Brother Bear (2003 - DVD)

I may have liked this movie a little more than The Princess and the Frog, but it still felt like it was lacking something. The plot was rather predictable (I guessed the main twist not even halfway through it), and there wasn't much to the characters. It's another fairly standard tolerance/acceptance plot, but How to Train Your Dragon did it better. I liked the Moose characters played by Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis in full Hosers form, and the animation and artwork are pretty, but I really am beginning to wonder if part of the problem is that children's movies generally can't entertain me as much as they used to.

Also, Disney sometimes tries too hard to have songs substitute for plot. Some of the scenes would have worked just fine with the visuals and dialogue, but then in comes Phil Collins to explain what's going on to me in song.
Rating: 2.5/5

Cleopatra (1934 - Theater)

I saw the 1934 Cecil B. DeMille Cleopatra in an Art Museum theater, and the first half of the viewing wasn't the greatest experience of my life. This is not the fault of the movie, but the acoustics in the room were terrible, making it hard to understand what anyone was saying. Add on top of that the fact that there were people in the audience talking throughout the whole thing, and not even whispering - at normal volume! Then, with a half an hour left to go, the Blu Ray player skipped and restarted the movie from the beginning. Someone called the usher and she came back to fix it, and they (thankfully!) turned on the subtitles. Plus, I think the talkative people left at that point because everyone was quiet for the last part.

So, as a result of this fiasco, I'm not real sure what to rate this movie. I would have to say that it's probably a lot more fiction than fact, and it has some really bizarre moments, like when a bunch of women in leopard costumes are chasing each other around during a circus-like show put on by Cleopatra for Marc Antony. And despite all the trouble, I still felt entertained by it, so that must count for something.

I also recently saw the 1945 Caesar and Cleopatra (which will be in August's reviews), and I will say that the 1934 film is a more complete story, even if it does leave out quite a few details of Cleopatra's life. One thing both films do is present the big "war" scene by showing a montage of people and horses running around, making it feel like this is not really part of the story. But I guess that's just the way things were in old movies.
Rating: 3/5

Moon (2009 - DVD)

Moon is a weird little mystery/sci-fi/thriller movie that's one part Alien, one part 2001: A Space Odyssey, and one part every movie ever that's had the moral that (spoiler!) cloning is a bad thing. Sam Bell runs a lunar harvesting station all by his lonesome and is nearing the end of a three-year contract. When he's done, he'll be able to return to Earth. The problem is that he has an accident in a lunar rover (that looks like the one from Irem's arcade classic, Moon Patrol), and when he wakes up back at the base, he discovers... another Sam Bell in the base with him.

It doesn't take very long for the movie to spoil the mystery, so there's not a lot of wondering what could possibly be going on. It's more about, "How will they escape their situation?" than "What could the explanation for this be?" It can also easily make you wonder if this scenario really could be more economically advantageous for the "evil corporation" than the more traditional route. I guess I'm willing to accept it.

The moonbase looks so much like the Nostromo from Alien that I wondered if they dug up the old sets from somewhere. However, Sam's helpful computer Gerty (voiced by the only really famous person in the film, Kevin Spacey), is more like HAL 9000 from 2001 and seems a little too sentient to be true.

It's okay to watch once, but I don't think I'd want to see it again since I sometimes have issues with watching movies where you have to witness a character slowly dying.
Rating: 3/5

National Lampoon's Animal House (1978 - DVD)

While I did laugh at a few scenes in this movie, I generally think it's overrated. The scenes that I thought were funny were when John Belushi drank down the entire whiskey bottle at once, the "horse death" scene, and when that guy in the grocery store gets in line at the checkout just to say, "Nothing for me today!" The rest of the movie is rather low on plot and laughs, and that bar scene felt uncomfortably racist. The movie spends a lot of time in the beginning setting up Stephen Furst's character, only for him to go completely nowhere.

And, c'mon, is it even possible to have any sympathy for them when they get expelled? It's not as though they're a bunch of good students who just happen to get themselves into a lot of trouble, they're not even trying to do well in school. I suppose the over-the-top manner in which they crash the parade at the end is a memorable ending, but it just makes it that more difficult to believe they'd ever be reinstated and graduate.

I also had a hard time keeping the characters straight. I never, at any time, was 100% sure of what male character was dating what female character, and since their relationships are a big part of the plot, this made it confusing to follow.
Rating: 2.5/5

Stripes (1981 - DVD)

I watched the Extended Cut of Stripes on DVD, which adds some deleted scenes back into the film and the nice thing is that the DVD tells you when a bonus scene starts and ends so you always know what was added. The most significant addition is a scene that shows exactly what John and Russell did when they temporarily escaped from the base. (In the original theatrical release, Sgt. Hulka punishes them for leaving the base, but we never actually saw them leave.)

As for the movie itself, I'd say it's held up pretty well since I still laughed hysterically at some parts, most notably when someone accidentally tossed their bayonet during training exercises and at the newspaper headline that read, "Local Boys Repel Yankee Horde". It also works as a story, thanks in part to Warren Oates completely playing the Sgt. Hulka character straight.

There's also a great action climax near the end (can't have a military movie without an actual battle, right?), even though it's a little strange seeing Bill Murray running around with a machine gun (and even he admits it's weird to think back on that now).
Rating: 3.5/5

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, Volume 2 (1989 - DVD)

You know what watching this show reminded me of? My review of The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. In both cases, you don't really like being too hard on it, but you can't deny that it doesn't really hold up that well, either. Both have their charms and good moments, but you can't help but feel the focus is not in the right spot.

With the Super Show, the main focus is on the Mario cartoons, and there are moments I liked, but they tend to be more concerned with the whole, "Oh noes! What will we do to stop Koopa this time?" plots instead of on being funny, even when there isn't much of a plot to speak of. The cartoons also strike me as being aimed at preschoolers - a younger audience than the NES itself was intended for. The result is that many episodes kind of went in one ear and out the other.

At least the cartoons have a nice visual style, and I greatly prefer Lou Albano and Danny Wells as Mario and Luigi to the Saturday Morning series's voice actors. The writers also knew that the big draw of this show is in seeing characters from the SMB games in a cartoon format, but thankfully realized the novelty of that would easily wear off after a few episodes, so they took it one step further in having each episode be a parody of something in pop culture (movies, folktales, etc.) So, you'd want to keep watching just to see what would get parodied next. My favorite was the Star Wars parody (which is odd, because they're so done to death that I almost always frown on them), but I hated the Christmas episode.

I frequently laughed at the live action segments due to the complete absurdity of them. Things this show has taught me: You can have middle-aged actors portray 8-year-olds just by dressing them in lederhosen and propeller hats and having them eat popcorn like Cookie Monster. (It doesn't even matter that one of the actors has a real mustache underneath the fake one.)

I only recognized four of the guest stars (Sgt. Slaughter, Roddy Piper, Gary Owens, and Vanna White), and I didn't realize who Andy Heyward was until I looked it up because he was credited under a pseudonym. Most of the others are unknown character/voice actors, but it doesn't really matter since they cast what they need for the part (you don't need to be famous to dress up like a Gorilla or Santa Claus).

Like the SMB3 cartoon that I reviewed last year, The SMBSS has many moments of "WTF?!" and enough weird surrealness to make it worth watching for Mario/Nintendo fans or fans of goofy 80s cartoons. Everyone else, probably need not apply.
Rating: 2.5/5



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