Party On, Dudes!

Bill & Ted Face the Music is a most triumphant 29 year return for Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted โ€œTheodoreโ€ Logan, aka the WYLD STALLYNS! *air guitar* Unfortunately, I think it took too long to come out. With Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey becoming cult favorites, how could a third movie measure up? Especially for someone like me who grew up with the movies. The now middle aged Alex Winter and newly famous Keanu Reeves slip perfectly into their Bill & Ted personas.

Although Bogus Journey felt conclusive, they apparently didn’t unite the world. Now they perform heinous gigs and have a family to support. Princess Joanna & Elizabeth are recast for the third time with slightly more to do. Their daughters are basically female versions of their fathers named Billie & Thea. Samara Weaving is ok, but it’s Brigette Lundy-Paine who does an excellent Keanu impression. Ted’s dad and Missy return too in unexpectedly hilarious ways. Bill & Ted Face the Music is essentially the first 2 movies smooshed together. With writing the song that unites the world as the central theme.

They just go off on too many inconsistent tangents for the sake of recreation. Rufus’s daughter inspires them to travel to the future. Where they meet increasingly crazy versions of themselves. Meanwhile, their daughters travel to the past to slowly form a random historical band. All the while an unfunny robot chases them. They’re also obligated to go back to Hell where William Sadler’s Death also seems off. The final musical solution was predictable, but the unifying message was most bodacious. Bill & Ted Face the Music is too chaotic to be clever, but it’s enough just to see these most lovable slackers again. *air guitar*

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Bill & Ted take the time machine

P.S. I just wish it was on the big screen.

Preceded by: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Really Big Shark

The Meg is either too bad to be a good shark attack movie or too good to be a bad shark attack movie. Either way it never seems to know which one it wants to be. To the point it’s never consistently entertaining. All I know is that a premise like this should have been a lot more cheesy in a dumb fun kind of way. The Meg captured my attention the moment I saw the trailer. As someone who wasn’t aware Megalodons existed, the concept of an insanely large shark had numerous possibilities.

The Meg sorta squanders it on a clean PG-13 story with a mishmash celebrity crew at the center. Along with a lot of attention given to the Chinese market to increase box-office numbers. All of it seemed to work out since The Meg was just as much of a summer blockbuster as other shark attack movies. Although the book series sounds way more insane, the movie settles on the action stylings of self-serious Jason Statham. Rescue diver Jonas Taylor rescues someone from the depths of the ocean, then does the exact same thing again. Discovering the fabled Meg underneath.

You’d think a shark that big would be a major threat, but it’s really only that size to look intimidating for the poster and trailers. There’s also a twist that reduces the uniqueness of the creature. Sure the Meg attacks a boat and populated beach, but the body count is no more than your typical shark flick. The only genuinely awesome moment is Statham taking out the titanic shark all by himself. The Meg has the terrifying monster, now if only it had a T-Rex to face like in the book.

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The Meg strikes

Send in the Clones

The 6th Day presents the question, what if scientists were successfully able to clone a human being? An ethical question that will clearly never become a reality. At least not in the way it’s always been depicted in sci-fi. The 6th Day is named after a passage from Genesis in the Bible. Since God created man on the sixth day of creation. The movie itself uses the passage as the moral reason why cloning humans is illegal.

In the distant future of 2015, animals are commercially cloned in a messed up process called RePet. Now you never have to explain death to a child. There are also sexy virtual girlfriends, holograms, self-driving cars, and creepy realistic robot dolls. I’m sure I would’ve known it existed, but I only watched The 6th Day for Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was his first action film of the 2000’s. Arnie can always enhance a generic role, but that can only go so far sometimes. His character, of course named Adam, is unknowingly cloned during an eye examine.

Clones can be identified by dots under their eyelids. He wakes up to find a clone with his wife and daughter. Adam is promptly marked for death by the company that illegally made the clone. A young Terry Crews makes his debut playing one of the assassins. There are gun fights, car chases, and mostly standard fight scenes. Along with a few good Arnie zingers. Having him cloned means two Schwarzenegger performances for the price of one. The 6th Day has a genuinely interesting premise, but not always the best material to make it stand out.

