Star Wars Force Awakens Trailer Review

So I might have cried a bit at a movie trailer today.  Yep full on nerd tears.  Tonight the new Star Wars: Force Awakens trailer dropped during halftime at Monday Night Football and this trailer was epic in the truest sense of the word.  It did everything you want a trailer to do.  We got to see and hear from new characters.  We got little nibbles of stories but no major plot points.  We got to see the old and new school players (except for Luke!).  It had great music.  Showed the great cinematography and all the practical effects.  The battle sequences look awesome.

We know there are scenes with real heart where both Finn and Rey are learning from Han Solo (initially a doubter) about the force and the Jedi and we can assume the Jedi is stuff of legend and basically gone.  We see Leia and Han that seem to be embracing about something sad.  We see Kylo Ren take off his mask and wield his light saber at Finn in some kind of fight.  He is a disciple of Vader and has Vader’s mask- wants to be like Vader.

I was also thrilled to see Rey looking like a strong and lead character in the story.  As we discussed in my recent Phantom Menace review/discussion none of the Star Wars films have passed the Bechdel test but I feel this time with Rey, Lupita Nyongo’s character and Leia we might actually do it. I think Rey might be the Luke Skywalker of the this trilogy which would be amazing.

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to see this movie!  I already have my tickets purchased for Dec 17th and I will probably see it again Dec 18th in IMAX.   Even at the worst with the prequels Star Wars is a battle of good verses evil and an entire world to become absorbed in. It’s about harnessing a spiritual force greater than yourself and not allowing doubt or fear to enter your heart.  How many movies can say that? You have your Harry Potter or your Lord of the Rings but to me at least Star Wars trumps them all.

Here is my trailer reaction. It’s not that great but I was so excited my brain left me.  There’s a lot of squealing but some of you may find it fun.  Follow me on periscope by the way @smilingldsgirl (and on all other social media like snapchat, instagram etc).

My favorite of all the trailer reviews I saw was this one. It captured how I felt at least.

I was a little surprised we didn’t get the rating yet because I had heard we might but maybe the MPAA isn’t done with their review yet.  I figure it will be PG-13 but it would be fine at PG because then more kids could see it but I think with those battles it will be PG-13.

So what did you think of the trailer?  Are you excited and did you buy your tickets like so many of us did?  Is there a spot in the trailer that stood out to you more than others Let’s share and nerd out together! 🙂

The poster looks pretty awesome too! Counting down the days…

force awakens poster

Tinker Bell Review

This review was previously posted on my column over at I would love if you guys checked out that column and maybe added a comment or two.  It would make my day!

Welcome to another week’s pick for Family Movie Night!   This marks my 10th entry in this column (12th video on my channel).  I’ve really enjoyed working on the series so I hope you have as well.

Today I hope I can introduce you to a series which may have fallen outside your radar. Since 1953’s Peter Pan, Tinker Bell has become one of the most iconic figures in all of Disney.  Tinker Bell is even the one that puts the sparkly ring around the castle in the Disney logo.  With this kind of notoriety, it was probably only a matter of time before everyone’ favorite fairy got the starring treatment in a Disney film.  And not only one film but a series of to this point 7 films!

It might seem easy to discount a direct to DVD series like the Fairies franchise but I’m telling you they are well done.  The voice talent is top notch.  The animation is bright and colorful and the stories are predictable but entertaining.  But most importantly I like what the characters and message give to young girls who the franchise is mainly aimed at.


With the exception of Frozen it is no secret girls get the short end of the stick when it comes to magic or superheroes in animated movies. Of the 13 current Disney princesses (or Princesses in waiting as Elsa and Anna are designated.  ), Elsa and Rapunzel are the only ones with magical powers.  Many Disney female villains have magical powers like Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Madame Mim, Ursula, or Mother Gothel but basically none of the good girls (strange isn’t it?).  The fairies from Sleeping Beauty are one of the only notable exceptions but they are the side characters not the leads.

You could say the same thing about other popular franchises which sometimes have a token hero female like Black Widow in Avengers, Hermione in Harry Potter, or Wonder Woman in Justice League.

This makes what girls get in the Tinker Bell series special because it is almost all about girls and they each have a special power that makes them unique.

