In Theaters: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

PG-13, 137 minutes, Sci-fi

StarringDane DeHaanCara DelevingneClive OwenSam Spruell

I’ve been looking forward to this movie all year. I don’t even remember when the trailer came out for it, but I had been saving my pennies ever since. My eyes practically bulged out of my head. Science fiction! Fantastic worlds! Luc Besson! W-w-wait–LuC BEssON is MAkIng aNoTHer ScI-FI mOVie????1 I’VE GOT TO SEE THIS!!! After the utterly awe-inspiring impact that The Fifth Element has left upon my soul, I just HAD to see Valerian on the big screen before it was too late.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is not only a crack-filling mouthful of a title, but it adds just enough curiosity to this movie to make you run out into the streets and yell, “WHAT?” The story follows agents Valerian and Laureline as they enter the city of Alpha in order to investigate an uninhabitable zone that threatens the stability of all life on the interplanetary vessel. The only thing standing in their way is the entire galaxy. No big deal.

I hadn’t even heard of the source material before: a French comic series that ran for over forty years. Apparently, I need to read more French comics (I’m looking at you, Snowpiercer). But the two real reasons my very soul cried out for my eyes and ears to digest this film were sci-fi and Besson. I couldn’t help myself. I mean–THE FIFTH ELEMENT.

I sprung for 3-D. I admit it, I’m a hypocrite as I absolutely HATE the 3-D trend. But just look at that trailer! Can you really blame me? Can any sci-fi fan REALLY put fault upon me? Was it worth it? The extra cost and the mind-numbing disorientation that the 3-D movie scarfully (that’s a word! …now) inflicted upon my brain jelly? Well… no. Don’t get me wrong: I did enjoy the movie, but it was just an okay movie. And despite the epic scenery, the movie was not shot in a manner that accentuated the screen popping effects.

The film itself was unfortunately dark. Despite a scene shot in a bright desert, the movie as a whole is set in the darkness of space, the alleys of a major city, and the underworld. Perhaps it was just my eyes, but this really screwed up the 3-D experience as I felt more like I was watching a high definition VHS tape with tracking issues. I’m not going to fault the movie for this, but I am going to seriously warn you away from the extra cost. This movie in 3-D simply isn’t worth your money.

What I did like was the sense that a vast array of cultures existed inside of Alpha. After forty years of comics, there’d darn well better be some depth to the setting. Unfortunately, despite all the visual set-up, only a couple of these cultures were touched upon. I got the feeling that everyone involved behind the scenes felt obligated to pay homage to the source material. Notable, but not entirely practical to the confines of a single movie.

The defining moment to this story has to be the struggle of the alien race that starts off the whole conflict. They’re unique and peaceful and seeing tragedy befall them really pulled my heartstrings. The open sequence involving these people really made me happy to be watching this movie. Sadly, it was the highlight of the story as I began to notice some… shockingly familiar storyline.

LUC, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? Look, I’m not calling this a stinker, but there comes a time when you write a story and you realize it’s the same friggin’ thing you wrote twenty years ago. Luc, I’m looking at you. You know what you’ve done! This is The Fifth Element. You know, that movie you did about space stuff? If you had paid homage to it by putting a Mangalore or a Zorg logo in the background, I would have publicly guffawed. But there are just too many parallels to ignore: the world ending, the military police, everything that looks like New York in 2263, the blue diva, the kissing sequence at the end–ARGH! I mean, how do you have forty years of comics and you set out to remake your own movie? Oh, no. Wait a second here, was Valerian and Laureline the inspiration for The Fifth Element? DON’T DO THIS ME, LUC!

The one things I really wanted from this movie was the characters. I’m sorry, folks, but since I had such high expectations for this film simply because I am a massive Fifth Element fan, I have to compare the two. In The Fifth Element everyone fulfills their quirky and memorable role to a T–right down to the friggin’ cat! But a lot of the characters in Valerian were basically just cardboard cutouts. And Bubble was uselessly unique–just watch and you’re find out what I mean. I found her to be the most frustrating character of all.

I will confess that I could not stop myself–for days–from laughing at Laureline’s changing scene. She is held prisoner by a barbaric race that insists she dress up. Stubbornly, she refuses, but her caretaker cannot be dissuaded. Hilariously, she encourages Laureline to continue. If you don’t laugh at this scene, I daresay you haven’t got a funny bone in your entire body. So as far as memorable characters go, at least I got one.

On an off note: the dynamic between Valerian and Laureline struck me as… odd. From early on, Valerian proposes the idea of marriage to Laureline, but she dodges around his advances. That itself wasn’t odd, but the proposal was. What is wrong with me? Since when should the idea of marriage strike me as out of the ordinary. You know what? Screw you, modern society. Quit raping normal values already.

