Is Brand’s ‘Arthur’ Better than Moore’s?

The 2011 remake of ‘Arthur’ is rather complex.  You can look at it in two distinct ways.  You can compare it to the original film, but you can also let it stand on its own and look at its’ individual merits.

So let’s start with a comparison to the 1981 ‘Arthur’, starring Dudley Moore as the title character.  The story follows the drunk and debauched Arthur as he tries to find his own way in life.  One thing that stands out dramatically is Dudley Moore’s ability to play a drunk.  As a viewer, you really believe he may topple over at any moment and his jokes are terrible.  Russell Brand’s Arthur seems to be more in control, even when drunk.

The remake involves some sex reversals of the characters.  In the 1981 ‘Arthur’, it was his father who forced Arthur into a marriage agreement and the glorious character of Hobson (John Gielgud) was a male butler.

The tentative marriage to Susan is a business proposition at best.  The original Susan, (Jill Eikenberry in 1981), was actually in love with Arthur and appeared more simpering and devoted.  Jennifer Garner’s Susan is a dramatic contrast, being more aggressive, even heartless.

The main complaint I hear – and feel – is that no one is capable of replacing John Gielgud as Hobson.  I do think Helen Mirren did an amazing job considering the shoes she had to fill.  However, I also feel she missed the mark slightly.  There was an underlying but affectionate sarcasm to Gielgud’s Hobson.  While Mirren was able to keep the affection, she came off more snide than sarcastic.

If we divorce the films, the 2011 ‘Arthur’ stands alone, a brilliant movie.  The cast works well together and there is an obvious delineation between the good guys and the bad guys.  Brand’s manic energy adds to Arthur’s character, but you can see that the jokes are a mask set in place to protect himself from reality.  Hobson is the stern but affectionate mother Arthur never had.

I have a feeling a lot of people may not agree with me on this.  But I think it is important to let go of the past and one’s expectations from previous films.  Enjoy the movie for what it is, on its own merits; on it’s own ability to make you laugh and also to examine your life.

Except – let’s not forget the unique charm offered by the original ‘Arthur’.

But to quote Russell Brand’s ‘Arthur’, “Don’t let that undermine what I just said.”

Review of Disney/Pixar’s ‘UP’

Under normal circumstances, I do not like to write a review that contains spoilers.  But knowing what to expect might heighten your experience of this film.

In Pixar’s tenth animated feature film in association with Disney, ‘UP’ starts out showing us a movie theatre news reel – for we are in the 1930’s.  This is where we meet the young Carl Fredricksen.  The newsreel highlights explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer).  On his way home, with his imagination full of adventure, he hears another adventure bound voice coming from an abandoned and boarded up house.  Carl goes in to discover, Ellie, who is just as passionate about adventure and their idol Muntz as he is.

I understand that disappointment and death is part of life as well as a theme for Disney animation.  From the death of Bambi’s mom to the comic misadventures of Donald Duck, a Disney flick is likely to be an emotional rollercoaster. The problem I have is that we spend the first 15 minutes of the film in classic slit-your-wrists Disney fashion. It seems that ‘UP’ takes an overzealous attitude and hits the viewer with an emotional mallet.  We watch as Carl and Ellie age, learn they can’t have children, become infirm and then Ellie dies with Carl never having fulfilled his promise to take her on an adventure to South America.  Carl is now alone.  Hardly seems like a movie for young children.

During this montage, though, we learn how much Carl and Ellie loved each other as well as Carl’s penchant for balloons – being a balloon salesman.  Now retired and with Big Business after his house, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) is forced to deal with the construction foreman voiced by John Ratzenberger, continuing his tradition of being the only actor to do a voice in every Pixar film.  Carl faces trouble after he assaults a construction worker for almost demolishing the mailbox Ellie had hand painted.  The law decides it is time for Carl to be placed in a retirement home.  But before they can collect him, he unleashes thousands of balloons fastened through the chimney and the house takes flight.  He is finally headed toward Paradise Falls in South America.

Good ol’ cartoon physics at work here.  Some masterful (or overly bored) person decided to do some calculations.  “If Carl’s house was approximately 1600 square feet, and the average house weights between 60-100 pounds per square foot, it weights 120,000 pounds.  If the average helium balloon can carry .009 pounds, it would take 12,658,392 balloons to lift his house off the ground.”  However, they do not go into how high off the ground the house would actually get – or adding the weights of the characters.

What Carl had not counted on, however, was a stowaway.  Russell, an overeager Wilderness Explorer desperate to get his last “Assisting The Elderly” badge in order to


advance to Senior rank, was on his porch when the house took flight.  Russell is Pixar’s first Asian-American character to be voiced by an Asian-American, newcomer Jordan Nagai.  Nagai got the part because he was a chatterbox like the character and wouldn’t shut up during auditions.  Even though Russell has amassed a large array of badges, he has never left the city and confesses he has never been able to camp outside.  It appears that the main reason he wants to become a Senior Wilderness Explorer is so that he may spend time with his absentee father after the “pinning” ceremony.  Again, we are assaulted with more negative emotional ties.

Dug the dog, Kevin the bird, Russell and Carl

So now with a crotchety old man and a young boy with a spirit that cannot be dampened, all we need is a talking dog to have a classic Disney Theme.  Fear not, we are indeed introduced to that talking dog (Dug) 40 minutes in.  Now, throw in a rare 13-foot tall flightless bird trying to get back to her babies without being captured or killed. . . that’s it, stop the car, I want to get out.

