Barnyard makes you laugh till the cows come home. Well not really, I just wanted to milk a few cow puns. Mooove over Jimmy Neutron, because there’s a new computer animated Nicktoon in town. Unlike all the other animated Nickelodeon movies, I didn’t express an interest in going to see it. Mostly because it looked too weird to me. Barnyard is about a male cow. Not a bull, but a cow with udders and everything. You don’t have to be a farmer to know all cows are female. That’s just one detail though. The animation was also a little crude. That being said, when the Nick series came on, my brother and I scrambled to watch it. Thanks to Blockbuster, we watched Barnyard the same day as the pilot for Back at the Barnyard. Barnyard centers around a barn where animals stand and talk when no one is looking. Otis is a he-cow that just wants to party with his friends. Pip the mouse, Pig the pig, Freddy the ferret, and Peck the rooster. When coyotes kill his father, it’s up to Otis to grow up and defend the farm. I personally think the TV series is a vast improvement over the movie. The series has faster jokes, better voice acting, and is more loosely inspired by the movie. Kevin James lacks the energy of his successor. While characters like a pregnant cow named Daisy are replaced by an athletic cow named Abby. Most of the movie’s jokes are immature with rare flashes of wit. Barnyard is just udder insanity.
Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie was the movie fans deserved. After Hey Arnold!: The Movie failed to make a profit, the other planned theatrical movie was scrapped. That movie was the fabled Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie. A project that was meant to be the true finale for the 100 episode series. It was meant to answer all the show’s important questions. Like the whereabouts of Arnold’s parents or whether or not Arnold and Helga will finally end up together. Burning questions that fans had to wait a grand total of 13 years to find out! When my brother and I found out about the unproduced Nicktoon film, we were desperate to see it get made. We almost lost hope, but thanks to 90’s nostalgia, Nickelodeon finally made it happen. Making it one of a few online fan petitions that actually worked. I still can’t believe the movie got made, that almost every voice actor returned, and that it lived up to every expectation. The movie’s TV premiere made it the #1 trending topic on Twitter. Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie picks up right where the TV special “The Journal” left off. As Arnold wins a field trip to San Lorenzo with the help of his friends, family, and all the people he’s helped throughout the series. It’s their in the jungle that Arnold hopes to find his lost parents. It’s a surprisingly intense, yet hilarious adventure that ends with Arnold, Gerald, and Helga on their own. What they find hits you right in the feels. Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie left me feeling satisfied to have finally seen moments I only ever dreamed of.
Preceded by: Hey Arnold!: The Movie
Hey Arnold!: The Movie brought everybody’s favorite football head to the big screen. To mixed results. Hey Arnold! was a personal favorite early Nicktoon for my brother and me. We really connected to the show’s urban slice of life comedy, romance, and drama. Arnold is a football headed kid who always looks on the bright side. He lives with his wacky grandparents in a neighborhood full of quirky friends. It’s a kids show that wasn’t afraid to have complex characters and mature storylines. I would highly recommend checking the show out, but the movie is a different story. Released in the middle of season 5, it was meant to be a TV movie titled Arnold Saves the Neighborhood. But then Nickelodeon movies became big hits, so they made it theatrical instead (earning their first PG rating). Which was a bad decision considering it wasn’t as original as the other planned movie. Hey Arnold!: The Movie is about Arnold and best friend Gerald trying to save their neighborhood from a greedy businessman by becoming kid spies. Meanwhile Grandpa and the Boarders set explosives under the roads. Even the poster was derivative of the Jimmy Neutron poster. Despite that, my brother and I were very excited to see the movie. Even though the trailer gave away a major character moment. Helga is a seriously underappreciated Nick character. Both for her complicated home life and love/hate relationship with Arnold. So to see her finally reveal her love for Arnold in the trailer, was just insulting to the fans. I’ll always love seeing my favorite Nicktoons on the big screen, but Hey Arnold!: The Movie was not the movie fans deserved.
