THE CAT RETURNS

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Ladies and gentlemen, all this snow has really done a number on me.  I mean, the subways are running with delays, schools and businesses are closing, and there’s a salt shortage in the city!  Now, I’m not saying my actual schedule of get up, eat, sleep, walk, sleep, sleep, walk, play with things on strings and wires, eat, sleep has changed much, but boy, that guy shoveling the sidewalk outside sure is keeping me up.  Just stop it, already – you’re scaring all the birds on the fire escape away!

Anyway, with all this free time I had not being able to sleep as soundly as I would like, I decided to take in a foreign film.  I chose THE CAT RETURNS, a 2002 Japanese film put out by Studio Ghibli.  Although not directed by Ghibli’s founder, Hayao Miyazaki (best known for SPIRITED AWAY and the like), it still has Studio Ghibli’s stamp all over it.

The story concerns Haru (voiced in English by Anne Hathaway doing an Anne Hathaway impression ala Mia from THE PRINCESS DIARIES), a clumsy high-schooler who just can’t seem to get anything right.  One day she saves a cat from getting hit by a truck with her lacrosse stick, although I’m not sure why she bothered since the guy had eight lives left.   Anyway, we find out that the cat she saved is Prince Lune, heir to the throne of – wait for it – The Cat Kingdom.

(Disclaimer: I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of said Cat Kingdom. To do so would be a felony in Cat Kingdom law.  Whoops.)

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The Cat King – a delicious Tim Curry – offers her repayment (read: RETURNS…!) in excess.  The returns, however, come in the form of extra lacrosse sticks, a field of cattails in her front lawn, live mice in her school locker, and a pack of cats following her all over town.  This does not help her awkwardness at school, and she is appalled at what her life has become.

Not to fret, says an employee of the Cat King.  We’ll take you back to the Cat Kingdom and you’ll marry the Cat Prince.  She says yes.  This will solve all of my problems.  I agree.  Poor girl.

(Kids – do not think that marrying the first cat that comes along with solve all of your problems.  We may be the best creatures on the planet, but that doesn’t mean we’re a fix-all.)

The employee leaves to spread the good news.  He’ll be back later to pick her up, he says, and leaves.

Haru has a change of heart.  She doesn’t want to marry a Cat Prince.  But what can she do?  That guy has already left!  Gah!

Then a disembodied voice tells her to seek out The Cat Bureau.  They’ll help her.  Of course.

Here’s where we meet the sidekicks of the tale.  The Baron (a dashing Cary Elwes), Muta (a curmudgeonly Peter Boyle), and Toto (Elliot Gould as a crow) all join her cause.

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But then the Cat Kingdom cats come and take her away.  Rats!  Muta is able to steal a ride on the backs of a herd of stampeding cats (like ya do) and follows her into The Cat Kingdom.

Once there, such strange happenings occur!  In preparing for the wedding (which she has to do – she agreed to it!), she brings up a good point.  She’s not a cat.  Not to worry, the dastardly Cat King says.  You’re well on your way.

And just like that – OMG SHE’S TURNING INTO A CAT!  It’ll take full effect at the end of the day.

turning into a cat!

It’s a good thing the Baron comes in to save her!

With pluck, determination, and comedic happenstance, they save her from marrying Prince Lune (who turns out to be a really nice guy and had no idea what his dad was up to) and deliver her safely home, where she does not end up turning into a cat.

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She finds herself, learning to be happy with who she is, and doesn’t even care that her crush broke up with his girlfriend.  She doesn’t need some boy to be happy.  (Get it, girl!)

All in all, it was a lovely film.

Filled with cats.  Did I mention the cats?

So now it’s time for the score.  And this film gets a score of……………………………

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Holy kittens!!!!!  A perfect 100!!

Caveat: This film is animated, so I can’t say you’re going to see real, live cats acting their faces off.  So, a modified 100, we’ll say. 🙂

With that, I’ll see you next time, folks.  I’m going to enjoy myself another snow day.  Meow!

– Franny

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THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Meow. It’s been a long time.

1625454_10201731630993298_125276479_nHowever, I feel that when there is snow outside, it is absolutely imperative that I do NOTHING. I have to preserve my precious body heat. I’m a cat, not a snow leopard!

Speaking of snow leopards.

While in the great state of Idaho with my humans, we visited the zoo. It sounds like a great plan until you realize that January in Idaho means SNOW. And COLD. Most animals in zoos don’t like that.