With the decade-long surge in the popularity of comic book films it was inevitable that all kinds of stories would make it to the big screen. But whereas Marvel is succeeding, other companies struggle. The French market appears no different. While this wasn’t a bad movie, it did have its share of flaws. I can tell you right now that this probably would have been success if it had premiered as a quirky streaming series, but unfortunately the box office outlook is nothing short of grim.

Rating: Watch it.

tl;dr
Watch: Visually stunning, offbeat, and full of potential. That changing scene is hilarious.
Don’t watch: Flawed story, too dark, and overly condensed material. Rihanna needs to stop acting. Period.

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The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

PG, 87 minutes, Adventure

Starring: Louis C.K.Eric StonestreetKevin HartJenny Slate

I own four cats. Three of them came as a package deal: three dirty, mewling kittens abandoned by their mother and condemned to die if the construction worker who found them couldn’t find a home. At the pet store, my wife came across the guy and his aural box of peach fuzz. He begged her to take them. The kittens screamed with hunger. She relented and I don’t blame her for being softhearted. The cashier at the pet store gave us the number of a woman who takes in strays, but she was away for the week. Well… a week was too late as raising newborn kittens got us firmly attached. Now I chuck the cat toys they don’t play with at them as they fight over a cardboard box that sits next to their expensive and unused cat tree. Don’t blame me for being a complete and utter sucker.

The Secret Life of Pets takes a look at the animals suckers like my wife and I adopt as our new overlords. Max (C.K.–c’mon, man! I love you, but initials for a last name?) finds his perfect life shattered when his owner brings home a stray dog named Duke (Stonestreet). The two get into one conflict after another until their carelessness ends up getting them both lost. Now Max and Duke need to survive cat gangs, a terrorist bunny, and the streets of New York itself in order to make it back home.

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This is the exact face I make when dealing with people on the bus.

So I love my cats, but they drive me nuts. Whenever we’re not looking, they get on counters and throw up all over the place and every once in a while something gets chewed to bits… which tends to lead to more throwing up… Half the time we don’t know what they’re doing. And why should they tell us? It’s their house now after all. Ugh… But we always wonder what it would be like to have a camera trained on them all the time. This is movie is basically like that… but with adventure!

Aside from a simple, cute story, that’s the real hallmark of this movie: animal behavior. It takes all the weird quirks from a half dozen species and presents them humorously, because goodness knows animals are at least worth a smile. Having owned cats, dogs, fish, a hamster, and a turtle I couldn’t help but throw my hands up in a whaddayado shrug at the characters’ quirks. The pug that insanely defends his home from an evil squirrel; the unhappy cat that suddenly becomes destructively obsessed with the laser pointer; the escaped guinea pig that has no idea where he is–these are all extremely unimportant tangents to the plot, but they create a detailed backdrop this movie required in order to have some uniqueness.

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Psycho never looked so cute!

Speaking of uniqueness, Hart’s performance as the psychotic rabbit Snowball just about stole the show. His frenzied manner and hatred towards humans not only keeps the plot going, but he adds humorous insanity to what should be an otherwise passive–skittish even–animal. But what do I know? I’ve never owned a rabbit. I just see the wild ones at night that run from owls and jump four feet into the air for literally no reason other than to tap their heals together. So maybe Snowball has a right to be insane by birth…

In all this is a pretty decent little flick. It’s cute, it’s simple, but nothing really Earth-shattering happens, which makes it an easily digestible kids movie. It has potential for future stories since there’s no shortage of characters to choose from, but we all know the stereotype about sequels. They focused so much on quirky animal behavior here that another entry might not carry the same charm. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Prediction: In the sequel the owner gets a live-in boyfriend with a bizarre pet of his own. Oh noes!

Rating: Watch it.

tl;dr
Watch: It’s harmless and cute.
Don’t watch: If you need complexity in your life.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

PG, 101 minutes, Fantasy

Staring: Art ParkinsonCharlize TheronMatthew McConaughey

Let be known that ANY movie I review with stop-motion animation will ultimately be ranked higher than most other films simply because of the painstakingly colossal effort that goes into making each and every frame. Spending an entire 12-hour work day to come up with only forty seconds of usable screen time takes more patience than I can ever hope to muster. That being said, I’m bound to find some real stinkers in the future…

Kubo isn’t one of them. It’s a tale about a boy who has three strings… Yeah, I don’t get the title either, but I’ll come back to that. At Kubo’s birth his grandfather steals one of the infant’s eyes causing his mother flee into hiding with him. As Kubo grows, he begins to utilize a magical ability that brings life to paper via a shamisen. Eventually Kubo accidentally reveals himself to his sinister aunts which forces him to embark on a tragic journey of retribution.