In the first film, Tinker Bell, we get to see Tink created (Mae Whitman) and find out she has a special skill called tinkering- basically a knack for inventing things and putting stuff together.  The problem is she lives in Pixie Hollow and the most prestigious job is to be part of the nature fairies who go to the mainland and wake it up for the day and help the seasons change.

The main pixies of the series are introduced to us in Tinker Bell and they are:

tinkerbell-and-friends-disney-movie-tinker-bell-open-walls-1179903Rosetta (Kristin Chenoweth)- she is our garden fairy who helps things get planted, take root and grow

Iridessa (Raven-Symone)- she is the fairy of light that lights fireflies and brings the world out of darkness

Silvermist (Lucy Lieu)- she is the fairy over water and helps make dewdrops for the plants.

Fawn– (America Ferrera)- she is the fairy of nature and connects with all the animals in the forest.

There is also  Vidia (Pamela Adlon) who is Tink’s rival and Queen Clarion (Angelica Huston) who rules Pixie Hollow.

Tink likes working in the tinkering department but she is still jealous of the nature fairies that can wake up the mainland.  This makes the main story of Tinker Bell a unique one of Tink both learning to value her own talents and abilities while also expanding into new worlds  and dreams.

The voice work is top notch in this and all the Tinker Bell films and this first film sets the groundwork for all the characters and the world we will get for 7 more films..  Think of it as an origin story in a way.  It is not one of the best of the series but it is a good first step into the world of Pixie Hollow.

Tinkerbell-And-Friends-e1395939724591And I do like the message of accepting who you are while still dreaming big.  Overall, it is a well animated, entertaining first step into a great series  especially your daughter will love.  Think of it as the Avengers for girls!

That said, I don’t think your boys will have a terrible time watching Tinker Bell.  There are several boy characters and girls like Fawn who are more tomboys.  It’s not like the Barbie movies which are more exclusively girls only.

Tinker Bell is definitely a film and series that is geared more towards children but I find them tight enough and engaging enough to greatly enjoy.  Just give them a try and have an open mind and I bet you will like them too.

Enjoy your time in Pixie Hollow!

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

I would love to get some feedback from the readers on these choices for Family Movie Night.  I have tried to do a variety so you aren’t watching the same type of movie each week; however, if you’d like more of a particular style or type please let me know.  Put in the comment section any feedback on how your kids react to this or any other film I have reviewed.

Thanks so much!  Rachel

Phantom Menace Review and Discussion

phantom menace99Hi guys!  So yesterday marked the start of my new Star Wars series and I am going to be doing reviews on this blog plus a new web series on my youtube channel.  I am going to be discussing with my friends Abby and Jeremy each of the Star Wars movies and yesterday we tackled Episode 1: Phantom Menace.  It was my first time doing a Live Google Hangout and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Most people know I was not a fan of the Star Wars prequels but I have always stood up for Phantom Menace a little bit because Attack of the Clones seemed so much worse at the time  (we will see what I think this week).  But I have to say on the rewatch Phantom Menace was a lot worse than I remembered. It has some decent sequences but at the core it is an unfocused mess with no climax that matters, no developed villain or other characters, poor acting and an incredibly annoying character in Jar Jar.

Even things I thought I liked such as the podrace or the fight with Darth Maul weren’t as good as I remembered them being.


Phantom Menace is about Naboo being threatened by Darth Sidious and the Federation and the Jedi trying to stop said threat. They appeal to the Gungan where they meet Jar Jar. Then they stop in Tatooine and meet Anakin who Qui-Gon feels is the chosen one who can save Naboo and become a great Jedi. To get Anakin out of slavery he must win a podrace which he can do because he can predict the future with the force. Darth Maul is sent by Darth Sidious to kill stop the Jedi and capture Naboo Queen Padme Amidala.

Padme speaks in Coruscant to the Republic Senate to try and stop the blockade. The senate is corrupt and Padme returns to Naboo where she enters an alliance with the Gungans. They enter a battle with the droids from the federation. Meanwhile Anakin pilots a ship by accident and destroys the Federation battle ship. At the same time Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan battle Darth Maul and Qui-Gon is killed by Maul and Ob-Wan slices Maul in half. With the battle victorious the council decide Obi-Wan is a Jedi and he can train Anakin. Peace is declared in Naboo.