Followed by: Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius earned Nickelodeon its first Oscar nomination. By giving us the best computer animated boy genius of them all. Jimmy Neutron is a kid with an knack for inventions. He’s got a super-powered mind, a mechanical canine (Goddard), and he rescues the day from sure destruction. My brother and I couldn’t get enough of it. Especially my brother and our cousins who ended up watching the movie on repeat one day. So obviously Jimmy Neutron was a cutting edge Nicktoon worth talking about. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius introduces the day-to-day life of the boy with a big brain. Jimmy’s so smart that he’s able to build a rocket, a shrink ray, and a bunch of other kid friendly inventions. Despite his intellect, Jimmy is still a kid at heart. In his first adventure, Jimmy unintentionally makes contact with a race of eggy Yokians lead by the villainous King Goobot that abducts all the parents in Retroville. Right after sneaking off to a theme park and wishing they would disappear. The kids live out their adult-free fantasies, but it’s not long before they realize they need them back. All the kids get creative and convert each theme park ride into a fleet of interstellar warships. Jimmy is joined by his best friends: Llama obsessed Carl, Ultra Lord obsessed Sheen, intellectual rival Cindy, and music obsessed Libby. Their whole space adventure is completely illogical, but tons of fun. Although nominated in the first Best Animated Feature award, I’m not sure the movie would be today. It’s really more of an hour & a half pilot for the equally awesome TV series. Yet Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is still a total blast.
Zombieland: Double Tap wins the 10 year challenge. Despite a fun unique take on zombie survival, it seemed like a sequel and/or show would never happen. What with the near dominance of zombie related media. Not to mention the fact that all four leads became Oscar nominees (Emma Stone being the one winner). So it wasn’t until 6 years after a failed Amazon pilot that a sequel was finally confirmed with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin all returning. Zombieland: Double Tap picks up a decade after the initial zombie outbreak. Yet life is still pretty laid back, because the power is somehow still on. The only major change is a mutated set of new zombies. Dumb ones, smart ones, sneaky ones, and nearly unstoppable ones. While not overly fresh, it’s just nice to catch up with these survivors. Columbus and Wichita are trying to figure out their relationship. While the now Elvis obsessed Tallahassee is overprotective of the much bigger Little Rock. Despite how long this zombie apocalypse has been going on, there’s still a large amount of survivors. Like a hippie love interest for Little Rock, an equally badass love interest for Tallahassee, and unlikely doppelgängers for him and Columbus. The most entertaining new survivor is a ditzy blonde love rival to Wichita named Madison. In the end, everyone grows as a person while killing as many zombies as possible. What more could you ask for? There’s even justice for Bill Murray. Zombieland: Double Tap rule #32 (“Enjoy the little things”) officially fulfilled.
Preceded by: Zombieland
North by Northwest is Alfred Hitchcock’s action thriller masterpiece. This would be the fifth Hitchcock movie that I’ve seen (Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds being the others). What they all have in common is the fact that they were all released near the end of his career. With each one inspiring many movies to come. North by Northwest specifically inspired the spy genre. In a lot of ways it can be viewed as a proto-James Bond film. There’s a charming lead in a well-tailored suit, scenic locations, a villian with henchmen, microfilm, and an attractive, if mysterious love interest. North by Northwest stars the great Cary Grant as an unfortunate man with a bad case of mistaken identity. Roger Thornhill is mistaken for a spy named George Kaplan. He’s nearly driven off the road, framed for murder, and pursued across America. It’s then that he meets blonde beauty Eve Kendall played by Eva Marie Saint. She may or may not be on his side. As suspenseful as the chase is, it’s not without a sense of humor. The two most iconic scenes involve a crop duster that attempts to gun down Thornhill and the climax which takes place atop Mount Rushmore (followed by a sneaky innuendo). It’s hard to say which scene is more impressive. Alfred Hitchcock knows how to put you on the edge of your seat. Although as groundbreaking as North by Northwest is, it’s not without perhaps the most well known movie mistake ever filmed. Where a boy in the background covers his ears before a gunshot goes off. North by Northwest is otherwise a nearly flawless “on the run” adventure.
