Worst Movies of 2015

fantastic 415. Fantastic 4- I didn’t hate it quite as much as bigger comic book movie fans but it certainly isn’t good.  The characters are forgettable to muddled- especially the villain Dr Doom who’s powers and abilities made no sense.  The story didn’t work and the acting wasn’t good.  But by far the worst part was the special effects, which were some of the worst I’ve seen in a comic book movie since Superman 4.

heart of sea14. In the Heart of the Sea- A film I was looking forward too that was a big disappointment.  It was gross, dull with surprisingly poor visual effects.  I wanted an action adventure at sea and what I got was a grim survival story and not a good one at that.  The acting is fine but other than that really didn’t like it.

minions13. Minions- The cute sidekicks of Despicable Me movies can’t carry their own film.  It’s supposed to be an origin story and yet we don’t really find out anything surprising or new about them.  Most of the jokes are about the 1960s and I’m not sure why that is funny?  They didn’t get one laugh from me; nor did any other part of the movie.  I didn’t like it after first watching it and disliked it even more on the rewatch.

terminator412. Terminator Genisys- At best a forgettable entry into the terminator films but this made the huge mistake of going back into the timeline and altering some of the events of the good terminator movies! The acting is underwhelming, the plot is full of holes and it gives nothing new or different.  Arnold is good and that’s about all I can say for it.

suffragette11. Suffragette- Probably my biggest disappointment of the year.  The acting is good but I hated how it was made so much.  The extreme close-ups and shaky cam made me nuts.  I wanted to leave the theater it bothered me so much.  Also focusing on a fictional character made it all feel maudlin and predictable.  It’s a real shame when you have real life characters you could have focused on.  Meryl Streep is completely wasted in the film.

little boy10. Little Boy- I’m typically a defender of faith-based films but this one about a little boy with great faith in WW2 was a complete snoozefest.  The little boy isn’t a good actor and it definitely goes into the ‘Jesus is magic’ territory Christian films sometimes dip into.  I don’t care for that approach to faith.

strange magic9. Strange Magic- The script really sinks this animated film ‘from the mind of George Lucas’.  It’s supposed to be a ‘girl power’ movie but all the girls are dopey and stupid.  The songs are so on the nose that they became annoying.

pixels108. Pixels- The premise for Pixels could have been fun and there are a few good moments but I just can’t get over that in 2015 a woman is given to someone as a trophy for valor in a fight.  The plot is full of holes and all the women are mopey, whiny, sad sacks that need Adam Sandler and crew to save them.  Some of the visuals are cool but that’s about it.

home-poster7. Home- What a stinker from Dreamworks.  The plot makes no sense and the characters are inconsistent.  The voice talent doesn’t work.  The music seems out of place.  The ending made me roll my eyes.  I explain more about my dislike for Home in yesterdays post

Walt_Before_Mickey6. Walt Before Mickey- A movie I actually had a good time at because it is so so awful it made me laugh.  There are so many scenes I couldn’t believe what I was seeing like when Walt befriends a mouse and carries it around in his pocket talking to it.  Then he loses the mouse and goes into a panic attack looking for it.  Things like that are just too silly! So rent it if you want a good laugh.

aloha5. Aloha- What happened Cameron Crowe?  This movie is such a mess.  It’s baffling how with so many skilled actors and a place as beautiful as Hawaii he could make a movie as bad as Aloha.  It all comes down to the editing.  Most of the conversations seemed like they were spliced together from other conversations.  So  many of the plotpoints felt wedged in and then you have Emma Stone playing a Japanese woman because that makes sense…

chappie24. Chappie- There are some interesting ideas Neill Blomkamp in Chappie but unfortunately it focuses on the wrong characters.  There is a band called Die Antwoord who are some of the most shrill, awful, annoying characters I’ve seen in a film.  I hated every time they were on screen and that was a lot of the movie.  Plus, it is way more violent than it needs to be and the band takes you away from the interesting discussions and characters in Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel.

paul blart 23. Paul Blart Mall Cop 2- I actually liked the first Paul Blart but this sequel is basically a giant ad for the Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas.  We even get a tour at one point.  Not a gag works and when they don’t work they last forever.  It’s honestly like a bad Saved by the Bell episode without the warmth or charm of that series.

