Jackie Review

jackie32016 has been a tremendous year for indies. I have been disappointed by most of the franchise releases and found relief in indie films like Love and Friendship, Hell or High Water and Everybody Wants Some. However, not all the heralded indies have worked for me, and I’m afraid I have to add Pablo Larrain’s latest Jackie to the dislike pile. I can see why others are drawn to it but it actively irritated me with the choices it made.

jackieJackie tells the story of first lady Jackie Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband President John F Kennedy. Natalie Portman plays Jackie and we get to see her in different eras including in flashback guiding TV cameras through her recently renovated White House. Then we go back and forth between the day of the shooting, an interview 9 days later, and the planning of the funeral.

The problem is Pablo Larrain chose to portray Jackie as a flat emotionally distant character. I cannot understand why they decided to make her so robotic. I joked with a friend afterwards that I kept expecting it to turn into Westworld at the end and she be a robot. Even when she is saying emotional things it doesn’t feel emotional because of the robotic delivery. I got the impression that Larrain and the team didn’t like or admire Jackie very much to portray her in this way.

I’m really surprised this film is getting the praise it is because to me it made very heavy-handed decisions. Like do we really need to hear ‘Camelot’ played not once but twice over montages of Jackie drinking or smoking? Talk about laying it on thick…

jackie2In some ways you can tell Jackie is made by a non-American (Pablo Larrain is Chilean). It feels like if I were to go to a museum of Canadian history. It’s all important stuff and I am interested in it but I have no personal attachment to the events on display. That’s what Larrain’s treatment of Jackie felt like. She was cold, distant and thoroughly bland. She had to be more interesting than this script portrays her as!  There were a few moments where she manipulates the reporter that were satisfying but that’s about it.

There is a good line where she talks about how she never spent the night with her husband. Now that is a devastating revelation. That’s a revelation that could have been interesting to explore. This seemingly perfect couple that really wasn’t. But the film doesn’t dive into that. It merely keeps adding on the robotic scenes of her packing and insisting on having a Lincoln-like funeral for her husband.

Honestly, the longer the movie went on the more annoyed I got. It was so repetitive in its choices that it never engaged me. It seems a shame that such a fascinating woman would get such a dull, one-note portrayal. Sure it is well made and shot with accurate costumes/production values, but I did not enjoy watching it. I didn’t even think Portman was that good but it isn’t really her fault as the script and direction gives her little to work with.

Some people had issues with the storytelling of Sully this year but at least that was about  a fully fledged person with light and darkness, pain and joys. This is just a robot woman who happened to be first lady. Not for me

The whole time I kept wishing I could watch Grey Gardens instead. Now that has some characters! There is no way any woman related to them could be so boring.

Overall Grade- C-

I will say this is a very mild R rating with a couple of F words and some blood from the assassination.

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Worst Movies of 2016

All right.  The gloves are out. It’s time to take out the trash with the worst films I saw in 2016! I still have some best movie candidates to see so that list may not be for a while but I felt pretty confident in the junk. So here goes! (this is very therapeutic for us film fans!)

15. Suicide Squad-

Incompetently made. Doesn’t feel finished. Hated the Joker. The first act of the movie is Amanda Waller sitting at a table looking at binder. Enchantress was horrible. The script was full of inconsistencies and problems. The fact it made so much money is proof people will see anything with a superhero label on it these days except Fantastic 4.

suicide squad cereal14. X-Men Apocalypse-

This movie annoyed me more than any other live action superhero movie of 2016. It had a fractured story interrupted by callbacks to better XMen movies. It ditches the metaphor that makes the franchise special in favor of a big boring villain in Apocalypse. This is the kind of movie that made me turn against superhero movies for 3 years after seeing Green Lantern. And we get to see Pyslocke in a skimpy outfit fighting at Auschwitz. Just no

xmen apocolypse213. The 5th Wave

One of the most cynical movies I saw all year. I hate these dystopian teen movies and this is one of the worst. It is violent and boring with a twist that is so obvious. None of the characters have any personality or heart to them especially the males. It’s awful. My only hope with it is that with it and Allegiant doing poorly we won’t be getting any more of them.

