Shrek Forever After

  • Title:  Shrek Forever After
  • Director:  Mike Mitchell
  • Date:  2010
  • Studio:  Dreamworks
  • Genre:  Animation, Romance, Comedy, Musical
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderes, Julie Andrews, John Cleese
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You have three beautiful children, a wife who loves you, friends who adore you, you have everything.  Why is it that the only person who can’t see that – is you?”  — Fiona

I bought the Shrek films in a complete set, and it turns out the only one I hadn’t seen was this one, the fourth and final Shrek film.  This time around, Shrek goes through a mid-life crisis, fearing he has lost his “roar”.  He makes a deal with Rumplestilskin to have one day as an fierce ogre again in return for giving up one day of his own life.  However, Rumplestilskin takes the day Shrek was born, creating a weird alternate universe where Fiona’s parents no longer exist, Rumplestilskin rules Far Far Away with an Iron Fist and the help of a troop of evil witches, and Fiona Warrior Princess leads a band of less than successful ogre rebels.  Donkey pulls a wagon for a pair of evil witches, meanwhile Puss-in-Boots no longer wears his boots and hat, no longer fights, and has gotten very over weight.  Moreover, since Shrek was never born, after 24 hours he will cease to exist, making all the changes permanent.  It’s sort of Shrek does “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

However, I still enjoyed this film.  Overall, the first film is the best, but all four, including this one, manage to keep the characters in character and true to themselves.  Even the alternate universe Fiona, Donkey, and Puss, all ring true to themselves.

Shrek discovers that if Fiona experiences “True Love’s Kiss” her curse will be broken, and Shrek also will be freed from his contract with Rumplestilskin.  However, when Shrek finally kisses her — she hasn’t fallen in love with him.  However, never fear, the film has a happy ending, and Fiona kisses Shrek a second time, having fallen for him, she and everyone else is returned to the birthday party that Shrek had stormed out of.  The ending credit music is, “I’m a Believer”, as in the first film.  This is found by a montage of “best of” scenes from all four films.

Again, I enjoyed the film.  This time the theme is more about being grateful for what you have, rather than themes of self-acceptance,  but it’s still a well-thought out movie.

Recommendation:  See it!  May as well complete the set.
Rating:  3.8 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Singin’ in the Rain

Shrek the Third

  • Title:  Shrek the Third
  • Director:  Chris Miller
  • Date:  2007
  • Studio:  Dreamworks
  • Genre:  Comedy, Romance, Musical, Animation
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Justin Timberlake
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I know what it’s like to not feel ready for something.  Even ogres get scared, you know, once in awhile.”  — Shrek

“OK, girls, from here on out, we’re gonna’ take care of business ourselves.” — Fiona

In the third Shrek installment, Fiona’s father, the King, dies, and leaves Shrek as his heir.  But Shrek isn’t ready, and thinks the kingdom won’t accept an ogre as king — until he finds out, on the king’s deathbed, that there is another heir, Arthur.

Shrek decides to go with Donkey and Puss-in-Boots to find this lost heir.  Just before he leaves, Fiona tells him she’s pregnant.  Shrek is nervous and slightly terrified at the prospect of becoming a father.

Meanwhile, all the princesses and her mother give Fiona a baby shower.  This is thankfully interrupted by Prince Charming, who has gathered all the evil-doers in Far Far Away to attack the castle.  Charming, a frustrated actor who was failing at dinner theatre, is still trying to impress his mother, Fairy Godmother, by becoming king and taking over the kingdom.

Although Fiona, the Queen, and the princesses initially escape, they are betrayed by Rapunzel (who has made a deal with Charming to become his wife and defacto queen of Far Far Away).  Once in a dungeon room, the princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) all announce they will wait to be rescued.  Fiona thinks they should rescue themselves, but isn’t sure how.  The Queen breaks them out of the dungeon cell — and Fiona liberates the Princesses.  I loved this scene, especially the bra burning. The Princesses, the Queen, and Fiona then attack the castle to rescue Shrek, and defeat Prince Charming.

However, during the final conflict at Charming’s show (a play starring Charming and Rapunzel in which Charming defeats Shrek and wins the Princess), Shrek and Arthur convince all the villains they should be who they want to be, and fulfill their dreams.  Charming, however, is not taken in by this – as all he wants is control of the kingdom.  Shrek and Artie manage to defeat Charming.

