Friday, April 20, 2012

Introduction and Movie Review

Welcome to  Tome and Flick Corner.  I have been thinking about creating this blog for quite a while, and today, I have decided to make it a reality.  Here, I hope to post my personal reviews and thoughts on various movies, with the occasional book report thrown in.  And I feel that I should make it known that I will accept review requests.  So if there is a particular movie or book you think I should post a review for on this blog, please don't hesitate to say so.

However, if you do decide to make a review request, I humbly ask that you keep in mind that I have a set criteria, and there are three types of movies I generally refuse to watch, which are listed as follows:

1)Movies that I classify as 'Cut-em-up' films.  Examples of movies in this category include the Hostel and Saw franchise.  Now, please don't misunderstand me, because I do enjoy the slasher films from the 1980s era, such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.  But when it comes to the movies that pretty much advertise themselves as bloodbaths filled with people getting tortured, I draw the line.  The reason for this is because I do think stuff like that really does happen in real life, and I don't feel like we should be desensitized to it.  You are free to disagree with me, but that's where I stand.
2)Movies with extremely graphic sex scenes.  I can handle a sex scene when it's done right, but if the movie starts moving into pornography territory, that's when I walk out of the cinema.  Call me a prude if you want, but I'm simply not comfortable with the thought of actually seeing a actor or actress' private areas on-screen.
3)Horror movies with bad endings.  While I realize that this most likely takes a big chunk out of the horror genre, I simply don't understand the entertainment value when the monster or ghost wins in horror movies.  I find it completely depressing when everything the protagonist(s) did to survive the movie proves to be in vain in the end.  When the movie ends on that kind of note, I find myself questioning what the point of the movie even was.  Although, for the record, I can be convinced to be more lax on this third criteria, as long as people remember that I won't budge in regards to the first two.

So, now that I've gone into a bit about what this blog will be about, let me start things off by posting my first Tome & Flick review.  Since this will be my first installment, I thought it would be best to start things off with a bang.  And what better way to do that than to review what is quite possibly one of the worst movies ever made.  And when I say this movie is bad, that isn’t just my opinion.  Just about everyone who has seen this particular piece of drivel has also described it as such.  So, what movie have I chosen to cover in my first-ever review?  None other than…….

Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue.

Now, as a kid, I loved Don Bluth’s masterpiece, the Secret of NIMH.  It actually got me to the point where I wanted to be a mouse.  And to this day, it remains one of my favorite movies.  So when I was watching the Disney Channel one day, a few years back, I saw them advertising a movie entitled Secret of NIMH 2.  When I saw that advert, my curiosity was instantly peaked.  They made a sequel to one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of animated movies?  This I gotta see!  Thus, I set the VCR (this was in the days when we needed a blank VHS cassette to record shows) to record the movie when it aired that night.  However, as I began watching it the next day, I slowly came to realize that I would regret it ever since.

As the movie begins, we’re treated to a bit of stock footage taken from the original movie.  In this prologue, we’re once again told about how NIMH once collected a bunch of rats and mice and conducted experiments on them, resulting in the rodents gaining enough intelligence to read and escape from NIMH, which they were able to do so with the help of one of the mice, Jonathan Brisby.  (Although, in this prologue, they spoke of Jonathan’s ‘incredible bravery.’  Looking back, I have to raise an eyebrow at this.  How does opening the locked door on the roof require bravery?  The only reason Jonathan was the one that opened the door was because the rats were too big to do so.)  Anyway, we’re then told that Nicodemous, the wise old rat who had been the leader of the rats in the first film, had made a prediction that they would one day face NIMH again, and Jonathan’s son would save them.  To be fair, while I do think at the time I found it odd that they called Nicodemus a prophet, I decided to let that little bit of confusion slide.  After all, it was probably just some sort of creative license the movie writers were taking, right?

And on that note, our main story begins. And once it does, I was completely shocked. The whole realism of the first movie had gone up in smoke. In the first movie, the animation was incredible, and you could tell the production crew had worked rather hard to make the characters move in a realistic way. The colors used also gave it that realistic feel that just draws you in. But in this movie, we're treated to a very bright and cheery world that looks animated. To make matters worse, Timothy and Martin are in the middle of a chariot race with rabbits acting as their horses. Even with suspended belief, there is NO WAY you are going to get me to buy that. That should have been the warning sign to me that I should just turn the stupid movie off right then and there, but apparently, I was a glutton for punishment.