5th-wave12. God’s of Egypt

White washing issues proved to be the least of this movie’s problems. There is some ‘so bad it’s good’ enjoyment to be had here but holy cow this is awful. Everything is over the top and ridiculous and unintentionally humorous. The characters are inconsistent. Entire storylines do not matter and are forgotten by the script and the acting is hilariously bad.

gods of egypt411. Huntsman: Winter’s War

Sequels to bad movies are typically a bad idea and that is certainly the case with this movie. It can’t decide what it wants to be. It is part sequel, part prequel, part Frozen rip-off and all bad. The acting is awful from normally reliable actors like Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt. The production does look pretty good but the story makes no sense and you just feel embarrassed for all involved while watching.

huntsman-winters-war10. Mother’s Day

It’s a shame Garry Marshall had to leave us with this dud. He could be a great storyteller but this has nothing insightful to say about mothering or motherhood. All of the mothers depicted are caricatures who oddly do almost no mothering in the film. It wasn’t funny. The performances are awful and 2 parent characters are shockingly offensive and not in a funny way.

mothers-day9. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

I LOVE the original Greek Wedding film. It’s honestly one of my favorite comedies and so I was so disappointed by this sequel. It’s one of those sequels that decides to take anything that worked in the original and make it ten times bigger; thereby, ruining what worked so well. The acting was bad. The writing was bad and it really ticked me off.

greek wedding28. Nine Lives

There is some bizarre ‘how did this happen?’ value in Nine Lives but that’s about it. It’s one of the laziest movies of the year. They can’t even get the meowing right in your cat movie. The thing is the Kevin Spacey character isn’t a bad dad. He works a lot but he is actively trying to bond with his daughter and holds a meeting to decide on her birthday present. The script takes some bizarre turns and it’s incompetently made in every respect.

nine-lives7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This movie bored me more than any movie I can think of in a long time. I sat there hoping it would end. Every scene is characters explaining things to us and I just didn’t care. All the performances are flat and boring. Even Burton’s usual magical touches are nowhere to be found except for a scene with skeletons. He’s really lost all of his edge as a filmmaker. It makes me kind of sad.

peregrine46. Alice Through the Looking Glass

A follow up to the 2010 big hit was a miss at the box office for a reason. The story is beyond stupid with the catalyst for both films turning out to be a lie over tarts! #Tartgate. Johnny Depp is annoying in it and everyone else looks bored. There’s weird touches that come off as grotesque like vegetable people being eaten instead of magical. It is a joyless enterprise which is sad for Alice!

alice-through-the-looking-glass-poster-alice5. Me Before You

I admit this movie is well made but it really offended me. The assertion that suicide is a valid, even brave, choice for those dealing with quadriplegia is offensive and disgusting. We don’t see the lead character go to therapy or try living a full life. We just see the manic pixie dream girl hired to care for him take him to concerts and the beach and then his decision is supposed to be valid? How about you give him a job or help him contribute? It’s most morally repugnant film of the year

me before you64. Batman: the Killing Joke

Speaking of morally repugnant, I have another candidate in Batman: the Killing Joke. This movie takes the graphic novel and turns it into a disgusting portrait of female victimization. Barbara Gordon has no autonomy as a character. She is a tool for the screenwriters to move around whenever they need her to be raped, beaten, and demeaned. The gay character is embarrassing. The supposed relationship between Batman and Batgirl is right out of a soap opera and the interesting questions of the novel are barely addressed. The animation is also very mediocre.

Batman-The-Killing-joke-movie-poster3. Warcraft-

The most befuddling movie going experience of the year. I had no idea what was happening most of the time. I didn’t understand the world or the rules of the world. The characters all looked the same and the conflict between the two groups was confusing. It was boring and the acting was really bad especially from the human characters. I want to give it credit for its scope but I really cant because the story made no sense.

warcraft52. Norm of the North

Quite possibly the worst animated film I’ve ever seen in the theaters and I’ve seen Strange Magic and Home…Everything about this movie is awful. Awful story, characters, writing, jokes, sidekicks, villain, villain plan, animation, etc. You get the idea. It’s the stain on what was a pretty amazing year of animation. Only film I have nothing nice to say

norm1111. The Do-Over

I wish Adam Sandler could have a do-over on his career. This isn’t even a movie. It’s Sandler and his friends going on vacation and filming hateful stuff. The story is awful and mean-spirited. There isn’t one laugh. It’s misogynistic, hateful, homophobic, disgusting and the story is so flimsy it seems hard to believe anyone agreed to air it. It may go down as one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

the_do-over_poster

 

