Corpse Bride Review

This post was previously published on my column at  I would love if you all checked out that column and maybe added a comment or two.

Welcome as we get a little spooky here on Family Movie Night!  It is October after all! So in honor of the season we are going to talk about Tim Burton’s 2005 film The Corpse Bride.

During this time of year many parents ask themselves a question about how dark is too dark for their children to see.  I know when I was a child there are 2 films that really scared me and they were both Disney films.  The first was Disney’s Return to Oz- an ugly, mean spirited film where Dorothy gets strapped down and give electro-shock therapy (and that’s before she even gets to Oz!).   There is also a queen that has a hallway with heads that she scalps from people and wears when she wants a new look.  Ah the nightmares.

The other movie that terrified me was as odd as it might sound- The Rescuers.  It is an extremely downbeat, sad film from Walt Disney with a little girl who is kidnapped by a horror of a lady and forced to go down in a dark cave all by herself.  There is very little hope for Penny and at one point she is told nobody will ever want to adopt her.  Geesh Disney!

So those were two films that scared me but there are many kids who like both those films.  So how do you know as a parent?  It’s really tough.   My advice would be you simply have to look at the kid in question and see how sensitive they are.  Also what kind of scares does it have?  Is it a ghost story or does it take on more weighty themes?  What’s the overall tone of the film?  Many of my favorite scary movies like today’s choice actually have a very sweet innocent tone but they are set in a scary world.

267130-corpse-brideIn the end it is a touch call for a parent but I think you know in your gut what your kid is ready for and can handle.  Go with that.

That said, let’s talk about Corpse Bride.  This is a really fun ghost story told with stop motion animation and in a mostly black and white Victorian world.   Our main character is Victor who is being forced by his parents to marry a woman named Victoria, who is also being forced into the arranged marriage.

However, the two betrothed meet and find they like each other and don’t mind getting married. Unfortunately, Victor gets nervous and goes into the forest to practice his vows.  In so doing he puts a ring on what he thinks is a twig but in actuality it is a woman in spiritual limbo named Emily, or in other words- the Corpse Bride.

With a ring on her finger Emily thinks her and Victor are married and swoops him off to the Spirit World where we get a terrific song called Remains of the Day. I love how in the Spirit World the colors are more vibrant, even fluorescent in hue.  It feels like a different world than the Victorian one we’ve seen so far.

Victor of course still loves Victoria and he doesn’t know how to get himself out of the situation.  Emily also is a sweet soul who has the best of intentions but also gets her feelings hurt quite easily.  They are pretty well developed characters for this type of film.

Corpse-Bride-1The story is somewhat predictable but the visuals are so lovely creating a scary yet fun mood.  The cinematography by Pete Kozachik moves through the city feels effortless and smooth.  He even came up with a new way to use digital still cameras when filming stop motion.  There also aren’t any dead zones where I am bored or wondering what is going to happen.  I think that is the good thing about stop motion animation- it is so laborious to do there are rarely any wasted scenes.

My favorite part of the movie is the great Danny Elfman music.  He is particularly good at packing exposition into the songs while still making them catchy and easy to sing along too.  As I said, I particularly like Remains of the Day but Tears to Shed, According to Plan and The Wedding Song are all beautiful.  I also think Victor’s Piano Solo is one of the best instrumental solos I’ve ever heard in a movie.

To see the rest of Rachel's reviews, click here.
To see the rest of Rachel’s reviews, click here.

Overall it is a satisfying ghost story with a nice heart to it, beautiful visuals, and great music.  I would be curious to know how your kids react to it and if it is too scary for them.  Please put it in the comments what they think and if you have any suggestions for picks I could use in upcoming weeks I would love to hear.  Let’s get some comments going!

Extraordinary Tales Review

extraordinary talesI feel like I try to have a good handle on the animated films coming out but it seems like every month there is a new one I wasn’t aware of.  In September it was Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos. This month it was Extraordinary Tales, an anthology film telling 5 of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories.  It is available on demand and that’s how I saw it.

Before the review I must own to not being a hard core Poe fan.  I don’t mind his writing but am certainly not passionate about the stories.  I guess that makes me both more and less critical of this offering than Poe purists might be.

extraordinary tales4Extraordinary Tales is directed by Raul Garcia, a point we see reminded 7 times with each short getting their own introduction and credit section. We get it Raul directed the movie! We don’t need to see a full credits for each short!

In truth Extraordinary Tales isn’t really a movie in the modern sense.  It is 72 minutes but there are 6 minutes of  just closing credits and the transition segments with Poe as a Raven feel like they are on slow motion with voices not matching to the mouth movements of characters.  It all feels very slow.  I would honestly think when you get to just the 5 shorts it is around 45 minutes of actual story.

