Sunday, February 27, 2011

Movie Review - Dear John

by Alex Popp

What would you do with a letter that changed everything?

Well, whatever you'd do, I would send it to change everything in the minds of those who disliked the movie "Dear John," based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, the author of "The Last Song" and "The Notebook." This was also the film that knocked "Avatar" off the number one spot in the Box Office after it stayed there for seven consecutive weeks.

Channing Tatum from "Step Up" plays a soldier in the U.S. Military who gets sent home for a while before he performs his last year fighting in the war. At home in South Carolina, he meets a college student, played by Amanda Seyfried, and in just two weeks they fall in love. The girl lives next door to a young boy named Alan, who is based on Nicholas Sparks' autistic son. The soldier's father also has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. When the girl visits his house, his father is excited when she gets interested in what he likes doing the most: studying coins. After two weeks, though, the soldier has to go back to Germany to fight for one more year before he can go home permanantly. But on September 11, 2001, terrorists attack on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, forcing him to stay in the war even longer. In the meantime, he and the girl are desperatly trying to keep each other in touch by letters.

For a film without much potential, my mom and I were impressed. "Dear John" is one of the best films I've seen in a while. It's even better than "The Last Song" and is deserving of more praise than it has received. Through three quarters of the movie, my mom and I cried like babies. I might even say this was the best love story since "Titanic." The real thing that struck me the most was the way they protrayed the soldier's father who had Asperger's Syndrome, as I do myself. And I think this movie gives people who have others in their family who are afflicted with Asperger's an idea of how to deal with them. If you do, by any chance, then this is the movie for you. Or if you're looking for a movie with a great love story, then I also recommend this one.

Rated PG-13 for sensuality and some war violence.

Four stars (out of four) for the appealing and poignant tear-jerker, "Dear John," definitely one of 2010's best.

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Movie Review - Bedtime Stories

by Alex Popp

What if you told a bedtime story and the next day it came to life?

Only a valid question in the world of the clever family film "Bedtime Stories."

Adam Sandler stars as Skeeter Bronson, an ignored worker at a country famous hotel who learns that sometimes the happiest of endings aren't always what we'd expect. He has to babysit for his niece and nephew for a few days, telling them bedtime stories each night. He isn't much in the habit of doing this until the stories he tells them start becoming his daytime realities. Now he finds himself looking for his own "happy ending," hoping that maybe now he can be noticed.

This a very cute and family-friendly movie with a lot of good humor, sometimes you even explode with laughter. But it's also very optimistic with a mildly inspiring message. Although mainly aimed toward children, it's a film that kids, adults, and even teenagers can enjoy.

Rated PG for some mild language and some mild suggestive humor (the only Adam Sandler movie to recieve this rating).

Three stars for the thouroughly enjoyable, "Bedtime Stories," and, yeah, it's a good story to watch right before bedtime, just in my opinion.

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Princess and the Frog - The Animation Empire movie review

First, let's start with my (proven) theory that the mom owns the family movie ticket. Accoding to this theory, the moms and daughters control the movie tickets, not the boys. When a boy wants to watch a He-Man movie or animated Batman movie (or Star Wars: Clone Wars, TMNT, Atlantis, Titan AE, Sinbad, Iron Giant, Treasure Planet, El Dorado, etc.) then the mom says "Wait for DVD" or "Go watch TV." Why? Because the mom would have to go too, and the mom (and sisters) don't want to watch a violent movie for boys. Appealing to the girls is much more effective than boys. (That's also why TV cartoons is a huge market for boys--they're free for mom.)

And that brings us to Princess and the Frog, a film marketed toward girls.

So Disney was upset that Princess and the Frog did not perform well. Why? First, I think it did better than it should have, BECAUSE it was aimed at girls. I'm also surprised at how well black ladies like it. It only did $270 million worldwide, but it only cost $105 million to make (cuz it was done in 2D). And the foreign release was really solid (like 60% of the sales).

I mean, I know girls love this movie. Know how? First, over 50 girls in the US got salmonella poisoning when kissing frogs after seeing this movie. Bad parents! Bad! Second, guess who's tweeting/twittering about how much they love the movie? Black girls:

So if the reason why it didn't do so hot isn't about the girls, then what's the reason? The movie. The movie? Yes, the movie.

Here are the four reasons why the movie didn't do well:

(1) Let's freak kids out by featuring voodoo and demons. Oh, great idea, geniuses! Sure Walt played with it with Fantasia, but that movie cost him a ton of money. He tried to play with the dark side again with Sleeping Beauty... also lost him money. Disney tried again in the 80s with Black Cauldron. Big flop. They were 0 for 3. Demons don't belong in Disney films. They didn't get that memo.