Except the snow leopards.

Two baby snow leopards and their dad snow leopard were out in FULL FORCE. The baby snow leopards were running, playing, punching, chewing, and thoroughly irritating their dad snow leopard. It was glorious. I told my humans that I thought I might be part snow leopard and that they should permit me to join this herd. They told me that I was the size of these snow leopard’s paws. I stood down.

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

Speaking of snow leopards, my humans and I just saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Why is this related? Well, to not give too much away, there is a scene that has a snow leopard.

I must admit that the trailers for Walter Mitty got me all aflutter. I love cool music when it plays alongside hyper-realistic and creative running and jumping. Yet a whole movie can’t just be that, and this one isn’t, which is almost too bad.

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The basic plot is this: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is the photo editor for TIME magazine. As a kid, he dreamed of traveling the world, but instead has worked a bunch of boring jobs and lived a super boring life. At the start of the movie, new management, led by Ted (Adam Scott), takes over TIME and announces that it will publish its final issue before transitioning to an only-online version. The cover of that final issue will be a photograph by famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Unfortunately, in the roll of negatives O’Connell sent to Walter, that photo’s negative is missing. This begins Walter’s epic journey of self-discovery and world travel, where he learns that life is crazier than daydreams!

Oh, there’s also a love story with Kristen Wiig, but it’s not that important.

The good: the music is great, there are some gorgeous vistas of Iceland, Greenland, and the Himalayas, and there are a lot of sweet moments. Unfortunately, on the whole, Walter Mitty fails to coalesce into the sweet, magical movie it wants to be. It’s neither as funny nor as romantic as it thinks it wants to be. This is disappointing. Ben Stiller is a consummate actor, though, and he’s so easy to watch and love that, on the whole, Walter Mitty is a really enjoyable way to spend two hours.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTYThe snow leopard is the sole cat in the film, but considering my current snow leopard obsession (I WILL JOIN MY PEOPLE), it was a highlight. Below is the PawPrint Plot. I gave it a generous score of 20 points. Not great, but SNOW LEOPARD.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 12.53.08 PMStay warm out there, fellow snow leopards!

xoxo
Franny

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CLOUD ATLAS

Hello again readers.
As you know, I don’t make it out to the cinema often.  I am, however, a Netflix fiend.  So when my humans went and saw a crazy flick called CLOUD ATLAS and raved about it, I thought I should put it on my Netflix queue.  That way I could take a look at it when it was released on DVD.  This past week, I saw it.  And what a trip it was.

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CLOUD ATLAS, with a budget of over $100,000,000, is one of the most expensive independent films ever.  Based on the novel by David Mitchell, it interweaves six separate story lines that take place between 1849 and 2321.  Using crazy makeup that sometimes turned Hugh Grant into a passable Asian and Halle Berry into a not-quite-as-passable Jew, the film uses the same core cast to portray different characters in each story.  This highlights the film’s underlying themes of universal connective tissue and global cause-and-effect.

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Since there are six separate stories, I shan’t go into each one here.  Suffice it to say, though, that the cast handles the odd material with finesse, and the cinematography is spell-binding.  Each setting, ranging from a 19th-century slaving ship to a 1970’s San Francisco warehouse to a futuristic South Korean city with flying cars and laser guns, has its own feel, its own palate, and indeed, its own director.  Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski shared the screenwriter, producing, and directing credits in this behemoth, and I think the collaboration paid off in spades.

But really though, Franny, what’s the deal with the cats?  Where can we find them?  Ahh, dear readers, this film is – unfortunately – not cat-heavy.  The one instance of cat takes place in the story of Henry Cavendish.  Played in spectacular fashion by Jim Broadbent, Henry Cavendish is a book publisher living in London, 2012.  Due to some unforeseen events (having somewhat to do with a rough-neck author version of Tom Hanks with a giant prosthetic nose pushing a critic over a balcony), he finds himself examining his life and what he has made of it.  He dreams of yesteryear and muses on his salad days, when he was courting a young woman named Ursula.

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There is a flashback scene with a young attractive couple canoodling naked under some bed sheets when Ursula’s parents walk in.  Young Henry Cavendish leaps up and grabs the closest thing he can find to cover his genitalia – a cat.  Oh, that my species should be used in such a manner as this is thoroughly unbecoming of our inherent high status, but these things do happen sometimes for the sake of comedy.  The cat meows and scratches at the boy’s nether regions, distressed by the prospect of being a human’s underwear (the finest bit of acting in the entire film), and Henry Cavendish falls out of the window in a panic.