The 6th Day

Adam gets cloned

Snake Goes Hollywood

Escape from L.A. is a little too Hollywood in terms of John Carpenter productions. But Snake Plissken became an icon and Kurt Russell wanted to play him again. So a sequel was manufactured for the high concept Escape from New York. Escape from L.A. now takes place in the distant future of 2013. Since it was 15 years since Snake escaped the supermax New York City. Now he’s somehow wound up in the exact same situation with a few minor differences.

Los Angeles has become a sinful wasteland that’s plunged partway into the ocean due to earthquakes. Cliff Robertson’s President has been made a permanent President after his prediction proved correct. His response is declaring all immoral citizens be deported to the L.A. island for life. I’m not saying it’s not plausible, but it is heavy handed. Instead of rescuing the President, Snake is ordered to take out the President’s free spirited daughter who’s dating a revolutionary terrorist. While at the same time retrieving a black box containing an EMP switch (instead of a tape). Snake still has a time limit, a bomb in his head, and the gotcha ending is almost exactly the same.

The main plus is that Snake sees way more action this time around. The only problem is Carpenter’s attempt at CGI. Which hasn’t aged well. Neither has the movie’s reliance on extreme 90’s action. Snake literally surfs a CGI tidal wave, hang glides from the Hollywood sign, and plays a life or death game of basketball. Escape from L.A. has some intriguing concepts and an interesting sequel set up, but it’s not enough just to change the city.

EFLA

Snake Plissken emerges from an explosion

Preceded by: Escape from New York

The Snake and the Apple

Escape from New York features the first R rated action role from Kurt Russell. Who desperately needed to shed his Disney image. It’s also the first John Carpenter movie with a big budget. Since the success of Halloween encouraged bigger projects. I’d always known about Escape from New York around the 80’s cult action circle, but it was a long time before I decided to check it out. Carpenter has always been more concerned with atmosphere, so it’s not as action heavy as you might think.

Escape from New York takes place in the distant future of 1997. Which was apparently supposed to see New York City converted into a dystopian supermax prison for the entire United States. It’s an interesting concept that’s feasible, but hopefully not a possible reality. The awesomely named, eye patch sporting, anti-establishment, standoffish, ex-soldier, and current criminal Snake Plissken is brought in to rescue the stranded President in New York. The catch is that he only gets 22 hours and a bomb will go off in his head if he doesn’t get the President and a tape containing a summit speech safely returned.

Snake doesn’t see much action at first since it’s a stealth mission, but criminals start shooting at him eventually. All of whom assume he was already dead. The President’s captor is Isaac Hayes as the violent ruler of New York called the Duke. With the help of a street smart guide, his main squeeze, and a friendly cabbie, Snake manages to beat hulking wrestlers, and return the President at the cost of his compatriots. Even Donald Pleasence gets some shots in as the President. Escape from New York paints a striking vision of the future that only a snake could thrive in.

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Snake Plissken takes aim

Followed by: Escape from L.A.

Keep Moving Forward

Meet the Robinsons offers an optimistic look at the future. You don’t see that often. Meet the Robinsons was the forty-seventh Walt Disney Animation Studios film and the first one under that banner. Since Pixar was purchased by Disney at the time, John Lasseter was named the head of both studios. Meaning Disney could receive the computer animation help they didn’t get for Chicken Little. The 3D animation for Meet the Robinsons isn’t overly polished, but it is a step in the right direction. With more charming colorful visuals than before. Along with good futuristic pop songs. Meet the Robinsons is based on a 1990 children’s book titled A Day with Wilbur Robinson. A picture book about a kid meeting his friend’s wacky family one by one in an effort to find lost teeth. I neither read nor heard of the book, but it’s more the spirit of the book that was adapted.

