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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SURF NINJAS

This next film is a very different and unusual kids movie that was part of the Ninja craze in the early 90s called...





Two brothers named Johnny (Ernie Reyes Jr.) and Adam (Nicolas Cowan) who loves to Surf with their friend Iggy (Rob Schneider); discover that their Father (John Karlen) has been kidnapped by Ninjas and are aided by a one eyed Ninja Warrior named Zatch (Ernie Reyes Sr) who leads them to a an ancient native Asian country to save their Father from an evil ruler (Leslie Nielsen) who’s body is half robotic after being crushed by an Elephant. Along the way, the kids not only meet new people and get into fights with Ninjas, but they discover that they are actually the rightful heirs to the throne, and must take it back, while freeing the kingdom. As entertaining and interesting as the film sounds despite sounding stupid, it isn't, it's actually really stupid. I mean, just by saying the title "Surf Ninjas" out loud, you can tell that this film was going to be something really stupid, and the film's not stupid as in, it's so stupid that it's good; it's actually so stupid that it's stupid.

Image result for surf ninjas ernie reyes jr

Our two leads are as bland as they come. You got the older Brother who's supposed to be hip, cool, and rebellious, while his little Brother is the cute and curious wise-cracker, and that's all there is to them. There's really nothing else interesting about them, nor is there really that much of a development to the characters either. I guess I wouldn't mind it so much if the actors playing them were good, or were decent enough to make them likable, but sadly they're neither. Their acting is not just as bland as the characters, but they're actually really annoying, especially with the amount of lame and forced jokes and dialogue that they're given (Which I'll get to later). In fact, remember that pizza boy who filled in for Casey Jones' absence in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2" who can fight  well, but has a personality of a bland and unfunny dweeb that's trying to appeal to the cool and hip young crowd; he plays the lead in this movie, and all the qualities that he had in "TMNT 2" is there, only this time it's worse. The development of how he becomes this great Ninja warrior and leader is written so poorly that there's hardly any thought put into it. He trains in only one scene in the movie, and that's it; no montage, no powerful lesson, no advice, just him fighting and using a sword against one guy, in one short scene, done (And I seriously doubt that the character has been training more off-screen)! Even the kid just magically knows how to fight like a Ninja before he's even trained, and fights off a few ninjas as we hear Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" play in the scene (Which feels just as cringe worthy as including a high piece of art in a lame film, as hearing Dean Martin's song "That's Amore" in the disgusting restaurant scene in "White Chicks"!). HOW IS HE ALREADY A SKILLED FIGHTER?! We've never been told or hinted at that he knew how to fight before, all we see him do is Surf, and quickly manage to get a group of boys together to sing a really bad and annoying parody of "Barbara Ann" called "Baba Ram" named after an Asian political figure that watches them and later on in the film sings with them in their ancient Native country that happens to have electrical band equipment, who makes the cover more annoying than it already is. The only kind of explanation that we ever get of how he can fight, is because it’s his destiny. The development of him becoming a great warrior makes just as much sense as him teaching Ninjas how to surf by only telling them to bend their knees and swing their arms, who of course become great surfers in their first try! As for his little Brother's special skill, he can see the future and control people with this magical video game console he plays, but when his game console fails, he later on finds out that the power was inside him all along and that it really wasn't the game console’s magic, and he begins to use his power without the game console at all. However, he uses the game console anyway in the climax to help our lead defeat the villain. Uh yeah, B.S.! If the power is truly in him all along, than I don't think he needs a game console to help him defeat his opponent! By the way, I love that when he sees a pixilated version of himself in the game for the first time without even realizing the magic, he's not amazed or shocked by it.



