Castle in the Sky (1986)

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Castle in the Sky Movie Review

Castle in the Sky is a 1986 animated adventure film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is the first Studio Ghibli feature and one of their best in my opinion.

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There’s nothing worse than having your pigtails shot off!

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Castle in the Sky Movie Review……………………………………………

The plot is so good here. The film is a fantasy, but above all one grand adventure film and rarely have I seen this spectacular an adventure before. Such an amazing experience this movie provides. As is the case with most Miyazaki films, this one features a strong ecological theme and message to it which was great. The film is admirable for being very long, clocking in at two hours which is quite a lot for an animated film, but here it was worth it as the story is so majestic and big that it needed this much time to be told.

The beginning is intriguing and I liked how it started briskly and with an action sequence. Then the rest of the first act was a bit slow, but that was essential for providing character development, atmosphere and build-up. The second act is very good and that is where we get some of the best moments from the pirates. And of course the third act is the highlight as we finally see Laputa. It was fascinating to see the entire island and city on the sky. The details are remarkable, but more on that later. I loved the ending with the spell of destruction being used. It was dark, tragic and yet necessary.

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Castle in the Sky Movie Review……………………………………………

The character development in Castle in the Sky is solid, but not the greatest. To me Sheeta is a typical protagonist, but an interesting case of a strong female character and sort of a Studio Ghibli princess. Pazu is a bit boring and too good, but he serves his purpose. The two are too heroic and sometimes bland, but the relationship between the two is sweet and they got some charming moments together.

As for Colonel Muska, he is a typical over-the-top and power-hungry villain. However, the fact why I liked him quite a bit lies in the twist in his background which was well executed and in his actions which were capable and he actually was a very competent, strong villain who posed some serious danger for the protagonists.

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Castle in the Sky Movie Review……………………………………………

But Captain Dola is easily the highlight. Her entire pirate team is a lot of fun and I love her dynamic with her sons and husband. But she is so interesting and unforgettable not only in her looks – pink pigtails is a refreshing look for an old woman – but also in her character as she is good, but still treasure-hungry and she ended up taking a lot of treasure from Laputa in the end. She is simply hilarious and all of the film’s humor comes from her and her many funny lines. She is certainly one of Ghibli’s best and most endearing creations.

The animation in Castle in the Sky is something extraordinary. As I said before, the world building here is simply amazing and the attention to detail is unprecedented. But the animation is so great that it managed to give us all of this world in the best way possible – through old-fashioned hand-drawn style. The character designs are good, the use of color is great and Laputa is breathtaking to witness. I loved its original look, those robots also have an authentic look to them, the nature is beautiful here and the city and its magical properties are so well explored. Everything looks gorgeous in the titular castle, but Pazu’s village is also beautiful to witness and very cozy. This film honestly has one of the best animations ever, that’s how powerful it is. Not only wonderful and detailed, but also stylistic and even artistic. It’s certainly miles above anything Disney produced during this time.

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Castle in the Sky Movie Review……………………………………………

Castle in the Sky sometimes has overwhelming action for sure, but still that action is surprisingly well executed and it is in fact one of the best action oriented animated films. A lot of the set pieces such as the train scene and the final confrontation on Laputa are instantly recognizable and so well done. The movements are polished and the action is as exciting as the story is engaging.

And the score, oh how wonderful the score in this movie is. It is honestly breathtaking and timeless in quality as it lifts the material and animation to even greater heights and having in mind that both were excellent to begin with, the end result is nothing sort of astonishing. A perfect, well rounded package this film is. The entire score is great and I loved the song in the end, but naturally its theme is the standout here – simply gorgeous and unforgettable. Whenever it appeared in the movie, I was mesmerized.

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Castle in the Sky Movie Review……………………………………………

So it has its problems such as the protagonists and the dialogue should have been stronger as the script demanded it, but the message is great and this is an ecological movie done right. To me this is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s finest movies and a proof of how strong his direction could be. It is also one of Studio Ghibli’s best and such a phenomenal first feature for this amazing studio.

Castle in the Sky has weaker main characters, but the villain is solid and Captain Dola is one of Ghibli’s funniest and most endearing characters. The story here is excellent, so well told and with a great ecological message. The score is simply beautiful, the world building is extraordinary and the animation is artistic, meticulous in detail and simply mesmerizing leading to one of the best animated films ever in my opinion. It is such an epic, grand adventure that is one of Miyazaki’s best and such a terrific first feature for wonderful Studio Ghibli.

My Rating – 4.5

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Dinosaur (2000)

Dinosaur Movie Review

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Dinosaur Movie Review

Dinosaur is a 2000 animated adventure film which is the 39th official Disney animated feature. It is unfortunately one of Disney’s weakest offerings.

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Some things start out big,

and some things start out small,

very small.