Meet the Robinsons is actually the first movie my brother and I saw by ourselves. We were 14 and 11 respectively and our parents trusted us to go to the theater without supervision. Not that we needed it since it was G. So I have a strong attachment to the underrated Post-Renaissance film despite not watching it too often. In the movie, the role of the kids are expanded and given a lot more unexpected depth. Lewis is a computer animated boy genius with weird hair most people forget about. He’s a gifted young inventor who just wants to be adopted. When that doesn’t work out, he works tirelessly to build a device that scans memories in hopes of finding his mom. Even at the expense of his drowsy roommate Goob. His machine is sabotaged by an evil mustachioed Bowler Hat Guy. A seriously underappreciated Disney villain. Wilbur Robinson travels to the past in order to ensure Lewis’ future. The future is bright and whimsical with instant buildings, bubble travel, and time machines all invented by Wilbur’s dad Cornelius.

A man who lives by the important motto to “Keep Moving Forward.” Which is also the motto Walt Disney lived by. The movie briefly follows the book when Lewis meets Wilbur’s oddball Robinson family. Consisting of a golden robot, a goofy grandfather & grandmother, a couch potato uncle, a train loving aunt, an uncle married to a puppet, a cannon firing uncle, a planateering pizza delivery uncle, a painter cousin, a strangely dressed cousin, two cousins living in flower pots, an octopus butler, and Wilbur’s mom Franny. She teaches frogs to sing like crooners. Most of the humor is reliant on their wacky antics which vary in effectiveness. The Bowler Hat Guy shakes things up by controlling a T-Rex and things go awry when the truth is revealed. There are several unexpected twists I wasn’t expecting, but I won’t give them away. I’ll just say that the solutions to problems are extremely simple. Leading to a heartwarming ending that makes Meet the Robinsons a real understated gem.

72. Meet the Robinsons

The Robinson family

The Sky is Falling!

Chicken Little is Disney’s lousy first attempt at full computer animation. Since Home on the Range effectively shut down Walt Disney animation’s 2D division. The studio was already heading in that direction anyway. Considering all Post-Renaissance movies relied on computer animation to enhance visuals. Dinosaur doesn’t count since it was part CGI, part live-action. Chicken Little is really where animators had to learn a new medium. Their forty-sixth animated film is partially based on the mass hysteria fable Henny Penny. All I’ve ever known about the story was the trademark exclamation “The sky is falling.” Chicken Little was previously adapted by Disney as World War II propaganda. The movie was originally meant to focus on a paranoid female Chicken Little at camp, but they added aliens instead. Basically Disney’s only solution to appeal to kids at the time.

After years of ambitious storytelling, Chicken Little throws it all away by appealing to the lowest common denominator. There’s an abundance of pop culture references, covers of pop songs, and mostly juvenile humor. That didn’t stop it from becoming a box-office success however. At 10 years old, I very briefly thought it was a Pixar movie, but I learned the differences very fast. The computer animation ended up being kinda ugly without their assistance. Chicken Little was the last Disney movie my dad took my brother and I to see in theaters. I know it’s probably Disney animations worst movie, but I can’t bring myself to hate it. I ate up pop culture stuff when I was a kid I’m sorry to say. The movie centers on a small male Chicken Little who causes a panic in his town by saying the sky is falling. Like the fable, all citizens are anthropomorphic animals with mostly rhyming names. Except their world isn’t all that creative or sensical. You can tell a lot of animals are just copy and pasted throughout the movie.

Plus there’s a strange sense of cynicism throughout Chicken Little. Townspeople and bullies like Foxy Loxy taunt Chicken Little relentlessly after his seemingly crazy declaration. Only embracing him after he manages to win a baseball game for them. Then they shut him out again when he says it’s aliens. The falling sky is really a piece of a cloaked alien ship with aliens that resemble troll hair inside War of the Worlds machines. If that wasn’t bad enough, his own father Buck Cluck is part of the problem. His only friends are also outcasts: self help obsessed Abby Mallard the Ugly Duckling, nervous Runt of the Litter, and helmet wearing Fish Out of Water. Voices like Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn, and Garry Marshall are there, but not always given the best material. Although I’d be lying if I said some jokes weren’t pretty hilarious. Especially the Adam West movie ending. Chicken Little just comes up short on everything else.

71. Chicken Little

Chicken Little gets hounded by reporters

Treasure Island in SPACE!

