Good Dinosaur Trailer Review

Quick post this afternoon to share with you my thoughts on the new Good Dinosaur trailer.  LOVED IT!!!!  It looks stunning especially scenes like the fireflies and the lushness of the grapes and leaves.  I thought the terodactyl looked awesome and the scene with the snake should be great!

It was such a well designed trailer not giving away the story while still giving us tons of images to excite us.  I’m really looking forward to the relationship between Arlo and Spot and hope it is something like Dumbo and Timothy Q Mouse which I know director Peter Sohn is a huge fan of.

What a treat we are in for this year with Inside Out and Good Dinosaur.  Great time to be an animation fan!

Here’s my reaction video on my youtube channel.  Would love you to take a look and give a thumbs up/subscribe to my channel.  Thanks so much!

Here is the trailer if you haven’t seen it.

What do you guys think?

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Pixar Review 25: Up

up_posterIt’s really hard to write about your favorite movie, or at least it is really hard for me.  So has been my challenge for the last week or so as I’ve faced writing about Pixar’s beautiful film Up, my favorite movie (animation or not).

To this day I have never met anyone in my real life who doesn’t like Up, and it is both my brother and my favorite movie and we are as different as can be.  It was also nominated for best picture not just animated film and receives  wide-spread acclaim from critics and fans with a 98% on rotten tomatoes with only 5 rotten reviews and 276 positives.  On the notoriously tough to please imdb Up has a 91% of user reviews a 7 or higher, which is truly remarkable.  You get the idea. I’m not alone in loving this movie!

I like Up so much when I threw my dream party look at the cake I had made (it was an open house).

up cakeSo why do I love it so much? It’s tough but I will do my best to describe.

Have you ever lost someone you love? Have you ever felt the pangs of regret that you wish you had said something or done something differently with the person who is gone?  I certainly have and that is the message behind Up.  It is what makes it special.  It is what moves me so much.  It is also a reminder that we need not feel such regret because the people we love are an active part of our lives as long as we live their dreams and make them proud.

up14

To begin with in Up we get introduced to Carl and Ellie as little children.  Carl is watching a filmstrip about Charles Muntz his hero.  He tells the audience “adventure is out there”.  This energizes Carl and he gets a balloon which is a hint of things to come. On his way home he finds a girl named Ellie in an abandoned house.  She also loves Muntz and dreams of going to Venezuela and seeing the Paradise Falls. She chronicles all her dreams in an Adventure book and has a section called ‘Stuff I’m Going to Do’.

up17 up15This is another theme of the movie- adventures and the power of big dreams to motivate us whether they are accomplished or not.

Ellie tells Carl he must take her to Paradise Falls ‘cross your heart. Cross it!’.  Then we see what happened with that promise.  A full life plays out and this is my favorite section of film ever. If you think of it from both the journey of a couple, of a life, and from Carl’s perspective of not keeping his promise to his beloved it is so moving.  I’ve seen it so many times and it still makes me cry each time.

The thing is about regret is it can make you bitter and resentful.  So has happened to our elderly Carl.  He is lonely and talks to Ellie as if she was sitting right beside him (I love that throughout the movie because I believe the dead are with us cheering us on).  A commercial developer has taken over the land near his house and they want him to sell.  He tells him “you can have the house…when I’m dead”.  You get the feeling he is just waiting to die and he see’s Ellie’s ‘Stuff I’m Going to Do’ and is overwhelmed with guilt at never having taken her to the Falls.

up18Through various contrivances he is going to be forced to assisted living but he decides to instead embrace the spirit of adventure and use a million balloons to take his house to the Falls.  This is so beautiful when it is first taking flight.

Unfortunately for Carl he is not alone in the house but his neighboring boy scout Russell is a stow away.  Russell is a lonely but eager kid who wants nothing more than to get his final badge in assisting the elderly.

up13There’s some dangerous weather but they eventually make it close to the Falls where they come in contact with a rare bird and some talking dogs!  Some people don’t like the dogs.  I do and think their fascination with squirrels is very funny especially when their voiceboxes go bad.