hot pursuit32. Hot Pursuit- A terrible buddy/road trip movie with Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara playing shrill, unlikable, awful women.  All of Sophia’s bad behavior and traits are excused because she’s Columbian or a hot latino which I found to be a little racist and uncomfortable.  There’s over the top gags that don’t work and the lesbian jokes never stopped.  I honestly don’t understand how anyone making this movie thought this stuff was funny.

ridiculous 6-3

1. Ridiculous 6- How could there be something worse than Hot Pursuit?  Well, leave it to Adam Sandler and company in this atrocious Western parody.  It is gross, racist, bigoted, awful and way too long.  The actors should all be embarrassed.  Netflix should be embarrassed.  No wonder Native American extras and representatives walked off the set.  Even with how awful Adam Sandler movies have been of late, I  couldn’t believe how bad the Ridiculous 6 was.

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Best Movies of 2015

I don’t know if you guys enjoy end of the year lists as much as I do but it s always fun to see both the highlights and lowlights of the year of movies.  Next week we will dive into the low but today let’s talk about the best of the year! I ended up doing a top 15 because I had 15 films I felt were worthy of a shout out.

15. When Marnie was There-

when marnie9Studio Ghibli’s beautiful final film is a magical realism story of a family rescuing a girl from deep depression.  Lush, beautiful animation with incredible sound design and an emotional core that stayed with me long after I saw it.

14. Testament of Youth-

testament-of-youth-posterAn underrated film about a woman in World War 1 in Britain.  She starts out with idealism and through working as a nurse she see’s the reality of war including getting to serve the enemy for a time. Moving, beautiful and fine performances from all involved including Alicia Vikander.

13. Creed-

creed3Creed is a wonderful boxing movie and a great Rocky movie to boot.  Michael B Jordan brings heart as Adonis Creed and Sylvester Stallone is wonderful back as Rocky.  The boxing scenes are shot seamlessly and it’s a story that will make you want to cheer.

12. The Rewrite-

rewrite 7If you love old school romantic comedies then hunt down The Rewrite.  It’s the kind of movie I haven’t seen made for so long.  The kind of thing Nora Ephron used to write.  With a terrific cast starring Hugh Grant, Marissa Tomei, JK Simmons, and Alison Janey, we get great writing about work, books, teaching, movies, writing and more.  May be the movie from 2015 I rewatch the most because I loved it so much.

11. Mad Max Fury Road-

mad maxOne of the most insane experiences I had at the theater this year.  I felt exhausted after the intense experience but in an exciting way.  It was something I had never seen before and the apocalyptic battles were so well done.  I loved the strong female characters and the fact they weren’t pandered too.  They were just cool characters no girl power slogans required. Way out of my comfort zone but a great film.

10. Freetown

freetownOne of the best faith based films I’ve ever seen.  Freetown tells the moving story of a group of missionaries who must be smuggled out of Liberia to Freetown.  It is not a film of dogmatic, preachy like many faith based films.  Instead it has characters that struggle with doubt under extreme pressure and stress and their faith helps them survive.  Well made, acted and a good story make it a film I think anyone can respond too.

9. The Good Dinosaur

good dino23The second film from Pixar for the year was an emotional heroes journey of young Arlo trying to conquer his fears and find his way back home.  I found the old fashioned Disney feel to be refreshing and something we haven’t seen from Pixar yet.  The animation was stunning and I loved the relationship between Arlo and Spot.

8. Brooklyn

Brooklyn6The moving story of an Irish immigrant in 1952 who tries to make a home for herself in Brooklyn.  It really asks the question of ‘what is home?’ and I loved seeing the immigrant journey play out.  The performances are great, it looks beautiful and it was a sweet, old fashioned story you don’t see from Hollywood every day.

7. Paddington-

paddingtonPaddington is probably my biggest surprise of 2015.  I thought it was going to be a big stinker from the trailers but I ended up loving it.  The journey of Paddington being left on the train station was surprisingly emotion and yet funny and sweet at the same time.  The performances from Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville and Julie Walters were so lovely and all the details like the sets and design of Paddington were wonderful.  Most CG/Live action hybrid films are awful (think Smurfs, Yogi Bear) so that makes Paddington even more of an achievement.

6. Cinderella

cinderella 2015Cinderella gave me hope for the Disney live action remakes.  As a Cinderella aficionado I loved just about everything in this film. Lily James and Cate Blanchett are great and I loved the message of kindness and courage.  The sets, art design and costumes were top notch.  I liked they changed a few things from the cartoon but nothing that fundamentally altered the story.

