Favorite Live Action Disney

I haven’t done a Disney post in a little while so I thought I would give a list of my favorite Disney live action movies.  I am not including Muppets on this list as I am going to cover them at another time. This also does not include Marvel, Star Wars, Touchstone or other studios/franchises owned and operated by Disney.  These say Disney right on the cover!

What made me think of this is the recent announcement of Emma Watson playing Belle in live action Beauty and the Beast.  I love Watson but am not excited about this project at all. The idea of a CG Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts makes me want to throw up. Watson seemed to give the impression in an interview they would be including the music from the animated film, which would be a first in these live action fairytales.  That could be a good thing or bad thing.

I just hate this live action trend so much.  They all are big, garish, stupid and lose any of the charm of the originals.  Hopefully with Beauty and the Beast being Howard Ashman’s masterpiece and him working on his death bed will keep them from complete sacrilege but I am not optimistic.

Just stop Disney. Stop cannibalizing yourself.  At least the cheap cash grab sequels of the 90s weren’t released in the theaters.  Shame, shame, shame!

Anyway, when Disney gets it right in live action it can be very entertaining.  Friend of the blog Mark has a live action Disney blog you should definitely check out.  We disagree on a lot but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying his reviews.

https://myliveactiondisneyproject.wordpress.com/

So here is my list…

Best Disney Live Action

Honorable Mentions- Shaggy Dog, Absent Minded Professor, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Freaky Friday (old and new), Newsies, High School Musical, Pete’s Dragon, Darby O’ Gill and the Little People, Happiest Millionaire, Cool Runnings

12.  Swiss Family Robinson-

An admittedly hokey story but well cast and paced. I love the Home Alone style traps they construct for the pirates and the tree house.  The love triangle is less interesting but it is an entertaining family adventure along the lines of Princess Bride.

swiss family11. Tuck Everlasting

A lesser known Disney entry that I think is underrated.  Based on the book by Natalie Babbit it is the story of a girl who falls in love with a boy who can’t age. It is beautiful and sweet and isn’t afraid to give kids/teenagers something to think about instead of the same dopey romance movie we’ve seen a million times.  I love the cinematography and overall feel of the picture.  (This movie is my argument they should have cast Alexis Bidel as Bella in Twilight.  She is way more ethereal and hauntingly beautiful than Kristen Stewart…)

tuck everlasting10. Parent Trap (old and new)

The story of 2 twin sisters who find each other at camp and decide to try and get their parents back together.  Both the old and new are very charming with great lead performances by Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan.  The chemistry between parents on both films is palatable and convincing and as someone who hates camping I sympathize with poor Vikki (I may not show this to my kids for fear they will submarine me!) . I think it is funny and sweet.  Some worry it gives kids a false hope their parents will get back together but in my experience kids are smart enough to tell the difference between a movie and reality.  If they have such a hope it is likely a natural emotion not really having anything to do with a movie.

parent trap9. Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl

The sequels have all been terrible IMO but the original was so much fun.  Great sword fighting sequences, fun story, strong cast and our first introduction to Jack Sparrow.  Wish they had figured out a way to make the follow ups good but at least we got one good movie out of it! pirates8. Old Yeller

The Disney movie that will make you cry your eyes out but in a good way.  Tears in a movie can be manipulative and I can end up resenting the movie (I’m talking to you Nicholas Sparks!) but when done right it we can cry out of a love and attachment to the character.  This is certainly true with Old Yeller and I’m not even a dog person.  What Travis has to do at the end of the movie is so well acted and gut wrenching.  Makes you want to reach through the screen and give him a hug. It’s a movie I like to watch when I’m sick and feeling sorry for myself.  Sometimes a girl just needs a good cry!

old yeller7. Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Yes it is a paler imitation of Mary Poppins but I still really like it.  Angela Lansbury is so much fun as the witch who wants to learn a spell so she can help in the war effort.  David Tomlinson is also wonderful, as usual, as the con-man selling Lansbury the course.  The kid actors are not great but the special effects hold up in a hokey kind of way.  The animated sequences are completely unnecessary to the story but a lot of fun.  It’s just a charmer.

