Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Top 10 Dream Sequences in movies

When we dream, it’s almost like watching a movie that’s only meant for one person to see. There’s just no limit or telling what kind of bizarre and creative imagery can come to one’s subconscious mind when they fall asleep. This gives filmmakers the chance to be very crafty when creating dream sequences in movies, they can be scary, artistic, beautiful or just plain odd and here are my personal top ten favorite movie dream sequences. Just a heads up, I’m not including movies that take place in a dream world, so don’t expect “Inception”, “Little Nemo” or any of the “Nightmare on Elmstreet” movies to be on this list. Also, I’m not including day dreams like the ones seen in “A Christmas Story” or “The Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, the character actually has to fall asleep in order to count as a dream. With all that said, here’s the list. 
#10 Dream Sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock was a visionary mastermind like no other, and who better to artistically show the mental deterioration of someones obsessed mind. After our lead character named Scottie looses the love of his life in an accident, he slowly loses his sanity and begins slipping in and out of his own consciousness, this results in a trippy dream with flashy effects, stylish direction, impressive animation and a hypnotic feel that literally puts you into a trans while watching.    

#9 Dream Sequence from “The Simpsons movie”

I’m convinced that “The Simpsons Movie” represents the best that the Simpsons ever had to offer, including a hilarious and all around insane dream scene. After Homer Simpson gets lost in the mountains, he stubbles across a voodoo lady who gives him a spicy beverage that sends him into this trippy hallucination where he's trapped within a maze of his own mind. With an artistic design directly inspired by Salvador Dali’s paintings, specifically “The Melting Stop Watch”, lots of funny jokes and an unbelievably cool Spider-Pig theme composed by Hans Zimmer, this dream sequence has it all.  

#8 Dream Sequence from “The Big Lebowski

Now here’s a dream sequence so awesome that it even gets its own title sequence. It’s almost like a serial music video from the 1980’s, with a rocking soundtrack, chicks in mini-skirts, elaborates sets, wild costumes and plenty of hummer. This is one up beat dream sequence that no amount of alcohol will ever make you forget.

#7 Dream Sequence from “An American Werewolf in London”

You’d think that a dream sequence in a horror film would go straight for scary imagery, but this flick decides to mix its horror elements with wildly over the top events that only your subconscious mind can dream up. This includes running in the woods with a pack of wolves, visits from the ghost of your decayed best friend, cameo’s from the Muppets and Werewolves dressed up like Nazi’s that invade a house, now that’s crazy. These dream scenes are darkly comedic, but shockingly frightening and a perfect fit for the list. 

#6 Dream Sequence from “All Dogs go to Heaven

This is a very controversial children’s movie, featuring themes and subjects that are very adult for kids. It also makes great use of one of the most frightening nightmare sequences ever seen on film. As our hero named Charlie cheats his own death, he’s told hell never be able to inter heaven, leading to one inevitable conclusion, he’s going to hell. There’s no subtlety in what kind of demonic imagery appears in this dream, fiery brimstone, violent monsters, scary faces, lakes of lava, it’s all really intense but awesome. It’s a chilling nightmare that’s shore to give your children nightmares.      

#5 Dream Sequence from “Peewee's Big Adventure”

Count on a visionary artist like Tim Burton to deliver a dream as wild and creepy as this. The bumbling Peewee Herman is out on a journey to find his stolen bike, in his sub counties he fears he’ll never see it again, leading into a crazy dream involving devils lowering his bike into a boiling caldron, a giant clay-motion T-Rex and a bunch of scary clowns dressed up like plastic surgeons. The overall set design of this dream is brilliant, with the background being pitch black and everything in the foreground being bright and colorful.

#4 Dream Sequence from “Brazil”

What’s cooler then a dream sequence in an artsy movie, how about several in one film. This is the story of a man who wants to be set free from the controlling government he’s stuck in, so during his down time he dreams about being free. Flying through the sky and rescuing the love of his life, however the all controlling society is dogging at his heals and interring his subconscious as well. Not only does this lead to some creative imagery, and incredible visual effects, there also very captivating and full of atmosphere. It actually gets to the point in which you begin to feel like your dreaming yourself.  There just fascinating to watch, and you get plenty of elaborate dreams in this film.  

