Saturday, January 25, 2014

Conan the Destroyer

Year 6, Day 25 - 1/25/14 - Movie #1,624

BEFORE: I'm at the office on a Saturday, since I'm so far behind in updating our database/contact list.  But this is a great opportunity to watch another film and also catch up on some TV.  So I didn't watch a movie last night, I fell asleep around 11 and slept through - got a full 8 hours for the first time in a long while, and woke up refreshed - who knew?

Obviously, Schwarzenegger carries over from "Conan the Barbarian".

 THE PLOT:  Conan leads a ragtag group of adventurers on a quest for a princess.

AFTER:  Well, It's a good thing Conan brought his Chronicler along on his quests, otherwise how would they have ever made the Conan comic books, and ultimately these dumb-ass movies?  This time Conan has to guide a virgin princess to find a gem that only she can touch, since only the woman with the sacred mark can switch off the special effects that protect the relics. 

Whenever some king or queen declares that "The princess must remain a virgin" or "The princess cannot marry a commoner" - come on, you just KNOW what's gonna happen, right?

The trivia section for "Conan the Barbarian" on IMDB points out that Conan's backstory mimics that of Schwarzenegger himself: Conan's formative years are spent in a small village, then he gains fame and wealth through his physical prowess.  Although at first given to wine and women, he eventually abandons his hedonism and uses his skills for acts of heroism.  Conan eventually becomes a king, and Arnold became governor of California.  But it states that, like Conan, "Schwarzenegger engaged in drug use and womanizing in his past, but gave those up later in life."  Ha, that's hilarious - and shouldn't it be updated given his adultery scandal? 

The production values are higher than they were on the first film, but they're still pretty bad by today's standards.  And the fact that the alliances are always shifting, with friends becoming enemies, I'll give this one a slight edge over the original.  I know they made an update/rebooted Conan film in 2011, but I have no desire to watch it.  Like they totally gutted and redecorated the Dunkin Donuts near my office, so it now has bucket seats and video-screens, but really, it's putting out the exact same food as before.

Like the first Conan film, this one ends by showing him on a throne, after having finally gained his kingdom, promising to tell us another story about how he got there.  It seems like there were plans to make a third film with Arnold, and those plans never came to fruition.

Also starring Grace Jones (last seen in "A View to a Kill"), Wilt Chamberlain, Mako, Sarah Douglas, Olivia D'Abo, Jeff Corey.

RATING: 4 out of 10 spitting camels

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Year 6, Day 24 - 1/24/14 - Movie #1,623

BEFORE: I worked late on Thursday night, later than usual, so I got home after midnight - staying awake for this one is going to be a challenge.  Linking from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", once again I'll exploit the Star Wars connection, since Christopher Lee was also in "Star Wars: Episode III" with James Earl Jones (last seen in "Jefferson in Paris"), thanks to one line of dialogue.

 THE PLOT:  A vengeful barbarian warrior sets off to avenge his tribe and his parents, who were slain by an evil sorcerer and his warriors when he was a boy.

AFTER: Yeah, I fell asleep during this one.  You know you're getting old when you can't watch a two-hour movie without taking a nap halfway through.  But I don't think it's entirely my fault - there just didn't seem to be much of a story here, nothing that really grabbed my attention.  The various accents - Japanese, Austrian, etc. didn't help.  When I have to look up the film the next day on Wikipedia to figure out what the plot was, that's usually a bad sign.

Of course, now that I understand what was going on, it all seems completely ridiculous.  Snake cults, ritualistic orgies, a woman turning into a demon, a man turning into a snake.  Am I supposed to take all this seriously?  I know, it's based on a comic book so with that in mind, the answer is probably "No."  But again, I just don't see what the big deal was.  I mean, a kid's parents get killed in front of him - hello, shouldn't that make him Batman?

Yeah, this is the film that made Schwarzenegger a superstar.  So, umm, congratulations?

But it's another movie sin atoned for tonight, the fact that I'd never seen this one before, and it's another one of those "classics" that nearly everyone has seen, and that exists as part of the cultural zeitgeist of the 1980's.  So at least I cross another classic off the list, and slowly I'm still digging my way out of the hole that I was in.  But now I don't know which is the greater sin - not watching this, or writing about it and admitting that it's somehow culturally relevant.  I think in the end, it's just a strange relic from a forgotten time - and I don't mean the Hyborian Age, I mean the 1980's.

