The Emperor’s New Groove Movie Review

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Review:

My second favorite of Disney’s (otherwise pretty mediocre) offerings of the early nolls. (Lilo & Stitch is #1.)

Like Lilo & Stitch, The Emperor’s New Groove is not a “typical” Disney film, which I think has led to it being overlooked and underappreciated by many Disney fans, and by Disney itself. There’s no beautiful heroine or charming prince, no significant romance, and no singing. In fact, the titular emperor, Kuzco (voiced by David Spade), who rules over a land that appears loosely based on the Incan empire, is probably Disney’s least likable hero ever. He’s spoiled, selfish, bratty, and vain. He’s so unlikable that it’s hard to care that much about his ultimate redemption, which is probably the biggest flaw of the film.

At least his sharp, sarcastic, and often downright nasty wit is good for plenty of laughs. In fact, the film is probably Disney’s funniest animated feature thanks to its generous blend of witty dialogue, sight gags, and tongue-in-cheek asides (it breaks the fourth wall more than any Disney movie since George of the Jungle.)

It also benefits from a host of great supporting characters, including one of my favorite Disney villains: Kuzco’s advisor Yzma, spectacularly voiced by the late, great Eartha Kitt. Yzma is an even more unpleasant piece of work than her boss, which says a lot, but like Kuzco, she’s also hilarious. Many of her best moments come in interactions with her big, dumb bodyguard/henchman Kronk, the film’s most memorable character thanks to his unexpectedly diverse skillset (he’s a master chef! he speaks squirrel! he studied interpretive dance!) and repeated conversations with the angel and devil that live on his shoulders. I also love the interactions between the kind-hearted peasant, Pacha, and his clever and outspoken wife Chicha – one of Disney’s best married couples.

The plot itself is a somewhat thin and predictable buddy comedy, but the fun characters and mile-a-minute laughs make The Emperor’s New Groove a pretty enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes of your life.

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My rating:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

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Monsters University Movie Review

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Review:

Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. are my favorite Pixar movies, so I was curious to see  Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters, Inc. Sadly, though Monsters University was enjoyable light entertainment, it was nowhere near the level of the original film.

Even while laughing at Mike and Sulley’s collegiate antics, I could never get over the feeling that the story was just plain unnecessary and the movie, therefore, primarily an effort to liberate more of people’s cash from their wallets. It’s normal in today’s Hollywood to try to capitalize on the popularity of a successful stand-alone film with sequels, prequels, reboots, etc., but you expect something with a little more heart from Pixar.

Monsters University teaches us nothing particularly new or surprising about the characters or the interesting parallel world they inhabit, nor does it offer a particularly interesting twist on any of its moral lessons. (I was pleasantly surprised when, after telling Mike and Sulley that they would be expelled, Dean Hardscrabble actually stuck to her word and expelled them, forcing them to work their way through the ranks of Monsters, Inc. via the mailroom, instead of having them be rescued from their bad behavior at the last minute by Hardscrabble’s change of heart and/or a deus ex machina of some sort.)  Arguably, the film’s very existence contradicts Mike and Sulley’s backstory as laid out in Monsters, Inc., where Mike tells Sulley, “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade,” suggesting that they met each other in elementary school, not college.

As a result, Monsters University is a pleasant enough way to while away 90 minutes of your life, but a far cry from Pixar’s best.

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My rating:2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

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Maverick Movie Review

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Review:

Based on the popular TV show starring James Garner, the film Maverick stars Mel Gibson as fast-talking gambler Bret Maverick, who’s trying to get together $25,000 to enter a big poker competition, Garner as lawman Zane Cooper (Bret’s dad), and Jodi Foster as fellow gambler and con artist Mrs. Annabelle Bransford. Wacky hijinks and hilarious misadventures ensue.