#3 Dream Sequence from “The Prince of Egypt”

This is perhaps one of the most artistically brilliant dreams I’ve ever seen. After our lead hero named Moses dynes the truth of his heritage, he has a nightmare that shows in full detail, his real origin and a secret that had been kept from him his whole life. What’s truly brilliant about this scene is how it’s displayed through hieroglyphics and Egyptian style paintings. It’s all very artistic but it also has a strong atmosphere, chilling musical score, dramatic elements and some incredible visual effects, it truly is one of my favorite dream sequences I’ve seen in a motion picture.

#2 Dream Sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” 

With Alfred Hitchcock’s film-making talents and an art deco design by Salvador Dali, the 1945 motion picture “Spellbound” delivers one of the most elaborate and abstract dream sequences ever put into film. With lots of tilted angles, creepy eyes that are floating all around, a faceless man holding a bent wheel and scenery that’s strait out of any classic Salvador Dali painting, this is one twisted dream that’s wilder then anything Tim Burton could ever dream up.  


Before I reveal my number one pick, here are my Honorable Mentions

Dream Sequence's fromCat People” (1942)
Dream Sequence's from “The Fly” (1986)
Dream Sequence's from  “American Beauty” (1999) 
Dream Sequence's from “The Bear” (1988)
Dream Sequence's from “Rosemary's Baby” (2013)           
Deam Sequence's from “Joseph King of Dreams” (2000)

#1 Dream Sequence from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”      

This is perhaps the most disturbing dream sequence ever seen in a movie, it left such an impact on me that it had to make the number one spot. For those of you not familiar with the movie, Sara Connor is one of our lead characters and she’s learned that in a couple years, everything will fall victim to mass nuclear bombing. Having such knowledge has kept her in a state of fear and paranoia, she can’t even sleep without having a horrific nightmare about the upcoming tragedy. This whole scene is such a real and terrifying perspective of a civilization being nuked, with intense images, an ominous overtone and a glimpse of the innocents that get got in the blast. It leaves me with chills every time and it’s the most unforgettable dream sequence I’ve ever seen in a movie. 

                          Sweet dreams everyone! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003 - 2005) (TV Mini Series Review)

      The 2008 TV series titled “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is currently on its sixth and final season, making it the longest lasting animated Star Wars TV series so far. But before I talk about that show, let’s look back at the animated mini-series titled “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, which aired back in 2003 and ran till 2005. Unlike all the other animated Star Wars TV programs, this show was done in the style of a classic adventure serial like “Flash Gordon”, which means episodes had a run time of three minutes, and every episode picked up right where the last left off. Think of it like one long animated movie that was just broken up into 25 short chapters. I’m not a huge fan of this style, but it’s actually very appropriate because Star Wars was originally inspired by classic adventure serials like “Flash Gordon”. The show ran for two seasons and aired between the theatrical movies “Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars 3 Revenge of the Sith”. In fact, this series actual connects the two films by picking up right where “Attack of the Clones” ended and concludes right where “Revenge of the Sith” begins.

       Ever sense it’s release, this show has received critical acclaim, even more than any theatrical movie that aired alongside it. The fans loved it, critics loved it, and even IGN placed it at the #21 spot on their list of the 100 greatest animated TV shows of all time, which is no small accomplishment. So, considering that I’m a super huge Star Wars fan, you’re probably wondering what I think of this super successful series. Personally, I think it’s good, just good, I don’t think it’s nearly as great as it’s been built up to be, and I certainly don’t think it holds a candle to the 2008 TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, but it’s definitely good, and offers a lot of good things that are worth talking about. It’s a series that definitely needed to grow on me because I remember hating this when it first aired back in 2003. It just irritated me that I’d only get 3 minuet long episodes, followed by “To Be Continued”, then I’d have to wait for a day or even a week before I could see what happened next, plus I always missed critical chapters, so it got annoying really fast. Thankfully the show was released on DVD and all the episodes were edited together. It’s interesting that when edited together, this TV show has a run time of only 2 hours, which is shorter than any of its theatrical counter parts and obviously shorter than any other television series. 

