November Youtube Videos

So considering I was doing Nanowrimo I think I did pretty well on my youtube channel in November.  Most of the videos I shared with you already but there are a few I haven’t.  Here you go! Would love your feedback.  If you haven’t subscribed or given thumbs up I’d appreciate it.

This video is my monthly summary of films I saw in the theater.  It was a pretty good month for us movie fans.

My Family Movie Night review of White Christmas

This is called The Chocolate tag where I get to talk about both books and movies.

My Family Movie Night Review of Chicken Run

My Family Movie Night Review of High School Musical

My Family Movie Night Review of Fox and the Hound

My Family Movie Night review of Disney Animated Short Collection

 

I have also been doing videos on my Top 50 Animated Countdown you will want to check out.

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Pixar Review 35: The Good Dinosaur

good dino23Going into Good Dinosaur all I heard about was too things- 1. It won’t be as great as Inside Out and 2. It was a nightmare to make.  Going out of the film I didn’t care how hard it was to make and having had a totally different experience than Inside Out.  Different but still good.  I know it’s gotten some mixed reviews but for me I loved The Good Dinosaur!!  It’s unlike anything Pixar has done before but I found it magical in the way old school Disney films used to be.  This is a film like Bambi or Dumbo that are about the growth of a character and are artistically ambitious at the same time.

good dinosaur15I have seen it now twice, once alone and once with my nieces and both times I was dazzled by the Good Dinosaur.  I worry that it may suffer the same fate as Rescuers Down Under.  That film was about a journey of a child who is taken by a man and must find his way home with the help of Bianca and Bernard.  It was technologically groundbreaking and something different from Disney but it had the misfortune of being couched between Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast so it is largely forgotten.

Let’s not let that happen with Good Dinosaur folks!  Go and see it.  You are in for a real treat if you do!

The Good Dinosaur is about a dinosaur named Arlo who is separated from  his family after a tragedy occurs.  He is a fearful creature who is even scared of a coop of chickens at the beginning of the film.

good dinosaur farmingIn this world the asteroid misses Earth and so the dinosaurs evolve into subsistence farmers with corn crops and even a silo. Being fronteirsman it is essential Arlo learn to conquer his fears and his father tries to teach him this.

good dinosaur and dadBut as I said a tragedy occurs and he ends up getting lost and having to find his way home.  This is not a particularly new storytelling device but who cares?  I certainly didn’t.  The journey home is a favorite plotline of mine in movies or literature and as long as the characters are great and they do interesting things with it I’m on board.

good dinosaur5Arlo meets a little human boy named Spot who I really loved.  He may be my new Baymax of favorite side characters.  He is brave, but sweet and simple. His bond with Arlo grows bit-by-bit and felt like a believable friendship to me.

On their journey home they face a lot of peril from both Mother Nature and predators. There are pterodactyls that are pretty scary (and a little funny)

good dinosaur pterodactylAnd then they meet some raptors who are kind of like redneck poachers.

good dinosaur222Arlo and Spot also meet a family of T-rex longhorn ranchers stolen from a western film that I loved!  I didn’t know if I liked their animation going into it but I did.  They swap stories about their scars and the Pa Butch,  voiced by Sam Elliottm teaches Arlo an important lesson about fear and how being afraid is part of knowing you’re alive. It’s going through the fear that makes all the difference.

good dinosuar8The Good Dinosaur is a different kind of film for Pixar.  It’s a journey but it has the emotion you expect from Pixar.  There is a terrific scene where both Arlo and Spot learn about each other’s family.  This should make even the hardest person tear up!

good dinosaur famiyThe animation in Good Dinosaur is the most stunning that Pixar has done.  Yep, I realize what I just said but it is true.  The water alone is hard to believe.  It looks so real. There are many moments where you will swear it is real photographic backgrounds like in Dinosaur but it isn’t. I normally hate gifs but look at this!

pixar waterThe only problem I had with Good Dinosaur is that it is pretty scary for small kids (kind of like Bambi, Pinocchio and early Disney films were).  My niece is 6 and she had to be taken from the theater once because it was too scary.  There are many moments of peril on Arlo and Spots journey.  I mean the t-rex is the good guy if that tells you anything!  That said, she still walked away enjoying the film and having nice things to say.  She wished the tragedy hadn’t happened but still liked the movie.   Just be forewarned small kids may be upset or scared in some sections but that’s not a reason to not see it.

