Posts Tagged ‘pixar’

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April 2020 Movie Reviews

May 2, 2020

Check out my profile on Letterboxd if you want to follow along as I write my reviews throughout the month and also because the site/app is amazing for film lovers. April was a pretty sad month because of the pandemic. Theaters are closed all throughout the United States and movie studios are pulling all their films from their original release dates. Even when theaters reopen to the public, they are talking about selling out at 50% capacity and what studio is going to want to release their tent pole films in a climate like that? I’m really curious when the next time I watch a new film in theaters will be.

Onward (2020, Disney+)

Pretty cool of Disney to release this on their streaming platform less than a month after it came out in theaters (shoutout to Covid-19). I can’t say Onward is top tier Pixar, but it was plenty good and managed to tug at my emotions like pretty much all their movies do. Amazing animation, solid voice work from Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, and enough laughs to keep me entertained the whole time. Not Pixar’s strongest work, but their middle tier is still really good stuff.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (2020, Netflix, Documentary)

Crazy stuff, but wildly entertaining. I don’t think it’s an all-time great documentary, but it was definitely a lot of fun. All the major players are scummy though. Does anyone that watched this actually think that Carol Baskins is an animal rights hero?

Probably a must see documentary, but I’m going to rate it just a notch below that.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Bombshell (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

I’m not even remotely into politics and I spend none of my time watching news coverage, so my knowledge of the FOX News infrastructure and its relationship to the various political parties is nonexistent, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Bombshell. This movie is more about sexual harassment than politics anyways. In fact, these women bringing down FOX CEO Roger Ailes was the first domino in what eventually became a movement that sparked the Me Too hashtag. I think that story is well told here and shows the struggle of fearing those in power and wanting to protect your career or… calling a public figure a monster.

Looking at pictures of Megyn Kelly on Google images, I can see why Bombshell won the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling. Theron is virtually unrecognizable here, but she looks exactly like Megyn Kelly. It’s uncanny. John Lithgow also looks like he spent a lot of time in the makeup chair.

This movie had some great acting from pretty much everyone. Theron and Robbie were both Oscar-nominated with Robbie giving the best performance of the movie, in my opinion. Lithgow is also at his slimy best and I’m a bit surprised his role didn’t get more attention. This movie has a strong supporting cast as well.

Bombshell is well acted and entertaining and definitely worth a watch.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

This review may contain spoilers.

Well, this series jumped the shark pretty quick. I actually liked the first reboot sequel and was pleasantly surprised by it. I thought it was a fresh, modern take and I liked the cast. But this? I was tuned out within 30 minutes, already wishing it was over, and there was 90 minutes left! Why is a Jumanji movie 2+ hours??

Anyways, the climax of this movie takes place on an ice fortress… and there’s a blimp… and a flying horse. Remember when Jumanji was a board game about jungle animals? I guess the more sequels you make to something like this, the further away from the original concept you have to get to keep things interesting. Well, consider me uninterested.

There are a couple of funny parts in this, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t painful for me to watch.

3/10 (Bad)

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Personal Shopper (2016, iTunes Store digital rental)

This is another one of those times where I go into a movie knowing nothing about it except that at some point in time something sparked me to put it on my watchlist… probably some best films of 2016 lists. A movie about mediums, the afterlife, and ghosts was about the last thing I was expecting and the content kind of knocked my socks off. I wouldn’t go as far as to call Personal Shopper riveting, but it was compelling and never lost my interest despite the fact that it is a really slow burn and Kristen Stewart’s character spends a good portion of the running time shopping, trying on clothes, and sending text messages. Speaking of which, did it drive anyone else nuts that she put a space in between her sentence and the question mark ? Like that ? Every single time.

I am not a Kristen Stewart fan at all. Prior to watching this, I had seen seven movies she’s been in and five of them have been part of the miserable Twilight franchise – movies I’ve seen because my wife wanted me to watch them with her. I’m on record calling Bella Swan one of the worst characters of all-time, so my distaste for Kristen Stewart is not much of a surprise and probably not even fair to her as I’ve seen less than 20% of her filmography. Well, this is easily the best work I’ve seen from her. She’s good in this movie!

