21 June 2013

#2LR Kicking it Retro - with Lupin III, The Castle of Cagliostro

This is going to be one of the most characteristic of the #2LR Too Late Review posts.  The Castle of Cagliostro was Hayao Miyazaki's first directorial job.  It was released almost thirty-five years ago, and features a character that has been featured in multiple movies and television shows.

The character, Lupin III, is a cat burglar on the screen, sort of an anti-James Bond.  It's also a character that is a thief in its own right, using the name of Arsene Lupin, a copyrighted character from a French series of novels.  As a result, the character is known in Japan where the copyright laws weren't tightened (at the time), but is pretty much not known at all in the U.S.

On top of that, if you were to want to purchase this movie, you're looking at either a bootleg (poetic justice!) or somewhere between $40 and $60 dollars.  So, to sum up... really old movie, barely-known character, AND difficult to find and watch.

That's just what Too Late Reviews was built for.  Spoiler Space begins here.

Lupin III has just completed a heist in Monaco with his partner in crime, Jigen.  As he's driving off, he realizes that the money is purely counterfeit, albeit extremely good counterfeit.  Lupin and Jigen drive through the European countryside until they happen across a girl driving a 2CV trying to escape a car full of thugs.  After attempting to help (yet failing), Lupin and Jigen decide to follow after the girl, entering the tiny European nation of Cagliostro.

Lupin gets the backstory of who the girl is (a princess) and why she was wearing a wedding dress (she's to be married to the count) as well as the country's story (their rulers perished in a palace fire seven years ago). He also realizes that this is the place that the counterfeit money is coming from, having tried to breach the walls of the "new palace" ten years ago and failing.  The evil Count wants to marry the Princess in order to consolidate his power.  The count also is searching for a treasure that is rumored to be connected to a pair of rings, one each held by the Count and by the Princess.  The Count is not happy that Lupin is in town, so he sends a bunch of minions after Lupin and Jigen.  Both crooks manage to escape the assault and take up temporary quarters in the ravaged abandoned palace.  In the meantime, Lupin calls for another partner in crime, the Japanese samurai Goemon, and also his nemesis, Inspector Zenigata of Tokyo Police / Interpol.

Lupin manages to infiltrate the new palace through the water system as Zenigata makes a ruckus trying to enlist the Count's aid in capturing Lupin.  Lupin then uses an unwitting Zenigata as a ruse to enter the palace.  Afterward, Lupin finds the princess (Clarissse), but is flushed down a rather long trapdoor, failing to die at the bottom but finding a captured Zenigata.  The count sends assassins in to kill off Lupin and Zenigata, but both manage to get the drop on the assassins and use them to escape their imprisonment.

Lupin and Zenigata conclude a truce and find the counterfeiting machinery in the basement of the castle, just past their spot of imprisonment.  All of the world's currencies are printed from this tiny country, counterfeit, which Zenigata considers a far greater issue than capturing Lupin.  As both men escape, they capture an autogyro to try to free Clarisse, but the Count's men manage to catch them just in the nick of time; Lupin, Zenigata, and Lupin's sometimes associate Fujiko Mine all escape, but Clarisse is left behind.

Lupin is rescued by Goemon and Jigen, and goes into the final backstory, telling about his history of trying to storm the castle when he had more enthusiam than sense.  The three of them manage to hatch a plan to get back inside the Count's castle.  In the meantime, Zenigata brings the counterfeiting to the attention of the United Nations, but all of the nations agree to sweep the issue under the rug because... huh, that was a weird reason, but because all of them are up to their eyeballs in counterfeiting and for some reason exposing what Cagliosto is up to would implicate them, and also because "Cagliosto did not request Interpol assistance".  Zenigata gets mad, but decides with Fujiko's help that he needs to get back into that castle.

On the day of the wedding, the road is full of people trying to get to the palace.  The old priest is held up by the traffic... Fujiko, in disguise as a news reporter, is also stuck, along with Zenigata's Interpol brigade.  The wedding starts, and gets to the cliched part asking for objections.  It goes by, but as the priest is saying the last words, the huge cross in the back bursts forth with voice saying that the wedding is an abomination.  The cross falls forward as the priest dodges out of the way, and Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon burst from the hole left in the floor.  A battle starts up, and the Count cuts off Lupin's head... but it's a fake Lupin, the real one was posing as the priest the whole time.  In the ensuing battle, Zenigata manages to get to the hole in the floor, and as Fujiko documents with a handheld camera, Zenigata "just happens to stumble" across the counterfeiting ring in the basement, on live television, forcing the world governments to have to act.