There are softer moments as well with Arlo and Spot bonding and some good laughs.  I particularly like a scene with a dinosaur that carries around his ‘protection crew’. And like I said the scene with the t-rex family are completely lovely.

good dinosaur6

The voice cast as usual with Pixar is outstanding  Raymond Ochoa reminds me a little of the boy from Finding Nemo but a little more nuanced. Jack Bright is Spot, Sam Elliott is the T-rex Butch.  Anna Paquin, AJ Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn and others all do excellent work.

I tweeted after seeing Good Dinosaur the first time ‘Another triumph for Pixar’ and I stand by that.  Just in animation alone it is an astonishing film but it’s more than that.  Director Pete Sohn has created a story that has it all.  It’s moving, sweet, funny exciting and emotional. It’s interesting because inside a conventional story journey home they do unconventional things like the Western segments and the pterodactyles. I found it to be oddly unpredictable in its own way.

Please go out and see it.  I know you won’t regret it.

Both times I saw it in the 3D which I recommend to get the full experience of the visuals.

I will probably do a spoiler filled review next week like I did with Inside Out.  If you get to see Good Dinosaur please put your experience in the comments.

What a special time to be an animation fan!  2 great Pixar films in a year!!  Happy day!

Overall Grade- A

Youtube review

Creed Review

creed3You guys might not know that I love boxing. I do more MMA but I really love punching out  my angst and frustration!

boxing RachelSo I was perhaps more excited to see Creed than you might initially guess.

If you don’t know Creed is the newest entry in the Rocky series (the 7th film to be exact). In this film we focus on Apollo Creed’s son Adonis or Don and his boxing journey.  Apollo died before Don was born and his Mother left him an orphan.

The wife of Apollo played by Phylicia Rashad adopts Don and tries to keep him away from boxing but he feels the drive to compete in the ring.  He’s had a tough life and feels because he was the product of an affair he was a mistake.

creed2Don goes to Philadelphia to meet Rocky still played by Sylvester Stallone and convinces him to help him train as a boxer and for the big fight.

All of these elements could and probably should have been tired and formulaic but in the hands of director Ryan Coogler it is such an entertaining film.  Michael B Jordan redeems himself from Fantastic 4 and is terrific as Don who is a sincere but wounded young man.

creedSylvester Stallone is fantastic as Rocky.  I don’t want to give any spoilers away but the character arc he takes is raw, vulnerable and moving.  I cried on multiple occasions.  I honestly think he should be considered for best supporting actor.  It’s a great performance.

creed44Director Ryan Coogler gives the film a surprisingly indy feel for such a mainstream franchise.  The single take feel of the final fight in particular is such a great watch.  I also loved how unpredictable the final fight was.  I really didn’t know who was going to win or how it was going to play out.

At their heart Rocky movies have always been about relationships and this is between Rocky and Don and I found it very sweet and compelling.  Without sounding corny they both kind of rescue each other.

The only real flaw I had in the film was the girlfriend Tessa Thompson I thought was kind of forgettable and I didn’t see much chemistry between her and Jordan.

But that’s about it.  Creed is the kind of movie that if you like this kind of thing you will love it.  If you don’t usually it still might win you over.

It’s such an entertaining film.

Overall Grade- A

My youtube review

Pixar Review 34: Sanjay’s Super Team

sanjay2Hi from California guys!  I am going to try and write my reviews of Creed and Good Dinosaur in the next few days but I have to fit it in with spending time with my nieces, which of course takes first priority (and taking them to see Good Dinosaur tomorrow!).

