Posts Tagged ‘pixar’

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Lazy Movie Reviews: Into the Spider-Verse and more!

December 19, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – I absolutely loved it. Everything in this movie is so well done – from the story to the animation to the voice acting (especially Nicholas Cage). It’s all top notch. I thought there might be potential for things to get really convoluted with merging universes and multiple Spideys but it’s easy to follow and all the various characters give us reasons to care about them. This movie also had me laughing pretty much from start to finish and the story actually packs quite the emotional punch. It’s not just a strong animated movie… it’s one of the best movies of the year. Period.

8/10 (Must See)

Creed II (2018) – A decent follow-up to the first Creed but doesn’t pack nearly the same emotional punch. Still, for the 8th installment in the Rocky franchise, one can hardly complain. If you’ve enjoyed the story up to this point, this is more of the same.

5/10 (Decent)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald (2018) – This is the worst thing J.K. Rowling has ever written – that I’ve read or seen (I have not read her books for adults). I thought the first Fantastic Beasts was decent enough, although a far cry from the quality seen in the Harry Potter movies. My problems with the sequel are the same as the first movie, only much worse this time around. The characters in these movies are just so brutally hollow and uninteresting. The story is extremely weak here and the pacing is unreal slow. Creedance Bareback is one of the worst villains ever. Wait, is he a villain? Who knows. Who cares? Johnny Depp brings absolutely nothing to the role of Grindewald, but I did think Jude Law was fine as a younger Dumbledore. The creatures play a much smaller role in this movie and that’s a shame because they were the best thing about the first one. My interest level in this franchise has gone from middling to hanging by a thread

3/10 (Bad)

Widows (2018) – A captivating thriller with surprising twists and real world relevancy, plus top notch performances from Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki. One of the more enthralling movies of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Mid90s (2018) – A nostalgic trip through my early teen years. This movie was like reliving my past, albeit without the actual skateboarding. From idolizing kids that are only a few years older (or in my case, the same age) to trying drugs, alcohol, and girls for the first time, this is a coming of age flick for kids that grew up in… the mid90s.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Overlord (2018) – I’m not sure I’m on board with calling this a B-movie as the special effects and cinematography were pretty good.
The actors are mostly unknown, but I didn’t think there was anything overly cheesy going on here. It’s a fun super-serum fueled zombie flick with Nazis as the bad guys.

6/10 (Fun)

The Christmas Chronicles (2018, Netflix) – I probably wouldn’t have watched this without seeing a strong recommendation from someone I knew. It is a welcome addition to the existing library of fun Christmas movies. This one gives Santa an upgrade in abilities and Kurt Russell is surprisingly great hamming it up as our favorite holiday folk hero.

6/10 (Fun)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018, Netflix) – I’m not sure how it happened, but this movie charmed my pants off. Wait. That sounds bad. The movie doesn’t start strong and the event that gets things rolling is a little dumb, but once the two leads start interacting with each other I think it gets quite good, as long as you can get past the fact that these are stupid teenagers acting like stupid teenagers.

6/10 (Fun)

Mandy (2018) – This movie was a total trip. If you ever wanted to drop acid and watch a movie… this would be a good film to go with. It feels like a mash-up of Hellraiser and Mad Max with a sprinkle of Evil Dead and a Nicholas Cage hell-bent on bloody revenge. Plus it has some funky camera work and cool music. Mandy gets a very strong recommendation from me, but you have to have an open mind and a thick stomach.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Incredibles 2 (2018) – We had to wait 14 years for this? As a huge fan of the original movie, I was really disappointed with this sequel. With such a long break in between films, you’d think they could come up with a more interesting story. I had the villain pegged the first time I saw them. In fact, I thought it was so obvious that I probably had to be wrong. Nope. Jack Jack the baby is easily the highlight of the movie. The rest of the main characters, aside from Elastigirl, aren’t given much room for growth. This movie isn’t nearly as funny or as charming as the first. Aside from the Toy Story movies and Finding Dory, Pixar has mostly fallen flat with their sequels.

5/10 (Decent)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – This was a massive disappointment for me. I liked the first movie and this sequel seems to bring nothing new to the table. This movie isn’t nearly as funny as it wants to be and while I won’t call it outright bad, it was pretty boring and unmemorable.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) – I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t expecting much. I would have been less surprised if this sucked than if it was really good. It has been a couple of weeks since I saw it and nothing really stuck with me, so that says something. I thought dude playing Han did an fine, but unremarkable job. There were some easter eggs for franchise fans, but there was probably a ton of stuff that this semi-fan missed. I imagine Star Wars will be mostly pleased, but this was nothing special.

5/10 (Decent)

Replay Value: Into the Spider-Verse, Widows and Mandy are movies I’d happily watch again right now. Mid90s is worth seeing again. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Christmas Chronicles have some replay value, but the rest of these movies I’d never need to see again.