So, anyway, after the far-fetched chariot race, which is interrupted by Timothy getting caught in a trap set by NIMH scientists, forcing Martin to save him, we're treated to something somewhat enjoyable and believable: the brotherly love moment between Timothy and Martin, as they have their last moments together before Timothy is to head off to Thorn Valley, where he's supposed to learn how to prepare for the day when he’ll fulfill the above-mentioned prophesy. While Martin displays his jealousy that Timothy was chosen instead of him at first, he quickly shifts gears upon seeing how upset Timothy is and tries to boost his brother's confidence.  Shortly after this, we get to see the rest of the Brisby family, as well as Auntie Shrew, who have gathered to see Timothy off.  And they're all there, too, although they've all been drawn to appear older than they did in the first movie, which is clearly meant to indicate some time has passed.  Mrs. Brisby is now starting to show some gray hairs and has obtained some bifocals. Teresa looks a bit older but is still generally the same.  But then, there's Cynthia.  Or rather, what is supposed to be Cynthia, because there is little to no similarity that I can see.  If it wasn't for the fact that there was no other character that chubby overall-wearing mouse could have been, I would never have believed that it was her.

After tearful goodbyes to his family, Timothy gets a ride to Thorn Valley on the back of Jeremy, his mother's crow friend. Once Timothy and Jeremy leave, Martin angrily vents to his mother his annoyance that Timothy was selected and not him, using his status as the older and stronger brother as his reason why he should have been chosen instead.  And who do you think defends the decision the rats made by picking Timmy?  Auntie Shrew.  Yes, that’s right, Auntie Shrew defending the rats of NIHM.  This brings us to our first sign of major continuity issues. In the first movie, Auntie Shrew HATED the rats, and to our knowledge, she never gets over her prejudice.  But here, she's talking about Nicodemus as if he was the greatest creature who ever lived. What gives?

Anyway, Martin runs off in a huff, and we switch back to Timothy and Jeremy, who are just arriving in Thorn Valley.  It is here that we're treated to the first song and dance number. Yes, the sequel has been reduced to an animated musical. However, the song aside, I’ll admit that I'm rather impressed with some of the things they have done in Thorn Valley. The rats of NIMH really are super smart, and they did a pretty good job in establishing a rodent city and farmland in Thorn Valley. On the other hand, I have huge problems towards the end of the song. First of all, Mr. Ages is there. Why? He's the main medical expert from the farm where the Brisby family lives. With him gone, who are the sick animals going to turn to? Also, where's the amulet? You remember that super-cool amulet? The one Mrs. Brisby says she gave to Justin at the end of the first movie? Where is it? It's disappeared off the face of the earth, apparently. As a kid, I WANTED that amulet with a passion, mostly because I thought it was extremely pretty, and I even tried to recreate it a few times without much success. Not having it make at least a tiny appearance in this movie was a major let down.
(Also, has anyone else noticed this?  At the very end of this musical number, when Timothy is having all those gifts thrown at him, you see Martin, or his long-lost twin, in the crowd! Was he supposed to be there, or were the animators just getting lazy at that point?) 

So, now Timothy has been welcomed into Thorn Valley, and Justin and Mr. Ages become his teachers, instructing him in the skills he'll need to fulfill this prophecy. However, Justin states that no one knows what Timothy is supposed to do. That kinda makes their lessons seem like a waste of time, but I suppose they want their savior to be ready for anything. But now, we suddenly forget about this great prophesy. After Timothy gets rid of a snake that's gotten into Thorn Valley, Mr. Ages ends up talking to him about NIMH, to which Timothy asks 'What's NIMH?'