      All the well known Star Wars prequel characters are present in this show, but the cast is entirely new, with the exception of Anthony Daniels who continues to do the voice work for C-3PO, although he doesn’t really say that much. Interestingly enough, the voice cast has become very recognizable and I’ve come to regard many of them as popular cast members in the Star Wars franchise. Admittedly, you hardly recognize a difference between them and the live action stars. This especially applies to both James Arnold Taylor, who is fantastic in the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Tom Kane, who’s very respectable in the role of Yoda. Other characters have their highlights, R2-D2 is still cute and Jedi master Mace Windu gets some terrific action scenes. The real surprise is that this shows portrayal of Padme Amidala is fantastic. This is a character that I’ve hated in other shows and even the movies, but for some reason I really like her in this show. The voice actress Grey DeLisle is terrific, I love how quick she is to think on her feet, I even like her scenes with Anakin, mostly because it’s conveyed through emotion and expressions as opposed to really bad dialogue like what we got in the movies.

        Unfortunately, I still can’t stand the shows lead hero Anakin Skywalker. Granted he’s not as bad as in the movies, and he even has some really cool moments as a selfless hero, but he’s still annoying, bland and I really don’t care for the voice actor. In this series Anakin is voiced by Mat Lucas and he ... wait a second, is his last name “Lucas”, like George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars franchise itself? Well, he actually isn’t related to George Lucas at all, but it’s still an amusing coincidence, and he’s actually become a respectable voice actor at Lucas Arts. I personally just don’t think he fits the role of Anakin Skywalker all that well, he just sounds too young, especially in comparison to Matt Lanter, who supplies the voice in the new series. Now while the character is still boring, the events surrounding him are really interesting. I love this one scene when he journeys into a cave and has a chilling vision of the future. This scene is just dripping with atmosphere, and the visuals are very fitting to represent what the character is internally going through. I also like this one dream sequence in which he sees himself as a little kid again and is visited by the spirit of his desist master Qui Gon Jinn.   

      Just like our hero’s, the show features many famous Star Wars villains, including the evil Emperor Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, who has a terrific design in this show. Count Dooku obviously makes a number of appearances throughout the series, but he never makes that big an impact. But it hardly matters because the star who completely steals everything is the sinister cybernetic General Grievous, who actually makes his very first appearance in this series, even before “Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith”. Personally, I think this is the best portrayal of General Grievous by far, he’s menacing, he’s powerful, he has a terrific design and there’s never a moment in which he comes off as silly or boring. Most people think of him when he’s voiced by Mathew Wood, who supplied the voice in both the movie and the 2008 TV series. But in this show he’s voiced by John DiMaggio, and he just adds this really chilling and intimidating voice to the character. 

      This show is also responsible for introducing most of the popular villains from the expanded clone wars universe, including the dark Jedi assassin called Asajj Ventress. This character became so popular that she was featured as the main antagonist in the theatrical animated “Star Wars The Clone Wars” movie, and become a recurring character in the new series. In this show, she’s tasked to assassinate Anakin Skywalker, which leads to an incredible light saber dual, which might just be one of the best duals in all of Star Wars. Aside from that, she doesn’t do that much else, her design is unique and her voice is awesome, but there really isn’t much else to say about her character. 

       Now every installment in the Clone Wars universe has its own trade mark bounty hunter character, “Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones” featured Jango Fett and the 2008 TV show “Star Wars The Clone Wars” featured Cad Bane. This series features a bounty hunter named Durge, who’s actually less of a bounty hunter, and more of a super soldier with an ability to regenerate after losing limbs, kind of like the T-1000 from “Terminator 2”. This character was kind of popular at the time, and was featured on a lot of Star Wars merchandise and action figures. The irony is that he isn’t even in the show for that long, he doesn’t even make it through the first half of season 1. He certainly looks cool and has some thrilling battles with Obi-Wan Kenobi, but once he falls, he’s just gone and he wasn’t even featured in the new series, what’s up with that?

       The animation in this show is something that I have mixed feelings about. This series was brought to life by the same people who did other Cartoon Network shows like “Samurai Jack” and I personally can’t stand their style of characters moving slowly or standing still for long periods. In fact, there’s hardly any talking throughout the series, whenever there’s a big battle scene, you just hear a lot of explosions and sound effects. Characters obviously aren’t developed much, but they do get a lot across with basic expressions, and even though I’m not a fan of this animation style, I do still love the quiet moments. I love it when it’s just pure silence because it really adds another layer of atmosphere to the experience. The animation itself is still very impressive to look at, I mean this was kind of a ground breaking mix of CGI and traditional hand drawn animation for the time.

