She Wants Fabulous

Since the High School Musical craze refused to end, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure was made. The only spin-off made for the musical franchise. Most people don’t know it exists since it was released direct-to-video. Sharpay Evans is the “antagonist” of the three High School Musical movies. Played by Disney Channel “it girl” Ashley Tisdale. I say antagonist, but really she never did anything outright villainous. Of course Disney couldn’t keep her bad forever either. So she was always redeemed at the end of every movie. Sharpay is definitely the protagonist of Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Which has just about the most generic/cliché plot imaginable. After graduating from East High, Sharpay now yearns to star on Broadway. So she moves to New York, stays in a crummy apartment, doesn’t get the part, meets a guy that helps her, and eventually becomes a star. Its been done a million times and the only standout is the character. The songs don’t even standout. I also wasn’t happy to see her love interest change. Since she’s supposed to be with Zeke (the baker). The only real connection to the trilogy is a cameo from her brother Ryan. Which can only be seen on TV. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure is at best a colorful distraction.

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Sharpay and Boi are shocked

Spin-off of: High School Musical

Slumming for Dummies

Havoc is as the title suggests, full of self-destruction. It was also Anne Hathaway’s first attempt at shedding her good girl Disney image. For most young stars that means appearing in the most adult movie possible. Since this came out a year after The Princess Diaries 2 and a few months before Brokeback Mountain. Havoc deals with drugs, gang violence, promiscuity, and a variety of other heavy topics. All involving teens. The final result can be hard to watch, but not always for the reason you think. Havoc centers around the documented exploits of rich white kids from L.A. that talk and act like gangstas just cause they’re bored. It’s kinda too cringy to take seriously. Especially since a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum play a part. Their stupid behavior eventually catches up with them once they willingly enter a tough neighborhood and reality sets in. Although that doesn’t stop Hathaway’s character from going back, getting arrested, and bringing her equally incompetent best friend along for the ride. Anne Hathaway swears frequently and appears naked several times. It’s the main reason I knew the movie existed. It was apparently so lewd that it was released direct-to-video. Not that Hathaway isn’t putting effort into her performance. If Havoc is trying to say something, it’s probably to not make dumb decisions.

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Allison flirts with Eric

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Joseph: King of Dreams is a prequel to The Prince of Egypt. Prequel because it takes place in the Book of Genesis. Which is before the Book of Exodus in the Bible when Moses’ story takes place. Much like Disney movies at the time, Joseph: King of Dreams is the only Dreamworks Animation movie released direct-to-video. Since the story of Joseph hasn’t been done nearly as much as the story of Moses. Here’s a quick Sunday school lesson. Joseph was the youngest of 11 sons. His father favors him the most, for he possesses the power to see the future in dreams. So his father gave him an amazing technicolor dreamcoat. His jealous brothers left him to die and he was taken in by an Egyptian pharaoh. Eventually Joseph’s ability to decipher dreams helps him to gain power and reconcile with his brothers. Joseph: King of Dreams does still have nice animation (specifically in its dream sequences) and good music. It only suffers from its direct-to-video status. Which keeps it from being as grand as it could have been. Frankly, I would have been happy to get several biblical animated movies from Dreamworks. Joseph: King of Dreams is just a pleasant piece of an even larger puzzle.

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Joseph dreams

Followed by: The Prince of Egypt

Tiny Adults

Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves showed that Disney’s Honey trilogy was sort of running out of ideas. After shrinking kids and enlarging a toddler, what’s the next logical step? Shrinking the adults I guess. It’s most likely why the movie became the first live-action direct-to-video Disney movie. In fact, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves is surprisingly significant for several reasons. It’s sadly the last live-action performance from Rick Moranis. Before he decided to retire from acting. It also features a Pre-Smallville Allison Mack. And more surprisingly, Mila Kunis in one of her first acting roles. Like I said, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves shrinks the adults instead of the kids. Giving Wayne Szalinski, his wife (recast), his brother, and his brother’s wife a chance to experience being small. Only this time all the action is kept in the house. With Hot Wheels racing, bubble travel, and a giant cockroach. I enjoyed Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves when I was younger, but it doesn’t hold up much when I’m older. The adults were never really that funny to begin with. Most of it is just mom and dad jokes. Plus the effects have gotten more primitive. Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves just thinks too small.