Personal Shopper is unique, with a strong performance from Stewart and some surprisingly cool visual effects. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend to anyone that’s into ghost stories and doesn’t mind a deliberate pace.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tusk (2014, Netflix)

I’m trying to think of anything at all that I liked about this movie and I’m coming up empty. I guess the, uhm, “walrus” makeup/costume was… interesting? Also grotesque. Possibly appalling. Kevin Smith just sucks now. I was a pretty big fan up through Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be impressed with that movie in 2020 and the only film I’ve enjoyed of his over the last 20 years was Zack and Miri Make a Porno. That’s a long stretch of crap. Granted, I’ve skipped almost all of it, but I trust the word of mouth. Still, Red State comes to a streaming service in April 2020 and I have the Jay and Silent Bob reboot on my watchlist, so I’ll probably watch both of those eventually. This is the kind of stuff I throw on late at night when I feel like I can stay up for another 20 minutes or so and then I watch it over the course of a few days because I don’t want to show that kind of disrespect to a movie I actually want to see.

One more thing, Johnny Depp is brutal. What happened to him? There was a point in time where I thought he was one of my favorite actors working and now I can’t stand the guy. He tries so hard to create unique and weird characters and lately he’s been failing miserably. His character here seems like something Sacha Baron Cohen would try to make a movie out of and Hollywood is like, “uhm, no.” Depp is no longer a draw for me… he’s an autoskip.

2/10 (Horrible)

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013, YouTube)

I rated this documentary higher than any film in the actual franchise, but I guess it makes sense. This is 5+ hours of awesome interviews, behind-the-scenes stories, and unreleased (and cut due to MPAA wimpiness) footage from a franchise I’ve loved since I was… wait, let me look up when Jason Lives was released… 5 or 6 years old? I remember my first exposure to Jason Vorhees being that opening scene from Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives when he’s brought back from the grave (literally) and maggots and worms are crawling around on his face. I watched it on home video… at a neighbor’s house… so I’m guessing it was probably a year or two after its theatrical release. I’ve been in love with the franchise ever since and I still watch them periodically and hope they never stop making them, no matter how bad some of them are.

This is a must see for anyone that’s a fan of the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s super long, but if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Not recommended for non-fans obv.

The only place I could find this documentary was on YouTube. Check it out.

8/10 (Must See)

Locke (2013, Netflix)

98% of this movie is Tom Hardy driving in a car and talking on his mobile phone via bluetooth. If that sounds awesome to you, well… you’d be right! Ivan Locke is a construction foreman on the eve of the biggest cement pour in European history when he receives a voicemail from a woman he had a one night affair with and learns that she is giving birth to his child. The rest of the movie is Hardy talking in an amazing Welsh accent while trying to coordinate the job he won’t be attending the next day and telling his wife the bad news.

For a film with one actor that takes place entirely in a car, I was kind of blown away. It doesn’t hurt that Tom Hardy is that actor because he can be absolutely brilliant and I think he’s on that level in Locke. The movie actually has some top level supporting talent in Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, and Tom Holland, but they all phone it in. Literally.

I wish Tom Hardy wasn’t doing Venom. I wish he was doing more stuff like this. He is elite.

8/10 (Must See)

Watchmen (2009, personal collection, third viewing)

I already posted a review for this over ten years ago, but the HBO series has made me revisit both the graphic novel and this 2009 film adaptation. I heard I would appreciate the HBO series substantially more if the graphic novel was fresh in my mind and I decided I might as well watch this movie for the third time.

I actually don’t think the acting is as bad as I thought it was a decade ago. For instance, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson are actually pretty good casting as The Comedian and Nite Owl, respectively. The only choice I truly didn’t like was Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt. I just don’t buy him as “The Smartest Man in the World” and his confidence just comes across as phony to me. Jackie Earle Haley is great as Rorschach. Not only is his portrayal top notch, but when he’s unmasked, he really does look exactly like the Walter Kovacs from the graphic novel.

