Boldly original with captivating storytelling
By: Peter Kosanovich
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): Teen Miles Morales becomes Spider-Man of his reality, crossing his path with five counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat for all realities.
Let me start right off the bat by saying that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie that has ever been made to this point. And it rightfully deserves all of the accolades and attention it is getting! Sony took a huge risk even greenlighting this movie. They had Sam Raimi’s trilogy with Tobey Maguire, which gave two strong films, and then a catastrophic dud. I will admit, I enjoy those first two movies more than most people. But regardless of your opinions on them, they are well made. Sony followed those up with Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man movies. I thought the first movie was fine, but very unoriginal and uninspired. They just tried to make Peter Parker too cool and "edgy." The second movie was a mess from start to finish, so I will not even address it any further.
Sony was able to negotiate a partnership with Marvel Studios to breathe some new life into the character with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tom Holland is incredibly charming as Peter Parker, and the audience was not forced to suffer through yet another origin story. Not to mention, the MCU finally sawa good villain in Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the Vulture. All-in-all, it was a solid outing, and well worse the praise. But that still pales in comparison to Spider-Verse.
Sony worked on Spider-Verse in relative secret. While everyone else was focused on Homecoming and the Marvel partnership, Sony was working on this. And wow did it pay off. In December 2017, they released a teaser trailer to show off the new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, and the insane animation they were attempting. I will never forget watching that teaser the first time. I was flying home for a wedding and Christmas from Canada, and I was in a painfully long layover in the Detroit Airport. I opened Facebook minutes after the teaser dropped and promptly had my mind blown! The visuals were stunning; the music, “Home” by Vince Staples (Vince was also featured in the first teaser for Black Panther the previous year), was on point; and the decision to use Miles Morales as the lead character had me practically yelling in joy in the middle of the Detroit airport.
For those of you who do not know Miles Morales, let me give you a quick rundown. In the 2000s Marvel comics decided to spice up their comics by introducing the Ultimate Universe, an alternate universe of Marvel characters that existed outside of the traditional continuity. In this alternate universe they introduced Miles Morales, a 13-year-old Afro-Latino boy from Brooklyn, who, having also been bitten by a radioactive spider, takes up the mantel of Spider-Man after the death of Peter Parker. If you are worried about spoilers for the comics, you are about 10 years too late, but I will do my best to avoid them going forward.
So, now into the actual review portion: From the trailers and various promotional material you may have noticed multiple Spider-persons. This may be overwhelming, but trust me, this is Miles’ story through-and-through. And even though I bashed on origin stories earlier, this includes a fresh take on the origin story. So you will not feel lost if you are new, but you will get some goods laughs if you understand all the references to other Spider-Man movies and history. On that note, the movie is hilarious! There are laughs to be had at every turn. Jokes about Spider-Man, about New York City, about Marvel and the Avengers, about rival studio Warner Bros (Spider-Ham is very self-aware of his likeness to Porky Pig). They even manage to make puberty a running joke throughout the film, without being malicious toward an age group that clearly needs no one throwing punches at them. It is incredibly smart and clever. But, like the puberty joke, none of the humor is malicious or mean in any way. It is charming and endearing, sweet and wholesome, and easily relatable across demographics.
With that, the movie is highly relatable! Sure, it is about superheroes and super-powered Spider-people, but it genuinely has heart to it. Miles has loving parents who want the best for him, even if he does not always see it. His family is complex and messy: his dad is a cop, while his uncle Aaron is a career criminal. Yet both care deeply for Miles. He has friends and struggles to fit in at his new school, a place that is clearly designed to be a little classist. He is one of the very few non-white students there, along with his roommate, an Asian student who barely says a word at all. He struggles to talk with his crush, it is very sweet. As fantastical and complex as the movie is bringing multiple Spider-people from multiple universes together, you can still feel genuine heart and down-to-earth struggles that make this a highly relatable film.
Yes, it is very complex, but Spider-Verse takes care to make sure it does not feel overly complex. When it does get more complex, or you wonder “wait, ANOTHER Spider-person?” they make a joke to help guide the audience along. Each Spider-person gets an individual origin story, but they are mostly boiled down to a minute or less, just so you know, “Okay, it’s a Spider-person. They are similar to Peter Parker, but here is how they are different.”
There is of course Miles Morales, the lead protagonist. There is Peter Parker, dragged in from another universe. There is Gwen Stacy, aka Spider-Woman (Spider-Gwen to the fans). In mainstream comics Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker’s first love, and he was unable to save her from a tragic death. In her alternate universe, she was bitten by a spider, and was unable to save Peter Parker from a tragic death. There is Peni Parker (aka SP//dr), a futuristic, anime-inspired spider-person who co-pilots a biomechanical suit with a radioactive spider. There is Peter Porker (aka Spider-Ham), who was a spider bitten by a radioactive pig (very self-aware), and is designed to look like Looney Tunes cartoons. And finally there is Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man Noir), with the truly inspired voice-casting of Nicolas Cage, in a monochromatic, hard-boiled, noir-esque Spider-Man that wears a trench coat and fedora like old detective films.
What's remarkable is that, even though the standard animation throughout the film is incredible, each of these individual Spider-people have added unique visuals to help truly distinguish them, bringing added individuality and flare to them. Peni Parker is inspired by anime, so her character is Japanese-American and has large, slightly exaggerated features common to anime. For instance, her eyes are massive and tend to twinkle when she is happy or swell up when she is sad. Her movements are also slightly exaggerated to sell the over-the-top nature of some anime series. Peter Porker has a flatter style of animation. He looks almost hand-drawn, and his movements are very rounded and fluid. His arms and legs tend to move simply in motion blurs, much like Looney Tunes characters, especially Roadrunner, when he runs or moves about. His shape is also imperfect, and had odd proportions that help sell the Looney Tunes connection. And Spider-Man Noir is completely monochromatic, black-and-white, even when interacting with color objects.
The colors throughout this movie are astounding. They really use colors to compliment and highlight every aspect of the city. This is shown especially through Miles’ love to graffiti and street art. And Miles’ love of pop-culture is shown through his love of music, which is mirrored in the film’s soundtrack. Like Black Panther earlier in the year, Spider-Verse has a killer soundtrack. It is a love-letter to east coast rap/hip-hop, new and old. This bleeds into Miles’ character too, who uses music to relax and inspire him. The song “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee is Miles’ go to relax and feel good song, and it is used a few times throughout the film. “What’s Up Danger” by Blackway and Black Caviar is a thumping, adrenaline-pumping track that builds hype and excitement every time it is used or sampled. And “Star a Riot” by Duckwrth and Shaboozey should be the most hard-hitting rager on the soundtrack, but is instead used for a hilarious joke.
