DTV Wonders: The Hobbit (1977)

It is not actually Direct-to-video, but Direct-to-TV.  I decided that is close enough for the best Hobbit movie.  This is a traditional animated film by Rankin and Bass using the resources that would become Studio Ghibli.

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It opens with the book being opened and Gandalf narrating about Hobbits.  Gandalf is awesome as expected.  He is powerful, yet wise.

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Bilbo is much fatter than he is in Peter Jackson’s version, and he is more aggravated to realize a wizard came to him.  The Dwarves immediately show up and sing “That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates.”  They eat all his food quickly.  Like in Jackson’s version Bilbo is scared of dying, but unlike Jackson’s films he is immediately interested in seeing the rest of Middle Earth.

 

The Song “Greatest Adventure plays when he sleeps. He early on wakes up in the middle of the night and realizes he wants to go when he stares at the full moon like nature is calling for him to go.  He then dream about being a king with everyone loving him at the lyrics “a man who’s a dreamer…” The song describes what he will not find if he stays like passion and fun.  This is a great credit song and it only comes in about nine minutes into the movie.

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Once they actually start leaving Bilbo quickly misses his home and tries to comfort himself by thinking of it.  It gets worse when Thorin, the Dwarf leader, pressures him into robbing trolls.  In Jackson’s version the trolls had already robbed them, but here they were not bothering them at all, as Rankin and Bass used a more negative portrayal of the dwarves.  I think that is more accurate to the book.  Bilbo is caught and then the rest of the dwarves, but Bilbo escapes to a cave since the trolls are okay with losing the teeny snack.  So far so good, useful wizard and everyone else is useless like in Tolkien’s book.  Gandalf saves them, and while Thorin is mad at Bilbo, he did find the cave of the trolls’ treasure which includes swords.  Here another distinction occurs between the animated and live-action dwarves.  The animated ones seem to have no weapons before now or plan at all.  They really are helpless without Bilbo and Gandalf.  Even worse Thorin has no map reading abilities.  When Gandalf leaves Thorin gets them to sleep in a cave which is “the perfect place.”

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They are all captured, but Bilbo again escapes.  The dwarves are saved by Gandalf, while Bilbo is lost and confronted by Gollum.  Gollum’s voice cannot compare to Andy Serkis’s performance or his great performance is Bakshi’s film, but his design is notably different in a good way. He looks like a frog-human hybrid, and he looks like a physical threat.  The riddle game goes like it does in the books, and Bilbo uses his new magic ring to escape.

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In one scene a dwarf saves Bilbo from Wargs, and I think this is the only time a dwarf is helpful.  At Mirkwood forest Gandalf leaves and appoints Bilbo as his surrogate and group scribe.

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Bilbo is forced to climb a tree.  “I couldn’t argue.  My contract is vague on several points.”  A funny attack on loopholes there, and when he sees how pretty Mirkwood looks he realizes he wants to be there adventuring, not back in his home, a huge change from the beginning of the film.  Unfortunately the rest of Mirkwood is not well made by the film.  He saves the dwarves from spiders, but the stabbing animation is bad making the scene pale compared to its book counterpart.  Also “the wood elves have returned.”  That appearance was deleted making a plot hole.

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Also they look nothing like Elrond, and this design is not good.  Fortunately getting them out is a great scene demonstrating Bilbo’s intelligence, the rivalry between dwarves and elves, and it is ironically way less cartoony than the live-action version.  One notable thing is the movie is only seventy-seven minutes long.  The dwarves are mostly extras (which is better than they were in Jackson’s version).  At Laketown the people also get demoted to extra.  Only their future king seems to have lines, as they are just a brief stop.

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Bilbo on the mountain befriends a bird, the Thrush.  He finds the entrance to the mountain in a much better scene than what Jackson used due to the better pacing.  Then Thorin says Bilbo needs to go earn his 1/14th of the treasure.  That is how it happened in the book where Thorin ignores all Bilbo has done for them, and Bilbo points out his contract never said he had to save them from spiders and elves.  to his disappointment nobody comes to help except Thrush.

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Smaug here is magnificent.  Instead of a generic dragon design he looks like a mammal.  His actor Richard Boone, makes him sound like he is from a Western, and it works for something so powerful.  Some find his design too fat, but I did notice until a few watches.  He does decide the burglar is from Laketown.  To save them Bilbo sends the Thrush to warn them about his one weak spot, which results in their future king slaying the dragon. Back with the company only Bilbo shows any interest in the men’s safety, and Bilbo begins to act like the leader.  When the dragon attacks he guides them to safety and gets everyone else in first.  He then leads them to he gate out against Thorin’s will.  It ends with the Battle of the Five Armies.  No dragon sickness it is just the dwarves are greedy, the elf king wants his old treasure despite having been a pain, and the men feel entitled to something after killing the dragon. Bilbo wants to give up fractions of the treasure since there is plenty, but Thorin says he does not understand war.  These few minutes have more weight than the last Hobbit film.  Bilbo hopes to be captured resulting in Thorin calling him a coward.  Bilbo responds that he has been heroic while Thorin has hid. Gandalf then warns them about the attacking goblins.  Humorously the three kings then call each other their closest friends and brothers, as they join against a common enemy.  In the book only three dwarves die.  Here seven die.  Thorin thanks Bilbo for his work, as Bilbo arrives back at the Shire with some gold and the film ends with the ring shining indicating a sequel made by different people.

The animation is the weakness.  I like the designs, but movement and fighting are lackluster, and it sticks out at times that they were squeezing their dimes.

I hate to keep putting down Jackson’s work (especially with all the good he has done for the books), but this is better than his trilogy.  Bilbo does not become a side character, the plot is faster paced, elves do not take over, it has better humor, very good songs, interesting designs mostly, and it always felt faithful to the children’s story it was based off.

 

 

 

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Why Solo Failed at the Box Office

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Solo: A Star Wars Story is likely going to be the first Star wars film to lose money at the box office.  It was projected to make plenty of money right away and have great legs. but it has been failing at both.  All Stars Wars movies had opened huge, and the other studios did not put major films to compete with it.  Instead it opened to hugely disappointing numbers.  Many theories have came out about its failure, and most are nonsense.

It did not bomb

This is false.  some defenders have praised it for having the fourth highest opening weekend of the year (it will almost certainly not be in the top 10 when the year ends). Others are saying it is only underperforming as a Star Wars movie.  Even they have to admit it is failing badly by Star Wars standards, but it is failing by more than that.  It went over budget and conservative estimates say it cost $250 million dollars.  By movie economics and hidden expenses it needs to make around $500 million worldwide to make money. Two weekends in and it has made $260 million.  Its legs are getting weaker and it is finally getting competition.  Domestically for a film that expensive it is doing poorly.  a film with a $150 million budget would be good with it, but not a film this expensive.  Its worldwide numbers have been abysmal.  The same $150 million dollar film would be unhappy with its worldwide numbers.