The last thirty minutes (!) is a long chase and fight sequence, featuring quite a bit of action including the workings of a clock.  Lupin gives the Count one last opportunity to redeem himself, by offering the rings and the ability to obtain the "treasure" in return for Clarisse, who the Count had cornered.  The Count responds by shooting Lupin halfway down the side of a clock tower and taking Clarisse anyway.  Clarisse manages to get away by jumping off the side as Lupin does the same to save her.  The Count comes to his untimely end by following the instructions to gain the treasure... and as the treasure is revealed, Lupin tells Clarisse that he loves her, wanted to come to her aid, but that she can't come with him (awww.)  Zenigata continues to chase Lupin but stops to speak with Clarisse one last time.  As Clarisse explains that Lupin didn't steal a single thing, Zenigata remarks that Lupin made off with Clarisse's heart (awww..)  In the final scene of the movie, the chase begins anew down the French Riviera.

Spoiler Space over.

This remains a popular movie even this long after it has been released, and it is easy to see why.  The character of Lupin III can be corny at times, but this is a character that loves what he's doing, loves being who he is and is comfortable doing what he does.  There's witty banter amongst the friends, retorts between the Count and Lupin, but the heart of the movie is clear here... there's quite a few characters that sacrifice for each other, even when they don't need to, and none of them really gain anything from their sacrifice other than knowing that what they're doing is right.

There's also pretty much zero fanservice in this movie.  If there's one major thing that differentiates this anime series from James Bond, it's that there's no Bond girl.  That's not to say that Fujiko gets decked out in the *series*, but this movie is as tame as it gets for fanservice.

Also, you can see the influence of the 80s throughout this movie.  It seems that every time the movie's dialogue goes quiet, the soundtrack pops up to remind you that it's still there.  The music is definitely stuck in its time, but there are moments on the soundtrack where the music is really genuinely good.  The animation is very decidedly two-dimensional, and there are times that you don't have to squint hard to see the imperfections shine through... Zenigata's eyes, for instance, don't always both point forward at the same time.

Overall, this is a good movie with a fun and fast-paced story, and the set pieces (each of Lupin's assaults on the castle) are terrific and paced well.  You would be hard-pressed to make a real-life movie from this... there's just a couple of just-this-side-of-implausible tricks in Lupin's bag, such as his belt-buckle fishing line rope or swimming against a falling curtain of water, but that's one of the things that I truly like about anime... you can push the boundaries just a little bit, and as long as the universe doesn't bend one way specifically, you're able to keep your disbelief firmly locked away.

So, this is a movie that I would gladly give a 3.4 to based on the first viewing.  I managed to snag a copy through Netflix though, and unless you want to pay the aforementioned $40-$60 price tag, you may have to do the same.  I do know though that if they manage to arrange for another release, I will very likely be there.

15 June 2013

New MSTing... now at nabiki.com/mst!

  After a bit of a website access snafu, we've finally updated A MSTing For All Seasons with the new Megane 6.7 MSTing!  You can find it linked at the Recent Updates page if you go to www.nabiki.com/mst.  I also updated our frontpage to include our Twitter and Google+ links.  Enjoy the new content!

08 June 2013

#2LR - Breaking Dawn, Part 2 with a Thankful Assist from "Rifftrax"

There they were.  Aligned on two sides of a snowy field, all waiting for the signal to start.  There is a brief parlay, representatives of one side bridging the gap to meet with the leaders of the other side.  Negotiation seems to calm the leaders of the other side... up until the leader makes a bold, decisive choice to cut the insurrection off at the head.

Sounds interesting, doesn't it?  If I were to talk to you about the Twilight series without actually telling you that it was the Twilight series, I may be lucky enough to talk you into it.

I mean, think about it.   You have vampires hiding out in broad... err, cloudy daylight.  A pack of werewolves who are the vampires' enemies.  Other vampires who are also rogue vampires that must be brought to justice.  An international vampire cabal that tries to keep a lid on things but is kind of self-indulgent and unpredictable.  And the "good" vampires, a definite twist in the story, who are trying to do the right thing.