Once you see the acting connection that I'm about to make in 2 days, the reason for putting this one here - besides the blatant swordplay/fantasy epic connection to "The Hobbit" - will become clear.  What's that mantra again?  "This will all make more sense tomorrow."  Strange - there were prominent riddles in "The Hobbit", and this film makes reference to the "Riddle of Steel", though I'm still not sure what that is.

NITPICK POINT: So, putting a few stripes of camouflage paint across your face and body makes you completely invisible?  That might work if you're hiding in a forest or something, but walking across an otherwise unfurnished room?  Geez, that's more unlikely than a guy turning into a snake.

Also starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (last seen in "The Expendables"), Sandahl Bergman, Max von Sydow (last seen in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Gerry Lopez, Mako.

RATING: 3 out of 10 snake arrows

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Year 6, Day 23 - 1/23/14 - Movie #1,622

BEFORE: I've got to step back a bit and explain background with "The Lord of the Rings", which is sort of connected to my "Star Wars" history, since the first LOTR film came out in 1978, right after the first "Star Wars" film. My Mom introduced me to the books, she'd been hospitalized for a time and bought the books at the hospital gift shop, then read them cover to cover and encouraged me to do the same.  Since then I've grown up and now I tell the young kids about a time when we had ONLY three Star Wars films, and "Lord of the Rings" was just one animated feature, plus two crappy TV specials ("The Hobbit" and "Return of the King").  I've now made the pilgrimage to the Church of Comic-Con many times, where all faiths are welcome: Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, and even (ugh) Twilighters.  Jeez, I've also hung out with Ralph Bakshi and seen Sean Astin signing autographs...

So linking from "Jack the Giant Slayer", I'm going through "Star Wars: Episode II", where Ewan McGregor co-starred with Christopher Lee (last seen in "Hugo").  And I'll connect to tomorrow's film through "Star Wars" as well.

 THE PLOT:  A reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.

AFTER: This turned out to be a great place to drop in the "Hobbit" movie, because of all the connections to last night's film.  Giants abound in both films, plus there's a glimpse of a treasure room in both films, and both work off the themes of little people vs. bigger people. 

If you read my (so-called) reviews regularly, you might conclude that I either love a film, or nitpick it to death.  Tonight will be one of those rare occasions where I do both.  Time for an open letter to director Peter Jackson: (ahem...)

What were you THINKing? I love ya, Mr. Jackson, but you're messing with J.R.R. freakin' Tolkien here, how DARE you!  (OK, now that's out of the way, please allow me to explain.)

The "Hobbit" book was meant to be a teaser, a book shorter than the other three, in fact you can probably knock it out during  a long bus trip.  (OK, maybe two, but if you've got to make a round trip, you're covered.)  But now if this film is pushing 3 hours, and the next two do the same, then we're looking at NINE hours of Hobbit story, and that's longer than it takes to read the damn thing.  Since a film doesn't have to describe everything with wordage, it's supposed to be SHORTER than its source material, not longer.  (Possible exception: "The Ten Commandments")

I'm no doctor, but what you've got appears to be a severe case of Prequelitis - George Lucas had a bad case of this, setting up one's own previous work, but eventually he worked through it.  This occurs when we all know what happens at the start of Movie #4, so therefore we all know how Movie #3 has to end.  But this is a more severe case, with characters from the LOTR saga like Elrond, Galadriel (and later, Legolas, I've heard) showing up, presumably, throughout the whole "Hobbit" saga.

Let me frame my complaints (Oh, who am I kidding, I'm gonna give this thing a high score in the end...) by telling a story about a subway graffiti artist.  His identity remains unknown, but I'm a fan of his work - he didn't just write "gay" on people's foreheads or give people eyepatches and blocked-out teeth, this guy was to defacing posters what Picasso was to cubism.  He changed the game by seeking out the letters he needed from one poster, extracting them with an X-Acto blade and affixing them to the next poster, completely changing its meaning.  This is a bad example, but if the slogan on one poster read "Beef. It's what's for dinner.", he would find an appropriate letter "R" on another poster, and affix it so the slogan would now read "Beer. It's what's for dinner."  Most of his work was in fact more clever than this, but you get the idea.  He only made the changes that were necessary to enhance the original message. 