All in all, although the cat presence in this film leaves something to be desired, the film is quite good.  It’s so good that it makes me want to cuddle up on the couch with my humans and read the original novel.  I’ll make them hold it for me, though.  No opposable thumbs, you know.

So, the final score for CLOUD ATLAS is………………………………………

Cloud Atlas Pawprint Plot

50 points!!!!!!!!

Wow!  That surprised even me!

Well done, CLOUD ATLAS!

Until next time, readers, I remain yours in reviewing.

– Franny

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I WIN

Special Blog Announcement!

As I’m sure you already know, I’m an incredibly special cat. And for the first time in the history of my blog, SOMEONE HAS ACKNOWLEDGED IT! With gratitude to Playful Kitty, I’m excited to announce that I’ve been award the Dragon’s Loyalty Award.

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1. Display the Award Certificate on your website.

I don’t know how to do this because I have paws. My humans ask your help?

2. Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award.

Check.

3. Present 15 or so awards to deserving bloggers:

There are a number of bloggers whose posts I read with feline fervor. Here is a sampling. If you’re feeling magnanimous, like me, give them a peek!

Cats on Film

Alone with Cats

The Cat on my Head

Cats & Co

SarahRemy

Ringo the Cat’s Blog

I Have Cat

DarwinBookCats

Texas, a cat in… Austin

Ceiling Cat’s Blog

Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

What the Cat Read

rtcvers (my human dad’s blog, sigh)

4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post:

Check.

5. Post seven interesting things about yourself:

Only seven?

1CatsGroup. I have had three names.

Before I was Franny, I was Lacey. Before Lacey, I was Tabitha. And before I was Tabitha, I had an “ineffable effable / Effanineffable / Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

 

 

2. I am a kitten explorer.

As a young kit, I appeared in a gentleman’s garage in Upstate New York. He was friendly and he fed me and called me Tabitha. But he left the screen door open a2012-12-21 17.17.24nd I had adventures to have. My next appearance was in the Bronx. What happened between Upstate and the Bronx I will never tell. I was collected in the Bronx and an adoption agency called me Lacey. Two months later, after escaping from my temporary holding cell in a PetCo not once, but twice (call me Houdini), I was adopted by my current humans. They named me Franny, like Zooey, like Salinger, because of my angst.

 

3. I don’t like catnip.

I think it’s because I’m simply stronger than other cats.

 

IMG_28034. I have a lover.

He lives across the courtyard from me. He occasionally sits in the window and we stare at each other. His name is Pouncival.

 

 

 

 

5. I am a world traveler.

Okay, “world” meaning “USA.” I have not only traveled many miles on my pink paw IMG_1919pads, but I’ve also flown to my mom-human’s homestead in Idaho twice. I like it there for all the places to hide, but there’s a large golden retriever who thinks I want to be friends and I DO NOT. I also frequently drive by car to my dad-human’s homestead in rural Pennsylvania. There’s another dog there, small and irritating, and I enjoy eying him with disdain.

 

6. I am toilet-trained.

And honestly I don’t understand why I’m the only cat I know who is. Heathens.

 

7. I tried to eat a roasted pumpkin seed this morning, and it was disgusting. I don’t know why humans try to eat anything but meat.

My humans carved this for the holiday. They named him Zooey, obviously to try and give me someone to be friends with. Ha.

My humans carved this for the holiday. They named him Zooey, obviously as a veiled attempt to provide me a companion. Ha.

 

UNCLE BUCK

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Sometimes it’s nice to revisit the past.  And by the past, I don’t mean as far back as my last review.  I also don’t mean a past that I can remember.  I do mean a past that my humans can remember, though.  Well, kind of.  Both of my humans were at least alive the era of John Hughes.  And more importantly, the era of John Candy.  And even more importantly, the era of UNCLE BUCK.

UNCLE BUCK (1989) has a simple premise: What happens when you put your schlub of a relative in charge of three high-strung kids?

The answer is, of course, movie magic.