Not only is the curated soundtrack excellent, the original score is also astounding. The orchestration feels both inspiring and reminiscent of traditional scores, but also infuses the feel of the curated soundtrack at points. It uses bits of “What’s Up Danger” throughout to build hype, while using “Sunflower” to relax and let us remember the kind of kid Miles is. The best track on the score though is “The Prowler,” the theme that plays for one of the primary villains of the film. Prowler is a truly intimidating villain, as you learn early on, and the theme that accompanies him is impressively unsettling. From my understanding the composer took an elephants calls, re-pitched it, then made it pulse. Honestly, words do not accurately describe it. Just listen to it.
But, behind all that, like I have mentioned a few times, this movie has so much heart to it. You feel the love for Spider-Man, whichever version you want. You feel Miles’ struggles and the love his family gives him. You feel the excitement in the music. And you can see the dedication the animators put into this, and how much fun they had. The story shines in every respect, and you just feel so good after watching it. This was easily one of, if not my favorite movie of the year. I have been struggling to keep up this year (grad school), but even if I were more caught up I think this might take the cake. It feels even throughout, well-paced, and the story never goes off the rails. The voice-acting is excellent. I have already gushed over the beautiful animation and the characters and the music. There really is nothing I do not like about this movie. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
My Number: 10/10
JOSEPH: There isn't a whole lot here that Peter hasn't already said. I wasn't QUITE as high on it as Peter, (the ending was rather stereotypical for how unique the rest of the film was) but the sheer originality and creative risk taken on such a high-profile franchise is very refreshing to see. Well done, Sony! It's certainly got my vote for Best Animated Feature of 2018! Also, Peter Porker FOR LIFE. What a performance from John Mulaney. That man can do no wrong!
The Boss Baby
By: Peter Kosanovich
Moana (2016): In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the demigod to set things right.
Over the past few years Disney has been releasing hit after hit with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Coming out of their Renaissance at the turn of the century, Disney hit a lull until the 2009 release of The Princess and the Frog, kicking off what some refer to as the Disney Revival that has featured films such as Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia.
Moana, directed by Disney veterans Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Frog), continues with this revival. It also continues the studio’s recent push for diversity and inclusivity throughout their films, mainly The Princess and the Frog, by depicting a Polynesian culture infused with Magic and folklore. The film follows the titular Moana, voiced by the infectious Auli’i Cravalho, as she searches for Maui, a demi-god with the abilities to help her save her village from destruction.
Unlike previous Disney Princess movies, Moana is unique in that there is no romantic plot or sub-plot – it is a straightforward hero’s journey, as expressed by Clements and Musker in numerous interviews. Moana is a princess, the village chief’s daughter, but does not act the role and in fact argues throughout the movie that she is not a princess, or at least Disney’s traditional version of one; there is some wonderful meta-humor directed at the helpless princess with an animal sidekick model that Disney so often utilizes. She has a great sense of wonder and adventure, but has been confined to her island home all her life due to her father and village law that they cannot sail past the reef surrounding the island. “No one goes past the reef!” her father yells at her at one point. Following a brief series of events regarding the well-being of the island, Moana is forced to disobey her father and seek out Maui, voiced by the ever-charming Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The two must then embark on a journey to save Moana’s island from monsters, demons, and unknown dangers.
But, in true Disney fashion, we cannot forget the music! Moana’s score, co-written by Hamilton’s Lin Manuel-Miranda, evokes a joyful, yet determined, sense of wonder and adventure – this is balanced with traditional, if only occasionally island-stereotypical instrumentation, giving everything a sense of levity. Each song keeps the momentum going, driving the story forward or providing solid exposition, never having a throwaway simply to fill time. The film’s first song, performed by Moana’s father, provides the backdrop for the village’s island life, establishing the culture while discouraging our heroine’s desire to cast off and explore the ocean – everything they need is on the island, why would they leave? Dwayne Johnson’s Maui pulls off some very Hamilton-esque rhymes in the rap-sung “You’re Welcome,” establishing the character as very prideful and attention-seeking. Even “Shiny,” performed by Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement, serves as both a new obstacle for Maui and Moana as well as strengthening their relationship to overcome the trials ahead. Recurring through the film are variations of the theme for “How Far I’ll Go,” acting as Moana’s anthem (Frozen’s “Let It Go"), allowing Moana to focus herself and find the strength the complete her journey, while also providing that spark for her wanderlust and the effect the ocean has on her through the lyric “It calls me.” It also centers as one of the film’s primary musical motifs, having variations appropriate for the scene or circumstances presented. It would not surprise me in the slightest if Lin Manuel-Miranda received award attention for Best Original Score and/or Best Original Song.
An added gem of the movie is its combination of 3D computer animation and traditional hand-drawn animation. While the majority of the movie is very clearly 3D computer animation, the character of Maui is adorned with numerous Polynesian and Oceanic stylized tattoos, all of which were added through traditional hand-drawn animation. This is made all the more impressive as the tattoos are sentient have the ability to move around Maui’s body and interact with him and the rest of the movie world. It was so refreshing to see Disney return to its roots in hand-drawn animation for the first time since The Princess and the Frog.
Overall this was a wonderful movie! Highly reminiscent of the films released during the Disney Renaissance, while still keeping with modern trends of the current Revival. A much more headstrong “princess” learning to be more independent and self-reliant, while still understanding when to ask for help. Moana shines at every level, from Clements and Musker’s writing, to the fantastic performances from Cravalho and Johnson, to the highly memorable score by Lin Manuel-Miranda.
The Critique: A wonderful movie that breaks the mold of Disney's traditional princess. It explores the power and equality of women, without ever subverting it's male characters in the process. It revels in the leads empathy towards the world, while still providing a rich world to explore and get lost in.
The Recommendation: Yes! To everyone!
Rewatchability: Most definitely! I could watch this regularly.
The Verdict: I’m so bad at giving a number rating, I always find it hard. What I will say though, is that it is better than Frozen. More genuine and less formulaic. Take that as you will, but the movie is so very good. (10/10)
JOSEPH: Well it looks like I'll have to see this now!
Did that really just happen?
Sausage Party (2016): A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.