5. The Peanuts Movie

peanutsThis is how you do an adaptation of a beloved franchise! I was so worried this would end up like The Smurfs but I was completely charmed by The Peanuts Movie.  I loved seeing Charlie Brown gain the confidence to talk to the Red Haired Girl.  I loved Snoopy and the Red Baron.  I loved all the other characters and the fact they stayed innocent and sweet.  I loved the hybrid animation and how it looked both rich and flat at the same time.  The voice acting was perfect and music worthy of Peanuts.

4. The Martian

martianI loved both the book and movie of The Martian.  My favorite thing about both was what a nice guy Mark is- a lesser author would have made him all brooding and conflicted.  Instead we get someone we want to see succeed and cheer for.  Matt Damon is great as Mark and I loved seeing him tackle each challenge that came his way.  Ridley Scott does a great job capturing the red planet and the entire cast does a magnificent job fleshing out characters out of small parts.  It’s a movie that will make you feel fantastic

3. Spotlight

spotlight5The movie that inspired me the most in 2015.  You’d think the story of the investigation of the Catholic priest molestation scandal would be depressing but while it is certainly sobering I left the theater wanting to do something for my fellow man.  It was empowering and so well acted/written.   It’s as close to a perfectly executed film as I saw all year.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

force awakens posterThe most anticipated film of 2015 lived up to the hype.  Some say it is the best Star Wars film ever.  I don’t know if I’d go that far but what a great return to form for a galaxy far, far, away.  I loved all the new characters and how they meshed with the old.  I loved the grittiness and some of the storylines we’ve never seen in a Star Wars film.  I’ve seen it twice and each time walked away with a huge smile on my face. Great performances from all involved and a tremendous job by JJ Abrams as the director.  It was the movie that entertained me the most so it gets 2nd on my list

  1. Inside Out

inside out3Pixar made not only my favorite film of 2015 but one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen.  I was so moved by both Riley’s and Joy’s journeys as they figured out what happiness and sadness mean.  The world building was brilliant the heart was beautiful, the humor worked perfectly.  I loved the animation and the ending gets me every time.  A perfect film in my eyes that I like more every time I see it.

 

 

Best of 2014 Revisited

At the beginning of the year I posted my ‘best of 2014‘ but at that point I hadn’t seen many films from 2014.   Now that it is August I have gotten through most of the releases and my best of list has changed a bit.  I still really like all of the films I picked but they have just moved to honorable mentions.   Maleficent is still my worst of 2014.  None of those have changed.

Here’s the new video I made with my updated top 11.

And most of these we’ve hashed out to death but feel free to put your comments below anyway. Just one gals opinion!

My new picks are:

11. Captain America Winter Soldier

capt 210. American Sniper

american sniper9. Interstellar

interstellar38. Lego Moviethe_lego_movie_2014-wide7. Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians of the galaxy6. Tale of Princess Kaguya

kaguya horizontal 15. The Good Lie

good lie4. Edge of Tomorrow

edge-of-tomorrow-poster-33. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-poster2. Song of the Sea

song of the sea41. Boyhood

Boyhood-poster-quad

Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (10-1)

10. Fantasia- Like going to the greatest concert and art gallery of your life together.  It is a rich and textured experience that teaches me something new every time I see it.  I notice new details or am inspired with how the music tells the story I hadn’t seen before.  It goes everywhere from Greek myths, to Mickey Mouse, to dinosaurs, to the Devil himself.  That’s why I don’t get it when people say it is boring.  I really don’t.  I think some people just don’t like classical music but I do and I think Fantasia is a bold stunning achievement in animation. (I know I had Tangled higher in my ranking but only barely).

fantasia

9. Secret of Nimh- Has one of my favorite protagonists of any movie ever.  Mrs Brisby doesn’t want to be a hero.  She is scared, visibly shaking at times, but will do anything to save her son.  The story is deep and has just enough magic to make it unpredictable.  The animation is so lovely full of light when it needs to be and darkness when appropriate.  It will make you cry, you will walk away inspired and wanting to discuss with your friends the wonderful story you’ve been a part of.  Bravo Don Bluth! (Even if you did leave  Disney to do this movie in a w ay you shouldn’t have!)