But as with this years The Prophet the key to a film like this lies with the quality of the shorts. I’d say only 1 I liked, 2 are artistically interesting but flawed and 2 were amateurish and cheap with one being kind of disgusting. extraordinary tales1111. The Fall of the House of Usher-

This is a Poe story I was unfamiliar with and it is about a man who visits a friend of his in a grand house who has an illness that causes them to have visions including a sister of his who died and that the house may be haunted.

The highlight of this short is the narrator is voiced by the late Christopher Lee.  I believe this is his last performance and it is very immersive.

Unfortunately I felt the story wasn’t that engaging and the animation was amateurish and cheap. It looked like a video game from the 90s.

extraordinary tales72. The Tell-Tale Heart-

By far my favorite of the shorts and my favorite Poe short story.  It is done in black and white shadows and isn’t a style I’ve seen done very often so I enjoyed it.  The story is about murder and guilt and how it will eat you up inside.

Another neat touch in this short is the use of a 1940s recording of The Tell-Tale Heart by horror great Bela Lugosi.  The scratchiness and sound of his voice add to the crime noir feel.

extraordinary tales33. The Facts in the Case of M Valdemar-

This is another short worthy of praise for its artistry.  It is done using a comic book feel and it reminded me of old illustrations in Dickens or Alice in Wonderland from the turn of the century.

The story is fine about a man who see’s a hypnotist and goes into a kind of midway point between life and death.  It’s definitely confusing but I liked looking at it enough to recommend it.  Julian Sands narration is also very good in the segment.

extraordinary tales94.  Pit and the Pendulum-

This short I did not care for.  It tells the story of a man incarcerated who is tortured with various devices including a pit and a pendulum.

I know this is the Poe story but I found it unpleasant to watch and kind of gross.  It’s one thing for something to be gross or shocking but in this short they keep repeating the same disgusting imagery again and again until I was tempted to fast forward.

For example, there are probably 6 or 7 scenes with rats crawling all over the man, eating food off the man, eating from his bowl of porridge, crawling on his leg etc.  It was gross!  I also thought the CG in this short looked pretty amateurish.

extraordinary tales65. Masque of the Red Death-

Basically this story is about a house where they are hiding from a plague symbolized by a grim reaper type with a red cape.  They have a masquerade party where there is sex (strong nudity shown) and all kinds of mayhem going on in different rooms of the house. Eventually Red Death makes his way through the house claiming his victims as he goes.

This is a story I wasn’t familiar with but I liked the artistry in the short.  It looks like a gothic watercolor and it was effectively creepy yet beautiful.

However, the mature content I could have done without and with really no story but people being naughty and dying it didn’t hold my interest despite looking nice.

So overall it isn’t a total loss.  If you are curious and it sounds like your cup of tea then I would go for it.  However, for me The Tell-Tale Heart was really the only short I loved.  The rest had major flaws that took me away from the film.

And like I said the transitions and all the credits made it a bit of a slog to get through.

But that’s just me.  If you see it let me know what you think! It’s certainly a unique project and I’m glad I gave it a shot.

Overall Grade- C- and that is probably being generous.

Woodlawn Review

woodlawn3Reviewing the new Christian film Woodlawn is tough.  I was thoroughly entertained by it but it definitely has problems.  It is also a marked improvement over many other Christian films such as the recent hit War Room (which I saw some value in).  I went back and forth on what grade to give the film (how much to weigh the flaws vs strengths and my overall entertainment…).  Finally, I decided I’m just going to present the strengths and weaknesses and you can decide if it sounds like something you’d enjoy. woodlawn2

Woodlawn is directed by the Erwin Brothers who had previously done October Baby (haven’t seen) and Mom’s Night Out, which I actually thought was funny despite the terrible reviews.  The overall production values of Woodlawn is a large step in the right direction for Christian films.  The football scenes in particular I thought were really well shot and staged.  The acting was also a step up across the board.  It isn’t nearly as compelling as Freetown from earlier this year but it is a solid effort.

woodlawn5In the film we get the story of Tony Nathan played by Caleb Castille who was one of first African American NFL players to come out of Birmingham Alabama and be a big name.  It chronicles his junior and senior year at Woodlawn High School just after forced integration in both the football team and school.  The team is led by Coach Gerelds played by Nic Bishop, who is a practical, sensible nice guy.