Well said, IMDB. So I'm writing this review nearly 24 hours after I saw this film, and I still have NO idea what I just saw. Honestly, I'm pretty torn about this one. On the one hand, this film is absolutely crazy. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and co. do NOT hold back at all with this effort. This film is definitely one of the most vulgar films I have ever seen, and it's pretty much just one sex joke after another. But there are some pretty well thought-out underlying themes to our current society which I can appreciate, and there was a lot of care that went into the making of this film, which is better than most comedies nowadays. But, on the other hand, it's just one sex joke after another and the comedy, while somewhat funny in just how outrageous it is, is still pretty lazy. I think this is how we will sum up this film: if you like other Rogen-Goldberg comedies (Superbad, This is the End, Neighbors, The Interview) you will like this film. If you don't, well then you'll hate every second of its brief 89 minute runtime. So, let's jump into it, shall we?
First off, the good. The animation here is noooooot terrible. For a crew that has no experience in the world of animation, they hold their own pretty well on this front. I liked the colors of the film, and the filter we had going back and forth between what people see and what the food sees was quite clever. I also appreciated the fact that they went for it. This film is as hard an R as you can find, and the filmmakers clearly didn't hold anything back. I can respect a film that simply owns its pretense versus tries to be anything more. There was also some great musical moments throughout the film, including a dance number to open the entire thing, (that's actually relevant to the rest of the film) and a sequence involving Meat Loaf that just might find it's way into my favorite movie moments of 2016. The voice acting is excellent, with the stars (in my mind at least) being David Krumholtz and Edward Norton who are both totally unrecognizable as Lavash and Sammy, respectively. But Kristen Wiig (who has had a seriously underrated summer in film) and Seth Rogen are pretty good too. But overall, the most important part of a comedy is is it funny? And the answer here is yes. Kind of. The second act leaves a lot to be desired, but the third act comes back with a vengeance in several completely ridiculous sequences that had me and the rest of the theater rolling on the floor laughing. Man they should make an acronym out of that.....
But, honestly the best part of this film was it's underlying themes. Surrounding all the vulgarity was a surprisingly powerful statement on modern-day religion that featured several different characters in this film. While you can definitely say that these guys could've made these themes a bit clearer and not resolved them the way they did, I really respect Rogen/Goldberg and co. for actually trying to make their vulgar comedy about something. While it's not as.....prevalent as it was in 2014's This is the End (which I believe was the peak for Rogen/Goldberg comedies) it's still far more obvious than other films like Neighbors and The Interview, which were JUST stupid for the sake of being stupid.
That said, this film is still stupid. I definitely felt like I lost some brain cells watching it, and I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to watch it again without a group of friends. The "story" that holds it all together can barely even qualify as such, and when I wasn't laughing man was this thing dull. But, fortunately it kept me laughing for most of the film, and ultimately slides in as a good film as far as comedies go. And, in such a terrible summer blockbuster season filled with sequels and disappointments, this is definitely one of the best things I've seen over the last few months so it's like a breath of fresh air. Ultimately, I'd say go see it, especially if you like Rogen/Goldberg humor, just.....don't expect the world because you are not going to get it.
The Critique: A film that owns its premise, Sausage Party is a vulgar and perverted tale done surprisingly well with underlying tones on modern religion that will make you never look at food the same way again.
The Recommendation: Fans of Rogen/Goldberg comedies will enjoy this, and maybe if you're looking for something vulgar and have 90 minutes to kill it's not the worst thing in the world, but there isn't much appeal beyond that.
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
It's like Toy Story... but with pets
The Secret Life of Pets (2016): A terrier named Max's quiet life is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.
Man is Illumination Entertainment trying to make themselves another Pixar or what? I'm not gonna lie I had pretty high expectations for this film. After all the previews were HILARIOUS and it's pets! How could you not love them, right? Well, after the opening of the film which showcased pretty much everything you see in the trailers, the story kicked in. And you could tell Illumination Entertainment was trying so hard to create a story worthy of Pixar levels of memorability, but sadly they fell out of the Pixar tree and hit the ground with a thud.
So, first off, let's talk about what this film does right. The animation was excellent. As I said in Finding Dory, I do not feel I have the expertise to actually critique the animation, but I can tell that Illumination has a very distinct animating style (like Pixar) which was fun to watch. And that city shot of New York City was GORGEOUS. Whoever made that deserves an award just for that shot. (Which they used several times, fortunately) Also the movie definitely has some great jokes for the kids and great jokes for the adults too. Illumination definitely tried to keep the parents entertained here, which is a traditional fault of most animated films. Finally, I had no qualms with the voice acting, though it definitely was not as good as Pixar's 2016 film Finding Dory.
But here's my problem. Well, one of them: the pacing. This film comes in at a short 90 minutes, (as it should) but my problem with pacing here was the film never really gave you a chance to breath. To appreciate what was going on.There were hardly any scenes with just two characters talking to each other and thus giving these characters a chance to develop. Now that's not to say that no character development took place it's just some of it wasn't really earned. My other problem with this film lies in its ties to Toy Story. As in.....this story is Toy Story. Like.....exactly Toy Story. Now this isn't a huge fault since Toy Story is a great film to be compared to but when it comes from a completely different studio? I don't know. I mean after the success of the unique Despicable Me, Dreamworks has pushed hard to make Illumination Entertainment to them as Pixar is to Disney. So to see Pixar's biggest competitor basically produce Toy Story but with pets....it kind of rubbed me the wrong way.
That said, this film is still an above average film, and definitely one worth seeing if you have a family. But fans of movies like myself I think are going to be a little disappointed. Especially since the trailers made it look fantastic. (That dog jamming out to heavy metal was definitely worth the cost of admission!) Ultimately this film leaves a lot to be desired, and with several promising animated films coming up later this year I'm honestly not even sure if this will receive an Oscar nomination. Check it out! Just....temper your expectations. A lot.
The Critique: Despite some major pacing problems and its striking similarity to a Pixar classic, The Secret Life of Pets is still a decent movie-watching experience.
The Recommendation: Definitely fun for the whole family on a hot summer's day, but everyone else? Just Netflix it. There. I said it.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
Also I have to point out Illumination Entertainment's clever tribute to itself featuring a super brief cameo from Pharrell's "Happy." Well played, guys.
Pixar Does it Again
Finding Dory (2016): The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.
It's hard to put into words just how good the guys at Pixar are at their jobs. Once again the master storytellers at the studio do what they do best: make a wonderful story featuring fantastic animation that the entire family can enjoy. While not perfect and by no means Toy Story 3, Finding Dory kept a smile on my face as we returned to the world of Finding Nemo from start to finish. At the end of the day that's all I can ask for, and that's exactly what Finding Dory delivered.