The most friendly dog is named Dug and he bonds with Carl and Russell quickly.

up9Russell names the bird Kevin and it turns out it is the very bird that Charles Muntz has been hunting all these years.

up kevinCarl gets to meet Charles Muntz and it turns out he is not the hero of his youth any more.  Originally they were planning on the eggs of the bird be youth serum for Muntz but it was taking up too much of the plot so they decided to leave the Muntz/Carl plothole feeling audiences would forgive them one such problem and for the most part they do.  I certainly do! Plus, our villain Charles Muntz is voiced by the great Christopher Plummer so I can’t complain about that.

up10The key is through all of these adventures Carl never looses his purpose of honoring Ellie.  He talks to her throughout and is even willing to abandon Russell in order to get the house to the Falls for his beloved.  I just love that.

Again, you can feel the weight of his grief melting as he goes on this adventure. And then he looks at the Adventure book and see’s for the first time a note from his wife.

up6Here’s the scene in French but you get the idea.  “Thanks for the adventure.  Now go have a new one”.  Make my heart melt.

In that moment Carl knows he did keep his promise to his Ellie and to me that is just as moving as the opening section.  I cry every time (like literally I just watched it again and cried). He forgives himself and has a whole new energy to go and save Russell from Muntz.  It’s a perfect scene in my book.

To me Up is a perfect movie.  The emotional journey Pete Docter takes you on should be something anyone who has lost a loved one can relate too.  I certainly do. Every time I watch it I feel like I get a hug from my Grandpa who I miss everyday of my life. He was my hero and I hope he is proud of me and my little life adventure.

It’s not only incredibly moving but also funny and sweet.  We get a lot of humor from the dogs, Russell and Kevin.  The relationship between Russell and Carl is sweet and grows organically through the story in a believable way.

up4The voice performances from Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson and others are first rate (how has Ed Asner managed to play the grumpy old man for the last 40 years!).  And the music by Michael Giacchino is one of my favorites in all of movies.  It is literally pitch perfect.

It is obviously not the most realistic stories.  For instance, it would take much more than one night to blow up all those balloons but if you can just go with it you are in for something special.  The script is the typically witty dialogue of a Pixar movie.  It is funny and sweet and will take you on a journey if you will let it.

Ever since Inside Out I’ve been thinking about Up and how both movies are about memories.  How we deal with those memories and not have them become debilitating is a challenge whether you are 11 or 71 (or however old Carl is!).  And I just love how we learn in Up the adventure of life is the greatest tribute we can give those who have past on.  We never forget but we keep on living and embracing whatever comes our way!  It’s the spirit of adventure!

It’s so rare a movie will teach you something about life and be a true moment of clarity.  Those films are more than just entertainment.  They are practically scripture in my life.  Up is such a movie.  It teaches me about loss, love, marriage, grief, adventure, life and everything else.

So yes Up is my favorite movie.  It is a movie I could watch every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of.  It’s just that kind of movie to me.  Something that comes around a couple times in a person’s life and is a true inspiration.

Thanks to the entire Pixar team for making such a beloved movie!

Overall Grade- A+

Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (20-11)

Now we are getting down to the cream of the crop. Pretty much all of these movies could be first place on this list because I love them all for different reasons.  So, don’t get too caught up in the rankings from here on out.  They are all most beloved to me. 🙂

20. Finding Nemo– A film that has it all- real heart, humor, gorgeous animation, amazing vocal performances and more.  They manage to keep both storylines of  Nemo’s world in the tank and Marlin hunting for his son with Dory equally engaging and fun.  So many moments surprise me like the AA sharks. It’s probably Pixar’s most rewatchable film and being a lover of the water it is a total delight.

finding nemo519. Tale of Princess Kaguya– A movie that grows on me each time I see it.  I loved it on an initial watch but have seen it several times since and now I LOVE it.  Parts that seemed a little slow now feel like poetry.  It’s one of the most unique and visually stunning animated film I’ve ever seen and I love the way it uses music to tell the story.  It’s a very Japanese story of a woman who chooses to be obedient to her father no matter the personal cost.  At times it is quite tragic and the ending is intriguing.