But sometimes the smallest thing

can make the biggest changes of all

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Dinosaur Movie Review

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It follows an orphaned Iguanodon who along with his family of lemurs moves in search of a new home after the asteroid hit. Now, the plot is fairly simple and very ordinary. Of course the setting and the creatures are great. Who doesn’t like dinosaurs? I myself like them a lot as most people do and I especially love everything ancient and prehistoric which is why this movie was intriguing to me and why that asteroid sequence was the highlight, so well done.

Another major highlight has to be the beginning which is just incredible! It is one of Disney’s better openings and although a bit too much inspired by ‘Tarzan’, it was still great. Watching the egg go from predator to predator and then end up at the lemurs’ place was a phenomenal way to open the movie, it instantly hooks you in the story. But it is then such a shame that the rest of the film is a failure. It is so slow and so typical in its conflict and very uninvolving in its overly standard journey story that it was just one giant snoozefest to witness.

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Dinosaur Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the characters. Well, they are not the greatest to put it mildly. The character development is so weak and uninspired that not a single character leaves a bigger impression after you watch the movie and all just fade away. Aladar is as boring of a hero as you could possibly be. Typically selfless and heroic, but without any other attributes to him. As for the lemurs, all of them are forgettable and the mother is basically Kala as the similarities to ‘Tarzan’ continue to pile up. And that womanizing lemur was cringe-worthy with his humor. As for the other dinosaurs, Neera is as basic and forgettable of a love interest as they go and Kron is just so over-the-top and typical. Such a clichéd and dull brute. The conflict between him and Aladar was so boring.

The voice acting is atrocious and possibly the biggest blow to the quality of the entire film. I don’t know what went wrong here as Disney’s films usually have great acting in them, but this one features such terrible or bland at best voices and whenever the actors and actresses had to sell those more emotional sequences, they failed miserably time and again. They definitely hurt the movie the most in the long run.

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Dinosaur Movie Review

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Dinosaur had groundbreaking animation for its time and it is worth noting that it is the first ever Disney movie to feature CGI and again Disney won’t use computer animation more prominently until 2005. But here lies the big problem – the film is dated. Yes, obviously it must have been absolutely incredible to watch when it came out, but nowadays, the animation is telling of its age. And that is the problem with computer animation, it is just never as timeless or as artistic as hand-drawn animation is which again goes to show that all of today’s animated films are going to be very dated in just a couple of decades. Such a problematic medium to use. Another problem here is that the use of live-action scenery also felt dated and to me not pleasant at all as it created a jarring look to it. Very frustrating.

Where Dinosaur excels is in the score which is amazing. I just loved its theme which was gorgeous, majestic and epic in the style of Disney’s best scored movies. It certainly helped to elevate many of its scenes to greater and more epic heights. It doesn’t have any songs in it, but the score is so good and it accompanies the scenes so beautifully and fittingly that it is the most memorable aspect of the entire film.

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Dinosaur Movie Review

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It isn’t well paced and it isn’t particularly well directed. The dialogue is as ordinary as these types of films usually have. And I have to say that the humor was also lacking and the film was overly serious and whenever it tried to be funny, it mostly failed miserably. Also the emotional investment isn’t the greatest. Yes, some of it was moving, but most wasn’t. I appreciated its realistic approach to the character designs no matter how dated they look now and I liked its apocalyptic and adventurous overtones, but the film was ultimately too ambitious for its own sake and it is one of Disney’s weakest films for sure. It was evident by now that they have entered their darkest period yet.

Dinosaur definitely is realistic and ambitious, it has a couple of awesome sequences with the beginning being the highlight plus the score is the major standout being uplifting and majestic, but the CGI animation here is dated by now, the characters are beyond forgettable, the story is dull and the voice acting is bland leading to one of Disney’s more lackluster efforts.

My Rating – 3

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Review

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Review

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a 2001 animated science fiction adventure film which is Disney’s 41st animated feature. It is one of their weakest outings.

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“You are a scholar, are you not?

Judging from your diminished physique

and large forehead,

you are suited for nothing else?”

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Review

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I don’t know how they could have screwed a premise like this – A crew in 1914 goes to search for Atlantis, the lost civilization. They find it, but the trouble arises when their captain wants to use its resources. It definitely had a lot of potential, but the execution is so muddled that it ended up being one of Disney’s weakest films ever. Now I changed my mind upon second viewing and now I do not think it is bad but rather passable. But still that is very weak for Disney’s standards.

It is crazy to think about, but James Cameron basically ripped this movie off when making ‘Avatar’ which is just too similar to this storyline. That is because this is a good story that deals with important issues and themes. I liked its adventurous tone and it is also the first science fiction film to come out from Disney. But the storytelling isn’t the greatest and the film ended up being too simplistic and way too fast paced for it to work.

Let’s talk about the characters. They are unfortunate as the character development is Atlantis’ biggest flaw. The voice actors admittedly did a very good job plus it is a very interesting cast of characters as it is so diverse. There is a Black/Native American character than a Puerto Rican one and also an Italian and French guy. The movie is surprisingly ethnically and gender diverse for a Disney flick.