First off, the good. Now personally I'm not as big into animation as some are, so I don't feel like I can talk about the technical aspects very much, but from an aesthetic perspective? It seems like every year these Pixar films look better and better. This year what really got me was the huge color palette, as the studio did not hold back in making the ocean and the other environments our characters visited as colorful as they could. Of course as they do every year the voice acting here again is outstanding. The cast is huge, featuring legendary actors Eugene Levy and the one and only Diane Keaton in relatively small minor roles, and when that's the case you know you've got a good cast. And of course Ellen DeGeneres delivers yet again, but I guess that's to be expected. Finally, the writing. Long time Pixar big shot Andrew Stanton co-writes this script with total newcomer Victoria Strouse, (what a first film for her!) and it is easily the calling card of this film. I was engrossed from start to finish as this film screeched through its brisk 103 minute run time. But as I said before storytelling is what Pixar does best so this is to be expected. While The Good Dinosaur wasn't the greatest thing on the planet they have delivered between this and 2015's wonderful Inside Out. I would say Pixar has turned the corner and put their cold streak from 2011-2014 behind them, but next up is Cars 3 which is an unnecessary sequel to the most unpopular Pixar film ever made so we'll see if that actually holds up.
You might notice I'm trying to just graze the surface of this film, and that's because I believe Finding Dory really should be discovered on your own. It is a wonderful film, though it's by no means perfect. The final act got a little too ridiculous for me, and I even shook my head a few times. Most of the time what happens in the final act wouldn't bother me, but when it's Pixar I can get a little nit picky. I don't want to spoil anything, but those our age who have seen the film will know what point I'm talking about it's pretty obvious when this movie becomes "too much of a kids movie." I know I know that's what it's supposed to be but again Pixar's specialty is fun for the whole family so that's what I expect! It would be unreasonable of me to have this standards for any other animation studio but when Pixar's record is what it is, I can hold it in high regard. Finally, and again this can be construed as another "Pixar" complaint, I was never on the edge of my seat. The film went right where I expected it to go, which is a bit against the MO of a Pixar film. Again trying to be vague here because while this is a complaint I had it only detracted from the experience in a minor way. Ultimately this is a great Pixar film and just might be the best family film of the summer. Though that one we'll have to wait and see on because there is another big-budget kids movie coming out in a few weeks.....(starts jamming out to heavy metal music)
The Critique: While not perfect and not quite to the level of 2015's Inside Out, Finding Dory is a rush of early 2000's nostalgia featuring dazzling animation and a fantastic story.
The Recommendation: If you have a family and haven't taken them to see this yet.....you're wrong.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great.
Minions. Minions Everywhere.
Minions (2015): Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.
So. Many. Minions. It should be noted that in a film like this, it doesn't really matter what I say. I haven't "rushed" to get this review out because if you like the minions you're going to see this film regardless of what I say. But if you're here, you might be wondering what I thought about this film. So I'll tell you! WHOA. So I had more fun that I was expecting with this film, however, this is not saying much. I had very low expectations going into it, so it wasn't difficult to pleasantly surprise me. Keep in mind, though, that this is a kids film. There are very few jokes for the older audience here. Least far fewer than there should be in a kids film that's made well over $100 million in its first weekend. Illumination Entertainment should take some lessons from Pixar of how to keep adults really entertained in a children's movie. It can be done I assure you.
Look. It's very hard to get past the fact that this film and this franchise is a cash cow for Universal. From a technical standpoint, this film is very lazy. The franchise hasn't really advanced technically since the first film in 2010, and now the animation is starting to look dated. But does it matter? No. The story is....predictable. I mean I never once would buy that any of these characters would adopt the minions, much less actually think they could do any of the things they did. But does it matter? No.The voice acting was lackluster. You could tell the actors were going for charm more than anything else, but Hamm and Bullock did a nice job as the two main characters. However, everyone else was extremely forgettable. But does it matter? No.
The only thing this film had to offer was an exceptional soundtrack. Not just that, but this is clearly where most of the production budget went. Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and even The Beatles all show up in this film. I'm still on the outside looking in on this sort of thing, but even I know that it takes a ridiculous amount of money to feature a Beatles song in your film. For once, though, I wish that money had gone to creating a better story or better animation than expensive music that would play in establishing shots for a new location or something.The soundtrack, as great as it was, didn't add to the overall experience at all. It was recognizable music simply for recognizability's sake.
At the end of the day this film is.....fine. Neither good nor bad. Just average. I laughed a few times throughout the 104 minute film, and found myself smiling at others, but I couldn't get past the fact that this film is around just to be a cash cow.The technical deficiencies and forgettable voice acting didn't help its case, either. Basically....if you're gonna feed the cash cow, what I say doesn't matter. If you actually are skeptical about this film....just Redbox it.
The Critique: The definition of a cash cow. While somewhat enjoyable, Minions brings fans of the franchise exactly what they want to see and nothing more.
The Recommendation: If you want to see it, you've already seen it. If you haven't, don't bother until it's on Netflix or Redbox.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
The most original Pixar Film in Years
Inside Out (2015): After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
Thank you Pixar. Thank you for once again reminding us that you are spectacular storytellers. Look. It's impossible to deny that Pixar has been on a, well, less-than-stellar tear recently. Cars 2 is pretty much universally proclaimed as the worst film in their history, with Brave and Monsters University better, but still not up to par with what we expect from the revered studio. However, this all changes with Inside Out. Easily the best film Pixar has made since 2010's Toy Story 3, Inside Out is original, funny, creative, and....well....a blast! The film is certainly not perfect, with the first act of the film far outpacing the overused two-main-characters-with-opposing-viewpoints-become-lost-and-most-unite-to-return-to-the-rest-of-the-main-characters storyline we get in the second and third acts, but this film is still an incredibly enjoyable ride. And definitely fun for the whole family.
So, let's first talk about my one big complaint. I wish Pixar would have been comfortable with the premise they initially established in the first act. I definitely could have watched an entire 94 minute film about Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust all in one room and trying to get along in the day-to-day life of an young girl. We could've watched the girl grow up and develop her likes and dislikes as she becomes older. For example, maybe as a child she thinks boys have cooties and avoids them, but suddenly right around her 15th birthday she takes a liking to boys and the emotion of Love is introduced and the other characters have to incorporate that emotion into their group. Maybe her parents divorce and Anger manages to take over her brain for a while and Joy has to figure out how to calm that emotion down. These stories sound vastly more interesting to me than the one we got, which was Joy and Sadness exploring her brain figuring out how to return to "central HQ." This stems from an, oddly enough, lack of confidence from Pixar to believe in the premise they created. We've seen it before from them. They probably weren't sure if they could pull off such a radical and crazy idea as this and thus took the safe route of putting a standard rescue story with two characters who are opposites together for the majority of the film. That said, I'm basically splitting hairs, as even this overused premise is executed faaaaaar better than 99% of the other times this premise has been used.