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Smoking is bad, kids. And so are villains.

Let me just start by saying that any flaw this movie possesses is far overshadowed by the amazing style it presents. It comes off to me as a European film trying to create a Japanese story.  I’m an American and this movie feels totally foreign to me despite the fact that it isn’t. Every model appears to inhabit an individual reality full of gritty, detailed depth. Simply watching an eye move is a showcase of the animator skill that far exceeds the silly warping animation of today’s cartoons. I might just fangasm…

The story itself is a little rough in patches. I honestly don’t understand the whole “two strings” bit. At one point it seems to make sense… until Kubo gets a third string. I don’t really want to go into detail as it might ruin the plot, but I honestly would have felt better about the whole ordeal if this movie had been titled “Kubo and the Three Strings.” Because there are three. Three strings. Not two.

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The fact that he isn’t constantly covered in paper cuts almost seems like an oversight.

As far as characters go, our main cast is small, but pretty great. Except Beetle. I couldn’t really feel out the character as the creators perhaps wanted me to and that’s probably because of the constant freaking whistle in McConaughey’s voice. While he does play his part in the story, I mostly found him an annoying and useless shield–fodder for the bad guys. But oh, the bad guys… Or gals rather. The twin aunts are menacing beyond words; mechanically haunting (yes, “mechanical” and not “maniacal”) and a devastating force that makes Kubo’s childhood a nightmare. They have to be watched in order to be fully appreciated.

It’s not a perfect movie, but it easily counts a great movie. Family friendly, yet dark enough to appeal to older audiences, Kubo at face value might be a story that’s already been told over and over again, but it’s presentation has few rivals.

Rating: Own it.

tl;dr
Watch: Dat stop-animation tho.
Don’t watch: If you grew up hating Gopher from Winnie the Pooh.

Sourcing It: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Written by: L. Frank Baum

It’s been an interesting month. I didn’t expect to get back into writing because of a single story, but it sure helped get things moving again. The Mrs. suggested I read some classics and month by month I have been consuming both the source novel and their cinematic counterparts. Not being “in the know” about Oz movies, I had no idea that I would find so many that I’d end up making a themed month of movie reviews.

So what about the novel? It was written so long ago that I would imagine the 1939 movie has more prominence in modern culture. This begs the question: Is the book anything like the movie? The short answer is, well, yes… but no. After a month of me prattling on, is there any real surprise that the story involves a girl from Kansas seeking a way home? Or that her unconventional companions are each seeking rewards of their own? If you’ve somehow forgotten or if you’re just joining in, please take some time to look back.

There are two major-MAJOR-major differences between the book and their adaptations. The first is the use of color. As far as I can tell, the 1939 film has the best use of adding color to the story. However, that film shocks an audience unaccustomed to color whereas the book uses color as a main theme. A person wearing blue is defined as a Munchkin, but a person wearing yellow would be a Winkie. While one city is colored Emerald, another is built out of rubies. It is even mentioned that white is the color of witches. There was a definitive stress on color acting as an identifier, perhaps to help young reader remember the differences. Some might see this as a racial issue, but the color is in regards to everything but skin tone, so just shut up.

Each land in Oz is colored differently: blue, green, yellow, red–but there are two other colors worth note.  The first is gold, the color given to the cap that controls the winged monkeys. This cap is seldom seen, but a variation of it does exist in the Muppets rendition. The real deal is briefly seen in the 1939 movie, but there was likely a cut segment so it’s only on screen for a couple of seconds. In the novel, this cap has a reoccurring role that is strangely absent from the big screen versions.

The second color gives a very different look to those iconic ruby slippers. They were actually silver in the novel! I’m sure gold and silver were used as opposites. Besides everyone likes shiny things and red is Glinda’s color. Yup, that same floating fairy-esque redhead everyone is familiar with only appears at the end of the book in her own world of red, but those slippers remain as silver as ever throughout. I’m sure that they wanted the shoes to be more dramatic for the movie so they made them red, but it should be worth noting that it messes with Baum’s coloring system.

Now the second major difference between the book and its film adaptations are chapter after chapter of missing misadventures with our heroes. There was no Queen of the Field Mice; no porcelain people; no Quadlings, it wasn’t even until I watched the Muppets that kalidahs made an appearance (and we all know how much of an issue I’ve had with that)! This was obviously done to save time, and I know, I know: the book isn’t going to be the same as the movie. However, the book did give a fresh perspective on the story. There’s an entire world that Baum created that was barely touched upon in the movies. Heck, the book barely covered some of lands and its people, but from a man who originally didn’t plan on write anymore, Baum sure spent a lot of time balancing out and giving potential to his creation.