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Review

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But that ultimately did not matter as the film is overstuffed with too many characters and neither of them ever get properly developed and they are all thin as a tissue paper and very forgettable. Milo James Thatch is such a boring central character who is actually more annoying than sympathetic. Rourke is such a typical villain who did pose some threat near the end, but is mostly forgettable.

Kida is a typical native love interest who is weakly developed and overly sexualized. Vinny is the most forgettable of the bunch and his jokes did not work. Sweet is highly likable, but also underdeveloped. Helga is interesting and has some great scenes, Ramirez is also interesting albeit not particularly likable and Mole is just too ridiculous of a comic relief and never really funny. But Packard was funny as this elderly bored lady and she is the only character who made me chuckle here.

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Review

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire is gorgeously animated. This is the first movie from the studio to be heavily influenced by anime as they really wanted to employ that Japanese style here. And they definitely could employ it successfully so it’s a shame that character and plotwise, all three Disney anime films are very weak (‘Treasure Planet’ and ‘Big Hero 6’ are better than this one, but still so problematic).

I loved its hand-drawn animation, the character designs are very good and particularly the scenery is gorgeous. Some scenes such as that last sequence were stunningly beautiful and that was probably the highlight of the movie. I loved the city, I loved the water and everything looked awesome. The attention to detail that went into this production is staggering as the Atlantean buildings are very unique and they even created an entire language for them. That was very fascinating to witness.

Even though Atlantis is not a musical and doesn’t have any songs whatsoever, it still features a stellar score. The sound is great, but the score is excellent from beginning to end and very atmospheric and grand. It pleasantly reminded me of those old adventure flicks and in that area, it managed to recreate that adventurous feel. That theme near the end is stunning.

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Review

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So in the end it is a three-star movie and one of Disney’s weakest for sure. It is awfully fast in pacing and that is why it was a bit dull at times as I dislike excessive action and the third act here suffered from that. But the first act is very rushed too. I just wanted fewer characters in its cast and more time to breathe with more quality dialogue and emotion. This movie is so cold emotionally that it infuriated me. Disney movies are supposed to be heartwarming. So it is an okay film and intriguing, but ultimately frustratingly weak.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is one of Disney’s most intriguing experiments with a gorgeous anime-influenced animation, excellent score, an impressive attention to detail and a winning premise, but it ultimately failed to become a great sci-fi adventure as it is too fast paced, too emotionally cold and filled with way too many characters who are all very weakly developed. It is a film that had great potential, but is so frustratingly misguided that it ended up being one of Disney’s weakest efforts.

My Rating – 3

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Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)

Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown Movie Review

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Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown Movie Review

Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown is a 1977 animated adventure comedy film directed by Bill Melendez. It is the third Peanuts film.

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“Why can’t I have a normal dog like everybody else?”

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Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown Movie Review

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Now this is going to be a personal review as always. I realize that non-fans of this property would find this movie boring, but I am a big Peanuts fan and I honestly liked it a lot. That is why I give it four out of five instead of 3.5 or even lower as most would rate it. It is a low 4, but still a four.
Yes, the overarching plot here involving the rafting competition between the Peanuts gang and the bullies is typical and actually only serves to provide the gang to go on this great, fun adventure. But that is why I didn’t have a problem with it. Yes, it was rushed in its execution (especially in the ending), but that is unimportant as it gave us such a fun, spirited and highly cozy adventure which I just adored. I love when the entire gang is on an adventure together and this movie gave me that in such a wonderful fashion.

Let’s talk about the characters. Charlie Brown himself is as good as usual, although not utilized as much this time around. But the beginning and ending where he is left alone and Snoopy provides him a ride are typically brutal and memorable sequences for him. Linus is thoroughly underutilized here and I expected more from Lucy as well, but Sally got some funny lines and Peppermint Patty is here at her best and I loved her interactions with the entire gang, especially Chuck.

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Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown Movie Review

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As for Snoopy and Woodstock, they are actually superb in this flick. Their shtick can usually get old pretty quickly, but this time around they never got dull despite the prolonged screentime because they have some wonderful gags here and they work great together. Their relationship is probably the best utilized in this particular movie.
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown has a pretty weak animation which is actually cruder than usual and that is problematic, but the scenery is beautiful and, as I said before, I loved the river setting here. The highlights were the rafting scenes which were incredibly entertaining and the cabin scene which is the most charming in the film.

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Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown Movie Review

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It is a very weakly edited flick with such a mediocre first act, but the rest of the film is so effervescent that I liked it a lot nonetheless. It isn’t as good as ‘Snoopy, Come Home’, but it is still a worthy addition to the Peanuts filmography which actually turned out much stronger than I expected. These films are definitely worthy and some even better than the specials themselves.

The first act is certainly not the greatest and the entire storyline here is weak and just an excuse to have a fun adventure with the gang, but what an adventure it is. I loved its setting, the character interactions are very good and it is such a charming and wonderful Peanuts flick that I honestly liked it a lot despite its many obvious shortcomings.

