This week marks Disney's latest nature release, Disney's Bears. The film is a documentary tracking the cuddly creatures across the wilderness, ample material to educate and entertain a young kid. But as an adult, you might love bears, cubs, and hybrids, and think to yourself, you know what? I'm not satisfied with the lack of bear-age in my life.
Fortunately, here we are. We decided to program a 24 hour marathon centered exclusively around bears. Movies about bears, legendary movie bears, and all sorts of bear adventures to either whet you appetite for Disney's latest effort, or to provide a nice full day chaser. So strap in and take a trip to Bear City with us. This is the 24 HOUR BEAR MOVIE MARATHON.
One of Disney's final conventionally-animated films, this kids picture follows an Inuit boy who must learn compassion when he is changed into a bear and forced to survive amongst the furriest kinds. It's noon, and you've probably still got the gummy bears out for the kids. Let 'em stick around a little bit. The kids, not the gummy bears.
Produced by CHUD.com founder Nick Nunziata, this tongue-in-cheek thriller finds a group of twentysomethings besieged by a killer grizzly bear, with the only one that can save them being a ranger played by stern character actor Glenn Morshower. Morshower has some fun with the role, and the movie packs a couple of laughs into an otherwise-straightforward man vs. nature story. But yeah, cover the kids' eyes for some of this.
Okay, time to teach the kids a lesson: not every bear is cute and cuddly, and it's unwise to try and be friends with them. This alternately funny and haunting Werner Herzog doc spotlights the final footage of Timothy Treadwell, an average citizen who spent his summers wandering in the wilderness with bears, despite no formal education or training with animals. Guess what? He was mauled by a bear. Who saw that one coming?
The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams
Treadwell need not beat himself up too much, even though he's dead. We can't all be Adams, the bearded nature-lover who could call the bears his greatest friends when he embarked upon the wild, making nature his home, and proud black bear Ben his companion. This is another family film, so bring the kids along, it's almost dinner-time.
After Grizzly Adams, it's time for another star showcase: this is a lead role for the legendary Bart The Bear (R.I.P.), the most famous bear in Hollywood. He was the lead in this impressionistic narrative about a cub surviving in the wild and keeping safe from humans, and strange to say, it's compelling work. This is maybe the greatest performance ever by an animal.
Bart's back, and this time he's pissed! A plane crashes in the mountains, stranding wealthy older survivalist Anthony Hopkins and young photographer jerk Alec Baldwin. They start to go toe-to-toe with David Mamet-scripted dialogue until they realize they have a common enemy: a big giant bear who's hungry for famous actor flesh. There's a lot of Bart in this film, and the animal actor never once lets his presence be forgotten while he's offscreen.
Karate Bear Fighter
You bet that's a literal title. We're nearing 10 PM, so it's time to break out the big guns: Sonny Chiba plays the founder of Kyokushin karate, a full-bodied technique that allows him to dismantle all comers, particularly one fierce, unrealistically tall bear. You've got to wait until the end for him to battle the bear, but it's totally worth it.
All his life, Troy Hurtubise has wanted to interact with grizzly bears. He could take classes, he could speak with experts, and he could watch from afar. Instead, he's building a Gundam-style bear-proof robot suit. This documentary takes a look at Hurtubise's quest to build the perfect bear-proof robot apparatus, through inception and testing to execution.
The Country Bears
It's a quarter to one and you're more than halfway through a 24 hour marathon of bear movies. Clearly you're insane, so why not go all the way with it? This absolutely bizarre Disney effort comes from the studio's quest to turn all their rides into movies, following Pirates Of The Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Yes, it's about a young bear named Beary who is trying to retrace his lineage as a lost member of the traveling Country Bears. And yes, Christopher Walken sings and dances in it.
The Care Bears Movie
We have to go deeper! In this animated toy commercial with a feature-length runtime, the bears help a couple of kids locate their parents while also meeting fellow toys the Care Bear Cousins. It's almost 3:30. You're probably stoned.
Clan Of The Cave Bear
Holy crap, why are you awake? This loose historical drama actually doesn't have many bears: it focuses on a tribe of cro-magnons attempting to survive the harsh terrain. There is a bear attack involved, in a very minor aspect, but you do get in-her-prime Darryl Hannah, which is cool.
The Night Of The Grizzly
We're taking it back to the oldest movie in this marathon. Eat some breakfast as you watch Clint Walker as a retired cop who has to deal with a mischievous bear threatening his land just as an old rival seeks revenge. While the real suspense comes from the man-to-man interactions in this film, the bear isn't nicknamed SATAN without reason.
Hey Boo-Boo, he's smarter than the average bear! And this movie is lesser than the average kids' movie! Regardless, as the years go by, it's going to be weirder and weirder than in 2011 a studio released a movie where Dan Aykroyd voiced the lead character, and Justin Timberlake was his kid sidekick.
The Jungle Book
Mowgli is the lead of this Disney classic, a charming coming-of-age story that tampers down the darkness of the Rudyard Kipling story. But the boisterous Baloo is clearly the highlight: at this point in the marathon, you're nearing a quarter to ten: there's no harm in a Bare Necessities singalong.
Many credit Steven Spielberg's Jaws for changing Hollywood blockbusters for the better. What they forget was the onslaught of good, bad and strange ripoffs that littered theaters for years afterward. And amongst all the Jaws ripoffs, Grizzly sure was one of them. A ferocious actioner, this suspense thriller teams a park ranger with no knowledge of bears and a survivalist to stop a lethal man-eating bear. This will leave you just short of noon, but feel free to fill the extra time with whatever footage you can find of the unreleased Grizzly II starring Charlie Sheen, George Clooney and Laura Dern.
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