Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (Blu-ray+DVD Combo)

Written by Hombre Divertido

This new direct-to-DVD release from Disney, that is due to hit shelves on September 21st, certainly could have rescued us from the bleak summer of over hyped 3D animated films had Disney chosen to give it a theatrical unveiling. Nonetheless, this simple, well-told story is a treat for the whole family that is sure to put some fun into your autumn.

Yes, as the film opens, the computer animations are a bit lifeless, and definitely take some getting used to, but once the excellent vocal talents begin to bring their characters to life, the film jumps off the screen.

In Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, we find Tink (Mae Whitman) and her friends off to summer camp on the mainland. Tink is of course curious about everything, especially humans, and though she is consistently warned to stay away from them, it is not long before she encounters one. Lizzy (Lauren Mote) who happens to be a fairy fanatic, is out in the country with her father (Yes, another Disney character with an absent mother) for the summer. With dad (Michael Sheen) being all wrapped up in his work which conveniently has to do with entomology, Lizzy is left alone to play and fantasize about the world of fairies, until you know who drops into who her playhouse.

Though communication is a struggle between our two characters as Tinks voice sounds like small bells ringing to Lizzy, it does not take Tink long to realize that this human has a good heart and is in need of a friend. As Tink and Lizzy build a friendship, the rest of the fairies set out on an adventure to rescue our heroine from the humans.

Director Bradley Raymond deserves accolades here as he allows for well-developed characters that are endearing to the audience to drive this simple story. The audience enjoys the relationships established and truly cares about the plight of each character. The music and vocal talents enhance each segment and literally bring life to animation.

Bonus Material:

At only 77 minutes the main feature certainly leaves you wanting more, but there is plenty of bonus material to satisfy young and old alike.

Calling a preview to an upcoming release “Bonus Material” is a bit generous and Tangled, Disney’s new take on the story of Rapunzel, looks a bit desperate in its attempt to bring life to what appears to be a fairly one-dimensional story.

The generally standard “Deleted Scenes” section is a pleasant surprise in this release as Director Raymond and producer Helen Kalafatic introduce and discuss each deleted scene, conveying an almost parental guardedness towards that which was left out of the film. Watching the incomplete segments lends a unique insight into the developmental process.

The music video “How to Believe” by Bridgit Mendler is very enjoyable. At less than two minutes in length; the “Design a Fairy House” segment lacks focus and seems incomplete. The “Fairy Field Guide Builder” will be fun for the young.

The Blu-ray is presented with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and the audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound in English, French, and Spanish. It has BD-Live functionality.

Recommendation: The new release Blu-Ray+DVD combo pack is a great buy for every family. There is enough interesting material in the story to engage those who grew up with Tinker Bell and Peter Pan, and the energy in The Great Fairy Rescue will keep the children glued to the screen.


Written by Fido

Alright, you go into these low / micro / no budget movies knowing that you’re not getting a sweeping epic filled with glitz, glamour and completely solid filmmaking. I don’t remember ever watching a virtually homemade campy movie like this disappointed in the production quality. All that being a given, I still really didn’t like this thing.

I know from personal experience that if you don’t have control over effects, money to get great locations, tons of on-site production value or a director that really has serious chops you have control over three things – story, script and acting.

And what takes any fun out of the movie that Ninjas vs. Zombies is exactly all three of those things.

The Story:
I got the feeling watching this that it was a bunch of friends sitting around getting seriously baked and throwing out movie ideas. Then the guy with his mouth half full of Ritz crackers and the unidentified leftover dip in the fridge pipes up with, “Ninjas, man they’re cool. And zombies – sweet!” After the murmur of Seth Rogen-inspired laughs fade into memory one of the guys took a pen up and half-assed his way to combining the two into a story.

One big problem I had with this thing was who was the hero. There was the usual cast of slackers you’re supposed to side with, but in the end there should’ve been a focus, someone I cared about a little more than the rest. At different points in the movie I’d sit back and think that this is the guy I’m supposed to follow, only to be shown in another scene that maybe this other guy’s the focus.

That’s a giant problem in a story – not having a clear-cut hero. The villain, while being milquetoast and bland for the amount of Final Cut Pro effects granted to him, was easy to know. Likewise the hero should’ve been equally obvious.

Another massive catch in the film – there’s no ending. What should be the ending is pretty much stepped on and treated as more of an aside than a resolution. In a desperate bid to set up a sequel they forgot to actually finish the first one. That’s one big, stinkin’ “whoops” there.

Also, when you’re pressed for time and money, I highly suggest you don’t throw away character-building time in favor of pointless terrible fight scenes.