      My only real problem with this series is that I never felt like I got to know the characters, in fact the story for season one is just a series of action scenes, with just a small thread of a plot. Anakin leads a fight in space, while Obi-Wan leads a ground assault, and lots of battles ensue, that’s basically the synopsis of season one. There are some little detours like Padme and Yoda rescuing two Jedi that were trapped on a snow planet, and Anakin being lured into a trap, but little else. Some fans may argue that this adds to the simplicity of the experience, which is fine, but I just prefer how the new series allowed the characters to just breath and occasionally get developed as actual characters.

      Now to be fair, Season 2 gave the characters in this show plenty of breathing time and we got more of a plot with character themes laced throughout. We see how over the course of three years Anakin goes on a journey from Padawan learner to Jedi Knight, which was great, and there are more moments when the characters just talk for a while. Anakin’s journey eventually leads him to a planet where all the male inhabitance of a village have be captured and brainwashed by evil doctors. This gives Anakin a fitting lone hero story that had more to offer then just a series of action scenes. Meanwhile, General Grievous launches a huge invasion and kidnaps the Chancellor, which leads into the opening of “Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith”. I have to admit, the show stops too quickly that it just comes off as annoying, like really, that’s it.

      Overall, “Star Wars: Clone Wars” is a welcome entry in the franchise, nowhere near as good as other Star Wars offerings, but certainly not bad. The action was exciting, the creators clearly had a lot of respect for its source material and there’s enough to make the experience worthwhile. If you’re a long time Star Wars fan, check it out, you’ll probably enjoy it. Just don’t let the shows positive reputation build up your expectations for something amazing, because it’s no land mark by any means, but it is good for what it is.

I give the animated mini-series “Star Wars: Clone Wars” 3 stars. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Top 10 favorite romantic songs in animated movies

Some Times romance is conveyed best through music, and animated movies always seem it hit them out of the park. For this list I’ll be counting down my personal favorite romantic songs from animated pictures, and I’ll only be looking at the songs themselves, not so much the lovers on screen, well, maybe with some exceptions.

#10 Accidentally in Love from “Shrek 2"

Here's a perfect odd romantic song for a perfect odd couple. The title sums their relation up perfectly, they did accidentally fall in love, and they couldn't be happier about it. It's also a really upbeat song, with a nice beat and the scene in the beginning of the movie offers more than enough visual hummer. It's the kind of romantic song you'd expect from an animated DreamWorks comedy, and personally I think it belongs amongst some of the best.

#9 Love Will Find a Way from "The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride"

      When it comes to "The Lion King", most people think of the song "Can you feel the Love tonight", which has gained the reputation as one of the greatest songs in the entire Disney collection. Well, that's certainly a good song, especially when sung by Elton John, however, it also felt out of place because the couple in that film was really tacked on, and personally I actually prefer the song titled "Love Will Find a Way" from the admittedly inferior but also underrated sequel. While the actual lovers in the movie were nothing that special, this song was at least in place because the movie was all about their relationship. Also, it’s just a really nice song, with a majestic score and sweet lyrics.     

#8 Kiss the Girl from "The Little Mermaid"

      Now here’s a classic Disney song that definitely earns a spot on my list. Shortly after this movie’s release it even got an Oscar nod for best original song of the year, ironically it lost the award to “Under the Sea”, so either way “The Little Mermaid” still brought home the gold. It’s interesting to note that unlike all the other Disney princess movies, the couple aren’t singing this song together, instead it’s the supporting characters that get all the credit, which is kind of refreshing. The song itself is slow and romantic, but it also carries a surprisingly upbeat tone that really livens it up. The setting is perfect, the pacing is great and the buildup is just perfect. Combine that with Allen Matkins catchy lyrics and you got yourself a classic Disney song that ranks among some of my favorite romantic songs from an animated movie.   

#7 A Whole New World from "Aladdin"

      Oh, don’t even act surprised that I included this song, you all knew it was coming. This Oscar winning song is so famous, I don’t even know what I need to say about it. Upon its release, it actually beat out Whitney Huston’s “I will always Love You”, out of the Billboards top 100 spot, and to this day, it’s still a gem. While the song is romantic enough on its own, it's the presentation with our two lovers flying trough the clods and across the sky that really makes it feel all the more magical. On a side note, I just love all the different locations in this scene, from Arabia, to Grease, to Egypt, to China, they certainly cover a lot of places in one night. Sweepingly romantic and unforgettable, “A Whole New World” has earned its status as one of Disney’s greatest songs.  