WHAT???? How could he forget that? Isn't NIMH the whole reason why he's here? Mr. Ages, however, doesn't remind him about that, and just prays Timothy won't find out. I swear, everyone must have fallen on their heads and suffered amnesia at one point. They don’t mention the prophesy again until the very end. I believe someone once theorized that the prophesy was just invented by the rats of Thorn Valley, in order to steal away one of the sons of Jonathan Brisby. Why, you might ask? Well, there's no time to figure that out, because this is where the second musical number comes along, which serves as a way to show Timothy growing up. Incidentally, while I’m sure a lot of people hate this song like all the others in this sequel, I will confess I did enjoy the overall feeling behind it.  I mean, I’m sure many young boys have felt the need to live up to your father, especially if your father is well known and highly praised.  And that’s what’s going on here.  Timothy, at first, is feeling like he could never live up to his father, but by the end of the song, he’s voicing his determination and confidence that he'll eventually show everybody that he deserves his father’s name.  So, I guess I gotta give points to the songwriters for effort on this one.

Anyway, throughout the musical number, you see Timothy, (or Tim, as he’s known as an adult) undergoing manual labor, from shoveling snow, to scrubbing the footpath, to fetching water. Before long, Tim's little song ends, and Justin appears to invite him to a collection expedition, in which the rats go off to gather more supplies from the stuff humans have thrown away. This is something else I have trouble with. What happened to the rats' vow in the first film, in which they acknowledged that it was wrong to steal from the humans, and that they could no longer live as rats? Add that to the list of things they clearly forget all about in this movie.

This expedition actually serves as a plot device. Tim, it turns out, was only brought along for sentry duty, and has to keep watch for the guard dog, something he's not at all pleased about. For this reason, he abandons his post and ends up meeting the movie's main female, and Tim's love interest, Jenny. When he takes her back to Thorn Valley, Jenny identifies herself as the only child of a mouse couple known as the McBrides, who were among the 'Lost Six' who fell down the air shafts during the famous escape from NIMH. (Compare this number with the one from the original movie. Nicodemus stated that eleven mice received the injections. Since two of them were Mr. Ages and Jonathan Brisby, who we know were the only mice who escaped NIMH alive, it really should be the 'Lost Nine.')

Returning to the storyline, Jenny wants the rats of Thorn Valley to return to NIMH and help her rescue her parents and the other mice. Unfortunatly, they refuse, so Jenny ends up sneaking off on her own. Tim decides to go with her once she tells him Martin's also been captured by NIMH.  Here, we also learn Tim received a letter from his mother at one point, which stated that Martin had gone missing. At the time, I thought that, since I taped this movie off the Disney Channel, the scene where Tim first got this letter might have been cut for time constraints.  However, I have since learned, by listening to and reading what others have said about this movie, that this was not the case.  They really didn’t have a scene that told us about this letter earlier.  So, thank you movie for pulling this development out of nowhere.

Right. So now Tim and Jenny are off to NIMH, via a hot air balloon they hijacked from Thorn Valley. En route, they are attacked by a hawk, and are saved by some quick thinking of a caterpillar named Cecil. Cecil ends up directing them to the Great Owl, whom Tim remembers his mother going to for help once. However, the 'Great Owl' isn't really the real Great Owl, but a disguised Jeremy, who's been conning the animals of the wood with the assistance of Cecil. I don't think I need to point out how utterly ridiculous this is. What exactly happened to the real Great Owl? We never find out.  They really should have explained this in the movie, but the script writers clearly didn’t care enough about us to do so. Anyway, Jeremy's cover is soon blown, after what I believe is the third musical number in this film. As a result, he and Cecil have the choice of either facing the wrath of the conned animals, or take Tim and Jenny to NIMH. Pretty obvious which option they end up choosing. Upon arriving at NIMH, Jeremy and Cecil abandon Tim and Jenny once they figure out where they've taken the two mice, leaving them to break into NIMH alone.

After infiltrating NIMH, Tim and Jenny run into Justin and a few other rats, who have changed their minds and decided to help rescue the 'Lost Six' after all. Once again, Tim is picked as sentry, and like before, he abandons his post to try and find Martin. Because of Tim refusing to follow orders again, everyone is captured by the two cats we saw being lured into NIMH earlier in the movie.  Because of the experiments that have since been performed on them, the cats have been turned into mindless slaves, and, it turns out, so has the head scientist of NIMH, whose brain has clearly been turned to jelly. And now, we're shown the REAL villain of the story. 

