Archive for January, 2012

The Wild Animal West

January 15, 2012

I finally got a chance to sit down and watch Rango, and I can’t believe I waited as long as I did.  It’s such a good movie.

This film is a bit of a reunion for the PotC crew of Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, who obviously work very well together based on their track record.  Throw in Bill Nighy for good measure, and you’ve got the makings.

While it’s a family film, it doesn’t pander to it’s audience.  This is something that Nickelodeon does well most of the time, and this is one of them.  It takes the best ideas of the western and sets them in a wonderful anthropomorphic setting.  The best part of it is the realistic scale of an animal world and the very realistic portrayal of the animals (minus the fact that they walk around on two legs and talk); Rango is set in the real world, but in the animal subset of it.

The character of Rango is really fantastic as well.  He’s a family pet who finds himself in the wild and must find a way to survive.  His only friends as the story begins are a collection of toys left in his tank which he uses to create performance pieces.  This lizard is a born storyteller just looking for an audience, and when he finds himself in a small western town he takes the opportunity to practice his skills as a storyteller and character creator, which of course get him in trouble.

The story takes some of the best elements of the Spaghetti Western, turning Rango (which is not his real name) into a Man with No Name/Support Your Local Sheriff kind of character.  There are even some direct references to the Man with No Name (as well as Hunter Thompson, which is a funny moment early on.

Verbinski likes to create some surrealist imagery in his movies.  He did it in the third Pirates movie and he does it again here when Rango reaches the mythical “other side of the road” at a pivotal moment of self-discovery.

Rango is a fun movie, and it is definitely worth checking out and enjoying with family and friends.

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who related to early Rango more than he felt comfortable with

Life’s a Piece of Pie or A Muppetational New Chapter

January 7, 2012

I grew up with the Muppets.  Between the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, the Muppet Babies, the Muppet movies, and Henson’s work in other films and television shows, I would definitely say the Muppets had a big part in raising me.  So, of course, hearing that a new movie was in the works was equal parts wonderful and terrifying.  Wonderful because I thought the Muppets always had the potential for an amazing comeback, and terrifying because with Hollywood’s track record there was a decent chance they would screw it up.

Also, I’ve never been clear on Disney’s intentions with the Muppets, other than being able to pick up a few more bucks from selling new editions of the old works.

Fortunately, Jim Henson’s creations were in very good hands with Jason Segel.  He, along with the talented men and women behind the Muppets, created a movie that fits right in with the Muppet Movie, the Muppets Take Manhattan, and the Great Muppet Caper.  I’m so glad he fought to get this project.  If you had any doubt, perhaps you missed his performance of “Dracula’s Lament” from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

My biggest fear of this revival was that they were going to “modernize” the Muppets; take away their peaceful attitudes and make them more cynical.  As it turns out, that was a plot point to the movie and the Muppets were trying to fight it along with their new friends Gary (Jason Segel) and his brother Walter (a puppet who is the Muppets’ biggest fan).

This movie is full of Muppet standards; corny jokes, running gags, breaking of the 4th wall, and all those fantastic things we’ve come to expect from the Muppets over the years. And of course there is some brilliant music from Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords)

If you haven’t seen this movie, what is wrong with you?  Afraid you’re too old?  Don’t be.  That’s the beautiful thing about the Muppets, when done right, they never pander to a younger audience.  There is stuff for both old and young.  How many kids today are going to get references to Kermit’s “butler,” 80s Robot?

Seriously, you are missing out on some great moments by not seeing this movie.  Go.  Now!

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who forgot exactly how much he loved the Muppets until this movie and Disney’s Muppet Vision 3-D reminded him.

How Many Romanas Are There?

January 2, 2012

Back for the new year where I will hopefully be writing much more often.

So, I’ve been working through some classic Doctor Who and I just finished The Androids of Tara (part 4 of the Key To Time series).  This is one of the better classic Who serials, probably because Douglas Adams was a part of the writing team at the time (he would take over as script editor on the last serial of this season) and he really knows how to get the best out of an absurd premise such as Doctor Who (I love the show, but let’s face facts).

Anyway, this series takes place on the planet Tara, a world with a feudal government, but very advanced technology (androids, electrified swords, crossbows that fire electric bolts).  The Doctor and Romana arrive and the Doctor decides to go fishing while Romana looks for the fourth segment of the Key To Time.  Romana easily acquires the fourth segment, but is discovered by a Count who finds her appearance very interesting.  Meanwhile, the Doctor is discovered by men working for the Prince.

It turns out that Romana looks exactly like the Princess of Tara and the Count thinks her to be an android replica.  He has plans to take the throne, and now Romana is a key part in those plans.  As Romana is kept prisoner, the Doctor is taken to the Prince where he is asked to help fix an android replica of the Prince for his coronation.  The Prince and his men suspect the Count’s treachery and want to be prepared.

What follows is a tale of political intrigue and a fantastic sword fight between the Doctor and the Count.  Tom Baker shows some impressive swordsmanship in this one.

Of course, this serial takes place during the Doctor’s time with K-9, so he is a big help to the Doctor and some occasional comic relief as well.  I like how, depending on the circumstances, the Doctor may or may not take K-9 with him, but he always winds up calling him with his whistle eventually.

Also, the way Romana changes outfits in every serial is kind of hilarious, yet interesting in that she always tries to fit in to her surroundings (she has an outfit specifically for Tara because it’s “what they’re wearing right now”).

This is classic Who at it’s best.  If you get a chance to see it, I definitely recommend it.  As of this writing (Jan. 2nd, 2012) it is streaming on Netflix.