tale-of-princess-kaguya-118. Wall-e– Another movie that grows on me each time I see it.  I just reviewed it in my Pixar series but I think it is just about perfect.  I love the love story between Wall-e and Eva.  I love the artistry of their space ballet.  I love the message about hope and that anyone can be a hero.

walle and eva17. 101 Dalmatians- My favorite movie from the sketch era with one Disney’s most iconic villains in Cruella Deville.  What makes her so great is she has this insane plan of killing all these puppies.  It’s not a boring motive like Radcliffe or Clayton who just want money.  No she just wants a dalmatian coat.  She is also powerful and nearly wins time and again.  I love little moments of humor thrown in and the real tension that is developed in scenes like when they are loading the van.  Small characters like Sergeant Tibbs are a total delight.

DalmatianPuppies16. Incredibles– a unusual combination of a movie about work and a superhero story.  Bob is not happy in his life because he isn’t doing what he is called to do.  His unhappiness affects his marriage which is portrayed in such a realistic way that I think is great for kids to see.  I love the messaging and the villain is very evil (again almost wins which makes him menacing).  Great voice casting, terrific pacing and story.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

incredibles915. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh– A criminally underrated film that is viewed by many as a movie only for small children.  Each of the 3 stories is sweet and layered with great voice casting. They say Elmo means love whenever he is on stage and I think Winnie the Pooh means childhood.  He is simple and yet thoughtful with a never ending desire for honey.  We get the dry narration which is so funny and the ending in this film is perfect.  It makes me cry every time I watch it.  ‘Will you ever forget me Pooh Bear”.  Not me!  I won’t forget you on this list! 🙂

winnie the pooh ending14. My Friend Totoro- Perhaps Studio Ghibli’s most iconic film and for good reason.  It is in many ways like Winnie the Pooh, the story of in this case 2 little girls with a sweet lovable friend, the wood spirit Totoro.  Totoro flies the girls around and just wants to protect them from harm or negative influence.  It’s so inventive and good-natured I don’t mind the simpler story.  Like Ponyo it is a Studio Ghibli film you can watch with even your youngest children and they will love it.   It’s an adorable movie.

totoro13. Inside Out– Don’t cry recency bias I loved Inside Out.  I’ve seen it twice and the layers of character development are amazing.  What Joy goes through in her understanding of happiness and Riley in dealing with the emptiness of having neither sadness or joy is so engrossing.  I love how the entire world is 11 with Imaginationland changing and morphing before them.  I love the islands of personality and their connection to memories.  I love the other emotions especially Anger and Fear and how funny they were.  The ending is perfection when Riley’s parents see her as an emotional equal and they bond.  What they were able to do with Bing Bong is remarkable.  And it’s also very funny to boot.

inside out512. Princess Mononoke- One of Miyasaki’s most ambitious works with a battle between the humans and the spirits of the forest.  Princess Mononoke is torn between both sides of the battle and we feel it as viewers.  All the characters are layered and interesting and it looks so beautiful.  It’s brutal at times and even violent but one of the most original fairytales I’ve ever seen.

princess mononoke11. Tangled– Disney’s first romantic comedy is so well done.  I love Flynn and Rapunzel’s relationship.  I love Mother Gothel and I think the songs are great.  It has probably Disney’s biggest plothole but I will forgive it.  I love the lanterns and the artistry throughout.  I saw it in 3D and it blew me away.   Great side characters as well and just a terrific rewatchable movie with real heart and lovely message about finding a new dream.

tangled flynn and rapunzel

Mr Holmes Review

mr holmesToday I had the day off of work and before I drove up to Bear Lake for a race tomorrow I decided to see the new movie Mr Holmes.  If some of you have been reading for a while you might remember in my Great Mouse Detective review talking about my family’s love for Sherlock Holmes.  We love all the versions except Robert Downy and we talk about it seemingly without end.  So you can imagine my excitement when I saw a new movie was coming up about an older Holmes starring the great Ian McKellen.