bedknobs6. Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, Witch and Wardrobe

Kids not old enough to watch Lord of the Rings?  Narnia is a perfect option.  I love it for its biblical allegory but even if you aren’t religious it is a classic story full of magic, sacrifice, love, friendship and an amazing villain played by Tilda Swinton.  Narnia is vividly created and Aslan is just as I would have imagined when reading the books.  The kids are not as good as the Harry Potter kids but they are fine.  It’s an exciting story in a fantastical setting. It also has a nice message about pride and how Satan will work on our egos to get us to move away from what we know is right.

Narnia-8-the-chronicles-of-narnia-241414_1024_7685. Holes

When this first came out I called all my friends and family and told them to see it!  I loved it.  I still love it.  It’s so creative and clever the way it tells several stories at once with Shia Lebeouf sent to camp where they dig holes in the desert all day. What are they digging for? Well, we learn about that as the movie tells the story of an old west bi-racial romance between Kissing Kate and Trout Walker and a curse put on LeBeouf’s family.  It’s kind of a puzzle for kids as they put together the various clues in both stories.  Great supporting work by Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Henry Winkler and Tim Blake Nelson.

holes4. Disney’s The Kid

A movie I think about a lot despite its stupid title.  Bruce Willis meets his 12 year old self and they are both horrified with each other.  I have wondered many times what the 12 year old Rachel would think of my life.  In some ways she’d be thrilled and in others disappointed.  It’s a story that has huge heart and is maybe more for adults than children.   We all hope we have lived a good life and this movie makes me ponder every time I watch it.

the kid3. Saving Mr Banks

I am aware this movie is mostly fan fiction but for the story it tells it really moved me.  I love the ending when Tom Hanks tells Emma Thompson “I’m tired of remembering it that way”.  That really impacted me and made me think. I’m tired of remembering certain things from my life in certain ways.  It’s such a great example of showing how most humans have  a moment where childhood is over and most of us always resent whoever it was that gave us that moment.  For me it was bullies, for Disney it was his Dad making him deliver papers in the cold, for Travers it was her father dyeing on her.  Disney compensated with whimsey, Travers by scorning whimsey and embracing a whole new identity.

saving mr banks2. Pollyanna

One of my all time favorite children’s movies about a girl named Pollyanna (played by Hayley Mills) who having lost both of her parents has decided to live her life always looking at the upside.  Her positivity effects all around her including her stubborn aunt played by Jane Wyman.  Karl Malden is so good as the minister who realizes preaching fire and brimstone may not be the way to share God’s message. Agnes Moorehead is also great as a lonely cantankerous woman who learns from Pollyanna how to see color and light even from her room.  Yes it’s drippy and sentimental but it is all so well acted that when an event happens to cause  Pollyanna to loose her cheerfulness it is really quite devastating.  Then it ends on just the right note.  It’s a movie I don’t know if it could be made today.  We have all gotten too cynical for such a story which is kind of sad when you think about it. pollyanna1. Mary Poppins

In the running for the best children’s movie ever made.  It is practically perfect in every way! Julie Andrews as lovely as Mary, the positive yet sometimes stern governess to little Jane and Michael.  David Tomlinson is so great as Mr Banks the banker who believes in order and discipline and comes into conflict with Mary.   When he thinks he is going to be fired and see’s the Bird Lady it is a completely devastating moment.  He is not the villain of the picture which a lesser film would have done.  Glynis Johns is fun as the suffragette Mrs Banks and the kids are sweet and charming.

The music by the Sherman Brothers is unforgettable and dancing sequences like Step in Time are so captivating you hardly notice how long they are.  The animated section is whimsical and fun and who can forget Dick van Dyke bad accent and all as the free spirited Burt.  If the only flaw I can find in a movie is a bad accent I think that is pretty darn great.  Definitely one of Disney’s great movies.  Glad he fought Travers to make it!

mary poppinsSo there you go Disney.  How about you look at these films and remember how to make good live action instead of junk like Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland…Please!