(ASIDE: I had a roommate years ago who attempted something similar, when he saw a poster that said "Art Rocks at the Whitney Museum", he used a Sharpie to change "Rocks" to "Rots".  Yeah, he got arrested for that one.)

Let's start with the opening framing sequence - with Bilbo writing his memoir, with the unnecessary addition of Frodo.  We GET it, Bilbo is younger than he used to be (unlike me).  But Frodo was NOT in the Hobbit book, so he doesn't belong here.  We don't need this connection to LOTR, because that comes naturally later when Frodo is introduced to take up the mantle of the Ring.  When the party invitations came in the mail, I thought we were going to see Bilbo's goodbye party all over again, but finally this time with the addition of Tom Bombadil...

Next comes the history of the Arkenstone - which constitutes a flashback within a flashback (or is it a flashforward).  These should be avoided at all costs - it's too easy for an audience to lose their place when you "Inception" a scene within a scene like this.  All things considered, this was a welcome addition because it creates more understanding about the dwarves' motivation, but this could have easily been moved to the scene where the dwarves hire Bilbo, and this would have given Bilbo more motivation to join them as well.

Now I come to the lead orc - Azog, is it?  I'm thinking he wasn't named in the novel, and he didn't have as much of a back story.  But I'll allow this one too, since it makes the pursuit of the dwarves by the orcs more personal, and thus less tangential to the overall quest. 

But Radegast the Brown?  A wizard who's BARELY in the LOTR trilogy, and was in fact cut from those films?  What does he bring to the table, this crazy old nut who eats too many mushrooms (as opposed to Gandalf, who smokes too much weed...)  This guy rides on a sled pulled by rabbits, which admittedly is pretty cool, but plotwise, this guy brings nothing to the table, except to let us know that a bunch of bad stuff is coming.  WE KNOW THAT!  So instead of telling us this, just show us the bad stuff already!

As for the Necromancer - plot-wise this is a dead end, except that it seems to set up the presence of Sauron in the LOTR trilogy.  But if I'm reviewing THIS film on its own merits, the Neuromancer is too vague of a threat, and doesn't seem to interact with any of the main characters - so why bring him into it at all?

NITPICK POINT: Let's talk about flying eagles for a second.  I realize that like many of this film's elements, they set up a major point in the following trilogy, so this is foreshadowing at its finest.  They also help pull off a save at what seems to be our heroes' darkest hour.  But why didn't Gandalf just arrange for them to fly on eagles all the way to the Lonely Mountain?  Wouldn't this have been a lot faster?  But this is a TOLKIEN N.P., not a Peter Jackson one.

So, Mr. Jackson, let's play the riddle game - what has a beginning, middle and end, yet seems to go on forever?  OK, yes, my watchlist does that too, but I think you see my point.  You're doing a great job, all things considered, but just quit ADDING stuff.  I might have rated this one point higher, making this film a contender for Best Film Seen in 2014, if you had exercised just a modicum of restraint.

Also starring Martin Freeman (last heard in "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"), Ian McKellen (last seen in "Six Degrees of Separation"), Ian Holm (last seen in "Naked Lunch"), Richard Armitrage (last seen in "Captain America: The First Avenger"), Andy Serkis (last heard in "Arthur Christmas"), Cate Blanchett (last seen in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"), Hugo Weaving (last heard in "Happy Feet Two"), with cameos from Elijah Wood (ditto), Lee Pace (last seen in "Lincoln"), Barry Humphries (last seen in "Nicholas Nickleby"), Bret McKenzie, Benedict Cumberbatch (last seen in "War Horse").

RATING: 8 out of 10 wargs

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jack the Giant Slayer

Year 6, Day 22 - 1/22/14 - Movie #1,621

BEFORE:  See, I told you this would make more sense today.  It's an updated version of the same "Jack and the Beanstalk" story.  I suppose I could go from here to those 2 modern versions of "Snow White" that got released last year, but honestly I'm just not interested in them.  Plus I've got a schedule I'm trying to stick to.