Mr Holmes is definitely a mixed bag for me but the good parts are very good.  To begin with Ian McKellen is wonderful as Holmes.  He manages to pull off a wide range of ages and feel authentic and real in all of them.  He’s a little different than our typical Holmes.  In this world Watson has embellished him quite a bit (he’s never worn a bowler hat and doesn’t smoke a pipe for instance).  This Holmes is less bombastic.  He is thoughtful and quiet and seems more mentally stable.

mr holmes3At the beginning he has returned from a trip from Japan and is at his home which is a honeybee farm.  Laura Linney plays his beleaguered housekeeper trying to raise her son Roger who is a sweet inquisitive kid who is comfortable making friends with adults. He has an interest in honeybees and so Holmes and him strike a bond with each other.  He also loves Holmes’ writing and encourages to write a story about his last case.  This is difficult because his memory is leaving him more each day.  He can’t even remember why he went to Japan but we do get bits of that through the story.

You end up with a lot of storylines.  There’s the storyline of Holmes and the boy, of his last case, of Linney and moving to Porstmouth, and Holmes’ trip to Japan.  Director Bill Condon takes a huge step up from Twilight but it is a very leisurely paced movie and a few of the sideplots aren’t as compelling as others. I am sure that many, less patient viewers, will find this to be boring.  I didn’t but I can see that.  (There was a man at my theater snoring very loudly!).

mr holmes 6I hate to say it but a big problem with this movie is Laura Linney isn’t very good.  She’s flat, unemotive, wooden and her accent isn’t convincing at all.  She’s someone who I normally think of as such a great actress but I was looking at her imdb and it is actually a while since she gave a great performance.  There was the Big C on TV which I hated and then the great John Adams miniseries in 2008, but for movies I have to go back to 2007’s Breach to find a movie of hers I like.  It’s so strange.  I wonder why this has happened because she definitely has the acting chops and yet has been in an 8 year slump.  It’s not good.  It’s funny how certain actors can maintain a reputation but when you look at it they’ve been in a lot of turkeys.

Regardless of her career, she isn’t good in Mr Holmes.  She doesn’t create a convincing character and that is made all the more apparent by the comparison to McKellen who is so great in the movie.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he gets nominated for an Oscar for this performances.  He’s subtle and funny and believable in the part. He’s the reason to see the movie and makes it a fun experience.

mr holmes4I really liked the story of his last case and putting the pieces together.  It had an emotional heft to it without verging into melodrama.  I don’t want to give anything away but Hattie Morahan who plays the female in the old case is very good.  She doesn’t say much but her expressions are very haunting.  (I also learned what a glass armonica was from this movie.  Had never heard of that weird instrument).

The cinematography by Tobias A Schliessler was really nice . You couldn’t blame Holmes for retreating with his bees to such a beautiful place.  It also captures Japan in 1947 fresh from the war very well.

Unfortunately the ending is a bit heavy-handed and there is a lot of telling rather than showing but still McKellen is so strong it is entertaining.  It is far from a perfect but I enjoyed it.  I think if you go you will like it too- especially if you are a big Sherlock Holmes fan like I am.  It’s worth going just to see a great actor in an iconic role.  If any of you see it I would be curious for your thoughts.

Overall Grade- C+

Ant-Man Review

antman9Back in 2011 I swore off superhero movies for good.  I had seen the terrible Green Lantern movie and I was done.  They were stupid, moronic, boring, self-important junk and I didn’t want to see another one again.  So, if you had told me then I would be giving a positive review of a movie called Ant-Man I would have said you were insane.  Yet here I am giving such a review for Marvel’s new movie Ant-Man. Nice job Kevin Feige and Marvel.  With Ant-Man you have an entertaining time at the movies.  It’s as simple as that.