With that being said, let's delve into the mind of Stephenie Meyer one last time, by watching Breaking Dawn, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

(Spoiler Space here on in, because I would absolutely be MORTIFIED if I spoiled this film for you.)

If you don't remember the previous movie, you didn't miss much.  Ahem, in essence the movie was about Bella's marriage, Bella's honeymoon, and the demon spawn growing inside of her.  At the end of that movie, Edward had just about enough of Bella's complaining and finally turned her into a vampire.

As this movie begins, we get to meet what little subplot existed in the story... Jacob has now "imprinted" (remember, werewolves are like baby duckies!) onto the two-minute-old child and is now her guardian and lover wrapped up into one neat woofy package.  The child is unfortunately named "Renesmee" (yeah, remember when that was a fad, giving poor kids bad names?)  and the rest of the movie is devoted to Renesmee's defense.

Yes.  The two-minute-old child is now the Golden Child, and the rest of the movie is about keeping her alive at all costs.  Why?  Dunno.  Is she going to do something awesome later?  Dunno.  But, Bella really really cares about keeping her alive, so it matters... because Bella is the heroine and all.  And oh, by the way... I can't believe that I forgot this, but as I was listing the other issues of this movie, I neglected to mention that they literally digitally overwrote a face onto the baby.  Holy heck, that's off-putting.

Anyway, Bella is now a vampire, and she quickly proves to be better than Edward in running, can beat Emmitt in arm-wrestling, and can pulverize rocks with her feet.  Oh, and she also has one of the most awesome powers for vampires (remember, vampires get their own mutant powerz when they turn into vampires!)  See, she can prevent all the other vampires from using their powers on her, she's a shield!  So, to sum it up, she can beat up anyone she doesn't like, is better than them physically, AND she can prevent other vampires from affecting her AND the ones she loves too.  I'm so glad to see Bella overcoming all those obstacles put in her path.

About ten-fifteen minutes into the film, Alice leads Bella and Edward to their new house.  Yes, their new house... no down payment, mortgage, or anything.  It's fully furnished with a reinforced bed so that Bella and Edward can go after each other like crazed wildebeests, and also has a nursery for Renesmee to sleep in.  Two quick notes about that... there's no couch for poor Jacob to sleep in, so he has to share the crib.  And even my spellcheck thinks that Renesmee isn't a word.

Thankfully for Jacob, the baby is growing.  Quickly.  Not quite quick enough for legality, but hey.  The first plot point turns on Charlie finding out that Bella is now "different", through Jacob stripping in front of him.  To turn into a werewolf!  Not to kiss him or anything...  The Cullen clan flip out aggressively at Jacob, convinced that he's put Bella's dad in danger.  I yawn aggressively, this is like almost thirty minutes into this thing and there's been two plot points.

Anyway, the rest of the story finally gets revealed when another vampire sees Bella play with Renesmee as a four-year-old.  The peeping vampire goes to the international vampire syndicate and tattles... we find out in the movie that since kids are immature, they make for bad vampires 'cause they have no self-control, and the international syndicate kills the little boogers on sight.  They believe that Renesmee is a child vampire, and instantly the Cullen clan expects a problem.

The Cullen clan gathers sympathetic vampires to their side, explain the situation, and suddenly the Cullens have a small army.  Alice and... Jasper (gosh, trying to keep these names straight...) bug out somewhere else so that they can be deus ex machinas for the plot later.  The rest of the Cullen clan expects possible trouble and/or a major fight from the syndicate, and pretty much prepare the troops through the next hour or so.  Yes, all these other vampires somehow or another got talked into opposing a larger number of vampires in order to save the life of one little girl... but it's what Bella wants, and this series is not doing anything but what Bella wants.

So, remember that scene I wrote about to begin this article?  It really DID HAPPEN in this film.  I know, right?  Who would've thought?  Near the end of the movie, the Cullen allies and the syndicate face off.  At first, the syndicate seems happy that the child will cause no danger, but then the leader of the Syndicate (I'll call him Nos-fey-ratu for very pertinent reasons) decides that the kid represents a tiny sliver of control that they could claim, and then they start to fight.

