Pixar Review 1: The Adventures of André and Wally B

adventures of wallyWelcome to the start of my new project reviewing all the Pixar films and animated shorts.  The first 5 of these reviews are going to be shorts made by Pixar from 1984 to 1995 release of Toy Story. I have a fondness for these shorts because my uncle Mark used to work for Pixar in their financing department back in 1990ish. One year for Christmas he gave us a VHS tape with some animated shorts made by his company.  It had Luxo Jr, Knick Knack, Tin Toy etc.  I loved watching those shorts and I’ve always felt that I was an early Pixar fangirl well before Toy Story.  How many can say that? 🙂

That said critiquing or analyzing these shorts is tough.  By modern standards they seem crudely drawn and very simple.  For example, most of them are silent films without any dialogue just music.  But we have to consider these shorts were basically tools to help them create the technology that we now have with great CG animation.  In that sense they are not simple and are really quite groundbreaking.

The first short Pixar ever created is called The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.  It is a 2 minute bit about an android (that’s what John Lasseter calls it) named Andre that meets a bee named Wally B.  He distracts said bee and runs through the forest but is eventually outwitted and stung so hard it twists the bees stinger.

Adventures of Andre and Wally B was created by John Lasseter in 1984 when Pixar was a new division of Lucasfilm for a  conference called SIGGRAPH and it feels like something made for a conference, more to show off technology than tell a story.

The big breakthrough in Andre and Wally B is they were able to design a motion blur technology called the motion doctor that allowed for characters to not just be geometric shapes but move in a realistic way that flows.  Lasseter had been working at Disney and was brought on to animate the characters but I really think this short has more of a Looney Tunes feel than Disney with its physical comedy and silent movie feel.

adventures of wally3

What was really interesting in the audio commentary is technical lead Bill Reeves says “In retrospect it’s amazing that John didn’t do a robot.  Where would be today if he had?  Who knows but I’m so glad he didn’t”

So I suppose we can all be grateful for Andre and Wally B because it forced Lasseter to start designing outside of boxes like a robot would have been.  It would take 11 more years to perfect the technology to the level of a feature film but Andre and Wally B got the ball rolling and the creative juices flowing.

I have no idea what grade to give it.  Just enjoy it because it was the first and it is 2 minutes long…

What’s your favorite of these early shorts?  Next up the iconic Luxo!

Advertisements

Jupiter Ascending Review

Jupiter-AscendingI must just be in a very good mood this month. Just in April I liked the ridiculous action picture Furious 7, the dopey romance movie Longest Ride and now the over the top scifi space opera movie Jupiter Ascending.

Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski of Matrix fame Jupiter Ascending is just nutty enough to be entertaining.  I can totally see why a majority of critics hated it because it is so silly but I didn’t take it very seriously and had fun with it.

Basically the plot is Mila Kunis plays Jupter Jones a daughter of Russian immigrants who finds out she is the reincarnation of an extra terrestrial queen who was murdered after being alive for 91 millennium (rough to go down that way!).

jupiter-ascending-character-poster-mila-kunis As the genetic match Jupiter can now ‘own’ the earth but the 3 children of the queen are not happy about this arrangement so they each send down emissaries who try to kill/capture Jupiter.  This all catches her quite off guard as she is a simple cleaning lady.

Channing Tatum plays Caine Wise a part wolf species who is quiet, thoughtful and ‘one step up from a dog’.  He is the hero of the movie constantly rescuing and listening too Jupiter prattle on about her life. Hmmm…I wonder if they are supposed to be together in the end?

jupiter ascending 2Caine is hired to find and protect Jupiter so that she can marry one of the brothers named Titus played by Douglas Booth.  All the performances in this movie are very campy and silly. Titus is kind of like Chuck from Gossip Girl in space.

jupiter ascending 12Tuppence Middleton is the sister who tries to befriend Jupiter so she can manipulate her.  She bathes in a special water daily that like the magic flower in Tangled makes her young. (She’s only been alive 14 millennium after all).