This is such a faithful adaptation. It’s basically a scene-for-scene translation and so much of the dialogue is lifted unaltered directly from the comic. And yet… something is off. I said in my previous review that this movie has a bit of a “hokey” feel to it. I don’t know if I can explain it any better now, but I just watched the first episode of the HBO series (which I will write about when I’m done watching all of it) and the difference in quality is stark. This movie is cheesy by comparison. Maybe I just hate Zack Snyder’s style?

Fans of the graphic novel shouldn’t be too disappointed with this movie – it’s definitely enjoyable – but I’m much more interested in what the HBO series has to offer myself.

6/10 (Recommended)

Out of Sight (1998, HBONOW, second viewing)

I’ll probably end up doing a run through of Steven Soderbergh’s entire filmography at some point, as I’m doing with Scorsese now, but I’ve been itching to rewatch Out of Sight and it’s leaving HBO NOW at the end of the month.

This is a really fun movie. The sharp banter and charismatic characters – especially George Clooney’s Jack Foley – make watching it a really enjoyable experience. You can see the Soderbergh style that became so popular in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy. Speaking of which, I’ve missed Clooney. He’s underrated as a leading man and I haven’t seen a new movie he’s starred in since Gravity in 2013. J-Lo and Clooney have great chemistry in this movie and I think that’s probably the biggest reason this film works so well.

I only remembered one thing about Out of Sight: the scene where something really surprising happens to a rather minor character. I’m sure if you’ve seen the movie, you would know what I’m talking about. Maybe that scene has stuck with me all these years because I referenced it in my music some twenty years ago.

Smart, funny, and fast-paced, with strong lead performances from Clooney and Lopez, Out of Sight was a solid revisit and one of the better films in Soderbergh’s catalog.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tootsie (1982, Netflix)

Tootsie got an astounding 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Sydney Pollack, Best Writing and acting noms for Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, and Teri Garr. Alas, only Lange was able to take home a statue for her supporting role.

I thought this was great. Dustin Hoffman is wonderful in one of the best performances of his career. I’ve only seen Jessica Lange’s later work, but she oozed natural charisma in the early 80s also. You watch a movie like Sleepaway Camp and see all this horribly corny acting and think that it’s just a reflection of the times (and the genre), but then you watch something like Tootsie – also released in 1982 – and, well, there was probably plenty of great acting happening back then. It’s probably not fair to compare a campy slasher flick with one of the most highly touted movies of 1982, but the contrast is so stark that it makes me wonder if I was just watching all the wrong movies while I was growing up. I just find a lot of the acting from the 80s really cheesy and the performances in this movie are just all so good.

Hoffman’s character gets in really deep pretending to be a woman, finding huge success on a popular soap and becoming extremely close with Lange’s character. I kept wondering how he was going to get out of this pickle and I have to say this film’s resolution was outstanding. I absolutely loved the ending.

Tootsie is a must see film from almost four decades ago. Check it out if you never have!

8/10 (Must See)

Mean Streets (1973, iTunes Store digital rental)

I liked Mean Streets a lot, but I think it falls short of greatness. I do love the soundtrack in this movie though. The song selection is elite and I love how The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” plays during the awesome fight scene in the bar. The soundtrack feels like a great use of classic old school songs, but every song in this movie was 40 years fresher when it came out! Robert De Niro is absolutely fantastic in this movie. He’s completely unhinged as the wild and constantly disrespectful Johnny Boy. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen De Niro so loose in his whole career, but it’s been a while since I watched Taxi Driver. He’s just wonderful and you have to wonder how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination. I’m tempted to watch all the roles that got nominated over him and see how wrong they got it (I actually did add 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly – also starring De Niro – to my watchlist).

