Maya the Bee Review

maya the bee10All right gather your toddlers because I have a movie for them- Maya the Bee.  This is based on the 1991 anime series that used to air on Nick Jr here in the states.  I have a fondness for the original series so when I saw this on vuduu I had to give it a rental.  The original show only aired for 2 years but was about a bee named Maya and her attempts to shake up the robot-like bees at her hive.

maya7The episodes are extremely simple usually with Maya trying to cheer a grumpy bee up and help make everyone happy.  When I rewatched much of the first season I thought of Dora the Explorer.  They have a very similar demographic.  Cheerful, happy, sweet and no attempt to be cheeky or entertain grown ups, which I think is great.

maya the beeThe movie is pretty much the same with some plot thrown in.  We get all the main characters of Maya, Willy (Maya’s friend), Flip (friendly grasshopper) and Miss Cassandra (Maya’s teacher).  It’s bright and colorful and I thought looked much better than I expected it too.

maya the bee3The story is nothing new in Maya the Bee.  Basically Maya doesn’t fit in with the hive.  She wants to do everything differently- even when she is born is different than the rest.  This is a challenge for Miss Cassandra who is her teacher and guardian.  That part is straight from the original TV show.

maya the bee7

It annoys the bad girl in the movie Buzzlina vonBeena (great name!) voiced by the great Jacki Weaver.

maya the bee11Buzzlina develops a scheme she is going to hide the prized royal jelly the queen needs to live and blame their enemies the hornets.  This will be her chance to usurp power and take control.  The hive falls hook line and sinker except of course for Maya who is banished and her friend Willy comes along.

maya the bee8She goes to the meadow to try and get bugs to help her and find Flip the grasshopper who promised if he could do anything he would.  Flip is a musical grasshopper and has a song and dance number at the meadow that is forgettable but little tikes might enjoy.

maya the bee9Along the way they meet a little hornet who is lost from his father and Willy is initially scared but Maya wants to give him a chance. Just because he is a hornet doesn’t mean he’s a bad person after all 🙂

maya the bee14There are also a band of ants sent by Miss Cassandra to find Willy and Maya led by 2 numskulls that were amusing idiots.

maya the bee5Eventually the hornets confront the bees and Maya exposes Buzzlina’s dastardly plot and we end with a big party that includes the all of the bugs from the movie.

mayal the bee 18It’s very easy to eviscerate a movie like Maya the Bee.  The story is trite and something we’ve seen a million times, the voice casting is sub-par and the message is very corny.

There is no attempt like The Lego Movie to appeal to a broad audience but I actually think that is a strength.  It is made for little children (2 to 4).  There is nothing scary and the message is digestible for that age.  Something like ‘be unique’ and ‘don’t be afraid to stand out’ may be better told in the Lego Movie but I think it probably gets lost on the very young audience.  Lego is a better movie for sure but all the in jokes (Star Wars rave for instance), the batman schtick, and the live action scene are probably not compelling for toddlers.

This is what Dreamwork’s Home got wrong.  It is bright and colorful and trying to appeal to very small children but then it gets muddled and the premise of all the humans getting abducted and a girl on her own is too much for the small tikes.  Home didn’t know what it was trying to be and so it failed- even in the characters which were inconsistent and frustrating.  Maya the Bee is certainly much better than Home.

maya the bee2Maya the Bee is just a sweet simple movie made for little one’s and it should appeal equally to boys and girls which is a little unusual in that demographic.  It is one the parents may want to put on and go do the dishes but I wasn’t miserable watching it and I don’t have kids.

For the target demographic, I do think it is a little bit too long.  It really should be more like the 2011 Winnie the Pooh, which is 63 minutes.  (I still hold that Winnie the Pooh to be one of the best movies for 2-3 year olds ever made from the music, animation, pacing, time everything is perfect for that group).  There are definitely segments that could have been cut out like the song.

They perhaps could have tried a little harder to do something original with the story or gotten better voice talent because the animation is lovely but for what it is I liked it.  I thought they did an ok job.

You parents out there- what do you think of Maya the Bee? Look like something worth checking out? If you do let me know what you think and if your kids like it.

Overall Grade- C+

Here’s the trailer if that helps give you more of an idea on the film.

San Andreas Review

san andreas7

I guess some spoilers below if you care about that kind of thing.

I’ve been trying to go out of my comfort zone in the last few months.  Movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, Ex-Machina, and Furious 7 are outside of my wheelhouse and all 3 of those I enjoyed or was at least entertained by.

So today I had the choice to see Aloha or the new disaster film San Andreas and normally I would go right for the romance but it had such horrible reviews and I like Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson so I decided to give San Andreas a shot. Unfortunately even as an absurd dopey action movie it didn’t work for me. To put it in perspective it is more Armageddon than it is Deep Impact.  It is more 2012 than Independence Day. san andreas5There is a way to do these types of movies and make them work. The first is the cast has to be charismatic and large.  If you think about movies like the Poseidon Adventure or Airport from the 70s they had huge casts and all of those people got time spent with their characters.