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Too much competition

This is also a common myth. some are saying it is Avengers: Infinity war and Deadpool 2 that killed it.  These claims are ignoring the basics of the summer season with movies.  Normally a major film comes out the weekend before (like Deadpool 2), and another major film opens the next week. No major films opened this weekend, as studios are still shying away from putting big films in competition with Star Wars.  These past two weekends Avengers made less than $30 million being on its 5th and 6th weekend.  The Newer Deadpool film made over $60 million, but that is not that much for top competition in the Summer over half a month.  At this time when the top film makes less than $30 million over a weekend it is a very light three day period.

Boycotters

The last Star Wars film alienated many fans.  Disney called them insignificant, but they now seem very significant.  This is definitely part of its failure, but I doubt they are eighty percent of the fanbase.  They may have been the group most likely to watch Solo.  Most of the boycotters love Han and the original trilogy, and they like their films more lighthearted than the fans of The Last Jedi.

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This is probably part of the reason.  See how bad it is affecting Marvel.  Black Panther and Avengers 3 are in theaters at the same time way closer together, and they are… Actually they are two of the highest grossing films ever now.

What I think the Reason is

Selling a film depends on having a base, and the base for Solo is Han Solo fans.  They love Han, but they also love a certain thing about him that the movie has none of, Harrison Ford.  This is the first time a live-action character has been recast with lines in Star Wars, and it is the Star Wars actor who had the best career.  the fans did not want to see someone else be Han, and they were mad at Disney for killing him.

 

DTV Wonders: Lilo and Stitch 2

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In my review of Stitch the Movie I praised the Lilo and Stitch franchise, but sadly that is in spite of this film.  It has the major flaws direct-to-video films are notorious for, new actors who are distractingly different and a mess of plots that do not go together.

The creators’ records are mixed.  The cast from the first film is back, except for Lilo’s actress.  Theo Leondis is the writer and his directorial debut is here.  He previously was an assistant writer on other DTV sequels. He wrote Kronk’s New Groove and directed and co-wrote …The Emoji Movie.  Writing and directing is expected to be a weakness.

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It starts with a dream Stitch is having where he is flying and shooting the island.  Then Lilo tells… him to stop, and that is the first problem.  Lilo’s actress was too busy with the show to reprise her role, and Dakota Fanning took over. She sounds very much like an eighteen year old and nothing like Lilo.  It is just jarring hearing her voice from Lilo’s body.

Lilo convinces him that he is just worried about turning bad, and he is really good. She uses his chart to show it.

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The chart is a plot device for showing how good or bad the characters view Stitch. When no one else is around Stitch’s eyes glow green and he breaks things to show the main plot. Then “Hawaiian Roller Coaster” plays. Some viewers prefer sequels reusing old songs, but I prefer new ones. It is a matter of preference.

Two new plots are then introduced. Lilo is in a hula competition involving making an original dance around a them showing “ohana.” She wants to win partly to beat Myrtle, and partly because her mom won it years ago. Another plot is Lilo is fighting and the hula teacher threatens to ban her from the competition if she does not control her violent behavior. Three plots is not too much, as two can easily mirror each other, but sadly the film keeps adding them.

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Pleakley tells David that his romantic spark with Nani is gone. He plays Cyrano to try and get it back, and besides some bad whispering it is very bad comic relief. It is usually unfunny and it just interrupts the plot.   Another plot is added when Jumba realizes what is wrong with Stitch. He tells Pleakley, as they work on building the machine that will fix them. The logical choice is to tell the family. Stitch would volunteer to be locked up to not hurt anyone, as everyone helps them make it until the glitch kills Stitch (I think just turning him evil would be better). Instead they tell no one and hide from Nani why they are taking appliances to build the machine slowing them down. This happens as Pleakley spends more time working with David, whose life is not at risk, than saving Stitch’s life. They have some failures and then build the machine.

Lilo’s plot on not fighting is the worst done. At one point Stitch’s glitching gets her in trouble, and she is banned from the contest. Then she is in it. The actual contest plot has its own big issue. they already did it in the show, where it was done better, not good but better. Lilo being very mean is just not entertaining, and it ends with her leaving the contest to help the main plot anyway.

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Stitch’s glitching is the only plot with any interest, and it has a problem in concept. He is evil by design, not free will. Jumba specially states “it is not his fault.” It should have been about old habits or something he had control over, meaning his problems are a result of his failures. I think the writer might be a hardcore determinist.

There are two good parts. One is a montage of Stitch doing good deeds to bring his goodness back up like feeding a bird worms from his mouth. The other is when he fights with Lilo. It is just good seeing him making mistakes by his own free will like he should have been all movie. Those small insults have more weight than all the glitching, because he has the ability to stop it.

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At the end Jumba builts the magic device, but Stitch then tries to leave the planet in the ship, which has the device. The family just drops the other plots (why were they around in the first place then!) to save him. Stitch does not know the machine will save him, and he starts dying and the ship crashes. Lilo puts him in it, and the film expects us to believe he is dead (he looks asleep to me. He is alive of course, and the film ends.

This film is really, really bad. It is worse than Dragonheart II, and one of the worst films I have reviewed. Only one plot has any danger, and that makes the other four seem so insignificant. Some films like The Land Before Time VII have insignificant plots, but they work, because they are all the same level of importance making the whole film seem important. This films only has one plot that seems like anything important.

Worse off, this is only 68 minutes long, yet it is so padded. With a good TV series going on, these should have been episodes instead. It hardly feels like a movie.

 

DTV Wonders: Scooby-Doo in Arabian Knights

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Scooby-Doo as a franchise has been around since 1969 menaing it will turn 50 next year, and this film nearly killed it at age 25 in 1994.  A Pup Named Scooby-Doo ended in 1991 and no new Scooby-doo episodes were made until 2002 due to the franchise being saved in 1998 by Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.  Now as a fan of the franchise I had to check out what nearly killed it.

It starts with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy having a magic carpet taxi ride.  The animation is changed to better match the frame story, but that looks distractedly odd.  To make it worse no one’s mouth closes all the way, until they do in the frame stories.

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They arrive and get a job as a royal food tester.  They then eat everything, realize they are professional poison checkers and will die from it.  They then also realize the Caliph now has no food and will kill them for it.

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They accidently break his glasses and Shaggy hides in drag.  The blind Caliph mistakes Shaggy for a suitor and his future wife thinking he is beautiful, smart, and witty.  Clearly he needs a woman with the last two traits to complete him.  Shaggy’s brilliant plan is then to tell him a story so boring it will put him to sleep.  I suggest remembering that audience.  Shaggy thinks the most boring story is about Yogi Bear in a rip-off of Disney’s Aladdin.  There many good descriptions of Aladdin and Yogi-Bear but boring is not one of them.

