One Million Years B.C. made the cretaceous era way hotter than it already was. The 1940 original isn’t remembered nearly as much as this 1966 Hammer Film remake. Despite being primarily known for horror, this was actually my first time seeing one of their British productions. Although One Million Years B.C. has cultural significance, the movie was strangely hard to find. Unlike the original, the campy element is fully embraced with cavegirl Loana front and centerfold. Raquel Welch is easily one of the sexiest women alive, and the biggest reason for the movie’s success.
Loana is practically a prehistoric supermodel with flawless blonde hair, a curvaceous figure, and a stunning fur bikini. The look was so iconic that I completely understand why Andy Dufresne hung it up in The Shawshank Redemption. Welch isn’t the only beautiful cavegirl in the movie. Loana at one point engages in a catfight with another attractive cavegirl played by Bond girl Martine Beswick. The rest of the remake plays out about the same as the original. Narration is the only dialogue before non-stop cave talk.
Tumak is still handsome with John Richardson in the part, but he’s hairy like the rest of the cavemen. The Rock tribe is even more savage with personal feuds that get resolved near the end. The Shell tribe live closer to the beach and are far more civilized. Oversized lizards pay tribute to the original, but most of the dinosaurs were achieved with Ray Harryhausen’s always impressive stop-motion magic. There’s a giant turtle, a T-Rex fighting a triceratops, and a pterodactyl picking up Loana. Now I know the context of those scenes in the Malcolm in the Middle opening. A volcano ends the cave romance on an ambiguous note. One Million Years B.C. marked a new age for modern sex symbols.
Loana smile on beach
Remake of: One Million B.C.
Artemis Fowl is easily one of the worst book adaptations of all time. It’s right up there with botched adaptations like Dragonball: Evolution or The Last Airbender. I never read the children’s book series by Irish author Eoin Colfer, but even I knew what the fundamental problem was. Artemis Fowl is supposed to be the villain of the story! Artemis Fowl is described as “Die Hard with fairies” and the 12 year old genius criminal mastermind is supposed to be the Hans Gruber of the story. Disney basically said, “We can’t have a mean old villain as the main character.” So they instead turned Artemis Fowl into a stiff stock smart kid in a suit with redeemable motives. I knew about Artemis Fowl for a long time since the book was advertised on my Spy Kids VHS tape. I always expected an adaptation, but it looked ridiculous the moment I saw the trailer. The 2019 release date being pushed back to 2020 didn’t inspire much confidence.
I was expecting a colossal box-office bomb, but Disney got lucky by releasing it on Disney+ during the pandemic. Artemis Fowl bares an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and is every bit the boring, lackluster, confusing, mess it appears to be. Instead of kidnapping a fairy for a ransom of gold, Artemis just wants to find his father. He was kidnapped by the incredibly pointless villain Opal Koboi. Even as a basic adventure fantasy science fiction story, Artemis Fowl fails. All they do is deliver never ending exposition and tell you how to feel at all times. Gold is replaced by some random McGuffin not present in the book. The underground Haven City world of fairies, dwarves, trolls, and centaurs is so dull you’d hardly believe this was directed by Kenneth Branagh. Fairies wear green and have pointy ears, but I swear they’re not elves. They’re also Irish and work for a police force called LEPrecon, but I swear they’re not leprechauns.
Holly Short is the kidnapped fairy who’s supposed to be the protagonist, but she’s instead relegated to co-lead. The unknown child actors are lousy and they roped several major celebrities into this travesty. Dame Judi Dench talks with a bizarre gravelly voice, Colin Farrell is wasted, and don’t get me started on Josh Gad. He plays the giant dwarf Mulch Diggums a little too close to the book as he unhinges his jaw with freakish CGI and dirt shoots out of his butt. Fowl’s intimidating bodyguard Butler is strangely race changed and his niece is just kinda there. Just about everything takes place in the Fowl Manor during a painfully generic time stopping fairy house raid. Artemis and Holly become fast friends and the movie ends with Artemis calling himself a criminal mastermind despite never earning that title. Artemis Fowl is the disaster you get when you purposefully anger longtime fans and give general audiences no reason to care.