In meantime, let’s talk about the newest Pixar Short, Sanjay’s Super Team.  It is a delightful short and unlike anything Pixar has really done with their shorts.  It’s brighter, it explores culture and is one that isn’t based around a gag or joke.

sanjay6Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is based on his childhood growing up with traditional Indian immigrant parents.  As a young American kid Sanjay loved superheroes, Looney Tunes and other shows and was often bored with the Hindu rituals and traditions of his parents. He said “”Our worlds were diametrically apart. I just wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay.”

sanjay7You really get this sense of conflict in the short. Young Sanjay wants to watch his superhero show but he has to be quiet while his father prays and performs the Hindu rituals to the Gods (sorry I don’t know the specific names).

sanjay5His father gets more annoyed with the TV and turns it off forcing Sanjay to come and pray with him. It’s then that Sanjay starts to daydream about the Gods becoming the superheroes from his show.

sanjay4This combination of modern pop culture and traditional beliefs was really great to see, and I really liked how Sanjay learns to appreciate his father’s point of view while also developing his own ideas.  I think this is great for kids to see.

It’s also refreshing to see an animated Indian, darker skinned little boy and honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this father and son.  They were very sweet and relatable.

sanjay3As someone who was raised and still practices a rather traditional faith I really thought they got the tone right on the struggle kids like Sanjay experience as they try to figure out what they believe.  It’s easy to want to throw off the old as archaic when really there is a merging of both new and old that can happen.

I think you can probably tell from the images in this post the animation is stunning in Sanjay’s Super Team.  It is bright and colorful and I really enjoyed the character design of Sanjay and his father.  I liked how the backdrops sparkled and looked like embossing more than paint.

I like they didn’t feel a need to explain the Gods or culture because those details don’t matter.  It’s a story about generational conflict and so the source of that conflict is largely incidental although certainly beautiful here.

I loved Lava but I think Sanjay’s Super Team is even better.  Let me know what you think when you see it before Good Dinosaur.

Overall Grade- A

The Lion Guard Premiere Review

lion guard5I’m not sure who asked for a Lion King animated series for small children but we have gotten it with Disney Jr’s The Lion Guard.  I recently watched the 1 hour premiere and had mixed feelings about it.  I love Lion King and had it in my Top 50 Animated Films, but am not quite as high on it as many who have it as their favorite animated film ever.  I’m not sure what those fans will think of this addition, so if you are let me know!

lion guard3

PROS

Let’s talk about the things I liked in the premiere.

The most important stand-out is the animation.  Disney has been doing an amazing job with their 2D and CG TV offerings.  Whether it is Star Wars Rebels, Wonder Over Yonder, Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Gravity Falls, the TV animation is on par with the film animation.  It really is and Lion Guard is no exception.  While perhaps not the masterpiece quality of the original it still looks great.

I haven’t seen the sequels for some time so I can’t compare the animation in those but Lion Guard I thought looked smooth, bright, colorful with beautiful backdrops.

lion guard4I also thought the mythos behind the Lion Guard and Scar losing his roar was pretty good.  The group of 5 in the guard should be fun for small kids to follow on adventures protecting the Pridelands from villains.

The voice casting was solid with Rob Lowe voicing Simba and Gabrielle Union Nala. I also liked Atticus Shaffer from underrated show The Middle as the voice of Ono the egret of the Lion Guard.

The score by Christopher Willis and Beau Black is excellent even if the songs were very lame.

Here is the trailer

CONS

lion guard81

I am not a fan of the sarcastic, hip tone we got from lead Kion but there was admittedly some of that in the original with Simba wanting to be king and all.  For some reason, I found it more grating here.  Also the character of Bunga, a honey badger that reminded me of Terk from Tarzan, was very annoying.  He’s supposed to be Kion’s snarky friend but most of the time it came across as forced and obnoxious.