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Frame story one is Aladdin (the Disney version) but gender flopped with Aliyah-Din.  I will definitely hate her more now that I have to constantly type that name.  Just replace the Blue genie with Yogi-Bear as a genie and this is what the film uses in 1994, two years after it came out.  It has many problems like most of Yogi’s jokes are him begging his master to wish for a picnic basket, which he does constantly.  The Prince (no name given) does a big speech about not falling for love at first sight, which is then exactly how he falls in love (lust to be exact) for Aliyah-Din.  Jafar’s counterpart has a boss who is an emerald voiced by Tony Jay.  He then disappears after one scene making him pointless and a waste of money in hiring Jay and animating it.  Its climax and twist ending is just awful.  Also it is just a dull rushed version of the Disney film, and overall it is not good and takes up way too much of the film.

It does have some redeeming qualities.  Aliyah-Din wears a light brown cloak mostly, and with how few female protagonists do that it is refreshingly different.  While this is clearly a coincidence it also has two genies (Yogi and Boo-Boo) just like the original story.

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The big help is Jafar’s counterpart Haman.  I legitimately like watching him.  I do not like the Jafar archetype, an obviously evil villain who is already high up and wants to go a little higher.   There is nothing about Haman’s appearance that indicates villain and for any viewers who have not seen the Disney film will probably be surprised he is the bad guy until it is revealed.  He also does not rely on a magic mind control staff.  He is simply good with his words and legitimately convincing that he is just trying to help, and many of his scenes from Disney’s Aladdin are an improvement because of that.  One reason Prince is not married is Haman is telling him he should not rush marriage choices, a good message that most people would listen to, and it fits his agenda of keeping the Sultan heirless to help him take over later.  How does he get Aliyah-Din to enter the cave?  He tells her the Sultan has a great disease and only the lamp can save him.  He tells her it very humbly and is very polite.  Even when he snaps he apologizes saying that his brief anger was due to his worry about the Sultan’s health (very reasonable).  While the villain cannot save the film he is a major benefit keeping it watchable.

This story takes up most of the runtime, and apparently Scooby-Doo in Arabian Knights lacks a certain thing promised, like Scooby-Doo characters.  Yogi-Bear should have been marketed.  Yikes Aliyah-din only takes up 34 minutes?  It felt way longer.  Well as expected this does not put the Caliphate to sleep.  Surprisingly he does love the story and is even more in love with Shaggy.  Shaggy now makes the right choice to tell him an unromantic comedy, and this is actually a big improvement and the only full part worth the watch.  It stars the mostly forgotten Hanna-Barberra character, Magilla Gorilla.

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This next part is simple good comedy with Magilla mistaking Sinbad’s raiding ship as a cruise ship.  They then hunt down various treasures with hijinks ensuing.  There are still two problems.  The previous story is just boring and by this time I am not interested any more.  Also the first treasure hunt is the longest and also not fun to watch.  The second one is the great one which involves Magilla and Sinbad being on a roller coaster with jewels all around it, as they try to steal the valuables while avoiding all the death threats.  This is also where Sinbad becomes a great comedic villain.  He has a good mix of legitimately caring for Magilla and the flaw of being more interested in the treasure.  The third voyage is mixed, but Sinbad keeps it funny.  When Sinbad loses everything I am kind of sad to see it, because I really enjoyed him and felt he was going through character development from a greedy criminal to a caring boss.

The film ends with the Caliph deciding the fun of the stories made him forget his hunger.  Shaggy and Scooby are made royal story tellers.

This film fails in context.  It should have been advertised as a Hanna-Barberra film, not Scooby-Doo who hardly has any role.  The Sinbad story should have been first.  Give the audience a short good comedy before the main event that way they could enjoy the better one and then at least go into the second one already happy.  If not that then greatly shorten the Aladdin story and make Sinbad more than a comedy by adding in a real arc for Sinbad.  That had plenty of potential for it, but it was only treated as a tacked on epilogue to the main event despite being vastly superior.  While not the worst Scooby-Doo movie I have seen it is the one I think the fewest people would like. It is really bad.

Contested sequels: Batman Returns

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This film came out three years after Tim Burton’s first Batman movie.  It was nowhere near as successful, which usually happens with a sequel.  It is debated about whether it is darker than its predecessor or lighter than it, and whether it is a better film. The differing views are due to the completely different focus

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This movie is far from a rehash.  The most notable change is Batman’s increased role.  In the first film Batman is in the shadows, as Joker and Vicki Vale both take center stage over him, as it is told from the point of view of most Gothamites. This film gives Batman center focus along with the hidden motives of Penguin, Shrek, and Catwoman.  Only Batman, Alfred, and Gordon remain from the first film.  While this makes it not stick out like Batman does, it gives it a different feel as a more traditional non-origin superhero film, as Batman now dominate the screentime for the non villainous people of Gotham.

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Batman Returns is known for its dark tone best exlempified by Penguin’s parents throwing their newborn into the sewers on Christmas, however its tone is best shown by the opening action scene.  The villains are from a circus and look the part. One immediately pulls out a doll house, and then a machine gun barrel comes out and fires.  It is very cheesy and dark, and that is the best way to describe this film, dark cheese.  In the first film this is mostly limited to a few of Joker’s actions like killing his girlfriend off screen.  In the sequel Penguin put missiles on penguins to make them into kamikazes.  Many viewers find this dark, but others find it funny.

Batman Returns along with Batman are among the films I annually watch.  it depends on the year witch one I prefer partly, because they each give something different while still feeling like they are portraying the same Batman and Gotham.  One focuses on Batman and feels like he fights goofy  yet killer clowns, and the other focuses on normal people and have Batman face off against killer yet goofy clowns.

Hardest Kanto gym Leaders

I have beaten Pokémon Fire Red/Leaf Green with all three starters, and I am ready to say who the hardest one is.

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With Bulbasaur I rank their difficulty from easiest to hardest as

8. Brock (Rock/Ground)

7. Giovanni (Ground, all with either a rock or poison type too).

6. Misty (Water, half are also psychic)

5. Lt. Surge (electric)

4. Erika (grass, two thirds are also poison).

3. Koga (poison)

2. Sabrina (Psychic)

1. Blaine (Fire)

I kept hearing that even Blaine would be easy thanks to surf but that is false.  His first three pokemon are really easy, but his Arcanine can tank it and with his great speed and his move extreme speed, he can and did sweep my team.  His early pokemon can also burn my water pokemon giving him a great chance.  He is the only gym leader to defeat  Bulbasaur or its line.  Sabrina came close.  Koga could challenge it with his Muk, but the Leech Seed move beat it.  No one else was hard, as he has a type advantage against everyone else but Erika (still superior to her pokemon) and some of Giovanni’s pokemon whom surf does destroy, and Venusaur should easily knock out 3 pokemon with just a Razor Leaf move.