In Independence Day we spend the majority of the time with three huge talents of Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman.  In San Andreas The Rock is very charismatic but he needed two or three stars of that caliber to carry the film.  That is one thing that Michael Bay gets right is he does stack the Transformers movies with a lot of charismatic talent.

san andreas6Which brings me to the next thing that needs to happen. There needs to be a sense of a superhero to the leads.  The Rock does that but it is nearly always in the service of his family only.  There is one scene where he gathers a bunch of San Francisco citizens on the safe side of the stadium and they all thank him for saving the day.

That was a good scene but it is one of the only one’s that is not exclusively The Rock saving his daughter or wife.  We really needed a Vin Diesel or a Kiefer Sutherland to round out the cast and co-save the day.  As it is San Andreas ends up feeling like the Sylvester Stallone turkey Daylight than a great disaster flick. san andreasAnother thing is the special effects need to give us something new or forget it.  When we saw the white house blow up in Independence Day none of us had ever seen something like that before.  When a tornado races through Twister none of us had seen that before.  All of the effects in San Andreas we’ve seen before and especially on the 4th or 5th building that topples over it feels more like Transformers 3 than a quality movie.

I thought the scenes on the ground in San Andreas were much better than anything we saw aerial.  The real howler is a scene on a boat where the rock out races a giant tsunami with a little medical coast guard boat.  It’s so absurd.  (At least there is no comic relief like Michael Bay would have had.  That is the worst!). san andreas3A movie like Deep Impact or Independence Day stick pretty close to the disaster going on whereas movies like Armageddon venture off into stupid romance and really bad dialogue.  (When I was in high school I remember watching Armageddon with my friends and looking mystified they were enjoying the garbage. My least favorite movie for many years).  San Andreas isn’t that bad but the little asides are pretty groan inducing. san andreas13We get The Rock and his wife Carla Gugino arguing about their divorce and her new squeeze Ioan Gruffudd who we are supposed to instantly dislike because he is rich and has his own plane.  No The Rock is the helicopter guy.  That’s legit! Ha.   There is an absoloutely ludicrous scene where The Rock rescues Gugino from off of a skyscraper in the middle of a 9.3 earthquake.  (and again back to main problem where we are only concerned about rescuing one person). san andreas8There’s also his beautiful daughter Blake played by Alexandra Daddario who I guess is the Liv Tyler of this movie and she’s ok but there is little to no chemistry with her rescuer Ben played by Hugo Johnston-Burt.  Let’s just say you can see why Ben is highly motivated to help rescue Blake because it’s definitely the only shot he has of getting a girl like her! san andreas15The last group is Paul Giamatti as an earthquake expert who laughably discovers how to predict earthquakes literally about 2 minutes before the first giant earthquake that destroys the Hoover Dam.  And then later he is upset because nobody listened to him.  When were they supposed to listen?  I guess because nobody bought his book but according to the movie they hadn’t been able to predict anything so why should they have listened to him? san andreas10It’s kind of a joke when Giamatti has to get students to hack into the local media and warn the people in San Francisco to evacuate after the first earthquake.  I don’t think any hacking would be required to have an expert on the 24 hour news cycle and I think people were evacuating after a 9.3 earthquake already!  Plus, the half a day notice he gives them is hardly the lifesaver that the narration claims at the end.

It had me howling with laughter and the rest of my theater as well. I so wish I could have tweeted Giamatti’s line when asked,  ‘who do we need to call?’ . ‘Call everyone…”.  Ha.

On a certain level you know what you are getting into with San Andreas but even with those limited expectations it fails.  On the wikipedia page it only has 13 listed in the cast.  Only 8 get any major screen time.  That’s just not enough for a movie like this and like I said the spectacle isn’t new.  It feels stale and the sideplots aren’t very engaging. I can see if people think it is a dopey good time but I feel there are many movies where dopier is done much better.

Are you guys going to see San Andreas? Let me know what you think when you do.  What disaster movie do you like?

Overall Grade- D  I’m sorry.  It’s bad folks.  Rent Twister, Independence Day or Deep Impact and skip this.

Pixar Review 11: Monsters Inc

monsters incOk.  Do I like Monsters Inc? This should give you some idea.

monsterscostume2Yes, I like Monsters Inc!

As the 4th feature film from Pixar and their 3rd original story Monsters Inc is a total delight.  This time we get a new director with Pete Doctor with Lee Unkrich and David Silverman (of Simpsons fame) co-directing.   The story is wildly creative with humor, adventure and something to appeal to the entire family.

monsters inc2Monsters Inc takes us to a ‘parallel city’ of Monstropolis that is full of different monsters of all shapes, sizes and varieties.  In order for the city to run they rely on human screams that are collected when top monsters go into the closets of human children and scare them.  So the monster really is in the closet!

