I can only imagine what Christmas gatherings will be like in my house in the future!
My streak of watching a lot of movies continues,
Return To Never Land (2002, Robin Budd & Donovan Cook, Australa/Canada/United States Of America) ***
I can easily see why Return To Never Land stands out from most other straight to video sequels from Disney Animation Studios. Return To Never Land is its own entity, it exists because of Peter Pan, but it has its own story to tell and its own identity to inhabit. The basic tenets of the story in Return To Never Land are similar to those found in Peter Pan, but the characters behave differently, they have progressed. Hook still wants to kill Pan, but the stakes are slightly different and the surrounding characters are different enough to make a huge difference. It’s not a world beater, but Return To Never Land has some quality animation and a story that hits its marks and manages to be fun and a good continuation of the Peter Pan mythos at the same time.
No Witnesses (2012, James & Thomas Pickering, United Kingdom) ***
At only a shade over seven minutes long No Witnesses still manages to do a splendid job of developing its characters. It’s true that the film gives information through the implementation of character profiles, but the words and mannerisms of the two leads tell us more than enough about them and their world. The sound mixing was a bit too on the loud side, and ultimately I didn’t feel there was enough heft to the story. Still, No Witnesses looks good for being made on virtually no budget, and it does a good job of creating believable characters in such a short span of time. No Witnesses is the debut effort from the Pickering Brothers, and it’s a solid debut that has me interested in what they will do in the future.
Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up (2010, Steve Martino & Mike Thurmeier, United States Of America) **
I laughed a few times, and uh, yeah. There’s really not much to say about this one, there are some funny moments and a lot of unfunny moments. I laughed at the funny moments and sat stoned face during the unfunny moments. My daughter found it hilarious, so there is that, but on my end I was less than enthused.
Rio (2011, Carlos Saldanha, United States Of America) **1/2
Gorgeous animation in service of a lame story. There may have originally been a decent story at play, but I have a feeling that as soon as DreamWorks Animation meddled with the story and made sure to insert beats for Jamie Foxx, and Will i Am among others that the story went kaput. That’s the main problem with Rio, it is very much a DreamWorks Animation movie. Rio looks better than most films from DreamWorks, but it has the same stock story, meaningless characters, and blase voice work. All the pretty animation in the world can’t make up for a lack of story, and that’s why Rio fails to impress.
Un Conte De Noël (A Christmas Tale, 2008, Arnaud Desplechin, France) ***
A sprawling family drama that is a tad too sprawling and a mite too cute. I felt that every time I was getting to know the characters the film would take a detour in the form of visual trickery. It could be the sudden introduction of still photos to play out a scene or a character stopping in the middle of a scene to provide an inner monologue directly to the camera in a breaking the fourth wall moment. Whatever the trick was, although trick isn’t the best word, it distracted from the characters and the family drama.It also distracted from a terrific performance from Mathieu Amalric. Un Conte De Noël is a well made, but ultimately very flawed film.
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991, Phil Nibbelink & Simon Wells, United States Of America) **1/2
A cute premise, but a whole lot of been there, done that before. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West borrows so much from its predecessor, An American Tail, that it is at times the same exact movie. There’s a trek through the sewers again, Fievel gets lost and is on his own again, the family goes somewhere they think they don’t have to worry about cats again, and so on and so forth. There are sequences of animation that are very well done, but there aren’t enough stand out sequences to make up for the routine nature of the animation. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is a retread and very normal looking.
Balto (1995, Simon Wells, United States Of America) ***
Charming tale, and quite a surprisingly dark one as well. The film deals with the idea of death in a frank way that I did not expect from an animated movie geared more towards the younger set. The animation is clean and with its own moments of darkness. Ultimately the film is a tad too cute for its own good, but the tale is a heartwarming one and its pleasant to look at. Plus, dogs are cool man, everyone knows that.
Bambi II (2006, Brian Pimental, United States Of America) ***
Another straight to video Disney Animation sequel that surprised me. It’s nowhere near as good as the first one, but Bambi II is well animated and a tale that the mouse can be proud of. The story is simple, but it works in its simplicity. The animation is robust, but it still has flashes of the mistiness that defined the original. As far as a continuation goes Bambi II hits its marks and made me a happy camper.
A lot of good movies this week, but no great ones. Still, I’ll take a week with good movies any week of the year. Un Conte De Noël takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!