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8. Brock

7. Blaine

6. Giovanni

5. Erika

4. Koga

3. Sabrina

2. Misty

1. Lt. Surge

Like Bulbasaur, Squirtle easily crushes Brock.  Blaine goes from hardest to one of the easiest.  Giovanni is even easier with Squirtle than Bulbasaur.  Despite the type disadvantage a flying pokemon can easily crush Erika.  Her moves and pokemon stats are just bad.  Koga was a challenge where I nearly lost, partly because I made some bad mistakes.  Sabrina came exactly as close to beating me as she did with Bulbasaur.  I lost to both Misty and Lt. Surge and I heavily debated who should be the toughest.  I accidently refused the dark move, Bite, so Misty only got second place, but her Starmie quickly crushed my whole team the first time.  Second time Butterfree was the MVP, and he poisoned Starmie giving me a close victory by only one turn.  thankfully it did not use recover.  I heard a ground type like Geodude would crush Lt. Surge.  That was completely false.  Voltorb’s Sonic Boom move greatly hurt it.  Also between its bad accuracy and Raichu’s Double Team move Geodude was worthless and I lost.  A grass pokemon is better, as they have better accuracy.  Defeating either of hose two with Squirtle/Wartortle was harder than defeating Blaine with Venusaur.

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As any player probably knows Charmander as a starter is hard mode.  He is not picked for his power, but for his challenge and cuteness.  To add to his type disadvantages against all but one gym he does not learn a great move all the way until level 34 (Flamethrower).  In contrast Squirtle gets Water Pulse after defeating Misty, and Bulbasaur gets Leech Seed at level 7.  His only bright side is all of his weaknesses are covered by grass meaning an Oddish or Bellsprout is a must.

8. Giovanni

7. Brock

6. Sabrina

5. Blaine

4. Koga

3. Erika

2. Lt. Surge

1. Misty

This list is practically the opposite of what I thought it would be besides Misty being the hardest.  Giovanni sounds hard, but by this time the player should have a team of other pokemon to beat him, and a level 44 charmander one or two hit beats all of his pokemon ad out speeds all of them.  As a charizard it now knows Fly and flamethrower giving him a same attack type bones on a physical move and a special move.  Use fly on Sabrina (bad physical defense) and flamethrower on Giovanni (bad special defense).  It also has great speed to go first.  Due to that only Blaine’s Arcanine could really fight it well of the late gym leaders.  Before  it got there everyone was hard but Brock.  Brock’s pokemon also have garbage special defense and the fire move Ember, whipped out everything but Onix.  Onix is slow, has bad HP, has bad special defense, is capable of being burned, and it Charmander should have Metal Claw by then which greatly hurts it.  To make it worse, its rock move, Rock Tomb, is innacurate.  Besides them the early gym leaders are really hard.  I thought Charmander would wipe out Erika with his type advantage, but I did not have flamethrower then, and her pokemon wore Charmeleon down and defeated him. I also waited to battle her to get Starmie and Snorlax Instead of going straight for her like I did with Wartortle and Venusaur.  Snorlax and Starmie had to do most of the work.  Lt. Surge was hard de to his power until Weepinbell finished it in a battle where Charmeleon was useless.  Misty with a Charmander as a starter is by far the hardest gym battle in the game.  I could not stall with poison powder as Starmie out sped and wiped out Charmeleon, and my other pokemon.  It can take attacks from Pikachu and crush it too.  It is the only gym I had to grind for and look for another pokemon, Bellsprout to win. Now to average the placements to find the hardest gym leader.

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With an average of 7.666 placement Brock is the easiest gym leader.  His pokemon have awful HP, speed, and special defense.  On the bright side I heard he is really hard in Pokémon Yellow.

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With an average of 7 Giovanni is not much better.  All three times he is easy to beat.  He has all the same weaknesses as Brock, but he has one thing going for him, his gym lieutenants are great.  They have a great variety of pokemon making Giovanni seem even more disappointing.

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With 4.666 Blaine is way better.  He can beat Venusaur, but as a late game gym like Giovanni the team should be prepared for fire. At least his Arcanine is probably the second hardest gym pokemon to beat, but his others are not worthy to be on the same team.

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Erika is slightly better at 4.  This seems odd, as she was easier to beat than Blaine in many cases, but the best counter I could find was Snorlax who cannot win quickly.  If only she spammed Leech Seed she could have been number one.

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Koga’s average is 3.666.  Unlike most gym leaders, he uses his most powerful pokemon, Muk, early.  He also does not hesitate to heal it with his potions instead of weaker pokemon.  While he is vulnerable to ground his Koffing and Wheezing are immune to it really helping his type diversity.

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At third place is Sabrina with 3.333 average.  I heard she would be number one with her great special attack, speed, and decent special defense.  The problem is her pokemon have horrible physical defense making them very vulnerable to quick attack.  Also her best pokemon alakazam is too fragile to carry the team unlike Arcanine and Starmie.  She also tends to use status boosting moves too much, which allowed my Victrebell to beat both her Alakazam and Mr. Mime, over half of her firepower right there.

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At second place Misty got 3 as an average.  Despite only coming in second I think she is the hardest due to the difficulty as beating her with Charmander line is unrivaled by anyone else in this game. While unable to beat Bulbasaur line without a psychic move she can beat the Squirtle line well and the Charmander line is completely helpless.  She also does not waste moves on stat boosting moves when at a type disadvantage like other gym leaders.  Her constant water pulse attacks makes her very hard to beat.

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Lt. Surge has a 2.666 average.  He has great speed, success with double team and paralysis to make his toughest pokemon hard to hit, and Voltorb.  Voltorb’s move, Sonic Boom does 20 damage meaning it can weaken the main pokemon designed to beat it even at a disadvantage.  Also ground is his main weakness, but due to most poison types (the Koffing line) being immune to ground there is hardly any additional use  for ground.  Rock has use, but it is really inaccurate.  I do not remember him being tougher than Misty, yet he edged her out by one point, and I cannot remember how my Venusaur beat him so well.  I guess his high stats let him crush Riachu.  Squirtle got crushed, and Charmeleon could not take same attack type bonus electric moves.  He is much to my surprise the hardest gym leader.

 

 

 

 

DTV Wonders Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase

 

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Scooby Doo on Zombie Island was my first written DTV Wonder, and now I return to the early Scooby-Doo movies, and I have as much nostalgia for this film as most of The Land Before Time films.  Jim Stenstrum is back as the director and Davis Doi is still producing and doing the story, but the writers are different. The main cast change is Grey DeLisle takes over as the voice of Daphne, a role which she had until 2013. This film came out in 2001. This is normally considered one of the best Scooby-Doo movies, and that is accurate to me.

The opening trailers are very good when they are about movies. The Harry Potter and he Sorcerer’s Stone trailer makes me want to watch it again.  The trailer to Pokémon 3 shows some cool Cyndaquil action, and the trailer to Grandma got run over by a Reindeer… well what else could it be? Then the toy commercials seem to have nothing to work with.