jupiter ascending 10And finally Eddie Redmayne is Balem who is the rightful heir to Earth and is resentful this stupid girl has come to thwart his plans of literal world domination.  He wants to keep earth as his harvest grounds for the eternity liquid which takes 100 people to make 1 vial and oversees a refinery of sorts to make the liquid.  Redmayne is so ridiculous in the role with a quiet gravely ‘bad guy’  voice that I found hilarious when I think it was supposed to genuinely menacing. Either way I had fun watching it.

jupiter ascending 13Sean Bean also appears as a tough guy who is part honeybee (like I said this is a nutty movie).  Jupiter it turns out can rule the honeybees so Striker is easily convinced of her royal qualities.  “Bees sense greatness when it is near them”…

jupiter ascending5I’m not sure if the Wachowskis intended there to be a strong Oedipus complex to the movie but especially considering Lana’s story it is a little strange.  All 3 of these siblings are kind of in love with their mother and gush about how beautiful she was.  One of them is about to marry her!

jupiter ascending3As we expect with a Wachowski film the visuals are dazzling and the characters are very creative in their design.  The costumes, makeup and hair are also superb

jupiter ascending6The action is a ton of fun with the highlight being an early battle between Caine and Balem’s thugs in Chicago.  Caine has these air powered rollerblades that let him fly around the city and the special effects look flawless. They create an easy out as far as humans by having a memory erasing device like in Men in Black so they can harvest their humans without anyone noticing.

That’s not to say the movie is perfect.  I wish Jupiter had been a little bit of a stronger character.  She makes some pretty dumb choices and is manipulated rather easily. She also is constantly the damsel in distress needing to be rescued.

jupiter ascending 6It also gets a little Phantom Menacy with all the discussion of land ownership and the ‘rights’ to the Earth by the siblings.  Too much exposition, a convoluted script and definite plotholes in the story detract a little.  Jupiter’s earthly family is also a complete caricature of a Russian family.  Quite cringe inducing but they are in the movie very little.

In a way it is too bad it did so poorly because I would be curious to see what the Wachowskis could do with this world.  Perhaps Jupiter would be a stronger character in sequels but sadly we will never know.

jupiter ascending4I first heard about Jupiter Ascending because when it premiered at Sundance the crowds booed.  I get it.  It’s probably too nutty for a stuffy crowd like Sundance.  It would have been better to premiere it at a comicon or something like that. I could see this movie developing a cult following of sci-fi fans who like the campiness and style of the film.

In the end Jupiter Ascending is far from a masterpiece but as a hokey piece of sci-fi family soap opera with some good action and beautiful world building I enjoyed it. With the exception of some very dopey dialogue driven scenes it clips along fast enough to keep me mildly engaged and amused.    I don’t need to see it again but I enjoyed it none the less.  The only thing I can think to compare it too is a really silly episode of Star Trek.  It’s kind of like a telenovella but in space.

As far as content there is some nudity including more than one bare bottom and action fight sequences that get a bloody.  No real language that I noticed.

So I’d say give it a shot and maybe you’ll find something to entertain you too!

Overall Grade- C+   Content Grade- B

To get a little more feel for the film here is the trailer.

New Project Poll Results

Last week I set up a poll asking you my readers to vote for the next series of reviews you would like me to do.  Thank you to all who voted and I must say the responses surprised me a little bit.

pixar

The top 5 are

5.  with 5% of vote- The Best of Simpsons Series

4. with 5.75% of vote- Studio Ghibli Series

3. with 8.05% of vote- Hitchcock Series

2. with 10.34% of vote- Disney Nature Documentary Series

and the clear winner

1. with 18.39% of vote- Pixar Films and Shorts Series

Any surprises for you?  I’m not surprised by Pixar winning especially with Inside Out coming out in June.  But I was surprised with Disney Nature getting the second spot.  I think it should be pretty easy for me to do both as there are only 14 Pixar films and 8 Disney nature and it will be perfect as both have releases in the next 2 months. I’m excited!