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Snow Day Movies

Best Snow Day MoviesSo I’ve heard of this little thing called Snowmogeddon that many of you are experiencing.  It is gorgeous here in Utah so go figure! As many of you are stuck inside with travel restrictions I thought I would help you out and suggest some great movies for watching on a snow day.  I figure you either want something you can cozy up with, something long or something cold.

For some reason I always think of making popcorn, hot cocoa and brownies when there is a blizzard outside.  Yum!

I am also specifically not picking any Christmas movies  because most people don’t watch those in January.

Here we go!

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy-

lord of the ringsWhat better for a day stuck inside than a good trilogy and it’s hard to top Lord of the Rings.  You could even watch the extended editions with all that time.  What Peter Jackson did truly fits the word epic. They hit every movie lover need- great action, beautiful worlds, good performances and a battle against evil that has real heart at the core. When you get to the final scene with Samwise, Frodo, Gollum and the ring it is so satisfying.

2. Up

up_posterPerfect time to watch a movie about a floating house when you are stuck in the house!  I can’t think of a time when I wouldn’t want to watch Up.  It’s sweet, funny and touching.  I love the opening sequence more than any other piece of filmmaking I’ve ever seen.  I love that a character passes away yet her presence is felt throughout the film.  It’s a reminder to us that those we love and have lost are still a part of our lives. It’s also very funny and has some nifty action, a good villain, great voice performances and a perfect score.

3. Shining

shiningGot a little cabin fever?  I can’t think of a more appropriate and terrifying movie than Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  It is the only horror movie I like because it is about a man going insane not some outside force attacking.  The artistry is a huge step above the typical horror movie and there is a lot of symbolism that can keep you thinking.  Plus, great performances from all involved.

4. 101 Dalmatians

101 dalmations

My tails froze and my nose is froze and my ears are froze and my toes are froze

Of course I have to include a Disney and I almost went with Lady and the Tramp because that is a very cozy movie but I decided on 101 Dalmatians because it is warm, funny and has a lot of scenes in the snow. Cruella is one of Disney’s best villains and the dogs get really close to getting caught many times.  The scene getting into the van makes me always hold my breath.  Cruella’s plan is so outrageous it also gives us some great laughs.  One of my favorites and a rare time where the sketch style is actually a benefit to all those spotted puppies.

5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

ferrisWhat is a snow day but an unexpected day off, so this is a perfect film for the occasion.  Ferris’ antics are obviously over the top but there is a real heart to the film which I actually find quite moving.  There is a theory that the whole day is planned by Ferris because Cameron is going to commit suicide and it is all set up to get him to the moment with the car and confronting his father.  I don’t know if that is true or not but it makes sense.  It’s one of those rare pictures which balances comedy, great writing, likable performances, 4th wall jokes and pretty intense drama. I like it more each time I see it.

6.  Frozen

Frozen-movie-posterHow could I not put it in?  Let the cold never bother you anyway and watch one of Disney’s most satisfying movies and one of the best musicals in a long time.  I love the relationship between the sisters as I have 3 sisters and trying to figure out what’s in their heads is really hard.  I thought the ending worked and the villain twist surprised me, which is hard to do in a fairytale.  They also used just enough of Olaf to be funny without overdoing it.  I know it has its detractors but I love it!

7. Pride and Prejudice

pride and prejudice

Technically this is not a movie but a miniseries but I figure you have 6 hours when snowed in why not watch Colin Firth stare longingly into Lizzie’s eyes…Sigh?  This is the standard by which all Jane Austen adaptations are measured.  Andrew Davies is such a great director for period pieces and the whole cast is engaging with the exception of Susannah Harker who is a rather blank Jane.  I love Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie and of course Colin Firth with the staring, eloquence, and a little dip in the lake we won’t soon forget.  Other great miniseries to watch are North and South (my favorite book), Wives and Daughters, Little Dorrit, Downton Abbey, Persuasion/Emma/Sense and Sensibility.  They are all great!