When racial tensions erupt at the school Coach Gerelds lets a sports chaplain named Hank played by Sean Astin (that’s right Rudy in a football movie!) encourage the kids.  He delivers a sermon about how the love of Jesus can overcome all the hate they are seeing and help them play as a team.  The team is moved by his words and they convert.  A little later on Coach Gerelds also has a conversion and decides to be baptized.

woodlawnThey end up battling for 2 seasons becoming better and Tony becoming more of a star player until even Sports Illustrated is profiling him.  It all culminates in a huge game that has to be in a giant stadium with their rivals from another high school.

Like I said, overall I was entertained by Woodlawn.  I thought the acting was pretty good with Bishop and Castille being the standouts.  I thought it looked good and had an inspirational story with a more toned down Christian dogma than some other Christian films.  I don’t think it is a movie that non-Christians will enjoy but I think it is less objectionable than other entries if that makes sense.

woodlawn4That said, there are problems.  It is one of those films that should have been 30 minutes shorter and yet certain subplots like a relationship between Tony and his girlfriend Johnnie.  There were also characters and plot points brought up that we never hear from again such as a more militant black student at the high school who tries to intimidate Tony and yet we don’t hear from him again. Woodlawn has a ‘villain of the week’ problem where I felt like every 10 minutes a new character was being presented as the villain, then they’d convert and we’d get a new one.    There is also a separation of church and state subplot that I felt was underdeveloped.

The music was also way over the top.  For example, at the beginning of the film Tony and his Dad are driving and by the music you would think it was the climax of the film.  When that happens you don’t really have anywhere to go with it making the climatic music in the actual climax underwhelming.

Certain character transformations I also didn’t buy like when Coach Gerelds converts seemingly out of nowhere and when the entire rival team also converts including their coach who had been previously presented as an antagonist.

woodlanw6But all that said I was entertained by Woodlawn.  If Christian audiences want quality films they should support this film.  It really is so much better than War Room that I’m a little sad to see it not doing as well although certainly respectable audience turnout. This is a movie not an inspirational Sunday School lesson.  Both have value for me but I would much rather watch films like Woodlawn and I hope the Christian film community continues to up their game.

So what do you think of Woodlawn?  Does it sound like something you’d like?   If so, go see it and let me know what you think.

Here is my youtube review.  Would love if you gave it a watch and thumbs up!

Animated Oscars Tag

Hi guys!  As you all know I recently finished up a series on my youtube channel reviewing the Oscar nominated animated films.  You can read my written posts and see the videos here

To conclude the project I thought it would be fun to create a tag and ask different youtubers and bloggers to give answers to a variety of questions about film.  Here is the video explaining the tag:

Here are the questions to the tag:

Animated Oscars Tag

1. Tangled- a film that should have been nominated but wasn’t
2. Shark Tale- a terrible film that was nominated for Oscar
3. Rango- a movie that won an Oscar you don’t care for
4. Wall-e- a film about a robot you love
5. Triplets of Belleville- film with no dialogue you love
6. Wreck-it Ralph- film you like but everyone else loves
7. Lilo and Stitch- film which has grown on you each time you see it
8. Song of the Sea- movie you wish you could convince everyone to watch
9. Pirates: Band of Misfits- an underrated comedy
10. Coraline- what is a movie made for kids (or marketed to kids) that scares you or that would have scared you.
11. Persepolis- movie based on graphic novel you love
12. How to Train your Dragon 2- sequel better than original
13. Spirited Away- favorite movie with ghosts
14. Fantastic Mr Fox- favorite Wes Anderson film
15. Frankenweenie- favorite Tim Burton movie
16. Princess and the Frog- movie you like parts but really don’t like other parts
17. The Incredibles- movie about a family you love
18. Wind Rises- movie based on a true story you love
19. Happy Feet- movie that takes strange turn in act 2
20. Big Hero 6- favorite Marvel movie
21. Frozen- Favorite Disney Princess movie
22. Ernest and Celestine- favorite movie about 2 friends

Extra (if applies)- Rachel- Film you want to see after watching these videos about the nominees

You don’t have to give animated answers to these questions. My answers are all films I watched in the series- not necessarily my end all of all films.

In fact, you can answer it any way you want!  Anyone is open to do the tag but I am officially tagging. (And this is of course completely optional.  I won’t be offended if you don’t do it).

Mark at Animation Commendation

Animation Curation

Kyle’s Animated World

Disney Freak with bit of Mascara

Disney in your Day

Drew’s Movie Reviews

Richard at Velociraptor256

I would tag Swanpride but I think she said she doesn’t do tags any more.  Nevertheless I have appreciated her comments in this series.  Thanks!