Artemis Fowl and friends
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is a cross between The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Despite the mini revival that SpongeBob SquarePants experienced when late creator Stephen Hillenburg returned to the series, the show was way too zany for me to keep watching it. Watching Nickelodeon’s third theatrical movie was more casual for me since I only watch new episodes that are a big deal. Like the anniversary special for example. Although Sponge on the Run was originally meant to premiere in between season 12, the pandemic pushed it to Paramount+ instead. Since traditional animation was dead in the 2010’s, stylized computer animation was used for the second time in the series.
Though it sometimes looks more like a video game, it’s still a shame that I couldn’t experience it on the big screen. Even though Sponge on the Run is pretty middle of the road for me. Series developer Tim Hill understood SpongeBob, but it’s just not laugh out loud like it used to be. The story feels pretty low stakes and similar to past movies and/or episodes. SpongeBob’s beloved pet snail Gary goes missing just like “Have You Seen this Snail?” SpongeBob & Patrick hit the road in search of a mythical city just like the first movie. The only difference is the destination being Atlantic City and the ruler of the seas being the never before seen King Poseidon. It’s just not as clever when he only takes Gary for his slime.
There’s a truly out of nowhere live-action segment just like Sponge Out of Water. The only celebrity worth mentioning is Keanu Reeves as a bizarre tumbleweed sage. Then there’s the expected stuff like Plankton trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula, but giving up unceremoniously. Plankton’s computer wife Karen tells him to get rid of SpongeBob and the movie is suddenly about Mr. Krabs, Squidward, and Sandy realizing they miss him. SpongeBob & Patrick also fight, but it was all an excuse to set up a childhood prequel spin-off called Kamp Koral (that Hillenburg was totally against). Is Nickelodeon really gonna defile his grave for money? Of course they are! Sponge on the Run looks good and has a sweet message, but it’s just another excuse to keep the nautical nonsense going forever.
SpongeBob eats with Gary
Preceded by: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is bigger, squarier, and spongier! “Are you ready kids?” I know I was when I discovered a big screen movie was being made for my all time favorite animated Nickelodeon TV show. SpongeBob SquarePants is undoubtedly the cartoon of my generation. I was absolutely obsessed with the first 3 seasons when I was a kid. My peers continue to quote SpongeBob from memory to this day. Since Nickelodeon was making a theatrical film for all their best properties in the early 2000’s, I knew SpongeBob had to be next in line. The late great creator Stephen Hillenburg nearly declined the offer, but he instead intended it to be the massive conclusion to the series (sadly that wasn’t the case). I’ll never forget my mom taking my brother and I to see The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Animation was crisp, but familiar and the entire cast was just as great as ever. With plenty of nautical nonsense to make me laugh out loud. The movie is warranted since SpongeBob finally has the chance to become manager at the newly built Krusty Krab 2. Unfortunately, Mr. Krabs gives the job to Squidward since everyone thinks of SpongeBob as a kid.
The stakes are especially raised when a far more evil Plankton, with the help of his computer wife Karen, discover Plan Z to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula. When Mr. Krabs is blamed for the theft of King Neptune’s crown, SpongeBob & Patrick have only 6 days to leave Bikini Bottom for the forbidden Shell City. The movie is everything I love about SpongeBob. From the bubbles to the jellyfish, but there are several new elements introduced. SpongeBob & Patrick are suddenly obsessed with the childish Goofy Goober and eating large amounts of ice cream in hilariously drunk fashion. Just like the show, nearly every moment and sneaky adult joke is meme worthy. The celebrity voice cast is especially impressive with the likes of Jeffrey Tambor as a bald King Neptune (different than the one seen in “Neptune’s Spatula”), Scarlett Johansson as the kindly mermaid Princess Mindy, and Alec Baldwin as the ruthless assassin Dennis. Characters like Gary the Snail, Sandy, Mrs. Puff, and Pearl have very limited screen time. Squidward at least discovers Plankton’s scheme before being mind controlled by a Chum Bucket helmet.