8. Groundhog Day-

groundhog day

It’s only a few days away from Groundhog Day so why not watch a hilarious comedy about the holiday? Bill Murray is at his best as a cranky weatherman named Phil who is forced to cover the groundhog day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Then he lives that aggravating day over and over again.  It is funny but there is also a nice heart to the story where he learns to see people in a new way including Andie MacDowell as the love interest.  He starts looking at her very cynically but as the days continue he understands her and starts to think a little less selfishly.  Terrific writing and directing by the great Harold Ramis.

9. Fargo-

Fargo_movieposter

I admit the ending I have to look away.  It’s pretty bloody but aside from that a perfect mystery set in cold Fargo, North Dakota. William H Macy is great as the man who’s plan begins to unravel.  Steve Buscemi is so creepy as one of the kidnappers. But the real star is Frances McDormand as the pregnant sheriff Marge who is one of the most likable characters in recent memory.  She is smarter than everyone else in the room but everyone discounts her because of her sex, way of speaking and being pregnant.  It makes you root for her and smile at the same time. Great direction by the Coen Brothers making the cold landscape of Fargo practically a character in the story.

10. 7 Brides for 7 Brothers

seven bridesA classic musical directed by Stanley Donnen and starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel as a couple who marry on first sight which gives Keel’s backwoods brothers a bad idea for getting their own brides.  It is silly and over-the-top premise but it works almost in spite of itself.  The engaging cast of mostly dancers helps keep it likable and light.  It also has some of the best dancing in any Hollywood movie of its era. The barn raising scene alone is amazing.  And it is a perfect musical to watch in a blizzard because the girls get snowed in by an avalanche!

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There are a lot of other movies I could have picked.  What are some of your favorites? Please share in the comments and stay warm!

A Personal Film Festival

Another entry in the personal film festival. I love seeing what different people pick for the movies from their life.

Disney in Your Day

Another blogger over at The Animation Commendation tagged me in a post to create my own personal film festival – basically, a list of my favorite films from each year that I’ve been alive.  I’ll try to pass along the fun by tagging some other bloggers as well!  You’ll see a lot of Disney movies on this list, but maybe a few others as well.  I did some honorable mentions too since I have such a love of Disney, but enjoy other films too!   I talk about Disney a lot on here (obviously), but this will also give you a glimpse into other things I enjoy.

1988:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit

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1989:  The Little Mermaid

little mermaid
Honorable Mention:  Dead Poets Society

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Strange Magic Review

strangeMagic-296x444Sometimes I feel sorry for George Lucas.  Then I remember what he did to Star Wars and I don’t feel so sorry but still what must it be like for one human being to be so high and then so low?  I can’t even imagine.  Well, he certainly hasn’t let failure get to his head because last week he released an animated film, Strange Magic, emblazoned with “from the mind of George Lucas” right on the poster for all to see.  I’m still baffled by that choice.  I can’t think of a single person who would see that tagline and think “George Lucas? I want to go to that”.

But I promised you I’d see every animated film in 2015 and I intend do so.  And no matter all the bad reviews I always try to go into every movie with an open mind and have been willing to go against popular opinion on more than one occasion (Atlantis: The Lost Emipre and Wreck-It Ralph anyone?).

The only theater I could find showing it (and just opened on Friday I will remind you) is this strange theater about 13 minutes from my house.  Everytime I’ve been there it is like a ghosttown and tonight was no exception.  Had the whole theater to myself which allowed me to take notes on my phone and not bother anyone.

So here’s the deal on Strange Magic.  It is bad but mainly because of the writing, annoying music and obvious story.  The animation is not half bad.  It is for that reason I would put it above last year’s stinkers Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return which didn’t look finished and the garish and unfunny Nut Job. If it was just a predictable fairy movie I might be able to place it with The Tinker Bell movies in animation quality but those movies are more clear, vibrant, better vocal performances and stories.

Evidently George Lucas made this movie “because nothing is made for girls any more”.  That was definitely true in the 70’s George but since Little Mermaid I think you’d have a hard time proving that at least with Disney (Pixar yes but plenty of movies made for girls).  I mean Frozen made over 1 billion!

