Tag Archives: Dreamworks

Turbo (2013)

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I must preface this review by saying that I had decided this film was going to be awful before I ever saw it, based on the trailers alone. While watching, however, I did my very best to remain objective and to base my opinion of the film entirely on the film itself rather than on my preconceived notions. Of course, this is impossible unless the film had strongly convinced me to think contrarily to my initial thoughts, which it didn’t. So here’s my review of Turbo.

The trailers for this film told this story: a snail (Ryan Reynolds) dreams of being fast, but, alas, he’s a snail, which means he’s slow. However, upon accidentally getting sucked into a car engine in the middle of a street race, the snail swallows some nitrous oxide, causing his DNA to alter, making him super fast. What better to do with his newfound speed than to enter the Indianapolis 500?

Rest assured, everyone…the film tells that exact same story promised by the trailers, albeit with a few added characters along the way. Once he becomes fast, the snail (named Theo before adopting the name “Turbo”) is captured along with his brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti), by half of a taco shop-owning brother duo, Tito, voiced by Michael Peña, who takes the two of them to participate in what appears to be a serious underground snail race with snails owned by other local down-on-their-luck shop owners. When Theo surprises all with his super-speed, Tito thinks up the idea to bring in business by introducing the world to his snail via the Indy 500.

The characters are uninspired, including and especially Turbo as the lead character. I didn’t care that he wanted to be fast, and I didn’t care when he became fast and (spoiler alert) wins the Indy 500. I didn’t care that his brother thought he was crazy to go race in the Indy 500 because, hey, I agreed with him. If I strapped rockets to a pair of roller blades, would that qualify me to race in the Indy 500 as well? The script doesn’t convince me that this is an absolutely necessary path to take for either Turbo to fulfill his dream or for Tito and his brother/friends to bring customers to their businesses. Speaking of Tito, his personality is so obnoxious that I didn’t care whether he succeeded in helping his brother realize his dream either. Character building is kept to a minimum, with the turnarounds of both Tito’s brother Angelo (Luis Guzmán) and Turbo’s brother Chet feeling incredibly uninspired. None of the voice acting talent stands out either, with voices from Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dawg/Lion, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, and others all falling short.

Probably my biggest problems with this film are the inconsistencies and moments of outstanding ridiculousness. For starters, the beginning of the movie features a scene of Theo (not yet fast) pushing a TV off a shelf, but when he’s “trapped” under a plastic cup later on he is powerless to do anything. The idea of a sort of tomato harvesting factory run by snails existing in a residential tomato garden, complete with tomato-rolling rails, is ludicrous. The biggest inconsistency for me is the whole issue of “speed.” Let’s do the math here: one scene prominently featured in the trailers shows Theo traveling about one foot (twelve inches) in seventeen minutes (“a new record!”). The accident where he gains his speed takes place over a highway. Even if this highway is only 1/10 of a mile away (528 feet), that would be approximately 150 hours of travel time at the “record” speed, but it takes place over a single night. That issue aside, here’s another: I’ll accept the fact that NOS gives Theo super speed, but why oh why does it give him characteristics of a car too? Headlights, a stereo system, etc. It makes no sense to me.

All in all, the best I can say about this film is that I didn’t hate it and the worst I can say is that it’s flat-out stupid. I have to admit that the ending did have my smiling a little bit, but the overall film just isn’t worth smiling at. The awful premise and the logical inconsistencies/stupid character decisions combine to make this Dreamworks title one of the company’s worst. “But it’s a kid’s movie!” I hear someone shouting at me over the Internet. “So are the Pixar films!” I say in return.

-Chad

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for some mild action and thematic elements


Rise of the Guardians (2012)

I first read the plot summary of Rise of the Guardians somewhere in the beginning months of 2012, and I thought that it was one of the most ridiculous plot summaries that I had ever read. However, that all changed when I saw the trailer for the first time a few months later; the animation was beautiful and the idea of putting twists on all of these supernatural beings that we grew up believing in seemed like a lot of fun, and I suddenly became extremely excited to see this movie. Unfortunately, when I was finally able to see the film a couple of days before Christmas, I was highly disappointed.