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At a strange lab some scientists talk about a laser. They are professor Kaufman (coincidently the name of one of my college’s buildings where I do most of my classes), Erik, and Bill. Besides Erik’s actor voicing Bucky the squirrel in The Emperor’s new Groove, none of their actors are important, which is fine for small roles like they have.  Apparently the laser is broken, but then it just turns on after Bill presses some buttons and keeps pressing them (he is probably the villain), and then the Laser shoots the Phantom Virus into the world. While I have named him the movie does not until later giving the viewers a mysterious unknown villain.  He is also able to absorb computer data and make electronics come to life as his minions so it ends with a close up of his pointy chin, as the professor and his students are trapped.  This results in disappointment when the Mystery Machine is shown with the characters expositioning about their fried Erik making a computer game based off them instead of more of the college.

They arrive at “State University.”  I presume it is named for its founder, John State. They meet the Red Herring, Officer Wembley (there is zero chance he had access to the computers necessary), and he immediately worries they are pranksters.  The next few scenes give exposition with some comic relief mixed in to keep the kiddies entertained like Scooby and Shaggy nearly eating radioactive tomatoes.  Both Kaufman and Erik ask for help, and it is revealed they escaped the virus as the electromagnet is his kryptonite, as it hurts his pixels.  Also it is mentioned he can wreck all of Earth’s technology (sadly it will not be explored).  The laser can move objects into the computer world and apparently vice versa, as a Virus was beamed in.  They use this for making computer game instead of ending The Great Pacific Garbage island

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We then have a bad mythology gag. When Fred says to split up Scooby and Shaggy leave before he says who will go with whom.  Shaggy’s response is “Like we ever do it any other way.” In the first two seasons more often than not it was Scooby, Shaggy, and Velma in a group. Well after that Scooby and Shaggy proceed to eat the cafeteria dry, while Velma, Fred, and Daphne have a showdown with the phantom virus, and interestingly thanks to the magnet this time the gang is chasing the monster instead of the reverse.  They are then caught by Officer Wembly who points out that they are in a restricted area and Kaufman never gave them hall passes.  Maybe Kaufman is the villain.  Well in what is probably he best part of the movie’s humor the phantom virus chases Scooby and Shaggy, which includes them using a robot against him (virus forgot he can control), and electrocuting him.

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Then they electrocute him again.

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Despite being able to control technology, hide in dust, and shoot lasers from his fingers, he seems surprisingly playful and inept, since this is not his world.  They run by the rest resulting in the whole gang getting stuck trying to fin him. Then the laser is powered by a lab cat hand (further ruling Wembley out) beams them into the computer game.  It is then revealed by Erik that the only way for them to get out is for them to get past all ten levels. The problem is they could still beam in a guide to the game, a walkthrough, or supplies.

Level one is the moon level, where it is quickly established that they can still feel pain there, and presumably die.  The story gets episodic here, as it is about them being chased by moon goons and the phantom virus, as in each level this is what they have to do in order to find a box of Scooby snacks.  The story gets episodic because of it, and this is quite dull except for showing the phantom virus to now be a much larger threat, as he has allies and all of the magnets are stuck in the real world.  Why put them down?

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The second level is much improved.  They are moved to the Roman Coliseum.  To make things worse a lion has the Scooby snacks, but he for some reason puts it on the ground.  After a good chase between the gladiators and Scooby and Shaggy; Fred successfully bull fights the lion into the pen. In a chase scene that then makes no sense if you consider the timing, Shaggy and Scooby distract the gladiators by disguising themselves as…

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Assuming Caligula was emperor at the time him being a dog is actually believable.  They then get to the hardest level, three out of ten.  Apparently to pass this prehistoric level the player must wander a huge forests where everything is trying to kill you, find the scooby snacks on an erupting volcano, have no knowledge beforehand that they are there, have the only clue being a drawing in a random cave, which the player may not go into, deal with it turning dark, and do it before the volcano erupts.  This sounds insanely difficult, and I am wondering why it is level three instead of at least eight.  It is actually the best level to watch and it begins with the phantom virus on a T-Rex.

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They escape it the same way as they did in The Land Before Time VI (which came out three years before this film, so I always assumed they had just watched it for inspiration), by hiding in the thick trees where it could not go.  They eventually reach the volcano by wooly mammoth riding (apparently Erik programmed them to smell bad).  Scooby heroically goes to save a baby pterodactyl, which it turns out was on top of the Scooby snacks.

Then the film montages the next six levels, which all look considerably easier than level three until level ten.  They are in a city, and they eventually find their older counterparts.

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I have no memory of Scooby wearing a red collar anywhere else, and Velma looks identical, but this is cool to see, as they meet Erik’s programed characters, especially how different their eyes are.  In a nice reference they meet them in a malt shop, as most episodes of the first two seasons begin with the gang reading a newspaper in a malt shop.  Fortunately they also know where the scooby snacks are.  Apparently they are supposed to just wander a huge city until they get to the theme park where they are.  Why not just make the theme park the whole level, as it is clearly big enough?  Was this a plan to sell guide books, as this just sounds like boring grinding. They find the phantom virus in a batting cage, and then the creeper and many old Scooby-Doo villains that even I am unfamiliar with.

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At least the tar monster later showed up in Scooby-Doo 2 Monsters Unleashed.  To make things worse they are all real monsters in cyberspace instead of normal people in masks.  They then split up and have some surprisingly well written and good scenes with their older counterparts as they outwit the monsters to escape… twice. They then meet up at the arcade where the virus and Scooby snacks are, and it turns out Shaggy still has the magnet (that damages cyber creatures), and it affects the cyber mystery gang. How did he not feel that huge thing, and it should also affect the area and inanimate objects. In a finely done scene Fred says they should just use the magnet on the virus, and get the cyber gang to stay away outside the arcade.  Instead Fred gets cocky and slips on a ball, and the magnet falls under a game. To make things worse the virus makes the game come to life, and its wires grab Fred. Now the virus is shooting lasers everywhere and controlling the objects to fly everywhere. It is amazing how much more intimidating he has gotten throughout the movie. The cyber gang can tell something is wrong, but then the monsters from earlier chase them away except cyber Scooby who goes inside of the arcade.

Fred gives him a plan which is for Cyber Scooby to mock the virus distracting him, while real Scooby gets the Scooby snacks.  Shagy’s comment “…I’ve never seen Scooby acting so brave.” still bugs me. What about in level three? Well Scooby grabs them, and that defeats all the villains, and lets them go home.

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I cannot say the different Mystery Incs leaving is sad, but it is a nice end to the main part of the film. They arrive back to solve the mystery of… who created the virus. Frankly I would think it could be a Russian hacker, and it is hard to still care about it compared to the Cyber space story.  Fred points out all the baseball references and Erik shows signs of guilt by fleeing instead of claiming to be framed.  He is arrested and the movie ends at a malt shop as a nice call back to the original series and level 10. After that lots and lots of ads for the video game.

As an adult this film is overly episodic and lacks focus.  It makes little sense as well.  As a kid this movie is stupendous.  Everything about it is amazing, and all my siblings loved it too.  Since children are the target audience I think that weighs more, so this is a great film, but without nostalgia I doubt any adult fans will like it.