I’m not sure how to structure the Pixar reviews because I am a huge fangirl.  Honestly I would give all but 3 an A. How interesting is that to read about me gush about movie after movie?  If you guys have any guidance or suggestions about how I could make them interesting I would love to hear.

So Pixar and Disney Nature it is.  Thanks again and I look forward to some fun blogging in the future. disney nature

 

Woman in Gold Review

woman in gold3Ah the movie that might have been…Sometimes a movie has such potential which is then squandered by bad writing and acting.  For instance, Disney’s Brother Bear frustrates me to no end because it had potential and then it makes one bad choice after another.  Unfortunately Woman in Gold is another such movie.  The true story at its core could have been a good movie but instead we get a tedious poorly acted melodrama.

It is the story of Maria Altmann who fought to reclaim the painting of her aunt by Gustav Klimit called Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer which was stolen from her family by the Nazis.

woman in gold4Old Altmann is played by Helen Mirren who does what she can with the bland role and script but we never see any uniqueness to her character, anything that feels authentic or real.  Instead she is just a victim we feel sorry for but don’t really get to know .

Ryan Reynolds plays her friends son  Randy Schoenberg who she hires as her attorney.  He has a wife and new baby and a new spot in a firm so taking on a side case with a long shot request is a risk.  Again this sounds interesting but Reynolds is really bad.  I didn’t buy him for a second in the part and he was completely flat except for when he had to get emotional but even that seemed to come out of the blue.

WOMAN IN GOLDI think a little more of a serious actor like a James McEvoy might have worked better.  I kept feeling like Reynolds was going to bust out laughing and instead he just rattles off legalize about the case.  He really was bad..

woman in gold2

Katie Holmes plays his wife and she’s beautiful but a terrible actress and Tatiana Maslany plays the younger Maria who flees Austria with her husband.  The flashback scenes go on way too long and it is all stuff we have seen before and not a lot of tension because we already know that they made it to America.  I actually nodded off for a few minutes I was so bored with the bad guys chasing the innocents around Vienna.

Then we get some courtroom scenes that I felt I had seen a hundred times and were completely predictable. They even make it to the Supreme Court and hmmm I wonder if she loses and all the effort was for not?

WOMAN IN GOLDA movie with a predictable ending is fine (for goodness sakes I just praised the Longest Ride) but I have to like the characters or the writing is sharp or something for me to latch on to.  At least in Longest Ride the couples had chemistry and it wasn’t trying to be all deep and meaningful just a dopey romance.  This has airs of an important movie but it fails in nearly every respect.

woman in gold5Helen Mirren is good and it is shot adequately but honestly I was bored and I normally don’t use the B word in my reviews.  I feel terrible about what happened to Altmann and her family but this movie isn’t the tribute they deserved.

In those annoying paragraphs at the end of the movie telling you about the rest of their lives we learn that Altmann gave most of the money to charities and the paintings are on display in New York.  That sounds much more interesting than a court procedural squabbling with Austria.

Sometimes I also felt that the movie treats the ‘bad guys’ at the Austrian government as if they are on the same level as the actual Nazis shown in the flashback sequences.  That’s a little ridiculous.  They want to keep a painting not murder 7 million innocent citizens.  I’m not saying Maria’s cause isn’t just because it is but the movie could have given some nuance to the Austrians.

No real content problems aside from some mean Nazis  and 1 f bomb but that’s about it.

Overall Grade- C- just for Mirren and a worthy story at its core. Content Grade- A-

 

The Longest Ride Review

longest rideSo far 2015 has not been a strong year for movies IMO.  Aside from the carry-overs of 2014 the only thing mainstream to really dazzle me is Cinderella and Paddington but there have been a lot of single base hits even without the home runs. 

I looked at the movie options this weekend and it seemed pretty dry.  I could see a poorly reviewed sci-fi film like Chappie or Jupiter Ascending or go see the new Nicholas Sparks movie The Longest Ride.  I went with the latter figuring I could at least make fun of it.  But so help me I actually enjoyed it.  Is it a masterpiece?  No but its a heck of a lot better than anything he has made in a long time. I’d put it right up there with his best The Notebook.  I really would.