Our lead characters are a Jewish eyeball Monster named Mike Wazowski voiced by Billy Crystal and his best friend James P Sullivan or Sully voiced by John Goodman.  They are a great duo with Mike being the neurotic optimist and Sully being a bit lazy top dog at the plant.

monsters inc5When you think about the characters in the previous films and look at Monsters Inc it is remarkable.  Look at the fur on Sully’s coat.  It’s amazing! All the monsters are that way.  They are all lush and textured.

monsters inc3Randall is the other top scarrer and main competition for Sully and he is a chameleon who’s leathery skin looks so real. He kind of looks like his voice actor Steve Buscemi who is very creepy (much better here than in Home on the Range!).

monsters inc9The plant is ran by an Octopus Monster named Henry J Watermoose voiced by James Coburn.

monsters inc4And Jennifer Tilly is a delight as Celia Mike’s girlfriend with the oddest hair you’ve ever seen.

I’m sure from those character descriptions you can get a little bit of a feeling for how creative Monsters Inc is.  It’s also bright and colorful and Billy Crystal is hilarious as Mike.

monsters inc10

The people in Monstropolis believe a human child is toxic and that even the touch of a clothing will require decontamination for a monster.  They have an entire defense team that sanitizes and cleans anyone who has contact with a child.  Well , the story starts into gear when a little girl gets let into the scare floor and ends up in the possession of Mike and Sully.

monsters inc8The little girl who is named Boo is super cute, so much so that she might annoy some more jaded viewers.  I think she kind of needed to be that cute in order to warm over the hearts of monsters who think she’s a killing machine.  Imagine if she was some bratty little girl?  They would have disposed of her right away.  But Sully becomes attached to her and they end up on an exciting adventure to get Boo back home.

monsters inc15The highlight is an amazing chase sequence in the library of doors they have both chasing Randall and trying to find Boo’s door. It is so exciting and one of Pixar’s best animated scenes. I mean look at this scene!

All the while the tension is cut by humor from Crystal who evidently loves playing the part.  On the audio commentary the directors said they got both Crystal and Goodman in the same recording sessions which almost never happens in animated films and you can tell.  There is a kinship and closeness the two friends. There is also a great little cameo from the Abominable Snowman voiced by Pixar favorite John Ratzenberger.

monsters inc18The only caveat I would say on Monsters Inc is it might be a little scary for children under 5, particularly when the monsters are scaring kids at the beginning. Randall is also a very scary villain and the fact he is hunting down a child may be too much for little ones.

monsters inc7That said, the relationship between Sully and Boo is just lovely and something you don’t see that often between a male character and a child.  Usually such tenderness is reserved for maternal female characters.

monsters inc 19Sully is willing to do anything to help Boo, even risking his and his friends safety because he knows he needs too.  That kind of bond is rare and gives the film a heart elevating it beyond a silly kids film.

Randy Newman’s score is great especially during the door scene and I love the finale song between Mike and Sully.

I went into this rewatch wondering if Monsters Inc would hold up and it is better than I remembered it.  It’s a delight.  Full of humor, amazing animation, adventure and as I just said real heart.  It just shows how great the Pixar movies are that it still will probably rank 9th but we’ll see.  (who cares about stupid rankings anyway!).

Overall Grade- A (only because I think those 8 are just a hair better but its amazing!  I also still stand by a recent debate I had with online friends that Frozen is better than Monsters Inc.  It has characters I related too more, a story less predictable and gorgeous songs. Frozen A+, Monsters Inc A.  That’s how I really feel!).

Pixar Review 10: For the Birds

for the birds5We come to the next of our delightful Pixar shorts, For the Birds.  This short was done entirely so they could work on feathers for the technology of Sully’s fur in Monsters Inc.  Indeed the texture they were able to achieve on the birds is really quite remarkable. They were also able to get different personalities on each of the cute birds.  That’s pretty good considering all they do is chirp!

for the birds6A big bird comes to spoil the party and the little birds think he is a real nerd.  They don’t like having him around one bit but he just wants to hang out.  Like all the Pixar shorts For the Birds is basically a silent movie bit. I love how happy the big bird is.  He’s having the time of his life.

for the birds2On the audio commentary they talk about the feathers as “pringles” and that it was the first time they could move such details around and manipulate them.   It really is quite remarkable when you look at the big bird and all those layers of feathers.

for the birds3The pay off at the end is very funny and the music by country band Riders in the Sky is just right (same band who does Woody’s Roundup theme).

for the birds7For the Birds won Pixar another Best Animated Short Oscar in 2000  which was well deserved.  It’s so likable, colorful and sweet. Check it out.  I don’t have any criticisms on this one.