Current Mini Reviews

So there seems to never been enough time to write full posts on films I have seen (or maybe I just see too many movies). Anyway, I thought I would update you guys on a whole bunch of 2016 releases I have seen over the last month or so.

nocturnal-animalsNocturnal Animals-

A tough one for me to review and rank because most of my issues with it have to do with my own personal standards more than the movie quality. It was too violent and gratuitous for my taste. I found that ostracized me a bit from the characters. All the acting is terrific though especially Michael Shannon as the sheriff. It is very artistic and beautiful but I think other movies this year have explored similar themes and been a bit less heavy-handed but it is still a good film if you can stomach it.

Overall Grade- B (I’m really torn on a grade for this one so just read the review)

jason-bourneJason Bourne-

I waited until home rental to see this because the Bourne movies usually make me motion sick with all the shaky cam. Turns out I wasn’t missing much. Hollywood seems to think Edward Snowden and Wikileaks make for good action movies. News flash- those guys are sitting at computers and it’s not exciting.
Jason Bourne is a serviceable action movie but not nearly as innovative and exciting as the predecessors. A bunch of the characters sit at computer screens the entire movie. It reminded me a lot of last year’s Spectre. Some decent action set pieces and actors all trying but with a bland story.

Overall Grade- C-

things-to-comeThings to Come-

You will be hearing about this movie come my best of the year list. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. If you like slice of life movies, which I do, this is perfection. Isabelle Huppert is amazing playing a woman who’s life falls apart in every way. Her husband leaves her, her publisher cuts ties and her children move away, and yet it becomes this empowering experience. I am a Christian but this movie had a speech about agnosticism that made me tear up. It was honest for the character and beautiful.

Overall Grade- A+ (when I give A+ it just means one of my favorites of year)

eagle-huntressThe Eagle Huntress-

Another strong documentary for 2016. This tells the story of a young girl in Mongolia who becomes one of the first female Eagle huntress. I loved the family and the relationship between father and daughter.  The cinematography is beautiful. I have to admit reading up after made it sink a little bit but I still think it’s a terrific film. One you should watch with your daughters!

Overall Grade- A-

red-turtle10The Red Turtle-

Stunning is the best way to describe this animated film from Studio Ghibli and European studio.  It Feels like Isao Takahata and Tomm Moore had a baby (and if you know me, you know that is high praise!). Just beautiful and peaceful and wonderful. No dialogue but it didn’t need it. It is kind of a fairytale about fate and family. And the ocean…I fell in love.
My youtube review

www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaGSshv5FFE

Overall Grade- A+ One of my favorites of the year

swiss-army-manSwiss Army Man-

It’s like that weird guy in high school who is trying so hard to be cool. You want to say ‘dude, calm down’. It’s trying too hard to be smart and different that it ends up being boring and a little annoying.

Just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean that it should. I didn’t bond with either of the characters and it seemed to revert to bodily humor talk as a substitute for diving into the characters. Like seriously there are so many conversations about farts, masturbation, erections, poop and more. I guess others find this more insightful than I do? Radcliffe deserves credit for his performance but it’s not for me.

Overall Grade- C- just because of Radcliffe and the gumption of it but I really didn’t like it.

passengersPassengers-

I must admit I went into this with low expectations. I’d heard about how it was boring, cheesy and even offensive. Now I’ve seen the film I have to say I liked it! I think particularly the feminist criticisms have been blown out of proportion and I’m usually pretty sensitive to those concerns. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence have terrific chemistry in what is a sci-fi romance. He makes a bad choice but I don’t think the screenplay gets him off the hook. Michael Sheen is fun as a android bar tender and the film looks gorgeous. The production design is breathtaking. I also loved the music and to my surprise I wasn’t bored. Give it a shot and decide for yourself.