Anyone else who would like to do it please do!

And some of you like Matthew David Cline comment frequently but don’t have blogs that I am aware of at least.  If that is the case put your answers in the comments section!

Thanks and what a glorious time to be an animation (or movie) fan!

Star Wars Ep 2: Attack of the Clones Review and Discussion

Hey guys!  Well, my friends Abby, Jeremy and I have made it through the cinematic masterpiece that is Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones.  In truth I really hate the film but on the rewatch I found some things to praise and I had a great time talking about it with my friends (doing these discussions after bad movies would make movie-going so much more pleasant!)

Here is our discussion and even if you hate the movie I think you will really enjoy it.  I’m surprised we had so much to talk about it but look at this as more of a podcast style than a review.

As I am doing with all these Star Wars reviews I wrote up a little summary of the film.


Taking place 10 years after events of Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones focuses on mounting threats to the Republic. Padme Amidala is now a senator and she goes to Coruscant to vote on the building up of an army to thwart the threats. However, there is an assassination attempt on her life using killer centipede-like creatures. Obi-won and Anakin are put in charge of protecting her but Obi-won goes after Jango Fett the bounty hunter instead. Anakin then takes Padme to Naboo to hide but a romance develops between the two.

Obi-won finds out an army of clones is being made for the Republic with Jango Fett as the DNA. Anakin and Padme decide to leave Naboo when he has a dream about his mother on Tatooine. When they arrive, he finds his Mother has been taken by Tusken Raiders who then Anakin seeks out. His mother dies in his arms and in his rage he kills all the Tusken Raiders, women and children included. He tells Padme and she is sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Obi-won is on Geonosis and finds Jedi Master Count Dooku is building an army out of droids and that he wanted Padme dead. In fear the Senate gives Palpatine emergency powers and the clones are sent into battle. Anakin and Padme attempt to rescue Obi-won on Geonosis and they are almost killed but a group of warrior Jedis and their clone army fight a battle against the droids and Dooku. Anakin and Obi-won fight Dooku with light saber along with Yoda with Anakin losing his right arm. Dooku flees from Yoda’s power and goes back to Coruscant and presents his plans for the Death Star superweapon. Anakin and Padme marry to end the film


My over all thoughts on the film is that it is a rough one to sit through.  I blame George Lucas in his inability to get anyone to help him on the parts that aren’t his strength like working with the actors and writing the script.  This is something he was willing to do in the original trilogy.

The core story could have been good or at least has good elements.  Like the idea of Palpatine siezing on the chaos of war to get emergency powers from the senate is interesting.  Also the backstory of Boba Fett watching his father getting killed by a Jedi has potential.  The villain Count Dooku is pretty menacing and had potential especially with Christopher Lee as the actor.

Unfortunately all of that gets lost in a terrible romance between Anakin and Padme with some of the worst romantic dialogue I’ve ever heard.  The acting is atrocious but it is hard to fault them for dialogue not even campy enough for a soap opera (and I like my share of cheesy romances).  Not only is it groan inducing but it involves characters making nonsensical choices especially Padme.

The Droid Battle is pretty cool with all the Jedis fighting droids but I hate the Yoda light saber duel.  Yoda is not a Jedi that needs to use a light saber.  He says repeatedly the force is his weapon.  At the very least Count Dooku has not been shown or developed in a way to lead us to believe he is even close to a match for Master Yoda.  As I said in the video I have no doubt Yoda can use a light saber but to me it doesn’t make sense that he would use one.  Plus, the CG Yoda is not my cup of tea and the bouncing around looks lame.

But all of that could be ignored if the lead character was watchable.   In recent years we’ve seen examples of compelling anti-hero stories (mostly on television like Mad Men and I’m told Breaking Bad).  Anakin’s story could have been done well but Lucas chose to make him a whiny, creepy brat.  And to top it all off he murders a whole village of Tuskens Raiders and Padme’s response is “To be angry is to be human,” because that makes sense…

The special effects don’t even look that good (especially in the scenes on Naboo with the weird snail cows)

Sigh… In the end, it is a huge missed opportunity and it basically turned me off movies for a while back in 2002.  I went on my mission from 2003-2005 so I actually have never seen Revenge of the Sith.  That’s how much I hated Episode 2 (there’s a huge gap in movie knowledge for me between 2003-2005.  I’ve seen like 5 movies). So we will see what I think of Episode 3 in 2 weeks (we are taking one week off because of Halloween).

Plus, the title doesn’t even make sense.  The droids are attacking not the clones!!

