Coco (2017): Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.
Hey! This just in: when Pixar isn't busy making Cars 43, it knows how to make some good original IPs. Coco follows in the line of (sadly) exceedingly rare new Pixar IPs and is exactly what you would expect Pixar to make: a lovely animated film. While it's not quite as good as 2015's Inside Out, (the last major original Pixar film of note) and is built on a rather absurd premise to me, (a family that hates music so much if you even utter the word they lose their minds? Really?) I still had a wonderful time watching this. The score and the songs are fantastic, and the animation just keeps getting better and better. Pixar kind of goes overboard on the colors, to the point where I feel like their philosophy is "We're better than you, and we know it!" with their animation, but it's still absolutely spectacular to watch unfold. The wideshots of the City of the Dead are some of the best animated shots I have ever seen. Beyond the crazy premise, this story is very much within the Pixar fomula: fun for the whole family, a few unexpected twists and turns, and makes you rock the ugly cry by the end. But, obviously, the Pixar formula works, so why try and reinvent the wheel? There are a few absurdities (even by animation standards) in the third act, but I still had a very good time watching this. But....there's just something holding it back from greatness. The score/animation are beyond great, and I do love the culture in this feature, but.....I don't know. It just plays out almost exactly how you expect it to, and the ugly cry does feel like a cheap ugly cry when it's all said and done. Actually, I think that's it. This film does solicit an ugly cry, which is great, but that ugly cry is a cheaply earned one. That's just not Pixar's usual MO. It's obviously the highest profile American animated feature this year, but when this is the best American animation has to offer.....it caps a lackluster year for the genre, to say the least.
My Number: 7/10
Loving Vincent (2017): In a story depicted in oil painted animation, a young man comes to the last hometown of painter Vincent van Gogh to deliver the troubled artist's final letter and ends up investigating his final days there.
Wow. Let me start by saying....this film is breathtaking to look at. The oil painting animation is absolutely stunning, and is certainly worth the price of admission. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of Vincent van Gogh or really art in GENERAL should take the time to watch this. The look of it is unlike anything I've ever seen, and the crew (it took over 100 artists to create this film) gave each frame a painstaking level of detail. I was amazed when I could recognize Saoirse Ronan and Jerome Flynn before they even started talking, and I could even see some (though it was admittedly limited) of the emotion in each individual character's face. This unique style is the reason to see this movie, which is good because the story is.......mediocre, at best. While it did have a nice ending, the journey to that felt like a 90 minute-long episode of CSI without any of the unrealistic forensic analysis scenes. The main character, Armand Roulin, (voiced by Douglas Booth) spends about 75 of the 90 minutes just interviewing other characters, and during the interviews you'd get predictable a black and white flashback (which was clearly used as a crutch for the animators) to Vincent while he was still alive. As gorgeous as this film was to look at, if this story had been told without any animation, it would probably be viewed as a pretty bad movie. Also, some of the voice acting here was...not great. I don't know if voice actors in traditional animation features have something to base their performances on while they're recording their lines, (like performing them in a room with each other) but it certainly felt like the voice actors here had absolutely nothing to go off of. This may be a limit to the oil painting animation style, but I don't know. End of the day, I have to give this film a decent score simply because of its incredibly unique style, and I still give it a STRONG recommendation, just don't expect to rewatch it again anytime soon. Unless you leave it on mute just to marvel at its beauty.
My Number: 5.5/10
The Boss Baby
The Boss Baby (2017): A suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his 7-year old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co.