 

 

DTV Wonders Aladdin 2 The Return of Jafar

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This is by seven months the first American Direct-to-video animated film, and this started Disney using Disney Toons, the makers of their cartoon shows to make sequels to their popular films.  This is an important film in animated history, but it is also mostly forgotten.

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This was made to be the pilot direct-to-television pilot for the animated series, and I for years thought the film was a movie adaptation of the show and the makers turned my favorite character, Iago, into a villain.  In some odd production issues Robin Williams was lied to about merchandising so he refused to come back, and he was replaced by Dan Castellaneta.

To what I can tell liking this movie is primarily based around thoughts on Iago.  Iago was my favorite character of the series due to him having flaws, So I am basically this film’s target audience, but I know many fans hate his voice, so they should not even bother with this film then.

It starts with a few thieves, as they play the demo version of “Arabian Knights.”  They then look at all of their loot and their useless leader, Abis Mal.

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He proceeds to claim 99.99% of the treasure for himself, break another 0.001%, and give his many henchmen a few pennies. How is he their leader?  The Disney DTV movies normally try for a more serious story than the Universal ones, but with unbelievable things like this it does not work.  Aladdin then robs all of their robbed goods by literally beating armed men by running on their heards where only Abis Mal even slows him down, and this is a major problem that also happened in The Lion King II, the villains are early on showed as so easy to effortlessly beat it is unbelievable when they are threats later on. At least these guys do not have important roles here.  Aladdin and Abu then proceed to give the stolen items to their rightful owners… They just throw it at people on the ground.

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I have mixed feelings about this.  For one they are giving it to the poor, but since they are all in the same area this could really damage the gold standard there, and some big heavy gold pieces are bound to hit some elders and children on the head, and he keeps the most expensive thing as a gift for Jasmine.

In the meantime Iago digs himself and Jafar out of the ground, and I think this addresses a problem from the first movie.  Nobody else has ever told me this issue, but just throwing Genie Jafar’s new lamp in the desert sounded like a horrible idea to me, since someone will find it sooner or later.  Well Iago refuses to release Jafar not trusting him as a Genie and blaming him for their problems by going too ambitious. Iago sings “I’m Looking out for Me,” while throwing Jafar’s lamp down the well. Personaly I like Gilbert Gottfried’s voice so I am okay with the song. It ends with a merchant beating him making it ultimately pointless.

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Aladdin and Abu go to lord their new power over “the common folk,” yet they foolishly bring no weapons. Iago decides he is his new key to power by pretending that he was under Jafar’s mind control, and of course Aladdin tries to kill him until they run into Abis Mal’s gang.

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Fairly humorously Abis Mal’s gang has to remind him he is Aladdin, and all of the suddenly they are threats now, and Iago while saving himself from Abis Mal saves Aladdin as a side effect.  Aladdin then in gratitude offers him a fair hearing.  To me that is a paid debt if he then lets Iago leave Agrabah, but Aladdin is too much of a pushover who tries to get Iago back into the palace permanently.  We then get to some boring Aesop amnesia where Aladin forgets not to lie, and Genie comes back to sing “Nothing in the World,” a useless song we can skip.

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Word of advice, if you know the basic plot the first twenty minutes, and one second can be skipped. Abis Mal’s men decide to kill him, but not after he finds and releases Genie Jafar who scares away the men. Abis Mal and Iago have been carrying the film, so obviously Abis Mal decided to bring in some help for the movie’s sake, what a hero. When Jafar tries to flee he is forced to stay, as that is how the genie code works, which includes he cannot kill. Jafar quickly nearl kills Abis Mal wasting two wishes, as part of his new simple plan, get Abis Mal to let him torture Aladdin, then give him twenty wishes worth of objects if the third wish is for his freedom. Jafar is very calculating in this film, and I love watching it. “It is not enough that we simply destroy Aladdin… they’re are things so much worse than death.”  This part is great. Jafar turns his weakness of not being able to kill into a strength by deciding to use torture instead, and he goes all out on it.

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At the dinner meeting Sultan offers to make Aladdin Jafar’s official replacement, but they quickly start talking about Iago and their hatred of him instead, and thanks to Abu’s attempts to kill Iago, he ends up right there, where Aladdin has to stop him from being executed on the spot.  He is apparently awful with words, as he just says there might be some good in Iago without even saying that the parrot saved his life, and now Jasmine and Sultan are mad at him.  However Iago realizes Aladdin, unlike Jafar, did something selfless for him. To help Aladdin and Jasmine make up he uses reverse psychology on Jasmine to forget about his charm, and he also gets Genie to give them some private time. The problem is it only uses superficial love tropes like looks, but it at least explains Iago being useful.

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Jafar then decides treacherous Iago joins whoever is in power, so he decides Iago will just flip back to him out of fear, which is overall what happens. It also becomes apparent that between working with incompetent Abis Mal and Iago’s treachery Jafar has lost any faith in loyal, good help. Jafar’s plan is great, kidnap everyone Aladdin cares about and get him sentenced to be executed. First Iago suggests to Aladdin to go on a one on one trip with Sultan to a perfect place Iago knows of, which Iago gets Aladdin to do.

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With Aladdin, Sultan, and carpet gone Jafar beats Genie with the villain song “You’re only Second Rate,” as apparently Genie has no power compared to Jafar, and it ends with Genie being stuck in a crystal ball, and Abu bing chained.  One common problem of the TV show was finding a way to limit Genie’s power, but here they just had someone more powerful, and his villain song is really good. While Aladdin is explaining to Sultan about Iago much better this time Abis Mal shows up, and the animation gets a serious boost, as a diferent company starts doing it.  Iago is quickly blamed by Aladin and Sultan is kidnapped.  Aladdin and Carpet go to save him, but carpet is captured as well, and Aladin is heading towards a waterfall.

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He is saved by Jafar (in disguise).

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Some viewers are bothered by Jafar saving the hero, but remember, his plan is to torture him, and this is too fast. Aladdin then gets home only for Princess Jasmine to order his execution for assassinating the Sultan.  It is then revealed it was actually Jafar in disguise, and Jasmine is also captured. The way Jafar then thanks Iago makes it even more obvious he will switch back later, but I soon realized he is torturing Sultan and Jasmine by reminding them that they trusted Iago, whom betrayed them previously. A further detail I like is when Aladdin explains himself to the guards instead of questioning the existence of magic like lesser fantasies do they question him surviving going down the waterfall and why the evil magic user would save him.