And, for a change, we're treated to actual plot.  Main characters really do die here.  The syndicate outnumbers the Cullen allies about two to one, which makes scenes of three Cullens on one syndicate vampire kind of implausible, but I didn't mind.  There was actual action here!  Not really enough to engage me, but it was far better than all the talking that was going on during the first three-quarters of the movie!  Some of the Cullens die too as my mental cheering starts to take a fever pace.  Would the author be bold enough to have Edward die, leaving Jacob imprinted to Bella's daughter, and have Bella go into an absolute sublime melancholy, having no one left to mushily LUUUUV the rest of her immortal existence?  A leadership vacuum of the international vampire syndicate, leaving the few survivors to try to pick up the pieces and establish a new order?  Some sort of actual conflict in this story to give it the least shred of suspense?

Nope.  It was all a DREAM.

"As if a switch had been turned, as if an eye had been blinked, as if some phantom force in the universe had made a move eons beyond our comprehension, suddenly, there was no fight! There was no awesomeness, no plot advancement, no thing called "suspense" to be followed. "

At first I search for as many capital letters as I can find to express my disgust.  Then I remember the last four movies and think to myself, "I suppose that's what I get for raising my expectations."  After the movie goes on for one epilogue too many (there's a second extremely unnecessary epilogue to make sure that you know that Bella rulez this world completely), we get to see the cast of actors that got paid for this.  I hope that all that money was worth it, you guys.

Spoiler space over

I do try to respect the spoiler space things, even though I marked up the biggest problem with the final scene above (which probably would draw an eye if you cared to see).  It's awfully hard to address this issue with the plot in the "review" area past the spoiler space, but here goes.

There's really no challenge to be overcome for this character.  No matter what horrible scrape Bella is in, there's always someone there who is in an absolute thrall to her to get her through her problem.  If that wasn't enough, she also has one of the most boss powers a vampire could have, and can even beat up Edward, Jacob, Emmitt, or any other supernatural anything with her strength alone.  The Twilight series has the ultimate Mary Sue outside of fanfiction.  (Marrissa Picard still carries the torch for number one, though that could be because I like the Trek universe while I could care less about the Twilight one.)  We covered this before, so I know that this isn't new.

  The other characters -- nay, all the characters are pretty much cardboard cutouts.  They're describable within about five words, and little else.  For example: Alice: vampire future seer good sister.  Edward: vampire Bella worshipper.... uhh, that's it.  Charlie: Bella's dad, mustache, cop... okay, fine, five words TOPS.  To some extent, Bella is also a five-word character, but those five words are not exactly sympathy-inducing.  Strong invulnerable protagonist who two boys fight over immediately and is always protected.  Sorry, that's not five words, but I'm hard-pressed to find anything past that sentence deeper with that character.  And that's not a character that I am invested in whatsoever.  The MAIN let's-spend-eleven-hours-developing-a-story-around character.

The side effect of the character not really being put in any sort of believable danger is that there's no suspense in this.  There's no "will she or won't see?" aspect to this.  She will.  No matter what, she will.  I don't know when it was made apparent... possibly around the "death wish" phase in the second movie I suppose was the most blatant, but Bella Swan will not die.  Bella Swan will not suffer.  She may have blood on her, but big whoop.  The only people allowed to suffer are the ones around her.  And when you already know what the character will allow the story to do, there's really no reason to keep reading (watching).  Of course, that means that the plot will trundle along, not really introducing anything new... like, for instance, the Cullens turning the whole city of Forks, Washington into a colony of syndicate-hating we're-going-to-rule-the-vampire-world-now vampires.  Or, heck, *running away* and hiding.  (Heaven forbid that Bella has to deal with a little bit of hardship!)  Or taking the battle to the syndicate, picking them off one-by-one... preemptive strike, in perpetual danger of being found, "Assassin's Creed" style... oh wait, that'd imply that Bella might possibly be killed, can't have that either.  Nope, she's going to stand her ground, with all sorts of new-found allies, waiting for Alice to bring the deus-ex-machina, and the only real danger turns out to be a dream sequence.

And let's not forget again that vampires sparkle (like, only once a film though, so it's no real danger), werewolves imprint, and everybody gets l33t s|<1llz.

To sum this movie, and really the whole series... 0.0.  Ugh.  Seriously.  After that, I can't even summon the half-hearted openmindedness I had on that last review, this was just garbage.