Instead of the big musical number to end the film, this one has a montage of Shrek and Fiona as new parents to three little ogres.

Overall, I really liked the Liberation of the Princesses part of this film (including the combat montage to “Barracuda”; the second plotline — Shrek and Donkey (with Puss-in-Boots) on yet another quest to a distant land felt like it had been done.  Charming’s rousing of the villains was interesting – but by the end of the film I actually felt kinda’ sorry for Charming.  I think the film could have done a better job of  being fair to his character — he almost became a cardboard villain so to speak.  Also, with a lost boy king named Arthur, I expected Arthurian/Holy Grail/etc type gags, but other than a psychedelic Merlin the film completely ignored that opportunity.

There also isn’t as much in the way of  sight gags and verbal wordplay as their has been in the previous two films.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek Forever After

Shrek 2

  • Title:  Shrek 2
  • Director:  Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Dreamworks Pictures
  • Genre:  Animation, Musical, Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Stop!  I have misjudged you!” — Puss-in-Boots
“Join the club — we have jackets.”  — Shrek
“On my honor, I am obliged to accompany you until I have saved your life and you have spared me mine.” — Puss-in-Boots
“I’m sorry, the position of annoying talking animal has already been taken.”  — Donkey

In the second Shrek movie, Fiona and Shrek return from their honeymoon to an invitation from Fiona’s parents to go visit them in Fiona’s home kingdom of Far Far Away.  Fiona thinks this is a great idea and is sure her parents will love Shrek.  Shrek is considerably less sure, and is convinced meeting his in-laws will be a disaster.  They make the long and boring trip to Far Far Away (depicted as Hollywood) only to have the King and Queen be shocked that Fiona has married an ogre, especially the king.  Fairy Godmother, meanwhile, a conniving woman, plots to get her son, the swarmy mama’s boy, Prince Charming married to Fiona, as the King had promised.

This round, it’s Shrek’s turn to show his insecurities, especially about his looks as an ogre.  He takes a potion which turns he and Fiona human (and Donkey into a white horse).  Fairy Godmother and the King try to get Fiona to fall for Charming, but in the end — she tells Shrek she loves him.  And she wants to be with the ogre of her dreams.

Like the first Shrek film, Shrek 2 is filled with great sight gags, inside jokes, word play, and reversals of typical Disney-style fairy tales.  It also pokes fun at the Hollywood Fairy Tale as well.  Puss-in-Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas is a great addition to the cast.  And, like the first film, the music is great (particularly Fairy Godmother belting out a jazzy rendition of  “Holding Out for a Hero”).

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek The Third

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Title:  Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Directors:  Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Date:  1975
Studio:  Columbia Tristar
Genre:  Comedy
Cast:  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Connie Booth
Format:  Color, Widescreen
DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.”  — Peasant

“Let me go back in there and face the peril.”  — Sir Galahad
“No, it’s too perilous.”  — Sir Lancelot

Monty Python’s Holy Grail film is very silly — but I mean that in a good way.  The film is full of very funny, and very quotable lines (I’m delibrately avoiding listing all of them) and it’s episodic.  However, it does have a plot — it’s not a collection of random sketches, like the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series.

The film begins, well, before even the plot of the film gets started we’re treated to the irrelevant humor of  the Pythons as the film is subtitled, for no apparent reason, in Swedish – then the subtitles break down into an invitation to visit Sweden and a discussion of moose bites.  A title card then informs us that those responsible for the titles have been sacked (fired).  The new titles are alternating red and green flashing, with lots of mentions of llamas.  Needless to say – this is no better.  But it is an example of the clever Python humor.

The film, proper, begins with Arthur, king of the Britons, looking to collect the bravest knights in the land to join his court at Camelot.  But no one has heard of  him.  Eventually he finds Sir Bedevere, the clever, scholarly knight.  The film then breaks to “The Book of the Film” to briefly introduce Arthur’s crew of knights (including “The aptly named ‘Sir not appearing in this film’ “) — which is one of my favorite lines. Arthur and company encounter the French taunters, then each knight gets a tale from Sir Robin’s encounter with the three-headed knight, to Sir Galadhad’s bravely facing the women of Castle Anthrax, only to be “rescued” by Sir Lancelot.  Sir Lancelot himself gets his own tale, to rescue the person in Swamp Castle about to be forced into marriage — he is very surprised to learn the person is a prince not a princess!