What do you think of Episode 2: Attack of the Clones? I know some people love the prequels, which is cool.  I just call it like I see it (it is my blog after all 🙂 ).

I know I can’t wait for Force Awakens and for the series to be redeemed (Please JJ)!

Overall Grade- D-

Did the Right Film Win? 2014 Animated Oscars

Well my friends I have finished my series of watching all of the Oscar nominated films for Best Animated Feature Film.  Last year I said 2014 was one of the best years in animation in a long time and now after seeing films going back to 2001, I stand by that claim.  You can make an argument for 2009 and 2010 but for not having a Pixar movie it was pretty darn good- and really diverse in style, tone and everything else.

So here is my video breaking down my thoughts on the 2014 nominees:

This is the first year I was doing this blog and have reviews for all of these films, so my thoughts probably aren’t a surprise to any of you.  Nevertheless, here is a little summary:

How to Train Your Dragon 2- A rare sequel that improves upon the original.  An epic feel to the story and some of the best animation Dreamworks has ever done.  I find the story with the 2 alpha dragons to be a little confusing and I think they give the Mother too much of a free pass for leaving her family.  But still a very satisfying, entertaining, exciting film.

Big Hero 6- A film with real heart from Walt Disney Animated Studios.  I love the character of Baymax and the relationship of Hiro and Tadeshi.  I found the villain to be clever and surprising and Sanfransokyo was extremely creative.

Boxtrolls- A wonderful stop motion film about a town whose leadership gets to wear white hats and eat cheese.  Snatcher the villain wants to wear the white hat and be respected which I think is a unique motivation and a good lesson for kids about labeling through clothing and other items.  The Boxtrolls are sweet and the humor worked for me.  The ending didn’t 100% work for me and the lead Eggs is a little flat and I don’t love the drag queen segment but it is very entertaining.

Tale of Princess Kaguya– A movie that has improved each time I’ve seen it.  A true artistic masterpiece and a story unique to Japan.  It is about a girl found in a bamboo stalk who is trained to be a princess.  She has independent instincts but she chooses to be obedient.  At first that was challenging to accept but now I love it’s different perspective.  It is so gorgeous to look at and uses music very well.   It’s a little bit of an artistically challenging movie but worth the effort.

Song of the Sea- A true masterpiece.  Even with Inside Out, Song of the Sea is the best film I’ve seen this year.  It’s got the emotional depth of Inside Out with Ben trying to deal with the loss of his mother but the hand drawn animation is stunning.  Ben’s sister is a Selkie and Ben must get her back to the sea before it is too late.  Along the way they meet an Owl Witch and other creatures so it is exciting, heartbreaking and tense.  It made my Top 10 Favorite Animated Films.  The music is stunning and I wish I could convince everyone to see it.  I love it so much .

So if I was giving away the award I would pick Song of the Sea, despite my liking all 5 films.  Of the mainstream nominees I do think Big Hero 6 is the best so in that sense the right film did win; however, I think Song of the Sea is the best of 2014.

What about you?  What do you think of these 5 films and which would you pick as best of the year?


Steve Jobs Movie Review

steve jobs 12I just got back from seeing the new film Steve Jobs about the famous Apple founder and CEO. I will say it is a very good movie that left me a little bit cold.

Let me explain . First of all, it is a great looking film and credit there goes to director Danny Boyle and cinematographer Alwin H Kuchler.  They take the approach of showing 3 launches of Jobs’ products- 1984 Macintosh, 1988 NeXT box and 1998 Imac.  You have to go with the conceit that basically everything comes to a climax in both Jobs’ personal and professional life on the day of the launches. I was personally willing to make that leap.

If you are a fan of this blog you might know I am not the biggest Aaron Sorkin fan.  I find his Social Network and Moneyball to be overrated mainly because the characters are rather one-note when they could be more fleshed out and nuanced.  Sure he can write banter but if I don’t care about the characters and they don’t feel authentic that is just talking heads. (I’m not saying those are terrible films.  I just don’t think he is the genius writer everyone else seems to see).

