shocked me, however, was how much this film was about coming of age. It even had a moral. Craig is presented as immature from the beginning and he must overcome himself in order to battle the outside forces threatening his life. It made for a great story that I can personally relate to.

Something else that shocked me was how many of the actors I recognized. I suppose I expected to just know the main two players and if I had watched this twenty years ago, that might have been the case. However, years later I’m able to recognize just about everyone from at least one additional role. I guess I had it in my head that this low budget film wasn’t very big, but we’re presented with an entire neighborhood worth of characters, so it’s bigger than it seems.

I bought this on Black Friday and I can honestly say that it was a serendipitous pull. I never expected to like this movie, but now my interest has been piqued and my curiosity extends to its sequels. Just like the moral of the story proves: being brave can have its rewards.

Rating: Watch it.

Watch: If you don’t already know it, then it might surprise you.
Don’t watch: Drug culture, swearing, and pooping.

Sci-fi Saturdays: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

R, 101 minutes, Comedy

Starring: John CusackRob CorddryCraig RobinsonClark Duke

Once upon a time I used to go to the movies with my sister-in-law. We’d see whatever interested us, but usually they were titles that I wouldn’t normally pay money to see. By this I mean cruder movies with harsh humor. This continued for a few years until she moved away, just before the release of a certain movie… and that might have been for the best, all things considered.

After their friend Lou (Corddry) tries to commit suicide, recently dumped Adam (Cusack) and cuckolded Nick (Robinson) decide to take a trip to revisit their glory days. Upon arriving at Kodiak Valley, the group finds the place in shambles. They settle in for a disappointing vacation, but due to the drunken antics surrounding the mysterious Hot Tub Time Machine the friends find themselves back in 1986.

Overcoming the shock, the group frantically work to remember everything they did in the past in order to keep the timeline complete. As temptation and a desperation to set things right swell up they’ll either get a chance to change their past or destroy the future.

This movie is full of pop culture references, especially ’80s culture and how it clashes with the modern. Music, neon colors, bad hair, and everything outdated surrounds the main characters to create a heavy landscape from the past. Being a fan of ’80s music, the movie makes me revisit hit singles every time I watch it. On another note, this movie is absolutely saturated with foul language, drinking, drug use, and sex to emphasize just how lost and out of control these characters really are.

I find the constant use of the f-bomb and other “colorful” language makes the script feel like it’s lacking substance, which is disappointing considering the entire moral of the story. Though not a flat-out sci-fi flick, HTTM is more of a reminder to live life to its fullest the first time around so you don’t have to use illegal Russian energy drinks in order to fix your mistakes. A ridiculous situation for sure, but this movie plays up to shock value right until the end when it suddenly gets an epiphany as if to say, “Oh right, we were doing something romantic with the plot there.”

I’m not trying to say this is a bad movie by any means. In fact I’ve laughed at the same jokes after multiple viewings. What I am saying is that it is crude and it owns it. And it’s probably not the kind of movie you’d want to take anyone with which you’re related to go see.

Rating: Watch it once.

Watch: Because for some reason John Cusack makes really good romance movies.
Don’t watch: Booze, boobs, and f-bombs.