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Copyright © 2004 - 2006 Eclectic Homeschool Association
- Incredibles, The (Widescreen 2-Disc Collector's Edition)
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After creating the last great traditionally animated film of the 20th century, The Iron Giant, filmmaker Brad Bird joined top-drawer studio Pixar to create this exciting, completely entertaining computer-animated film. Bird gives us a family of "supers," a brood of five with special powers desperately trying to fit in with the 9-to-5 suburban lifestyle. Of course, in a more innocent world, Bob and Helen Parr were superheroes, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. But blasted lawsuits and public disapproval forced them and other supers to go incognito, making it even tougher for their school-age kids, the shy Violet and the aptly named Dash. When a stranger named Mirage (voiced by Elizabeth Pena) secretly recruits Bob for a potential mission, the old glory days spin in his head, even if his body is a bit too plump for his old super suit.
Bird has his cake and eats it, too. He and the Pixar wizards send up superhero and James Bond movies while delivering a thrilling, supercool action movie that rivals Spider-Man 2 for 2004's best onscreen thrills. While it's just as funny as the previous Pixar films, The Incredibles has a far wider-ranging emotional palette (it's Pixar's first PG film). Bird takes several jabs, including some juicy commentary on domestic life ("It's not graduation, he's moving from the fourth to fifth grade!").
The animated Parrs look and act a bit like the actors portraying them, Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter. Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Lee also have a grand old time as, respectively, superhero Frozone and bad guy Syndrome. Nearly stealing the show is Bird himself, voicing the eccentric designer of superhero outfits ("No capes!"), Edna Mode.
Nominated for four Oscars, The Incredibles won for Best Animated Film and, in an unprecedented win for non-live-action films, Sound Editing.
The most-repeated segments will be the two animated shorts. Newly created for this DVD is the hilarious "Jack-Jack Attack," filling the gap in the film during which the Parr baby is left with the talkative babysitter, Kari. "Boundin'," which played in front of the film theatrically, was created by Pixar character designer Bud Luckey. This easygoing take on a dancing sheep gets better with multiple viewings (be sure to watch the featurette on the short). --Doug Thomas
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (Full Screen Edition)
If you spliced Charles Addams, Dr. Seuss, Charles Dickens, Edward Gorey, and Roald Dahl into a Tim Burtonesque landscape, you'd surely come up with something like Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Many critics (in mostly mixed reviews) wondered why Burton didn't direct this comically morbid adaptation of the first three books in the popular series by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. "Lemony Snicket," played here by Jude Law and seen only in silhouette) instead of TV and Casper veteran Brad Silberling, but there's still plenty to recommend the playfully bleak scenario, in which three resourceful orphans thwart their wicked, maliciously greedy relative Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who subjects them to... well, a series of unfortunate events. Along the way they encounter a herpetologist uncle (Billy Connolly), an anxious aunt (Meryl Streep) who's afraid of everything, and a variety of fantastical hazards and mysterious clues, some of which remain unresolved. Given endless wonders of art direction, costume design, and cinematography, Silberling's direction is surprisingly uninspired (in other words, the books are better), but when you add a throwaway cameo by Dustin Hoffman, Law's amusing narration, and Carrey's over-the-top antics, the first Lemony movie suggests a promising franchise in the making. --Jeff Shannon
- National Treasure (Widescreen Edition) (2004)
Like a Hardy Boys mystery on steroids, National Treasure offers popcorn thrills and enough boyish charm to overcome its rampant silliness. Although it was roundly criticized as a poor man's rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Da Vinci Code, it's entertaining on its own ludicrous terms, and Nicolas Cage proves once again that one actor's infectious enthusiasm can compensate for a multitude of movie sins. The contrived plot involves Cage's present-day quest for the ancient treasure of the Knights Templar, kept secret through the ages by Freemasons past and present. Finding the treasure requires the theft of the Declaration of Independence (there are crucial treasure clues on the back, of course!), so you can add "caper comedy" to this Jerry Bruckheimer production's multi-genre appeal. Nobody will ever accuse director Jon Turtletaub of artistic ambition, but you've got to admit he serves up an enjoyable dose of PG-rated entertainment, full of musty clues, skeletons, deep tunnels, and harmless adventure in the old-school tradition. It's a load of hokum, but it's fun hokum, and that makes all the difference. --Jeff Shannon
- SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (Widescreen Edition) (2004)
How many movies offer the rare spectacle of a parasailing pink starfish flying over a crowd with a congratulatory pennant clenched between his buttcheeks? And that's only the tip of the iceberg--The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a freewheeling goof of a cartoon, full of surreal twists as its diminutive heroes head down a dangerous road to rescue the lost crown of King Neptune. SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny), an arrested adolescent in the mold of Pee-wee Herman, works at a fast-food restaurant that serves something called Krabby Patties (as the restaurant owner is himself a crab, it's not clear what exactly they're made of). His best friend Patrick Starfish (Bill Fagerbakke) lives under a rock and has an IQ in the lower digits. Still, their friendship carries them through many a tight spot as they strive for manliness. Anyone seeking a coherent world will be disappointed; in this undersea adventure, things catch on fire or seem to be surrounded by air whenever it's convenient for a gag. The jokes are often more silly than actually funny, but there's an undeniably energetic joviality to the proceedings. Featuring the voices of Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Tambor, Alec Baldwin, and a fully fleshed appearance by David Hasselhoff.--Bret Fetzer