That said, Steve Jobs is my favorite Sorkin film.  He builds tension very well and the various characters weave in and out. This is helped greatly by a top notch cast.  Michael Fassbender continues his amazing hit streak with an Oscar caliber performance.

steve jobsKate Winslet is also superb as Joanna Hoffman his PR rep or secretary or something. She refers to herself at one point as Steve’s “work wife” and you buy that.  It feels like she is up for the challenge of his big personality every time.

steve jobs3I also thought Jeff Daniels was amazing as John Scully who is wildly seen as the man who fired Steve Jobs from his own company.  It is there conversations where you get the few moments of warmth from Jobs.

steve jobs8Before I saw the movie I read an article about how much Steve Wozniak loves the film.  Well, of course he loves the movie.  He is painted as the hero of the film.  The man who fights for the little guy against the corporate pig Steve Job.  Seth Rogan is good but it’s a role that requires him to mostly stand in the audience calling for Steve to ‘acknowledge the little guy’.  That’s the kind of one-note characters in Sorkin’s writing I don’t care for.

steve jobs6Partly because of the 3 launch structure you don’t get a ton of time to paint a well-rounded picture of Steve Jobs.  We see him as mostly a bully who pushes his own agenda at the cost of relationships and people. He has a huge ego and is kind of a modern Ebenezer Scrooge but with no redemption arc.  He doesn’t own his daughter, he pushes Wozniak, and Scully away and no other functioning softening relationship is shown.

They try to say that he was such a bully because he was adopted and then returned by a family and then his new family fought custody with his mother saying she didn’t love him for the first year of life.  This may all be true but I at least have read about another side to Steve Jobs- a side that believed in others and inspired people.

creativity incIn Creativity Inc President of Pixar Ed Catmull talks at length about Steve Jobs.  He does mention the tough egotistical side but also fleshed out another side. If you didn’t know Steve Jobs bought Pixar in 1986 and incurred losses for 8 years while they worked on the crazy goal of the first computer animated film.

“There were so many things I could say about Steve- how he bought the division that would become Pixar from George Lucas in 1986 saving us from extinction; how he encouraged us to embark on our first feature film, Toy Story, 3 years later, when the idea of a computer-animated feature film still seemed beyond our reach; how he’d solidified our future by selling us to Disney and then ensured our autonomy by orchestrating a merger that created a true partnership; how he helped take us from 43 employees to the 1100 …

Looking back, I could recall the earliest moments of our relationship- him probing and poking, me honing  and fortifying my ideas.  He had made me more focused, more resilient, smarter, better.  Over time, I had come to rely on his demanding specificity, which never failed to help me clarify my own thinking.  I could already feel the weight of his absence”

Brad Bird then went on to say:

“Steve held the bar for quality.  he was always about the long run  He was into Buddhism, but I see him more as just a spiritual guy.  I have to believe that he believed in something beyond this” he hesitated overcome for a moment “and that’s where we’ll see him again.  Where cream rises to the top.  So here’s to you Steve, and to the long run”

I share those long quotes with you because that is not any of the man we get in the movie Steve Jobs.  I realize a movie can’t be everything but when you are dealing with a real person it doesn’t feel right to paint him as such an egotistical bully.

As animation fans there is a huge ripple effect beyond even Pixar that Steve Jobs started.  First of all he bought and nurtured Pixar so without him none of their classic films.  Without Pixar John Lasseter would not have stepped in as Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney.  Without Lasseter no Disney 2nd Renaissance, probably no purchase of Lucas Films, so no new Star Wars, no bringing in the Ghibli films, which Lasseter was a champion of… The list goes on.  There is a reason the entire campus at Pixar is named after Steve Jobs.  He is absolutely essential in all of that happening, and yet the movie makes us believe he was nothing more than a good pitch man who doesn’t deserve the credit he gets.

But I was entertained by the film.  If I can kind of pretend it is a fictional CEO then I might even call it a masterpiece.  It is very well acted, directed and paced.  It also has some interesting questions about the masses and how we honor people and what makes us purchase products.

If you see Steve Jobs I’d love to hear what you think.  Also if you have read Creativity Inc put in the comments below.

Overall Grade- B-

Here is my youtube review:

Back to the Future Trilogy Review

back to the future2If you didn’t know yesterday was Back to the Future Day! Basically in Back to the Future 2 when Marty and Doc go back in time they go to October 21, 2015.

1031852_1280x720To honor this occasion my local theater and the Salt Lake Film Society put on a Where’s My Hoverboard marathon event where we watched all 3 Back to the Future films.  On my regular blog I will post about the event itself but I thought I would post my reviews of the films here.

back to the future-1Back to the Future is what I think of as basically a perfect blockbuster film.  I am sure they exist (and I will doubt hear from some of them as that always happens) but in my personal life I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like Back to the Future.  There are a lot of reasons why it works so well.

It is of course the story of Marty Mcfly and Doc Brown and his deloreon time machine.  Doc invents the time machine but then an accident causes Marty to get sent back to 1955.

back to the future7Then Marty gets involved with his parents who he must bring together or his entire existence is in question.

back to the future6There is also the bully Biff who we meet in both 1985 and 1955.

