Friday, August 9, 2013

High School Musical (2006)

Number Rolled: 54
Movie Name/Year: High School Musical (2006)
Genre: Children & Family
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: G
Director: Kenny Ortega
Writer: Peter Barsocchini
Actors: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Bart Johnson, Alyson Reed, Chris Warren Jr., Olesya Rulin, Ryne Sanborn, Socorro Herrera, Joey Miyashima, Leslie Wing, KayCee Stroh, Anne Kathryn Parma, Nick Whitaker, Falon Grace

Troy is the quintessential jock, at least to the rest of his school mates. Gabriella, having met him over Christmas vacation, knows differently. After unlocking in each other the desire to sing, they face a challenge. Looking to sing together in the high school musical, they test the restraints of the teenage hierarchy and the caste system of their school.

This movie came out to such mixed reviews that I HAD to add it to my instant queue. Young teens and children loved this movie so much it catapulted the leads (Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens) into being nearly house-hold names. On the other hand, older teens and adults turned their nosed up in disgust. In fact, the mere attempt to bring this movie up around people in certain age groups tends to draw the same ire as Twilight. You know what? That’s a good comparison. They’re both movies that everyone seems to hate in public, but that have undeniably become ridiculously popular.  

I didn’t get it. Before I watched “High School Musical” I had no idea how so many people could absolutely adore it while others thought it was bottom of the barrel trash. I’ve never actually met someone who had an “on the fence” opinion about it; hate or love, if there’s any opinion in the middle, I haven’t found it.

I won’t lie; I gave in to everything I’d heard. I’m twenty-eight years old; I’m obviously not hanging around teenagers, so just about everything I heard made it seem like it would be the worst movie in creation. This wasn’t the first time I attempted to watch it. I’ve actually turned it on about six times before now and wound up turning it off within the first ten minutes. That’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s what happened. I gave in to peer pressure.

All that said I’m glad I rolled it because it cleared up the mystery for me. I get it now. I completely understand why the world has love/hate relationship with this movie. Furthermore, I see both points of view.

Technically, this movie is so parallel to Grease, that I have chosen to believe it is paying homage to it. One reviewer stated, “There's no denying the tween audience was hungering for this movie, without even knowing it.” (Groucho Reviews, Peter Canavese) I don’t think anyone else could have put it better. My generation was still growing up with “Grease.” The original came out in 1978, but its sequel came out in 1982, just a year before I was born. We had that silly, musical, “be yourself” film. By the 90’s, younger kids were starting to look for the same thing and it’s a shame they didn’t get anything until 2006. “High School Musical” is like the kid-version of “Grease”; the same thing, just about the same plot, with more overacting and a different demographic.

On the hate side of the coin, it’s easy to be angry with this movie. With such obvious parallels to a timeless classic, the movie didn’t hold a candle to it. I like both Hudgens and Efron. I’ve seen them in other movies and have absolutely adored them. Efron absolutely stole my heart as Richard Samuels in “Me and Orson Wells,” and Hudgens was out of this world as Blondie in “Sucker Punch.” However, in this movie, they barely made me care at all. The other actors were even worse. It was like watching, not to be cute, a high school play. Maybe that’s what they were going for; if it was they made a big mistake. The characters ultimately lacked depth, as well.

On the love side, the message delivered by this movie was outstanding. “Grease” gave one story but, with the same basic plot and even with all its parallels, “High School Musical” really had a better moral. Perhaps because it was geared toward a much younger audience, this movie made it clear that there was a lesson to be learned. Add to that some catchy music and even the parts that are so bad they’re difficult to watch, make the rest of it worth it.

The sad truth is that I liked the moral better than the movie. Of course, I’m not the target demographic, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The problem is, how to rate it?

I’ve decided to use my average rating as the “Overall Opinion.” For children who are 15 or younger, I rate this move a 4.5, easy; for anyone older than that, I rate this movie a 2, maybe a 2.5.