The strangest thing about him making this for girls is a good chunk of the movie is about Sonny the elf finding the fairy Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) with little scenes of Dawn and Marianne(Evan Rachel Wood) fairies usually thrown in to sing about love or how tough they are.

Sonny the elf
Sonny the elf

I think Lucas also thinks it will appeal to girls because there is lots of talk about love (it is Midsummer’s Night Dream in the same way Gnomeo and Juliet was about Romeo and Juliet).  And of course you have to throw in a wedding, a Spring Ball and an Elf Festival because girls love parties! (Groan…).

strange-magic-dawn strange magic marianneThe two faeries are sisters (of course) and one is free spirited and the other is bitter about love. There is also a Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) who is taken captive by the evil Bog King (Alan Cumming) who is known simply as Bog by his mother and followers.

bog king strange magicAll of this could be good in a corny kind of way but the music puts it over the top with each choice being so on the nose it is like playing a game of Name that Tune.  We know the moment we here the character is named Marianne we are going to hear “C’mon Marianne” by Frankie Valli.  As soon as a character is at the dance we hear “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. It’s like Moulin Rouge but a decade too late and with an even more predictable plot.

The worst was at the end when a character breaks into Wild Thing by The Troggs. Couldn’t they have been a little more creative?  It’s like George Lucas downloaded his ipod, threw in a few modern songs like Kill You Makes You Stronger and Say Hey.

Strange-Magic-poster-banner

Even the songs would be passable if the script was better. We get lines like

“Looking for trouble? Well, you’ve come to the right place” says the Bog King and then we get Trouble by Elvis which has lines “Well, I’m evil so don’t you mess around withe me”.  Groan.   It’s like these guys learned to write scripts in kindergarten.

Another line “You’re one to talk with your magic recipe.  A recipe for failure”.

“See what happens when love is unleashed on the world”

“Even with a love potion I’m too hideous to love”

“Why would you think a beast like you could get a beauty like Marianne” (surprised Disney allowed that one.  Gaston should be offended!

“My life flashed before my eyes.  I was hot…”

“I’ve learned something.  Never judge someone or it by the way he, she or it looks”  Thank George for explaining the most obvious moral in the world to us in case we didn’t catch on…

And my favorite “Pull your head out of the clouds.  Clouds of boys…”.  Oh boy. Now I’m thinking the writers have never met a little girl. Do they think this is how they really talk?

george-lucas-wants-pop-songs-to-sell-you-toys-in-the-trailer-for-strange-magic_1Basically the story is a girl fairy is jilted on her wedding day by a jerk fairy.  She turns against love but her sister is still a believer.  The elf Sonny is in love with fairy Dawn and wants to get the potion for her from the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The jilted beau also wants the potion to force Marianne to love him (the antidote is so groan inducing).

Then they meet various obstacles but get the potion fairly easily which is not guarded well by the Bog King who wants to keep the fairy because the potion didn’t work on the girl he loved. (that darn antidote again!).

They all end up meeting in the forest and battling over the love potion and it is so predictable and full of terrible puns and one liners.

sugar plum fairy strange magicI can’t figure out why they wouldn’t have made Kristin Chenoweth Dawn?  The Sugar Plum Fairy isn’t in the movie that much and has only 1 song.

Lucas did get some decent singers in Alan Cumming, Chenoweth and Wood but it is all like a karaoke theme night on romantic songs.

Like I said the animation is tolerable and it isn’t going to harm your kids like something such as The Smurfs with all its obnoxious product placement.  This is just a predictable bland movie with a lot of music kids won’t have heard of like People are Strange by the Doors or Mistreated by Deep Purple.  What little kid knows those?

As far as content goes there is a scene where two male characters kiss for laughs which has gotten so tired a joke. Get over it! The Bog King might be scary to little children but it is tempered pretty quickly with songs and jokes (and the Bog King’s mother trying to set him up).

So it is not as bad as Nut Job or Legends of Oz but that’s really damning with faint praise. A definite skip.  (The things I do for you guys!).