And this potential was milked.  With something like 42 books existing in the series, dozens of movies, cartoons, and television episodes inspired by the source, not to mention toys, video games, and an unending sea of references it’s no surprise that the Wizard of Oz is indeed a wonderful experience.

Rating: Read it.

tl;dr
Read: Fans of the story will enjoy having more adventures.
Don’t read: Why are you here?

Please note that this is the last Oz-related post I plan to make for the year, but I still hope to continue writing. Right now I imagine you’re either breathing a sigh of remorse or of relief. If you enjoyed this series, please let me know in the comments! Next year I might just do another round!

The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2003)

TV-PG, 100 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Ashanti DouglasSteve WhitmireEric JacobsonBill BarrettaDave Goelz

I find the Muppets to be an odd case. It feels as though they are a struggling brand limited by the death of their creator. Perhaps the real reason is instead their suppression by Overlord M (I don’t want to get sued, so that’s the best you’ll get). Getting locked in a vault for a decade didn’t help, but it should be apparent that this hoard of felt creations has not been forgotten. Calling upon tradition to cast all manner of celebrities and give their own warped view of well known stories, we are cast into our last Oz movie of the month.

Would you be surprised if I told you that it’s the same story you’ve heard me blab about for the past few weeks? Well… it is. Except this time Dorothy (Ashanti) wants to be a pop star and Toto is a… prawn? The Tin… Thing is actually a surveillance robot and Lion wants to be a stand-up comedian. Okay, so there ARE some differences, but they’re still going to see the Wizard!

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Miss Piggy says she wasn’t a fan of The Wiz either.

One difference I found pretty cool was that the witches are all sisters and are all played by Miss Piggy clones. Two are good and two are bad (no surprise), but they’re all divas (really not a surprise) and they used to be in the same band (what?) but the band broke up (oh…) and now one them has an evil reality TV show (…kay). See? Just like the story you’ve come to know and love (yup).

Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent little made-for-TV movie, but I can completely understand why it wasn’t well received. Firstly, the brand was iffy at the time. Secondly, it was geared towards a younger audience, yet it still had some edgy adult humor. Thirdly, that CG was just garbage… This is one of the few versions that actually has Oz appear as something similar to the creatures in the book and they’re not Muppets??? That–that–is the biggest disappointment of this little number.

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Pigs are flying now, mom.  You said I could have a PlayStation!

There is something… Something I’ve searched for all month. Something I have wanted and hoped and dreamed about seeing ever since I set down the Baum classic. Something… critical. AHAUHAUHAUH!!! No, seriously.  Kalidahs are in this freaking movie. Kalidahs, folks. Bloodthirsty tiger bears and they’re IN. THIS. MOVIE. I don’t know why, but these creatures stuck in my mind as soon as I read about them and I’ve been a little disappointed every time I didn’t get to see them. This time was different. Here they were: bloodthirsty kalidah critics played by none other than Waldorf and Statler. It’s about time!

I know it’s Friday and I’ve been doing it all month, but I just couldn’t make myself label this movie a flop. It’s not the greatest, but it is entertaining and still worth a few laughs (plus there’s the entire last paragraph where I finally get what I wanted), so there was no justification for slamming it. If you’re a fan of the Muppets or the Oz series alike and you have a couple of hours, give this movie a go.

Rating: Watch it.

tl;dr
Watch: KALIDAHS!!!
Don’t watch: because felt gives your brain a rash.

Images © The Jim Henson Company

Flop Friday: The Wiz (1978)

G, 134 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Diana RossMichael JacksonNipsey RussellTed RossRichard Pryor

Sometimes you come across the weirdest things. Cult films certainly fall into that category because the niche seems so specific that it’s not always going to work for everyone. I feel like I like cult films. Certainly not films that won… *shudder* Sundance awards, but cult films? Good to go, chief.

Then there’s this garbage. No, literally. Some of the characters are made out of garbage. The story’s the same: Dorothy, tornado, Oz, Scarecrow, Witch, but the… the… everything is so different about it. I mean, there are SPACE BABIES for crying out loud!