I don’t think of myself as being a big fan of Westerns in general, but Maverick is one of my all-time favorite films. Funnily enough, another of my all-time favorite films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, happens to be a Western penned by the same screenwriter, William Goldman. Goldman brings his signature style of witty and memorable dialogue (also on full display in the classic fantasy The Princess Bride) to the Wild West, and the combination is magic.

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Giant Boulder of Death App Review

Giant Boulder of Death (AppStore Link) Giant Boulder of Death
Developer: Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Rated: 9+4.5
Price: Free Download from the App Store

Review:

A fun game that takes the same gleeful pleasure in mass destruction as Hungry Shark Evolution. Instead of a hungry shark, you’re an enormous boulder rolling down a mountain in the Alps and smashing everything (and everyone) in your path. In addition to the basic theme, Giant Boulder of Death comes with several extra themes, of which my favorite so far is Happy Holiboulder. I was kind of annoyed that the pink and girly Ms. Boulder theme boasts of easier challenges. Really, guys?

It’s much faster to load than Hungry Shark Evolution, so we end up playing it more, but it has a tendency to be laggy at times, which can be frustrating, too.

My rating:3 Stars (3 / 5)

Hungry Shark Evolution App Review

Hungry Shark Evolution (AppStore Link) Hungry Shark Evolution
Developer: Ubisoft
Rated: 12+4.5
Price: Free Download from the App Store

Review:

This is a fun but somewhat frustrating game where you get to play, essentially, Jaws and chow down on everything you can catch, from schools of fish to monster crabs to parasailers and beyond. Hurtling your sleek fangy body through water and air alike to catch your next meal is the fun part, especially once you get to the larger shark species like the Tiger and the Great White (we have not yet reached the Megalodon) and can start chowing down on old nemeses from earlier levels. Take THAT, Lionfish!

Unfortunately, the game is super slow to load, to the point that if you have an unusually bad run or two you can spend more time waiting for the darn thing to start up again than you do actually playing the game. The directional controls (both tilt and manual) can also be a bit frustrating and prone to getting confused, but I’m not sure if that’s the controls themselves or just me not being very good at using them. (I would assume the latter except my nephew, who’s much better at this sort of game than I am, mentioned something similar to me when we were talking about the game.) As a result of these frustrations, we don’t play it that often, even though we have fun when we do.

My rating:3 Stars (3 / 5)

Strictly Ballroom Movie Review

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Review:

Strictly Ballroom has some of the same problems with over-the-top caricatures instead of characters that mar Buz Luhrmann’s other films, but at heart it’s a charming and feel good boy-meets-ugly-duckling romance with lots of outstanding dancing.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Mrs. Doubtfire Movie Review

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Review:

I recently watched this movie for the first time in years after picking it up from the $5 movie bin at Walmart. I have to say it’s not as good a family film as I remembered. There’s quite a bit of (mild) bad language and sexual references.

On the other hand, it is still as funny as I remembered. Robin Williams is absolutely outstanding in the type of role he was born to play. Sally Field, like her much put upon character, has the somewhat more thankless task of playing the straight woman to his madcap hilarity, but she pulls it off well, and the child actors are also great, especially the adorable Mara Wilson.

Bonus: none of the characters seem to bat an eye about the fact that the Robin Williams character has a gay brother in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend.

My rating:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

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Legally Blonde Movie Review

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Review:

A tremendously fun comedy about not being deceived by appearances. Pretty, bubbly Elle Woods is a walking blonde joke… until her college sweetheart breaks up with her and she decides to win him back by following him to Harvard Law School.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

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Review:

A tremendous amount of fun, thanks mainly to the iconic performance of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and the twisty, turny plot, which manages to keep you guessing until the end exactly how it will play out.

My rating:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

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Friends With Benefits Movie Review

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Review:

Saw this with my husband on “date night” without especially high expectations, but ended up really enjoying it. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis had great chemistry and the script was crackling with energy and banter. Even the raunchy parts were kind of cute, thanks to some realistic awkwardness.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

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