Madagascar 3 Review

Be afraid.

So you may have noticed Madagascar 3 got considerably good reviews this weekend. I have to say first, that I was not a fan of the first movie, but I really enjoyed the second. That being said, I think this was my least favorite.

Plot
If it wasn’t already painfully clear, there was no reason for another sequel. Dreamworks has begun to milk its cash cows. So it begins. Even though I already knew this, I was still surprised at the lack of continuity from the previous movie. There is no believable reason for these characters to want to go back to New York. The pacing is also too fast.

Comedy
Obviously the biggest element of this movie. Although many of the gags are very creative and funny, they suffer from being too fast-paced and often to over-the-top compared to the previous movies. A major gag (and plot point) in the movie involves the Russian tiger jumping through a hoop the size of a ring. This would have been a hilarious gag if it hadn’t been drawn out to the beyond-absurd-point. Once you actually have time to think about it becomes increasingly less funny to where you just ask yourself, “Why?”
Another complaint: while there were some mild innuendos in the previous movies, this one had a few over-the-top, off-color gags as well. I could hear most of the audience groaning more than laughing.

Music
Hans Zimmer. Nuff said.

Animation
I’ve always loved the character designs in these movies. The actual animation was my favorite part. As you’d expect Dreamworks Animation is beginning to rival that of Pixar. The circus scenes were my favorite, with beautiful, abstract visuals, creating lighting, music, and choreography.

Acting
The acting is great of course. Dreamworks always has a good cast, and Madagascar has made better use of its celebrity actors than most of their other movies. My complaint though, is that the fake European accents are painfully irritating. I seriously wanted to cover my ears.

The Story
My biggest complaint is with the story. Aside from there being no good reason for this movie to exist, it’s unbearably cliched. It’s nothing you can’t see everyday on Nickelodeon. It really offers nothing new. And  it’s so over-the-top that any take-away is left buried under an unholy plethora of gags. And if there is a take-away, it’s a pretty terrible one. The whole “message” (if you can even call it that) of the movie is that you can do anything and defy all odds and even do the physically impossible. Why? Well, they never really got to that part. You just can. This may sound good on the surface, but think about it for a second. The psychically impossible? Isn’t inherent impossibility something you want to avoid? Now, I know you’re already thinking about things like space travel and such. And yes, you should strive to set your mind on your goal. But I’m reminded of a certain high school commencement speech from this past week.

That’s right. You’re not special. This is a message we don’t, but need to hear often. I believe more that our true strength can only be achieved by first acknowledging our genuine limitations. Sometimes we just need to let go and acknowledge what we can’t do. And that’s okay. Then we can move forward and fulfill our true destiny. When I am weak, I am strong. Conversely, when I am strong, I am weak.
Need more proof? Think about this and go watch another Dreamworks title that I believe gets this profound message across: Kung Fu Panda (one of my favorites).

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Whisper of the Heart


Disney just released its English dub of Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart, originally released in Japan in 1995. I’ve got to say, the Blu Ray transfer is excellent. If it weren’t for the appearance of old laptops and lack of widely-used internet in the movie, you’d think it had just been made recently. While I can easily criticize Studio Ghibli for constantly reusing the same characters, designs, stories and facial expressions, I simply can’t for this one. I mean, when can you ever?

The story has the typical Ghibli feel to it. A young girl experiencing a world that’s new to her and falls in love with that tall kid with ambiguously blue hair. Many who have only seen Ghibli’s more popular titles like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, may think that the Studio’s charm lies in its portrayal of the fantastic. But seeing as this movie takes place completely in the real world and still carries all the charm of it’s best titles (this is probably my favorite now) it seems to be just the opposite: Studio Ghibli has a remarkable ability to take the mundane and make it fantastical.

It finds charm and excitement in simple moments. Its beauty is truly in its simplicity. For such a simple and intimate movie, I was surprised at the epic feel of it. Perhaps because it deals with things that touch on the meaning of life: our purpose in this world, though in the most un-preachy way. The main character Shizuku struggles with feelings of inadequacy. She doesn’t know what to do with her life, where to go next or how to move forward. It’s something all of us, not the least of which, myself, struggle with.

I really loved this movie. Some may find it drags a bit, but I was hooked from the beginning. The opening sequence is quite beautiful. Actually, it’s beautiful from beginning to end. Just as good as Spirited Away or The Secret World of Arriety, if not better. Again, I must say, the utter sincerity of these movies is incredibly refreshing. I felt, in a way purified after watching this. It may sound strange, but this just reminds me of how powerful the medium of movies and animation is. So much of our subconscious, our feelings, our habits, our words, choice of friends and overall culture is highly influence by what we see when we turn on the screen, for good or ill. Again, more than ever, I feel the call towards a career in animation.

The Hunger Games Review

Saw it this weekend. Now, I have not read the books, but found this movie very much worth watching. I won’t say I “liked” the movie. This movie is basically Lord of the Flies meets Gladiator meets 1984. The message of the story is the same as Lord of the Flies and 1984. I don’t particularly enjoy those books, but they’re important for everyone to read. Unfortunately, though most of us have had to read them at some point, they (along with this movie) are falling on a lot of deaf ears. Or numbed ones.

I normally would review a movie based on the quality of acting, writing, directing, score, etc. I will say that the writing, directing, cinematography, and pacing were superb. Some complained about the shaky cam because you couldn’t tell what was going on. I won’t complain. I didn’t wanna know what was going on. I found this very difficult to watch because of the utter depravity portrayed on so many levels. I appreciate that the way in which killing and violence is depicted is never gratuitous or glamorized, but at the same time it still has a hard impact on the viewer. Anyone who thinks it is for entertainment purposed has grossly missed the point of the movie. I saw one reviewer say he was excited about the movie because he is all for child violence. That’s like saying you’re all for child pornography. You’re only proving the point the movie is trying to make. Some view it as fiction and may think I’m taking this too seriously. I’d agree if this sort of thing hadn’t already happened.

This sort of thing happened in Rome before. And Western government and culture is a direct continuation of Roman government and culture. People still are not connecting the dots. This is what happens when people allow the government to have all the power. To put it in perspective, the United States government is growing at an incredible rate since the latter half of the 20th century and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This has correlated with the increase in political corruption in both parties and the state of the economy, national debt, etc.

And we are even more hard-pressed to admit that the actions of these children are not so far-fetched; that in fact we would do the same in their shoes. Disturbing indeed.

When the Israelites wanted a king, their Judge Samuel warns them that the king will basically take everything from them and make them into his slaves.

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.””

Well, God gave them what they wanted. Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it. In the end, the kings of Israel worsened the state of the nation. They were so corrupt God decided it would be better for their preservation to allow them to be taken into captivity. Turns out there was more hope for the pagan kings of Babylon and Persia to believe God.

Right now, America is crying out for a king. I just hope we come to our senses before its too late.