Uggggghhhhh how was this nominated for an Academy Award? This movie is a quintessential example of everything that's wrong with modern American animation. It barely classifies as coherent. It follows rules that would make The Fountain proud. As in THERE ARE NO RULES. Its cobbled together with frantic, borderline incoherent editing to ensure the kids aren't bored. It's littered with poop/fart/barf jokes aimed at appeasing to the lowest common denominator. The animation itself isn't even all that good! As is the voice acting! Jimmy Kimmel was awful, (which kind of makes sense....who at Dreamworks thought it was a good idea to hire Disney/ABC's late night host for their movie?) and Steve Buscemi wasn't any better. It felt so weird to hear Alec Baldwin talking out of a baby, which I never got over, and Tobey Maguire is barely in this at all! Despite his major screen credit. Everyone here is in it for the paycheck, and it doesn't help that the story barely qualifies as one. Its RAPID pacing ensures the kids don't get bored, but also removes any chance of being able to digest anything that is happening on screen. There are a few cute moments, and I did laugh three or four times, but the rest of this thing is a travesty. I started putting away my laundry as it was going on, I was that bored. When an animated film has you doing actual chores to distract yourself from it....you know you done goof'd. It is almost insulting that this film received an Oscar nomination over Your Name., which is "Exhibit A" of a major problem within the Academy's Best Animated Feature category today. Now that it's outside the theater, don't bother with this....just go and show your kid Toy Story (again) instead.
My Number: 3/10
Your Name. (2017): Two strangers find themselves linked in a bizarre way. When a connection forms, will distance be the only thing to keep them apart?
I'll admit it: anime is a foreign world to me. So take my opinion on this movie with a major grain of salt. That said, I can see why there is so much hype behind this. It is wildly original premise, and its premise is executed marvelously. There are a few moments that I couldn't really follow as the editing was a little too erratic at times, but overall I had a really good time and was (somewhat to my surprise) very engaged and engrossed in this compelling story. The ending was.....not great, though. For as unorthodox a story as this is, the ending felt very cheap and safe. And we had to get a few silly "I gotchus" in the third act along the way, too. Overall, I think this film could've been about 15 minutes shorter, with a few of those sillier moments in the third act cut down for time. I won't say much about the animation in this, as I am no expert, but I will say I liked this style of anime a lot. The colors were amazing, and some of the establishing shots made me wonder at the amazing things you can do within the anime genre nowadays. Also, this film featured a great score/original songs. I don't know any of the artists featured here, but I would assume they are all big deals now across the big pond. The music was wonderful. I don't really have much else to add here. This style is outside my own wheelhouse, but I think this should be the primary takeaway: if a guy who has barely seen any anime thought this film was great, it may very well be worth the watch. Especially if you have just a passing interest and are looking for a gateway into the genre.
My Number: 8/10
Wonder (2017): Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.
Ok.....let me start off by saying that I like this movie. I found it to be a very enjoyable viewing experience. Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts are FANtastic, and Jacob Tremblay is as lovely as ever. But it's just so. Heavy. Handed. This movie is playing you like a fiddle, and you will know that it is, and you just have to decide whether you want to care about that or not. I choose not to care. I just.....noticed. Everything plays out exactly how you expect it to, and everyone says the exact right thing at the exact right time. To the point that it almost felt....superficial. But it's not, because Jacob Tremblay is wonderful and Owen Wilson/Julia Roberts are a great film couple. This movie made me laugh and cry exactly when it was supposed to, and I have to give it credit for drawing emotion out of me even when I knew that that's exactly what it was trying to do. The makeup is great and well deserving of its Oscar nomination. But.....idk. There's only so much you can do with a movie that's as heavy-handed as this is. Like....there's hardly even a moment in this film where any adversity is faced for Tremblay, (Auggie) and when it does happen someone is always there to say exactly the right thing to help him get through it. There are a few moments here that felt truly genuine, particularly a moment towards the end of the film with Owen Wilson and Tremblay, but a lot of it still borders on superficial. There's also these weird moments where we focus on someone that isn't Tremblay, which didn't feel all that important and thus messed with the film's pacing, but there are only a few of these. It's a decent movie, no doubt, one that will play you like a fiddle throughout its 113 minute runtime, but it doesn't offer much beyond its "uplifting" surface. Fortunately, though, a superficially "uplifting" flick is still fun.
My Number: 6.5/10