Overall Grade D

Doris Day Spotlight

doris day

I just posted a video to my youtube channel I would love if you guys can give it a listen.  It’s more of a podcast length that profiles the films and work of Doris Day.  She is a criminally underrated actress who consistently makes me smile even in less than perfect movies.  I love her singing voice and the luminous quality of her screen presence.

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In this video I review 3 boxed sets of her films and let you know about each of them, reviewing in total 13 films.  I also review The Man Who Knew Too Much an underrated Hitchcock featuring Doris Day singing her most iconic song Que Sera. She was a great comedian and singer but branched out occasionally and did a drama like Love Me or Leave Me or a Hitchcock. I just love her.

Thanks in advance for checking out the video.

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart Review

jackIn my quest to see the animated films of 2014 I had a chance tonight to see the french movie Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. It’s available to all subscribers right now on Netflix and I think it is worth a watch although it has its issues.

It’s probably the most steampunk influenced animation I’ve seen since Treasure Planet, so if you are a fan of steampunk than you will especially love it.

jack7Much like Book of Life the artistic style is the films strength.  It looks very creative (as steampunk is prone to do) and it surprised me with each character design, setting and creatures.    That said, I did kind of wish they had not gone the CG route and done stop motion or hand drawn for this kind of story.  I think it would have looked better and they would have gotten more emotion out of the characters who seemed flat on occasion despite the interesting design.

jack12

It kind of reminded me of Corpse Bride a little bit which is stop motion and I think this would have been better if it had taken that approach instead of CG.

The music is stronger than Book of Life.  In fact, the entire movie is based on an album by an emo sounding band called Dionysos that included an illustrated novel by the lead singer.  Not all the songs are memorable but they create wonderful mood that goes well with the visuals.

The story is the movies weakness.  It starts out strong with Jack getting born on the coldest day on earth and his heart dies so a midwife puts a cuckoo-clock in the place of his heart.

jack2The problem is he cannot get excited or fall in love with his clock heart or he could short circuit and die.  (Robots and clocks are a big part of steampunk. It reminded me a lot of Hugo in that regard.  Reminded me of a lot I guess!).

Unfortunately he meets a beautiful Spanish girl who sings and falls in love with her.  He also decides to go to school and meets a bully named Joe.

jack8There is an accident with Jack and Joe and Jack is forced to flee on a ghost train.  To be honest right around that point the movie started to lose me a lot.

jack11It looked really cool throughout but for the last 45 minutes or so I really didn’t understand what was happening.  There was a ghost train and he was chasing the girl and she didn’t like him and then liked him and then Joe comes and I don’t know what else.

jack4In Book of Life they have the 2 characters in love with the same girl and the songs but I liked in Book of Life there was some good in both of the boys.  It made it more interesting.  Here Joe is just a bad guy from school onward.  There was no motivation as to why he is a bully or mean to Jack.

Maybe I just need to watch it again to get a better idea of what was happening but n this watch through I was confused.

jack3

It also has a very poor English dubbing that doesn’t ever seem to match the lips very well, which is distracting.  I almost wish they had just used subtitles if they were going to do it so cheaply.

But it is visually wonderful and I love the steampunk look and the music was neat.  All together in spite of problems I still enjoyed watching it.

Have any of you seen it?  What did you think?

Overall Grade- C

It is not for very small children who might get scared or feel it is too sad.  More 10+

A Personal Film Festival Tag

Another blogger friend has done the movies in your life and made it into a tag. Check out another great list!

The Animation Commendation

FilmReel-Gray

My friend, smilingldsgirl, started a thing called A Personal Film Festival wherein she did her own “film festival” and listed her favorite movie of every year that she’s been alive. I liked the idea so much that I decided to do it too and make it into a tag. So, after showing my picks, I’m gonna tag 3 of you and you all havta do this tag too! Basically, just go through each year of your existence and list your favorite film. If you want, you can list Honorable Mentions as well.

Sounds fun? Great! So, here are the results of my Personal Film Festival:

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A Personal Film Festival

One of my commenters has posted his movie festival for every year of his life. It’s a great list! I’d love to see a bunch of us do it and will reblog if you do.