I would like to tell the writers of Rifftrax and the performers, "Thank you."  I cannot imagine how they managed to riff these movies... I could tell that there was some hostility, mind you, but overall they did an excellent job, and the first hour was absolutely sparkling.  As the plot bogged down at about the eighty minute mark, the riffing went down in quality a little bit, but they picked it right back up for the climax scene and kept it going well through the end.

The Rifftrax for this movie: 3.1  It's one of the best they've done, but the reason it's not a 4 is that I'd have to watch the movie along with the Rifftrax again, and I'm not sure how quickly I can do that.  

07 June 2013

#2LR Too Late Review - "Oregon Trail", for Wii

When I was in fourth grade, I had a rather awesome teacher.  I was already a bit ahead of everyone in math, and instead of making everyone march to the same beat in the math textbook, she'd offer the pretest and final test for each math chapter.  If you passed both with a 90%, you were on to the next chapter of the book.

Under this scheme, I managed to finish fourth-grade math class within about four months.  By January, there were no more tests to take.  In our classroom at the time was an old Apple IIe, mostly gathering dust, until my teacher told me that the IIe would be my new "math teacher" until June.  There were a set of five-and-a-quarter floppy disks to use, which included a time-travel game where you had to guess which event happened last, a plant-growing game where you could adjust the variables, and my final project was programming the turtle in Logo to draw a US flag with a program.  (I did.)

This is also where I first played "Oregon Trail".  Remember a couple weeks ago when I said that the first couple minigames were in the 90s?  I can't believe that I forgot about the "hunting" feature in Oregon Trail.  Kids absolutely loved shooting at the buffalo, and I was no different.  The rest of the game was also fun, though it also was one of the first games that allowed me to curse the Random Number God (dysentary!  Again!)

As new Oregon Trail games were published, I'd pick them up; I have a copy of Oregon Trail 2 as well as Oregon Trail 5 for PC, and I am almost positive that I have at least one (if not both) of 3 and 4 around somewhere too.  So, yeah, I like the game and I am a bit of an Oregon Trail connoissieur.

So, when I found that our local library had a copy of Oregon Trail on Wii, I was instantly interested.  The aspects about the game that I enjoyed more and more as the series went on were the hunting (still), the trail markers, the supplies you had to manage, and having to pick the correct path.  Fighting the Random Number God was also interesting.  One of my most memorable games happened when going to California, getting stuck in the Sierra Nevadas for about six fall/winter/spring months, holding on for dear life... and ultimately not making it to the Sacramento Valley.  It may have been a red line plus text on a screen rather that a picture, but I could see that line just struggle to try to complete the journey, rooting for it to keep going, until all was lost.

Needless to say, I had high hopes for this game.  My childhood demanded nothing less than pure enjoyment.  Considering the actions of the Wii controller, I figured that the minigames would be more interesting and possibly more challenging and fun.

So, we (my wife and I) popped the game into the Wii and started.  Almost off the bat, we found out that there's no reading in this game if you don't want it.  There's a "storyteller" that you have to click on in order to get any background on where you are and why you're there, eminently skippable if you don't care to see.  The storyteller also provides roughly a paragraph or so, there's just not a whole lot of space for info on his little screen even if you do want to learn.

The supplies were also greatly simplified from the "Oregon Trail 5" days, consisting of wagon supplies, clothes, pounds of food, and ammunition.  The complexity is that different guns shoot quicker or more scattershot, and different wagon parts have better strengths or weaknesses.  Contrasting to Oregon Trail 5, in the PC game you could literally buy the clothes piecemeal (bonnet, mitten, etc.), buy casks for water carrying, buy cornmeal/lard for corncakes along the way, even buy a chicken and cow to obtain milk/eggs along the trail (and meat if they die), salt for preserving meat... it was more complex, but far more interesting and engaging to make sure you had fruit/veggies to stay well.

Once you hit the trail, Wii Oregon is far more interactive.  You literally steer the cart with your nunchuk joystick, with the speed going up and down depending on either a forward whip-crack motion or pressing the Z button to stop.  You also now have to avoid the rocks, trees, and rough portions of the trail to keep going.  It does introduce a question to the game... either go slow, lose time, and try to keep your wagon pristine, or go fast, gain time, but break down your oxen and cart, both of which take damage points when hitting these obstacles.  Along the trail though, there are horseshoes or wagon wheels that you can pick up to gain health on your wagon or oxen.  Last note, if you get caught on the trail on 31 October... you lose, outright.  You do get some options to choose your direction, however.