It’s really SpongeBob & Patrick’s time to shine as they heroically ride the Patty Wagon, escape a band of bloodthirsty bikers, and flee a deadly frogfish. Mindy inspires them with seaweed mustaches and they escape a monster infested trench as well. Dennis nearly steps on them, but a bigger boot captures them instead. Turns out Shell City is just a gift shop and the cyclops is really a deep sea diver from the live-action surface. Live-action is also used at the beginning with pirates singing the theme song and attending the movie premiere. The live-action/animated sequence is one of the saddest non-Disney scenes I’ve ever seen. I cry every single time SpongeBob & Patrick nearly die under a hot lamb. Their escape makes up for it with a brilliant cameo from David Hasselhoff coming to the rescue. Then the climax tops that with an infectious hard rock performance from SpongeBob singing “Goofy Goober Rock.” It’s technically not a musical, but any random song is plenty of underwater fun. The ending is the most satisfying way to end SpongeBob as he’s finally named manager to the tune of “Ocean Man.” The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is the sweetest victory I could ask for.
SpongeBob & Patrick ride the Patty Wagon
Followed by: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
The Spiderwick Chronicles invites you to a world unseen. The five part children’s book series was published from 2003-2004. I never heard of the books, but I knew about the movie. Since I watched a lot of Nick growing up, the Nickelodeon movie The Spiderwick Chronicles was heavily marketed on the channel. Even though I’m a big fan of fantastical worlds, the 2008 movie didn’t interest me. I was pleasantly surprised when I decided to give it a chance years later. The Spiderwick Chronicles is a delightful trip though an enchanting world of invisible sprites, goblins, ogeries, boggarts, hobgoblins, trolls, and even the lesser known brownie.
It’s an inventive tale with children as the heroes. The Grace family recently move into the Spiderwick estate. A spooky old house in the middle of nowhere that contains an all important field guide written by Arthur Spiderwick. The family consists of divorced mother Helen, her fencing skilled older daughter Mallory, and the twins Jared & Simon. Although it’s weird hearing child Freddie Highmore speak in an American accent, he is great at distinguishing the very different brothers.
Simon is a pacifist, but Jared is a hotheaded hero who finds the book. The field guide unleashes the fairy world that can only be viewed through a seeing stone. The CGI used for the creatures was my initial turn off, but the crude design works surprisingly well. The Spiderwick Chronicles is a unique adventure to protect the house from an evil ogre who seeks to wield the knowledge from the book. With the help of Thimbletack the house brownie and Hogsqueal the hobgoblin, the family fight back in an intense family friendly way. The Spiderwick Chronicles is best seen by true lovers of fantasy.
Jared looks into the fairy world
The Lord of the Rings is the animated precursor to the acclaimed live-action trilogy. Ralph Bakshi is a unique animator known for his crude hard R or X rated adult cartoons of the 70’s. He’s the last director you’d expect to make a faithful adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy novels. Then again, Peter Jackson also got his start in lewd excessively R rated shlock. Jackson was actually introduced to The Lord of the Rings through Bakshi’s 1978 movie. They said it couldn’t be done, so Bakshi decided the dense trilogy was best told in animation. Really bizarre and trippy animation that he’s most known for. At least it was better than an adaptation starring the Beatles. The Lord of the Rings was actually the first animated movie to make extensive use of rotoscoping. Meaning live-action performers were traced over to make large scale battles like the mines of Moria or Helms Deep easier to animate. I actually do remember seeing the movie after The Fellowship of the Ring came out, but I blocked most of it from my memory. The animation inconsistencies and different approach to key moments didn’t feel right to me.
The Lord of the Rings feels long with its 2 hour & 15 minute runtime, but that’s because it adapts The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Lack of The Return of the King finishing the story seriously enraged fans and casual moviegoers. The movie isn’t totally without merit, but it’s hard to appreciate something that was severely overshadowed by a far better work. The Lord of the Rings begins with the backstory of the One Ring told with live-action silhouettes. If you’re as extremely familiar with the story like I am, than the rest of the movie will be easy to follow. The hobbit Bilbo of the Shire leaves the Ring with Frodo who’s much more prepared to make the perilous journey. Gandalf is a dignified wizard with a long flowing beard, but Sam is a dufus. Merry and Pippin are pretty interchangeable. Aragorn has the commanding voice of John Hurt, but is vaguely Native American looking. Elves like Legolas and Elrond strangely don’t have pointy ears.