(2) Let's make the princess a frog for most of the movie. Oh, yeah, that makes sense! Why would girls want to see a princess, when they can enjoy a movie about what girls actually love... frogs. +2 genius points. Seriously, this was a frog movie. If they're going to make a frog movie, do it in 3D like Pixar does and really sell the world of the frog (and base it around a heart-wrenching story like Pixar does).

(3) Why would we want to tell the original fun and delightful fairy tale (that ironically centers more around the prince, which would have given the movie that boy-factor they were missing), when instead we could make the movie based on a teen romance novel (that was received with mixed reviews) that was based on the fairy tale? And then we'll market it like there's some sort of twist (that she turns into a frog too), even though the twist is half as creative as the Shrek twist, which is now considered normal. Yeah, great idea. It just made me want to go see the Shelley Duvall version with Robin Williams. And the original title was "The Frog Prince." Why not keep it? And in the original fairy tale, the princess was a princess. Why not make a movie about a princess instead of one about a frog?

(4) So... about these characters... The alligator, lightening bug, voodoo lady, and others (not even going to think about a squished bug turning into a star; let's kill your favorite character; it's okay... he's a star now). Cute characters. However, these aren't Disney quality. The characters and songs are fine, but I don't really care about them. Why? Because this is the story of frogs going on a road trip and running into other random characters. These characters don't really resonate. They don't connect well. Sure, Up pulled it off (disconnected characters united by a road trip story), but Disney shouldn't take those chances. It's hard to care about characters that don't seem driven or connected.

So there you go. Disney, don't worry about the girl/boy audience. Worry about (1) your villains, (2) your heroes, (3) your story, and (4) your supporting characters. That's why your movie didn't do so well. Don't blame the girls that they didn't shell out the money or the boys that they didn't show up. It was the movie, not the audience.

I would give the film four out of five stars, because it was great despite all the issues.

That said, I had to fast-foward through about 40% of the movie when watching it with my four and three-year old daughters. They don't need demons haunting their nightmares. Next time, Disney, try making a princess movie that isn't all about demons and frogs. =^)

(I didn't have to fast-forward through any of Tangled, so that's good. Read our Tangled review here.)


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Movie Review - Dragonball Evolution

by Alex Popp


In "Dragonball Evolution," the story begins with Goku, who seeks out upon his adoptive grandfather Grandpa Gohan's dying request to find the great Master Roshi and gather all seven Dragon Balls. Of which he has one, in order to prevent the evil Lord Piccolo from succeeding in his desire to use the Dragon Balls to take over the world. And Goku's quest is to obtain the mystical Dragonballs before Piccolo does.

I used to think that there was no such thing as a stupid movie...

...but was I wrong!

This was definitely not one that got my attention, but it was on HBO when I was in Ohio so I thought I'd give it a try.

It was even lower than my expectations. I think we can agree that the plot has been used too many times. On top of that, poor script, bad effects and makeup, and it feels like longer than its brief hour and a half running time. Movies may disappoint, but this one will just bore you to tears, particularly because of the line that is used over and over again (even more than Spider-Man's "With great power comes great responsibility"): "Always believe in who you are." Oh boy.

Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action and some language.

One star (out of four) for "Dragonball Evolution." Avoid it at all costs.

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Movie Review - Knowing

by Alex Popp

Knowing is everything...

Nicholas Cage plays a scientist whose son finds a mysterious paper found in a time capsule in the sci-fi chiller, "Knowing," directed by Alex Proyas, the director of "I, Robot."

The scientist finds that the long list of random numbers on the paper predicted all the major disasters from the past 50 years, 9/11, the eruption of Mount St. Helens, Hurricane Katrina, etc. The numbers also predict three more disastrous events that haven't occured yet, and he sets out to stop them from happening. He is only puzzled by one question: What happens when the numbers run out?

This is a superbly crafted flick with excellent special effects and one of the most interesting premises ever. It became one of my dad's favorite movies of all time. However, there are parts of the book of Ezekiel that are taken out of context to help support the premise of the movie. If you're easily offended by that kind of thing, then maybe you should choose another movie. It is only a story, though, and [the film] brings you more than enough thrills to keep you watching.

Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some disturbing and even shocking images.

Three stars (out of four) for the original and intriguing thriller, "Knowing."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Movie Review - Hannah Montana: The Movie

by Alex Popp

She's had the best of both worlds... now, she'll have to choose just one.

In Hannah Montana: The Movie, Miley Cyrus stars as Miley Stewart, who's dad decides that it's time for her to take a break from her pop star fame. So he takes her on a trip to her hometown of Crowley Corners, Tennessee to get some perspective on what matters in life the most. There she meets a boy (played by Lucas Till) whom she went to school with in first grade. He shows her that life's a climb, leading her to write the smash hit, "The Climb."