Surprise!  It's Martin! When he was recaptured by NIMH, he got zapped by this brain-modifying device, which resembled an electric chair (Wow, so we’ve abandoned the injections altogether, huh?) Since Martin was already smart on account of his father coming from NIMH, the experiment resulted in Martin becoming a deranged mad mouse who took over NIMH, and has his mind set on overthrowing Thorn Valley.

Tim is thrown into a cage, which a few people have pointed out has bars he could easily have squeezed through. He mopes around for a bit, seeing how he let his father down. Suddenly, Cecil pops up, and.... does nothing. He just has a friendly chat with Tim for a moment until Tim remembers that, upon his entry into Thorn Valley, he was given a key, which he conveniently has been carrying around since. Tim uses the key to remove the pins from the cage door's hinges, and heads off to face Martin while Cecil is sent to rescue the 'Lost Six' and the rats of Thorn Valley. A fight ensues between Martin and Tim, with the help of Jenny, whom Martin was trying to make his queen. Jenny ends up knocking Martin out with a pile of books, which really should have killed him. (A book falling on a mouse, people.  Realistically, he should have been crushed into a bloody pulp, but no one ever dies in this horrible film.  They just get knocked out in classic-cartoon-style.  Gag me.)


With Martin out of it, Tim manages to stop the attack on Thorn Valley by turning Martin into a puppet and tricking the army into heading off in the wrong direction.  However, I got a slight issue with this.  It’s stated repeatedly in this movie that to get to Thorn Valley, you’re supposed to go ‘South by south by south, as the crow flies.’  So when Tim tries to send the army in the wrong direction, he tells them to go north instead of south.  But as anyone who knows their compass directions can tell you, if you go north long enough, you’ll eventually end up traveling south.  So, all Tim really did was send the army to Thorn Valley via the scenic route.  But then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into this.  

Anyway, now that the crisis is averted/postponed, Tim and Jenny head off to help Cecil get the other captives out. Just as they're all about to escape, a fire starts up. Remembering Martin's still inside, Tim goes back to get him out. Martin might be an evil villain, after all, but he's still Tim's older brother, and he loves him, dagnabbit. With the help of Tim's slingshot, which Martin had given him as a going-away present in the beginning, and a convenient reappearance of Jeremy, the two brothers manage to escape NIMH before it explodes from the fire.

Back in Thorn Valley, Tim's welcomed back as a hero, even getting a kiss from Jenny. Martin has also been returned back to normal. How they did it is never explained, but it must have been something like brain surgery, since he's now sporting a bandage on his head, along with a cane. (Yeah, okay. I get the rats are super smart and all, but how are they able to perform something as advanced as brain surgery? It's just not possible, is it?) As this movie ends (finally) we see the statue of Jonathan Brisby that stands in the center of Thorn Valley has been modified, and now includes Tim.

So, there you have it.  A cartoony sequel with a plot that’s nothing short of abysmal. Almost no continually was maintained, and there was the fact that the prophesy subplot seemed to fizzle out completely. The animation was also a huge insult to the original. As I mentioned before, the original movie had animation that still looked rather realistic, but in this sequel, the animation was clearly cartoonish. This might be contributed to the fact that, according to the end credits, almost everyone who worked on the movie was of Asian decent, or at least had Asian-looking names. Don’t get me wrong, ‘cause I have nothing against Asians, or animation that's done by them. I love quite a few Anime shows after all, and I’m fascinated by the Asian culture.  I just think Asians need to stay far away from things like NIMH movies. All-in-all, it was perfectly clear that Don Bluth had nothing to do with this film.  If he had, he would need to have had a huge supply of Valium on hand. If I were him, I would have sued the people who brought this terrible movie to life, because even though MGM owns the rights now, it was still HIS movie.  They’ve ultimately killed his greatest contribution to children’s moves, and I’m amazed that I still see it being sold at Wal-Mart.  Granted it’s in the five dollar bin, but in the DVD set that features both the original Secret of NIMH and this stupid sequel, it’s the image of Timothy from the sequel’s box art that appears on the cover.  As if the promotion of the sequel is more effective them promoting the original!

So, the moral of this review is: if you see this horrible movie sequel on the shelf at the video store, do not get it. Just stick with the original, because if you do pick up this pathetic excuse for a sequel, you may very well regret that waste of 80 minutes to your life.

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