Again, I'm suspending linking in favor of maintaining the theme.  It's extremely difficult, practically impossible, to connect a film made in the 1950's with one made last year.  (Lou Costello was in "Ride 'Em Cowboy" with Arthur Tovey, who was also in "Who's That Girl" with Stanley Tucci...)

 THE PLOT:  The ancient war between humans and a race of giants is reignited when Jack, a young farmhand fighting for a kingdom and the love of a princess, opens a gateway between the two worlds.

AFTER:  This was a respectable updating of the classic fairy tale, and they even paved over some of the plotholes I mentioned last night.  Instead of Jack's mother sending him to sell the family cow, here Jack's uncle sends him off to sell the family horse - because who wants to eat a horse?  And Jack doesn't so much get swindled as he does distracted, by a stage show, the appearance of the princess, and a monk being chased by the palace guards.  This makes things more confusing, but it also justifies the plot point - the city can be a confusing place for a country boy to go and sell a horse.

But here the magic beans are also historical relics - from a time when a previous king had to defend the land from the giants, the beans serve as a sort of gateway between our world and theirs.  We're told the giants are stuck in the clouds, halfway between earth and heaven.  Religious implications aside, I guess it sucks to be a giant, floating in cloud land (or is it another dimension? unclear...) with limited resources, unable to visit and pillage the land below.  (What do they eat?  Sheep and other giants?  I guess they ate all the female giants because there didn't seem to be any.)  There's also a magic crown thingy, made from the heart of a giant, some unholy blending of giant flesh and steel I guess, that enables humans to mentally control the giants.  It's best not to think too much about the junk science here, because you also have to believe that a bean that gets wet instantly forms a beanstalk 5 miles high. 

It just shows how this film set out to really up the ante - why have one giant when we can animate 100 giants?  Why should they each have one head when some of them have two - I hear that two heads are better than one, anyway.  They also had many people climbing up the beanstalk, instead of just Jack - we've got the princess's suitor/head villain, his two henchmen, the head of the Royal Guard and his right-hand man, so that's a lot of characters to track, all off in search of the lost princess. 

I suppose it's impossible to do this without referencing "Star Wars" and "The Wizard of Oz" - three notable Star Wars actors are in this, and seeing Ewan McGregor fighting with swords and saying "I have a bad feeling about this..." are obvious tributes.  Seeing Jack's house carried up into the clouds by the beanstalk just conjured up thoughts of the twister in "Wizard of Oz", I'm surprised the house didn't land on a giant and kill it.  More Oz stuff coming up later this week, after the Hobbit stuff.

There was a half-hearted attempt at the end to tie this story to the modern-day, but it was pretty tenuous, and completely unnecessary. 

Also starring Nicholas Hoult (last seen in "X-Men: First Class"), Ewan McGregor (last seen in "The Ghost Writer"), Ian McShane (last seen in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"), Eleanor Tomlinson, Eddie Marsan (last seen in "The New World"), with the voices of Bill Nighy (last heard in "Rango"), Ralph Brown, and a cameo from Warwick Davis (last seen in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2").

RATING: 6 out of 10 pigs in blankets

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jack and the Beanstalk (1952)

Year 6, Day 21 - 1/21/14 - Movie #1,620

BEFORE:  If you're playing along at home, right about now you probably think I've gone off the deep end (assuming you didn't think that about me already).  "Why is he watching these crappy Abbott & Costello films, from late in their career?"  Well, I had taped "Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man" and I was waiting for the one where they meet Jekyll & Hyde, but TCM chose to run these two films instead, so I took the opportunity to close out that DVD.  And then a few months back I saw how I could use the two films as a bridge between pirates and fairy tales, and that sealed the deal for me.  From a scheduling aspect, I couldn't ask for a better lead-in for tomorrow's film.  That should be my new mantra: "This will all make much more sense tomorrow."

 THE PLOT: Abbott & Costello's version of the famous fairy tale, about a young boy who trades the family cow for magic beans.