The problem with Phantom Menace is it wants to be equally appealing to kids, adults and everyone in between.  It also doesn’t matter as a story to the Star Wars world.   You could get rid of the movie and pick up on what is going quite well in episode 2. There is no climax, no compelling villains and no protagonist that we are rooting for.  All in all it is a mess.

Some of the actors are good but they are handed material that doesn’t do them any favors.  Despite all the exposition it can also feel very confusing of who is doing what and why.

I also hate the edition of midichlorians to the Star Wars lore.  I always thought of the force as kind of like the priesthood.  It is a spiritual force you must be trained to sense, and use.  That’s why Master Yoda had to train Luke in order for him to go into battle and to use the force. The Force is the power of Good and that’s why it has such strength but it can be used for evil too. To revert it back to a little boy being able to use it without any training is disappointing.

It also feels very long and a lot boring with scenes that don’t connect well to the over all story (which there isn’t really one so it is tricky)

Jar Jar is more annoying than I remembered. There is always humor in Star Wars but this is pretty insufferable.   There are also moments that are borderline offensive with particularly asian accents making me cringe.

It’s unfortunately the equivalent of a bunch of people standing together talking instead of a Star Wars movie and boy was it a let down back in 1999.

But now on to episode 2: Attack of the Clones!

What about you and Phantom Menace?  What do you think of it?  I would love your comments on our video if you get a chance.  Thanks!

Overall Grade- D

Goosebumps Review

goosebumpsI think I should start off this review saying I have never read a Goosebumps novel; although I was certainly aware of them.  They became popular when I was in or nearing high school so I missed the target age group for the series nor would I have been interested in them regardless because I didn’t like scary stories as a little girl.

So I can only speak about the movie and not any relation to the books.  If you want to read a review by someone who has read the books check out my friend AJ’s review here.

Over all I’d say the Goosebumps movie was a pretty entertaining film.  I think it did what Pixels was trying to do but was too stupid to pull off- give an 80s style movie with creatures chasing our heroes around with humor mixed in.  (Some say it has a 90s nostalgia but to me it felt more like Gremlins, Ghostbusters, The Burbs- movies like that from the 80s).

goosebumps6It’s pretty simple story.  Basically Goosebumps is about high schooler Zach (Dylan Minnette) who moves with his Mom (Amy Ryan- who was also in Bridge of Spies) when she becomes vice principal at his school.

The house next to theirs is a little creepy and there is a girl named Hannah there who seems to have an overbearing maybe even abusive father.  At one point Zach calls the bumbling cops over because he hears Hannah screaming.

goosebumps3It turns out Hannah’s father is reclusive author RL Stein and he has all of his scary stories carefully guarded and individually locked.  Zach and his friend Champ (Ryan Lee) unlock one of the books and  the creature from the book comes alive and tries to kill them.

goosebumps7Then a character called Slappy, the dummy, gets awakened and he unleashes all the characters and burns the books so there is no way to get them back without Stine writing a new story that does just that.

goosebumps5Basically the rest of the movie is the group getting chased by one creature and then another until the final showdown at the high school.  But it is all done with enough charm and humor that I was entertained.

One does have to wonder if Stein knew this could happen why not have the story already written ready to go just in case? But I’m overthinking it.

A lot of the credit to the films success goes to the 4 leads.  Jack Black is really funny and a little creepy as RL Stein and I really liked Ryan Lee’s Champ, who consistently made me laugh.

goosebumps12It’s definitely pretty scary but I think it is always in a spirit of fun and there is no doubt they will all be okay so I don’t think most kids will have a problem with it.  The dummy Slappy was the scariest of the creatures.

goosebumps9Some of the special effects were good and some could have been better like the wolfman I thought looked particularly cheesy.

goosebumps10It also looses some points because it starts to feel a little repetitive.  Despite tons of creatures being released, most of the time it is everyone in the town frozen and the 4 leads getting chased by one creature, they outwit that and then another appears, and the cycle repeats.