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Mitch sees his mother

Preceded by: Honey, I Blew Up the Kid

Me New George

George of the Jungle 2 is the critically panned direct-to-video sequel to George of the Jungle that I still kinda liked. Like any other low quality follow up I saw as a child, I didn’t really notice how bad it was. I first watched George of the Jungle 2 with my brother on the Disney Channel. We both enjoyed it about as much as the first one. Apart from what was pointed out to us, I didn’t even notice that practically the entire cast was replaced by cheaper actors. Specifically some guy I never heard of named Christopher Showerman who replaces Brendan Fraser. Though their joke about it is funny. The only returning cast members are Thomas Haden Church, John Cleese, and the narrator. Whom I felt was the funniest part of the whole movie. Hearing him constantly berate the cast is hilarious. The rest of the plot involving Las Vegas, a kangaroo, a mean lion, and hypnotism is just guilty pleasure nonsense in my opinion. George of the Jungle 2 is a sequel you’ll only like if you enjoyed the first movie.

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George and his family

Preceded by: George of the Jungle

From Romania with Love

Don’t let the 2 fool you, Fright Night 2: New Blood is yet another rehash of Fright Night. How is it possible that this was made only 2 years after a movie that was already a remake? What was the bloody point? Especially considering it was direct-to-video. I don’t know how many times we can see Charley Brewster discovering vampires exist, his friend “Evil” turning, recruiting Peter Vincent, and rescuing his girlfriend. The difference this time is the setting is now Romania. Jerry Dandridge is now Gerri Dandridge. The only thing the gender swap does is give off more lesbian undertones. While the third version of Peter Vincent is now one of those reality show monster hunters. Fright Night 2 has nothing but unknown actors, cheap effects, and did I mention it was another remake. If not for its forced connection to the original, sequel, and remake, I would never have even considered seeing Fright Night 2.

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Gerri bares her fangs

Preceded by: Fright Night (2011)

Floating Forever

The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars is the second sequel to The Brave Little Toaster. Even though it was released before the second installment. That’s why I saw it many times as a kid. Like other direct-to-video Disney sequels, sometimes I prefered a sequel over an original. Not because I thought they were better. It was because the original was darker. Meaning I would rather stick to something quick and easy to watch. The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars is probably the lightest movie in the entire trilogy. After the master and mistress get married, the appliances welcome a new baby to the family. As well as a few new appliances. Things take an unexpected turn when the baby is transported to outer space and the appliances have to go to Mars to rescue him. They achieve this by attaching a ceiling fan to a laundry basket. On their way to Mars they encounter a bunch of singing balloons and on Mars they encounter advanced military grade appliances. The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars has an out there premise, but together it makes The Brave Little Toaster a fun animated trilogy.

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The appliances float through space

Preceded by: The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue

Dorm Room Toaster

The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue is the first sequel to The Brave Little Toaster. Even though it was released after the third installment. That’s the way I viewed the movie initially as a kid. Just like direct-to-video Disney sequels, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue is far lighter then the original. Ironically both Brave Little Toaster sequels were distributed by Disney this time around. Although unlike most direct-to-video sequels, I feel both sequels are just as strong as the original. Not as deep, but just as enjoyable. The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue takes place in college while the master is working in an animal clinic. The appliances make friends with a group of animals that can also talk. A mother cat, a chihuahua with a broken leg, a snake, and an elderly chimp. The most notable new addition being a rat named Ratso. The biggest conflicts involve a supercomputer virus and a threat against the animals. Along with a few new catchy songs. I haven’t seen The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue as much as the other sequel, but I like it just as much.

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The appliances drive off

Preceded by: The Brave Little Toaster & Followed by: The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars

Man & Machine

The Animatrix also came out in 2003, in between The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The Wachowskis drew heavy inspiration from anime works when making The Matrix series. That’s how they were able to make The Animatrix in Japan. By partnering with several distinctive anime studios. The Animatrix is a direct-to-video anthology film that tells 9 different stories centering on the Matrix. Stories that I can only talk about separately.