Overall Grade- A+ (I told you guys there would be a lot of those if I reviewed Pixar)

Tomorrowland Review

tomorrowland-posterIt’s very interesting that I would post about boring movies just last weekend and today I would see a movie that belonged on that list.  I’m sorry friends I keep it real but I fell asleep for about a minute in Tomorrowland. As a movie on my ‘So excited!!!- I’m on board and anxiously awaiting these films’ list for 2015 it was a big disappointment. Before I vent a little of my problems with the movie I’ll say a few positives.  The world building is beautiful and I admire Brad Bird in trying to tell an original story. tomorrowland2I also liked the little winks at the Disney park and original attractions like the Carousel of Progress song. tomorrowland7Raffedy Cassidy is very good as an AI recruiter of geniuses for Tomorrowland named Athena. She is the only complex character in the movie.  (My mind started to wander and I wondered if she is the child version of Ava in Ex-Machina 😉 ) That said- there are a lot of problems. First it starts out too episodic, like an episode of a TV show and not a movie.  We get a long segment with George Clooney as a kid and his introduction into Tomorrowland. We get all the awe and wonder of the land and learn it is a place for the brightest. tomorrowlandThe problem is when we get introduced to Casey played by Brit Robertson she goes through the same introductions which makes it again feel episodic and slow. Plus, with Clooney’s child character we see his invention.  It’s clear he is smart. With Casey we see her tell her father where to put an electrical wire and she can run a helicopter from her phone.  That’s about it.  People keep saying she’s a unique genius but I never saw it. The whole Savior trope is twaddled out and I had no idea why.  Why was she so special?  Most of the time she was either asking questions (seriously you’d think a genius could figure out a few things on her own) or shrieking at some shock. I normally don’t use gifs but this one was so perfect.  She’s like this the entire movie. tomorrowland5With a movie like this you have to feel emotionally connected to the characters and I didn’t.  Clooney is miscast as a reclusive genius trying to keep tabs on the world after being exiled from Tomorrowland. He’s just not nerdy enough.   He’s also missing for long chunks of the movie so we can’t feel that attached to him. tomorrowland3Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key are fun as novelty store owners but they are in the film far too briefly. tomorrowland6There are two long battle sequences I guess you’d call them with Casey and Frank dodging the robots and both are boring.  Even a long scene at the Eiffel Tower with a rocket which is supposed to be exciting was so repetitive of other scenes that it is where I fell asleep. tomorrowland8And then the ending is extremely trite and corny.  It just doesn’t work.  Hugh Laurie is okay as the bad guy but we don’t get to know him well and isn’t given much to do.  That might sound like a spoiler but it is so obvious he is the bad guy. tomorrowland4I am probably one of the few people who will give Tomorrowland a lower score than Jupiter Ascending.  Cry foul all you want but I was more entertained by JA.  It made me laugh.  It’s in on the joke.  It’s campy and ridiculous.  This is just blah. JA even has stronger world building than this.  I was really let down by Tomorrowland.

This is going to sound like a nitpick but another thing that bothered me is the sound mixing is very badly done.  Whenever there is a fight the sounds of a punch or kick was way too loud which had a jarring effect. All the sound effects were too loud. There is a segment that kids will like with the young Clooney but the blaring action will be too much for small children and older kids I think will be bored. Sad day.  Very disappointed in Tomorrowland.  😦 Overall Grade- C-    Content Grade- B+

Movies I Think are Boring

Since I started doing this blog I have noticed a lot of my favorite movies others will claim are boring and yet movies they love I will find boring.  In fact, I have moved away from using the word boring in my reviews (I call it the B word) because I find it doesn’t tell you that much.  It’s kind of like calling something nice, a bland adjective.

So what do I mean by boring?  Well, basically a movie that puts me to sleep, that I found tedious and slow.  A movie like Boyhood which others found to be boring to me was extremely compelling because its about real life.  I could have watched that for days.  Boyhood knows what it is trying to be so it is very compelling.

A lot of people find Fantasia to be boring but I do not because it is so different and it continually surprises me with music and visual delight.  I think if the sequences were longer I might have more of an issue but each one is just enough to dazzle me.

Some also find Tale of Princess Kaguya to be boring but it is kind of like Boyhood in the sense that it was trying to be the story of young girl growing up and it executes that world and story so well I was engrossed.