AFTER:  This is a film that wanted SO badly to be the next "Wizard of Oz".  My guess is that after its release in 1939, "Wizard of Oz" had become a cinema classic by 1945 or so (you can sort of see evidence of that in "A Christmas Story", with the Oz characters appearing in a Christmas parade) so that sort of dictates the structure here.  The framing sequence is in sepia tone, and the extended middle fantasy sequence is in color.  The actors from the opening scenes all have their parts to play in the fantasy sequence (the very tall cop becomes the giant, and so on...).  And the townspeople perform a song and dance at the end that might as well be called "Ding, Dong, the Giant is Dead".

The problem is, "Wizard of Oz" had a huge budget for make-up and effects, and this film obviously was made on the cheap.  The "Giant" is just a really tall guy, the Talking Harp's lips never even move, and the most stunning effect is probably the accelerated growth of the bean plants.  The actors were very obviously replaced by dummies for the stunts.  Plus there are probably a dozen ways to simulate the effect of a giant picking up a cow and making it "disappear", but they went with the easiest - dim the lights, move the cow, and turn the lights back on - problem is, that looks nothing like what it's supposed to represent.  But if the giant was big enough to block out the sun, that would mean he was about 500 feet tall, and then it turns out he's only like 7'2".

I wonder about what it felt like for Abbott & Costello at this point in their careers, knowing that they were putting out an clearly inferior product.  They'd been making films together for over 12 years at this point,  and this was probably what they knew how to do - there probably wasn't a way for them to make a more serious film, so the non-solution would have been to just keep on keepin' on.  I faced something similar back in film school, what I call my "creativity crisis", when I realized that the ideas for my student films weren't very good, and if I was going to continue, I needed to present an idea for a senior thesis.  I had nothing that I felt confident about, but fortunately I had enough credits to graduate early, so I took the opportunity to get my degree and get out before people realized that the well had run dry.  Then I decided to go to work for people more creative than myself, in order to get their ideas on the screen, instead of my own.

There's something that doesn't really work with the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story.  (Reason #547 for me not to have a kid: I would nit-pick the HELL out of fairy tales.)  If Jack is so simple, why does his mother send him to sell the cow, why can't she do that herself?  For that matter, why do they sell the cow to get money so they won't starve - why don't they just eat the cow?  And we get that Jack got swindled out of the cow to get the magic beans - but then the magic beans really ARE magic, so did he get snookered, or not?  Is he stupid or smart?

While I'm at it, how does the giant get down from his palace in the clouds to terrorize the town, before the beanstalk is grown?  Does he fly back to his castle, or can he jump really high?  This is all left unclear.  And if he's got another way down, why does he follow Jack down the beanstalk and leave himself so vulnerable?  God, I wish I'd asked all these questions when I was a kid.  It really would have put that lady reading stories at the library in her place.

Starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Buddy Baer, Shaye Cogan, James Alexander, Dorothy Ford.

RATING: 3 out of 10 exploding eggs

Monday, January 20, 2014

Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd

Year 6, Day 20 - 1/20/14 - Movie #1,619

BEFORE: I need to figure out when I'm going to watch the first "Hobbit" film.  I'm doing fantasy films this week, but would it be better to hold off and watch all three together, later this year?  (assuming they run the 2nd film on cable just before releasing the 3rd film theatrically...) Watching "Pirates! Band of Misfits" with the voice of Martin Freeman seems like an opportune lead-in, but thematically that would take me off of pirates.  I'm now at the stage where I can either link films thematically or by actor, but not both.  Ah wait, I think I see where I can work "The Hobbit" into my chain later this week.  That means bumping all of February films forward one day, but I can do that.  I control the chain, it doesn't control me.

(Oh, it can be done - Brian Blessed from "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" was in "Flash Gordon" with William "Porkins" Hootkins, who was also in "Twilight's Last Gleaming" with Leif Erickson - but that hardly counts as a direct link.)

THE PLOT:  Rocky and Puddin' Head are waiting tables at an inn on Tortuga when a letter given them by Lady Jane for delivery to Martingale gets switched with a treasure map. Kidd and Bonney kidnap them to Skull Island to find said treasure.