So, what does this story get right? Well, basically everything else. First off, the animation is, as usual, beautiful. Pixar's style has been adopted by most because it seems easy, but it's not. Even in the trailers before this film I noticed several films adopting Pixar's style and looking TERRIBLE in the process. But Pixar is still, in my opinion, the best animation studio in the world, and I base this statement on the beauty of films like this. Joy? Joy's character design is insane. The amount of pixels on her must be astronomical to make her look beautiful as she does, especially when you're watching this film on the big screen. Her character in and of itself is a tremendous achievement for animation, not to mention the attention-to-detail on the other character models as well. The hair of Sadness in particular is spectacular. Though, a friend of mine brought up the valid complaint that every woman in Pixar's animation looks the same, which is kind of true. Look at the picture at the top and you'll see very similar facial animation models for Joy, Sadness, and Disgust, but hugely different facial animation models for Anger and Fear. Sadly, this is not a coincidence. Anyway, the score? Outstanding. Michael Giacchino, essentially Disney's go-to at this point, once again delivers a beautiful score for this film. And of course the voice acting. Everyone in this film is great. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith have great chemistry as Joy and Sadness, and Bill Hader, (Fear) Lewis Black, (Anger) Mindy Kaling, (Disgust) Diane Lane, (Mom) and Kyle MacLachlan (Dad) all bring their A-game for these performances. Finally, there's Riley. Voiced by newcomer Kaitlyn Dias, pulling off a main character who barely speaks and yet has so many emotions is one of the biggest accomplishments Pixar has had in its rich history. You find yourself coming to care about this character immensely through her emotions, and it leads to one heck of an ugly cry towards the end of the film. Well done, Pixar. Well done.
The Critique: An original and captivating premise, Inside Out is easily the most creative and well-executed idea to come out of Pixar in years.
The Recommendation: Yes. A must-see for kids, parents, and fans of Pixar alike.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
Image Credit: http://www.fatmovieguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Inside-Out-Movie-Review-Image-1.jpg
By: Peter Kosanovich
The Wind Rises (2013): A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.
Okay, so let's start from the beginning. If you don't know who Hayao Miyazaki is, then you're just WRONG! He makes some of the most visually gorgeous movies ever conceived! That being said, The Wind Rises is no exception.
While most of his movies are highly fantastical in nature, delving into wild adventures on flying magical castles or perhaps trying to save your parents from a witch, The Wind Rises is a much more subdued film that he normally makes. Focusing on a Japanese engineer during WWII, the story chronicles his life from an ordinary student, to the man who eventually went on to design some of the best fighter jets in the world. More importantly it focuses on his relationship with the woman he loves, pulling ever so carefully at those heartstrings. Seriously though,TEARS, TEARS EVERYWHERE!
Things to notice, everything flies! Miyazaki has a few themes that he throws into just about every movie: strong female characters, spirits, saving the environment, and without fail flight. This movie is essentially an ode to his obsession with flight...and I'm not complaining. He uses flight to expand our imaginations and reach for the stars!
The film is amazing! While it does move a little too slowly for the younger children, and having just a couple ideas they wouldn't understand, it is a brilliant story. The slow pace is balanced out by some dream sequences that keep the attention of the younger audience. Not only is the story amazing, but, like any Miyazaki film, the animation is stunning! Absolutely gorgeous!
I would say the film is one of the most subtly beautiful films I have ever seen!
The Critique: Miyazaki is just about the most talented animator of all time, and this movie hangs in there with the rest of his films!
The Recommendation: While it does move at the slower pace, you catch yourself occasionally wishing everything would go on a bit faster. Aside from the early pacing of the story, the film is amazing and any fan of animation would love it!
Rewatchability: Moderately High, but only if you are prepared to cry
The Verdict: 8/10
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966): Um....f*ck it. Here's IMDB: A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo. SO MUCH INTRIGUE RIGHT?
First of all, thank you for reading. Damn. 10,000 views. If you told me back when I started this thing in September 2013 that I'd hit 10,000 views I would've just laughed. See I started this thing just for my own personal amusement. I just wanted to remind myself of these movies so that I could have a conversation about these movies whenever I needed to with people. Just be like hey! I saw that movie once! Let me see what I said about it! And whip out my phone. Since I was just writing for myself basically, I didn't hold back with what has come to define Enter the Movies: my incredibly weird and unusual writing style. Now, it's here to stay. However, over time, people started approaching me saying that they liked my reviews. I was surprised, because I didn't think anyone even knew that they existed, much less enjoyed them. Now, an article from the local paper (thank you Madeline Rafi!) and an endorsement from a local athlete (thank you Nikki Newman!) later, as well as a lot of support from Reddit, my blog has become...well, a thing. So thank you everyone Thank you. I now do this for you. To entertain you. If I put a smile on your face, then I did my job. That said, let's celebrate by watching the "movie" Manos: The Hands of Fate! Because that sounds like a good idea....should get the smile part done at least....
Supposedly made on a bet between friends, Manos: The Hands of Fate has reached cult status, but not in a good way. This movie.....where do I even begin? Seriously. Let's talk about Grown Ups 2 really quick. That was the worst movie of 2013 due to bad acting and a terrible story, as well as horrid directing. However even in this movie there is a level of competency with the making of the film, as the editing, cinematography, and sound are at least decent. There's a certain level of competency you expect in any movie, right? After all if it's made it to the big screen it should be at least, well....made properly. This movie, however, fails on every aspect of movie making. In my junior year of high school, I made a 20 minute(ish) movie called What Is Justice? I'm not trying to self-promote, because after all there is only one copy, but my movie, hastily made in about 2 hours on Movie Maker software with stock Movie Maker sounds, is better than this piece of sh*t. A f*cking gorilla could make a better movie than this. Every aspect of filmmaking is completely nonexistent here. From random illogical editing cuts, to incredibly distracting music, to the fact that this movie is shot ENTIRELY in hand-cam fashion, to the fact that ALL of the actor's voices were dubbed in post-production by THREE people, this movie is the worst movie ever made. Done. How did no one step up and tell the director, insurance salesman Harold P. Warren, that this was a bad idea? Oh wait, was Harold P. Warren also the lead actor, writer, and producer? .........yep. That'll do it. He had no one around him to tell him that it was a bad idea. That just allowing this movie to exist was a bad idea.