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After Jafar leaves Iago works on freeing Genie, and Jafar makes a great torture mistake. Aladdin thought his own girlfriend was having him executed, but Jafar reveals himself to Aladdin ruining a few details, but Iago frees Genie, who then frees all the good guys. Iago’s new plan is to flee from Jafar and change identities, but everyone else wants to save Agrabah. Genie reveals that destroying the lamp will kill Jafar unless he is freed. Iago flees away, as everyone else goes to kill Jafar.  At the climax Genie offers hordes of rewards to Abis Mal if his third wish is Jafar’s freedom, and it is about to work except Abis Mal keeps asking for more and wonders if he has a guarantee everything will stay. I like this because the villain fails because of his own flaws, greed. Jafar then notices Aladdin and the battle goes outside with the lamp stuck between them.  Jasmine for the only time in the movie does something useful by trying to grab the lamp, but Jafar creates a lava pit.  Then Aladdin mocks Jafar for being unable to remove a street rat, so Jafar tries to squeeze the life out of him.

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It turns out it was Genie in disguise, and real Aladdin and carpet are going for the lamp. I presume Genie cannot kill the lamp due to the rules.  Well Carpet dies for the second time in two movies. With Aladdin stuck in the lava pit Iago comes to do a deus ex bird and grab the lamp, but before he can hand it to Aladdin he is struck by Jafar’s lightning. Jafar gives an evil laugh not realizing Iago has enough life left in him to kick the lamp into the lava.  Iago is seemingly dead but he then says the move’s arc words for the third time. “you’d be amazed what you could live through.”  With Jafar defeated events are set up for the TV series.

This film starts with a slow pace and then it gets quick, its heroes are bland, and it has animation problems.  On the positive side it has a great villains, stars someone struggling with his own morality, stars Iago, and I enjoy the action in the second half.  The major divide is Iago.  some fans hate him and others, like me, view him as the best part of the franchise. It is not the movie for everyone, but I consider it to be worth a watch.

 

 

 

DTV Wonders: The Lion King 1 1/2

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I know I panned the second film hard despite its fans, yet this film got me really excited. Two of the five best characters were confirmed to have starring roles, and I really enjoyed the trailer’s fourth wall breaking humor.  I then saw it really quick after it hit stores, and I was not disappointed.

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After revealing that Timon and Pumbaa are watching by rewinding past the beginning of the main movie they show where the meerkats live in “the pit of shame.”  “Diggah Tunnah Dance” is the first song about the meerkat way of life, hiding.  In a deleted scene they also touched on them considering bravery to be stupidity despite their example, Fearless Ed, having won many battles against hyenas before they finally got him.  After everything is going well the entire tunnel comes down thanks to a skylight Timon was trying to make.  To add insult to injury the skylight then falls apart.

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Apparently this happens all the time, as Timon tries to “Shed a little light on our pathetic existence.”   His mom then tries to tell him that their job is to hide so they can dig so they can hide some more, and he must be able to fit in somewhere.  Timon wants a better home that is not from the dirt.  Then his mom gives him some wisdom.  “Look out to the horizon, past the trees, over the grasslands. Everything the light touches. Belongs to someone else.”  For those two lines this is already worth watching, and they further deconstruct the main film like when Uncle Max says they fear all, are feared by none, and they are simply food for other animals.  Timon counters that they eat grass the carnivores turn into, but Uncle Max then points out they are grass intolerant.  I just checked and that is true.  His mom then gets him put in sentry duty with the entire clan backing her up, as it keeps Timon out of the tunnels.  The problem is he breaks into song.  The song is actually quite forgettable except for three small details.

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The best three characters are back.

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To show their added threat level with these smaller protagnists they are drawn much bigger and darker.  They knock Timon back to the hole, an walk in dramatically.  From what I heard if they do that you are as good as dead. They play around with he meerkats (clearly they just ate and are jut having some fun), and they even eat of some of Uncle Max’s skin or fur.  Timon tells everyone to trust him that they will be laughing at his failure in the future, and Uncle Max replies with “I did trust you.” Timon accepts responsibility and leaves for a better home after he says goodbye to his mother.

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Rafiki then shows up after he hears Timon wondering what he is doing and crying for mommy.  Timon asks if Rafiki heard his past song and then gives a quick recap. Rafiki gives him the metaphor to look beyond what he sees instead of drawing a map and informs him that he seeks hakuna matata. Timon then literally looks beyond what he sees, and as he zooms in on Pride Rock the music greatly intensifies.  “I’s kind of hard to think with al this music.” He then continues to the giant pointy rock. Rafiki here is acting way more similar to is wise and goofy self in the first film.  He then runs into Pumba and recruits him as a bodyguard and acquaintance. Timon then to his disappointment sees hordes of animals are there, as apparently the monkey blabbed the message to everyone.  They then continue in a scene that matches nearly perfectly time wise with the original film.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDrQlssQnGc

After this they make a series of places from the first film their home only for something from the original movie to get in the way like hyenas, noisy singing neighbors, or a stampede.  These parts notably include them calling each other “acquaintances” and Timon going from demanding everything in a home to just the bare necessities.  I really enjoy these alternate points of view on the first film’s scenes despite the plot hole that apparently Simba grew from a baby to a little kid in one day.  Eventually they are stuck on a river together.

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After that they wash ashore and Timon accepts his inevitable death telling Pumbaa to go back home, and for the first time he calls him ‘buddy” instead of “acquaintance.” It also happens when Timon is thinking o Pumba instead of just himself. Pumbaa reuses, as Timon is the closest he has to family, which is something Timon actually has, but Pumbaa is his only “friend,” and they decide they will go through a rough life together.

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They find their home from the main movie, and proceed to sing “Hakuna Matata.” Unlike the Jungle Book 2, which kept singing their signature song over and over, this is the only time it is sung, and it I great, especially when Pumbaa tries to eat the sing-along grub.  After this they decide to play with the buzzards, as it “will not change their lives.”  Hence they meet Simba, but they now must face the real great danger, parenthood.  After some great scenes of young Simba playing with his meerkat dad, some red herrings about his duty, and some simple gags at Timon’s expense they foreshadow the theme. It is that to have a happy life one needs friends, so naturally they are even happier with three instead of two members.  Also Simba and Timon only once really act like father and son instead of as good friends, partly as the writers are showing them as Simba’s providers and friends when he is mostly grown, as Mufassa is his father still. Things are good for them until Nala arrives. To break them up they intend a few gags, which al backfire leading to more romance and pain on Timon.

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Simba leaves the next morning, and it takes Timon and Pumbaa many attempts to figure out what is going on.  Timon feels betrayed by Simba and refuses to go help, and probably as he is not a good choice for a fight.  When Rafiki comes to talk with him Timon just mimics him in a conversation with himself that lets him see the error of his ways without someone else really talking to him.  I really enjoy seeing that change.

At Pride Rock they reveal that they escaped the hyenas post diversion with Pumbaa’s gas (I had been wondering how they did that for years), and then Uncle Max and Timon’s mom show up.  They make the plan to separate the hyenas from Scar with a huge tunnel, but they need to stall them or Uncle Max and Ma to finish it so Timon proposes marriage to the female matriarch. Interesting fact female hyenas can not turn into males as is commonly believed, but they do have penises, and three times the testosterone.I am now wondering what their children would look like, as Timon mentioned, but thankfully Shenzi and Banzai end this conversation. Also this happens during Simba’s duel with Scar making another plot hole, as the Hyenas should be watching that. Thanks to some more heroics from Timon the hyenas get stuck in the tunnel, and Simba thanks them at his coronation. Well of course, they raised you.