Sequel Potential: Into the Spider-Verse should definitely get a direct sequel. Fantastic Beasts, Creed II, and Ant-Man and the Wasp are all part of ongoing franchises. Solo is a spin-off that will probably get its own sequel. I would imagine Widows and Mid90s are standalone films. The Christmas Chronices has potential for future films.

Oscar Potential: Into the Spider-Verse is a lock for a Best Animated Feature nomination. I haven’t seen many animated movies this year, but I can’t imagine anything winning the Oscar over this one. I thought it was good enough to warrant some long shot Best Picture consideration, but that isn’t going to happen. The Crimes of Grindewald is on the short list for Best Score, but already whiffed on Visual Effects and Make-Up. I guess it is still a contender for Costume Design. Widows should get Viola Davis another Best Actress nom and some Best Picture consideration. I thought Elizabeth Debicki was worth consideration for her supporting role in the movie, but the competition is looking too stiff for a nomination. Incredibles 2 will probably get a Best Animated Feature nomination because Pixar movies basically always do, but it would have to be a very weak year for it to be deserved. I’ve actually only seen two animated features this year, so I have no idea. Solo: A Star Wars Story and Ant-Man and the Wasp are on the short list for the Visual Effects category.

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Coco (2017), Gerald’s Game (2017)

December 13, 2017

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Director: Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 2)

Bottom Line: I loved it. What a feel good movie about family, passion, music, love, loss, memory, and, of course, death. Coco is a return to form for Pixar, combining absolutely beautiful CG animation with memorable characters and an enriching, funny story that pulls at the heart strings. Bring your Kleenex! This is Pixar’s best original film since Up in 2009.

Replay Value: Pretty close to a must own. I would definitely enjoy watching this multiple times.
Sequel Potential: Hit animated films always have sequel potential, but I think this would work best as a standalone film.
Oscar Potential: Best Animated Film nomination is a lock. There is potential for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Possibly Best Original Song for “Remember Me.”

Grade: 8/10 (Must See)

Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Hush)

Bottom Line: Gerald’s Game is a taut psychological thriller based on a short, overlooked Stephen King novel about a woman that goes on a remote cabin getaway with her husband in the hopes of rekindling their marriage. He cuffs her to the bed, she hates it, implores him to let her free, but… he has a heart attack and falls off the bed, wounding himself fatally. So she’s stuck there, handcuffed to the bed, with no food, and no company except a hungry, stray dog that wanders into the house and the figments of her deteriorating psychosis. Gerald’s Game is a surprisingly deep and emotional film considering the vast majority of it takes place on a bed with a woman that can barely move. Carla Gugino gives a phenomenal performance. This movie is streaming on Netflix and I definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys psychological thrillers and doesn’t mind the claustrophobic circumstances.

Replay Value: Not a great candidate for multiple viewings, but it’s something you could revisit many years later.
Sequel Potential: Zero.
Oscar Potential: Carla Gugino is fantastic in this. Not sure how a Netflix movie plays into the Oscar races, but I’ll guess she doesn’t get much consideration.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

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Finding Dory (2016)

August 26, 2016

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill
Director: Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life), Angus MacLane

Bottom Line: Finding Dory is a more-than-worthy long awaited sequel to Pixar’s Finding Nemo, continuing the story, but this time focusing on Ellen Degeneres’ Dory, a fish that has no short term memory, and the character that was arguably the star of the original film anyway. The movie opens in heartbreaking fashion – with a very young Dory getting separated from her family and having no idea how to get back to them before forgetting about them altogether. Something sparks her memory and Dory embarks on an adventure with Marlin and Nemo to find her parents, ultimately landing them in the Marine Life Institute, where Dory was born. Finding Dory is touching and funny and does a great job of calling back old characters while introducing classic new ones like Ed O’Neill’s self-serving and incredibly resourceful octopus Hank and Kaitlin Olson’s blind whale-shark Destiny. And Becky, a crazy bird that is hilariously wacko. Of course, it goes without saying that the animation in Finding Dory is absolutely stunning.

Finding Dory is great fun for both kids and adults, a worthy sequel to Finding Nemo, and, arguably, the first great Pixar film since Toy Story 3 in 2010.

Replay Value: A must own for me.
Sequel Potential: Pixar’s #1 movie domestically, with chances to pass Toy Story 3 as the studio’s all-time most lucrative theatrical release – all of which is a formula for more sequels.
Oscar Potential: Pretty rare that a Pixar movie this good isn’t a shoo-in for Best Animated Feature, but Zootopia is just as good and Kubo and the Two Strings – which I haven’t seen yet – is sitting at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Must See)

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Inside Out (2015)

June 29, 2015

Starring: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
Director: Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.), Ronaldo Del Carmen

Bottom Line: Boy, I hate to say it, but Pixar’s Inside Out is one of the most overrated movies I’ve ever seen. It’s at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.8 on IMDB with a top 60 ranking in their top 250 of all-time. Those are extremely strong ratings and with Pixar’s nearly flawless track record (I’m looking at you Cars 1 and 2) the superlatives being tossed around concerning this movie seemed quite reasonable. When my wife turned to me about thirty minutes into it and asked “is it almost over?” I had a sad moment of realization that Pixar had dropped the ball on this one.