It might have been nice if for one of them they had to use their brains, one had to run fast, one had to be strong etc like some of the challenges or creatures in Harry Potter. Or if the 4 leads had each brought something different to the table but they pretty much just all run around screaming from one threat to another.

goosebymmps11That said it’s funny enough and the action keeps going fast enough that I was entertained.  I think kids that like this kind of thing will really like it, and I don’t think adults will be miserable watching it.

Like I said, it could have very easily gone down the Pixels route but, this is so much more entertaining.

Dylan Minnette and Amy Ryan in Columbia Pictures' There is also one part in the ending I didn’t really buy but it is spoilery so I wont’ say anything.   I did also like the relationship between Amy Ryan’s Mom character and her son Zach.  They seemed like believable Mother-Son team.

Did you guys read the books?  Are you excited to see this?  I’d be curious to know what you think and if your kids find it too scary.

Overall Grade-  B-

Bridge of Spies Review

bridge of spies2Today I had the chance to see the new Steven Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies, and to be honest I was a little disappointed.  Maybe even a lot disappointed.

When you have a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, based on historical events, co-written by the Coen Brothers you expect it to be one of the best of the year but I found it kind of a dull procedural. In fact it was both a dull courtroom movie and diplomatic negotiation movie in one…The trailer is also very deceptive in making you think it is going to be a tense thriller when it really isn’t.

Tom Hanks is great as Jim Donovan who is assigned to represent a Soviet spy Rudolf Abel played by Mark Rylance.   Abel is a character that will either work for you and you will find charming or will seem false.  For me it was the latter, but I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the performance . I can see the Coen Brother’s influence particularly on that character. He’s very deadpan and funny, but I found him kind of one-note after a while.

ST. JAMES PLACE Hanks is normally an insurance lawyer and is hesitant (along with his wife played by Amy Ryan) to take the case but decides ‘everyone deserves representation’.  That brings us to the first hour of the film which is a fairly standard court procedural.  The acting is good and you see the pressure Donovan is under to help this guy that everyone hates.  The two form a bond but again Abel is so deadpan that I didn’t sense any closeness on his side, only sympathy from Donovan.

It’s a fine but fairly routine courtroom drama and Spielberg does a good job staging it but it wasn’t anything new or that different from say Woman in Gold earlier this year (there were a lot of things in this movie that reminded me of Woman in Gold, which really isn’t a good thing in my book).

Eventually Donovan argues before the Supreme Court and the resulting verdict ends the first half of the film.  It also reminded me during the courtroom sections of The Conspirator in its attempts to relate to modern issues but not as awful as that film did.  It’s fine if a movie relates to current situations but don’t beat us over the head with it.  There is a lot of speechifying in the first half of the movie mostly by Hanks but others as well.

bridge of spies3Spielberg is great at capturing little details. It almost reminded of Mad Men in that regard.  Like it is the only movie I’ve seen from that era where you see the flash bulbs littered around the photographers covering a story.

There are also segments that are picked up once and then never talked about again.  For instance, we get a little story about Donovan’s daughter going on a date with his assistant and then that is never talked about again.  We get little bits with his kids and at their school showing Doomsday videos but that is never really addressed again.  Someone shoots up Donovan’s house but we never hear anything about that or any further danger to the family or him again. Those kind of things bothered me.

The second half of the film is when 2 Americans are detained by Communists- one by Russia, one by East Germany.  The US Government recruits Donovan to work with Russia to get fallen soldier Gary Powers and they don’t want him to get the American student from the Germans.  However, Donovan believes in ‘saving the one’ and meets with reps from both countries until a prisoner swap is orchestrated (which is telegraphed by the opening scene of the film when Donovan is discussing a 5 motorcycle crash with another lawyer).

bridge of spies6There are some good things about this section.  Spielberg does a great job creating a sense of cold and Hanks feels very human as he is making these negotiations without any real experience as a diplomat.  You feel his fatigue and frustration.

But I think part of the problem is I didn’t really get to know either of the prisoners so I didn’t care that much what was happening to them.  It is kind of like Woman in Gold in that sense.  I loved Helen Mirren’s character but everyone else I didn’t really care about. Same here with Hanks and the prisoners. Also the other CIA guys seemed one note and predictable stick in the muds.

