Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reviews In Space: The Witches (1990)


Roald Dahl was awesome.  He was creative, made great characters, and was always funny. And a few of his books were made into movies. Therefore; The Witches.

(Insert clever bestiality-related quip here)

So, I think I'll kick off this review with the plot, which is a good thing to kick off a review with. Some old Norwegian grandma, Helga Eveshim, (Mai Zetterling,) is telling her grandson (who is not Norweigan,) Luke, (Jasen Fisher,) a story about real witches. Apparently, real witches have Computer Generated purple pupils, (Heh, purple pupils,) and a whole crap-load of other features, like baldness (are all witches cancer patients?), a lack of toes, (they wear high heels anyway,) etc. Anyways, the kid's parents get in a car crash, Luke and Grandma mourn for a bit, time jump, grandma has a diabetes stroke (on the kid's birthday no less,) and the pair have to stay in England for a bit, because . . . uh . . . Diabetes is cured if you stay in England for a while? Seriously, it makes no sense.  The doctor says it's so Grandma can relax, but why can't you relax in Norway?

This film has several strange, what-the-hell-just-happened moments. The first, oddly enough, is in the very beginning of the movie, where the credits scroll by in a Star Wars-esque perspective. Except instead of scrolling by in space, they scroll by a frozen Norwegian landscape.


And that brings us into the performances. Everyone is just decent, except for a few actors, which I shall point out. 

First, Jasen Smith, who plays Luke. GOD, is this kid bad. He reminds me of that awful actor who played Anakin Skywalker as a kid.  I almost expect him to repeat one of the lines from The Phantom Menace.

Secondly, I'd like to point out Anne Lambton, who played the first witch we saw. She's honestly the best actor here. She plays her role very well, being creepy, like a witch should be.  Unfortunately, she gets five minutes of screen time.  The hell, movie? That's a terrible casting decision!  This woman should've had the title role!  That's - That's like if you gave Alan Rickman as Snape five lines in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix!  

Oh, wait.

And third but not least is Anjelica Huston, who plays the Grand High Witch.


I expect nothing but a subtle performance from a character that looks like this.

Good lord, this woman chews the scenery like it's filled with blueberries! Seriously, she makes me laugh every time I look at her.

By the way, did I mention that the cameos in this movie are amazing? They got Rowan Atkinson, (Mr. Bean, for those who don't know who Rowan Atkinson is, (and I don't blame you if you don't)) and I swear I saw Abe Vigoda and Phyllis from The Office in there, too. Seriously though

The ending of this movie is tacked on and honestly kinda stupid.  See, the book ends with Luke realizing that while he'll be a mouse for the rest of his life, he can still have a fulfilling life screwing with the witches.  In my opinion, that's a solid ending.  It ties everything up nicely.   

However, in the movie, they have to screw it up and have some witch come over and change Luke back into a real boy.  I think it's because the Grand High Witch betrayed her and she wanted to give a postmortem screw-you.  I don't know, it's stupid. (However, unlike Robots and Popeye, this ending is not a good metaphor for the rest of the movie, because the rest of the movie doesn't suck all that much.)

Now you may be asking, 'Spacer!  Why didn't you end with the end?  The end is a good place to end.' Well, I'll tell you.  It's because you should always save the best for last. Ladies and gentlemen, the metamorphosis scene.

Really, you just have to watch the scene to understand.

Overall, The Witches is a fun movie. While it's not perfect, the directing is good, the shots of Norway are nice, and it's just entertaining to watch. Check it out if you want 90 minutes of witch-y entertainment.

A must-see for fans of the book.
This is Spacer, signing out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reviews In Space: Robots (2005)


(WARNING TO THE INNOCENT: There are an astounding, astounding, ASTOUNDING amount of spoilers in this review. Read at the risk of killing plot twists.)
Ah, Blue Sky Studios. You've brought us such CG classics as Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who, and . . .
Maybe Ice Age 2?
Seriously, guys, try harder when you're making CG films for kids. They're usually pretty bad. Anyways, this isn't a rant about the quality of CG kids movies made by Blue Sky Studios. This is a review of one of their lesser-known films, Robots.
Notice anything interesting near the top?