Here’s how we start: Cindy and Bob Russell are average middle-class Americans who are very focused on their work and their busy lives.  They have three kids, one of whom is a “dreamer” of a little girl, one who is a young Macauly Culkin (literally), and one who is really angry teenage girl.  They don’t know their kids, their kids don’t know them, and they eat Chinese food for dinner a lot, apparently.  So not good things here in Chicagoland.

One night, however, Cindy’s dad has a heart attack.  The couple need to go to Indianapolis.  Immediately.  They can’t even wait until the morning (so the film purports).  Who should they get to watch the kids?  They have school, after all – they can’t come.  The neighbor?  Oh no.  Friends from work?  Out of town themselves.

“What about Buck?” asks Bob.

Bob’s brother Buck, played by John Candy, is the black sheep of the familiy – big, loud, living in an apartment, no job, an avid bolwer (the shame of it!), dating a woman who (gasp!) sells tires, smokes cigars, drinks a lot, and is often seen at horse races.  Not necessarily Mary Poppins, here.

Ahh, but they have no choice.  Best call him up.  He comes over in his lemon of a car, and the chaos ensues.

The film from there on is basically a series of vignettes that detail the ridiculous insertion of this character into the formerly orderly lives of the three children.  There’s a lot of angry teenage fighting, especially when Uncle Buck disapproves of Tia’s new boyfriend.  There’s a lot of Macauly Culkin with his eyes wide open looking surprised.  And there’s a lot of John Candy just being a funny fat guy, including a particularly great scene where he makes a giant breakfast for Macauly Culkin’s birthday.

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Eventually, all the humans learn the importance of family, and the kids appreciate their parents a little more for all they do.

It’s sweet.

Now, the cat factor:  In a terribly funny scene, Uncle Buck tries to get the family cat to come inside.  He calls for it, he chases it through the bushes, and he picks it up.  He carries it inside while it caterwauls in dismay and scratches his face and arms.  Once inside, he asks, “Who let the cat out?”  One of the children answers, “We don’t have a cat!”  Out the cat goes back on its merry way.

Now, as much as I don’t appreciate a scene of a human forcing a cat to do something against its will, I even have to applaud the comic timing in this bit.  Well played, John Hughes.  Well played, John Candy.  Well done, Johns.

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UNCLE BUCK is a quintessential end-of-the-eighties film and, even though my parents probably weren’t even alive then, it’s cinema gold.

And the final cat factor is………………………………

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50 points!!!  

It’s a good flick with just a bit of cat, but that bit of cat is a bit of great.

Thanks for stopping by!  Check back soon for more reviews!

– Franny

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DEREK

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I’m about more than just feature-length films here at Franny’s Feline Film Forum.  This site will include entertainment reviews of all kinds – film, television, theatre, ballet, opera, et al.  Because that’s just how awesome a cat I am.

Today’s review is concerning the latest Netflix television series “Derek,” written by, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais.  Thank goodness my humans have Netflix, otherwise I’m not sure how I’d keep myself occupied while they were out of the house doing whatever they do all day.  Anyway, I was excited about the series and blew through it in two days.

First and foremost, let me say that I’ve always been a fan of Ricky Gervais’ work.  And not just his comedy, but his actual writing style – the human themes present in his stories, the down-and-dirty everyman quality to his heroes, and his unabashed courage when it comes to uncomfortable subjects.  In that aspect, this series is a dream.  All of those qualities are there in droves.

Shot in mockumentary form, “Derek” shows us the happenings at Briar Hill Care Home, a small nursing home in the British suburbs.  We meet Hannah, the overworked and overwraught young manager of the place (Gervais sure does love his almost-mousy heart-of-gold leading ladies); Douglas, the unattractive, self-proclaimed bachelor caretaker; and Derek (Gervais), a naïve and gentle-hearted employee of the home.  We also get to know Kevin, an out-of-work friend of Derek’s who hangs around a lot, as well as all the residents and some in-and-out characters that pepper the series.

There’s not an overall story arc to the series – instead, we have the usual sitcom formula of same characters-different problem each episode.  Hannah is always fighting against the company that owns the home trying to get rid of it.  Douglas is always fixing something and yelling at the suits for her (one could claim he plays the hero more often than not in most episodes).  And Derek is always there, loving everybody, being kind to everyone, and showing us all that life is a gift worth living to the fullest.  Also, one of the residents dies in almost every one of the seven episodes.