Part of what makes Ant-Man work is they have assembled an incredibly charismatic and likable cast.  I’ve been a huge Paul Rudd fan for years going all the way back to Clueless (and totally have a crush on him). He plays Scott Lang a thief who is recruited to be the next Ant-Man.  As always he is a complete charmer in the role.

antman6Scott is trained in the Ant-Man ways by Hank Pym played by Michael Douglas who looks like he is having a blast in a Marvel movie.

antman4Another actor I always love is Corey Stoll who plays the villain Yellowjacket and has a swagger that is magnetic on screen.

antman7 antman5Finally there are 3 friends of Scott from prison that are a riot- TI, Michael Pena and David Dastmalchian.  Michael Pena is especially funny in his part as the Latino crook who knows art and wine.

antman8Ant-man reminded me a lot of Sam Riami’s Spiderman and maybe a little bit of the original Ironman.  It feels light and fun and superhero movies have gotten so overly serious of late.  And yet it isn’t stupid like a Batman and Robin or Green Lantern.

There is a fair amount of humor and pretty much the entire plot of the movie is centered around Michael Douglas’ house so it feels very small (forgive the pun) in its scope.  It is not like an Avengers movie where the entire earth could be destroyed by the rising of a city.  This is a single building with one technology and one madman trying to control it. In truth it is a heist movie.

The training montages are a little ‘seen it all before’ but I liked the way they filmed the interactions with the ants and the CG looked very good in those scenes.  Except for a CG rat which made me shout in the middle of the theater it caught me off guard!

antman3Evangeline Lilly plays Hank’s daughter and I’m sorry but I do not think she is a very good actress.  She was terrible in the Hobbit movies and she isn’t very good here.  Just a bore and no chemistry between her and Rudd at all.

I could see how some might say this is a light weight superhero movie and in a way it is but I had so much fun with it.  Like I said it is funny and for the most part has actors who can pull it off.

It also doesn’t get too mired in the MCU (which I kind of like those clues to the broader universe but I know others hate it).  There is one cameo that is very well done and a few name drops but not distracting at all.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014If you thought Jurassic World was fun I can’t imagine you not enjoying Ant-Man.  In my mind it is much better silly entertainment.  It’s not deep or profound or going to make you think about life.  Ant-Man is just an enjoyable superhero movie with laughs, a good cast and some decent action set pieces I’ve never quite seen before.

I also liked that Bobby Cannavale plays the new love interest of Scott’s ex and for once he is actually a good guy.  It’s such a cliche for the new guy to be a total jerk (I’m talking to you San Andreas!).

The entire family can go to Ant-Man.  There is nothing offensive or off putting in it aside from a few very mild fighting.

There’s not that much to say about Ant-Man except this is the kind of movie I can have fun with.  It does everything I need it to do and doesn’t distract me with big plotholes, annoying characters or a meandering script.  I really enjoyed it.

Overall Grade- A-

Animated Emmy Noms 2015

The Emmy nominations were announced today and like always there were a bunch of shows I don’t watch.  Pretty much the only live action shows I watch that got nominated was Mad Men and Downton Abbey.  I was hoping The Goldbergs would get recognized but no love once again. 

girl meets worldThe one live action nom I was excited about was Disney’s Girl Meets World.  I have been meaning to blog about it but haven’t found the time.  I love it!  I loved Boy Meets World and I think it is one of the few reboots that has worked great.  A wonderful mixture of nostalgia for us grown-ups and lots of good stuff for kids.  It’s a show the entire family can watch together and enjoy. 

Other than that I was interested in the animation categories (of course!) and for the most part I was pleased.

For Outstanding Animated Program we had: 

Outstanding Animated Program – 2015

 Archer

 Bob’s Burgers

 Over the Garden Wall

 South Park

 The Simpsons

Of these 5 the one I am most excited for is Over the Garden Wall which I think is a true masterpiece.  I would love to see it get some recognition and perhaps more people to see it.  It is bold in its storytelling and the animation is stunning.  You can read my review of Over the Garden Wall here.

The Simpsons I also think is worthy.  I know people criticize it but they had an artistically ambitious season for 26 and the Treehouse of Horror that was nominated was brilliant with Simpsons 26 meeting Simpsons 1.