I also thought a section where a plane is shot down looked kind of cheesy.  I expected better special effects from Spielberg.

bridge of spies8It does end in a satisfactory way and over all it isn’t a terrible film, just disappointing.  I actually nodded off twice which is a bad sign in the movie (only for a few seconds).  It was nearly 2 1/2 hours and most of that is just people talking with little suspense or intrigue.

I know I’m in the minority on this one but perhaps this will be my 2015’s Birdman or Gone Girl where I disagree with the critical mass.  It’s not awful but I was let down.

Overall Grade- C

The Walk Review

the walk3You guys know me.  I’m a softee.  I like a good inspirational story.  I’ve even been known to enjoy a corny made for TV movie on Hallmark or Lifetime.  So this is a girl that doesn’t mind a little bit of cheese in her films. Well, that’s good because it is certainly what you get in Robert Zemeckis’ new movie The Walk.  It is based on the story of Philippe Petit’s wire walk between the World Trade Center Twin Towers in 1974.  This was made into an excellent Oscar winning documentary in 2008.

the walk7The thing that made the documentary work is Petit is a unique person.  He can be dishonest, unfaithful, rude and yet also quite charming and funny.  So really it was more the man than the walk which made the documentary compelling. The documentary isn’t trying to inspire us but just tell Petit’s story.

Unfortunately Zemeckis in both his direction and screenplay don’t seem to get this and Petit ends up feeling bland and another guy with a dream.  You could play a drinking game and get very drunk with how much the movie says the word dream.the walk9Justin Gordon-Levitt is a little disappointing as Petit.  Much has been made of his french accent but it is pretty bad.  It’s too bad Oscar winner Jean Dujardin is probably too old for the part because he would have been perfect for Petit.   It’s hard to fault Levit too much because he is given a pretty corny bland character and the staging device of him telling the story, breaking the 4th wall, from the Statue of Liberty amplifies this cheese.

That’s not to say I hated the film.  I actually found it entertaining.  It’s just a little disappointing because it could have been great with a few tweaks.

Much of The Walk is spent with him training and assembling his “accomplices” for the big walk.  His girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) seems unrealistically supportive of this crazy scheme as do everyone else (I wish I had such an unabashedly cheering section for my crazy endeavors!).  Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy, a famous wire-walker,  is the only one who really challenges Petit and actually suggests he use a safety cord.

the walk10All of this is fine if a lot corny building up to the big walk.  And I have to say the last third when he is actually pulling off the illegal walk is incredibly compelling.  Cesar Domboy I thought was particularly good as Jeff, Petit’s accomplice who is afraid of heights of all things!

the walkZemeckis handles the special effects and the tension and the majesty of the actual walk perfectly.  I saw it in IMAX 3D and there were moments where I couldn’t help but gasp.  You feel the height and  when he keeps repeating the walk (4 times) it gets more tense and scary.  With the IMAX 3D it feels like you are there on that wire and it is almost like an amusement park ride (think Soarin California at Disneyland).   If you are motion sick or afraid of heights it may not be the movie for you because the walk goes on a long time but it worked the entire time for me.

Unfortunately some of the New Yorkers especially the cops are silly cliches with overdone accents but it isn’t a big deal.  The walk is compelling enough to ignore such details.

the walk8I’m not even a New Yorker but I have to say every time they showed The Twin Towers I cried.  There were a few scenes where Petit leans on the facade of the building and I was practically weeping.  I wasn’t expecting to have that response but just seeing the buildings again got to me.

I guess enjoyment of The Walk depends on how much you can tolerate a cornball movie. As I said, it is a bit frustrating because it could have been so much better but I still had a good time and enjoyed the film.  The walk itself is so well done and so compelling that it makes up for other flaws like the narration and some of the weak character development.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about with this film and perhaps it is an unfair criticism is-was it art or was it a stunt? Petit tries to sell it as art and that he is not a circus performer.  But people do brave stuff all the time like climbing Everest and we don’t call them artists.

I suppose with the Twin Towers symbolizing such a loss, I felt a little conflicted with a film trying to pass a stunt off as bravery and inspiration when much more brave things were done at those buildings. No movie is made about them (or no good one so far).

A side of me kind of wishes Petit had taken all that bravery and done something that actually matters.  I mean if you look at other inspirational stories like Imitation Game or Theory of Everything those were men who actually changed the world.  This could be thought of as a crazy stunt but it doesn’t really help anyone in their lives.