There has been a lot of controversy over the character of Derek that I’ve read on my cat entertainment news sites.  Some claim he’s portrayed as mentally challenged and the whole thing is then offensive.  Gervais himself has said that he’s just simple and child-minded.  I could argue either way, but I’ll believe the man who wrote, directed, and portrayed the guy.  My only concern is that there’s not as much forward-momentum in the story as I would have liked.  Again, it seems like Douglas is the hero of the story because he’s always the one who stands up to the “bad guys.”  Derek often seems there in the background, an afterthought.  It’s not until the final episode of the season that he really goes through an emotional journey and we see a struggle and a change in him.

As for cats, there really aren’t many…  You would think that a show about a nursing home would be filled with felines.  Alas, it’s just not the case.  It’s only in Episode 2 –when a local animal shelter brings in dogs and cats for the residents to play with for the day – that we see any whiskers at all.  And out of all the animals brought in, there’s only four cats.  They spend the episode sitting on laps being petted.  At the end of the episode, Hannah decides to stay for the overnight shift so that the animals can spend the night with the residents.  Then we see another shot of one of the cats, sleeping peacefully beside one of the elderly.  That’s it.

So, as far as cats go, the score is………………………..

Pawprint Plot Derek50 POINTS!

There are multiple cats, and they interact with humans, but that’s about it.
Humans might like it more, though.  It’s a pretty good show for humans.

Keep watching for more feline reviews!

– Franny

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First furry review: WE BOUGHT A ZOO

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“We Bought a Zoo” has a deceptively simple plot:  Adventure-Seeker/Widower/Single-Father loses himself in a giant project to escape his pain.  Don’t count it out yet, however.  There are plenty of cats in here to keep us interested for the duration.

Of course, you say to yourself.  There must be cats in this story – after all, it’s about a zoo.  But this, our first installment here at Franny’s Feline Film Forum, has no domesticated beasts in it at all.  Instead, it’s the big cats that reign surpreme.

Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee, the aforementioned Adventure-Seeker/Widower/Single-Father.  He doesn’t know his troubled fourteen-year-old son (he draws morbid artwork instead of applying himself in school).  He couldn’t get by without help from his seven-year-old daughter (she makes the lunches and reminds her dad about daily chores).  His job has hit a stand-still.  And doggonit, his neighbors are a bit noisy.  (“Their happy is too loud,” his daughter Rosie informs us.)

What’s a guy to do?  Move.  And, boy howdy, they find the perfect house.  It’s big, it’s gorgeous, it’s…. a zoo?  Apparently if they buy the house, the small zoo on the property comes with it.  Oh dear.  Now we’re having second thoughts.  This is crazy, Benjamin says.

Cue first cat:  we have a close-up on Solomon the lion and his oh-so-wise eyes.  It’s almost as if he’s pleading with the Mees to stay.

And stay they do.

What happens throughout the film is your run-of-the-mill fixer-upper story.  The zoo’s in shambles, but Benjamin’s got heart, so he puts his whole self into it.  Along the way we have a pretty girl for him (Scarlett Johansen), a new friend for his son (Elle Fanning), and a rather surly zoo inspector (John Michael Higgins) intent on keeping the zoo from ever opening.  Of course there are the usual trials and tribulations, ups and downs, etc, etc, but wait – the kittens return to keep it interesting.

One of the secondary plots concerns the seventeen-year-old tiger Spar.  He’s old.  Really old.  Too old.  He should be put down.  His medicine is expensive and it takes extra effort to keep him up and about.  Plus it’s almost as though he himself has given up.

The entire zoo staff says it’s time to let him go, but Benjamin won’t budge.  He can’t imagine just losing hope, throwing in the towel, and all other expressions of helplessness.  He’s fought so hard for so long that he can’t even imagine the zoo without him in it.

Wait a minute…  Are we still talking about Spar the tiger here?  Benjamin’s self-reflection and veritable demon-examination culminates in his inevitable purification.  It’s time to move on, Benjamin Mee.  Live your new life.

And live it he does.  But will the zoo ever pass the inspection?  Will anybody ever come?  And what about all those relationships with his son and the love interest and such – how will those turn out?  I guess you’ll just have to see for yourself how all the humans do.  But don’t worry; they don’t detract too much from the cats.

So the verdict is………….

We Bought a Zoo review90 POINTS!!!

Go see it!  There’s plenty of cats to go around!!

Stay tuned for more of my reviews coming soon!!

– Franny

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