artistic18. Song of the Sea- This was a film that I sat in the theater for about 10 minutes and wept.  Not just tears but all out cried.  It made me think of my cousin and her little boy who she left behind.  The journey Ben goes on to forgive his Mother (and his sister) is so moving.  Like Nimh there is just the right amount of magic and mysticism with his sister being selkie and the owls and everything else.  It tackles grief in such a loving beautiful way it is something I could watch as part of my Bible study (not a Christian film I’m just saying it tackles those weighty issues perfectly).  It also looks so beautiful and perhaps the lack of 2D animation made it especially stunning.  I wish I had been able to see it in 2014 because it would definitely have been my favorite animated film of the year.

song of the sea37. Prince of Egypt- Dreamworks you made the top 10. Congrats! :).  Prince of Egypt is Dreamworks masterpiece IMO.   Take out the scheming priests and their song and I think it is a perfect film.  I love the reverence and awe we feel at the burning of the bush and the parting of the red sea.  I love the music and all the voice performances.  I love how it focuses on the brothers and how painful it is for them to be at war with each other.  It’s another one that I could watch as part of my Bible study because it is from the Bible!  I don’t know why they don’t have it on blu-ray.  Get it together Dreamworks!

artistic26. Toy Story- This may surprise you guys but I recently rewatched it and was so completely charmed by the story.  In a way Woody is the CEO or President of the room when here comes this new shiny toy to challenge his leadership.  The voicework is perfect as we all know.  The jokes are funny.  The scenes at Sid’s house are touching and exciting.  Toy Story is about the perils of jealousy and how we can forgive others who have seemingly wronged us.  It also is about growing up and seeing things as  they truly are not as we wish them to be.  Both are Buzz and Woody’s journey and I relate to their experiences, which is pretty amazing when you think they are toys.   It has so many memorable lines and I guess when push comes to shove of the 3 Toy Story movies this is the one I’ve loved the longest.  I can’t think of anything I would change about it.

5. Cinderella- I love Cinderella.  You guys all know that and Disney’s Cinderella is such a special movie.  The songs are perfection especially lesser known songs like Sing Sweet Nightangale.  That sequence takes my breath away.  The animation throughout is lush and layered and beautiful.  Cinderella is a character who works so hard and so unlike other princeses who need to get rescued she brings her own rescue to her.  When she gets her dress ripped to shreds it is completely devastating and she almost loses her faith and that’s when the rescue comes.  So it is for many of us.  I love Lady Tremaine as a villain.  I love the mice and Lucifer.  Perhaps the scenes with the King and Duke go on a little long but it helps us get to know the Prince so that is good.  I just love it!

cinderella24. Little Mermaid-  If I was going on just nostalgia Little Mermaid would be #1.  What can I say that I haven’t already said about this movie.  I love Ariel and relate to her quest to find where she belongs.  I love the Ashman/Menken songs.  I think Ursula is a brilliant villain unlike any other with her drag queen looks and trucker voice.  I love all the bubbles and the ocean (you know I always love the ocean!).  I think Eric is a really cool Prince who we get to see interact and be quite tender to Ariel.  I just love it.

littlemermaid_lg

3. Spirited Away- Hands down the most original movie I’ve ever seen.  I remember the first time I watched it I sat dumbfounded, mouth agape.  I had no idea what was coming up next.  Was it going to be the boy who turns into a dragon or a giant baby or the weird lady who ruled the bathhouse?  Every scene is a surprise and delight.  Everything is challenging and interesting.  We get to see the young girl grow up, get a job, figure things out on her own and become strong through all of these spirits who are sometimes tough to figure out.  Are they evil or good?  Sometimes we don’t know.  The animation is breathtaking.  The story amazing.  It’s a masterpiece in every way possible.

artistic92. Beauty and the Beast- This is another movie that has a high sentimental value for me both because I loved it as a 10 year old girl and I went to see the Broadway show with my cousin Lisa on our trip 4 months before she passed away.  There are a few little plotholes but it doesn’t matter a bit.  As far as fairytales in animation it doesn’t get better than this. The animation is sweeping and beautiful.  Belle is such a likable character who reads and is independent.  The character of Gaston is interesting because he’s basically the town hero and he lets one person not liking him eat at him until he is a mad man.  All the side characters are a delight and the Ashman/Menken music is the best ever in all of Disney.

Disney BEAUTY & THE BEAST 3D

1. Up-  This actually wasn’t a hard decision for me to make.  Up is my favorite movie, animated or not.  The first 10 minutes of the life of Carl and Ellie is something I have seen countless times and it still makes me cry.  What’s amazing is we see Ellie for minutes and yet she is an active presence throughout the rest of that movie.  Carl talks to her, he feels her there.  That reminds me the people I love who have passed are an important part of my life even though they are gone.  If you’ve ever felt weighed down by grief and loss you will relate to what Carl is going through.  He feels so guilty for the life he gave Ellie.  He has this regret that I think many of us experience no matter how much time we have with those we love.  The movie is about how going on this great adventure helps him come to terms with that grief.  But then it is also very funny and sweet with Doug, Russell and Kevin.  Plus, a villain voiced by Christopher Plummer.  Sign me up! It’s beautifully animated and the music is perfect.  It’s a movie I could watch every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of.  When Carl reads that note from his wife at the end it is almost as emotional as the beginning.  Perfection.

up2My youtube review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tangled flynn and rapunzel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

anna and elsa

Here is my youtube review

Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (40-31)

40. Aladdin- I know for some people Aladdin would make their top 10 but I’ve never been as big a fan as most people even though I do like it (hey it made this list!).  It’s a ton of fun with one of the most iconic performances in all of Disney.  The Menken/Ashman/Rice songs are wonderful.aladdin and jasmine39. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- vastly underrated superhero movie with terrific vocal performances.  Actually my favorite batman movie.  I think the animation is also underrated.  Get it on blu-ray studio!

batman mask38. Persepolis- One of most unique animated films I’ve ever seen.  About a girl growing up in the Iranian Revolution.  It looks striking, with an extremely likable lead character and a story with a lot of layers of family, personal and political drama.persepolis237. Big Hero 6- I was really moved by the relationship of Hiro and Tadashi. A lovely film about grief and remembering those who have past on while also being a superhero movie with a diverse, funny group unlike any I’ve seen before.  I love Baymax so much and SanFransokyo was so creative and beautiful.BigHero6Team36. Snow White and 7 Dwarves- I realize this is a little out of sync with my Disney rankings but this where I felt it fit in this list.  Snow White is not just great because it was first but it holds up remarkably well.  It’s funny, sweet, scary and has great songs.  I love how the Queen is the queen but it isn’t enough for her.  She also has to be prettiest in the land.Snow-White-and-Prince35. Iron Giant- A lovely animated story by Brad Bird about a boy in 1950s who finds a giant and has to keep it from the government.  Love the animation, story, everything. iron giant234. Mulan- Underrated Disney movie with a strong female heroine, good laughs, strong ensemble of characters, sweeping battle animation, great score and fun songs.  Only weakness is lame boring villain. mulan and li shang33. Corpse Bride- a beautiful ghost story with haunting music and a visual style that I actually like even better than Nightmare Before Christmas.  The story isn’t quite as layered or interesting and the characters not as good as Nightmare but I still love it.  There is enough story of the unlikely match thrown together for me to love it. corpse bride32. Lion King- Another one I’m sure people will be upset having so low but I love Lion King.  That’s why it beat out 18 other films.  It’s epic, beautiful, heartfelt and has an amazing villain.  Some of the pop elements, juvenile humor and way they handle Can You Feel Love Tonight I could do without.  Still hugely satisfying engaging film about whether we take the easy way out or the tough one that we are destined for. It’s also some of Disney’s most glorious animation they ever did. lion king231. Dumbo- It depresses me that so many outside the animation community see Dumbo as a racist Disney movie.  That or it is ‘too sad’.  It has its perhaps questionable segments but at its core is a message about acceptance of people and their differences.  The relationship between Timothy Q Mouse and Dumbo is sweet.  The watercolor artwork is lovely capturing the bright colors of the circus.  The elephants dream is weird and a delight. I love it! Walt-Disney-Screencaps-Timothy-Q-Mouse-Dumbo-walt-disney-characters-23109179-2560-1536-1024x614Here’s my video on this list:

Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (50-41)

So I have a fun series I am going to be doing over the next 5 few weeks.  I have meticulously came up with my top 50 animated films.  This isn’t the most impactful or the best made.  It is just my favorite.  For example, I know Pinocchio is a masterpiece and I do appreciate it.  It’s just not a favorite of mine.  So you will disagree with many of these but you can make your own list ;)!

Nevertheless, love to hear your feedback.  It was very tough to do.  I also am still working through anime so there may be some of your favorites I haven’t seen.  Pretty much any movie on this 50 I would give an A too so I love them all even if it is 50th place.

I tried to keep this list in general order of my Disney Ranking but there may be a few things I’ve changed so don’t hold me to that.

50. Watership Down- dark, disturbing, violent and has a lot to say about political systems, social structures and how we rationalize away the dignity of others.

watership down2

49. Ponyo- Gorgeous take on Little Mermaid by Studio Ghibli is weird, different and incredibly creative.  A movie I could watch with the sound turned off and still love.  It is also cute and Ghibli’s most child-friendly film outside of Totoro (which is coming later). You know me- I love anything to do with the ocean.

artistic648. Lady and the Tramp– An underrated Disney gem.  A sweet and simple story of the dogs from different sides of the track falling in love.  I love the Norman Rockwell artistry and the jazz Peggy Lee soundtrack. And spaghetti is my favorite food so cant go wrong with that!

Lady-and-the-Tramp-247. Wallace and Gromit:  The Curse of the Were Rabbit- Based on the characters from Nick Park’s animated shorts, we get a witty, sweet claymation story of crazy inventor Wallace and his wise dog Gromit as they try to rid the town of a mutant rabbit eating all their vegetables.

wallace and gromit46. How to Train Your Dragon 2- A rare sequel that is better than the original.  The flying sequences are gorgeous, real heart with the family drama and an epic quality that is tough to pull off in animated films.  For kids that are too young for Lord of the Rings this is a great option.

How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-2-Hiccup-Toothless45. Charlotte’s Web- EB White’s story of the plucky pig and his spider friend comes alive with songs from the Sherman Brothers and great voice casting including Debbie Reynolds and Paul Lynde.

charlotte web44. Atlantis: The Lost Empire– I know I’m in the minority on this one but I love Atlantis.  I love the diversity of the team and how hilarious they all are.  I love the fight sequences and the steampunk look to everything.  I think the culture and language they created is great.

atlantis243. Paranoman- An underrated movie that is legitimately scary yet sweet and full of good laughs.  Made more for teenagers than little children (especially the humor) but not too grown up.  It’s hard to believe it is stop motion it is so seamless. The message at the end is a unique take on bullying with the bullied girl becoming the bully and how they can talk her down.

paranorman42. Land Before Time-   Beautifully animated tail of dinosaurs little one’s making it to the promised land of sorts.  Sweet, sad with nice music.

land before time41. Toy Story 2– I know woefully low for this movie but what can I say this is where it landed. Toy Story 2 is a great movie.  With great humor, camaraderie and an interesting dilemma for Woody about how he wants to live his life.

toy story2-4Get ready next week for the 40-31!

Here’s my youtube video on it.

District Tag

My friend over at the Lawn Gnome has just posted a neat tag based on the Hunger Games with different movies/books for each of the 13 Districts.  I’m actually not a big Hunger Games fan (yes I know you can all be shocked…) but you don’t really need to be to have fun with this tag.  So, I thought I would bring it over to the blogging world and give you my picks for both movies and books.

First here is his video:

So here is the tag-
District 1 Luxury: Pick a (BOOK/MOVIE) with lots of opulence.

For movie I will pick Citizen Kane based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, one of the richest men in American history.  It’s wildly regarded as the greatest movie ever made and literally every shot can be studied for its lighting, subject matter, cinematography and everything else.

citizen kaneI had a hard time thinking about a book about opulence but decided on Rebecca by  Daphne Du Maurier.  In it a girl falls in love with a rich mysterious man and when she marries him she becomes the new head of an equally mysterious large grand mansion

rebecca-by-daphne-du-maurier
District 2 Masonry/ weaponry: pick a (BOOK/MOVIE)with a great war or conflict.

There are a lot of good war movies but I’m going to go with a recent great movie, American Sniper. In Sniper I felt like I was down with the marines going house to house looking for people.  It was a totally different kind of war than I have ever seen before and I was really moved by it.

APphoto_Film Review American SniperAs far as books about war in thinking about it I realized most of the books I have read about war are about prisoners or civilians during a war.  As far as actual battle, soldier books the one that came to mind is Shiloh by Shelby Foote. Some people would probably find this book boring because it methodically takes you through one single battle in the Civil War that in Foote’s opinion changed everything.  It isn’t the Antietam or Gettysburg that we know more about but the Battle of Shiloh.  It’s fascinating, gripping, tragic and will make you feel immersed in history like few other books.

shiloh

District 3 Technology: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with a technological twist.