Crossing rivers was always one of the major challenges in the Oregon Trail series.  In Wii Oregon though, there's no choice between floating and fording... you ford every one.  The rivers also have obstacles and rewards in them like the paths do.  (Slight positive: there's no tipping of wagons in rivers!)

Hunting is more active, though it is limited to pointing the Wiimote at the screen and pressing the A button when the animal is in the crosshairs.  There's no "holding the Wiimote like a gun" here.  Fishing is also present, where you need to throw your line and when a fish hits, you have to spin the directional stick on the nunchuk.  Too fast and the fish is lost.

Random encounters still happen on the trail, you run into both good people and bad.  Some steal food, others trade, etc.  Towns will still sell food along the way too.  There's very little geography involved... in the PC version, you know where you stop every time (Chimney Rock!  Independence Rock!  Soda Springs!)  Here, unless you click on that storyteller, you're at Checkpoint Whatever... though the forts are named, for what it's worth.

Of course, we've left out the Random Number God until now.  I played one game of Wii Oregon, and one game was enough.  In order to repair the wagon or heal the oxen or recover from illness, you must rest.  In this game, resting causes your wagon to CATCH ON FIRE.  (I wish I was joking.)  We lost a ton and a half of food this way, as it would destroy more than 25 pounds almost every time.  Even resting within the walls of a fort wouldn't help.

I did not figure out whether it was the just the RNG being an absolute bear, or a flaw in the game, but my people would catch sick and get sicker when resting too.  I understand that bad things happened while on the trail, but seriously?  To keep catching sick while resting rather than in the wagon?  During summertime in the Great Plains?

Of course, I didn't really cover how *easy* it was to steer the landyacht.  It isn't.  Since the trail twists and turns, the computer will force you to stay on it, and your reference will be messed up as the trail turns... it forces you to the same relative position on the trail (say, ten feet from the left) while cornering and will end up forcing you into obstacles as you go around curves.  And the 31 October time limit is extremely restrictive... if you go slow, be prepared to lose.

In summation... the Wii game is not the Oregon Trail that I grew up with, and is not even close.  I will grant that I had a very small sample size, but when I complete the first level by pulling into Oregon on October 30, having had someone die THREE STEPS before, and knowing that resting will KILL me more, and I didn't even learn any new anythings about the Oregon Trail I just travelled... that's it, I'm done.  Nostalgia is over.

Final Rating: 0.4 -- fishing was fun, I guess, though the Random Number God couldn't even be bothered to send ONE BUFFALO our way either.

02 June 2013

#2LR - The Princess and the Frog, Disney-fied.

Tonight's review will be the Disney film The Princess and the Frog.  I have a short confession to make; this probably should not have been a "Too Late Review", because this film is one of about two or three that I have actually seen in the theaters recently.  I suppose that I could have written something short about it when I first watched it... and, to be perfectly honest, I think that this would be the best frame to put the movie in, especially since my four-point scale goes from "would not watch again" (0-1) to "would see in the middle if someone started it first" (1-2) to "would rent again if the spirit moved me" (2-3) to "would buy and intentionally watch" (3-4)  After all, this movie did end up satisfying the second step, my children wanted to see it again.

  The quick Spoiler Space summary for this movie: Tianna is a poor girl in Louisiana, growing up alongside the rich man's daughter Charlotte.  Her daddy inspired a love of cooking in Tiana, and Tiana wants to open a restaurant (partly for her and partly in his own honor).  Tiana works two jobs nonstop in order to save the money, and Charlotte puts her over the top by catering a party for the arriving playboy/partier Prince Naween... it has always been Charlotte's dream to marry a prince.  Naween and his porter run afoul of Doc Facilier, a voodoo priest.  Naween gets transformed into a frog, and the porter is transformed into Naween.  Doc Facilier is trying to get at Charlotte's father's money by marrying the porter to Charlotte and immediately killing the father afterward.