The rest of the nominees are too crass and vulgar for my taste but I see the appeal.

And for Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program we had:

Adventure Time

Disney’s Mickey Mouse

 Regular Show

 Robot Chicken

 Steven Universe

 Wander over Yonder

A few of these I haven’t heard of.  I would have loved to see Gravity Falls nominated which is so clever.  Robot Chicken I’ve heard of but never seen.  Wander over Yonder, Steven Universe, and Regular Show are new to me.  Have any of you seen them?  Are they good?

Adventure Time is a lot of fun but I would have put Rick and Morty in its place (not sure if that is short format or not?).

I am very happy to see Disney’s Mickey Mouse get a nomination. It’s a vintage style 2D show in the spirit of the old Mickey Mouse animated shorts and I love it! If you haven’t seen it, it’s really quite brilliant.  Artist Paul Rudish and his team capture the feel of old school Disney perfectly. I reviewed it on my channel.

What about you?  What do you think of the nominations?  I’d love to know your thoughts especially if you’ve seen some of these shows I haven’t.  It’s just a silly awards show but it is nice when something like Over the Garden Wall gets nominated when it sorely deserves it.

Have a great day!

Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (30-21)

30. American Tail- The recent death of James Horner had me revisiting American Tail a few weeks ago, and I really do love it.  Much like the great early Disney movies it has scares, laughter and a lot of tears.  Horner’s music is iconic in my childhood.  I like the voice performances and the ending is so satisfying.  I even like the sequel. It’s really cool to have the first Jewish animated character that I am aware of and a lot of good educational opportunities for parents and kids with the immigrant story.

american tail29. Nightmare Before Christmas- A groundbreaking stop motion movie with amazing Danny Elfman songs.  I love the clever story of the man who swaps out Christmas for Halloween.  Jack is a character we really root for because he has such pure intentions.  I also love the romance with Sally and their bond throughout the film.  It looks seamless and different  and is scary in moments without being over-the-top. Great vocal performances and music.  The rare movie which is great for Halloween and Christmas.

nightmare28. The Wind Rises- the final film from Hayao Miyazaki and perhaps his most grown-up .  The story of Jiro who designs the airplane for the Japanese army in WWII.  It is his dream to help people fly but then it is used for war, which is an interesting dynamic.  He also falls in love with a girl who isn’t well and that is moving.  It is layered, moving film and subtle in how it portrays war, romance, life, and dreams.  It also looks stunning and will make you cry but for all the right reasons.  You almost forget you are watching animation for stretches but then the artistry will take your breath away. It makes me want to seek out  my dreams.

the-wind-rises27. Alice in Wonderland– the movie that embraces nonsense and I love it for it.  It has a non-linear plot with eccentricities that are different and surprising.  Basically its Alice meeting a bunch of colorful characters one after another and I like going on that journey with her.  The music is so much fun with great voice performances throughout.  Only part that doesn’t work for me is when it throws in a narrative with the walrus and oysters which feels completely out of place.

Alice-march-hare-mad-hatter26. Toy Story 3- Takes all the strengths of 1 and 2 and combines them into an extremely satisfying ending to the Andy part of the Toy Story chapter.  Andy has grown up and the toys are given to a daycare which is full of peril, humor and real heart. The incinerator scene is shocking, gut-wrenching and extremely tense.  My nieces hate it for those reasons but I was engrossed.  The ending is perfect reminding us all of when we had to say goodbye to childhood and pass our memories on to others.