Treasure Planet is the third science fiction themed animated Disney movie in a row. I’m sensing a pattern here. Treasure Planet is simply Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous seafaring tale of Treasure Island if it were set in outer space. You’d think an idea like that would be wholly original, but it was done in a miniseries in 1987. Treasure Island had actually already been adapted twice by Disney. First as the studios first fully live-action film and second as a Muppet adventure. Walt Disney animation mainstays Clements & Musker first pitched the idea for Treasure Planet along with The Little Mermaid. The idea was rejected left and right before eventually becoming Disney’s forty-third production. Treasure Planet was so experimental in the Post-Renaissance that it became the most expensive traditionally animated film of all time. Since it uniquely blended storybook style 2D animation with an extensive use of computer animation. Space, planets, robots, and ships are all 3D in an environment that primarily employed the Deep Canvas found in Tarzan.

Treasure Planet was more ambitious than any Disney film before it. Making it all the more devastating when it bombed at the box-office. It does predate Pirates of the Caribbean by a year after all. I was 7 years old when I saw Treasure Planet in theaters. My brother and I enjoyed the action & adventure, but we never owned the movie. We did however have every piece of the movie’s spherical map from McDonald’s. Treasure Planet remains underrated in its accomplishments despite receiving a Best Animated Feature nomination alongside Lilo & Stitch. The world of Treasure Planet is described as 70% old fashioned with 30% sci-fi elements. Clothing, ships, and environments remain faithful to Treasure Island. While space travel, aliens, robots, and holograms replace everything else. No one wears space suits since space has an atmosphere and artificial gravity. Jim Hawkins and his mother are the only humans. Except Jim is turned into a rebellious teen who loves solar surfing. The change only works so well, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt does his best.

Jim’s mom is also given more attention and Captain Smollett is female just to have more women in the mostly male story. David Hyde Pierce lends his sophisticated voice to Dr. Doppler. A doglike amalgamation of Jim’s closest companions. He funds the voyage after an alien Billy Bones supplies them with an electronic map to Captain Flint’s treasure. Emma Thompson is well suited for the catlike Captain Amelia. With first mate/rock alien Mr. Arrow at her side. As long as you know the story, you know the crew is really a band of mutinous pirates. Only Long John Silver is an alien cyborg with an adorable pink morph as his parrot. Jim and Silver form a genuine father/son bond that replaces his absentee father. Since Silver was never truly villainous, creepy spider crab Scroop is really the villain. After the betrayal, Jim discovers crazy B.E.N. on the titular planet. Except he’s a robot with the slightly grating comedy stylings of Martin Short. The map leads them to the treasure which is accessed through a portal. Only the climax proves it can never truly be possessed. Treasure Planet is another action heavy non-musical, but there are good pop songs including “I’m Still Here” and “Always Know Where You Are.” Treasure Planet may struggle with character, but it’s a spectacle that deserves admiration.

68. Treasure Planet

Jim Hawkins meets B.E.N.

Ohana Means Family

Lilo & Stitch may be the weirdest animated film Disney ever greenlit. Which is why it’s the only Post-Renaissance movie I wouldn’t consider to be underrated. Its instant popularity and success was very mainstream. Earning Walt Disney Animation Studios their first of two Best Animated Feature nominations at the Academy Awards. Although computer animation still loomed in the background, Lilo & Stitch was able to overcome it. The literally experimental idea for Disney’s forty-second feature was as old as 1985. Director Chris Sanders reworked his idea for a failed children’s book starring an alien named Stitch. The story was resurrected when Disney needed a lower budget film to balanced the expensive films of the Renaissance.