Here, let me give you an example of how bad this movie is. So, this is meant to be a horror movie. So Warren and the female lead, played by Diane Mahree, are looking at a very "creepy" picture. They are having a conversation, with the distracting music behind their conversation, when all of the sudden, without warning, there's a cut to their character's daughter holding a (clearly untrained) dog. Everything stops as we watch this girl struggle to keep the dog from jumping out of her lap. And the music stopped. So, basically, we go from a very loud conversation and just overall noise to silence in.....instantly. Because f*ck you. Seriously, this movie deserves to be the blunt end of a would you rather question. It's so bad that it's not even funny bad. It's below that! It's like this.....there are good movies, and there are bad movies. Then there's 50 feet of crap. And then there's Manos: The Hands of Fate. (Thank you to my inspiration, Hollywood writer Aaron Sorkin, for that reference.) Here, I'll get the would you rather questions going. Would you rather watch Manos: The Hands of Fate, or sit through an hour-long sermon courtesy of the Westboro Baptist Church? Spoiler: if you pick Manos, you're wrong. At least Westboro will give you a good laugh. This is comparable to hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. Or dying. The one saving grace of this movie is that it is disgustingly short. While most of the time I would criticize a movie coming in at 74 minutes, here it is welcome, even though those 74 minutes CRAWLED by. I had to take breaks to finish this. I'm not even kidding. I HAD TO TAKE BREAKS TO COMPLETE THIS. AOEIFAJWEOIFJABNADFLKADAKLDALKDSF I DON'T EVEN WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS MOVIE ANYMORE. NO YOU CAN'T MAKE ME. I DON'T WANNA I DON'T WANNA....
Ok I'll say one more thing. The only thing even remotely memorable about this sh*t show of a movie is the character Torgo. He is played by John Reynolds, who supposedly did LSD before his scenes in this movie and as a result was constantly twitching uncontrollably throughout his performance. All it did was lead to a few good laughs. We got to laughably bad a few times, guys! Whoo! Oh ya, and his death scene is hilarious, as he is seemingly massaged to death by a bunch of women. Spoiler? F*ck you. The biggest crime of this movie is that not everybody is dead by the end of it. Bite me.
The Critique: The worst movie ever made.
The Recommendation: A MUST SEE FOR EVERYONE. FEEL MY PAIN PLEASE.
The Verdict: 0.1/10 That 0.1 is for Torgo. #TORGOCOMEBACK2014
The Lego Movie (2014): An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together. Here's the trailer in case you somehow missed it.
So this movie is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I think ADD would be a great way to describe it. At least for the first two acts, the movie is frantically paced, with a million things happening on screen all at once. However, the movie does slow down in its pacing quite a bit in the third act. Is this a bad thing? No. Absolutely not. It is welcomed actually, as it brings on a few surprisingly emotional moments towards the end of the movie. However the third act is also where this movie lost me. I won't spoil, but I will say a new element is introduced here that I didn't buy at all to bring on these emotional moments. And that will be the difference between me calling this February movie one of the best movies we'll see in 2014 (which many people are already saying) and me just saying that it was....well....really good. It really all depends on whether you buy the big moment of the third act or not. So, let's dive into it shall we?
First off, holy crap the voice acting. I was a little worried about this part, as I figured guys like Morgan Freeman, (making fun of every God character he's ever played) Liam Neeson, and Will Ferrel (Lord Business) were just going to use this movie for a paycheck. They didn't. Actually, Liam Neeson specifically puts in a truly remarkable performance with his character, Bad Cop. I figured he of all people would be phoning it in but DAMN! It was possibly the best voice-performance of the movie. And the rest of the cast? Awesome as well. Chris Pratt (Moneyball, Her, Wanted) was fantastic as the lead. (Emmet) He's got a great future ahead of him: he has great comedic timing, he's charming, and he's lovable. Elizabeth Banks, (Wyldstyle) Charlie Day, (Benny) Allison Brie, (Unikitty) Nick Offerman, (Metal Beard) and Will Arnett (Batman) all round out the main cast of the movie. Everyone besides Elizabeth Banks was fantastic. Banks was just...ok. Is that a bad thing? No. I just think she needs more than her voice to create a good character. But that's ok! Then there are the cameos. Since it's Lego and they have made Legos for everything you can possibly imagine, there are a lot A LOT of hilarious cameos. I won't tell you who the cameos are, rather I'll share who voices them. Will Forte, Dave Franco, Cobie Smulders, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Shaq, and others all make appearances here. Some even for just a line or two. Like I'm pretty sure Will Forte has one line. And Smulders. This crew spared no expense with bringing in great actors to do these voices. And we haven't even talked about the animation.
Holy crap the animation is some of the best I've ever seen. Some of the opening shots of the city Emmet lives in are absolutely breathtaking. Not only did the crew go all out in making the Lego characters and environments look as realistic as possible, they made virtually the entire movie look like stop-motion animation. As in all of the Legos do not just look like real Legos, they act like real Legos too. THEY ACT LIKE REAL LEGOS. They stick to this formula so loyally that I was 100% convinced that at least part of this movie really was shot with stop-motion animation. Not one second of it was. Not one. And it's 100% loyal to Legos, too. Even when the villains are firing their guns at our heroes, all the bullets look like plastic. When buildings collapse or water gets spilled for whatever reason, it's all composed entirely of Legos. The attention to detail here is amazing. I will say the one time the animation looked a little fake was when our heroes were on the open ocean. They tried creating moving waves out of Legos, and as bold of an idea it was to create choppy seas as opposed to calm ones, they just didn't quite get there. But this is nitpicking at its finest. Seriously, this is right there with Frozen for the best animation I've ever seen. Please make a sequel guys.
This movie....it's as much for our age as it is for kids. Actually, that's another thing I'm hearing: the kids are not enjoying this movie as much as the older folks are. It makes sense. The nostalgic moments, or the references to other movies (which were incredibly smart, like animating a train wreck EXACTLY like the big train wreck in 2013's The Lone Ranger is shot) or the final homily the film provides in the third act are all addressed to our generation or to the parents of the kids watching this movie. At the end of this movie it will be the parents crying. And the kids are going to be sitting there like....what? Similar to how the Toy Story franchise keeps it's parents engaged, there will be plenty of that here too. However, I hear that the parents aren't just liking this a little bit more than the kids, they are liking it a LOT more than the kids. In terms of this being a kids movie, it is so rapidly paced in the set-up period that I'm hearing the kids are just not enjoying this movie nearly as much as we are. That and what happens in the third act are the two primary gripes against this film. And again, I'm in the minority in terms of not buying into the third act. I wish I could explain why, but I really can't without spoiling anything. Actually, you know what? Spoiler section at the end. I have to explain this.