Image result for rob schneider Surf Ninjas

Our leads are not only lame, but so are the supporting characters. The kidnapped Father that we're supposed to care about really isn't worth caring about, because he's just a typical stern Father, with nothing interesting or likable about him at all. Even when they find him, he's still a jerk, there's no happy, emotional, or corny moment between him and his kids. The one eyed Warrior that helps the kids, has no character to him at all. There's nothing about him that's cool, badass, fun, or interesting. Aside from fighting and shortly training our lead, all he really does is lifelessly tell the kids of what's going on and what they're destined to be. He's really a complete bore. The kids are also accompanied by a Detective played by Tone Loc, and aside from his cool voice, he too is really boring. In fact, I don't really see much of a purpose for this character. He really just hangs around and does nothing that's of any importance to the story. If you think these characters are lifeless, so is Johnny's forced love interest that he's destined to marry played by Kelly Hu. The relationship between them has no conflict at all; the chemistry between them is boring; the character and performance is lifeless; and all those elements result to one of the dullest romance subplots that you'd ever see in a film. I mean Tony and Bridget in "An American Tail" have more chemistry compared to these two! Of course, the worst character and performance in the supporting cast goes to Rob Schneider as the comic relief. Thankfully this is not the racially insensitive Rob Schneider performance. The only thing he does that comes close to that, is when he out of nowhere disguises himself as a cripple Scottish man with a really unfunny and over exaggerated accent, as we hear very loud Bagpipes play in the background, and while annoying, it isn't as racist and insulting as his other performances. This Rob Schneider performance is the overly annoying Rob Schneider performance that won't shut the hell up! I'm serious, every thing he says and does in this movie is far, and I mean FAR away from being funny. Every time he opens his mouth, I just want to hit him with a Surf Board, or shove it right through him. His character doesn't even serve any purpose in the film either; he's just there to annoy the characters! I know Schneider can be funny, but this performance is far from it!

Image result for surf ninjas leslie nielsen

Another performance that was really painful to watch was Leslie Nielsen as the villain. We all know that Nielsen can be funny; some of us also know that he can be intimidating like his performance in "Creep Show" for example; however, we all know that the 90s for the most part was hardly good to his career, and this film is one of those movies. First of all, casting Leslie Nielsen as a samurai Emperor didn't seem like the proper casting choice since he's American, while the character he's playing is supposed to be Asian. That would of course be overlooked if his performance was great, but it isn't. When we see him in the flashback as a powerful Samurai warrior before he lost half of his body, he looks and acts so silly that it isn't funny and he's supposed to be this great and evil leader. I know he's also meant to be humorous, but looking at his actions and character, I never ever would have guessed that this guy is a skilled and powerful evil ruler. That low angle shot of him posing to look cool, that's not cool, it looks forced, and with his chest Amour sticking out in that shot, it almost looks like he's posing for a porn Magazine for old Ladies. When he does lose half of his body, it not only looks stupid instead of funny, but the editing makes it look like that he wants to lose half of his body, much like the editing for when a Warrior keeps rolling a down a large flight of stairs which looks like the character is doing it on purpose. When we see Nielsen in his half-human and half-robot form, the effect is far away from cool, it looks ridiculous. It doesn't even look like it's a part of him; it seriously looks like Nielsen is wearing a cheap mask from a party store.

Image result for Surf Ninjas

Not only is the characters in this movie bland, obnoxious, cliche, and unfunny, but the humor that the actors are given to work is seriously poor! Not a single joke in this movie worked, they all feel forced and very half-assed. The running jokes that the characters get aren't smart and clever, they're irritating, especially from the delivery that the actors bring. Schneider for example, has more than one running gag. He keeps blabbering to others as well as trying to convince others that he's the true king and that the kids are just decoys; and whenever he says "What If", his predictions are usually true, as well as constantly telling everyone that. That's not funny, that's annoying as hell! Nielsen also gets a running joke of him rushing towards the phone, which is just as pointless, dull, and stupid as Dennis Hopper's Pizza running gag in "The Super Mario Bros" movie". The film also has Pop Culture references that really feel painfully forced into the film, like the scene when one of the kids finds a secret cave and says that he has "Found Waldo", which results with one of the characters thinking that he really means it. The joke and delivery didn't just feel forced and was just there to make the reference, but who the hell would actually think that a children's book character is actually real? If you think that's stupid, forced, and out of nowhere, two random guys that we never see again, just randomly go to the restaurant that the Father owns; look at the destruction and Cop Cars parked in front of place, and ask if it's opened? How forced and desperate can this film get?! The film even has dialogue that's just there to be stupid, like Tone Loc telling the kids that he likes to swallow his cuff key every week, that's not cool, that's weird. The film even gets really perverted at points for a kid’s film! Like how Schneider flashes a Playboy Magazine; or when a young teenage girl seduces herself towards older men! If you think that's perverted, Nielsen's robotic hand malfunctions which cause him to jerk off for a few seconds, THIS IS A KIDS MOVIE? As for the fight scenes in this movie, while the stunts are decent at times, they're still boring and unexciting. The choreography is lame; the jokes are just as stupid as the film's humor; the slapstick is just there to get a cheap laugh; and the fighting doesn't have anything tense or kickass about it. I know it's a kids movie, but comparing it to fight scenes in Ninja films for kids during that era like the first two "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" films for example, they really lack everything that made the fighting in those two films fun and kickass.

I know that there are people out there who enjoy this film for being so stupid that it's entertaining, and while I can understand that since I enjoy a few stupid films too, this film is so bad that it’s really hard for me to grasp that aspect. The characters are bland and annoying with very poor development; the story has no thought put into it; the humor is obnoxious and desperate; the villain is awful; and the fighting is dull with nothing fun and exciting about it.

RATING 0/5

Friday, April 24, 2015

AN AMERICAN TAIL

I'm going to review a film by former Disney animator Don Bluth, who was huge in the world of animation until the 90s; and the film I'm going to review is not only a film I grew up watching during childhood, but is also considered to be one of his best animated films, that's very dark and depressing, which is...


I honestly haven't watched the film from beginning to end in years. In fact, I actually watched its sequel "Fievel Goes West", more than I watched this film when I was a kid. However, after not seeing it for a very long time, and hearing the reputation it's been getting for being dark and depressing by fans and critics, does it still hold up, as well as being darker than I remember it; ON WITH THE REVIEW!

The film starts out in Russia in the year 1885, as a Jewish Russian family of mice; decide to head for America after being constantly terrorized by a gang of Cossack Cats. During their long and depressing voyage to America, Fievel foolishly gets into trouble on deck during a stormy night and is swept away from his family. However, he manages to make it to America by floating inside a bottle. Fievel decides to go out and find his family in America, while coming across many depressing disappointments, as well as dangerous and horrifying obstacles.

Image result for An American Tail statue of liberty

I'm going to start off by talking about my main problem with the film. My main problem with the film is not so much with the dark and depressing stuff that happens in the film, it’s really how it teaches kids about America through the point of view of mice. While I like that the film shows the humans life in early America, as we see the mice's similar interpretation of life in early America; for a kid’s film, and even as a kid who grew up with the film, I found it to be really confusing. The story is straight forward enough for kids to get into it, but when it comes to teaching kids about immigration in America, it's really not told well enough for them to understand it. As an adult, I do understand everything what both the mice and human world are supposed to represent; but as a kid no. Kids are not going understand, or even get into the politics of America; the life of being an immigrant; or what the mice world symbolizes to the human world. The film also hardly ever mentions why the immigrants names had to be changed, which is something that needed to be a little more direct, than what we were given. However, the scene that really confused me when I was kid, as well as being horrified, is the opening sequence when the Cossacks burn down the house of a Jewish family in the human world. The film never explains to kids why, it just happens. Knowing now as an adult, it's obviously Anti-Semitism; but as a kid, it's just a random act of evil. I also was never aware that Fievel's family was Jewish when I was a kid, nor did I think it mattered when I was a kid, because I thought Jews were treated just as equal as Christians, but back at the time where the film’s taking place, they weren't and that is a huge thing to downplay and explain very little about. I'm not saying that the film has to explain the historical stuff like a documentary or an educational kids program that talks down to them, but I feel like that the writers should’ve put a little more detail and thought when showing kids immigration life in America through the world of talking mice. As an adult I appreciate the film more after understanding the historical context of it; but as a kid, I was bored and confused which is why I didn't watch the film too often. Like I said, the story is good enough to get kids invested, but the historical aspect needed to be a little clearer in what its teaching kids, since that aspect is one of the main themes of the movie.  


Image result for Fievel an American Tail



Our lead character Fievel (Voiced by Phillip Glasser) is a character that I found to be very adorable and loveable. I know there are people out there who find Fievel annoying and overly cutesy, and to be fair, I can understand why. He even makes some very stupid and idiotic mistakes in the film's first act, which causes him to not only get into serious danger, but causes him to get separated from his family. With that said, I still really enjoy the character, and don't really mind all the stuff that he's been criticized for. First of all, he's a little kid and kids around that age do make foolish and idiotic mistakes against their parents wishes (I know I did), and as idiotic as his mistakes are, we not only wouldn't have had a movie, but he does later on redeem himself by helping the mice come up with a plan to attack the cats, and in the end, you do sense that he has learned from his foolish mistakes from his experience, as well as growing up a bit. So there is some development to this character. As for his personality, I really don't mind him being cutesy; while the film does have a handful of cutesy and humorous moments for the character, there is a handful of really sad and depressing moments for the character as well that don't feel cutesy, they really do feel dead on depressing. On top of it, he's not only adorable, but he's so innocent, fun, optimistic, curious, and passionate, that I simply don't have the heart to hate this character. I really do like how the film manages to make him feel like a real character, instead of an overly sugar-coated upbeat character.