Overall Grade- B (the sensuality and nudity is on the strong side for a pg13 just so you know)

assassins-creedAssassin’s Creed-

Believe it or not this video game adaptation was on my most anticipated because of the cast and director. I’d heard how horrible it was but I had time so I saw it and I walked away having an ok time. I liked the sci-fi premise with the templers and assassins through time and the goofy ‘apple’ that takes away free will. To me that was just over the top enough to be fun. The action was pretty good. The special effects were pretty good and the cast was stellar including Michael Fassbender (who I adore), Marion Cotillard (who is a little flat tbh), Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons and the amazing Charlotte Rampling. It’s not a great movie but I think there is entertainment to be had in it. It’s certainly a billion times better than Warcraft.

Overall Grade- C

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought! Thanks

Tower Review

tower4I don’t know if I love Tower more because I see a lot of movies or because it is genuinely a great movie. Either way I loved it. Here is something completely different and powerful that really got to me. It’s perhaps the best message movie I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly up there.

Tower is set in 1966 when a sniper began shooting people from the bell tower at the University of Texas. For several hours the sniper shot people at will including a pregnant woman and a little boy delivering newspapers. All of these people we hear from but in the most unique way. Like any documentary the witnesses and victims are interviewed but it is mixed in with rotoscoped animation depicting the events of the day.

tower2This wasn’t just a gimmick but a way to feel immersed in what was going on that could never be achieved through stale photos or live action reenactments. The rotoscoping felt stark and somehow made everything on a very surreal day seem even more so.

There are so many stories Tower tells but the most moving had to be a woman named Claire who is pregnant and left on the hot concrete bleeding. Most are fearful to go out in the open where the sniper will kill them to help her so she just lies on the concrete. Then a selfless act comes into play and it was very moving.

towerOne interesting aspect is the victims had never really talked about the incident or dealt with it until the making of the film. It just shows what a different society it was back then. Now they would all be writing blogs and books but back then you kept your mouth shut on all trauma you experienced in life. I can’t imagine living like that. It is so different than my life!

tower3I also liked how it wasn’t just hero fluff piece but a variety of responses. There is one woman who admits ‘I was a coward’ and then another amazing guy who basically becomes John McClane. He was incredible!

I wouldn’t be surprised if you see this on my top 10 list. It was so different and it really moved me. It’s been such a great year for documentaries but this is the one that took artistic risk and it really paid off. They do have a message about school shootings and violence today but to me it was powerful and given just the right amount of attention to not be over-bearing. It could have easily gone the propaganda route but it doesn’t.

If you get a chance to see Tower let me know what you think.

Overall Grade- A

Denial Review

denialDenial is the kind of film, which I feel guilty for not liking. I would never want my disregard for the film to be construed as an opposition for the great things that the heroine Deborah Lipstadt did. In fact, if anything I think her story deserved a better screenplay then we were presented with in Denial.

To begin the film Deborah Lipstadt is confronted during a lecture about her latest book on the Holocaust. Her accuser is none other than David Irving a scholar who argues against the Holocaust and thinks it is all a hoax. Lipstadt is critical of him in her book and so he brings a libel suit against her in Great Britain.

The actual trial was evidently a huge media circus. It basically put the validity of the Holocaust on trail for about 3 months in a British court. This all seems like it should be extremely compelling but there are problems…denial2

Unfortunately, Denial doesn’t do a good job in making Lipstadt likable. Unlike say the reporters in Spotlight, she doesn’t have to sacrifice much for her day in court. Most of the work is done by her lawyers so there isn’t much emotional growth from her as a character. I feel like she is basically the same person at the beginning and end of the movie. She also could be more grateful of the free labor she is getting from her lawyers but instead she is kind of judgemental of them and their motives.

Rachel Weisz is a good actress but I always felt Lipstadt was kept at a distance from us. Maybe it would have helped to have a diary or a friend she was emailing or something to make it feel more real and challenging.

denial4The lawyers are played by Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott. They do a good job but unfortunately the screenplay also does a poor job showing their journey. We don’t see them building the case or the ‘ah ha’ moments we need to get invested in the trial. Their greatest challenge seems to be getting Lipstadt to shut up and let them do their job. Not exactly compelling.

denial3Timothy Spall is also very one note as David Irving. I was reminded of the movie Breach where Chris Cooper plays a double agent brilliantly. He is presented as a loving father and friend, so his ultimate betrayal is devastating. There is little to no attempt to create this kind of character journey for Irving. If we saw him as a good man in other settings that would have made his rationalizations of Nazism all the more shocking and his take-down more thrilling.