The meerkat clan then moves into Timon and Pumbaa’s dream home, and it ends with…

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Timon’s mom wanting them to rewind it, and many other characters show up, even from “Song of the South.”  I cannot blame them.

Despite its lousy climax I love this movie. With the possible exception of Pooh’s Grand Adventure this is the best of the Disney sequels. This is more consistently good, but Grand Adventure is notably superior at times.  This film is simply a great comedy.

 

DTV Wonders: Balto 3 Wings of Change

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This has the same cast and director as the second film, and it is written by Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser, the writers of the first film.  This is the first sequel written by the original’s writer(s).  I have seen little discussed about this film partly because it just does not leave an impact.

It starts with a simple song and the mail dogs doing their job happily, and also foreshadowing their future turn back to the lights side.

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The plot starts with Balto getting Jenna to wait for a plane, that he loves watching and trying to outrun.  Maurice LaMarche’s voice is now practically identical to Kevin Bacon’s performance partly as the dialogue matches the original’s better. Balto really wants to fly in it due to the freedom, though I always thought the fun of it alone should do the trick.

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These two characters are Ralph and Dipsy.  They were supposed to be a couple, but the director had all sorts of unused ideas and that was most of their scenes. They are unimportant, but at least Ralph is kind of funny. They are worried about the mail being late, and it finally arrives being delivered by Kodi, Balto and Jenna’s son, and many other dogs that I can never remember the names of.   For the most part they are not important. They are always late, and only Kodi cares. The pilot, Duke, leaves to talk and Balto wants to fly off in it.  It is also mentioned a few times that the snow is soft for Spring.

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In the meantime another goose, Stella, arrives, and she and Boris are immediately attracted to each other especially after she sees Boris be a father to two polar bears. I heavily criticized Charles Fleischer’s performance last film but between the better script this feels close to the Boris of the first film.  The problem is she wants for them to fly together, and Boris then reveals to Balto that he is horrified of heights.  The plot so far is overly generic, but the dialogue and execution of the comedy is saving it.

After Boris practices by flying literally a few inches off the ground the mail dogs overhear the meeting from underneath the same floor from the first film.  Apparently the hospital was remade into a city hall within three years (this film takes place in 1928, while the first film takes place in 1925).  The city decides that the mail dogs are too slow, so they want to replace them with the plane, but they ultimately decide to race.  The mail dogs talk about who will lead them and lead dogs says “you can count on me.”  The delivery and dialogue is funny, but due to it being hard to find out their names or character the mail dogs come off really flat, yet they probably have the most interesting storyline.  Especially today in America people are focusing on their own jobs rather than being good, and that is their problem.  Obviously they pick Balto for their leader, which I presume is allowed because the newspaper backed it up to make this more newsworthy.

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Whenever these films are mentioned someone always claims the historical Balto is not a hero, and that it hurts the film.  Well, this is a movie and movie Balto is definitely a hero.  Also real Balto lead a key part of the serum run, and successfully made up for his mushers mistakes by getting them out of a blizzard he got them stuck in, and like movie Balto he overcame being the dog everyone thought would fail.

Back to this movie the mail dogs are already celebrating victory as soon as Balto agrees to lead and do not listen to his advice or pessimism about victory.  He is worried about how Kodi will see him when he loses, and Jenna then sings the best song of the film “You don’t have to be a Hero.”  Director Phil Weinstein said it was supposed to show Kodi becoming a mail dog, but the clips of Balto being a dad to him are better.  It is about Balto being a dad to him over being the town hero.  It also includes shots of Aleu being faster than her siblings to please the second film’s fans.  The problem is that the three songs are crammed into the first thirty-two minutes of film (I skipped one by Stella).  Boris also tells Balto he is faking wing injuries and if things go wrong for Balto to pretend to need his help.

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The night before the race Balto and Duke have a friendly look at the plane.  Stella falls for a story by Boris about his wing being injured in a fight with a bald eagle.  Right before the race Boris brags about its success while being unaware Stella is right there, and she chases him into the plane.  The race starts by revealing the plane is not that reliable, but when it does finally take off Duke quickly surpasses the dogs.

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Balto has also improved at keeping his teammates in control, and the map from the first one shows their progress tot heir destination.  So far this just feels too much like a less good version of the first one, but like a Balto movie at least. Duke has to take time finding a landing spot nearly letting the dogs catch up, but besides Balto trailing leaves them discouraged.  On the ground Duke has to take a lot of maintenance work giving the dogs a fine lead, but Boris just misses joining Balto back to Nome, and I think the mail dogs did not want the extra work, but the dogs take a big lead until Duke surpasses them all, and he gives them a salute.  Duke then cannot see in icy air, and between losing track of where he is, the plane’s wings filing with ice, and the engine failing the dogs surpass him.  He then crashes.

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The dogs are very happy, except for Balto who says they will lose to the plane eventually. This makes Kodi mad and Jenna disappointed.  Then Muk and Luk talk about a monster they saw in the snow, which Balto realizes is the plane, and talk with Stella makes him realize Stella is there, which horrifies Stella that she cannot keep insulting Boris, and that she could be directly responsible for his death. Balto tries to recruit the mail dogs or at least Kodi to go there, but they instead say they are mostly loyal to their jobs, an that these events show that dogs are more dependable than machines.  I guess balto’s other children live out of town now. Jenna stays behind assuming Kodi went (bad thinking) leaving the party as Stella (who has no idea where anything there is due to being on vacation, two polar bear cubs with little to no skills, and the great hero Balto who will clearly have to do all the work.

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This film then becomes a looney tune with some music to match. The characters instead of being saved by skill or strength get saved by the ice coincidently clogging itself into a convenient bridge.

Balto 8

Oddly Stella supplies all of the humor in it.  They find Boris after dealing with some bull moose, and again they are saved by coincidences way to close to the other time that saved them.  After this Balto gets Muk and Luk to take Bori back, while he will bring Duke and his broken leg back to Nome.  This series has now revered the usual The Land Before Time format.  Normally they had different plots that all connected at the end.  Here they are disconnecting at the end.

Director Phil Weinstein has written that he wanted Steele to help Balto around this part instead of the mail dogs, and I do not think that would have worked.  While it could connect to Duke being a good person, the rival and obvious villain being overall good and wanting to help, that would be hard to pull off, and between the pacing issues and scenes that really go nowhere I think that is too ambitious for his skills as a director.  Instead a scene is added where Kodi and the mail dogs come to help allowing Balto and Duke to make it back.  Basic plot points are addressed like Boris confessing his fears to Stella and Duke taking Balto for a plane ride.