Arthur and Sir Bedevere encounter the Knights who say “Ni”.  Finally the group meet Tim the Enchanter who gives them a clue.  They proceed to the cave and encounter the Killer Rabbit, before getting another clue leading to the bridge of death.  There, each knight must answer three questions:  “What … is your name?”, “What … is your quest?”  and either “What is your favorite color?” or an actual question.  This task manages to whittle down Arthur’s knights, ’til it’s only Arthur and one page who reach the castle where the Grail is hidden – only to again run into the French taunters.  Arthur, however, is about to seize the castle with an impressive group of Ren-faire knights when the police show up and the film ends.  (Throughout the film we see clips of this – an old historian is cut down by one of Arthur’s knights, he’s found dead by his wife, the police arrive, the body’s taken away, the police start to investigate, etc — all of  this is silent drama for the most part).

Terry Gilliam’s drawings and animations, made famous in the Monty Python TV series, then later in films, break the episodes of the film apart, and act as transitions.  They are quirky and surreal but add little to the plot (except for the sequence with the Black Beast in the cave; and Arthur’s crew somehow being stranded in the snow in Iceland or some such place for no reason whatsoever).

Again, the film is very funny, and very silly.  There really isn’t any logic too it, but it’s Monty Python — logic is the last thing one expects.  It’s also intentionally low-budget looking.  For example, no one rides a horse, but the sound of  Arthur’s horse is provided by two coconuts.   ‘Course, other characters actually notice this!  Again, it’s a fun, enjoyable film.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Moulin Rouge

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • Title:  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Director:  Chris Columbus
  • Date:  2002
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Children
  • Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Harris, Robert Hardy, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I fashioned a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would fear to speak when I became the greatest sorcerer in the world.”  — Tom Riddle
“Albus Dumbledore is the greatest sorcerer in the world.”  — Harry Potter
“Albus Dumbledore’s been driven out of this castle by the mere memory of me.”  — Tom Riddle
“He’ll never be gone, not so long as those that remain are loyal to him.”  — Harry Potter

“It is not our abilities that show us what we truly are – it is our choices.”  — Professor Dumbledore

Chamber of Secrets” previously was my least favorite of the first four Harry Potter films, but upon re-watching it today, I actually enjoyed it very much.  Like, “Sorcerer’s Stone”, also directed by Chris Columbus, this film has a sense of whimsy, and is beautifully shot.  The film begins with Harry looking at the photo album containing pictures of his parents, given to him at the end of the previous film.  However, it also opens up the world that Harry is learning about, the “Wizarding World”, by bringing us to Ron’s home and to the frightening Knockturn Alley  (I love the wordplay in that almost as much as “Diagon Alley”).  However, besides a good mystery (e.g. What is the Chamber of Secrets?  Where is it?  What’s hiddened there and who opened it?) that is better than the one in the first film – there’s more of a sense of danger.  Students are being attacked, including Hermione.  Ron’s own sister is kidnapped – though the book goes into greater detail of how Riddle uses his diary to en-trance Ginny into doing his bidding.

Still, another successful, enjoyable, and fun movie appropriate for all ages.  The young actors playing the students are all quite brilliant; and the established British actors playing the teachers bring gravitas to the film.  Kenneth Branagh appears in this one as Gildroy (as in gilded) Lockheart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher — and a man who’s all talk and bluster with no skill at all.  I highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating:  5
Next Film:  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

  • Title:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Director:  Chris Columbus
  • Date:  2001
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Children
  • Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, John Cleese, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, Zoë Wanamaker
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This boy will be famous.  There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name.” — Professor McConagall

“You’re the boy who lived.”  — Hagrid

“I can teach you how to bewitch the mind, and ensnare the senses.  I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.”  — Professor Snape

Harry Potter is beautifully shot, with an excellent young and at the time of this film, largely unknown cast  — for the children.  But the film is also rounded out by a who’s who of talented British actors.  However, this first film also has a sense of whimsy that the later, darker films lack.  Not every detail or scene from JK Rowling’s novel is in the film, but the film still is a wonderful adaptation of the story.  And it’s just beautifully, beautifully shot.  Hogwart’s Express is wonderful, and looks just as it should.  The boat ride across the lake is beautiful.  And there’s a lovely scene of Harry walking by himself in the courtyard to fly Hedwig, his owl, in winter, surrounded by snow that, again, is just lovely.