The failure of the film isn’t in its re-imagining of beloved childhood heroes, which I thought was done rather well (Alec Baldwin’s Russian-inspired Santa Claus was particularly amusing), but rather in its inability to tell the story implied by its title. Instead of being treated to a story of how the Guardians – Santa, Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Tooth Fairy – came into existence, or at least how they joined together to protect the children of the world, we’re introduced to Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, who can’t be seen by people because they don’t believe in him. Throughout the movie, Jack is searching for his past, which he can’t remember, and it’s his search for answers that becomes the focus of the film. The actual Guardians take a backseat to this quest, and it often seems forced, especially in the film’s relatively short run time of an hour and a half.

Regrettably, even if you take Jack Frost out of the picture and focus solely on the Guardians and on the antagonist, Pitch (i.e. The Boogeyman), there are plenty of problems. The Guardians rely on children believing in them to fuel their powers, so when Pitch interferes with the Guardians’ duties and causes children to stop believing in them, they start to lose their power. This is all fine and dandy and makes sense, but the problem I have is that the film implies that disbelief in one Guardian results in disbelief in the others…which doesn’t even make sense. For example, Pitch prevents the Tooth Fairy from collecting teeth and leaving coins, so the children not only stop believing in the Tooth Fairy (as if every child in the world was waiting for their teeth to be taken anyway), but also in the other Guardians. Personally, I don’t think that disbelief in the Tooth Fairy or in the Sandman would affect my belief in a being like Santa, who plays such a huge part in our popular culture. Aside from that problem, which particularly bothered me, Santa’s helpers, which comprise of elves and yetis, seem to be just cheap imitations of the Minions from Universal’s Despicable Me.

I had high hopes for this film, perhaps too high, which made my disappointment all the more upsetting. The film boasts an all-star cast, wonderful animation, and a beautiful score by composer Alexandre Desplat, but none of that is enough to save itself from a plot that is far less inspired than what was promised by both the trailers and the title. I wish that things had turned out differently, but, as much as it pains me to say it, Rise of the Guardians failed to captivate me like I had hoped, but, to a less critical person, it may be decent enough to entertain.

-Chad

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for thematic elements and some mildly scary action

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, here!


Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) – Hans Zimmer & John Powell

Continuing with Zimmer Week, I’m following up yesterday’s review of the Hans Zimmer/John Powell collaboration Kung Fu Panda with the sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2. As you’ll probably recall, I wasn’t too fond of how often material was repeated throughout the entire score; the main theme was hugely overused. However, that problem is (mostly) gone with the score to Kung Fu Panda 2.

The highly entertaining ( albeit obnoxiously exhausted) main theme from the first film, “Hero”, makes a return in the sequel, though it’s not nearly as…er…present as it was in the original. Thank goodness for that! When it does appear, it’s different every time – something that the first film’s score can’t boast.

Lots of different styles make appearances on this album. You have the obvious Chinese influence from the setting of the film, but there’s also a style that I’d like to refer to as “70s cop show retro-funk”…and that’s the technical term. Listen to this section of the track “Gongmen Jail” and then come back. I’ll wait…you back? Is “70s cop show retro-funk” not the perfect description for that bit of music?! Yeah, I thought so too. By the way, if you see that term elsewhere, you can tell people that you saw where it first originated!

There are occasional moments when Zimmer and Powell take us back to the stereotypical music heard in classic old kung fu films. One such moment is found in the opening seconds of “Po and Shen / Face to Face”; that opening solo just seems to ooze kung fu nostalgia, at least in my opinion.

Lots of this score is simply lots of fun, and it’s always different…again, a very good thing. These fun tracks include (but are not limited to) “Stealth Mode”, “Rickshaw Chase”, and “Zen Ball Master”. There’s even an incredibly well-done remix titled “Dumpling Warrior Remix” that’s worth having a listen.

Unlike its predecessor, this film, and, likewise, its soundtrack, is full of serious moments that are reflected powerfully in the music. The opening track, “Ancient China / Story of Shen”, alternates between tension/aggression and bits of tragedy, while the later track “Po Finds the Truth” could just about break your heart before transitioning into a hugely orchestrated version of the beautiful theme from the first film (not the fun one; listen to “Oogway Ascends”).