Overall Opinion – 3.5/5

P.S. There’s an extra scene after the credits finish rolling.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Number Rolled: 30
Movie Name/Year: Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Genre: Children & Family
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: PG
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Writer: Tab Murphy, Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale, Joss Whedon, Bryce Zabel, Jackie Zabel, David Reynolds, Plato
Actors: Michael J. Fox, Corey Burton, Claudia Christian, James Garner, John Mahoney, Phil Morris, Leonard Nimoy, Don Novello, Jacqueline Obradors, Florence Stanley, David Ogden Stiers, Natalie Strom, Cree Summer, Jim Varney

Milo takes after his grandfather; he’s a go-nowhere professor with dreams of finding the fabled Atlantis. Labeled a kook by his university and refused a grant for expedition, Milo begins to give up hope that he will ever get there. Just when he thinks the only option he has left is to quit, a benefactor from his grandfather’s pasts offers him the chance to prove himself. He, and the team offered to him, then begin their search for the lost city.

I always feel a little let down when a Disney cartoon doesn’t have singing in it. I’m spoiled! I grew up with singing crabs and lyrical book worms. So, I’m instantly a little harsher with non-musical Disney movies. That being said, this anti-musical gem turned out to be one of my favorites.

I read through a lot of reviews for “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and they were very mixed. What bothers me is that a lot of people claimed to dislike it because there were no singing animals. I mean, really? Is that what people base their opinions off of? Whether or not a mouse starts randomly singing about doing work? I mean, yeah, I usually prefer my cartoons to have a musical tone, but I’m not going to care if it’s coming out of an elephant with huge ears or a hunchback in a bell tower. Further-more, that attitude is just insulting. I’ve been around a lot of kids and there’s never been a single one that complained because Ariel was on screen instead of Flounder or that Aladdin and Jasmine were singing a Whole New World without her tiger. So, in my mind, every critic that had that complaint, about there not being any singing animals, is basically saying that every child of Disney would be incapable of understanding human components.

Sorry for the rant, those comments simply pissed me off.

I thought “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” was fantastic. It was little more grown up than most Disney movies, but its grasp on the base plot and the depth of the characters involved was amazing. This was truly a family centric movie; kids would enjoy it because of its cartoon/slap-sticky quality, but adults could definitely enjoy the Verne-class plot and well-written script.

Overall Opinion – 5/5

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fear Island (2009)

Number Rolled: 39
Movie Name/Year: Fear Island (2009)
Genre: Horror
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: NR
Director: Michael Storey
Writer: Jack Harry, Jeff Martel
Actors: Aaron Ashmore, Haylie Duff, Lucy Hale, Kyle Schmid, Anne Marie DeLuise, Martin Cummins, Jacob Blair, Jessica Harmon, Jim Thorburn, Brenna O’Brien, Keith Martin Gordey, Patricia Harras, Rob Morton, Dax Belanger, Dana McLoughlin

Jenna is found on a nearly deserted island and arrested for the murder of the only six other inhabitants. As a police officer and a therapist question her about the events that took place, they come to realize that she is severely traumatized. The bits and pieces of her story come together as she remembers them, allowing the authorities to finally make out what happened.

“Fear Island” is a thriller masquerading as a horror. To look at this movie as a horror is almost a kind of insult to the genre. Not because the movie was particularly bad, but simply because it wasn’t frightening. Either the writers or the director were not very good at inducing suspense. When you take away the alleged horror components, you actually get a relatively decent mystery/thriller. I can understand why it would be categorized as a horror. Without the investigative twist that is woven through the movie, it would be a slasher/serial killer/teen horror, a bad one.

I found the actual set-up to be unique. If you were to take the movie as just a crime thriller or just a teen horror, it would be a bad incarnation of a recipe movie. Putting both sides together the way they did was brilliant. I spent the entire movie guessing and re-guessing and contemplating what they might be getting at – which is the whole point of adding that mystery component.

Kyle Schmid and Jacob Blair did absolutely nothing for this movie. Their performances were almost distractingly over-exaggerated and it made me really dislike whenever they were on screen. My favorite actors were Aaron Ashmore and Haylie Duff. I’m not that big a fan of Hillary Duff and I’m afraid I held Haylie to my opinion of her sister before this movie. Shameful, I know. This is just another case of me liking the underrated sibling more. It happens a lot.

Despite the creativity of the plot, I still found the movie lacking – until nearly the end. At that point, the mystery really started to show its twists and began to make me second guess a lot of my opinions. When it comes down to it “Fear Island” wasn’t spectacular but I’d watch it again.

Overall Opinion – 3/5

The Random Rating: PG-13 (for moderate blood/violence and sex references)