As it is, the courtroom scenes are extremely predictable and more than a little dry. I nodded off more than once.

I have a friend who felt Sully was tedious but at least I felt that movie had something to say about our need for heroes and the media in a post-9/11 world. Plus, Tom Hanks had a character arc through the course of the movie. I at least found Sully much more compelling than Denial.

Some reviews I’ve read have compared the trial in Denial to Donald Trump and his half-truths and lies, but I think this is a stretch at best.

Mostly Denial is just kind of boring and forgettable despite the best efforts of its cast.

In the end, a worthy true story with a weak screenplay.

Overall Grade- C-

Talking Summer Movies with Mark Hobin

Yesterday I had the fun opportunity to talk the highs and lows of the summer movie season with my blogging friend Mark Hobin. Some we agreed on. Others we did not but it was always a fun conversation! Check out Mark’s blog at http://fastfilmreviews.com/

I only need 15 subscribers to get to 1000 on my youtube channel so if you aren’t subscribed please do. I think you will love the daily content I provide on the channel.

Rest of 2016 Animation Preview

So far I think 2016 has been another stellar year for animation. There have been some amazing indie animated films like April and the Extraordinary World and Phantom Boy and stellar mainstream fare like Zootopia and Kubo and the Two Strings. Then there are really lovely films like Finding Dory Only Yesterday and Kung fu Panda 3.

There have been some bumps in the year but let’s not focus on them. What I wanted to do for you is give a calendar of the animated films for the rest of the year. It’s easy to be looking for the big name films but the smaller gems can be some of the best of the year so keep an eye out for them. I tried to be as thorough as possible but if I have missed anything let me know!

Sept 9- The Wild Life– it looks poorly rendered and weak but I’m trying to be optimistic. I hope they will do something entertaining with the minimal budget. The 3D on the trailer is terrible so I don’t recommend seeing it in 3D.

wild life2Sept 23- Storks- The trailers for this film have been all over the place. I have no idea what kind of movie it is and am not expecting much. I hope it will be a pleasant surprise. They are advertising as ‘from the creators of the Lego Movie’ but the writer is different and that has me concerned.

storks posterSept 30- Long Way North- Friends overseas have been talking up this Danish animated film. Director Remi Chaye worked on Secret of the Kells and I like idea of Sophie’s adventure in the arctic. The animation looks stunning and refreshing!

long way north2Oct- Miss Hokusai- Based on a manga this film looks stunning. It is about an artist that has to sell her paintings under her father’s name. That dynamic between her and her father and the art looks very compelling

miss hokusaiOct 19- My Life as a Zucchini- Already Switzerland’s submission for best foreign film. Done great on the festival circuit. It looks adorable about a boy in a foster home who has to learn to get along with other children and deal with loss of his mother.

my life as a zucchini posterOct 26- Ethel and Ernest- This is a hand drawn animated film based on a graphic novel about a family in London. I love Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent as the lead vocals and it should be great to see them voice a couple that grows from 1920-1970s. The hand drawn animation looks lovely so I’m looking forward to it.

ethel and ernestNov 4- Trolls- The teaser for this film got it on the wrong track but I actually liked the full trailer. It looks bright and colorful with likable characters. It could totally suck but I’m hopeful. It still seems like a strange project for Dreamworks to attempt. The music makes me the most nervous about it but I hope it is a fun little movie

trolls posterNov 18- The Red Turtle- A European/Studio Ghibli film with no dialogue about a man on an island fighting a giant turtle? Sign me up! I’ve heard nothing but great things!

red turtleNov 23- Moana- My most anticipated film of 2016 and nothing I’ve seen has dampened my enthusiasm. The story, music, Polynesian setting and design of Moana all look great.

