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The Thing (1982)

I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.

— Clark

I’ve heard of John Carpenter’s The Thing in passing. This is currently the #163 movie of All Time on IMDb. I always mistake it for Swamp Thing for some reason. I wanted to go into the movie totally blind. Well, that’s not the whole truth. I read the plot summary of the movie. It intrigues me. Watching the movie, it freaked me to no end.

Taking place in the most desolate of places, Antarctica, a group of twelve men are stuck in a post. One day, the camp is invaded by a couple of Norwegian guys in a helicopter trying to shoot down a Siberian husky. When one of the Nordes starts rapid shooting at the dog and the team members, the leader of the group, Garry (Donald Moffat) shoots and kills the Norwegian. They take the dog inside the bunker.

The group begins to wonder what the hell was going on with the Norwegian shoots at a dog. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Copper (Richard Dysart) investigates the Norwegians camp to see what lead them to go batshit crazy. Going through charred remains, they discover a hollowed out block of ice that might have a specimen inside of it. The question is where is it now? They find some film reels and the charred remains of a body. They take it back to base camp.

Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) examines the body to determine that it was human but it was somehow fused together into a gigantic glob. At the same time, Clark (Richard Masur) has to put the husky into the cage with the rest of the huskies. The others start to snarl and bark. The rescue husky starts to transform into a giant spider/dog/human like creature that is siphoning the dogs as food.

Hearing the yelping, MacReady quickly torches the creature. Examining the creature Dr. Blair concludes that the creature has the ability to shift itself into anything the creature kills. If any part of the organism gets in contact with a human it takes over the body like a virus.

The team looks over the footage they salvaged from the Norwegian camp. They saw that the Norwegians discovered a spaceship that crash-landed in the ice for over 100,000 years. The alien pilot tries to get out but was buried in the ice.

The team becomes paranoid that the alien would take the form of any of team members and they start to turn on each other.

This was a great exercise in tension. When the paranoia sets in with Dr. Blair or with MacReady, nobody knows who is human or who was replaced by the alien. You think that when they kill the creature, they are done. No. The alien comes up with a vengeance. These ultimately realize that they might now make it out. They are in total isolation with help thousands of miles away.

Judgment: A horror movie that is not about the blood and gore. It has something to say.

Rating: ****

Coraline (2009)

You are NOT my mother.

— Coraline Jones

Coraline was on my radar to see since it was released in February of 2009. People were talking about how wonderful this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book was. It was my intention to see it, but never got around to it. When it was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, it was on the fast track of my viewing schedule. I’m glad that I saw it. I wish I saw it in 3D.

Director Henry Selick of The Nightmare before Christmas fame forgoes the staple of computer animation to the painstakingly slow process of stop motion animation. This movie is like a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland where a family moves from Michigan into the Pink Palace apartments, which is a Victorian house in the middle of nowhere.

A precocious little girl named Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is trying to fight for the attention of her parents, Mel and Charlie (Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman) who are too busy finishing up the work on a gardening catalogue. Coraline explores the surroundings and meets up with a peculiar kid named Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.) who may or may not be a stalker. There is also a feral cat (Keith David) that is following her as well.

Feeling bored, Coraline looks through the house finds a small door hidden behind a covering of wallpaper in the living room. She wants to know what is behind the door. When the door is opened by her mother, it is bricked up.

That night, Coraline is awakened by a jumping mouse that leads her to the very same door that opens up to a parallel universe where everything is the complete opposite. Her “other mother” cooks her favorite meals and the other father is very attentive and could play the piano. The trouble is that they have black buttons for eyes in this other world. She starts to warm up to this world.

She wakes up back to her normal life. She befriends the other inhabitants on the other apartments like the Russian circus performer, The Amazing Bobinsky (Ian McShane) who tells Coraline not to go into the little door again. His own jumping mice told him so. The old vaudeville duo, April and Miriam (Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French) have her over for tea. Reading her tea leaves, they also warn her that she is in great danger.

She ignores their incessant warnings and travels to the other world again, because she is so unhappy with her mundane existence. Her other mother makes a proposition for her. Since she loves this other life so much, she should stay. The catch is that sews has to sew the black buttons on her eyes. She is resistant about it, but the other mother is not happy with it and she becomes less than motherly.

It is so freaky that this movie was made in stop motion. It was a mice change of pace for the typical kid friendly movie. The story was not groundbreaking, but enjoyable nonetheless. It was a good time spent.

Judgment: It makes me wonder what Henry Selick will do next.

Rating: ***1/2

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

I was cursed by a dastardly witch doctor. One minute I’m a prince, charming and handsome, cutting the rug, and the next minute – woah!

— Prince Naveen

The Disney Company has gone back to their hand-drawn animation roots with the release of The Princess and the Frog. Deviating from the classic tale, “The Frog Prince”, the movie is set in 1930s New Orleans. This is billed as Disney’s first movie with an African American princess as the lead. The problem is that it’s not… really.

A young woman named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) works double shifts as a waitress to save enough money to open her own restaurant. It has been a life long dream for hers and her father, James (Terrence Howard) that died years earlier. Her aging mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) wants Tiana to focus on finding a man that could provide her with the life that she always dreamed.

As fate would have it, Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruce Campos) visits New Orleans to find a bride quickly. He has been cut off from his wealth, because of her womanizing, philandering ways. Accompanying the inconspicuous Prince Naveen on his journey is his manservant, Lawrence (Peter Bartlett).

When the duo steps off the ship, “The Shadow Man” Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo doctor that pretends to be a tarot reader, confronts them. He wants to isolate them to grant their greatest wishes, for Naveen it is wealth and fortune that he was stripped and for Lawrence it is a privileged life like Naveen’s. They both decide to have a deal with The Shadow Man where Naveen is turned into a frog.

Tiana’s friend from childhood, Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) commissions her to provide 500 beignets for her masquerade ball that night. With the money from her dad, “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman), Tiana has enough money to make a payment on a broken down warehouse. The problem is that another bidder made a bid on that property, and she needed the money by the next day or she will lose it.

Distraught about the situation, Tiana spills food on herself. Charlotte quickly whisked Tiana into her room to change. She is dressed as a princess when she wishes on the Northern Star for a solution to her situation. Prince Naveen as the frog shows up to convince Tiana to kiss him to turn him back into a human. She is reluctant at first, but she does kiss him. There has an adverse effect; she is turned into a frog.

The whole movie is an epic journey for Naveen and Tiana to go into the grand bayou to seek out the wisdom of old, blind voodoo queen, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis). Along the journey, a trumpeting playing alligator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and the broken down Cajun lightning bug Raymond (Jim Cummings) befriend Naveen and Tiana.

In the African American community, people are debating about the state of class in the movie. The privileged people in the movie were the whites and poor were the blacks. They don’t realize in that at the time, blacks people did not have the same opportunities that whites had. They had to work extra hard to catch up. Even though this is a fairy tale, it doesn’t have to be completely unrealistic in that aspect.

This was supposed to be a return to form for Disney, but I thought there was something about the climax of the movie that bothered me. I thought it was wrapped up too tightly at the end of the movie with all the characters collimating at the Mardi Gras parade at the same time. The love story between Naveen and Tiana felt a little rushed to me. I did not have room to breathe. Besides, that I thought that it was a fun time with the upbeat jazzy numbers the characters.

Judgment: A Disney movie that has a somewhat lackluster story.

Rating: ****

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