The majority of voters on imdb gave the movie a 1/10. But it must be acknowledged that this is a movie aimed toward young kids ages 7-10. I saw this movie with my sister yesterday and she laughed her head off. She loved it. Of course I didn't love it as much, but I applauded at the surprising appearance by the country music favorites, Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts. No, it's not an epic, Oscar-winning film, and it's no surprise it didn't win any awards for acting, but it was a little funny and there was some redeeming value between Miley and her dad, and they both have to make some tough decisions, even though [they decide] against what they want most. Not bad for a plotless DCOM.

Rated G, suitable for any juvenile audiences.

Two and a half stars (out of four) for the predictable but perky, "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Movie Review - Race to Witch Mountain

by Alex Popp


The race is on in the sci-fi remake "Race to Witch Mountain."
Dwayne Johnson plays a Las Vegas taxi driver who finds two strangers who appear to be normal teenagers, played by Alexander Ludwig and AnnaSophia Robb from "Because of Winn-Dixie" and "Bridge to Terabithia." But they turn out to be, not witches, but humanoid aliens who came to earth to find a cure for their dying planet. Now he's transporting them from one place to another while the government and other extraterrestrials are after them.

In the case of life on other planets, "Race to Witch Mountain" is very realistic, unlike just aliens in a war against humans, like "War of the Worlds," or just more aliens leaving crop circles. In this one, you wonder, "Of course, why couldn't other life, if there is any out there, look just as we do?" Although the acting is [not impressive], there are a few exhilarating action and chase scenes making this not "just another alien movie."

Rated PG for loads of intense action violence, making it unsuitable for young movie-goers.

Three stars (out of four) for "Race to Witch Mountain." Don't race away from it too quickly.

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Movie Review - Tron Legacy

by Alex Popp

The game has changed in "Tron Legacy," released almost three decades after the original "Tron," and one of the most expensive films ever made.

Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, looks into his father's disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin's loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.

You don't need to see the original to understand and enjoy this extremely interesting flick. The effects are elaborate, dazzling to the eye, and blend well into the sound effects and original score composed by Daft Punk. The action scenes are thrilling and jaw-dropping, including one particular motorcycle chase scene that almost blows your mind. Aside from the visuals though, it is a good story that even gets fairly emotional in terms of Sam and his dad having to catch up on everything they've missed since Flynn was lost in the game.

The only thing with "Tron Legacy" is that there is a scene where Flynn says he was in a stressful situation of having his "Zen thing" ruined. Although I did see another interesting spiritual theme comparable to God's creation and how man destroyed it. But I'm going to let you see it and figure out what I'm talking about.

I didn't see the film in 3D, but from the appearance of things, it looks like I missed out.

Rated PG for some mild language and intense sequences of sci-fi violence that get far too scary for kids under the age of 10.

Three and a half stars (out of four) for the thorough and exhilarating, "Tron Legacy."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Movie Review - Monsters VS Aliens

by Alex Popp

Oooze gonna save us?

Susan Murphy, voiced by Reese Witherspoon, is interrupted on her wedding day, getting hit by an enormous meteor from space in the animated comedy, "Monsters Vs. Aliens."

She mysteriously grows to nearly 50 feet high and is instantly captured by the government and labeled a "monster" named Ginormica. She gets locked in a secret compound filled with other monsters, including a a blue blob named B.O.B., voiced by Seth Rogen, a missing link, voiced by Will Arnett, and Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D., a man who made himself indestrucatable by turning himself into a cockroach.

Susan is told that there would be no communication with the outside world and no getting out. But shortly later, an alien robot lands, and the monsters are released to go fight the treacherous aliens. Probably a pretty close battle.

This was one that wasn't at all appealing once I saw the trailers, but it was better than I thought. It's definitely not one that you'd watch for the plot; nothing really new. But there is a lot of good humor that will make even the most sophisticated people laugh. Make it a rental, though.

Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language.

Two and a half stars (out of four) for the feeble but funny, "Monsters Vs. Aliens."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

So I think I disagree with the lower rating on this one.

Essentially this is DreamWorks attempt at making monsters, much how Pixar did with Monsters Inc.

I have to agree that my expectations weren't high from the trailer, but they were raised as I saw the movie do well in the box office.

After watching it, I was pleasantly surpsrised that they focused on the female character and her emotions, which is the way to go for a film like this. Moms would be turned away by the boy-focused themes of monsters, aliens, and a whole lotta action. And that's why I think the film did so well... the main character was a woman dealing with strong emotions.

And then I also thought the film was very enjoyable in humor, action, and story. So I'd give the film four stars out of four. One hesitation is that you'll want to watch this with smaller children. I'm not entirely sure why they put raunchy comedians (and some of their humor) in children films like this, but it seems to help them attract the parents.

- The Emperor

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