Biff-Back-to-the-Future-1Marty and Doc must also figure out a way to get him back to 1985 using the 1955 technology and a bolt of lightning!

marty-the-delorean-time-machine-and-a-bolt-of-lightning_zpsyyd4s0zlThere are a lot of reasons Back to the Future works so well.  Michael J Fox is charismatic as Marty with a likable rebelliousness to him.  The rest of the cast is also great with most of the action focusing on 5 people- Marty, Doc, Loraine (Marty’s mother played by Lea Thompson), George (Marty’s father played by Crispin Glover), and Biff (Thomas Wilson).

This works so well for a time traveling story because the ripple effect of the changes they make and have to fix are relatively small and contained.   It also helps you to really bond with the characters and feel invested when they succeed.

back to the future10There is also a great undercurrent of heart to the film.  Marty has come to see his parents as real people that aren’t so unlike himself.  There is even a bit of an oedipal complex with Marty seeing his mother as an attractive woman and vice versa.

The other key to making Back to the Future work is the writing and pacing.  There isn’t a wasted scene.  There isn’t a moment where I am bored or over-thinking the science of it.  It’s also very funny with an amazing script by director Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.

The music is also helpful with an iconic score by Alan Silvestri and great song Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News. Here’s some clips from the movie with the song.

Last night the entire theater was cheering throughout.  It’s the kind of movie you leave with a big smile and probably didn’t need sequels but we got them nonetheless.

Overall Grade- A+

back to future2-2In Back to the Future 2 we get most of our original cast back except for Crispin Glover as George McFly.  The producer and directing team are all back and it is an entertaining film but my least favorite of the 3.

In this sequel Marty goes to the future to try and help his son from going to prison. In 2015 he finds all kinds of new technology like flying cars, hoverboards and easy lace shoes.

back to the future5

Marty gets to see his future self, house, family and life and we learn that Marty has a temper particularly when people call him chicken (not sure why they added that personality trait but they did).

Unfortunately Marty has a scheme to buy a sports almanac so he can win on betting sports back in 1985.  Biff as an old man hears about this almanac and steals the time machine to go back to 1955 and give it to his young self.

Not aware of Biff’s plans they go back to 1985 but it is altered into a hellish place where Biff rules all as a Donald Trump like mogul.

back to future222They then have to go back to 1955 and stop Old Biff from giving the almanac and not run into themselves from the first movie.

This movie works mostly because of the fun technology we get to see and the vision for the future.  Also the likable cast and nods to the first movie are a lot of fun.

However, we just get too much of Biff.  There are 4 versions of him in this film, so instead of being joyful with Marty and Doc, it feels dark, angry and unpleasant at times.  That may work for a dystopian novel but for a fun popcorn flick it is too much of a downer.

The pacing is also not as tight and there are a lot more plotholes because we are dealing with 4 different time periods and a mogul who influences many people instead of just 2 people falling in love.

Still I don’t mind watching it and find it overall entertaining.

Overall Grade- C+

Back to the Future 3

back to the future3-3Then we get to the final in the series.  It’s kind of a silly entry but it is more joyful than the 2nd so I enjoyed it more.

In this film Doc Brown gets sent to 1885 west while Marty remains in 1955. Marty learns through a letter that Doc is living as a blacksmith and is perfectly happy.  Unfortunately Marty also learns at the library he is going to die in a weeks time, so Marty heads back to the Old West to save his friend.

back to future34Now the question becomes how do they get back to 1985 with 1885 technology and they meet MadDog Tannen the relative of Biff who doesn’t like either one of them and challenges Marty with the chicken nonsense from 2.

BufordTo everyone’s surprise Doc meets a school teacher played by Mary Steenburgen and they share an interst in Jules Verne and fall in love, creating a whole new level of problems.

There is a lot of silliness in Back to the Future 3.  This is in no way a gritty accurate Old West.  It is from a movie set if I’ve ever seen one full of just about every western cliche you could imagine.  However, it also uses those cliches for humor like Marty’s character being named Clint Eastwood.

back to future333Even for a popcorn series the ending is too ridiculous to work for me but the final train sequence is entertaining.

back to future33At least in 3 there is a spirit of fun back into the series and we get less of Biff (although I could have used even less). It’s mostly about these 2 friends, Marty and Doc, and how they help each other as strangers in the Old West.

Alan Silvestri’s score in this one incorporates some Western themes which I appreciated and I love the inclusion of ZZ Top and their song Doubleback.  It’s very catchy.

I also like the chemistry between Christopher Lloyd and Mary Steenburgen.  After the grimness of 2 it is nice to have a love story back at the forefront of the series.