Despite all the negative aspects of life displayed, you do get to laugh.  Not often.  But it does happen.  I think the viewer can get more enjoyment out of ‘UP’ if they go into it knowing what to expect.  Sadly, I did not have this luxury.

So. . . . Cyrakitty says:

Can't bring myself to give it anything better than a C


Well, I am a huge fan of the M&M. Big chocolaty goodness in a little bite size wrapper. They do seem to be going a little crazy with the flavors. But, hey, you know what? I’m willing to overlook that if you can answer me one thing – why is it you always get one burnt peanut in a small bag of M&Ms? Are you serious? These little jewels are amazing. You know when you pick up the little bag that it is going to be booby trapped – but does that stop you? No! There you are munching merrily away when – WHAM! Dear God, what is that horrible taste??

Now, I seem quite content to get the burnt one at the beginning of my munchable journey. You see, then I know the rest of my bag is safe and will provide a most enjoyable experience. However, if it arrives at the end of the bag – well all bets are off. And if I am pissy one day all you need do is ask “M&Ms?” Does this make me odd?

No worries as to the answer to that question – I am already aware of the resounding “yes” even before you thought it.However, if you get a big bag you are likely to be safe. Are the M&M people telling those of us who buy little bags that we are being cheap somehow? (I can’t help it that the vending machine doesn’t offer massive quantities.) Or is it that you are less likely to eat the whole bag in one go and therefore are less likely to notice a burnt one? Or did you give it to a child who was looking for something sweet – or the co-worker with PMS? Who knows. But I believe there is a special line at the M&M factory just for burnt peanuts. And there is some poor guy sitting on the line and placing one in every small bag (then giving it a quick shake for good measure).
Now you know.

Lies: And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken

One of the most brutal and intellectual insights into the United States government and mindset up through about 2003. Al Franken has a remarkable talent of seeing, truthfully, what our psychotic government is up to. Using humor and insight, Mr. Franken dissects some of the biggest lies of the beginning of the Bush Humiliation Years (as I like to call them), including Weapons of Mass Destruction; how Mr. Bush and his cronies stole the election and divided the country amongst themselves; Bush’s deep ties to oil and Bin Ladden; and everything that comes out of Ann Coulter’s mouth.

Let us not forget how Mr. Bush managed to disintegrate our country in a matter of mere months. “When President Clinton left office America enjoyed tremendous respect and admiration around the world. . . . But as soon as he became president, Bush managed to spend Clinton’s surplus of international goodwill in astonishingly short order. He ditched Kyoto, the antiballistic treaty, the germ warfare protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the International Criminal Court, and the land mine treaty.” Not to mention attempting to privatize everything in the country. Mr. Bush has done nothing more than illegally squat in the White House, playing with tanks and pushing buttons like a retarded child. (My deepest apologies to anyone suffering from retardation for lack of a better analogy.) Mr. Bush was not elected to the office of President, and once there decided to tear down all progress that has been made by every leader since the 1920’s.

I would like to close with 2 quotes that I feel fit Bush and his regime. The first is from the movie “Inherit the Wind” about the 1925 trial of John Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution in school. I believe it fits his religious fanaticism as well as what he has done to the country. “Can’t you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!”

Finally, Julius Caesar. “Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.”

Just in case you need a few more reasons, visit 84 Reasons Why Bush Must Go.

The Water Horse

Filmed entirely in Scotland and New Zealand, the first thing one notices as an American is, “Damn, I live in a total shit hole!” (I live in Florida, BTW). The scenery and settings are stunning. Now, I have a friend who lives in Britain who has been known to say, “it’s not all like ‘The Vicar of Dibley‘, you know.” {Vicar of Dibley is a British comedy about a small village acquiring a woman vicar.} And I consent. I know there are some thoroughly modern areas, but the fact still remains that there was a place that looked like that for them to film! All we have here is some guy in a hardhat yelling, “Mind you head,” before he unleashes an avalanche of asphalt.

But I digress. Back to the movie. Based on Dick King-Smith’s book of the same title, the story is told in flashback (to WWII, April 1942). We follow a young boy, Angus MacMorrow, who happens to be terrified of water. (I feel his pain!) But walking on the shore one day collecting shells, he happens upon, unbeknownst to him, an egg. We follow Angus and Crusoe, the water horse, as Angus “raises an amazing creature and forms a bond of friendship” . All the while trying to protect Crusoe from discovery, and if the bad guys get their way, death. (This is me desperately trying not to give too much away.)

Now, from what I can tell, this water horse is a mixture of the “kelpie” and Nessie – the Loch Ness Monster – legends. The kelpie, which is actually known as the water horse, was a shape shifter. “It generally had grayish black fur, and would appear to be a lost pony, but can be identified by its constantly dripping mane.” The kelpie would lure people onto its back and then dive into the loch in order to drown the rider. Nice story for the kiddies, eh? However, if you were able to bridle the kelpie, it would be forced to do your bidding – until the bridle came off, then don’t stray too close to the shore! Visually, Crusoe looks like Nessie and the majority of the story leads you to believe it to be so. Aside from the sickeningly adorable CG on the newborn Crusoe, even the toughest viewer should be prepared to say, “Awwww,” numerous times. The personality and expressions given to the water horse are on the verge of shamefully cute. But one nice thing that we, as moviegoers, do not often get to enjoy in this age of special effects is the plot. Even though we are dealing with a beautiful CG mythical creature, its effects do not overshadow the story. However, one cannot help but be saddened by the observation put before us, that as humans, we seem wont to destroy anything that is unique.