Anyway, much like Frozen, this is getting my absolute must-see recommendation for anyone who likes movies. While the third act didn't sit right with me, and it will lower my score a lot, if you do buy it, this will very likely be one of the best movies of 2014. If you had a childhood with Legos, or like movies, or have the spirit of a child somewhere inside you, or have actual kids of your own, GO SEE THIS. In 2D. Oh ya almost forgot! I saw it in 3D, and the 3D did not add much. Definitely not enough to warrant the extra money. So, don't waste your money there. You will get just as good a viewing experience in 2D as you would in 3D. BUT GO SEE THIS. NOW. STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND GO WATCH THE LEGO MOVIE. Now to try to get Everything is Awesome out of my head....probably going to be unsuccessful at that.
The Critique: a kids movie aimed at our generation/parents, The Lego Movie is full of laughs, excitement, action, spectacular animation, and emotional tension. It's going to be very tough to take this down for at least being the best children's movie of 2014.
The Recommendation: unless if you are a soulless, heartless monster, go see this movie. Now.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great. If I had bought the third act it would've been flirting with a 10. Just saying.
Oscar Talk: That's right, FEBRUARY 2014 OSCAR TALK. This will most certainly be nominated for best animated movie of 2014. It may even sneak into Best Picture too, given how large the field is. Everything is Awesome may also make an appearance into Best Original Song, but probably not. It is a great song though. Now, GO SEE THIS.
SPOILER ALERT. BEWARE SPOILERS ARE FORTHCOMING. DID I MENTION SPOILERS? NO. OK. SPOILER ALERT.
Ok so I'm assuming if you read this you've seen the movie. In the third act, a literal human element is introduced with Will Ferrel and a kid. While what happens here with Will Ferrel realizing that his kid is incredibly talented and everything may leave many parents in tears, I just saw it as a forced homily to show why good parenting is important. There were many hints of this along the way if you were paying attention to the movie, and I'm sure there was definitely a way that they could've kept the movie entirely within the Lego universe while simultaneously introducing this element, but they had to make it real. Honestly, and I know I'm going to get some criticism for comparing these two movies, this reminded me a lot of a forced Adam Sandler homily on why family is important. Which is in every single movie he's a part of. While The Lego Movie is nothing like a Sandler movie, it's third act still made me think of that. And introducing the human element totally blew up the story too. Obviously you are supposed to suspend disbelief when watching a kid's movie, but when they did this and showed the entire world we had been seeing throughout the movie made out of real-life Legos, it totally took me out of the story as I couldn't help but think of the logistics behind what we were seeing. I'm sorry guys, but while many people may love this part, I just didn't buy it. I would love to see the real-life recreation they made though. I'm sure it's on display somewhere. After all 15 million actual Legos took part in that. It better be on display somewhere....
Frozen (2013): Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have FROZEN the kingdom (see what I did there????) in eternal winter.
IMDB is probably the way to go with most of these from now on, so I might just keep doing that. Even though the frozen part was from my comedic genius. Don't worry I'll be here all night. Ok if you haven't seen this movie and like Disney movies, GO SEE THIS NOW. Seriously. Stop what you are doing and go see it. Right now. In a movie theater. I'm not kidding. What we have here is without a doubt in the top 3 Disney-exclusive (thus excluding Pixar movies so don't bring any of them up if you disagree with this statement) movies to be released in the last ten years, and is the best Disney musical since Hunchback of Notre Dame in my opinion. One of my favorite critics claims since Beauty and the Beast but that is debatable. Point being, it is an absolutely phenomenal all-around movie, and the fact that Disney is not doing much to market this is absolutely criminal. I'm pretty sure Planes got more advertising than Frozen has, and they aren't even in the same city let alone same ballpark in terms of how good the movie actually is. Seriously Disney. You strategy here is bad and you should feel bad. And Planes 2 is not only announced BUT IT IS COMING OUT NEXT YEAR. If you have been living under a rock and don't know anything about animation that means THEY WERE WORKING ON THE SEQUEL LONG BEFORE THE ORIGINAL EVEN CAME OUT. Like they were working on them both AT THE SAME TIME. WHAT ARE YOU DOING DISNEY?????
Ok. Deep breath self. Now that I've ranted on the stupidity of Disney, let's talk about Frozen! First of all, some time was clearly put into animating this. It's so easy nowadays to go with cheap animation (which Disney is no stranger of....cough Planes cough) to push out a movie as quickly as possible. As the good animation gets better, the bad animation becomes more noticeable. However here the animation is GORGEOUS. I'd say the best I have ever seen hands-down. Including Pixar movies. Bold statement I know. There's just so much visual spectacle here to marvel at, and the animators knew it, because there are definitely several points where they give you a moment to just breathe it all in and adore how beautiful this movie looks. And the fact that cinematography is becoming an actual legitimate thing with animated movies is just scary. And this movie definitely sets the bar high with its cinematography.
Next up is the voice acting. Kristen Bell. She puts in one of the best voice acting performances as the lead I've seen in an animated movie in quite some time. And of course Idina Menzel as the queen was a brilliant decision too. It's both a blessing and a curse though because she simply blows everyone else away in the singing portions. And this is an animated musical, so there is a lot of singing obviously. She's in three songs I believe, and all three are the best songs here without a doubt because of her voice. And Let It Go is Menzel's solo which is likely headed for Best Original Song at the Oscars. And it's already stuck in my head. Of course that's not bashing any of the other music here. Christophe Beck (most notably known for the Broadway production's Avenue Q and Book of Mormon) is phenomenal here, putting in a soundtrack most certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination for best score. Back to voice acting. Now Bell and Menzel plus Josh Gad as the comedic relief (and he is hilarious) are really the only three memorable performances here. Yes it's a princess movie but the male characters are not fleshed out at all. But that's ok because Bell, Menzel, and Gad do plenty to carry the movie from a vocal standpoint. Gad even has a decent voice. I was impressed.
Finally, the story. Everyone can agree that so many Disney movies of late have become incredibly formulaic. This much is certain. And Frozen does follow the formula to an extent, but there are enough twists in here to make the movie feel fresh and original as well. Including a few twists I did not see coming at all. Which obviously means that I didn't see them coming because they don't make any sense, but I should forgive this because after all the movie is set in a world where one person has the power to change the entire country's climate from summer to winter. So there's that. Also the overall theme here is not one that you would expect. Like Monsters University and its "Even if you put your entire body, mind, and soul into something you may not achieve it, but that doesn't mean you can't be happy" theme, Frozen goes for an interesting and unorthodox one here, even though if I say what it is its a spoiler. So guess what? I'm not going to say it. Because I try to avoid spoilers whenever possible. But it's at the bottom if you care to know.
In conclusion, GO SEE THIS MOVIE. PLEASE. I don't know why Disney is sort of throwing this movie under the rug because it shouldn't. This should be a future addition to Disney's coveted Masterpieces collection if it gets some good publicity behind it. So go and see what all the fuss is about!