A movie with a technological twist I will go with Gattaca.  A science fiction film with tremendous heart and great performances about a society who has created genetically perfect people known as valids who are considered superior to traditionally conceived people who are invalids.  Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law are great in it.

gattacaI’m going to give a little shout out to The Giver by Lois Lowry which is such a moving book that turned into a rather pedestrian movie. Kind of like Gattaca a perfect society has been created where all the best choices have been determined and diversity in the slightest is eliminated. People’s senses are lulled except for a man named The Giver who knows all that has been forgotten about human experience.  Jonas, our hero, becomes the apprentice to the Giver and as he see’s the world in a whole new way it makes you think about your own world and the choices you have made.  Great book.

giverDistrict 4 Fishing: Pick a water based (BOOK/MOVIE)

I love to swim so movies in and around water are some of my favorites.  Since you all know I love Finding Nemo, Little Mermaid and Song of the Sea let me dive a little deeper (excuse the pun…) and pick something more obscure.  I love the little British movie On a Clear Day about a man who decides he is stuck in his life and is going to swim the English Channel.  As an open water swimmer I relate to his story but on a slightly smaller scale

on a clear dayFor my swimming books I will do another obscure read that I think would make a great movie- The Great Swim by Gavin Mortimer.  This tells the true story of Gertrude Ederle, Mille Gade, Lillian Cannon, and Clarabelle Barrette who were the first women to swim the English Channel.  It is fascinating for the stories of the 4 women, their personalities and histories, but also the differences in the press and celebrity then and now. A great read! great swim
District 5 Electricity: Pick a powerful (BOOK/MOVIE) .

The first film that came to my mind when I thought of powerful movies is Hoop Dreams.  This is an amazing documentary by Steve James where he follows the lives of 2 inner city boys who dream of becoming professional basketball players.  It is heart wrenching and it goes places fiction couldn’t go.  It’s so profound about how our dreams are our inspiration and also our undoing at times.  It’s about everything that makes up a life. It’s without question one of the best movies ever made.

Hoop_dreamsposterOne of the most powerful books I’ve ever read is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  It tells the true story of Dutch old maid Corrie and her sister Betsie who are sent to Auschwitz for hiding Jews from the Nazis.   Her sister is unflappable in her determination to be grateful and positive in the absolute worst of situations while Corrie is a bit more of a realist, a little more sarcastic.  In the end her message of courage, faith and forgiveness is one I will never forget.

hiding place
District 6 Transportation: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) that takes place in many locations.

A movie that takes place in many locations I will go with the movie that has a map showing the characters zip around the globe- Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Just in the first few minutes he goes from Boston, to Nepal, to Cairo.

raidersThere are a lot of travel narratives I love so I could have picked any of those but I will pick Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose about the Lewis and Clarke expedition. Kind of like Shiloh, Undaunted Courage is a historical narrative without any fiction.  Just the history but it is gripping, well researched and gives you a new appreciation for America in its raw form.

undaunted courage

District 7 Lumber: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with manual labor.

This isn’t farming but if you consider cooking manual labor then I love Babette’s Feast. It’s a Danish film about a woman who is a refuge and is welcomed in by 2 women and their friends who abstain from luxuries and eat very bland food.  She wins the lottery and gets a chance to cook the way she has dreamed of. It’s a beautiful movie about work and how when we find out what we are supposed to contribute to the world that is when we are really fulfilled even if it is just cooking one meal.

babettes feast2

I could have picked Grapes of Wrath for my movie as well but thought I’d have a little variety.  Nobody does a setting like John Steinbeck.  You can feel the dust and sun pounding down on the Joads family.  It is a book that is depressing in a way but it is also very unpredictable with a complicated notion of right and wrong and characters who wish they could work more than the land allows them too

grapes of wrath
District 8 Textiles: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with amazing clothes!