Another thing, the guys in the movie really aren’t ninjas per se, they’re a bunch of guys who have inexplicable fighting skills (which if explained properly could be funny, but that doesn’t happen here). Eventually they dress up as a ninja-esque / Matrix bunch of guys and decide to go beat up the far too clean bad guy. So the jump to ninjas is pretty much pointless. I’d rather have seen them maintain their own personas and fought zombies off as a group of slackers with no discernable skills but zombie fighting.

So at the heart of it, the story is pretty cobbled together, which on the surface you’re probably thinking it’s expected. But even in the grimiest of grindhouse movies, the ones with solid story structure usurp their financial limitations. At one point even saying in the script (when asked why ninjas had to be there), “…because I felt like it”. Well unfortunately for us and the movie, throwing something in a script because you felt like it usually comes across like something you, um, well – threw into a script because you felt like it.

The Script:
Before I get further into this, right off the bat there is way too many “see we love geeky movies too” direct quotes thrown at you. All the points are hit like Ghostbusters, Star Wars, etc.. It’s way too easy to see coming, and after the fifth quote within the first 30 minutes, incredibly annoying. It kind of gave the impression that there were gaps evident in the script so they jammed in quotes because it gave someone an extra line or two.

On top of that there are several points where the script just feels amazingly uninspired. For a movie where creativity should be at a premium (due to budget and the absurd subject matter), the script ran through every motion you’d expect without one single deviation or unexpected turn anywhere.

That bummed me out. I go into these kinds of movies wanting them to use the wackiness to their advantage, to really push the boundaries a bit, but the pedestrian lines in a nutty subject felt like the ol’ "hot dog in a train tunnel" effect. A whole lot of room to play around in yet, these guys just clung to the wall hoping to make it to the other side without taking a chance.

Even if the script went through a much-needed three or four more drafts, performances like they got from a number of their actors would’ve neutered it anyway.

The Acting:

Look, I’m well aware a lot of talent in these kinds of movies isn’t top notch, but a group of the people in this was as wooden as can be. Though not quite George Lucas-directed wooden, they were stiff nonetheless. There was a mess of people obviously watching others’ mouths and waiting for their line rather than treating scenes like a conversation or naturally.

If the whole thing was this way then maybe you could overlook it, but there are a couple points where a guy here and there would actually be in the flow of the moment. It felt comfortable (and even fun) to watch them get into it. I thought the film was going to gain some momentum. Maybe the oddly stilted / paced scenes that make up the first 1/3 of the movie would be a cute anomaly to reflect on after all. That didn’t happen.

Whatever pace the actors got into was immediately cut off at the knees by returning to the same passionless (and above all joyless) spurts from before. Really, the timing of everyone in the movie is all over the place. That timing had me laughing at the wrong spots and making the “eek” face when I should be into the characters.

If there was one bright spot (and it was sporadic at best), it was Daniel Ross as “Kyle”, the wisenheimer of the bunch. He was the sole character and actor with any semblance of personality at any point in his performance. Now it wasn’t some tour de force, but when he hit his pace, he hit it well. Too bad it was flanked with performances by Cory and Carla Okouchi (Cole and Lily). I suppose P.J. Megaw, with some more personality thrown into his acting would’ve felt better suited as the heavy, but all in all he was far too clean cut and stereotypical to be all that entertaining.

Like I said, the effects are the effects. It’s admirable pulling out as much as you can with as little money as they had. But when you interrupt what should be a self-actualization kind of story with three or four five-minute fight scenes that rival closed-eye whiffing slap fights in a schoolyard, it makes everything tedious and unforgivable. What is normally glossed over with a “hey they did their best” attitude becomes a “man, I wish they’d stop” real quick-like.

In the end, there’s one giant positive in this. These guys worked their tails off and put themselves on the line for something they believed in. Though this won’t be the opus that may eventually get all or one of these guys into big time movie making, it’s a good first step.

As far as extras on the DVD – two trailers – no big whoop. One little note (aside from the others above), if you’re going to do an actual release of an independent film that is supposed to be somewhat funny, put some special features on your disc that show what a great time you had making the film. Without even a simple gag reel attached it makes me think that maybe making the movie was as teeth grinding as it was to watch most of it. Humanize yourselves more, guys. Make the audience feel connected to you as regular Joes. Seems stupid but putting a little behind-the-scenes thing and the aforementioned gag reel together may have made me look at the movie with a little more forgiveness – maybe.

There are flaws like all movies of this ilk, but you have to acknowledge the time, money, work and balls they all had to go out and do it. A lot of people sit on the sidelines saying they could do, without doing it, but they took the chance. For better or worse, I love that. Sure, there’s not a chance I’ll ever watch it again (and I suggest you don’t unless you’re in a very forgiving mood), but it represents a lot of effort on their part and that’s always to be respected.

Article first published as DVD Review: Ninjas Vs. Zombies on Blogcritics.