Tree of Life, Where the Wild Things Are, Bambi, are all movies others find boring but for me they have a heart that drew me in, visuals that surprised me and enough happens to keep me engaged.  They all know what they are trying to be and execute it well.

woman in gold3Unfortunately some movies fail to achieve their vision.  Recently Woman in Gold was boring because it was trying to be a drama but everything was so predictable and flat that I fell asleep in the theater.  If I nod off in your movie it is probably a bad sign…

treasure-planet-large-pictureAnother example is Treasure Planet.  It’s not a bad movie and in many ways it is very ambitious; however, despite a unique visual style it fails to create new or compelling characters.  The world building is beautiful but because it is so new a lot of the scenes that should be tense weren’t.  I know what is going to happen to a ship in a storm with water.  I do not know in an air storm; therefore, it becomes boring when it should be exciting.  It also doesn’t help that Treasure Island is one of the most famous and thereby predictable stories in all of literature.  Made me fall asleep.

transformers-age-of-extinction-posterThere are a lot of bad movies I find boring.  Again because they fail to do what they want to do so it becomes a slog to sit through.  On the surface you would think a movie like Transformers 4 would be exciting with all the action but because I don’t care about any of the characters or where the action is taking place it becomes very repetitive and boring.

last airbenderThe Last Airbender definitely lands on my boring list.  It fails so spectacularly at being what it is trying to be which is a mythical action adventure.  Instead we get long passages of exposition and terrible special effects that are good only for insomnia.

prequelsThe Star Wars prequels have the same problem.  We want to see an exciting adventure and instead we get lots of discussion about trade and land rights mixed in with terrible special effects and bad acting. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

man of steelI know many like Man of Steel but I thought it was awful.  It takes it self far too seriously with reverential and annoying music.   It has a confused lead character that is bland and uninteresting and supporting characters I didn’t care about.  The flashback structure doesn’t work, the special effects I’ve seen before and the romance has no chemistry.  I found the product placement obnoxious and the ending gratuitous.  Another good one for my insomnia.

lone rangerLone Ranger another movie that should have been good but instead is a tedious series of action pieces with unlikable characters I didn’t care about.  It’s handsomely mounted but that’s about all you can say for it.  Rarely have I been so restless in my seat in a theater .

life of piI know a lot of people love it but I found Life of Pi to be very boring.  We know what is going to happen because the boy on the raft is narrating the story to a newsman.  This takes away tension and left me on a boat with a tiger for 2 hours.  I watched Cast Away about a man on an island and was riveted.  Life of Pi just didn’t do it for me.

lucky oneRomances can be incredibly dull too. The drama The Lucky One with the chemistry-free couple of Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling is a good example.  The dialogue is terrible.  The story is ridiculous and full of tropes (like you know the liar reveal is coming a mile away…).  The filming looks like a million other dewy filled romance movies.  It all becomes very tedious and slow.

Contact_ver2A movie that is on my Movies I Hate list is Contact.  It’s so preachy about the foolishness of religion and the grandeur of science.  All of the religious characters are nefarious and suspect in some way.   But even put that aside it’s so slow moving in its story and I remember seeing it in the theater and praying someone would pull the fire alarm so I could leave.  It’s the first movie I had that response too.

harry potter 7 pt 1 hobbit trilogyWhenever they try to split a book into multiple movies it always makes for at least one boring movie.  In the case of the Hobbit movies it made 2.  In the second movie it takes 2 hours to get to Smaug!!  2 hours of filler.  Ugh.  The third is a bunch of battles with a few fun moments for fans thrown in.  They are watchable but definitely on the boring side because the story is stretched out.

I know some people love it but I find the 7th pt 1 Harry Potter movie to be very tedious.  It’s basically our threesome going around getting clues that will all become exciting for the great final movie.  I remember looking at my watch again and again at the theater.  Not a good sign for a girl that loves the Harry Potter movies.

villageYou could put almost any M Night Shyamalan movie on this list but The Village certainly belongs.  It fails to give us one compelling character.  Instead we get a tedious fairytale with an obnoxious twist.  It’s a slogfest.

Magnolia_posterMagnolia is an extremely polarizing movie but at over 3 hours I lose patience with its pretentiousness.  The acting is good but Paul Thomas Anderson forgets to give all these great actors a compelling story.  Instead its a lot of dramatic speeches that don’t mean anything which makes it very hard to sit through.  It’s on a lot of people’s best ever list but I found it insufferable and very hard to sit through.

how do you knowComedies can certainly be boring and one of the worst I’ve seen is How Do You Know.  This movie had huge potential with James L Brooks directing and a great cast but man is it a tough sit-through.  A bad comedy will have jokes that don’t work but this doesn’t even tell any jokes.  It is like they just made it up every day at set.  The story is non-existent, characters just talk a lot without anything behind it and it isn’t remotely funny.  It’s very boring. I honestly think watching these 4 actors eating lunch would be more interesting.

oz great and powerfulI love the Wizard of Oz.  I think it is one of the best examples of storytelling ever put to film.  I love the music, cinematography, story, villain everything.  That said I’ve hated any time we’ve gone back to Oz.  Return to Oz was one of the worst experiences I had at the cinema as a little girl and recent Legends of Oz was dreadful.  However, they at least tried to do something visually interesting.  Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful is so bland it barely resembles the Oz I know and love . James Franco is completely flat as Oz, all the female actors are shrill and annoying (such a waste of great actresses) and the land of Oz looks like a CGI world we’ve seen a million times.  Boring!