Overall, Hans Zimmer & John Powell’s score to Kung Fu Panda 2 is an improvement in every imaginable way over the score to the previous film. There’s more variation throughout, which is like a bit of cool mint after the stale taste of the overused theme in Kung Fu Panda. Thank you, Mr. Zimmer and Mr. Powell, for stepping up your games and providing us with something that not only works well with the film but is also capable of being its own entity.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Ancient China / Story of Shen” 2:43
2. “Dumpling Warrior” 1:19
3. “Inner Peace” 2:25
4. “Musicians Village” 1:19
5. “Save Kung Fu” 3:41
6. “Daddy Issues” 4:22
7. “Stealth Mode” 4:04
8. “Gongmen Jail” 2:40
9. “Rickshaw Chase” 2:36
10. “Po and Shen / Face to Face” 5:58
11. “More Cannons!” 2:59
12. “Fireworks Factory” 6:48
13. “Po Finds the Truth” 5:03
14. “Invasion Begins” 2:37
15. “Zen Ball Master” 7:21
16. “My Fist Hungers for Justice” 4:54
17. “Dumpling Warrior Remix” 3:30

Total Length: app. 65 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Remember: “70s cop show retro-funk”. It’s a thing. And it started here!


Kung Fu Panda (2008) – Hans Zimmer & John Powell

After reviewing Hans Zimmer’s score to Inception yesterday, and with the upcoming release of The Dark Knight Rises next week, also scored by Zimmer, I’ve decided to make this next week Zimmer Week! Every day will feature a soundtrack review for a score composed or co-composed by Mr. Zimmer. Second up on this list is the Hans Zimmer and John Powell collaboration, Kung Fu Panda.

The album has a promising start with the incredibly fun track “Hero”, which opens with a beautiful solo from a pan flute-like instrument before being interrupted by a brass fanfare that rolls into a rock-and-roll-influenced beat, showcasing the main theme that is heard throughout the entire album. I know I’ve said that before, about a theme being heard throughout, but I really mean it this time; there are maybe only one or two tracks in the entire album that don’t feature something you didn’t hear in “Hero”. In fact, this whole album could be summed up with this opening track, and it gets pretty obnoxious.

Don’t get me wrong – there are still a few great moments every once in a while, such as in the track “Oogway Ascends”, but even that track is just a rehash of the opening solo in “Hero”. Very few of these tracks present something we haven’t already heard, and some even appear to have entire duplicate sections. Listen to the “Hero” starting at about 1:55 and compare it to the opening bits of both “Impersonating Shifu” and “Panda Po”…sound familiar? That’s because they’re nearly identical.

I could go on and on about this soundtrack, but the fact of the matter is, aside from a few individual tracks, this isn’t an album that stands well on its own because of how repetitive it is. In the context of the film, though, Kung Fu Panda‘s score works magnificently well. So here’s what I recommend: watch the movie and enjoy the music simultaneously with the plot, the characters, and the visuals. Wrapped together in one big package, Kung Fu Panda is one of Dreamworks Animations’ best productions. Buy the Zimmer/Powell score if you’re a collector, but don’t expect a lot of variety. (However, the closing track, a Cee-Lo Green/Jack Black cover of the Carl Douglas classic “Kung Fu Fighting”, is quite enjoyable, so check that out!)

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

1. “Hero” 4:42
2. “Let The Tournament Begin” 1:59
3. “The Dragon Warrior Is Among Us” 2:57
4. “Tai Lung Escapes” 7:06
5. “Peach Tree Of Wisdom” 1:53
6. “Accu-flashback” 4:05
7. “Impersonating Shifu” 2:18
8. “The Sacred Pool Of Tears” 9:51
9. “Training Po” 1:28
10. “The Bridge” 3:23
11. “Shifu Faces Tai Lung” 4:47
12. “The Dragon Scroll” 2:31
13. “Po vs. Tai Lung” 2:41
14. “Dragon Warrior Rises” 3:22
15. “Panda Po” 2:39
16. “Oogway Ascends” 2:04
17. “Kung Fu Fighting” (Performed by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black) 2:30

Total Length – app. 61 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad