Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

With a better rating than the first film, Hunger Games: Catching Fire has been praised as an excellent film, which I don't quite understand.  The first movie was a tense story of survival under impossible circumstances.  The second film repeats most of the elements of the first film while making them seem less scary, but puts greater emphasis on political intrigue and political oppression.  The movie frequently lets us know that events are leading up to political revolution, but I feel a little shortchanged when the revolution is delayed for the next movie.  There aren't enough new elements in this film to make me want to heap tons of praise on it.  However, there is enough of a story to be entertaining.

Rating:  * * *

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs vs. Sleeping Beauty vs. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh vs. Winnie the Pooh

The 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs launched Disney into the animated movie business, and this classic is heralded as one of the all time greats.  However, the animation is of mixed but mostly good quality and the story is about half filler, with only about half of the filler actually entertaining.  

Although most of the backgrounds are very flat looking, the animation is so well done that the audience doesn't notice.  Snow White herself has a very simplistic looking face and there is more emphasis on the Seven Dwarfs than there is on her.  Disney would not achieve its best movie animation until the 1940 Pinocchio. 

Most of the plot happens at the beginning and the end, so the middle half of the movie is all filler dealing with the antics of the Seven Dwarfs.  Some of this is too silly to be entertaining, although there is enough charm in the movie to make you love these characters.  

There are a couple of very memorable songs, and I am sure everybody knows what they are.  

Snow White talks to the Dwarfs like they are children and not adults, and maybe this is intentional because the intended audience was children.  In the end she seems to completely abandon her new found friends to ride off with Prince Charming.

The movie feels a little bit dated:  Rating:  * * *

The 1959 Sleep Beauty seems to be an example of Disney ripping itself off.  The story is too similar to Snow White, although so simplistic that 90% of the movie is filler with eccentric characters that fail to impress.  The animation is extremely flat looking.  Because animators demanded more money, by 1959 quality animation had become too expensive.  The film tried to throw in some classical music, but this is not near as catchy as "Someday my Prince Will Come."  Overall, the film is just not very good.  

The most interesting part of the movie is the few short minutes at the end when Prince Phillip battles Maleficent who is actually one of the most scary Disney Villains.  Disney is making a new movie about Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie.   

Rating:  * *

The 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is impressive for both its non-stop charm and its animation.  Although in places the animation appears a little flat, most of it looks very good and I was impressed with how the characters are animated within the pages of a book.  We see the text within the pages turn.  I suspect that this took some meticulous work although if you look closely you will see that many pages of the book have the same text on them.

This movie is broken into several short stories, many of which are available individually on youtube.  The first half has the more interesting stories and introduces us to some charming songs which only get vaguely referenced in the second half. 

Rating:  * * * 1/2 

The 2011 shortened title "Winnie the Pooh" is similar to its predecessor in both story and structure.  The animation is pretty good, thanks to computers, and the film is charming and funny, but I think that it is a little more silly and lacks some of the charm and clever music of the previous film.

Rating:  * * *