Tag: Pixar

***2015 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Inside Out (2015)

insideout-teaser-2-580x328

“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

After an impeccable decade and a bit of bona fide classics, it was only a matter of time before Pixar started to disappoint.  No movie studio or single collection of creative minds could stay that good forever.  So after the perfection of movies like Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, the disappointment of things like Cars, Cars 2 and Brave was kind of inevitable.  Actually, I’ve never seen Brave, which is kind of the point, no one saw Brave.  Even good recent Pixar movies, like Monsters University and Toy Story 3, suffer from the very fact that they’re sequels and lack that initial delight that a new Pixar world can bring.  But from the first trailer I saw months ago, I had a feeling that Inside Out was going to be one of the good ones.


It turns out, inside of us all, in a control room in our brains, a team of emotions run our feelings.  In the world of Inside Out, we get to see this in action through 11 year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias).  Inside her mind, we meet Joy (Amy Pohler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kailing) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).  After a new job for her father sees Riley and her family moving from Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions literally need to work overtime so Riley can navigate and process her new life. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Dino 1

“If you ain’t scared, you ain’t alive.”

It’s hard to expect much form a movie when more than half of the entries on its IMDB Trivia page are all about the fact that it was a troubled production, its original director was sacked half way through that troubled production, and it’s release date was pushed back over and over again. There once was a time when even that wouldn’t be enough to lower my expectations of a Pixar movie. But these days, they’re not quite so infallible. For every amazing Inside Out, there’s a perfectly average Monster’s University and completely terrible Cars 2. But there’s just enough goodwill from the people who revolutionised animation for me to be trepidatious, but still intrigued enough, to watch The Good Dinosaur.


65 million years ago, a meteor crashed into planet Earth, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. Only in the universe of this movie, it passed us by and the dinos lived on to become the dominant species, some even developing agriculture and farming. .Some like the brontosaurus-like Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) and Momma (Frances MacDormand). They grow trees and also grow a family of three kids. There’s the tough, outgoing and confident Buck (Marcus Scribner), the smart Libby (Maleah Ni[pay-Padilla), and the runtish, scared of his own shadow, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Inside Out (2015)

insideout-teaser-2-580x328

“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

After an impeccable decade and a bit of bona fide classics, it was only a matter of time before Pixar started to disappoint.  No movie studio or single collection of creative minds could stay that good forever.  So after the perfection of movies like Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, the disappointment of things like Cars, Cars 2 and Brave was kind of inevitable.  Actually, I’ve never seen Brave, which is kind of the point, no one saw Brave.  Even good recent Pixar movies, like Monsters University and Toy Story 3, suffer from the very fact that they’re sequels and lack that initial delight that a new Pixar world can bring.  But from the first trailer I saw months ago, I had a feeling that Inside Out was going to be one of the good ones.


It turns out, inside of us all, in a control room in our brains, a team of emotions run our feelings.  In the world of Inside Out, we get to see this in action through 11 year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias).  Inside her mind, we meet Joy (Amy Pohler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kailing) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).  After a new job for her father sees Riley and her family moving from Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions literally need to work overtime so Riley can navigate and process her new life. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #99. Toy Story (1995)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
toy_story_1995_4
Toy Story is 20 years old. That blows my mind. I still think of computer animated movies as the new thing. But if Toy Story is two entire decades old, that means there are adults today, who only know a world of computer animated movies, and probably think cell animation is archaic and old fashioned. Toy Story can’t just take credit for that because it was the first, it can take credit for that because it’s an amazing movie that would have been amazing in any format. It just so happens, it got to revolutionise the very concept of animation at the same time.


Woody the Cowboy (Tom Hanks) is the leader of a bunch of toys who come to life whenever their owner, Andy, leaves the room. When kids loaded up with presents start to arrive for Andy’s birthday party, all of his current toys worry about being usurped by whatever new fad that may be under all of that bright wrapping paper. A fear that is justified when Andy opens his new Buzz Lightyear doll. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DUD SEQUEL WEEK*** Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993)

Weekend at Bernie_s 2 v1
Even before the half assed story gets a chance to totally underwhelm and disappoint the audience, the opening titles do a pretty amazing job of that in just a minute or two.  An attempted fun, silly, animated sequence, the cartoons look cheaper, jerkier and lazier than the worst cartoon of the early 80s.  Next to this, The Masters of the Universe looks like Pixar genius.  And the music sounds like someone with no musical knowledge turning on the world’s cheapest Casio keyboard for the very first time, then just pressing buttons to see what would happen.  If this entire opening titles sequence cost more than about $7.50, the studio was ripped off.


Like most quickly slapped together sequels to surprise hit comedies, the first few minutes of Weekend at Bernie’s II are all about negating any character development, lessons learned or story closure from the first movie.  In this case, Larry and Richard, played by Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman, are not the corporate heroes they though they’d be after uncovering Bernie’s chicanery in the first movie.  Instead, they’re fired from their job because…  Well, because it makes it easier for the story to lazily galumph in the most obvious direction if they’re fired.  That’s why.

Through some even lazier, more convenient story developments, Bernie is reanimated via voodoo and he, along with Larry and Richard, end up in the Virgin Islands.  And I might just leave it at that.  I’m a afraid going into any more detail about this dumb, dumb premise might actually make me dumber.

The first movie stuck with a pretty tried and true character dynamic.  Jonathan Silverman’s Richard was the uptight, play be the rules stick in the mud.   Andrew McCarthy’s Larry was the wacky best friend.  It’s a simple, effective combo that makes it easy for the audience to know who’s who from the get go.  In Weekend at Bernie’s II, a lot of that is abandoned with Richard immediately onboard with Larry’s wackiest schemes.  The relationship in the original might night have been ground breaking, but at least it attempted make them separate people.  For long stretches of the sequel, it’s basically just two Larry-types trying to out wacky each other.