Like I said it is a silly movie but I enjoy it and find it entertaining.

Overall Grade- B

Here is my review on my youtube channel.

My Fair Lady 50th Anniversary Release Review

my fair ladyToday I had the treat to see the musical classic My Fair Lady on the big screen!  It is a specially remastered edition and even included the intermission.  It’s amazing how with a great film 3 hours goes by without me even noticing it; whereas, I’ve sat for 1 hour films and been very antsy.  I hadn’t seen My Fair Lady for a little while but I listen to the music quite often.  Let’s just say it was even better than I remembered it.

My Fair Lady was of course based on the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical, which in turn was based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion.   It is basically a variation on Cinderella with the homely girl finding out she really is a princess (which British nobility and genteelness basically is).  We’ve seen it in Princess Diaries, What a Girl Wants and many other films.   While the plot may not be groundbreaking it is executed with such warmth, humor and charm it made me smile from beginning to end.

my fair lady3Rex Harrison was famous for playing Henry Higgins on Broadway and his live singing with the speech singing style is proof of that kind of nightly performance you get on Broadway.  Some people may see Higgins as a bit of a pig but I think the movie knows he is a pig and for the most part Eliza is up to the challenge and certainly doesn’t back down to his bullish ways.  While watching Higgins I kept thinking of Sherlock Holmes or Sheldon Cooper, these characters we see from time to time who are selfish but kind of in an innocent way.  They see their world as making the most sense and everyone else should just come around to their genius.

my fair lady7I guess if you don’t know Henry Higgins is a professor of the science of speech.  One day he meets a Cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle played by Audrey Hepburn. She overhears Higgins boast he could teach her to be a duchess at a ball, so the next day she makes a proposal to him to pay for lessons.  This starts Higgins, Doolittle and their friend Colonel Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White) on a 6 month struggle to change the way Eliza speaks.

my fair lady6Eventually Eliza  is tested out at the Ascot Raceway where she can’t help but be a little competitive.  The costumes by Cecil Beaton during this segment and the ball later on are some of the greatest in movie history.   Cecil Beaton not only won Oscar for Costume Design but also for Art Direction which is also outstanding.

my fair lady4Notice Eliza is the only one with any color to her hat.

The hats alone are works of art.

my fairl lady6George Cukor does a fine job directing the film with an ease and flow and an incredible attention to detail.  Henry Stradling’s cinematography and the art direction make each scene a joy to watch whether it is a street in London, Ascot or the Ball.   George Groves weaving sound mixing of Harrison’s live singing with the dubbed singing of Hepburn and others is also remarkable.  My Fair Lady still holds the record I believe for 8 academy award wins.

my fair lady9Some people were upset at the time Julie Andrews wasn’t chosen to pay Eliza but with Hepburn winning an Oscar for playing a princess in Roman Holiday the choice made sense and I think she is lovely in the part (as I’m sure Andrews would have been but then we might not have gotten her in Mary Poppins!).  Marni Nixon does the dub work for Hepburn and what a pro she is.  To think she is the same singer for Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Natalie Wood in West Side Story it is pretty amazing.

my fair lady5The music is so divine.  Wouldn’t it Be Loverly, The Rain in Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, On the Street Where You Live, Show Me, I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, are all completely lovely and I found myself singing to myself as I exited the theater. I think my favorite is I Could Have Danced All Night.  It’s actually a very difficult song with a full octave range and some very high notes!

The only songs I could do without are sung by Stanley Holloway as Eliza’s dopey father, a character I could also do without. Holloway is a good singer and you can see his Broadway background but the character is such a lazy bum I don’t really find it that charming.

my fair lady10The ending isn’t my favorite.  I would rather they went with the ending of the original play but I don’t hate it so much to ruin the film.  I think with Higgins singing I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face moments before it feels more acceptable that he does love her and may treat her well.

my fair lady8For Sherlock Holmes fans we get to see a young Jeremy Brett as Freddy Hill.  He isn’t a super developed character but there is a charm to Brett’s performance. I like him and Hepburn in Show Me.

my fair lady11One critic said of My Fair Lady “the film’s charm is undeniable”.  I agree!  That is probably apparent from the framed poster I have in my living room. 😉

my fair lady111It’s certainly one of my favorite old school musicals and one definitely worth checking out.  Meanwhile I will keep singing the songs to myself! 🙂

The special release I saw is available for pre-order right now on Amazon with all kinds of special features. I know I have it on pre-order!

Overall Grade-  A (not an A+ just because the Dad stuff isn’t my favorite)

My youtube review