“Final Flight of the Osiris” – The first short is a direct prequel to The Matrix Reloaded focusing on resistance fighters. It’s the only short done in a computer animated video game style. This short starts with a hot and steamy sword fight and ends with a devastating sentinel attack on Zion. It’s the most unique short and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

“The Second Renaissance Part I” – The second short is done in a simple anime style. It explores all the events that lead up to the eventual creation of the Matrix. This short explains that machines were workers and servants that became self aware. So they fought for their rights, but faced oppression from humans. So they formed their own city in order to live in peace.

“The Second Renaissance Part II” – The third short continues the previous story. By depicting the war between man and machine. As well as how humans scorched the sky and were eventually converted into living batteries for the Matrix. These two shorts are very fascinating. They’re probably the best explanation for how everything in the series came to pass.

“Kid Story” – The fourth short follows the kid from The Matrix Reloaded who was obsessed with Neo. It uses a sketchy anime style. This short is all about how someone is extracted from the Matrix. Feeling like you’re in a dream, receiving phone calls, and being pursued by agents. It gives much needed insight into the seemingly out of place kid character.

“Program” – The fifth short is easily the most anime inspired. With a colorful anime style. It features a warrior woman fighting a samurai in feudal Japan. Without context you wouldn’t know it was related to the Matrix. It’s actually set in a training program. Where it deals with the question of whether they should have taken the blue pill instead of the red pill.

“World Record” – The sixth short has the most bizarre anime style. Anime characters have jerky movements and a tall structure. This short explains how people in the Matrix discover the truth about their existence. By using a track runner who reaches almost superhuman speed through the Matrix. This short is weird to look at, but it gives good psychological insight.

“Beyond” – The seventh short centers on a haunted house. The anime style is mostly simplistic. A girl looks for her cat and ends up coming across the aforementioned house along with a group of kids. The house can make things levitate in an otherworldly way. I realized it had to be a glitch in the Matrix. Which brings up a new set of questions for how well designed is the Matrix really.

“A Detective Story” – The eighth short is a hard boiled detective story. So it’s done with a black & white noir anime style. A detective is tasked by agents, to track down Trinity, and bring her to them. So he uses his detective skills to find her by following a metaphorical white rabbit of clues. This short could very much work on its own, because it captures the noir style perfectly.

“Matriculated” – The ninth and final short is done in an Æon Flux inspired anime style. It starts in the real world and ends with a machine being reprogrammed by survivors. They enter its mind and try to convince it to side with them. This short has the most trippy visuals and psychedelic colors. It’s also the short that best sums up the movies man and machine theme.

In conclusion, The Animatrix is a surprisingly good anime inspired film. Some of there anime styles are a bit bizarre for my taste, but they don’t go on for too long. Each segment lasts for about 5 to 9 minutes. While the second and third film may leave a lot to be desired, The Animatrix manages to maintain what made The Matrix so good in the first place. By sticking to simple themes and characters that we actually care about.

Captain Thadeus fights Jue

Less than Wowzers

I’ll bet you didn’t know there was an Inspector Gadget 2. Well there was. A direct-to-video movie without the original cast that was still technically a sequel to the first Inspector Gadget. Now on paper that may sound like a horrible idea, but it’s actually not that bad. I like the first movie in a guilty pleasure sort of way where I know it’s bad. Inspector Gadget 2 is also bad, (mostly because it has a direct-to-video budget) but they at least tried to fix the problems that the first movie had. French Stewart is a much better bumbling detective than Matthew Broderick. Penny and Brain are actually doing something important like in the show. Dr. Claw’s face is not shown like in the first movie (they conceal his face with a hat). Why couldn’t they just do that in the first place? Why did it have to come from a throwaway movie? I was still young when I saw this movie. It came on the Disney Channel one time and I watched it with my brother. The stuff with the new robot gadget, G2, was fun. Some of the jokes made me laugh. Sure nobody’s gonna remember Inspector Gadget 2 like the first, but I still had an okay time watching it.

Inspector gadget (right) and G2 (left)

Preceded by: Inspector Gadget