My Rating – 4

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King Kong (1933)

King Kong Movie Review…………………………………………………..

King Kong Movie Review

King Kong is a 1933 fantasy adventure film which is one of the finest blockbusters of all time.
This is such a classic movie. I first watched it about six years ago and after seeing it now for the second time, I fully stand by my original 5-star rating as it truly is as flawless as blockbusters can be. A marvelous movie by all accounts.
The story and the overall jungle setting of the film along with the dinosaur creatures is obviously influenced by ‘The Lost World’ which is such a good silent adventure flick. But King Kong managed to make even better, full use of such a premise and I honestly think that it is mostly immaculately executed.

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It was beauty killed the beast

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King Kong Movie Review…………………………………………………..
I loved the first act which is a perfect build up to the action, so well done and engaging. This is a monster movie done right as it introduces you to its characters in a natural manner and those characters are not ridiculously underdeveloped but are quite memorable.
Robert Armstrong is amusing as this highly business-oriented director of exotic movies. He is likable, yet realistic. I respected the movie for showcasing how box office was important even during the 30s and that Hollywood is just one giant business. He got some of the funniest lines as well.
Fay Wray is quite memorable as one of the screen’s first scream queens. She was stereotypical and too hopeless, but this role needed such a weak female character so that wasn’t a big problem for me. Bruce Cabot is immensely funny as this overly misogynistic redneck and I really liked their relationship.
But King Kong is the name of the movie and he is undoubtedly the true star here. That Beauty and the Beast dynamic was quite interesting and I really liked his behavior and that he seemed genuinely clever at times. His death is definitely felt and is the most emotional scene in the film.

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King Kong Movie Review………………………………………….
So I loved that ending and that famous quote is unforgettable to this day. The entire Empire State Building sequence is thrilling, beautifully executed and realistic. That scene is one for the ages. But the second act is probably my favorite as the jungle scenes were a lot of fun and the movie shines the most in the adventure department. It is wrongly classified as horror when in reality it is an adventure film with fantasy elements and what a glorious, old-fashioned adventure it is.
The action is so well executed and quite believable. The reason why I consider it as a full-on blockbuster despite its age is that it has quite a lot of action in it plus it is a giante spectacle that truly needs to be seen on the big screen and I am so glad that I did that.
King Kong features quite possibly the best special effects of any 1930s film. The stop-motion work done by Willis O’Brien truly is one of the finest of all time. The Pteranodon looked real, the Tyrannosaurus and the Brontosaurus both looked phenomenal and of course Kong himself is marvelous. His jerky movements only further brough the necessary realism as that large a creature would be really slow. But his face and fur are absolutely fantastic. This movie looked spectacular for its time, but it still looks pretty good even by today’s VFX standards.

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King Kong Movie Review…………………………………………………..
The film’s humor surprised me as it is pretty good and I laughed a couple of times. The dialogue is simple, yet extremely memorable and the editing is so deft that the movie flies by, but is never rushed too. The score is pretty good and fitting to the action as well. It truly is a wonderful experience.
With simply amazing special effects, memorable characters, excellent humor, highly recognizable dialogue and superb imagery, King Kong truly is an undisputed classic which has aged like fine wine and is phenomenally entertaining to this day. It is such a wonderful adventure which features quite a lot of unforgettable sequences, great action scenes and such a memorable ending leading to one of the best blockbusters of all time.

My Rating – 5

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The Jungle Book (1994)

The Jungle Book Movie Review………………………………………………….

The Jungle Book Movie Review

The Jungle Book is a 1994 adventure drama film directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Jason Scott Lee. It is a solid, yet such a problematic movie.

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The more I learn what is a man,

the more I want to be an animal.

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The Jungle Book Movie Review………………………………………………….

Where do I even start with this one. Now, let’s first state the positives. The film is obviously its own thing which is good. It was odd that it didn’t adapt the book faithfully at all, but I still liked that it served as an original flick that is very different from the 1967 movie as well as the newest 2016 version. This one is also done by Disney, but it doesn’t resemble the other two movies at all as it focuses more on Mowgli’s relationship with the people than on his jungle storyline.

As much as I appreciated that more different approach, I still didn’t love it. The movie succeeds quite solidly as a drama, but never as an adventure. Everything with the humans was quite solid, but the part with animals was weak. I don’t know if the live-action non-talking animal version of this story can ever really be good, but this one certainly wasn’t. Both Bagheera and Baloo were way too underutilized and I just didn’t care about either of the animals.

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The Jungle Book Movie Review………………………………………………….

Not only that, but the entire jungle part is basically trimmed and way too rushed. The part with the apes felt ridiculously abrupt and disappointing. The entire film is very oddly paced. It is well directed, but not well structured whatsoever.