The movie with amazing clothes I thought of is  Anna Karenina with Oscar winning costumes by Jacqueline Durran. The entire visual style of this movie is so inventive and different.  Joe Wright with his amazing cast and production values elevate it beyond the typical costume drama.  A lot of that goes back to the amazing costumes.

anna karreninaThe best book about clothes I am going to go with Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisenberg (I love the movie too) which is a great book/movie about work. Andy must learn to work with the devilish Miranda Priestly.  It’s a story about what you will sacrifice for work and how little choices bit by bit you can lose your soul to the office.  It’s also very funny with a lot of satire about the fashion world and everything else.

The_Devil_Wears_Prada_coverDistrict 9 Grain: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) where food is hard to come by.

Interestellar is a really good choice but since The Lawn Gnome chose that I am going to go with Cast Away. Tom Hanks is brilliant as the man who is shipwrecked on an island and must learn to survive.  When he gets fire it is a triumphant moment and the depth of feeling we get for a volleyball is profound. The film is weakened when he returns back to civilization and becomes more trite but the hungry part is great.

cast awayI couldn’t really think of a good hunger book so I will go with the oldest of standby’s The Bible.  When the Children of Israel are starving and God sends them manna in the wilderness which was sweet as milk and honey.  This kept them alive for 40 years but only if used within the guidelines set out by God.  If those rules were broken it became rotten and bug infested.  A great reminder that God will bless us if we are obedient and seek to follow Him.

mannaDistrict 10 Livestock: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with an animal in it.

Got to go with Babe, one of the best family movies ever made IMO.  A sweet simple story with real heart and humor about the pig that wants to be a sheepdog.

babeFor books I will pick Black Beauty by Anna Sewell which is a simple book about a horse’s life as he passes from one master to another.  Some are cruel, some kind but always engrossing. She really does pack a ton of story into the life of a horse.

black beauty
District 11 Agriculture: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) where a character comes to a harsh gritty reality.

I will say Les Miserables. Fantine realizes the lowliness she will stoop in order to save her daughter. It is only a last gesture by a kind man that saves her story from being 100% tragic but it is a harsh gritty reality for sure.

fantine

For a book I will go with a play, A Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.  It’s a gut wrenching story of a man who realizes his life is a failure, his son is mediocre and it is his fault.  I normally don’t like downers but since it is a brief play and its characters are so vivid I have always been drawn to it.  I love movies, books, plays about work and this is certainly one of the most sobering. I guess you could call it a cautionary tale. DeathOfASalesmanDistrict 12 Mining: Pick a dark and sinister(BOOK/MOVIE) !

Well there aren’t many dark and sinister movies I like as you all know. There’s a few ghost stories I like and some funny scary movies like Ghostbusters but all of those have a certain lightness about them.  Maybe since I haven’t talked about it yet on the blog I will go with Strangers on a Train.  It’s a Hitchcock about two men who decide to murder for the other person.  It’s creepy and weird and one of his less well known films.

strangers on a trainAs few dark and creepy movies I like, there are even fewer books.  I could pick the old Grimm’s Fairytales but I will pick a very creepy scary children’s book called Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace about a girl who is orphaned and sent to live at the home she remembers fondly of her aunt and uncle.  Now it is a strange home for the elderly but everyone is controlled by the evil Mrs.Meeching.  Any of you read it?

peppermints in parlor

I forgot about District 13 which is appropriate because it’s The Forgotten District: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) that’s “under ground” that not many people know about.

I will go with a film I bet none of you have heard of it is Lili starring Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrar. It is a lovely story about a girl who can’t seem to relate to anyone except for some puppets but she forgets the man behind the puppets a brooding ex-dancer who lost his moment in the spotlight. It’s got stunning dance sequences, Caron is at her best, Oscar winning music and a surrealist art direction.

liliAs far as underrated books there are a lot but I love a little book called The Delicacy and Strength of Lace by James Wright and Leslie Marmon Silko.  It is the correspondence between these two poets as they became friends through writing to each other.  I love letter writing and love poetry so it is the hat trick of things Rachel likes.  I also love that it isn’t romantic but merely a friendship over words.  It’s out of print but if you can find a lovely little read.

delicacy

Because he does both book and movie reviews I am going to tag Richard at https://velociraptor256.wordpress.com/.

Another blogger with an eclectic blog I will tag is the POMAD https://pomadness.wordpress.com/

And finally my book club leader and fabulous book blogger who also occasionally blogs about movies Suey’s Books. http://sueysbooks.blogspot.com/

If you are tagged you can pick both or just do books or movies.  Have fun!

And anyone else who wants to do it go for it!