Now, I don’t want to say Inside Out was bad, but it was dangerously close to bad – and it certainly wasn’t the borderline classic critics have made it out to be. It’s the story of a young girl named Riley and the emotions in her head (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear) as her family moves from Minnesota to the busy city of San Francisco, leaving behind friends, memories, and the frozen lakes she used to play hockey on. It’s actually a pretty good concept, but the setting of a girl’s head is tough terrain and I really didn’t think the execution was all that great. Inside Out is at its best when all the emotions are together in “Headquarters” interacting with each other hilariously, but Joy and Sadness quickly get separated from the rest of the crew and things get… quite a bit messy and surprisingly boring. During their quest to save “Friendship Island,” “Hockey Island,” “Family Island,” etc. from collapsing and disappearing from Riley’s memory forever, the duo encounter Riley’s old imaginary friend Bing Bong, a cotton candy/elephant/dolphin hybrid that is about as pleasing as Jar Jar Binks was. Seriously. Once the conflict starts in Inside Out and Joy and Sadness take a tour through Riley’s head when the depressing reality of moving to San Francisco really kicks in, the movie’s momentum halts and the story feels like a drag. The best moments of the movie take place outside Riley’s head and that’s a problem.

As usual, Pixar does a good job in the animation department. It’s little wonder that the Bay Area-based company could bring San Francisco to life with such amazing detail. I particularly liked Riley’s encounter with broccoli pizza and SF’s ubiquitous dedication to organic foods – an especially funny touch considering I visited SF last week and the one restaurant I ate in offered only organic food. The voice talent is also well cast and does a good job. The concept and story here are pretty good, I just expected it to be better.

Overall, I found Inside Out to be funny at times and I liked Riley’s story, but I didn’t much care for what was going on with the emotions inside her head – those were the scenes where you just want it to be over already. The themes of growing up were somewhat touching, but they were so much more powerful and well done in Toy Story 3. I also felt like Inside Out was more tailored for kids only than almost any Pixar movie I’ve ever seen. Inside Out isn’t terrible – I would definitely recommend it to families – but it was a massive disappointment for me personally.

Replay Value: I don’t know if I can watch this movie again, but I feel like I might owe it another viewing.
Sequel Potential: Highly likely.
Oscar Potential: Basically a shoo-in for Best Animated movie based on the critic’s reviews.

Grade: 5.5/10 (Watchable/Recommended)

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Brave (2012)

June 27, 2012

Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Kevin Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters
Director: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews

Quick Thoughts: I found Brave to be quite enjoyable, but it’s definitely a notch below the standard we’ve come to expect from Pixar movies that aren’t called Cars. The film plays out more like a classic Disney fairy tale than the immensely creative and layered stories we’ve come to expect from the studio. There are some touching moments in the movie due to the conflict between mother and daughter and the pressure some parents put on their kids to be what they want them to be rather than letting them grow into their own destiny; and Brave actually resolves this rift in surprising fashion.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Good enough too warrant a second viewing but it’s not timeless like many of the other films in the Pixar library.
Sequel Potential: Merida is a strong enough character to get a sequel but they would need to go a completely different route to continue her story.
Oscar Potential: Should get a Best Animated Feature nomination but not a win.
Nudity: N/A
Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 76% Audience: 85%
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Recommendation: Brave is visually beautiful and has some charm, but the humor is almost exclusively juvenile and the story is much simpler than what we expect from a Pixar movie.

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Tangled (2010)

May 31, 2011

Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard (Bolt)

Quick Thoughts: Disney goes back to its fairy tale roots with great success. Tangled tells the story of Rapunzel, a princess that was stolen at birth by an old woman because of her magical hair that had the power to keep the old woman looking young. Locked away in a tower through her teenage years, Rapunzel finally seeks adventure when fugitive Flynn Ryder inadvertently seeks escape in her isolated home. Tangled is a perfect addition to the Disney archives, combining innovative animation with good storytelling. 3D and CG technology are used to breath life into characters that resemble the more traditional hand drawn models of Disney’s past. The story and characters are strong and humorous, with Ryder’s noble horse providing the most laughs throughout the film, a remarkable feat for a non-speaking character. The songs in the movie are solid and Mandy Moore is enjoyable in the lead role. I wouldn’t list Tangled amongst Disney’s all-time best work, but it’s close between this and Bolt for Disney’s best animated, non-Pixar feature film of the past decade.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Lots of value here for kids and families.
Sequel Potential: Disney likes to make direct-to-video sequels, but the conclusion of the film doesn’t leave much left to explore with these characters.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for Best Original Song and possibly snubbed for Best Animated Feature (I haven’t seen The Illusionist yet).
Nudity: N/A
Grade: 6.5/10 (Recommended)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 89% Audience: 88%
IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
Recommendation: A solid, but unspectacular Disney movie that is great for kids and enjoyable for adults.