The Critique: A masterpiece of Disney Animation. Fun music, breathtaking visuals, and a (somewhat) original story make this movie the best Disney movie or recent memory.
The Recommendation: For the love of our dear baby Jesus, GO AND SEE THIS. Like ASAP. In theaters. It deserves to be admired at in a theater. In 3D too. I didn't see it in 3D but I wish I had.
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Damn Near Perfect
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Score, Best Original Song, (Let It Go) Best Animated Movie, (Sure-win I might add, unless if Walking With Dinosaurs is the best thing since sliced bread)
*SPOILER SECTION* (Theme talk time!)
The theme here is a good one: you don't necessarily need someone else to help save you. You can do it yourself. Unorthodox yes, particularly in a princess movie, but it also allows them to make the female leads into badasses. Seriously. The princess here are not damsels in distress. They are badasses. Like Brave is initially except they don't become damsels in distress. Well I guess the queen technically is initially but she becomes a badass by the end. So.....ya! Go see this. Please.
Monsters University (2013): The 2013 Pixar film is a prequel (of sorts) to the popular 2001 Monsters Inc (yep...12 years ago guys) which has Mike, Sullivan, and Randy, amongst others, all attend college to learn how to become scarers. Obviously, things don't go as planned and thus the story ensues.
First of all....damn! It's been 12 years since Monsters Inc came out. Those folks at Disney are geniuses....I grew up with Toy Story as my favorite movie ever, and as Toy Story 3 was about Andy moving to college right at the time when I was going to college, Monsters University has come along right as those who grew up with Monsters Inc are going off to college. What an AMAZING coincidence! Oh, right....movie review. So first off, this movie is freaking gorgeous to look at. It's becoming easier and easier for cheap animation to look good given the advancement of that whole technology thing, but man does Pixar remain 8 steps ahead of the competition. Compared even to another animated movie that came out just this year in Planes, Monsters U makes it look like it was drawn in crayon. The amount of detail in the university's campus and the rooms and the beautiful slow motion animation is just incredible, just to name a few. There's even cinematography elements here! I feel like that's the next step for Pixar animation: being able to freely move a "camera" around in an animated setting. It really blows my mind what Pixar can do. And it's a bit of a jump for me having not seen the last two Pixar movies, so I was REALLY blown away.
Here's the problem though: the other thing that Pixar has that so many animation studios struggle with (and live studios for that matter) is being master storytellers. They draw you into a story and make you care so deeply about things that you wouldn't necessarily think that you would care about. For example, Up has everyone crying within the first ten minutes of the film, and I know I cry like a baby every single time I watch Toy Story 3 without fail. And saying bye to Boo in Monsters Inc. Just to name a few.That happens because I legitimately care about the fate of these characters. But it just didn't do it for me in Monsters U. And that's because Mike and Sully in this just aren't as likable as they are in Monsters Inc. And I get it, they learn from their experiences in this one that helps shape their future selves. I get it. But that happens at the end of the movie, not at the beginning. Honestly I cared more about the sidekicks for Mike and Sully than I did them. When their story arc is resolved that was the most touching point of the movie for me, even though it was immediately killed with a really really weird, unnecessary, and out of place relationship/engagement that was created at the very end and very suddenly for some reason between two characters. That specific joke was a huge miss, but there were several great college/young adult jokes in here that were GREAT. Pixar has always done a great job keeping adults entertained in a movie just as much as the kids.
Now can I talk about how the source material is massively wasted here? This is far and away my biggest complaint. This did not even remotely feel like a prequel to Monsters Inc. For starters there is a massively wasted story arc here in Randy's character. When he is first introduced I got massively excited thinking oh! We are going to find out why he became so villainous! No. He gets pushed off to the side and is in just a handful of scenes. And he becomes a villain (of sorts) by the end, after starting out as this young and upcoming monster excited to have his chance to become a scarer. MASSIVELY wasted opportunity here. And other than Mike and Sully and a brief cameo from Number 1 with her famous line, there is no one else from Monsters Inc in this movie. Well, the abominable snowman is in this but that's because if John Ratzenberger didn't show up in a Pixar movie all hell would break loose. Like, why couldn't we see the origin of Celia and Mike? Or a story with her at all? Honestly the credits sequence felt more like a prequel than the actual movie. I bring this up because I really hold Pixar in another league when it comes to story telling because they have such a great history of it. I can't help but feel that this one was more of a Disney cash grab.
I know it sounds like I'm hating on this movie, but I'm not. And I know its a kids movie. But it's a freaking Pixar kids movie. They are the best at this, and thus I feel I have the right to be a bit more critical of them. But the story is still fun. It made me laugh far more than I thought it would. The voice acting is fantastic (Helen Mirren is BRILLIANT, and Charlie Day....man do I love me some Charlie Day) and the animation is beyond gorgeous. But it just didn't have the knockout punch that other Pixar movies have. And honestly....I'm getting a little worried about this. It's no secret that Disney bought Pixar several years back, and that the last movie that was made before this buyout occurred and thus was 100% Pixar's baby was Toy Story 3. Now in my opinion Toy Story 3 is the best animated film I have ever seen, but since then in the Disney/Pixar era we've had Cars 2, which was universally panned, and Brave, which shared a similar fate. While I will be giving Monsters U a higher score than Rotten Tomatoes has on those two, it is still nowhere near any of the films before that. Which I have seen by the way. The only two Pixar movies I haven't seen are Cars 2 and Brave, in case you were wondering. Fortunately, the future appears bright here, with original content upcoming over the next two years and with Finding Dory the year after that, hopefully this recent trend in Pixar movies will change. I certainly hope so. It still sounds like I'm hating....but I swear I'm not! I'm just being not-very-forgiving. Also this is the longest review I've had to date. Sorry about that.
Oh! Positive thing! I LOVE the theme to this movie. So many kids movies have a theme of, just put your mind to it and anything is possible, but this one laughed at the norm. Way to have a bit of a drearier theme guys! Because you know, even if you put your mind to it, you might not be able to achieve your dream. However, you might find something you enjoy just as much along the way. Now that is a GREAT theme for a kids movie. And the theme here, obviously.
The Critique: a good but not great Pixar film with many great moments, and without that knockout punch. Still, a fun way to spend 100 minutes.
The Recommendation: if you like cute and funny animated films, then go for it. And a great one to take young ones to. From my younger sources its not scary at all. (And from what I thought of Monsters Inc when I was 10)
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
Oscar Talk: Best Animated Feature Film (should be a pretty easy win....the competition is pretty weak this year)
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