March of the Penguins is the story of love, loss, and survival from the most unlikely creatures on the planet. I’m still not the kind of guy who flocks to documentaries, but March of the Penguins was unavoidable. It’s undoubtedly the movie that sparked the strangely specific penguin craze of the late 2000’s. With an Academy Award win for Best Documentary Feature, March of the Penguins became a nature film worth watching. Of course produced by National Geographic. As narrated by Morgan Freeman’s smooth and inviting voice, March of the Penguins tells the life changing journey of the emperor penguin in the unforgivably cold Arctic winter. Penguins are actually very interesting creatures. They’re great swimmers, but they’re not fish. They’re birds, but they can’t fly. Penguins live in harsh climates and are able to survive cold temperatures for long periods of time without fish. Despite its G rating, the documentary doesn’t hold back in showing every tragedy that can befall a penguin. The main focus is on how penguins mate, protect their eggs, and separately look after their chick. Let me just say that baby penguins are just so very adorable. March of the Penguins gave me a deeper appreciation for the unseen miracles that exist in nature.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous is not runway ready. Which is why I didn’t watch it immediately after the first. Weeks after Gracie Hart stopped a beauty pageant bombing, her newfound celebrity status starts to interfere with her job. So instead of fire her, the F.B.I. makes her the celebrity face of the agency. Having her go on mid-2000’s talk shows. Miss Congeniality 2 makes the mistake of giving Gracie almost nothing to do for nearly the entire movie. Since she’s not aloud to be physical. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if she was still undercover at Miss United States. Instead she’s just become shallow and heartbroken. I’m still annoyed by love interests breaking up with the main character off screen. Sandra Bullock can’t seem to hold onto her on screen boyfriends in a sequel (*cough* Speed 2). Regina King does her best, but her frenemy interactions with Bullock are mostly cringy. When she finally comes to her senses, Gracie and Sam go undercover as a showgirl and Tina Turner respectively. In order to find the kidnaped Miss United States and the William Shatner judge. The only fun scene in the movie is the two agents dancing along to “Proud Mary.” Other than that, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous is barely armed and less than fabulous.
Preceded by: Miss Congeniality
Miss Congeniality invites you to glide with the next Miss United States. With a simple premise that seems far fetched, but is surprisingly based on a true story. Where a female F.B.I. agent went undercover by posing as a beauty pageant contestant. Normally I wouldn’t consider watching a movie about beauty pageants, but my mom told me it was funny. Not that I don’t have an interest in the beautiful intelligent young women who compete in Miss America or Miss Universe. Sandra Bullock plays “unattractive” F.B.I. agent Gracie Hart. She’s clumsy with unbrushed hair, no table manners, and is fully content with being just one of the guys. It isn’t until the upcoming Miss United States beauty pageant receives a bomb threat that someone in her agency has to go undercover. And that agent is the newly dubbed Gracie-Lou Freebush. Since she’s the only one who looks good in a swimsuit. Of course it helps that she’s Sandra Bullock for crying out loud. Michael Caine teaches her all the ropes. Until she makes a stunning transformation. From there Gracie tries to blend in as Miss New Jersey. She gains a newfound respect for pageants and her self-defense training even comes in handy for her talent. Miss Congeniality is mostly held together by Sandra Bullock’s charming performance. Which is good because it has a somewhat predictable romance and not every joke lands. Not even with William Shatner as a judge. That being said, Miss Congeniality can still win over the hearts of many… and world peace.
Followed by: Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
Happy Thanksgiving! Smoke Signals is the first movie made by Native Americans for Native Americans. Meaning almost the entire cast and crew was Native American. For that it was recently let into the National Film Registry. Something even the most well known classics haven’t gotten into. The only reason I know about it is because my Freshmen reading teacher showed it in class. I very much enjoyed it as the first modern Native American tale that I saw. Although they refer to themselves as Indians. Smoke Signals follows two young Indians named Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire. They both live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho. Victor strives to be as stoic as possible. While Thomas is a nerd who honors his heritage by frequently telling stories. He was rescued as a baby by Victor’s dad in a fire that claimed his parents lives. Thomas idolizes him, but Victor resents his father for leaving due to his abuse and alcoholism. They both take a trip to Arizona in order to retrieve his ashes. Where they have plenty of time to discuss their perceived Indian identities. The primary theme is lying. Something that comes up a lot in the movie. Especially in Thomas’ overly exaggerated stories. Smoke Signals is full of great Native American performers. Like a young Adam Beach or Pocahontas herself Irene Bedard. I found the unique cultural perspective of Smoke Signals to be the best part. Better since I have some Native ancestry on my mother’s side. Smoke Signals is a story worth telling.