It’s actually similar to The Notebook in a lot of ways.  We get the story of an older couple and a young couple and we see their love stories play out.  In this the young couple is Sophia played by Britt Robertson who is a budding art history graduate with a big job in New York coming up and Luke played by Scott Eastwood who hopes to mount a comeback as a professional bull rider.

longest ride4The two have a meet cute but there is also genuine chemistry and the script is passable.  Robertson is especially winning although she feels a little young for the part. She reminds me a little of Rachel McAdams innocent sweetness in The Notebook or Mandy Moore in Night to Remember.   So much of these kind of movies depends on the connection between the lead couple and these two had it and I bought them being together.

longest ride5While they are on their first date they come across an old man who has crashed his car and they are able to save him.  He is played by Alan Alda who is so good in the part.  It is a bit of a plothole that Alda would have to be 95 years old to be the character in the flashbacks but I will give it that.

longest ride alanThe two younguns become friends with Alda and Sophia ends up coming and visiting him and reading him letters he wrote to his wife Ruth over the years.  (Some of the letters don’t quite make sense because they are supposedly written in 1941 but cover events after that…but again I will give it that).  In the flashbacks young Ira and Ruth are played by Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin.  I really liked her but for some reason never liked him and so their chemistry wasn’t as good as the modern couple.

longest ride8Their accents were also extremely corny but I liked how Ruth loved art and that love carried them through some tough times.  They couldn’t have children so she taught and they collected art.  Of course modern Sophia responds to this because she also loves art. (Opposites attract on both stories but I didn’t mind it).

longest ride7I kept waiting for the cancer or terrible event to happen like in every other Nicholas Sparks movie but this actually stays away from that trope (spoiler I guess).  This is just a love story about 2 couples.  Hurray!

longest ride6Luke’s career begins to terrify Sophia because of the chance he will get hurt again.  She meanwhile must decide whether she can sacrifice her job in New York for this guy she just meant.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for a man in a cowboy hat (that would be true…) but I liked it.  It’s a sweet, simple love story with an appealing cast and actually a little bit of a sports movie thrown in there too.  I can see why some people would hate it but like I said compared to other Nicholas Sparks movies this is one of the best. Take that for what you will.

The ending surprised me because I was expecting something more melodramatic but it was sweet and simple.  I teared up but not in the emotionally manipulating ways of many Sparks films.  This was because I was genuinely moved.

A lot of my readers are men for some reason and they will probably hate the movie but if you have a girl I can think of a lot worse you might have to sit through.  But I would suggest to the girls out there get a few of your friends and go together.  There were 3 women who sat behind me and were a little vocal whenever our hunky cowboy took off his shirt, smiled, tipped his hat.  Whenever something sweet happened they sighed.  Normally that might be annoying but I found myself jealous and wishing I could have gone with a group of my girlfriends.  That is totally the way to see this movie.

Now I’m ready to be rebuked and mocked for liking a Nicholas Sparks movie.  Bring it on! At least you know I’m being honest with these reviews.  Why would anyone pretend to like a movie like this? 🙂

As far as content its a pretty strong PG-13.  The sex scenes are very racy so I would check it out on screenit.com for more details before recommending it to your teens.  I probably would say this is adults only although the language and other aspects are fine.

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel so I can’t give it an A but I feel a solid B- is fair.  It is above average but not spectacular.  Still I enjoyed it.

Overall Grade- B-    Content Grade- C

Freetown Review

freetownAs most of my readership is not Mormon you probably haven’t heard of the film Freetown which opens this week.  It is the story of missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) in Liberia in 1990.  At the time there was a brutal Civil War and a group called the krahn was systematically eliminated by the rebel forces.