25. Lego Movie-  One of the most inventive movies I’ve ever seen.  It is for me what Wreck-it Ralph should have been.  I love all the different worlds and how they capture a child’s randomness in play.  I love the journey Emmit goes on from following all the rules to trusting in his own ingenuity.  I love the visual appeal and how every scene moves and feels like legos coming together. I love the voice performances and all the jokes.  I love the live action scene which makes me tear up every time. It’s a child trying to explain his world to his parents and that is beautiful.   I was so skeptical going in but to me it is about perfect.

the_lego_movie_2014-wide24. Jungle Book– I hate the ending but love the songs and characters.  Baloo is one of my favorites in all of Disney and Shere Khan is a menacing villain.  I also like Kaa with his creepy hypnosis.  It doesn’t leave any space to be bored but goes from one delightful scene to the next.  All the voice performances are top notch and it’s one of my favorites to rewatch and smile. I’m also a sucker for any film about friendship and how yes family is key but friends are pretty darn great too. 🙂

jungle book223. Ratatouille– I just reviewed Ratatouille a few weeks ago and it is such a lovely film.  It looks gorgeous.  I love how it captures Paris as the City of Lights.  It makes me want to go there every time I see it.  I love Remy and how he feels uncomfortable in his skin.  He doesn’t belong in the world he was born into and food is his way of leaving that world. He meets Linguini and finds a purpose.  It is funny and Ego is one of my favorite characters ever in animation.  His speech at the end is perfection.  Ratatouille is also very funny particularly the interactions between Remy and his imaginary mentor Gusteau.

ratatouille522. Sleeping Beauty– The lyrical look to this animated version of the Sleeping Beauty ballet is so unique and special.  I love the faeries and how smart yet funny they are.  I love Maleficent and her seemingly petty spat with Stephan leading to the curse of Aurora.  She’s such a great villain.  Phillip is my favorite Disney prince because he is brave and shows a lot of spunk when dealing with Maleficent. My only flaw of it is Aurora is pretty bland. But look at this image and see how deep the trees are layered on to each other.  It’s amazing. The story is equally special.

sleeping-beauty-woods-221. Frozen– The opposite of Aurora is our two princesses in Frozen and I love both of them.  Much like Ariel Elsa has this thing that makes her different than the world she is born into.  She doesn’t belong and is taught to fear her gifts and hide them.  I was really moved by that.  Meanwhile Anna is left to wonder what happened to her sister.  I related to that as well because I have 3 sisters and sometimes it can feel impossible to get through to them- especially one that is particularly private and introverted.   I love the relationship of the sisters as it grows and I love the ending.  I think Olaf is in it for just enough comic relief (and one sweet moment).  I love the songs and the vocal performances are some of the best ever in Disney.  The way the villain was handled definitely surprised me and I thought the take on the traditional Disney romance was fun.  I know the haters are out there  but make your own list!  This is mine.

anna and elsa

Here is my youtube review

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Sunset Boulevard

sunset17This weeks choice for Hit Me with Your Best Shot movie club is the classic Billy Wilder directed and written film Sunset Boulevard.

If you haven’t seen it the film stars Gloria Swanson and William Holden in a film noir drama about a struggling writer who gets involved with a delusional star from the silent movies named Norma Desmond.  Most movies are about not giving up hope and achieving your dreams (even if it ends tragically).  Sunset Boulevard on the other hand is a bit of a cautionary tale of when those dreams become obsessions and keep you from living a full life. Great Expectations is mentioned in the beginning and in many ways they are similar.  Both stories have a male protagonist who dreams of greatness and women who can’t let go of lost dreams.

Today watching Sunset Boulevard reminded me of a guy I knew when I was about 25.  He believed he was destined to play in the NBA.  He actually had a vision from God that it was his calling.  Unfortunately he had not been good enough to make the college team at UofU.  Nevertheless, he would give these motivational speeches about the power of a dream and all.  It not actually happening didn’t seem to phase him much like Norma Desmond. On one hand this kind of vain ambition may seem charming but on the other it seems like a lot of wasted energy when new perhaps better dreams could be fulfilled.

Anyway, in classic noir style the film tells you the grim results of the crime with brooding narration at the onset.  This allows us to focus entirely on characters because the plot has already been spelled out.

Because it is so character driven a movie like Sunset Boulevard depends entirely upon the strength of the actors for its success.  Luckily in this case Holden and especially Swanson are up to the task.  It’s a cliche to say but Swanson is mesmerizing in every scene.  One gets the impression Norma Desmond would be proud of the leading lady portraying her!