 Image result for An American Tail fievel and his family



Looking at the film's supporting characters, they do hold up fine. Before I talk about them though, I should talk about another aspect in the film that I hear critic's complain about which is the racial stereotypes. While it does get very cringe worthy at times; I do feel like that Don Bluth is attacking those stereotypes, instead of reinforcing them, much like what animator Ralph Bakshi did with his film "Coonskin". The stereotypes in this film are satirizing the stereotypes that you'd see in those old political cartoons, only done in mouse form. While I do think its done clever here, much like how I feel about Bakshi's film "Coonskin", I do feel uncomfortable looking at the stuff at times, and I'm sure there will be a good amount of people who will be offended by the film, whether they get the satire or not, and considering that this film is a kids film, it makes this concept a little more cringe worthy, when "Coonskin" was made for adults. Aside from that aspect which will indeed leave audiences mixed, I really do like the characters in this family. Fievel's family are so sweet, fun, and loveable, that I really do want to see Fievel reunite with his family even more, and the pay-off is perfect! However, what happens to the baby that Fievel's Mom has been caring for, is sadly left unknown, but SCREW IT, the pay-off is still wonderfully perfect! Fievel's Italian friend Tony (Voiced by Pat Musick) is a character who I constantly enjoy watching throughout the film, with his from the street personality. As for his Irish love interest Bridget (Voiced by Cathianne Blore), while likable, there's really nothing about her that really stands out, and her relationship with Tony is really just there. There's really no conflict or hardly any chemistry between them, which is very disappointing, and her Irish accent, is really not that good. The French Pigeon (Voiced by Christopher Plummer) while he’s in the movie very little, I do really enjoy the upbeat and encouraging personality that Plummer brings to the character. He knows how to bring you (Along with the character) back on your feet after witnessing such a very depressing and scary moment a few scenes ago. Fievel also befriends a cat named Tiger (Voiced by Dom DeLuise) and while DeLuise doesn't have too much to work with when it comes to comedy, the heart and energy that he does put into the character is good enough for his performance to become plausible. It's just a shame that he's not in the film that often. The character that I found myself laughing the hardest, who used to bore me as a kid is the rich German mouse Gussie (Voiced by Madeline Kahn). She is so fun and humorous with that Elmer Fuddish German accent, that she steals every scene she's in, as well as being a really fun character. Don't get me wrong, she did a much funnier job with the accent in "Blazing Saddles", but for a kid’s film, it's just as funny. The only character that I was really mixed about is the Irish politician Honest John (Voiced by Neil Ross).  I like the satire of the political stereotype that he represents (Who is an Irish mouse version of Boss Tweed from Tammany Hall), and getting one or two funny moments; the Irish stereotype, as well as his personality, does get annoyingly cringe worthy at times. I like what the film is doing with the stereotypes, but this character does at times goes a little too far to the point where he becomes insulting, instead of funny.


Image result for warren t. rat



The film's main villain is Warren T. Rat (Voiced by John P. Finnegan) who in a twist is really a Cat (I honestly don't feel like I'm giving anything away). Despite that this character goes from being adult mouse size, to Cat size throughout the film, he's still a really great villain. He's fun, intimidating, tough, and Finnegan gives this character lots and lots of personality. Out of all characters that Fievel meets on his journey, Warren T. Rat is the best one out of all the characters that Fievel comes across. I even love Warren's cockroach sidekick (Voiced by Will Ryan), who I was a bit annoyed by when I was a kid, but now I freaking can't get enough of him!