I liked that these were real trained animals. That was an interesting experiment, even if it didn’t quite work out in the end. As for the human actors, very weak acting is present in this movie. Lena Headey is solid, but all of the others are weak and not great including Jason Scott Lee who gave a rather mediocre performance in a role that demanded a better actor. And it was absolutely ridiculous to me that they cast an Asian actor to play an Indian character. Such a lazy and stupid choice from the casting director.

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The Jungle Book Movie Review………………………………………………….

The Jungle Book has a solid romance at its center, if a bit too typical. The entire storyline is familiar, but mostly done well. I liked the characters even if their development isn’t the greatest. The action is very well executed and the cinematography is quite good. The film felt too much like a typical 90s film and as one of those children’s films I grew up with in the nineties. But it was still charming in its own right and genuinely endearing at times. The film also serves well as a historical drama and that was pleasant to witness. It is a solid movie for sure, but it could have been much better nevertheless.

The 1994 version of the Jungle Book is a solid, yet very troublesome experiment. I liked that it was its own thing and different than the other adaptations, it serves well as a historical drama and is quite charming at times, but it doesn’t serve well as an adventure film at all and although the use of real animals was solid, they were still underutilized and that entire subplot felt rushed and disappointing plus the acting isn’t the greatest here.

My Rating – 3.5

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Moana (2016)

Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

Moana Movie Review

Moana is a 2016 animated musical fantasy adventure film that is the 56th Disney animated feature. It is such a wonderful, old-fashioned Disney film which I liked a lot.

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If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess

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Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

I found the plot to be very good, if some plot points felt obvious. To me, the film succeeds the most as an adventure owing to its pure, unabashed sense of fun and discovery. I loved that about it as nowadays we rarely see these kinds of films and here we’ve got a grand sea adventure for the ages.

Of course the Polynesian setting is beautiful and highly authentic and intriguing. I loved that we got to meet this culture and their traditions, it definitely felt original and refreshing in that aspect. Another strong thing about it is its lack of villains. Moana has no villains whatsoever in it and that was great and realistic. The villain is the nature and its forces which was great to witness and so refreshing. I loved that the film focused more on the relationship between its two characters than on action. But the action is great too and actually the entire last battle and especially the final appearance of the goddess was just beautiful to behold and it was the best and most epic scene in the entire film.

Let’s talk about the characters. Moana is pretty good as the newest Disney princess. Yes, sometimes she felt too arrogant and annoying to me in a typical feminist fashion. But she was mostly likable and I liked that the movie was about her for the most part and her journey is so well established and her ups and downs are dramatic and emotional.

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Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

As for Maui, I don’t know about this one. Mainly because I dislike Dwayne Johnson and his voice so much, I did not care about this character much. Auli’i Cravalho did a much better and more natural job in her voice performance. But even though the two are great together and their tumultuous friendship feels like one of those classic Disney friendships from yesteryear, I still did not like him individually. He had some great moments, but was overall too unwilling to help her at first, too selfish and his humor felt forced to me. Really not a fan.

I liked the fact that the movie chose to focus mostly on these two as that led to a better developed relationship between these two, but it still has a couple of memorable supporting characters in it. To me Moana’s parents and especially her father was a walking cliché, but the grandmother was such a kind and wonderful person and their relationship was so sweet. Her death scene was really impactful and tragic. Tamatoa as this gold-obsessed coconut crab was the closest that this movie came to having a villain and I really liked him. He was a memorable and sometimes even funny character and he served his purpose and made an impact for a short screen time he received. I would have really liked for them to have focused on Pua instead of Heihei and that was unfortunate as Pua is such an adorable, lovable pig whom I liked a lot. But Heihei is also pretty good as this incredibly stupid rooster and some of his gags were quite funny. He truly is the dumbest Disney characters of all time.

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Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

Moana is a musical and to me it succeeds as such much more so than ‘Frozen’ did because it has more than one really good song. The overall score was really good too. Tulou Tagaloa is a short, if good opening for the movie, but I loved its Polynesian sound and language. That is the major strength of this movie – finally we see a Disney movie that utilizes the culture it depicts in its soundtrack!

An Innocent Warrior is another strong Polynesian number, it has beautiful vocals and is really moving. But I disliked Where You Are quite a bit as it is so bland, so forgettable and it is probably the weakest song in the entire movie. I also disliked You’re Welcome which featured too much rap and Dwayne Johnson singing is not my cup of tea. That sequence is comedic and it explains his character well, but the tune as a whole was annoying.

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Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

Shiny is a much better rap song. I still dislike that that genre was featured here as it does not fit, but I found the song’s chorus to be very catchy and memorable. But I have to say that I strongly disliked how this song started, but more on that later. I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors) was to me such a powerful number and not that much in the tune itself, but in terms of storytelling and characterization, it probably succeeds the most out of any song here as it perfectly helps us prepare for the storm and is so emotional and with beautiful vocals.