I will admit, I did laugh out loud at one joke involving a man holding a chicken in porno theatre.   As over the top as that sounds, it was one of the few moments when the movie went for something small, instead of big, broad, whiplash inducing mugging.

When Weekend at Bernie’s II was released, I was 12 years old and a fan of the first movie.  Now, you’d be doing well to find someone much dumber and with worse taste than a 12 year old dude.  Even then, I knew to avoid this movie.  In the decades since, it’s become a pretty standard punch line and shorthand for lazy sequel.  Having now finally scene it, that punch line, shorthand status is definitely justified.  I guess there’s only one movie worth of corpse desecration jokes.


Weekend at Bernie’s II
Directed By – Robert Klane
Written By – Robert Klane

MOVIE REVIEW | Monsters University (2013)

Monsters-University-Mike-Sulley

With Toy Story 2 and 3, Pixar showed they could make sequels that were even better than what preceded them.  Finding ways to build on characters for more intricate stories, more emotional connection and more of what made you love the original, without pandering.  With Cars 2, Pixar showed they’re not above a blatant cash grab by exploiting the laziest, most clichéd title in their catalogue, with an even lazier, more clichéd sequel that amps up everything that was bad about the original.  So with Monsters University, I wasn’t sure which style of Pixar sequel I was in for.  And the answer, it’s a kind of a bit of both.  But mercifully, it’s a lot closer to Toy Story 2 than Cars 2.


Monsters University is the origin story of Monster Inc’s Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman).  Before they were best friends working in the scream collection business, they were college enemies.  If you’ve ever seen a college based comedy, you know the story of Monsters University beat by beat, but that’s fine.  This is about making you care about the characters and laugh at the jokes.  The cast is rounded out by Mike and Sully’s band of loser fraternity brothers, one of whom is the clear stand out of the movie, Art, voiced by Charlie Day.  This is a kids’ movie, so Art isn’t technically a stoner, but he is totally a stoner.  And Day manages find a way to make this over used character cliché really funny by making him just a little unhinged and scary.

Here’s the one problem I had with Monsters University.  If there’s a way to base a family movie on such a raunchy genre, these guys didn’t find it.  Sure, a lot of the college movie standards come down to slobs versus snobs, but they were more than that.  In the 70s, Animal House had the slobs of Delta Tau Chi battling the snobs of Omega Theta Pi, but it also revolved around chasing tail and getting high.  In the 80s, Revenge of the Nerds told the inspirational story of the slobbish Tri Lambs taking on the snobbish Alpha Betas.  But there’s also tail chasing, getting high and hair pie.  These movies are also old enough now that not only are the kids seeing Monsters University unlikely to get a single reference, I lot of parents are probably too young to get them as well.

OK, I lied about only having one problem with Monsters University, because there is a second.  And before I get into it, I am fully aware how ridiculous it is that I think this, but it bugged me for the entire movie.  Why does Monsters University, the college Mike and Sully attend students, have the same logo as Monster Inc, the factory they end up working at as adults?  Why is a learning institution so tightly connected to this massive corporation?  It’s almost like the good people at Pixar were more concerned about brand recognition than they were with addressing this major issue that I’m sure no one but me even gave a second thought.

Monsters University
Directed By – Dan Scanlon
Written By – Daniel Gerson, Robert L Baird, Dan Scanlon

MOVIE REVIEW | Black Rock (2012)

Black Rock
You probably haven’t heard of Black Rock, and that’s shame.  Because this is the kind of small, interesting movie that proves how entertaining small movies can be if they’re interesting enough.  No big stars, no flashy effects, no expensive sets, locations or big set pieces.  Just a really tight, well told story about a small group of ordinary people in a far from ordinary situation.


Three old friends, Abby (director Katey Aselton). Lou (Lake Bell) and Sarah (Kate Bosworth) all meet up for a reunion, camping at their old child hood escape, a small island with not much to offer.  Only it’s not a happy reunion.  Abby and Lou have obviously fallen out years ago, and Sarah invites them both (without telling them about the other) in an attempt at a forced reconciliation.  Soon after arriving on the island, they meet three Iraq veterans hunting on the island, one of whom they recognise as the little bother of an old school friend.  A night of drinking leads to drunken flirting, which leads to an altercation, which leads to all hell breaking loose.

Knowing more certainly wouldn’t ruin the movie, but I think knowing as little as possible will definitely make it even better.  Even after I recovered from the neck breaking direction shift in the second act and thought I had Black Rock figured out, it still managed to sucker punch me more than once with some real shocks and surprises.

At under 80 minutes, Black Rock is the kind of economical story telling you just don’t see enough of anymore.  From CGI blockbusters, to Pixar animation, to mostly improvised slacker comedies, almost every movie cracks the two hour barrier these days, and only a small fraction of them need to.  Black Rock tells a complete story, populated with believable characters whose motivations and actions never seem rushed or artificial, all in under 80 minutes.

Written by Aselton’s husband Mark Duplass, Black Rock clearly benefits from his micro budget experience.  As a pivotal member of the unfortunately titled (some might even say, media fabricated) “Mumblecore” movement, Duplass has written and directed some of the most successful micro and small budget movies of the last decade.  Here, his knack for entertainment through character rather than spectacle makes his first steps into real genre cinema pay off.

Sometimes, ultra small movies float by on goodwill, generated by the “little guy against the studio system” underdog story of its making.  But Black Rock shows that the right story simply doesn’t need a big budget, big stars, flashy effects, expensive sets, locations or big set pieces.  This is a great movie because it’s a tightly scripted, well told, well acted story.

Black Rock
Directed By – Katie Aselton
Written By – Mark Duplass