Saturday, December 02, 2006

An import from Japan, some holiday gift suggestions and a new animated release are featured in this week’s DVD column.

Over the Hedge

From 1992 to 1998 I edited and co-published two nationally distributed magazines on animation. The medium is one which I’ve loved all of my life, but recent years I’ve had to forced myself to watch the new crop of animated

Why? So many of them are terribly formulaic: “funny” animals with the voices of television and movie stars in a story in which there are songs, sentiment and some lame underdog winning story.

I didn’t have high hopes for “Over the Hedge,” although my brother-in-law Rich extolled its virtues to me. When a copy found its way into my mailbox, I watched it and was pleasantly surprised.

The computer animated film concerns a group of woodland animals that awaken from their winter snooze only to find there is now a tall hedge that divides their territory. On the other side of the hedge is a new sub-division – a puzzling development to the animals until a fast-talking raccoon arrives. RJ the raccoon (Bruce Willis) explains to them the humans who have moved in can provide more food that the now-gone forest ever did.

Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling), the nominal leader of the group, is a skeptic, but successful excursions to the garbage cans of the new suburban homes soon convinces the other animals of RJ’s claims.

There is an ulterior motive to RJ’s tutelage, though: he must collect certain human food items he stole from Vincent, a bear who has developed an obsession with potato chips.

There is a lot of solid slapstick in the film, especially after Dwayne the exterminator is introduced, and a great conclusion featuring the hyperactive squirrel Hammy.

The film also scores points that it is not a musical.

My only beef is the use of celebrity voices, a persistent trend in the industry. Although this film is not as bad as most in which the television and movie stars are cast for their own voices, I know there are many talented voice actors working in the industry you would have done better than Wanda Sykes as the skunk, Shandling as Verne and Willis as RJ.

All in all, “Over the Hedge” is a fun film worth seeing again.

Beavis and Butthead: The Mike Judge Collection
Get Smart: The Complete Series

As I recently wrote, I received a preview disc for the “Get Smart: the Complete Series” and was quite excited about the approach the producers had taken in not only presenting the series itself, but in the extras.

When the final edition of the set came to me I was impressed. There are many extras including a “Get Smart” reunion, footage of the late Don Adams’ 75th birthday party and a feature on Barbara Feldon.

Although nostalgia might be speaking, I still find this spy spoof enjoyable.

I also still laugh out loud at the antics of Beavis and Butthead that are featured in “The Mike Judge Collection.” What Paramount Home Entertainment has done is to gather the three previously released volumes of Beavis and Butthead and the feature film “Beavis and Butthead Do America” in a nifty boxed set.

Still among the strongest aspects of the B&B shows were the sequences in which Judge (who supplied the voices of both characters) hilariously ripped apart pretentious music videos that were staples on MTV.

Although the trend started with the VCR, the technical abilities of DVDs allow people to program their own video entertainment in ways that weren’t possible until just a few years ago. Sets such as this two allow people to junk what is on broadcast and cable television to create their own evenings of entertainment.

The Great Yokai War

Anyone who is a fan of either the “Harry Potter” or “The Lord of the Rings” films should see this import from Japan. It is a great addition to the epic fantasy adventure genre – only it’s only 124 minutes!

Ten year-old Tadashi (Hiroyuki Miyasako) doesn’t have a very good life. His parents are divorced and he is living with his mother and grandfather in a small fishing village. A puny kid, Tadashi is bothered by bullies, but his life takes a strange turn when he is chosen to be the “Kirin Rider” during an annual village festival.

Tadashi might think being the Kirin Rider amounts to receiving a special towel and a box of beans. He doesn’t know the Kirin Rider is someone who will fight for good, and what he doesn’t realize is that he will be needed. There is an evil spirit, Yomotsumno, who is capturing the yokai – the eternal Japanese spirits of the natural world – and turning them into
mechanical monsters to destroy humanity.

Tadashi must find the courage within himself to fight Yomotsumno and his creations and save the world.

Director Takashi Miike keeps the story and the action moving at a fast clip. Mixing more traditional special effects and makeup with computer generated imagery; the film is a visual treat.

Don’t let the language barrier keep you away – there is both an English soundtrack and subtitles. This is a great film for any fantasy or adventure fans.

©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs.

1 comment:

Kip W said...

Wait, does that mean the Beavis & Butt-head collections have the music videos intact? If so, I might have to look into them. Not that my list isn't already long, but there's always room on it for stuff I can't afford.