bridesheadEveryone knows how much I love period pieces.  Howard’s End is one of my favorite movies of all time and I love anything with Dickens, Austen or Downton Abbey in the title.  Brideshead Revisited, however, I was not a fan of.  Great actors can not save the melodrama of Charles and Sebastian’s bromance.  I didn’t like any of the people so I didn’t really care what happened to them, making the life-long back and forth a tough watch.  Even Emma Thompson can’t make this movie interesting for me…


 

I know there are a bunch of other boring movies I could list off but I think this gives you some idea.  Basically a movie is boring when it fails to execute its vision.  It might try to be a great action adventure and instead it is just a series of stunts without any character or story to go along with it and that will bore me.  If the story doesn’t work and it doesn’t keep moving in interesting ways it is going to bore me.  It can be slow and leisurely paced but it has to have something to engage me- a character I like, a message I respond too, an artistry that is new and different. And the artistry can only carry you so long.  After about 15 minutes if you don’t have other layers (like Fantasia has the music and the segments are short) then you could still lose me.

In the end it is all subjective and what I like you might not and vice versa.  So don’t get offended if I said your movie is boring.  If you like it that is awesome.

Now that I have this out I will continue try to not use the B word in my reviews and give you more context as to why a movie felt boring.

Disneynature 4: Oceans

OCEANS, from top: bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, sea nettles, great white shark, 2009. ©Disneynature

Everyone knows how much I love the ocean and being in the water. In fact, I just got home from my first open water swim of the season. Burr! It was cold! I wish I was close to ocean but I have to satisfy myself with lakes, reservoirs and rivers. But I dream of the ocean. I live for the ocean and miss it when I am far away. So naturally I enjoyed Disneynature’s film Oceans.

Oceans is similar to their Earth film and more of a traditional nature documentary.  Unlike Monkey Kingdom there is no attempt to tell a story or give characters names.  It isn’t even like the Crimson Wing which doesn’t have characters with names but refers to the flamingos and their hunters in fairytale terms (princess, witches, wizards etc).  Oceans doesn’t do any of that.  It is a pretty straight forward nature documentary that tries to teach children the value of nature and what we can do to care for the earth better.

The strength of Oceans is its amazing images. The beauty of nature is breathtaking and it has enough animals from different parts of the world that I never got bored.
We get to learn about”

Dolphins-

oceans9Whales-

oceans8 oceans3Sea Otters-

oceans4Adorable Penguins (seriously who doesn’t find penguins cute and if you are out there- what’s wrong with you!).

oceansTurtles-

oceans7Seals-

oceans2Jellyfish-

oceans10Other Fish

oceans5If those images don’t excite you than Oceans is probably not the movie for you.  The gorgeous cinematography is most of the appeal and I enjoyed learning about all of these amazing creatures and the environmentalist message isn’t too heavy handed.  Jaques Perrin and Jacquez Cluzaud direct and it covers 5 oceans beautifully in 50 different locations!.

Pierce Brosnan narrates but like I said it is minimal and he does a fine job.  The music by Bruno Coulais is excellent.  He scored the music for The Secret of the Kells which makes sense.  Both scores have great drama and impact.  Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas have a duet at the end which is about as good as you can imagine a duet by them would be.

The trailer will give you a feel for the movie.

There isn’t much else to say about Oceans.  It is a standard style of nature documentary with gorgeous cinematography, music and a good message.  Lovers of the ocean like myself will especially love it.

Overall Grade- B+   I need to get to the ocean!

Pixar Review 9: Toy Story 2

toy story 2After the drama with Bug’s Life Pixar’s next release couldn’t have been more eagerly anticipated.  A sequel to one of the most iconic animated movies ever released.  How could it possibly measure up?

Then everyone saw it and Toy Story 1 and 2 are the only original and sequel I’m aware of that both have 100% on rottentomatoes- a rating that is near impossible to get.  Toy Story 3 has an embarrassing 99% ;).

So I think folks liked Toy Story 2! And with good cause.  It is a great movie!

There are so many things that are smart about Toy Story 2.  First of all, they didn’t try and  redo the first movie.  It would have been so easy for them to introduce another new toy into the room and rehash the same story over again.  But instead they go in an entirely new direction and make an adventure!

Toy Story 1 introduced us to the characters and followed Woody as his leadership is threatened.  He feels jealous, frustrated, frightened, and deals with insecurities he didn’t even know he had.  That’s why people related so much to it.  Haven’t we all been there where a rival threatened to displace us?  Where we worried we would be forgotten or passed over? Where we felt jealous and envious of another who seemingly has it better? Toy Story 1 crafts a narrative around all those very human emotions.

toystory2-11Toy Story 2 has that emotional core but it is mainly an adventure story.  It starts out with Woody getting stolen by a greedy toy collector voiced by Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight.  (When you see that character don’t you expect him to sound like Newman?).

