In the early 1990s, when Marvel’s X-Men comics were at the peak of their popularity, Marvel Entertainment finally produced an animated series based on their wildly successful mutant superheroes. Cartoons, in general, were gong through a renaissance. Steven Spielberg attached his name to Tiny Toons, attempting to recapture the lunacy of the old Warner Brothers shorts, while Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were taking on the Batman legacy with their classic Batman: The Animated Series. Marvel’s X-Men may never have been on the same level artistically as those two shows, but it was influential in its storytelling and the way it managed to incorporate the nearly 30 year legacy of the X-Men comic books into a single series. Moreover, despite the clunky animation and some questionable voice over casting, X-Men is solid, fun entertainment for kids and adults alike, with themes of tolerance, loyalty and family that don’t get to preachy.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment has just released what they dubbed the Marvel Comic Book Collection. X-men Volume 1 and Volume 2 each have 2 discs each and contain the first 33 episodes in order from seasons 1 and 2 and the first 7 episodes from season 3.
When creating this particular series, it was apparent that the producers had a specific approach: Keep the X-Men team simple, with no more than 8 characters. That may seem like a lot, but considering that there are too many X-Men related characters in the Marvel Universe to count, this was a wise decision. They opted with the popular characters of the time: Cyclops, the pensive leader who shoots optic rays out of his eyes; Jean Grey, a beautiful and powerful telekinetic; Wolverine, (the most popular character then and now), a savage with claws in his hands; Gambit, a reformed Cajun thief with the ability to manipulate kinetic energy; Rogue, a southern misfit who is seemingly indestructible and can absorb other peoples’ powers; Beast, a brilliant scientist trapped in a furry blue body; Storm, a stunning weather goddess from Africa; and Jubilee, a teenage girl just learning to use her mutant ability. With a smaller group it allowed the viewer to get attached to the characters on an emotional level. Continue reading →
Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2009, Disney)
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You’ve heard the annoyingly catchy song and seen enough commercials to make you throw a water bowl at the television, but the real question is: How good is Beverly Hills Chihuahua? If you’re a kid, it’s “awesome!” I mean, how can a movie with talking dogs not be? The film is directed by Raja Gosnell, a man who has a knack for producing family films. Mind you, his films are not necessarily art (he previously directed both Scooby Doo live action films, plus the remake of Yours, Mine and Ours and Big Momma’s House), but anyone who can make even illegal dog fighting fun (as he does in this film) must have a talent for safe, commercial filmmaking.
I must first tell you that this film is not about the cute brown Chihuahua you see in the ads and posters. In fact, the film is really about a spoiled, white Chihuahua (voiced by Drew Barrymore) who gets lost in Mexico and tries to find her way home with the help of a German Shepherd who is an ex-police dog (voiced by Andy Garcia).
The lost Chihuahua’s name is Chloe, and she is owned by a millionaire, Vivien, played by Jamie Lee Curtis (always fun). She leaves the dog in the care of her irresponsible niece, Rachel (Piper Pierbo of the Cheaper by the Dozen remakes). When Rachel takes a trip to Tijuana with her friends, Chloe is dog napped. She escapes from the aforementioned dog fights with the help of Delgado, a German Sheppard/former police dog who has exiled himself to the underworld out of shame. With the help of Delgado, Chloe begins a journey through Mexico while being pursued by a nefarious gangster and his vicious Doberman Pincher (menacingly Edward Lames Olmos). With the help of a couple of stray dogs (including Luis Guzman), a mouse (Cheech Marin) and an iguana (Paul Rodriguez), Chloe learns to become independent and rely on herself. At the same time, Rachel sets off to find Chloe before Vivien returns from Europe. She enlists Vivien’s hunky gardener (Manolo Cardona) and his spirited little Chihuahua, Papi (voiced by George Lopez). Papi is the dog featured in Disney’s marketing campaign. Continue reading →
I was disappointed with the animation montage shown at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. The presentation was incomplete, as it did not include the well-done Igor, which was released in the fall and has just come out on DVD. Having missed it in the theaters (much to the chagrin of my 7-year-old son), when I finally had the opportunity to watch the film on DVD, I wish I could have seen it on the big screen. Igor is a visually wonderful movie that contains outstanding performances by the entire cast, is strange yet very humorous, and an actual message that isn’t too preachy (hello WALL-E, I’m talking to you).
John Cusack, in a rare lighthearted performance (it reminded me of his early ’80s work like Better Off Dead), stars as the titular character, a hunchbacked assistant to Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese). Igor lives in a country of evil scientists involved with an annual evil invention contest held by their ruler, the sneaky Prince Malpert (Jay Leno). Dr. Glickenstein is an idiot and Igor ends up covering for his mistakes. When the doltish doctor dies, Igor decides to prove once and for all that all Igors are not alike and that he is as smart as any other evildoer. With the help of two sidekicks (that he created), Brain, a lamebrain in a jar (Sean Hayes) and Scamper, a cynical bunny who can’t die (Steve Buscemi), Igor creates Eva (Molly Shannon), thinking she will be the ultimate mean monster — but instead, she’s a sweet creation who loves show tunes.
Initially, Igor tries to turn Eva evil, but he is soon swayed by her sweetness and eventually falls in love with her. Unfortunately, the truly evil Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) and his shape-shifting girlfriend, Jaclyn (Jennifer Coolidge), get their hands on Eva and plan to use her to win the competition. It’s up to Igor and his sidekicks to save Eva – and their country – from real evildoers. Continue reading →