Maurice Lamarche

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Marvel's Avengers Assemble: Assembly Required - Clips


Marvel heroes Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Falcon - The Avengers' winged new member - are setting out on their latest missions to save the world for the universe's most formidable supervillains from Red Skull to M.O.D.O.K. However, evil becomes the least of their worries when they struggle to find common ground with each other and must first fight a bout of cabin fever if they want to have any hope in saving humanity. Can these heroes stand to live under one roof? Or will their own tensions and disagreements have catastrophic consequences?

Continue: Marvel's Avengers Assemble: Assembly Required - Clips

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder Review


Excellent
Bringing back Matt Groening and David X. Cohen's brilliant animated epic Futurama in the form of DVD movies has presented a logistical challenge for the creative minds behind the original TV series: a quartet of movies cover roughly the same amount of space as a season of television, yet tell stories of a completely different size and shape. Though all of the movies have been by turns hilarious and accomplished, and often more than that, they've also felt a bit like two or three episodes stretched and staggered and blended into each other.

Into the Wild Green Yonder, the final-for-now Futurama DVD movie, comes closest to realizing the near-infinite potential of Groening's intricate and inventive world on a narrative level. It begins with a familiar yet, as before, somewhat dissonant approach to a feature-length rhythm: The first 20 minutes, featuring Bender the robot running afoul of the robot mafia in the newly renovated Mars Vegas, more closely resemble a stand-alone episode than just about anything else from the other DVDs.

Continue reading: Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder Review

Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs Review


Excellent
After Matt Groening's dystopian vision of the future was given a welcome revival with Bender's Big Score, Groening and company have delivered the second of four direct-to-DVD Futurama movies. With the triumph and novelty out of the way, the adventures of unfrozen twentieth-century human Fry (voice of Billy West), the unrequited one-eyed mutant love of his life Leela (voice of Katey Segal), and his miscreant robot best friend Bender (voice of John DiMaggio), among others, can continue with its typical invention. The Beast with a Billion Backs isn't precisely the same as a sequel -- these DVD movies occupy a strange netherworld between supersized episode and full-blown saga -- but if it was, it'd be one of the good ones, like an even-numbered Star Trek movie.

Beast picks up on a dangling plot thread from Score and runs with it; when the Planet Express crew ventures out to investigate a tear in the space-time continuum, they and the rest of Earth (eventually) encounter an encompassing, tentacle-heavy alien life form called Yivo (voiced -- also eventually; Futurama movies offer plenty of skillful digressions -- by David Cross). Yivo's methods are reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers; its motivations, though, have the murky mix of creepiness and hope more akin to a particularly odd Twilight Zone episode.

Continue reading: Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs Review

Bender's Big Score Review


Excellent
Matt Groening's first animated series, The Simpsons, has had the sort of extended (and in television terms, practically infinite) run that confounds just about everyone's expectations. His turn-of-the-millennium second series, Futurama, was an ambitious sci-fi comedy (set in the year 3000) with a far more earthbound trajectory: it lasted four erratically programmed seasons, amassing around 70 wonderful but cult-bound episodes.

Early in Bender's Big Score, a direct-to-DVD revival of the Futurama universe, Groening and his brainy writers have their revenge: Hubert Farnsworth (voice of Billy West) reveals that the "moronic" executives who briefly ran Planet Express, the interplanetary delivery service where all of the main characters work, were not only "themselves fired for incompetence," but beaten up pretty badly, and eventually killed and ground into a fine pink powder. Apparently those imaginary higher-ups (of the "Box Network," naturally) are indispensable in this form, as Torgo's Executive Powder appears throughout the film, put to a variety of uses including fish food, glue, and relieving jock itch.

Continue reading: Bender's Big Score Review

The Three Musketeers (2004) Review


Good
While it bears virtually no resemblance to the classic story, Disney's direct-to-video rendition of The Three Musketeers is probably its best DTV outing in a decade. If they'd thrown a little more budget at it, this one could have even merited a theatrical release.

In this rendition, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are janitors who lobby for jobs as musketeers in the service of the princess (no idea where the king and queen might be) of France (well, animated, animal-populated France), and it isn't long before they get their wish. The mini-film (about 65 minutes long) gets just about every other traditional Disney character into the film in some odd role or another -- most notably the Beagle Boys as the villains of the film and Minnie Mouse as the princess. It isn't long before Mickey and Minnie are making goo-goo eyes, while the heroes have to foil Peg-Leg Pete's plot to steal the throne for himself, with the aid of the precious Beagles.

Continue reading: The Three Musketeers (2004) Review

The Three Musketeers (2004) Review


Good
While it bears virtually no resemblance to the classic story, Disney's direct-to-video rendition of The Three Musketeers is probably its best DTV outing in a decade. If they'd thrown a little more budget at it, this one could have even merited a theatrical release.

In this rendition, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are janitors who lobby for jobs as musketeers in the service of the princess (no idea where the king and queen might be) of France (well, animated, animal-populated France), and it isn't long before they get their wish. The mini-film (about 65 minutes long) gets just about every other traditional Disney character into the film in some odd role or another -- most notably the Beagle Boys as the villains of the film and Minnie Mouse as the princess. It isn't long before Mickey and Minnie are making goo-goo eyes, while the heroes have to foil Peg-Leg Pete's plot to steal the throne for himself, with the aid of the precious Beagles.

Continue reading: The Three Musketeers (2004) Review

Pom Poko Review


Excellent
As an ambitious morality tale, the Japanese animated film Pom Poko is certainly worthy of a solid recommendation. As a family-friendly film, this story of angry raccoons saving their land from destruction has a problem. Let's just say Pom Poko ain't no Ferngully.

In the midst of their battle against man, raccoons are hit by cars and ensnared in traps. They use their ingenuity and crazy skills (more on those later) to sabotage construction and kill a handful of humans. They create a fever dream-style parade used to haunt the locals. This kind of adult-level entertainment boasts smart, stylishly trippy animation that veers far from anything that can be called a "kid" movie. But Pom Poko is one of a series of Japanese Studio Ghibli films being distributed in the US by Disney -- so, to the uninitiated, it looks like a warm cuddly Disney movie on the DVD shelves.

Continue reading: Pom Poko Review

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