THE LION GUARD - "The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar" - The epic storytelling of Disney's "The Lion King" continues with "The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar," a primetime television movie event premiering SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22 (7:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel. (Disney Junior) TIMON, TIIFU, KIARA

I also didn’t like the way the females were all either insecure  or arrogant divas.  In a way I kind of wish that Kiara would have been the lead of the story but she is relegated to being rescued in the premiere. I particularly didn’t like Zuri who complains about her nails and getting dirty.

I also did not like the constant winks to the original.  It felt very lazy to me and forced.  Like they sing instead of Hakuna Matata, Zuka Zamba.  Why not have a reprise or new arrangement of Hakuna Matata?  I mean would Timon and Pumba have gotten a new word/philosophy to life?  Plus, Timon and Pumba are still living by the no worries philosophy?  Wasn’t that kind of proven wrong in the whole ‘it allowed Scar to take over and ruin the pridelands?’

lion guard8Plus Hakuna Matata was not about not working.  It was about not worrying.  That’s not exactly the same thing. It’s about not having problems and Simba realized it was wrong and certainly wouldn’t have been teaching his son some new version of it called Zuka Zamba.

It just felt kind of like a bargain basement rip off of a highlight from the original film.  There are also lots of jokes and puns about the original, which got a little old.  Even Rafiki saying ‘it is time’ and then Kion singing ‘It is Time’ song made me roll my eyes! Couldn’t they have thought about something else for Rafiki to say?

lion guard19I also did not care for a scene where Mufasa visits Kion with the voice of James Earl Jones.  In the original film when Simba see’s his father in the vision of the clouds it is an emotionally powerful moment.  Here it’s like ‘oh hi Grandpa…’

lion guard6I was also disappointed to see the hyenas as the main villains.  They are so stupid that I don’t think they will be tough for the Lion Guard to defeat.  I understand it is a show for very small children but why not have a child of Scar be the main villain?  That would be really cool. You’ve got to imagine as King he fathered cubs? Scar is possibly my favorite Disney villain so this seems like a serious downgrade.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Overall, I think it is an all right animated series that small children will probably enjoy.  The animation is good quality and the voice work I liked.  It’s basically Lion King fan fiction so its appeal will partly depend on how open you are too new properties in that world.

However, I felt many of the attempts to tie back into the original felt lame and generic.  The attempts at potty humor, songs like Zuka Zama annoyed me.  They don’t show any growth on the part of Timon and Pumba from the original film.  The songs in general were mediocre.

I also didn’t care for the way the girl characters were portrayed and Bunga I found very annoying.

That said, not a bad watch and will be curious how the series works out.

If you have seen it put in the comments section and let me know what you thought- especially if you are a big Lion King fan.

Overall Grade- C+ (good animation make it just a hair above average Disney fare)

Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back Review and Discussion

Yesterday my friends Abby, Jeremy and I discussed what is widely considered the best of the Star Wars films: Empire Strikes Back.

I watched Empire Strikes Back twice last week and each time I was truly blown away by it.  There was a new director for Empire Strikes Back, Irvin Kershner and new writers Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, and you can really feel their influence on the finished film.  I am not overstating my feeling when I say every decision they made works.  There isn’t anything I would change in the film.

yoda

The characters are the first stand-out in Empire Strikes Back.  You get some new characters in Yoda who is a tough taskmaster to Luke as he teaches him about the force.  You also get to know Lando Calrissian who at one moment betrays the team but there may be more too it than that.

empire strikes back2Then of course our core group are all back with Luke learning about his father, facing his demons, and getting training from Yoda.  Han Solo has become fiercely loyal to Luke and him and Leia have terrific romantic chemistry.  He is asked to sacrifice everything and is frozen in carbonite in an amazingly tense scene.

empire strikes back4The Empire led by Vader is more like a Nazi regime in this film and especially in the final confrontation with Luke there is no doubt of Vader’s strength and overwhelming control of the force.  When Luke realizes his father is Vader it is such an intense, devastating moment (not to mention the greatest reveal ever in movies).

empire strikes backThe action is all better with incredible battle sequences on Hoth and in Cloud City.  The special effects are great and the writing is poignant, funny, emotional, everything you could want in a movie.