Yes, folks, in Robots, we'll be seeing the likes of Ewan McGregor and Halle Berry team up with Mel Brooks.
. . . Wow, I never thought I'd ever have to type that.
Moving on. Ewan McGregor plays a robot named Rodney Copperbottom from an upper-lower-middle class robot family who wants to invent. And conveniently, there's a company called Bigweld Inc., run by a robot named Bigweld, who market indy inventions to the public. Weirder by the fucking second. Rodney then decides to move out of the house to try to get his invention, The Wonderbot, pitched to Bigweld Inc. However, when he gets there, he realizes that Bigweld Inc. is no longer run by Bigweld, but some fucking douche named Ratchet who only wants money. So Rodney, a silly robot named Fender, (No, not that one from Futurama) have to team up to bring Bigweld back.
Oh, and did I mention that BIGWELD IS VOICED BY MEL BROOKS?!?

Now, here we get started on the actual review-y part of the review. Forgive me if it sucks, I haven't had much practice yet.

So, because this is mostly a family comedy, let's start with the jokes, which are INCREDIBLY hit-and-miss. Sometimes while watching the DVD, I found myself laughing my lungs out of air, but other times, I remained completely and utterly straight-faced.

However, about 75% of the misses come from the very unfunny Fender. This character was flawed in perception, put to be a comic relief character in every sense of the word, meaning he was basically just a joke placed in a bunch of CG metal. I mean, this guy was BAD. His only funny moments come from the dance sequences, which I'll talk about later, and a couple of his interactions with Rodney. A COUPLE, I says.

So, on the topic of hit-and-miss things, let's move on to the acting. Stanley Tucci was great as Herb Copperbottom, Rodney's dad, and Jim Broadbent had arguably one of the most fucking awesome voices in animation history as Madame Gasket, just topping that one lizard in Ferngully. However, I didn't find Mel Brooks to be all that great as Bigweld.
Oh, come on! He just wasn't! I felt that he was trying to capture the essence of the character, I really did, but he just failed.

Oh, shit, I don't have a way to transition into the next segment. Someone, hit the music!

Yeah, I'm the Taxman!

So, the pacing. I actually thought the pacing was a tad too fast. I mean, we come to a major plot point. "OH! LOOK, SOMETHING'S HAPPENING OVER HERE!" And we move on. That kinda bugged me the whole way through.

And the product placement. Okay, the one instance of product placement. There's one scene where a mailbox is talking to Rodney. And on it, there resides none other than THE UPS LOGO! DUN DUN DAAAAAN!
Okay, so it's not that big of a deal. It was just a little annoying.

So, that brings us to the Girl Power segments. These are where the two female leads, Cappy and Generic Hot Girl #129 beat up some baddies, or greatly out power/outsmart the boys. While annoying, these segments have quite a bit of fun with themselves. So I guess I can forgive them this one time.

And then there's the sheer amount of characters. The main characters are so large in number, that most of them seem like minor characters. Actually, in that department, Robots reminded me of Transformers 2. And dude, when you're doing something Michael Bay did, that's low. Really, really low.

So, on to what I liked about Robots.

I.e., The Good Stuff.

The character designs and visuals in this movie? Grade-A. I haven't seen a CG world this creative since I saw the movie 9 back in June, (A 71/100 on my Spacer Rate-O-Matic Scale) and I haven't seen character designs this interesting since . . . Well, 9 too.

Oh, and the Wizard Of Oz references. Occasionally, the Tin Man pops up and says something Tin Man-ish. These parts are really enjoyable, and actually really funny for big fans of the movie.

The dance sequences, much like the Wizard Of Oz references, are really funny, especially when Fender spontaneously breaks into "Hit Me Baby" by Britney Spears near the climax. Ah, and I've been saving the best for last. The soundtrack.


This soundtrack was amazing to listen to during the movie, and I wouldn't mind popping this baby into the CD Player once in a while if I owned it. I mean, this soundtrack is excellent.

Finally, the ending.
This ending, while not great by any sense of the word, was satisfying. It tied up all loose ends, and was quite enjoyable. And really, isn't that the entirety of Robots? Sure, it's not great, but you enjoy watching it, and it's satisfying. I recommend Robots to parents who were going to take their kids to see Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel this weekend. Rent this instead. Save you and your kid a good 400-something brain cells.

A definite good.