But I know that is being unfair.  Did Picasso help people with his art? Probably not but he certainly inspired people and helped them be more creative, which is a form of help.  So I guess it comes down to is Petit’s walk art or is it a stunt?  What do you think?

the walk5All that said, if you want to go to an experience at the movies than definitely see The Walk.  The special effects are astonishing and in the IMAX 3D it feels like you are walking as Petit walks.  The rest of the film is fine and certainly watchable if flawed.

As far as content there is a tiny bit of language but the main objectionable scene is when Petit strips down so that the accomplice on the tower can see him better to shoot the wire across to him.  It’s done in a way where not much is shown and it is relatively brief and humorous but it is there.

Overall Grade- C

My friend Matthew posted his review of both the book and movie you might find interesting.

Walt Before Mickey Review

Walt_Before_MickeySo today was looking at my local theater line-up and I notice a film called Walt Before Mickey.  What is this? How as a Disney aficionado have I never heard of this film about the big man himself, Walt Disney?  I had a little bit of time tonight so I figured I’d go check it out.  I mean my blog has Disney in the name so I think I’m obligated to do so.

Well, my friends there is a reason I hadn’t heard of Walt Before Mickey.  I can confidently say the only encouragement I can give you to see this film is if you like inadvertently funny ‘so bad it’s good’ type of entertainment. That’s right, Walt Before Mickey, had me in stitches but not in the way they intended it too.

It’s really bad.

That’s not to say they don’t try to make a good movie but the script is so bad there were times I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

walt before mickeyAs the title suggests, Walt Before Mickey is about the mostly business life of Walt Disney before he created Mickey Mouse.  It begins with some of Walt’s early life drawing horses for his neighbor.  We will occasionally flashback to these scenes and in one scene it seems like Walt is terrified of his father and in another he loves and adores him.  While that may be partly true it feels inconsistent and random here.  Most of the time he is giving out great wisdom but then out of nowhere he will be harsh and cruel.

Eventually we get up to him as a young adult played by Thomas Ian Nicholas .  After working for a local advertising agency Disney meets Ub Iwerks played by director Armando Gutierrez.  We also meet Rudy Ising (David Henrie) who evidently answered an ad for a Cartoonist but has never heard of animation before and has to be shown a flipbook…

A lot of this is true as far as names and faces but it is handled with such dew filled sepia lighting its tough to take seriously.  It feels like a movie we’d see in Sunday School class not a feature film.

And then the script just piles it on.  Like we get lines such as

“This story is drawn in my own blood!”


“You will never be a failure Walt!  You have too much goodness inside of you”


“I wished upon a star and look what it gave me!”

If you aren’t laughing at those lines than you have a higher tolerance for cheese than I do.

One of the most insane scenes I wish I had a picture of is Walt after Laugh-o-grams is closed down he becomes friendly with a a mouse that he starts to carry in his shirt pocket.  He even dives in the dumpster to get food for the mouse and when it scurries away he goes into full-on meltdown mode.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.   This isn’t just a subtle hint at a friendship with a mice.  This is whole on Cinderella talking too and interacting with him in multiple scenes. It makes you wonder why it took him so long to come up with Mickey!

walt before mickey6

The acting isn’t that bad.  Even Jon Heder from my favorite Napoleon Dynamite, is fine. It also looks nice as far as sets and costuming but I promise you Robert Deniro, Meryl Streep and Marlon Brando could not have saved this script.

walt before mickey5Another laughable character or caricature I should say is Conor Dubin playing Charles Mintz.  This is the greedy Jewish guy who is counting his money and scheming to thwart the talented white guy you used to see in movies from the 40s.  I felt embarrassed for everyone involved whenever his character was on screen.

Walt Before Mickey is really on the Unauthorized True Story level Lifetime has been churning out for the likes of Saved by the Bell or 90210.  It’s hero main flaw is not being able to pay people because he dreams too big.