Logo Te Pate is also such a catchy, fun number that I liked a lot. But the highlights are naturally How Far I’ll Go which was Oscar-nominated and We Know the Way. How Far I’ll Go is such a classic Disney song in its style and it perfectly helps develop the character of Moana while also having a great scene to accompany it with good imagery and such good lyrics. But it is so immensely catchy too.

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Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

But to me We Know the Way is easily the highlight. I love this song so much! With superb lyrics and a great usage of Tokelauan language, it features such a great scene as a whole and I just loved that backstory in this movie. But it is such a catchy tune, so catchy and so fun that I actually have listened to it at least fifty times so far. It is a new Disney classic song in my opinion.

So naturally I love these songs so much and I think the soundtrack is mostly superb and stupendous, but I really disliked the musical direction in this film. For example, We Know the Way just sort of started and those transitions were not the most polished. But as I said above, Shiny starts in such an unappealing way with the character basically saying that he is going to sing. I disliked this meta approach to the songs so much as it basically adds another strong reason for musical haters to hate the genre. I would have liked a more respectful approach.

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Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

I liked the humor in Moana quite a bit, but I liked that it was mostly dramatic and that it focused on adventure and drama the most. It is a high-spirited adventure, but it succeeds in emotion as well because a couple of scenes are just so powerful, either poignant or uplifting. And some scenes, such as the last couple of them, are grand and majestic in both scope and emotion. The film is definitely ambitious in some areas.

The animation is gorgeous to behold. I loved its use of hand-drawn animation, but this is the first computer animated film from Ron Clements and John Musker and the results are more than stellar. The character designs are pretty good, but the highlights are some of the highly memorable imagery and the ocean. The water is so well animated and a character in its own right.

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Moana Movie Review……………………………………………………..

The film is well edited and well directed, I found the tone to be well handled and diverse and the film is emotionally engaging, but the dialogue needed to be much bigger to sell those abundant conversations and emotional scenes better. And because the film was too simplistic and definitely unoriginal in its storytelling, it never achieved the status of those Renaissance flicks from the nineties, but it came actually pretty close at times which I did not expect. And I loved that it was a return to classical Disney musicals and that is the major reason why I liked it more than Zootopia’ from the same year. it has its problems, but it is so wonderful and adventurous that it mostly succeeds.

Moana has its problems such as some typical plot points, a lack of stronger dialogue and I really dislike Maui and the film’s annoying meta approach at times, but the film succeeds as a high-spirited, grand adventure and it is a return to those classic musical adventure films from Disney which is why I loved it so much. The characters are mostly good, the film is very emotional at times, its lack of villains is admirable, some scenes are just beautiful and majestic to behold and the film’s Polynesian setting is so well utilized and intriguing. But the soundtrack is just fantastic with so many great, catchy or emotional numbers with the highlights being How Far I’ll Go and especially We Know the Way which are definitely future Disney classics.

My Rating – 4

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Havoc in Heaven (1964)

Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Havoc in Heaven Movie Review

Havoc in Heaven is a 1964 Chinese animated adventure film directed by Wan Laiming. It is a flawed, yet such an admirable, artistic endeavor.

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I humbly beg your Majesty to bring this monkey fiend to justice

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Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

It follows Monkey King who rebels against the Jade Emperor of heaven. Now in terms of storytelling, this isn’t the greatest film. Of course I was fascinated by its story and mythology as China has a rich history. I loved those intriguing fights and scenery. But it just didn’t captivate me as much as the visuals did and sometimes it wasn’t that easy to follow and isn’t all that well crafted.

The characterization is solid, but also not particularly remarkable. The characters are good, but not as memorable. Only the Monkey King is a memorable, interesting creation. He is a major figure in Chinese literature and mythology and this incarnation was pretty solid. The voice acting I also found to be pretty good.

The film succeeds as an action-adventure flick because it is so adventurous in its tone and charming while also featuring terrific action sequences. I absolutely loved the fights here as they were tremendously well choreographed, epic and exciting. Those scenes were some of the highlights of the film.

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Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

But where Havoc in Heaven shines is in the animation. Wow, is this a beautiful movie! The animation here has to be the best that sixties had to offer, at least it is in my opinion. What Chinese animators did here was nothing short of miraculous. They took this great material and did the best they could with it, bringing polished and professional animation to the picture.

The colors are so bright and pleasing here, wonderful to witness. The movements were wonderfully well executed and of course the scenery is just fantastic. Some of the imagery here was actually mesmerizing to behold with the highlights being heaven scenes as well as the fight choreography. Also some of the underwater stuff was great too. This wasn’t the easiest film to animate, but they managed to do a great job which is commendable. Not only that, but I would also call this animation a work of art as it truly felt like a moving picture and a beauty to behold. The animation fascinated and captivated me and I wish that the rest of the movie was as great.