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lolwut

Don’t get me wrong: The setting is AMAZING. The Land of Oz is a warped version of New York, so it’s very urban. However, instead of being confined like I imagine The Big Apple is (bucket list item), it’s actually quite sprawling and certain backdrops appear to go on forever. In fact, I’m quite surprised to learn that portions of the film were shot in open spaces around New York because haven’t they, like, built apartments over ever square inch of that place? The scenery has touches of futuristic design that still hold up 40 years later and dark intrigue that makes me wonder what’s around the next corner. I’m labeling this as the true hallmark of the film.

Now if anyone calls the music the hallmark of this film, run because they’re likely a dang hippie reptilian.  The movie is a musical, tying bits of song to traveling, new places, new places, and feelings but I liked very little of it. With a big name like Diana Ross playing the lead role, I really expected more from her. First of all, she’s playing a woman in her twenties, while she’s actually in her thirties at the time of the filming, while she looks like she’s in her forties. I have a feeling that overuse of makeup and bad lighting are to blame, but she simply is not fit for the part. To add to this, I would have expected one of The Supremes to be able to carry the show, so I don’t know what the heck happened here.

It is Michael Jackson, however, that carries the entire weight of this film. His acting, dancing, and singing far surpass anything else presented in this movie. It’s a shame really, since he stared in so little, but gave such an awesome performance in this offbeat flick. However, perhaps Jackson’s performance is so great because everyone else involved in the film didn’t really pull through. The Tin Man is forgettable and the Lion is nothing short of annoying, with mood swings that make you wonder why they bothered with trying to make him seem scared to begin with. Even the costumes, which seem to emphasize racial stereotypes, would give a kalidah nightmares.

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Hands down the coolest scene: living graffiti.

Finally, I need to touch upon the dance sequences. THEY’RE SO FREAKING LONG. I think I clocked the Wicked Witch of the West’s scene at just under 9 minutes. Okay, so… this was a stage production that they brought to the big screen. Got it. Unfortunately, no one seemed to realize that the two mediums don’t always sync. A dance number is well and good, but control yourself, Hollywood. By the time you reach the two hour mark, you begin to realize that this stuff is all just filler. C’mon, guys. I have work in the morning. This film turns itself into a commitment without giving much back.

Overall, I’d say if anyone recommends this movie to you, you should ask them what you’re getting into and then free up your schedule for a bit. That person isn’t going to be me though. It’s just as simple to look up a scene here and there in order to get a feel for it. While it might be a cult film, it’s certainly not worthy in my book.

Rating: Don’t bother.

tl;dr
Watch: Cool scenery. One of MJ’s few movie performances.
Don’t watch: Because it’s really just a time-consuming disappointment and you already know the story anyway.

Images © Universal

The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s (2007)

Not Rated, 47 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Lisa VischerPhil VischerMike Nawrocki

There are probably a few dozen movies, short films, and television episodes that are adapted from the 40 plus books set in the Land of Oz. It wouldn’t surprise me if I could continue this series through the rest of the year… but let’s not get crazy. I would rather focus on things I can easily obtain. So imagine my frustration when I buy a DVD, brand new out of the crinkly plastic, and the wife and I sit down to watch it… only to have the audio replaced with the commentary track. Changing the audio settings does nothing. I bought a bad burn. No offense intended towards the production company, but seriously, whomever first thought up the commentary track should go sit on a sharp stick.

Years later, the wife and I decide to give this another go. Libraries are a poor cinephile’s best friend. The DVD works and we’re finally able to watch The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s. This isn’t your typical Oz rendition and if you’re familiar with the VeggieTales series, that’s par for the course. Our hero, Darby, runs away from home in order to visit an amusement park where he spends all of his savings. Shamed, he returns home penniless to beg for forgiveness.

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A boy and his pig. Dog… No, pig–I’m so confused.

The first thing anyone should notice about this is… well, the vegetable part. But that’s not what I’m concerned with. Darby is a boy–the first male lead in any Wizard of Oz take I’ve seen. His presence should come as no surprise after Bob the Tomato explicitly tells us that this is a version of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son.

Obviously playing off of the MGM film, the video takes on both visual and musical similarities, with the exception being that home is still in color. Another similarity is the presence of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion; however, these characters aren’t that close to their literary counterparts. It’s kind of nice: having the same story, but not really being presented with anything close to it. This would lead us to the conclusion that this is just a simple marketing ploy, but at least it’s not another rehash.

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PUPPIES!!!!!!

This story is goofy and full of the lighthearted humor common in the VeggieTales series, but it also has a moral for both children and parents alike as both sides are just as capable of making mistakes. It’s forgiveness that shows love in the end.

Rating: Watch it.

tl;dr
Watch: It’s moral and silly.
Don’t watch: You have to be into this kind of thing.

Images © Big Idea

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.

tl;dr
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.

tl;dr
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.