moana posterDec 21- Sing- The plot looks really tired but I didn’t hate the trailer. I like how diverse the contestants are- different ages, lifestyles, situations. Particularly Rosie, as a frazzled homemaker intrigues me. I hope they do interesting things with those characters and it isn’t just cliches

sing poster2Unknown Release Date-

Revengeance- Independent animator Bill Plympton gives us his 8th feature film about a female bounty hunter named Lana who is at war with a man named Deathface. It doesn’t look like it has the heart of his Cheatin’ but I might see it. His Hitler’s Folly experiment was a disaster but I’m willing to keep an open mind for an artist like Plympton. This may be only released to his kickstarter backers this year and then 2017 to mass public. Not sure on a release date.

reveanganceGirl Without Hands- I couldn’t find when GKIDS is releasing this but it is based on the Grimm Brothers tale of a man who makes a deal with the devil and it costs his daughter great pain. It debuted at Cannes and reviews said it is “minimalist but artistically complex” and “each shimmering frame is composed of multiple layers of diverse drawing and painting techniques and washes of color combined with 2D computer animation.” That’s enough to get my interest!

girl without handsCan we just take a second and give GKIDS a round of applause. They are responsible for distributing 4 of these releases and have already had 3 tremendous offerings this year. As excited I am for a film like Moana, I am equally excited for these amazing independent animated films. What a great, rich time to be an animation fan!

So I hope you will put these films on your radar and give a few of the smaller offerings a shot. Let your local theater know you want to see them. That’s what I do. I’ve actually developed a relationship with my local independent theater and when I see a trailer for a film that looks interesting I let them know. If they don’t come by you look for them on VOD and DVD. It’s worth it!

Also try and keep an open mind about films like Storks, Trolls and The Wild Life. Sure we can point out their flaws, but I find very few films are truly rant worthy and when they are they have deserved it because I was rooting for them.

What say you? Are you excited for these films? What smaller films intrigue you the most?

Kubo and the Two Strings Review (Masterpiece)

kubo-and-the-two-strings-posterYesterday I got the chance to see the new film from Laika Animation Studios called Kubo and the Two Strings. Here is my youtube review that I made after seeing it:

2016 has been a very strong year for animation in my opinion. Zootopia, Finding Dory, Little Prince, Only Yesterday, April and the Extraordinary World, Kung fu Panda 3 are all special releases. No we get Kubo and the Two Strings and it may be the best yet. What an amazing animated stop motion adventure. It took my breath away but I was also engaged in the story and loved the lead character, Kubo.

The film tells the story of Kubo who is a little boy with magical powers. He can make origami paper come alive and tell stories. He even at one point is able to build an entire boat with his paper. Each day he tells stories to the villagers but he only has one problem- he can never think of good endings to the story.

kuob4His Mother is a sickly woman who he has to care for. He has to cook for her and even feed her she is so weak. However, his Mother warns him to not be out after dark or he will be in great danger. Unfortunately one night he ends up outside and spirits begin calling for him “Kubo, Kubo, they call”. As he follows them he ends up on adventure to get the armor of his father that will protect him and his Mother.

kuboAlong the way he meets a monkey and a beetle who help him on his journey. One thing I liked is I was never sure where they were headed or what the next step was going to be. This is not like Lord of the Rings where the clear goal is Mordor and the destruction of the ring. Without a clear roadmap the film was very unpredictable and surprising.

The dialogue is also very well done. Monkey and Beetle are funny together and have a lot of sarcastic jabs at each other without being too modern or hip. In fact, Kubo is probably too old-fashioned for its own good. It would probably be easier to market if it had the wise cracking modern sidekick like Mushu in Mulan.

kubo6Nevertheless, I loved the characters, especially Kubo. Much like Judy Hopps in Zootopia this year, there was an earnestness and sincerity to Kubo that won me over immediately. He is blind in one eye but that eye is expressive and his smile made me very happy. I wanted him to be happy. I was rooting for him to succeed, which is probably the greatest compliment I can give to a character. He was brave and strong but felt real and vulnerable at the same time.

kubo-and-the-two-strings-official-trailer-3-2-820x795Do I even need to say the visuals are stunning? Yes, the visuals are stunning! There were so many moments when you can’t believe it is stop motion. The character movements are so fluid and the fast paced movements and lush landscapes are like something I haven’t seen before. It is without a doubt the greatest looking stop motion animated film I’ve ever seen.

kubo8It also has a great emotional reach. There are moments that will make you smile, laugh, cry and get a little scared. I don’t think it is too scary for most kids but maybe if they aren’t able to handle darker Disney villains like Maleficent than it isn’t for them. My theater was full of kids and they were totally engaged (unlike so many animated films I’ve seen in last few years because with the good comes the bad too…).