Evidently there were a lot of problems in the making of the film.  One report I read crew members were walking off set, actors didn’t get paid and they had to finda  new director after starting filming.  There are times when you can’t hear characters and editing and focus will be sloppy.

walt before mickey3

The editing was also badly done.  In one scene Walt’s boys will pay his rent and practically lay down in traffic for him and then minutes later he is storming into the office throwing things off of desks and making a mess (the bad movie sign of stress).  All of the characters are inconsistent like that and despite the best efforts by the actors it ends up feeling embarrassing.

There’s another movie coming out this year about young Walt called As Dreamers Do and that looks equally cringe-worthy and he’s talking to a mouse in that one as well!

I loved Saving Mr Banks so there is proof a Disney bio pic could be good but they have to be actual films and not visuals for the Walt Disney Sunday School course.  The great man certainly deserves better that is for sure.

Here is a trailer to Walt Before Mickey if you want to get more of an idea.

Overall Score- D-


Did the Right Film Win? 2013 Animated Oscars

Hi guys!  We are up to 2013 in my series on the Animated Oscars and I have a special treat for you! Queen Elsa has come to visit to review all 5 films!

elsa2I admit in my review for the Disney Canon of Frozen I was a little defensive and perhaps overly concerned with trolls.  This time I took a different approach and just decided to have fun with it. I know people feel all kinds of ways about Frozen and I explained it as best as I could.   But there are plenty of great animated films for everyone so hopefully you can enjoy hearing my thoughts on one I enjoy.

The other 4 films are also worth seeing (no Shark Tale skunks in this year!).

Ernest and Celestine- Done by some of the same team that did The Illusionist and The Triplets of Belleville.  This is a watercolor sketchbook style story about an unlikely friendship between a mouse and a bear.  They kind of become bandits and the friendship evolves over time and then when both are put on trial they teach their societies something important about love, labeling and racism.  A real gem of an animated film (and can also be very funny).

Despicable Me 2- I think the Despicable Me movies are just ok and I wasn’t a big fan of Minions, so I wasn’t sure what I’d think of Despicable Me 2 on the rewatch.  I think the disappointment of Minions actually made me appreciate this film even more.  It has a lot of solid laughs, which didn’t happen in Minions.  I really like seeing Gru with the 3 little girls and being an overprotective Dad.  The Minions are also funnier in small doses than the main attraction.  It’s no masterpiece but a decent comedy for kids.

The Wind Rises- The strongest competition for Frozen.  A great film that just gives us the life of a man and we decide what we think of him and his dreams.  It is a story about hope and how a dream can carry you through tough times.  It is a magic-free film from Miyazaki about the life of a airplane designer named Jiro during World War II.  It made my top 50 animated countdown so clearly I love it.   It goes without saying the animation is stunning.

The Croods-  This was a new one for me from Dreamworks.  I’d heard bad things about the film and you know what? I actually enjoyed it.  I liked it was about a family and thought the script was pretty funny.  I liked how the created new animals and world for them to meet.  It made it unpredictable and surprising.  I liked the voice cast especially Nicholas Cage who has a freak-out even animated!  It’s not a masterpiece but liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

I’d still give the Oscar to Frozen because I think it has the best characters, music, story and everything else.  One of my favorite animated films from Disney.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  🙂

Is Animation for Children?

Today I want to talk about a topic that is constantly at the forefront of the online animation fandom discussion.  Is animation for kids?  In fact, just last week I called in with a question to the Rotoscopers about why Hotel Transylvania 2 would have Mel Brooks, a star probably not familiar to children, for only 15 minutes of the film?  To me that makes no sense.  They had some insight but Mason said ‘animation isn’t for kids’.  So evidently Mel Brooks in his mind was brought into the film for the adults watching not the children.

Fair enough.  I can buy that but I do have a few things to say on this topic.

As far as I can see it you have 3 groupings of animated films. 

You have films made for just children.

movies for kids2
This collage is just 4 movies made primarily for children. Whether the are good movies is up for debate. The target demographic is why I picked them.

These are movies you drop the kids off and they have a great experience.  But they aren’t made for adults nor should they have to be.  There are even different ages of children films like say Sesame Street is made for kindergarten aged children and it won’t appeal to older kids.  Not everything should have to be everything to everyone.  That said it is not an excuse to be lazy just because ‘it is for kids’.

Then you have movies that are made for adults. 