  Naween escapes and finds Tianna at the party.  He thinks that a kiss from a princess will restore him, and asks Tianna.  Tianna does the deed but since she's not a princess, she ends up turning into a frog.  Both frogs escape to the bayou and find a alligator who plays the jazz trumpet (!) and a firefly whose familly leads them to the Good Witch of the West... err, Mama Odie, who they say has the power to restore Tianna and Naween.

  They find out from Mama Odie that since Charlotte's father is the "King of Mardi Gras", Charlotte is therefore the "princess" and has the power to turn Naween and Tianna back to human with a kiss to Naween.  Yeah, that was convoluted even for Disney, but we'll go with it for now.  Naween and Tianna go back to New Orleans, run afoul of Facilier and end up defeating him, and seemingly have the rug pulled out from under them by not changing back to human.  The movie ends with them actually and for really changing back, though the reasoning was even MORE convoluted than the plot point above... the two frogs decided to marry, Naween kissed the bride, and both ended up changing back to human because now Tianna was officially a princess... ha ha.

  One more musical number ends, and all exeunt from another Disney musical.  Spoiler Space over.

So!  With that being said, I do have some faint memories of seeing the movie the first time in the theater as well as the fresh memories from seeing it only a couple hours ago.  On the first viewing, the movie really is something to see and listen to.  What stuck out to me the most was the music.  It seemed that there was a different style of music for each number, and that it wasn't forced.  There was the obligatory New Orleans jazz number, there was a Revival number, there was a bayou swing number (with fiddles a-blazin')... it ran the gamut of styles, and I really admired the songwriters for that.

On first view, the story between Naween and Tianna was sweet as well.  They both pulled each other out of their comfort zones, challenged each other to grow, and seemed as equal a Disney romance as ever you could find.  This wasn't necessarily a man winning over a woman just as much as this wasn't a woman domesticating her man.  The emotion that the screenwriters created seemed a bit sudden even on the first watching, but felt overall genuine.

Of course, here is the fair warning.  My daughter stumbled into this when she piped up at the very end (spoiler!) "How did they get their clothes back when they transformed from naked frogs to people?"  I've watched my share of anime, especially magical girl shows, and I know that there is such a thing as ClothesSpace, where the girls' civilian clothes kind of get stuck in a subdimensional pocket and are with her once her magic dissipates.  However, this did start me to thinking about the movie as a whole.

There are two rather large plot holes to drive the proverbial Mack Truck though that show themselves even on the first viewing: that a princess can be created through a rigged election and is subsequently somehow invested with magical powers, and the final plot hole that allows everyone to return to their "real" lives at the end.  You scratch that surface and realize that there are further issues... a porter that gets trod upon, yet works for the crown prince?  You're telling me he can't boss anyone around at the castle?  Doc Facilier, worrying about money with all that voodoo at his disposal... well, I suppose some things never change, but he really didn't seem the money-grubbing kind, and the plan that he presented.... well, it was right at home within the story.  Doc Facilier's plans... would probably work better if the key theme was extortion rather than, well, whatever the heck he did.  Doc Facilier's cause of death was a bit of a stretch too, in a couple of ways.  Even the two lead characters were practically distilled into a single essence... the hard worker versus the hardly working, and it almost felt as if there was nothing further to their characters, especially Tianna.

This kind of illustrates the difference between a Number 2 and a Number 3 movie.  A Number 2 has the quality of being at least decent to watch the first time, but that rewatchability really has to be there for the movie to jump up higher.  I will admit, it really depends on how much a person is willing to allow the story to carry them on this movie.  I can not only see where some reviewers were unhappy about this movie, but also why some other reviewers really enjoyed the movie.  And that puts me in quite a bind too, especially since I don't want to cop out and give you two (or even three) different ratings for this movie.

Ultimately, the music and emotion really do carry this movie, and I definitely enjoy the overall message of the movie.  On my four-point scale, I would offer this movie a 2.7.  It's so close to a movie that I would rewatch if offered a choice, especially if there are children involved... that message and that music and that emotion are good for children to experience, I think, and allows you to bond with your children (or your significant other), and the one thing this movie does well is to whisk you away to another place.  It is a movie that I would need to have a cool-down period from though, in order to forget what I wrote two paragraphs ago... not exactly something I can say for movies such as The Princess Bride, or even Wreck-It Ralph

I suppose, in that way, that this movie is as bipolar as a frog and a human can be.