#6 Far Longer then Forever from "The Swan Princess"

      While I freely admit that the couple in this film is about a generic as animated couples get, their duet song titled “Far Longer than Forever” is still a gem from my childhood and takes a different approach than most other lover songs. This princess and prince are actually separated from each other, but their feelings for one another are still just as strong, even across thousands of miles. That’s such a unique way to have a musical duet like this and it only adds more flavor to the song. If this movie had been released under the Disney banner, this song would be put amongst some of their best musical numbers. The melody is great, the visual style is captivating, and it’s so simple, yet so uplifting that it conveys the exact same feel that most of Disney’s popular hits convey.

#5 For the Dancing and the Dreaming from "How to Train Your Dragon 2"

      This is perhaps the most unique romantic song number on my countdown, it’s much shorter and isn't exactly what a popular artist would put on a record, but it’s still just as touching and uplifting as anything else I’ve mentioned. This is also very special because unlike most romantic songs that always feature two good looking young adults, this one features two middle aged parents that have been reunited after several years. The peace starts nice and soft as the husband tries desperately to reconnect with his wife, and as she opens up to him again, the song really begins to liven up. The real high note that completes this scene is their sons reaction as he just takes in this moment as it’s the first time in his life he ever saw his mother and father together. It’s cheerful, with some subtle comedy thrown in, and packed with lots of genuine human emotion, which is more than enough to make this little song one of the best feel good moments I’ve experienced in an animated motion picture.   

#4 I See the Light from “Tangled

      Here’s another great example of a romantic musical number in an animated movie that just hits all the right notes. It’s visually one of the most spectacular musical numbers I’ve ever seen, with all the lanterns floating through the sky, the reflections in the lake, the warm colors, it’s all very original, innovative and breath taking. Even without the location, it’s still a really sweet song, establishing how someone's lifelong dream came true and now a new one takes its place. I also like how the couple sings individually and through voice over at first, then gradually they begin to sing out loud together. It’s colorful, it’s unforgettable and one of the best romantic songs to come from Disney in years.  

#3 At the Beginning from "Anastasia"

     This song is every bit as sweet and wholesome as any of the previous songs listed, and it’s positively dripping with a cheerful tone and melody that never lets down. However, unlike the previous songs which were all about the beauty of the moment, this one is all about looking back at when the romantic journey started, what highlighted the experience, and where it all lead to in the end. It’s positively laced with nostalgia, and in a rare case, it’s not sung by the couple, it’s actually played over a clip montage during the end credits, which makes this a unique entry on the countdown, but a very special one all the same.        

#2 If I never Knew You from "Pocahontas"

      This song is making its way in popularity but it still isn’t a house hold title like “A Whole new World”. Shame, because I think this is one of the better romantic songs to come from Disney. The melody is beautiful and it’s such a great song about what life would be like without someone you loved. The actual scene with Pocahontas and John Smith singing this was deleted from the theatrical release, but the 10th anniversary DVD addition thankfully put it back in the film. Pocahontas and John Smith were never one of my favorite Disney couples, but this song is still a personal favorite, it’s subtle and touching. Plus the final version performed by Jon Secada & Shanice is fantastic. I really hope more people discover this because it really is one of Disney’s best romantic songs.

Before I revial my #1 pick, here are some Honorable Mentions ...

Love Always Comes as a Surprise from "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"
Love is an Open Door from "Frozen"
Ma Belle Evangeline from "The Princess and the Frog"
Looking for Romance (I Bring You a Song) from "Bambi"
Bella Notte from "Lady and the Tramp"
Jack and Sally duet from "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

#1 Beauty and the Beast (song) from "Beauty and the Beast"

      This is hands down the definitive romantic song, and easily one of the greatest songs to come from Disney. It has such a simple melody combined with a beautiful theme, and matched to an unforgettable scene with the two lead characters dancing in a ballroom. I can’t think of another musical number as touching, or as enduring as this one, and even to this day, it still warms me up inside. Belle and Beast always seemed to represent the greatest couple to ever be featured in a Disney movie, and it only figures that they’d get a timeless song to go with them. There’s also several other great renditions of this song, including the recent version performed by Jordon Sparks and I especially love the duet version performed by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. Whatever version you listen to, it’s still a timeless gem and the greatest romantic song to ever be featured in an animated movie. 

            The End