toy story2-5It turns out that Woody is a valuable collectible Al has been hunting for to complete his Woody’s Roundup collection to sell to a museum in Tokyo.  The rest of the set includes Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammar), Cowgirl Jesse (Joan Cusack) and Bullseye the horse.

toy story2-4They are thrilled to see Woody because it will mean they can get out of storage and be on display at the museum.  Woody at first is dazzled by all the collectibles and can’t believe he is the star of a show.  The Prospector is also very manipulative in the way he describes the museum leaving out the details that Woody will no longer be played with by children.

toy story2-12Meanwhile Buzz, Slinky, Ham, Potato Head, and Rex all head out to find Woody and bring him back to Andy’s Room.  This includes an amazing sequence with them trying to cross the road in cones and a series of adventures in a large toy store.

toy story2-13All the scenes in the toy store are so funny.  We get our first appearance of Barbie who moves in the stiff way a barbie moves and is bright and happy.  I loved it.

toy story2-9There is also an entire row of Buzz Lightyear action figures and a Delusional Buzz that still thinks he’s a Space Ranger gets mixed up with the real Buzz.  This gives so many great laughs and is very nostalgic to the original movie. Tim Allen is great as both versions of Buzz.

toy story2-14At first Woody is set on going back to Andy’s Room but Jesse and Prospector beg him not to go.  They don’t want to go into storage and Jesse warns Woody what will happen when Andy is done being a kid.  I defy you not to cry during this song (if you don’t then I don’t understand you!).  A fabulous job by Randy Newman and Sarah McLachlan.

This puts Woody in a difficult spot, which is our new, different emotional core than we had in Toy Story 1.  The original is all about overcoming personal demons where this film is about how much of our own dreams and life we are willing to sacrifice for others.  Woody has to decide whether he is willing to give up his life with Andy in order to keep his new friends from a dark life in storage.  It’s a very tough question.

toy story2-3But I don’t want to make it sound morose because it’s absolutely hilarious.  The writing is so funny with superb vocal performances from the entire cast especially Don Rickles and Estelle Harris (another Seinfeld alum)  as Mr and Mrs Potato Head.

Toy-Story-2-IIAnd like I said everything with Delusional Buzz and the Barbies is funny.  I also love Wallace Shawn as Rex who is preoccupied for most of the movie with defeating Evil Emperor Zurg who we get to meet in this movie (so funny).

toy story2-6The ending at an airport is stunning where the characters get mixed up in the various belts and  mechanisms that deliver luggage around the airport.  When you think of where they were in Toy Story 1 it is an especially amazing visual.

airportThere is even a tense horse ride down the tarmac.  It really has the feel of an old Western chase scene and I always get those butterflies wondering how they are going to get out of this mess (again like a good action adventure should do).

toy story211In the end, Woody realizes things may change but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the moment while it is here.  His purpose is to be played with not looked at under glass.   It’s a sweet lesson for all of us.  We all need to find our purpose and not let anyone manipulate us into giving that up.

Toy Story 2 is a total and complete delight.  As I always do with these reviews I watched it 3 times over the last 2 weeks and it never felt old or tired.  I smiled, laughed and was completely engrossed in the tense sections.  Mostly I just love spending time with these characters.

toy story2-10Everything new they tried worked while still holding on to the emotional core and likability of the original characters.  The addition of Jesse is the cherry on the sundae.  Her journey from being a nervous, depressed character to full of life is wonderful.  Her song is gorgeous and I love her spunk!

I would definitely recommend adding Toy Story 2 to your blu-ray library as it is enjoyable for the entire family. I love it!

(Also the audio commentary on Toy Story 2 is hilarious and very interesting.  I highly recommend giving it a listen).

Overall Grade-  A+

Big Disney News and Response at Cannes

Disney should be speaking in French from now on because they just had an amazing response at the Cannes Film Festival. For us Disney fangirls (and boys) we got a lot to be excited about!

This is going to be a very nerdy post with tons of little details that might not interest the average movie fan but for us Disney geeks you’ll love every last little crumb!

The response from Cannes surprised me because it is known for its tough crowds.  This year two films, Michael Caine’s Youth and Matthew McConaughey’s Sea of Trees, were both booed by festival goers.  So for Disney to get such a strong response says a lot.

inside out

The good things started with the premiere of Pixar’s new film Inside Out.  It was greeted with a standing ovation and one critic said it was “probably double the loudest applause of any other film at the festival.  It went down like gangbusters”

Needless to say such sentiments have heightened my own excitement to the tilts!  I can’t wait!   Even hoity-toity NPR critic Kenneth Turan said:

“It’s very funny.  It’s very inventive.  And really moving, kind of in the way Up was”

Sold! I’m so jealous of everyone at Cannes who got to see it!

But the good news didn’t stop there…

Disney had a 25 minute showcase of their upcoming slate starting with more details about Thanksgiving release of Good Dinosaur. We have heard so little about this movie that I was so curious for these details.