If it is possible Empire Strikes Back was even better than I remembered it on this recent rewatch.  Without a doubt in my mind one of the most perfectly executed films ever made.

I hope you guys enjoy our discussion and would love if give it a thumbs up if you do.  Thanks so much!

What is your favorite moment from Empire Strikes Back?

Overall Grade- A+

 

Zootopia Sloth Trailer Review

Hey guys!  Just thought I would share with you my thoughts on the new Zootopia trailer.

Here’s the actual trailer

Long and short of it is I didn’t really like this trailer.  It’s more of a clip than a trailer and I didn’t think it was that funny.  It was like a joke on the Simpsons that gets stretched out way beyond where the gag needed to be.  It doesn’t make me very hopeful for the comedy of the film.  I’ve always felt it looked a little Chicken Littleish, which makes me very nervous and this trailer didn’t calm my nerves in that regard.  I hope it will be good but so far nothing I’ve seen from Disney has won me over on this film yet.

What did you guys think of this trailer?  Are you excited for Zootopia?

The 33 Review

33I must confess I have absolutely no memory of the 2010 Chilean mining disaster that evidently captivated the entire world but yours truly.  This fact probably helped me to enjoy the film The 33 more because if I had known the details going in it would have felt very predictable.

It’s not a perfect film but I had an ok time watching it.  If you are in the mood for a cheesy inspirational film you certainly could do worse.

33-6It basically tells the story of 33 miners who after a collapse are stuck beneath the ground in a mine in Chili.  The men must use the small supplies they have to survive and try to get along in the hot, tense cramped quarters.

Meanwhile above ground their families are trying to get more help and Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) the minister of mining is trying to manage expectations and find a way to drill down to the men.

33-8 33-4For the most part I liked the performances of the actors playing the miners.  Antonio Banderas is good as the leader and Lou Diamond Philips as the safety officer who feels he let the men down by not insisting on safety to management.

33-5Above ground the acting is more dicey.  Juliette Binoche is completely miscast as the estranged sister of a miner.  There are also a lot of caricatures that made me cringe like 2 women that are in love with a miner- one wife, one mistress.  Gabriel Byrne appears as an engineer and he is pretty good.

There are a couple of choices the director Patricia Riggen made that felt odd to me.  First of all, some characters speak Spanish with subtitles but the majority speak English with a Spanish accent.  I found that very distracting. She should have just gone with one or the other.

Also she could have done more to create a sense of claustrophobia in the mine.  It felt hot but never the kind of thing that would make a man crazy. The audience for the film also feels a little muddled.  A few times it feels like it is aiming for a faith based audience but then you have things like mistresses and a weird segment with the men hallucinating their females feeding them that evangelical purists will not like.

33-2It’s also way too long.  127 minutes really started to drag and should have been more like 90.  There was no need to include multiple scenes with them rationing food or multiple scenes with bigwigs shouting about giving the men ‘false hope!’.  The Juliet Binoche scenes in particular could have been cut out and it would have been much better.

That said there were strong moments particularly from Banderas and I did feel inspired by the end of it.  The late James Horner score helps add to the inspiring feel.  I did want to see them succeed and get rescued and it was exciting when (spoiler alert) they were!

I guess it is one of those films you take it for what it is- a cheesy inspirational story.  That’s what I thought I was going to get and that’s what I got.  So if you are in the mood for that watch it!

I’m working on coming up with a new grading system but for now The 33 gets a

Overall Grade- C (which in my world means I liked it but it has some major problems)