 Image result for Cats An American Tail


Since I just talked about the villain, I might as well talk about the dark elements in the film that give the film such a huge recognition both good and bad, as well as the animation. When I heard about how sad and depressing the film was received by critics and audiences, I thought it was an exaggeration, because as a kid, I didn't find myself that depressed or scared by it. So after all these years, when I finally decided to watch the film, I was thinking to myself "Holy crap, this really is dark and depressing!". First of all, the Cats in this film are horrifying to look at; I mean if I were a mouse being chased by these monstrous looking cats, I'd be scared too! Not to mention that moment when Fievel is almost being eaten by a cat; I completely forgot how disturbing it was. It's not just the Cat's that are scary, we also get a monster tidal wave from Fievel's imagination; the secret weapon that the mice built; and the film itself having does have a huge dark and gloomy tone to it. The depressing scenes are more depressing than I remember them. Fievel is constantly fooled into thinking that his parents are near which leads into something either sad or scary; his parent’s mourning over his supposed death is heartbreaking; and the scenes when Fievel and his family pass by each other, without even noticing one another, is both teasing and disappointing. The film does have its happy, cute, and humorous moments, even the animation at times does look bright, colorful, and dreamlike, as well as capturing the beauty of old America. However, even during some of those moments, we're still met with something dark, scary, depressing, and disappointing. This film is "Brave Little Toaster" and "Return To OZ" territory. All full of dark, sad, and edgy things, with a cute leading character; some funny and cute moments; and an ending that makes the journey through all this hardship worth while.


 Image result for somewhere out there an american tale

Now we finally go to the film's music, how does that hold up? Well, if you want to know the truth about the songs, they hold up ok. The song that the mice sing on their voyage to America called "There Are No Cats In America"; while having a very upbeat choir and colorful animation for whenever they sing the title of the song, when you get down to it, it really is a very depressing song (Especially since we all know that what the mice are singing about is sadly isn't so), however, it does mix the happiness and the sadness perfectly. The friendship song "We're Duo" sung by Tiger and Fievel is a cute and humorous number, and I really do like the inter-species friendship between Fievel and Tiger in this movie. While their friendship isn't shown that much in the film, it's not only cute, but it does teach kids about tolerance with different types of people really well, without sounding preachy. The song "Never Say Never" sung by the French Pigeon and Fievel, is also a really upbeat and encouraging song as well. While I do praise the songs that I just mentioned, as well as still remembering them after having not seen the movie in years, in all honesty, there's really nothing that special about them. They're not bad, but they're not incredible. The way they pop-up feel forced, and the music and lyrics feel like that they were given a limited amount of time for them to shine. That is with the exception of the most popular song in the movie "Somewhere Out There" sung by Fievel and his Sister Tanya as they miss each other but hope that they will reunite someday. Despite the song sounding a little bit like "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", it's a highly emotional and touching song. I think that mainly has to do with the fact that the kids singing the song don't sound like professional singers, in fact, they actually sound bad. However, the heart and the emotion that the kids who sing the song bring, along with the music, animation, and lyrics, are so tear-jerking and depressing that it works perfectly. This song could've easily been a corny and overly whimsical number, but it works on every level of emotion that the song and scene brings. As for the film's score composed by James Horner, it’s absolutely perfect. While the animation and voice acting plays just as a major role with the film's emotion and atmosphere; the score is what really makes the film so beautiful, so sad, and so rich. Just listening to the music on its own, it really does bring the same impact as if you were watching the movie. However, the best part about the film is the music, voice acting, and animation never ever upstages each other, they all blend together perfectly.

While I do consider this film to be one of Don Bluth's best work, I honestly don't think it’s for everybody. Since the film does go a little overboard with the dark and depressing aspect, it might turn kids away from the film like the other two kids film's that I've mentioned in the review. The film's racial stereotypes, while I do think it's a clever satire on the stereotypes, I can see a good amount of viewers (Adults mostly) being offended by them, whether they get the satire or not. However, what I think the film's main problem is which will really confuse and even bore kids is the historical context. It's not done poorly or anything, but it does need to explain itself a little bit more to give kids an understanding of why Fievel, his family, the mice, and even the humans have to go through half of the things that we are seeing. However, the good things I've mentioned, whether kids are scared, sad, or confused, are still good. The story of Fievel trying to find his family is still a very engaging story; the characters are fun, likable, and cute; the villain is a riot; the animation is one of Bluth's best; the songs are good, if not the best (with the exception of one); and the music is very touching. Not for everyone, but for me personally I love it, as well as loving it more as an adult, than I did as a kid.

RATING 3/5