The Sorceror’s Stone introduces the world of Harry Potter – Harry, his friends, the rules of magic, and the teachers at Hogwarts.  In this fantasy series, one must have a talent for magic – that is, witches and wizards are born, not made (and parents can be witches and wizards or non-witches, called muggles). But, just being born with the talent for witchcraft doesn’t mean young witches and wizards know what they are doing — thus they must be taught how to use their gifts wisely.  It also involves the noted alchemist, Nicholas Flamel, who developed the Sorceror’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone in the original British novel, though it was changed for the US novel as well) which grants immortality.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione, discover how to be students at Hogwarts, have various adventures (a fight against a troll, exploring the Dark Forest, and a series of tests when they confront Lord Voldemort).  Most of the vignettes from the novel are in film, though some are shorter.

One thing I loved about the Harry Potter novels, especially the early ones, is they show Harry enjoying and being excited by school — and not simply because he’s suddenly discovered he’s a wizard.  For the first time in his life, this young orphan is happy and has real friends – something sorely missing from his life when he lives with his aunt, uncle, and spoiled, bullying cousin.  But Hermione, a natural student, also loves school.  The novels, actually, get more into her characterization — showing how her fears of being behind because she’s muggle-born cause her to almost over-compensate.  And Ron, from a large, loving, yet poor wizarding family, has his own issues.  All will be explored more in depth in later books/films in the series.  The school itself is drawn from the traditional English boarding school. However, to me, especially reading the books, it reminded me of college.  I had to keep reminding myself  just how young Harry is meant to be (He’s only 11 here).

Recommendation:  See it!  Especially good for children eight and up
Rating: 5
Next Film:  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

A Fish Called Wanda

  • Title:  A Fish Called Wanda
  • Director:  Charles Crichton
  • Date:  1988
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Geoffrey Palmer, Stephen Fry
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I offer a complete and utter retraction.  The implication was totally without basis in fact.  And was in no way fair comment and was motivated purely by malice.  And I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family.  And I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.”  — Archie, apologizing to Otto, who is holding him upside-down outside a window

“Oh, right to call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people.”  — Wanda, to Otto

“Apes don’t read philosophy.” — Otto
“Yes they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it!  Now let me correct you on a couple of things, ok?  Aristotle was not Belgian.  The central message of Buddhism is not every man for himself!  And the London Underground is not a political movement!  Those are all mistakes, Otto, I looked them up.”  — Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda is an extremely funny movie, with a brilliant cast.  But it is extremely difficult to explain why it is so funny.  The film opens with a armed robbery of a jewelry exchange in London.  The four thieves get away with twenty million in diamonds.  However, after Otto calls the cops to arrest George, one of  the co-conspirators, and the guy who planned the whole thing, as he and Wanda planned, they discover George was too clever for them and he’s hidden the gems somewhere else.  The question is where?

Thus begins a great farce and character comedy.  Ken, the stuttering, animal-loving, assassin, get’s the key to a safe-deposit box, but doesn’t know where the box is.  Wanda, unbeknownst to Ken, steals the key and hides it in her locket.  Then Wanda decides to cosy up to Archie, George’s barrister, in hopes that he will tell her where the loot is.  Meanwhile, Wanda and Otto have been having a relationship, but Wanda’s only interested in Otto until the caper is done and she has the diamonds.  Wanda’s also holding Ken close to the vest.

The film snowballs, as any good farce does.  The characters are larger-than-life, yet still sympathetic.  As the film progresses, Archie, especially, becomes the put-upon good English husband who needs excitement in his life.  And that excitement arrives, in the form of Wanda, who initially simply wants to find out where George hid the jewels, but later falls for Archie anyway.

This is a very, very funny film, that needs to be seen to be understood and appreciated.  But overall, it’s extremely enjoyable and a good-time film.  Moreover, it is laugh-out-loud funny.

Trivia:  Cleese’s character is named Archie Leach.  Archibald Leach is the given or birth name of Cary Grant.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Flying Down to Rio