This of course makes for a tense situation for the missionaries some of whom are krahn and it is determined by local leadership they must be taken to Freetown in Sierra Leone where the mission president is and things are safer.  There are 6 missionaries and a member named Brother Abubakar played by Henry Adofo.

freetown5

Abubakar is a man you don’t see often in faith based films. He has a strong faith but he is also extremely practical which makes him less optimistic than some of the naive young elders. Adofo is so good playing a well rounded man who is strong, scared, brave and weak all at the same time.  On one hand it seems like he resents having to deal with the elders and put his life at risk but on the other  you can tell it is a great honor and burden which he fears he might not succeed in.  I really related to his character and can imagine that most members would feel exactly as Brother Abubakar does in such a scary time.

Nevertheless, he crams all 6 of the elders into his small car and they face one challenge after another.  Whether its rebel base stops or running out of fuel I was completely engrossed in the journey.

freetown4

The entire cast is native African actors and they are all fine.  Some of the missionaries you can tell are new at acting but it fit their fairly innocent personas and didn’t bother me. As someone who was a missionary I thought they got the little details just right.  It might seem hard to believe Elders would pass out pamphlets to people waiting for a fairy after such a trek and in such a tense situation but they totally would.  The exuberance and faith in miracles they showed was just what such elders would do in the situation.  I loved one of the elders when they are finally free the greatest joy is they can teach after 6 months! That long not teaching as a missionary would feel like an eternity.

freetown6

Not to say that the elders were simplistic because they weren’t.  They face a lot of tough questions of when to lie, when to be brave, when to expect miracles and when to use your head. It felt like the way missionaries would actually behave and there were soft moments especially with the krahn elders that were very touching.

freetown3

I was surprised how gritty it got.  It is not a movie for small children.  Far too scary for them.  The rebels are pretty terrifying and will shoot women, even old women without giving it much thought. I flinched more than once and had to look away (I’m a violence wimp in movies!).    The missionaries come very close to being shot on several occasions and it is very tense.

freetown2

It also can be a very hopeful picture with moments of joy. The missionaries are still 19 year old boys and the cast has a good chemistry together.  It felt like an authentic group racing to get to safety while still maintaining their individual personalities and struggles.

Freetown is directed and written by Garrett Batty who did Saints and Soldiers and Saratov Approach and he does an excellent job crafting a story that should inspire anyone of any faith.  The preaching and Mormon dogma is at a minimum. I really think the average moviegoer would find it a touching, gripping story.

It also looks great with wonderful cinematography by Jeremy Prusso where we get the grandness of Africa contrasting with the tightness of the compact car.  I loved the music too.

I really loved everything about Freetown. It is a moving depiction of normal people of faith facing an extremely difficult situation in a real and honest way. If you can go see it!

Overall Grade A+  Content Grade C+

Here’s my youtube review if you want to check it out. Give it a thumbs up that would be awesome.

Chat/Rant: Love What You Love

I agree with what she is saying. Let’s praise first and criticize last. Let’s try to be positive and understand where others are coming from, their unique perspective. We can criticize even hate something but we can also do it in a way that is thoughtful, reasoned, kind, respectful of others who think differently and in a spirit of fun. I will do better and I hope you will too.

Can't Stop Won't Stop Books

Alright. I’m going to apologize in advance for how rant-y this post is going to be. I’ll try and keep my sass down to a minimum, but I can’t make any promises. You’ve been warned. 😉

View original post 783 more words

Next Project

opinion

It’s now April and since I finished watching the Oscar films, Scrooge Month series in December and my Disney Canon reviews in the Fall, I’ve been contemplating my next project.  It doesn’t look like there will be that many movies in April I want to see and aside from a certain comic book movie in May I don’t know how many reviews I will get then either.   So a new project seems like a good idea.

I am curious for your feedback.  I have had a few ideas that might be fun but would like to know what you would like to see me pontificate on.  Please select your top 3 choices out of the list below or add your own idea and I will consider it.

Thanks in advance for help and for reading my silly posts. I really appreciate every comment even if we disagree.  Sometimes I might get a little passionate about a film I love but it is all in good fun.  I hope you know that.

Look forward to seeing what people are in the mood for.