Sanders even reused watercolor backgrounds for the first time in decades. Along with his own signature animation style. Lilo & Stitch really came together when Hawaii was chosen as the location. Although Atlantis: The Lost Empire was technically Disney’s first sci-fi project, Lilo & Stitch really takes advantage of it with a contemporary story involving aliens, spaceships, and lasers. It was so different that teasers and promotional material painted Stitch as the black sheep of the Disney family. With Stitch interrupting famous songs from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King. Followed by characters reacting negatively to him. The irony is that Stitch later became a major icon among hardcore Disney fans…

66. Lilo & Stitch

Lilo and Nani ride a wave with Stitch

Lilo & Stitch is among my all time favorite Disney films. I’m not sure my brother and I saw it in theaters, but I know we’ve loved it ever since. Making Lilo & Stitch our most dedicated franchise at the time. I may have been just 7 years old, but I distinctly remember not knowing how to react to it. Lilo & Stitch was the furthest thing from the typical Disney formula. I think that just made me appreciate it more. Although Lilo & Stitch can feel over-the-top with all the aliens and space travel, it does tell a very human story at the same time. Both worlds complement each other surprisingly well. Lilo & Stitch establishes its world at the very beginning. With the Galactic Federation holding a trial for one Jumba Jookiba. The Galactic Federation is lead by the Grand Councilwoman. A tall grey alien who maintains law in the universe. Jumba is a large pudgy four-eyed mad scientist who illegally created Experiment 626.

626 is a cute & fluffy blue koala-like alien with six limbs, antennas, and back spikes. Stitch is an instant icon with a flawed need to destroy. Making him more relatable to Disney fans seeking something edgier. 626 was designed to be nearly invincible with super strength, and intellect. Stitch can speak, but only in limited snappy phrases supplied by the director himself. 626 is declared an abomination and sentenced to isolation. The giant elephant shark Captain Gantu is the closest thing to a Disney villain. His only goal is seizing the “trog” for the Federation. Voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson’s booming voice was a perfect fit for Gantu. While Disney mainstay David Ogden Stiers brought an ambiguous madness to Jumba. 626 escapes with an awesome red police cruiser heading towards Earth. Stitch’s only weakness is water, but his ship miraculously manages to land on the tiny island of Kauai, Hawaii. So Jumba is paroled to bring back his experiment along with one-eyed alien and Earth mosquito expert Agent Pleakley. Kevin McDonald has just the right naroutic tone for the alien who likes dressing like a woman. Make of that what you will.

Lilo & Stitch officially begins after that 10 minute prologue. We’re then introduced to Hawaiian girl Lilo. Easily the best child Disney ever created. Lilo is weird, hilarious, quotable, and more relatable than most Disney kids who are just there to be cute. Daveigh Chase was born to voice Lilo and boy does she have range (she played Samara in The Ring the very same year). Lilo’s main unusual traits include thinking a fish controls the weather, taking pictures of overweight people, and having a doll that’s stitched together. Although Lilo fights with snobby girl Mertile in her hula class, she still longs to make friends. What makes Lilo & Stitch so relatable is the dynamic between her and big sister Nani. The first animated Disney movie about sisterly love. Nani does her best to raise Lilo after their parents past away. She has job troubles and bickers with Lilo, but she’s still the only one who loves and understands her. They get surprisingly real with their struggle. Including a visit from a social worker who’s just doing his job.

Nani is seriously underappreciated as far as female Disney role models are concerned. Tia Carrere was one of a few Hawaiian cast members. She provided a lot of cultural accuracy along with Jason Scott Lee. He’s also underappreciated as Nani’s dedicated sorta boyfriend surfer David. Even Ving Rhames as social worker Cobra Bubbles has plenty of time to flesh out his character. Things change for Lilo and Nani when the falling star they see turns out to be 626 crash landing on Earth. After being hit by several trucks and somehow mistaken for a dog, he winds up in a kenal. Lilo is taken their to adopt a dog and that’s where the unlikely duo finally meet. Although it’s glaringly obvious that Stitch isn’t a dog, no one second guesses his strange behavior too much. Stitch blends in by removing his more alien features and posing as Lilo’s pet. Lilo & Stitch have a great dynamic where Lilo tries to give him a purpose beyond destroying and Stitch becomes the friend she always wanted. Ohana means family after all.