OneDrive24These movies are often rated R or a hard PG-13.  They are pretty rare but they can be a beautiful part of the animated landscape.  In these films typically there is little to no attempt to appeal to small children as the content is not appropriate for them.  Whether they are fine for older children and teenagers is up to parents, but the primary audience is mature adults. These films I treat like any live action film for adults. Some of them have content I can tolerate and others are too much.

Then we get to movies that are made for both children and adults.

adults and childrenI would say this is the majority of animated films.  It certainly includes all the Disney Canon films, all Pixar, Dreamworks and Studio Ghibli.  None of these studios have made films that are exclusively adult that I am aware of.

Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame_gargoylesLet’s take a film like Hunchback of Notre Dame.  I got a lot of flack in my review for pointing out the marketing of the film.  I showed the Hunchback nursery rhyme tape and the Burger King kids meal tie-in.  Why did I do this?  Because it was to counter anyone who might claim ‘well that movie was made for adults’.   My response is ‘no it’s not’.  It was clearly made and marketed  to children; therefore, I have the right to call it out when I feel like the content is not appropriate for children.  If they wanted to make a movie like Akira or Chico and Rita that is for adults I would applaud them but that’s not what Disney did.  They added singing gargoyles to appeal to children so when I see disturbing violence and sexuality frankly discussed it is within my rights to say ‘wait a minute…’.

If you are fine with that content for your kids no judgement from me, but I at least think it is worth discussing the value of such content in a film aimed at children.  It was made with kids in mind therefore it should be judged as such.

return to ozReturn to Oz is another one people claim ‘it wasn’t made for kids’. Hogwash.  You don’t make a movie with a moose sled that sings if you aren’t trying to appeal to children. Therefore, it is appropriate to ask questions of whether the content is reasonable for kids.  Some say yes, I say no.   I guess that’s not animation but it scared the begeebees out of me as a kid. You’ve got a Dorothy tied down and given electro shock therapy and wheelies and a hallway of heads marketed and made for kids…Are you kidding me?

minions2Minions is another recent example.  It is a film clearly aimed at children.  They are the one’s who love the Minions most and yet we get boob, butt and torture jokes.  That’s not okay in a film for children in my book.  Perhaps I would have been less annoyed if the movie had been funny but it wasn’t so the inappropriate stuff bothered me even more.

But I feel like when I point these things out some are quick to say ‘but Rachel animation isn’t just for kids’.  I say some is, some isn’t and when something is made at least partially for them there are boundaries I don’t think should be crossed.  I just don’t.

Kids have a very limited time period to mold their intellects, moral centers and judgement, so the entertainment they see should be carefully chosen.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be challenged by a film like Wall-e or Fantasia that is artistically difficult or have an occasional joke that goes over their heads, but we should error on the side of caution.  It is also okay to introduce them to difficult topics like death, depression, or anxiety without it becoming unseemly.  Song of the Sea, Inside Out even Lion King are great examples of films for kids that helped them contemplate adult topics in an appropriate way.

over the garden wall5The other day a friend was asking me if I thought her kids would like Over the Garden Wall and as completely brilliant as I think the series is it was hard for me to answer.  It is pretty scary for a child under 6.  Scares are perhaps the area with the most leeway and variance depending on the kids.  Some kids would have no problem with Return to Oz but I did.  I hated The Rescuers because the idea of being abducted and forced down a cave was scary.  Other kids love that movie so that’s where careful parenting comes in.

The truth is I ask the same question of live action films like Marvel or Harry Potter but most of those films are made for teenagers over 13.  Most animated films are PG or lower and that means sometimes parents need guidance (Parental Guidance is what PG means after all!).  So as bloggers we can provide a service to parents to help them know what elements of a film are not appropriate for children.  I think that is a very good thing and I hope I help out my friends with kids in that department.

Regardless, I don’t think it is wrong to ask the question of an animated film ‘is this appropriate for kids’?  With the exception of the adults only films, most animated movies are made with kids at least tangentially in mind. I don’t know how that can even be argued.  As I see it, it is a fact and one the studios make billions of dollars on in merchandising and marketing.

So I will continue to ask if these animated films are for kids, and if they aren’t, I’ll tell you.  That’s my commitment to all of you!