Here is the new synopsis from Deadline article.
“The Good Dinosaur follows teenager Arlo, who is separated from his family when he falls into a raging river and is swept hundreds of miles away. He comes across Spot, a human cave-boy orphan with whom he forms a bond as he attempts to get home.

Lasseter said, “Our films ask ‘What if?’ questions. What if monsters really did live in your closet? What if a rat wanted to be the finest chef in the most beautiful city in the world? I think our next movie asks the biggest ‘What if?’ of all. What if the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs actually missed Earth?”

I think that sounds pretty amazing! People have been saying for a long time Pixar needs to get back to original storytelling and the way I see it is Pixar has two types of storytelling- the what if stories (Toy’s come to life, Monsters in the closet, rats cooking etc) and more traditional journey narratives (father finding his son, nostalgic cars teaching new lesson, bugs facing their captors, last robot finding love, a family of superheroes, a man and his flying house pays homage to his wife).

With Inside Out I feel they are giving us a What if story- what if inside our head there is an entire world going on.  And with Good Dinosaur there is a what if but it seems like it is mostly going to be a journey of Arlo and Spot.  It sounds a lot like Finding Nemo to me and that is great!!

Deadline says the Good Dinosaur footage “captivated international audience members…Two french women sitting near me alternately gasped and whispered “extraordinaire” and “incroyable” when amazingly lifelike closeups of CGI foiage were shown. The environment, Lasseter said, is a “living breathing character” in the film”.

Again that sounds very Finding Nemoish to me where the environment of the  ocean played such a role in the story (think the jellyfish sequence, the turtles in the EAC etc).  This sounds great!!

But the good news didn’t stop there…

finding dory2

Next they talked about Finding Dory the sequel to Finding Nemo.  I didn’t know if they needed a sequel but Andrew Stanton is directing which is awesome and the synopsis sounds neat:

“Dory’s memory of her childhood is triggered while she’s at school on the Coral Reef one day with Nemo. She makes her way to an institute that cares for undersea creatures and teams up there with Hank The Octopus who becomes her guide.

finding dorryDiane Keaton and Eugene Levy will play Dory’s parents and “folks were treated to some of their banter and there was also footage of a kelp forest on California’s northern coastline (“a new look for us” said Lasseter) and a glimpse of the Loons, to whom Lasseter referred as “the Seagulls of the new movie. They’re so startlingly dumb it’s hilarious.”

That sounds amazing!! I can’t wait!

But the good news didn’t stop there…

We got some new details on Toy Story 4.  Lasseter said “brand new chapter that’s very personal”.  Evidently it is going to be a love story and not be a continuation of the events of Toy Story 3 or involve human characters.  It is entirely within the toy world which sounds pretty great to me! Lasseter said “”We’re in the early stages of the film, but it’s shaping up nicely. It’s funny. The story is not as much a continuation of the past films, but a brand new chapter in the ‘Toy Story’ world.”

But the good news didn’t stop there…

Next they moved on to the Walt Disney Animated Studio WDAS which has marked 10 years since the Lasseter/Ed Catmull take over.  What a great 10 years it has been! (I know 2D fans might disagree but I’ve loved it).   Lasseter said

“Walt Disney Animation Studios is back.  Ed and I always believed what would heal this studio- because it was quite broken when we came in, the morale was really low- what would really heal it is if we can make a movie to be a really big hit.  These guys are on fire now”.

They certainly are!

zootopia2

Next up for WDAS is Zootopia which looks really cool.  Lasseter said it will be ‘classically Disney” and the images look very 2D although it is CG.  I wonder if it will have the feel of their Paperman short which blended 2D and CG techniques?

Either way it is an anthropomorphized fox in a ‘modern civilized world’ of animals. ”  Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin star as a kind of buddy cop duo. Again from Deadline article

” Eliciting huge laughs was a scene in which the unlikely partners are rushing to get a run on a license plate, only to find the DMV is fully staffed by sloths.”

That sounds really great!

But the good news doesn’t stop there (only 1 more)…

moana2We learned more about the new princess movie Moana.  Directed by Disney legends Ron Clements and John Musker it is a musical set in the South Pacific and was “inspired by the group’s own experience on a research trip to Oceana”

“The story follows a talented young navigator whose father forbids her to sail beyond their island reef. When she sets out anyway and ends up stranded on another island, she meets the fallen demi-god Maui and they set off on an adventure” .

Deadline says “a song montage was shown to Cannes attendees who showered it with applause” (what I would have given to be at that meeting!).

Anyone who knows me knows I love Hawaii, musicals and the ocean.  Moana seems like it was designed just for me so of course I am so excited!

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So I know that was a lot of info but each and every part makes me so giddy I just had to share it with all of you!

What excites you? Did any of this information and the Cannes response assuage any concerns or give you a new enthusiasm for the projects? Which of the upcoming films are you looking forward too most?  Or are you like me and excited for all of them!