It’s just a troubled road with many unfortunate incidents to get there. Jumba & Pleakley comically wait in the background before interrupting a beautiful surfing montage. With Lilo likely to be taken away, the sadness increases when Stitch relates to the ugly duckling being lost. With the Federation cutting them off, Jumba destroys Lilo’s house just to get to Stitch. Where they play a game of “Blue punch buggy.” Stitch reveals the truth to Lilo and they’re both captured by Gantu. Stitch escapes, but Nani discovers the truth as well. Leading to a team up between Stitch, Jumba, Pleakley, and Nani in order to rescue Lilo. I cheer every time Stitch has his epic hero moment. Then I applaud when the odd assortment of Hawaiians and aliens become a loving ohana.

Lilo & Stitch went through all sorts of changes in its development. Not quite to the point of the equally good The Emperor’s New Groove, but there are many deleted scenes. The spaceship flying through the mountains climax was originally a hijacked plane flying through buildings for example. It was changed for obvious reasons. Fortunately the limited computer animation was mostly for ships. The curvy stylized look of the characters helped to complement the modern setting. While the creatively designed aliens were very imaginative without feeling too childish. Hence the PG rating. As far as music, Lilo & Stitch made use of catchy Hawaiian beats. Including the upbeat surfing song “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride.” The rest of the music is all Elvis hits. Since Lilo is naturally a big Elvis fan who shares the love with Stitch. Lilo & Stitch shouldn’t work, but I’m so happy it did. “Aloha.”

67. Lilo & Stitch

Lilo feeds Stitch

The Forgotten Princess

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is Disney’s first shot at animated science fiction. Like The Emperor’s New Groove, the forty-first animated outing was pitched during the Disney Renaissance. Except it was always intended to be a non-musical with more experimental risk taking. Becoming an action heavy science fantasy flick reminiscent of Jules Verne adventures. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is based on the general legend of the lost city of Atlantis theorized by Plato. The lost city is a staple of pop culture that’s traditionally depicted underwater. These Atlanteans are more like a tribe with ancient technology that emanates from blue crystals. They have dark skin, white hair, and a language created by famous linguist Marc Okrand. Atlantis was obviously a very ambitious project for Walt Disney studios. So its lackluster reception and average box office performance must have been a major blow.

I have comforting memories of seeing Atlantis in theaters when I was 6 years old. My brother and I had McDonald’s toys and watched it a fair amount of times. But like so many others, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the direction. Yet it’s the old fashioned pulp feel and Hellboy comic artist Mike Mignola animation style that gave it an identity all its own. Atlantis is an underrated Post-Renaissance traditionally animated feature that suffered the fate of being in computer animation’s shadow. Along with an ultra widescreen, Atlantis utilized more CGI then any other 2D film. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is all about bespectacled linguist Milo Thatch’s attempt to uncover Atlantis in 1914. When I say ambitious, I mean Atlantis mostly suffers from too much confusing exposition. It helps that Michael J. Fox is perfect for an unlikely hero like Milo. His proposal for an expedition is ignored and he’s instead sought out by a femme fatale named Helga. She works for eccentric millionaire Whitmore, who supplies him with a state of the art submarine.

Milo is joined by an underappreciated ensemble team. No songs means more character interactions. There’s nonchalant Italian demolitions expert Vinny, kindly black Doctor Sweet, tough young hispanic mechanic Audrey, southern cook Cookie, sarcastic radio operator Packer, and unusual French digger Mole. Don Novello improvised all his lines and this was sadly Jim Varney’s last role. James Garner appropriately voices the obvious Disney villain Roake. An all American commander who turns out to be a greedy mercenary. While on the expedition, they encounter a robotic Leviathan, literal fireflies, and eventually the Atlanteans. Kida is one of the most underrated Disney heroines ever created. Credit to voice actress Cree Summer for developing the beautiful curious strong-willed forgotten Princess. Leonard Nimoy is just as good as her father. Milo & Kida bond over their love of Atlantis, but they never kiss for some reason. Instead they fight off Roake’s forces and discover the truth behind Atlantis’ power. All the action more than warranted a PG rating. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a high concept accomplishment that deserves a second chance.

65. Atlantis The Lost Empire

Milo reads the Shepherd’s Journal to Kida