More strange is the fact that Legolas is one of the only non-C-3PO roles Anthony Daniels has ever had. Gimli is a rather large dwarf and Boromir looks like a viking. The most confusing decision was occasionally renaming Saruman, Aruman. Since some idiot thought Sauron sounded too similar to Saruman. The Fellowship plays out about the same just with much more stylized rotoscoped Ringwraiths and orcs. Along with the complete absence of Arwin and no lines for Eowyn. Galadriel is the only woman who speaks as the beautiful but mysterious elf. Despite the PG rating, the violence can get pretty bloody. The Two Towers seems far more rushed with a cartoony Treebeard having one scene, Théoden having little development apart from being fed lies by Wormtongue, and Gollum needing only a few scenes to make an impression. His look is pretty close to the Jackson version, but we never see Gollum take the hobbits to Shelob. Then post-battle ending narration makes it clear that this was only Part 1 of the epic journey. Something Bashki foolishly didn’t include in the theatrical version. The Lord of the Rings may lack the sophistication of grand live-action films, but its experimental approach is worth a curious viewing.
The hobbits hide from a Ringwraith
Puss in Boots is Zorro with way more cat jokes. After stealing the show several times, Antonio Banderas was finally promoted to lead character in his own spin-off. A Puss in Boots movie had been in development ever since his debut in Shrek 2. With the Shrek franchise coming to an end, this was the only way DreamWorks Animation could continue with the world. Turns out a more focused swashbuckling adventure was exactly what they needed to regain a Best Animated Feature nomination. Puss is every bit the troublemaking Latin lover he’s always been, but now crude pop culture jokes can’t distract from his potential.
Puss in Boots was once an orphan living in the fictional Spanish town San Ricardo. His mama Imelda loved him and an act of bravery earned him his signature pair of boots. Until a terrible betrayal made him a legendary feline outlaw. Puss in Boots pretty much uses any remaining fairy tales not used in the Shrek films. Puss tries to clear his name with magic beans that lead to the Beanstalk containing a goose that lays golden eggs. The beans are in the possession of a villainous married Jack & Jill voiced by Billy Bob Thornton & Amy Sedaris. They don’t have much character outside of Jack wanting a baby. Puss’ bean job is thwarted by his female boot wearing black cat counterpart Kitty Softpaws. A role that could only be filled by Salma Hayek. It’s a Desperado reunion afterall.
The final piece of the puzzle is Humpty Dumpty himself. A bad egg voiced by Zach Galifianakis who has a history with Puss. Humpty is an eggy Da Vinci who was also an orphan obsessed with finding magic beans. Kitty is working for Humpty and they make a deal to retrieve the golden eggs with Puss. Except Humpty is really in it for revenge. With the Giant pre-defeated, their only obstacle is the baby goose’s giant mother. An elderly Jack tells Puss the whole story. In the end, Puss saves the town, redeems Humpty, and romances Kitty. With the influence of Guillermo del Toro, Puss in Boots was way better than it needed to be. The computer animation is still heavily detailed like Shrek, but it makes the presentation that much better. Puss in Boots is a bad kitty in a good movie.
Spin-Off of: Shrek 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is the epic finale that made me more relieved than excited. Any excitement I had was lost when they forcibly split Mockingjay into 2 parts. My brother and I were still prepared to finish it, but the conclusion wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Despite Part 2 bringing back the much needed action, it’s still a lot of wandering and barely any actual rebellion. Which is mostly thanks to how Suzanne Collins wrote the final book in her trilogy. It’s not a straightforward final battle like most YA franchises. Katniss Everdeen is recovering from her injuries, but ready to kill President Snow once and for all. After being declared dead one of several times in the movie. It’s during Finnick and Annie’s wedding that Katniss says goodbye to Prim and has Johanna cover for her.