AFTER: Somehow I missed this one when I was a kid, and Channel 38 in Boston ran most of the Abbott and Costello films on Sunday mornings.  I remember "Hold That Ghost", "Buck Privates", "Here Come the Co-Eds" and of course, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein".  That last title shows a bit about the usual Bud and Lou formula - there would be a wacky mix-up, some tangential love story, and then the "X Factor", where our heroes would meet the mummy, or Boris Karloff, or in this case, Captain Kidd.  

Unfortunately, after the wacky mix-up where the treasure map gets confused with a love letter, and the actual meeting of Captain Kidd takes place, there's not much of a story here.  Everything just feels like an afterthought - like they're wrapping up the film halfway through.  Geez, there's a meatier plot in your average episode of "Gilligan's Island", a show where almost nothing happened in each episode to bring the castaways closer to being rescued.  

Bud & Lou's characters work in a tavern and have to serve Captain Kidd - who proceeds to punch out or kick every waiter in the place.  I think it's sad that the comedians who delivered the verbal masterpiece "Who's On First?" had to resort to the type of slapstick normally served up by the Three Stooges.  After that, they dress up like British navy types, fooling exactly no one, in order to get to the island with the treasure.  It doesn't make sense - why would you hire the pirate who the treasure belongs to, to get you to the island where the treasure is.  Did they think the pirate's just going to let them dig up his own booty?  

I don't know, I expect more from Abbott & Costello.  Maybe I've changed in the last 30 years, and my tastes are more demanding - I need movies that are going to challenge me mentally, and these guys weren't trying to do that.  Instead they just want to romance a beautiful pirate babe, sing a few operatic (?) shanties, and dig up a chest of gold.  I guess it entertained the audiences in 1952, but it falls way short by today's standards.

Starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Charles Laughton (last seen in "Witness for the Prosecution"), Hillary Brooke, Bill Shirley, Leif Erickson (last seen in "On the Waterfront"), Fran Warren. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 barrels

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Year 6, Day 19 - 1/19/14 - Movie #1,618

BEFORE:  Since that "Ice Age" film made such blatant references to pirates, I feel comfortable following up with this one.  I think both films were released around the same time in 2012, and they came into my possession around the same time, seeing as I put them on the same DVD.  Plus it's an easy link since Simon Pegg was in the 2 new "Star Trek" films with Anton Yelchin, who does a voice in tonight's film.

 THE PLOT: Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London.

AFTER: Well, it is awards season, with the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards and the Oscar nominations, why can't it also be time for Pirate of the Year?  And this guy's only competition so far is a prehistoric ape, so maybe he's got a shot.

These things go in waves, and pirates were hot hot hot last year - if 2011 films were all about aliens, vampires, orphans and horses, then 2012 was all about pirates and spies.  And Abe Lincoln.  Then in 2013 it was back to superheroes and updated fairy tales.  More on that last one later this week, but I digress.  The animated films finally caught on to the trend started by "Pirates of the Caribbean" (and I'm so close to finishing the Lego version of THAT saga...) and now there's some pirate TV show coming on Starz that I won't have time for either.

But tonight's film was a fair amount of fun, with a large number of in-jokes.  Between this and "Arthur Christmas", I've enjoyed watching Aardman Animation stretch themselves beyond "Wallace & Gromit" and "Creature Comforts", while still maintaining a high level of creativity.  But from a story standpoint, I would have liked to see more action on the high seas, and less on the streets of London.  Once the pirates hook up with Charles Darwin and try to win the science fair, it feels like they've almost forgotten who they are and what they're trying to accomplish.

Through the endangered dodo, the film almost makes a similar point to that of "The Lorax", but at least they did it in a fun, non-preachy way.  There was a real society in the 1800's devoted to eating exotic animals, but Queen Victoria was not a member - oddly enough, Darwin was. 

Also starring the voices of Hugh Grant (last seen in "Love Actually"), Martin Freeman (ditto), Imelda Staunton (last heard in "Arthur Christmas"), David Tennant (last seen in "Fright Night"), Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek (last seen in "Here Comes the Boom"), Brendan Gleeson (last seen in "Troy"), Brian Blessed, Russell Tovey, Ashley Jensen.

RATING: 5 out of 10 sea monsters