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Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Havoc in Heaven is pretty well edited and paced, but I watched the shorter version of one and a half hours so I wouldn’t know if the longer, two hour version is better or not. This one was polished, superbly well directed and well paced. The score I also found to be respectable and the sound effects in particular were awesome and realistic. They perfectly accompanied the fight sequences, creating wonderful scenes in the process. But despite its great technicalities, I again found the plot and particularly the dialogue to be lacking as it isn’t as sophisticated as its visuals are. Also, the movie was never particularly entertaining and sometimes it was a bit dull to me. I wish that the characters and the plot were stronger as it would have made this film a classic, but it is still a respectable, sometimes wondrous piece of filmmaking that somewhat deserves its praise as the finest Chinese animation of all time and it deserves the second viewing as I intend to do one day.

Havoc in Heaven is definitely lacking in terms of storytelling and characterization plus it isn’t particularly engaging, but it is a wondrous achievement technically as the sound effects and score are superb and of course the visuals are dazzling. It has such a beautiful, absolutely jaw-dropping stylistic animation that I would absolutely call a work of art. The visuals propel this movie to greater heights making it a respectable, albeit flawed effort.

My Rating – 4

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Tarzan (1999)

Tarzan Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

Tarzan Movie Review

Tarzan is a 1999 animated adventure film that is the 37th Disney animated feature film. It is a bit underrated film that is one of my personal favorite Disney flicks.

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What am I doing? Captain!

Tell them you never found us!

After all, people get lost in the jungle all the time!

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Tarzan Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

This famous story got a great treatment in the Disney form and truly it just might be the best ever adaptation of the novel. It is such a fun, joyous and charming adventure flick with a couple of genuinely dramatic and heartbreaking moments as well. It flowed mostly really well and it is a well crafted film, albeit a bit too rushed at times.

The ending is most certainly overly happy, but still satisfying. As for the highlights, all of those emotional scenes were the best. For example, the beginning is just breathtakingly beautiful and it just might be Disney’s finest opening, possibly inferior just to the one in The Lion King of course. I loved the sequence in which Tarzan and Jane first met. Beautifully shot, tremendously well scored and filled with an excellent silent and even poetic approach to it, it is one standout scene from beginning to end. The scenes between Tarzan and Kala were naturally some of the best as well.

Now is the perfect time to talk about the characters. Tarzan himself is really good. Too serious, but he has such a great, genuinely moving and powerful arc. He grew up a bit too fast, but his adult part is great. Jane is fantastic. I don’t know why she’s so underrated, but when it comes to Disney’s female characters, she is one of the most endearing and likable. I liked that she was a stereotype at first, but that she eventually changed. The romance between the two is very sweet.

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Tarzan Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

Kala is such a sweet soul and a wonderful mother. Kerchak is superb and the relationship between him and Tarzan is possibly the strongest one in the film and that says a lot. He proved his worth near the end and watching Kerchak die and utter that line of acceptance to his adoptive son was just heartbreaking and wonderful to witness.

Terk is definitely funny and it is great that we got a female comedic sidekick who is also a tomboy. She is genuinely funny with a couple of great lines and succeeds as a comic relief as well as being a great friend. Tantor is nowhere near as good as her, but he still has his moments and is better than most secondary sidekicks. Professor Porter is absolutely phenomenal. I just loved him as he is such a sweet, at times funny and always immensely likable person who brought a smile to my face. Clayton, on the other hand, is one of the film’s major weaknesses. I get that he was important to the story, but he was still a typical villain who didn’t really pose serious threat. He is well designed and definitely not bad, but still not great and his death is typically foolish and even ridiculous in a way.

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Tarzan Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

Tarzan has excellent animation. Now there isn’t anything truly artistic here and some of the earlier Disney renaissance films were more inspired for sure, but it still looks terrific. The character designs I loved. I wasn’t crazy about Tarzan’s look, but the gorillas looked terrific and all of the other humans were great. But the highlights are the action which is stupendously well realized in movements and the natural scenery which is simply gorgeous. Some scenes here truly are breathtaking to witness.

Now the soundtrack is splendid. I get why some may find it cheesy, but I like Phil Collins and what he did here was great. All of the songs here are either moving or catchy and I liked that for once the characters do not sing, but the songs serve as a background. All of them serve as great plot drivers or character moments and thus they are successful.

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Tarzan Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

Trashin’ the Camp is naturally the weakest of the five, but watching it and listening to it the second time, I do not dislike it as much as I did the first time around. It is still basically a non-song with silly singing, but the tune itself is catchy and the sequence is actually a lot of fun, although definitely a detour and even filler in terms of storytelling.

Strangers Like Me I don’t love as it is a bit boring to me when compared to the next three songs, but it is still solid and actually great in its lyrics and very fitting to the story. The entire scene is one of the film’s best, so well done and animated. I have a soft spot for Two Worlds. Not a lot of people love it as much as I do, but not only does it accompany a master class opening, but it is genuinely good in its own right with moving lyrics and a great, dramatic and inspirational change in rhythm near the end.