Except that everyone was expecting Katniss to go off on her own. So she’s joined by Boggs, Gale, Finnick, her “propo” film crew, and a whole cast of disposable soldiers. The Capitol is pretty much deserted, apart from hourly messages from Ceasar and/or Snow. The Capitol is configured like a Hunger Games arena with pods unleashing a different hazzard onto the rebels. It’s made worse by the sort of deprogrammed Peeta coming to fight with them. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and the rest of the primary cast continue to give fine performances, but they do seem to be relieved that it’s over. SPOILER ALERT! They make it past gun turrets, oil, and pale zombie Mutts, but sadly Boggs, Finnick, and every disposable soldier is killed. A tiger lady helps them get closer to Snow’s house, but it’s once again not what I was expecting. Katniss and Gale hide amidst the Capitol and peacekeepers, but most of them are bombed by sponsor parachutes.
Although it’s probably more impactful in the book, Prim’s death seems to come out of nowhere. It’s not until Katniss yells at her cat Buttercup that I felt genuinely sad. The final confrontation between Katniss and the dying Snow is just a conversation in his flower garden. There’s still an execution, but Katniss fires her bow & arrow on Coin instead. Since she was secretly more like Snow than she let on. Their deaths finally bring peace back to Panem. Haymitch reads a letter from Plutarch to Katniss due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing and they both say goodbye to Effie. They return to live in District 12 where a mostly cured Peeta reconnects with Katniss. And just like every other YA franchise, Katniss and Peeta’s story ends with them having children of their own. Mockingjay – Part 2 may have lost some of its impact, but I suppose there are worse games to play. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
Katniss takes aim
Preceded by: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is proof that splitting a final book into 2 parts is a bad idea. It worked for The Deathly Hallows and sort of worked for Breaking Dawn, but Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay is only a 390 page book. The breaking point they chose means an almost complete lack of action in Part 1. Katniss Everdeen fires precisely one arrow in the entire 2 hour movie. My brother and I were still on board for the “finale,” but this is when I started to question the franchise as a whole. At least director Francis Lawrence and the stellar cast continue to make it watchable. Mockingjay – Part 1 has no Hunger Games just like the book. Instead the focus is on the much needed rebellion against the Capitol. The only action you’re gonna see. President Snow and his peacekeepers threaten all of Panem, so the once thought destroyed District 13 mounts an offensive.
Pretty much nothing happens other than Katniss refusing to be the Mockingjay and complaining about Peeta every chance she gets. Peeta, Johanna, and Annie are all prisoners of the Capitol. So Katniss is most concerned with their rescue. Even though Peeta is being used for propaganda interviews with Caesar. Since Josh Hutcherson is mostly relegated to looking more and more sickly, Liam Hemsworth steps up as the primary leading man. Giving Gale and Katniss more reason to get together. Mahershala Ali is also a trusted ally as Katniss’ bodyguard Boggs. Katniss’ main obstacle is District 13 President Alma Coin played by the series last veteran actress Julianne Moore. Most of her scenes are with Plutarch, who needed a few minor rewrites due to Philip Seymour Hoffman passing away. Although Beetee supplies Katniss with an explosive bow & arrow, the only thing they want her for is to make propaganda videos.