It’s kind of perfect with Sundance coming up. This would be the ultimate film festival!

Richard's Blog

The other day, one of the bloggers I follow, smilingldsgirl, did a post called “Movie for Every Year of My Life“, creating an imaginary film festival by picking a favourite film for every year of her life. With permission, I’ve decided to give this idea a go myself!

First, some honourable mentions for a few more difficult years:

1987 – The Princess Bride

1990 – Memphis Belle

1991 – Beauty and the Beast

1992 – Home Alone 2: Lost in New York; The Muppet Christmas Carol

1994 – The Lion King; The Shawshank Redemption

1995 – Braveheart; Toy Story

1998 – The Prince of Egypt

1999 – The Matrix

2004 – The Incredibles

2005 – Batman Begins

2010 – My Name Is Khan

2011 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

2013 – Gravity

Now, the final list:

1987Planes, Trains & Automobiles

1988

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Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants Review

miniscule posterI made a goal that I would see every animated film of 2014.  I thought with Song of the Sea I would have all 13.  Well, little did I know there were many more foreign and independent animated films still to see. So I will finish my goal and plan on at least seeing all the films submitted for academy consideration.  One on the list was actually a 2013 release in France but got a small American release in January 2014 (only 4 reviews on rotten tomatoes so it must have been in only LA) called Miniscule: Valley of the Lost Ants.   It’s too bad more people don’t know about it because it was a total delight.

Let me start off by saying this movie is so cute.  Evidently it is based off of a popular TV show in France created by Thomas Szabo and Helen Giraud. It tells the journey of an ant and a ladybug.  There is no dialogue or spoken words of any kind beyond the squeaking of insects but it is not needed.  It reminded me a lot of Wall-e in that respect.

The film is computer animation set on real life backgrounds of the South of France mountains (gorgeously shot).  At the start a human couple is eating a picnic when they must go to have a baby leaving their lunch behind including a box of sugar.  It is of course discovered by our ants and a ladybug who has a torn wing.  They then go on a journey to take the tin of sugar to the ant hill but encounter a lizard, frog and an army of red ants.  In a great scene they must navigate the box through a river with the red ants in a pop can following them.

Then the movie takes a turn and becomes a war drama that is quite compelling with the hoards of red ants gathering to attack the smaller black ants.

ant invasion

It is so creative how they use implements available to an ant to battle each other and I got into the story.  It’s amazing what you can do without any dialogue at all!  The ladybug then goes to get more matches and faces off with a spider who proves to actually be a friend.  The spider kind of looks like the coal creatures in Spirited Away but other than that it is an entirely original design.

spider miniscule

I won’t give it all away but it’s a delight.  Kids will love it especially small toddler age kids.  I remember my little sister would watch this movie that just followed farm animals around the farm over and over again.  We think little one’s need the dialogue but they don’t.  They don’t understand what most of the words mean so a story like this is actually quite perfect for them.

And I think parents will enjoy it too.  It’s charming with enough story to entertain adults (at least this adult).  It you are an adult that appreciates beautiful art it has that too (its not only cute). The photography is gorgeous.  Makes you want to go to France!

It could be a little bit shorter and a few dream sections drag, but overall I was highly entertained by Miniscule.  I wish more Americans could see it because I think it could do quite well with the right publicity. It was only $27 million to make which is amazing because it looks so good (when I think Legends of Oz had 3 times the budget it is hard to believe). With such a small budget it wouldn’t take much for it to be a success (and I think it already was in Europe but not sure).  Like I said, especially little children 5 and under will LOVE it.

I know I have some European readers so I am curious if any of you have seen/heard of Miniscule or the TV series by Giraud and Szabo?  I’d love to know what you think.

The music by Herve Lavandier is crucial to making the film work.  With no dialogue it gives you the right cue to the situation and creates mood and tension.

I’m certainly glad I saw it!  I only wish I had been able to see it in 3D.  That would have been so cool!  The lucky French!  I watched it here