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Tarzan Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

You’ll Be in My Heart is a deserved Oscar winner, a song that is emotional, even heartbreaking and is pleasantly reminiscent to Baby Mine from ‘Dumbo’. So well sung by both the mother and Phil Collins in the official version. But it is actually Son of Man that is the highlight of this great soundtrack. I just adore this song! It was a great, fun way to have Tarzan transition from child to adult without it being boring, the lyrics are good, the rhythm is so entertaining and it is just such an infectious, immensely catchy tune that is in my opinion one of Disney’s catchiest songs ever.

Tarzan is technically quite polished. The action is stupendous, so well done and exhilarating at times. It had a lot of action, but the kind of action that is adventurous and fun instead of dull. The humor is mostly charming and satisfying, the dialogue is solid and the movie’s admirable emotional approach is evident from the beginning (the way they explored family was beautiful to behold). The voice acting is top-notch, the direction is excellent and both the animation and the effects are fantastic. The pacing is one of my problems. It was just too rushed which is something I’ve only noticed watching it for the third or so time, but it was definitely noticeable. Some scenes were way too abrupt and the entire movie had such an epic, long story that needed to be told in at least 100 instead of 88 minutes.

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Tarzan Movie Review…………………………………………………………………….

That is the only flaw here, that along with the villain and a somewhat too happy, if still heartwarming ending. It felt way too convenient and to me unrealistic that Jane chose to live with him in the wild, but still watching her make that decision, jump into the water and kiss him at the shore was wonderful and watching the Professor join them with that very funny line made my day. The film has a couple of flaws for sure, but it is still one of Disney’s best films in my opinion. Not in the top five, but certainly near the top of the list and probably in my top ten.

With absolutely terrific animation, memorable and very well developed characters, greatly established relationships between each and every one of them, stupendously well executed action sequences and some great tunes with Son of Man being so catchy and a lot of fun, Tarzan is such an underrated Disney film that is one of my favorites from the studio, a film that is rushed in pacing and with a typical villain, but is simultaneously emotional, dramatic, romantic and adventurous and well crafted on almost every level. It was a great film to end the Disney Renaissance.

My Rating – 4.5

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Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review……………………………………………………………

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings is a 2016 stop-motion adventure film directed by Travis Knight. It is Laika’s fourth feature film and it is pretty disappointing.

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If you must blink, do it now

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Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review……………………………………………………………

The film revolves around Kubo who has magical powers and whose left eye was stolen. Accompanied by Monkey and Beetle, they must subdue the Sisters, Raiden the Moon King and his army of evil spirits. This is the kind of a film where it took me a while to realize just why I didn’t enjoy it more as it seems to be perfect in every way, but it just isn’t. And that is the point here – almost all of the plot points are very good, but the film is somehow not great as a sum of its parts and the story just isn’t all that fascinating.

I enjoy Eastern animation and I did enjoy its influence on this film, but in terms of storytelling and tone, it is too much of an American film. Let me elaborate. Japanese animation is mature and serious and this movie is like that many times and it deals with serious issues and it has some incredibly creepy moments, but the overall tone to it is frustratingly light-weight and comedic and it just doesn’t fit in with the story.

But Kubo definitely has a stupendous story. I liked all of its elements and I particularly liked the use of ancient music as well as the overall setting which was great. Those sisters were phenomenal foes and quite creepy actually. The horror elements here were awesome. And even though it somewhat affected it in terms of scope, the twist itself was very interesting and I didn’t see it coming at all.

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Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review……………………………………………………………

Kubo is a boring protagonist, but Monkey and Beetle are much more memorable. They aren’t that great individually, but in a group and together they are terrific and the character interactions were great here as was the overall group dynamic. As for the Moon King, I never really found him all that interesting as a major villain and, without spoiling anything, how they concluded his story was pretty odd and somewhat stupid in my opinion.

Kubo and the Two Strings has absolutely gorgeous stop-motion animation which has now become a standard for the Laika studio. I loved all of the details and the world building is mostly solid. It could have been much more epic in scope, but what we got was still good. Some of the character designs were pretty inspired with the sisters and Monkey being the highlights, so well done. And the color palette is excellent.

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Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review……………………………………………………………

Kubo is well paced and well directed by Travis Knight, but I just found its voice acting to be quite uninspired. It isn’t terrible, but it is far from great as both Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey gave weak performances and the casting in particular is quite bad in this one. And the other flaw is the emotion. The film is emotional and I guess melancholic, but because I just wasn’t that invested in its characters, I never really felt anything which was a big problem for me. And that is this movie in a nutshell – it is seemingly great, but to me personally it never quite came together as a whole and I was quite disappointed to be honest.

Kubo and the Two Strings has expectedly gorgeous stop-motion animation, good mythology, very interesting twist in the third act, it works great as an adventure film and most of its plot points are very good, but it isn’t that great as a sum of its parts, the tone is way too comedic and not fitting in with the plot and I just didn’t feel anything mainly because I didn’t connect with the characters and because I found the voice acting to be not that great.

My Rating – 3.5

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