That’s not to take anything away from Wilder or cinematographer John F Seitz because their work is very strong. What they do enhances the great efforts of the actors making it all work together nearly flawlessly.

For example, one thing I noticed while looking for a shot is the way Wilder makes Norma feel both large and small depending on the moment.

Gloria Swanson it turns out is only 4’11” (William Holden is 5 ’11” which would normally be short but a foot taller than his costar in this case).

When he needs Norma to feel powerful over Joe she has buns in her hair or they are sitting.  Here are some examples:

sunset3 sunset13 sunset14 sunset15But when Norma is losing control we see her being looked down on or seeming as tiny as Swanson really was.

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All the doors in the house are massive and dwarf Norma.
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Norma looks so tiny next to this giant ship bed
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All the reporters looking down on her as she makes her grand exit.

sunset7 sunset11 sunset12Before I give my shot I will say that Sunset Boulevard is one of the few classics I would love to see a remake on.  The reason why is I love the musical version by Andrew Lloyd Webber (definitely his most underrated).  The music is very strong and I can see Meryl Streep eating up the part of Norma Desmond.  (Norma’s only 50 after all!).

Glenn Close is also iconic in the role as can be seen in one of the best songs

Can’t you just see that being a great movie?

Best Shot-

In this shot Joe is finally leaving Norma.  He spills the beans on all that Max has been doing to prop up her delusions of grandeur but she seems to be oblivious to all he is saying.  He is telling her “there is no shame in being 50 except when you are trying to be 25”.  Instead of paying heed she is giving a performance almost as if there is a spotlight over her head.  Look at the way her hands are at her throat like a Shakespearean actor doing Hamlet.  It’s almost as if she expects applause.

sunset18Then she says “I’m the greatest star of them all”.  He leaves and says goodbye and she says “No one ever leaves a star.  That’s what makes them a star”.  Once having tasted the greatness of being adored and loved Norma mentally cannot handle being small (she even says ‘I’m big. It’s the pictures that got small’).

Madness for Norma is a better alternative than being abandoned.

Pixar Review 24: Partly Cloudy

partly cloudy7Next up in our Pixar short reviews is called Partly Cloudy. It’s kind of like the beginning of Dumbo but with a funny twist.

If you don’t remember the beginning of Dumbo we see the storks getting their bundles and delivering them to the anxious mothers of the circus.  This is all accompanied by the song “Look out for Mr Stork” .  I think it might have been fun to use that song in this Pixar feature as kind of an homage but the music they have is fine.

partly cloudy4What we don’t see in Dumbo is where the storks get the bundles.  In Partly Cloudy we learn the clouds make the babies and give them to the storks.

This is a clever concept but then they take it a step further.  What about those less than pleasant animals like porcupines and crocodiles?  What poor stork has to deliver those? And what kind of cloud makes such creatures?

partly cloudy6Well one lonely dark storm cloud is given that job and a stork is assigned the rather painful task of delivering his bundles.  We see him kicked by a bighorn sheep, pricked by a porcupine and finally when he is given a shark he puts on protective headgear and body armor!

partly cloudyDirected by Peter Sohn who is the voice of Emile in Ratatouille it is a charming Pixar short.   He is directing the upcoming Good Dinosaur which watching this short kind of makes me excited for that film.  (So many of these Pixar greats including John Lasseter got their feet wet in these shorts).  There is a gentleness to Partly Cloudy which I have a hunch will work well with Good Dinosaur.

partly cloudyI also really like the music by Michael Giacchino and the fluffy feel of the clouds looks like piles of pillows.  In a lot of ways it reminds of Lava which is also very textured and gentle.

I wouldn’t say it is one of my favorite of the shorts but that’s only because the other’s are so great it makes for tough competition.  It’s lovely and a joy to watch.

Overall Grade- A-

Next up in the Pixar reviews is Up! Although I am slightly intimidated.  How do you adequately write about your favorite movie? I will give it a go!