KUBO_monkey_laika_focus.0.0Mostly the film just has a huge heart that wins you over to the story, characters and world-building. I loved it and I fully intend on doing a detailed spoiler review once I get to see it more than once like I have done with Zootopia and Inside Out.

Unfortunately, it looks like this film is pegging to open at 12 million this weekend. That is so discouraging. It really is a masterpiece. I don’t want to live in a world where The Angry Birds Movie does better than Kubo and the Two Strings and yet there it is. What’s wrong with America?

Please let’s prove these prognosticators wrong!  Go see this film. Take your family. Take your friends. It’s great for all ages. It’s great for all interest levels. It’s a great movie. You don’t want to be the one who missed 2016’s masterpiece do you? See Kubo and the Two Strings. It’s that special.

I wouldn’t recommend the 3D as it didn’t do much to enhance the experience. Just see it in 2D and enjoy a truly special animated adventure.

Overall Grade- A+

The Art of Finding Dory Review

While I am happy vacationing in Spain the first 2 weeks of July I thought it would be fun to post a couple of reviews of animation art books I own. If you don’t have an art book it’s pretty self explanatory. It’s a book that explains and shows the art behind a particular film. These are not limited to animation (Marvel, DC and Star Wars for example have them) but all that I own are. I might not be quite as quick to respond to comments as I usually am on these art book posts because I will be gone. Have patience with me and I hope you enjoy them!

The first book we are going to look at is from the most recent animated release, Finding Dory.  It is the Art of Finding Dory.

P1500021It’s kind of interesting because this art book has a preface, introduction and forward. The preface is by John Lasseter and he talks about the first time Andrew Stanton pitched Finding Nemo (“You had me at the word fish”) and then Finding Dory (“Nemo had as its canvas the entire ocean, but Dory expands that world even more…where even the plainest quarantine tank is lit by intricate caustics of light playing along its walls and floors). That emphasis on light and how it was used by the artists is a big theme of this art book.

The forward by director Andrew Stanton is quite moving. It shows the emotional connection he had to Dory from get-go. He says “Dory was  lost. Most people overlook that fact…You see, Dory was looking for her family, too, only she had forgotten that fact. Dory had been lost for years, no knowing where or when that tragic separation occurred. I’ve always wanted to believe every audience member sensed that longing in her- that a fish with short-term memory loss, wandering the ocean alone, couldn’t truly be happy”. I know feel thoroughly guilty for never thinking that much about Dory- the poor fish! I’m so glad Andrew Stanton told her story because clearly he was very moved by it and it shows in the finished film.

Finally, the introduction by author Steve Pilcher, pencil and marker man on Finding Dory, shares his perspective on the design of Finding Dory. “The way shapes, color and light worked together to support the intent and focus of a shot became a carefully coordinated balance from sequence to sequence, shot to shot”.

You can tell The Art of Finding Dory is written by a technician like Pilcher because it is very technical but I found that fascinating.

The first part of the book is all about the production design. They focused a lot on lighting and how the ocean illuminates things differently than on the land/tank sequences.

P1500022I really liked pages that showed the sketching process to making Finding Dory.

P1500027They then have tons of information on character design for both small and larger characters.

P1500025Next we get tons of storyboards showing the evolution of the film’s story. I love looking at storyboards. It reminds me there are men and women actually drawing this stuff!

P1500028Finally we get to see the layout of the Marine Life Institute and all the small details from the flags, maps and signs.

P1500032They designed everything for the park- even stuff you don’t really see like the Kidzone bag you see above. That’s so cool!

P1500029If you liked Finding Dory then I think you will definitely like the Art of Finding Dory. It’s beautiful to look at but very enriching as well. I learned a lot about computer animation and the Pixar brainstorming process.

Let me know if you get to check it out what you think. Thanks!