Mean Streets was a lot of fun. You can see Scorsese getting his feet wet here with the mafioso type content he would eventually become famous for with Goodfellas and Casino. The characters and story are just so much better in those later films. This is a good movie though and I actually strongly considered watching it again before my 48 rental period expired. I can see myself revisiting it when I get through the rest of Marty’s filmography. Mean Streets is a huge leap forward from Scorsese’s first two films, but I’m still hesitating to call it his first great one. Maybe I’ll change my mind the second time I watch it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Boxcar Bertha (1972, iTunes Store digital rental)

Martin Scorsese’s second feature film doesn’t establish him as a future great, but I thought it was fun, despite some issues I had with it – mostly what seems to be a serious passage of time that goes almost entirely unaddressed. I’m not sure what kind of movie this is. A western? Reviews I’ve read have called it an exploitation film. There’s a lot of harmonica in it. It’s also supposed to be a revenge movie, but I’m not sure how well that revenge was realized. David Carradine (the future Bill of Kill Bill) is charming in his role. Barbara Hershey is naked a lot in this movie which is kind of weird because she looks 15 years old (she was 23 or 24). She does a fine job acting though.

I don’t think Boxcar Bertha was necessarily a good movie, but I enjoyed watching it. This film is not one you have to see in Scorsese’s catalog unless you want to watch them all… like I do.

5/10 (Decent)

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Movie Reviews: Midsommar, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Crawl, Child’s Play

July 26, 2019

Midsommar (2019) – This definitely won’t be for everyone. It’s director Ari Aster’s follow up to last year’s awesome Hereditary and it is every bit as unsettling and quite a bit weirder. Florence Pugh gives another top notch performance and already has two roles this year that could earn her some Oscar consideration. For the first half of this movie, I was enthralled, thinking it was one of the best of the year, but as it moved into its last act, I couldn’t tell if I was losing interest or if I was just shocked numb. I definitely preferred Hereditary, but Midsommar gets high marks for its gorgeous cinematography, crazy setting, over-the-top gore and a great acting job from Pugh. I recommend, but be warned.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable… sort of)

Toy Story 4 (2019) – Somehow Pixar keeps pumping out extremely good sequels to their first franchise. For me, Toy Story 3 was the best film of the series and a perfect conclusion to this saga and one of my favorite films of the past couple decades, but when Disney can print a billion dollars with every new entry, you knew it wouldn’t be too long before we got another movie… and this probably won’t be the last one either. I really enjoyed Toy Story 4. The story meanders differently than previous installments and Forky is an amazing addition. The animation looks as good as ever and while the movie didn’t quite meet my expectations of being mind-blowingly good, I can’t say I was disappointed either. I am looking forward to watching it again and seeing if I can find a more magical appreciation of it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – I really enjoyed this. It’s consistently funny, has some awesome action sequences, and the cast is great. Jake Gyllenhall is a nice addition as Mysterio and I liked the way that character was handled. This movie was extremely pleasing but I did like Homecoming more, mostly because of Michael Keaton and the amazing scene between Peter and Vulture before the dance. Far From Home doesn’t have a sequence like that and for a hero known as “the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” this version of Spidey has seemed to spend very little time in New York.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Crawl (2019) – If this movie doesn’t make you want to pack up your belongings and relocate to Florida, then I don’t know what will. This is basically Jaws in a crawl space with big ‘ole gators instead of a great white, so it’s not exactly breaking new ground, but it was pretty much exactly what I wanted and that made it entertaining enough.

5/10 (Decent)

Child’s Play (2019) – I was primed to hate this movie. How disrespectful is it to reboot a franchise when the original continuity is still producing new content? Series creator Don Mancini directed Cult of Chucky in 2017 and the original cast and crew are currently working on a T.V. series that continues the story of the first seven movies. So what the hell is this? Chucky is a just a highly capable A.I. doll that a disgruntled factory worker decided to flip the “bad” switch on? Eww. But somehow, some way, this movie works. It’s funny, it’s gruesome, and it’s pretty damn good. I’d… watch a sequel. *gasp*

6/10 (Recommended)

Bladerunner 2049 (2017) – There’s a lot to love about this movie – the cinematography and sound are unreal, Denis Villeneuve is a genius, Ryan Gosling is great, and the concept is really cool – but I just don’t get the Blade Runner series. I’ve heard plenty of people talk about the original like it’s an all-time classic and I’ve seen it twice now and both times I came away feeling underwhelmed. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. I felt the same way about this sequel. It was good – fantastic from a technical standpoint – but the stories in both films didn’t move me at all. Maybe I just need to keep watching them until something clicks? The Blade Runner movies are really good, but I don’t think either of them are great.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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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.