So she’s joined by Natalia Dormer as “propo” director Cressida and her futuristic film crew including silent avox Pollux. A sober Haymitch shows up to help make the “propos” more natural along with Effie. She’s not in this part of the book, but the filmmakers liked the idea of her in the drab District 13. The only minor action Katniss sees is in the devastated District 8. The only thing Part 1 has going for it is the music. There’s a catchy song from Lorde, but most importantly Jennifer Lawrence struggles to sing “The Hanging Tree” in the ruins of District 12. The rebellion heats up when the Capitol bombs District 13 and Katniss has to save Prim (who foolishly went to save their cat Buttercup). After more nothing, Katniss contacts Snow in an attempt to block out their rescue attempt. Finnick reunites with Annie and Johanna is in bad shape, but Peeta is easily worse off. Since he was brainwashed by the Capitol into attacking Katniss. Mockingjay – Part 1 is a first act masquerading as a full movie. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
Katniss leads a revolution
Preceded by: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & Followed by: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire improves on the games in every way. A big reason being the change in directors that meant no more shaky cam and a stronger focus on emotion. Francis Lawrence brought Suzanne Collins’ world of Panem back to life in a way I wasn’t expecting. I was already on board with The Hunger Games, but now my brother joined me for the sequels. Catching Fire deepens the trauma felt by Victors Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. While at the same time addressing the love triangle between her and loyal District 12 friend Gale. A relationship made more complicated by the constant lense put on the “Star-crossed lovers.” Jennifer Lawrence just won an Oscar, but she’s still fully dedicated to the “Girl on Fire.” Her hair is appropriately darkened and Buttercup is actually an orange cat this time. Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson both make the choice between romantic leads a lot more convincing. Unfortunately, Katniss’ problems are just beginning when President Snow drops by for a visit. They share their first of many honest conversations with thinly veiled threats. Katniss, Prim, their mother, and Peeta are now staying in a nicer part of District 12 where Haymitch also lives. He continues to mentor them when their “Victory Tour” comes up. Effie also returns to coach them on how to speak to each District, but they both go off script.
Catching Fire increases the threat of the so-called peacekeepers by making them a much more evil faceless presence. They control the citizens and execute anyone who steps out of line. The tour does bring Katniss and Peeta closer together due to their shared experiences. It finally ends in the Capitol where they meet the first of many new characters. Philip Seymour Hoffman is another respected actor more than up to the task of mysterious new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. He convinces Snow to make life worse for the Districts while at the same time giving attention to Katniss’ wedding. Until an incident with a peacekeeper ignites the rebellion even more. Since the 75th Hunger Games are coming up, that means the use of a Quarter Quill. A change in games that occurs every 25 years. This year all Tributes are selected from a pool of past Victors. All in an effort to kill Katniss and stop the uprising. She can’t even say goodbye to Prim before being whisked off to very familiar places. There’s still the chariot ceremony with Cinna’s patented fire outfits, but now the special effects look so much better. The problem this time is the legion of experienced killers they’re up against. Haymitch runs through most of them, but only a few of them are worth remembering. Sam Claflin makes the strongest impression as handsome trident equipped secret keeper Finnick Odair. Same with Jena Malone as the unhinged and outspoken Johanna Mason. Other crucial Tributes are the scientifically proficient Wiress and Beetee played by Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer. Their beloved status in the Capitol makes the rule change especially controversial when Caesar’s interviews come around. Katniss makes the strongest impression by burning her wedding dress to reveal a Mockingjay underneath.
Something that cause the first death of a major character outside of the games. SPOILER ALERT! Cinna is killed right in front of Katniss as she prepares to enter the new jungle themed arena. Tributes must swim to the island Cornucopia. Katniss and Peeta form an unlikely alliance with Finnick and his elderly fellow Tribute Mags. They encounter a much more lethal Hunger Games with a lot less cutting back to the outside world. Peeta is nearly killed by the force field, poison gas kills Mags, and they’re all attacked by vicious mandrill Mutts. They do at least obtain a water spigot from a sponsor and Johanna joins them along with Wiress & Beetee. They’re tortured by a flock of loved one imitating jabberjays, but they do formulate a plan that tests each of their loyalty. They survive using the clock configuration of the arena and use the perfectly timed lightning bolt to their advantage. Katniss questions her teammates, but ultimately makes the right decision to electrify the force field with a shot from her bow & arrow. Causing her to be picked up by the book accurate hovercraft. It turns out Haymitch, Heavensbee, and Finnick were all in on a rebellion that lead to Peeta being captured along with Johanna and Finnick’s lover Annie. As well as the dramatic destruction of District 12. Catching Fire may mostly be a set up for the sequel, but its vastly improved presentation is well worth it. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
Katniss and Peeta in the Hunger Games
Preceded by: The Hunger Games & Followed by: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1