Finding Dory Trailer Review

So we got our first full trailer for Finding Dory today.

I must own I thought the trailer was just ok. I like that girl shark they show.  She looks fun and the visuals of the ocean look amazing.  I can’t wait to see that!  But the story does concern me a bit.  Pixar has always had a philosophy of never repeating the original film with their sequels.  So far I’m just not seeing what is going to make Finding Dory unique. That concerns me a bit.

What was so great about Finding Nemo is how surprising it was.  Things like the AA sharks are hilarious.  I still laugh at those scenes.  Plus, the dual plotlines of Nemo in the dentist office and Merlin looking for his son were delightful.  The ocean was beautifully portrayed and I loved all of the tense, emotional and funny moments.  The seagulls- hilarious!

It makes me wonder- how is Finding Dory going to surprise me? As much as people hate Cars 2 I’d rather watch that then a warmed over Cars duplicate.  At least they were trying something new and different.  I enjoyed it with its flaws.  I hope they surprise me and try something new.

But it should also be noted that Pixar isn’t always great with their trailers for some reason.  This one had things I liked and am looking forward to but it didn’t wow me.

What about you? What’d you think of the trailer?

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Pixar Review 29: Cars 2

cars2-2In many ways writing my Cars 2 review feels like writing my Frozen post (which is ridiculous because Frozen is a million times better) but they both inspire such vitriol in response it is a bit intimidating to talk about.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first thing.  Cars 2 was not made to sell toys.  I’ve heard this so many places and it just isn’t true.  Cars 2 was made because director John Lasseter loved the original and had always wanted to make a spy movie.  It is so clear when you listen to the audio-commentary that he loves this movie and had a blast making it.

Pixar has always had the philosophy of ‘only do a sequel if you have an idea’.  Lasseter says in the audio commentary that he had the idea to do a spy movie, which would be completely different from the original and that excited him (which is the way Pixar likes to do things if you think about Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 they are radically different from each other).

In many ways a spy movie for kids is brilliant.  If you think about it most spy movies, the James Bond, the Mission Impossibles, even the Pink Panthers are too sexually explicit and violent for kids, especially small children under 5.  So Cars 2 does introduce them to the genre in lots of ways and I think that is very neat.

Do I think it is a flawed film?  Yes but I like watching it.  In some ways I think it is a little bit better than the original.  The first has more heart and a better message but this is brighter, more colorful and moves at a much faster pace (this last watch-through I got a little bored with Cars).

Back in my review of Planes: Fire and Rescue I said this about the Cars/Planes franchises:

“The key to the Cars or Planes movies is accepting the world upfront because it is incredibly silly.  The idea of a world completely of mechanical items like cars and planes is a stretch and it does not hold up to any kind of thoughtful analysis.  For example, why are there no robots?  If a world can somehow procreate planes, cars and trains why not robots?  They have televisions?  Also we know there is death in the car/plane world because the old Paul Newman car died after the first Cars film but if a car is given a new engine, and retooled like a hot-rod is it somehow resurrected or does it have an entirely new personality?  See I’m already down the rabbit hole on this one…”

So there you go.  The world doesn’t make sense and you just have to accept that at the outset of all the Cars/Planes movies.  This admittedly may be easier for children to do than adults but for whatever reason I am able to make that leap.

Once I accept the ridiculous world it is in, the story is kind of fun for Cars 2.  It starts out with Lightning McQueen getting challenged by an Italian car to a race in the World Grand Prix. cars2-4 This race series is promoted by a Sir Miles Axelrod to promote his alternative fuel called Allinol.  The plot with the alternative fuel does get pretty convoluted and complicated for a Cars movie but isn’t that usually the case with spy movies?

cars2-18The World Grand Prix starts in Tokyo so Mater and Lightning head abroad and Tokyo is animated beautifully with light and color we haven’t seen before in a Pixar.  I love the look of it.

cars2-9At the same time the race is happening we get introduced to a character named Finn McMissile who is first introduced to us in a great opening sequence with Finn spying on the central villains of the movie the ‘lemon cars’ (very clever I think).

I mean take a look at this scene and if you were a kid who had never seen a spy movie don’t you think you’d be pretty enthralled by it? I like it.

In Japan, McMissile mistakes Mater for an American secret agent, which our beloved tow truck is unaware.  This plot is an homage to The Man who Knew too Little or even North by Northwest with the innocent at the wrong place and wrong time.  However, the humor does get a little bit repetitive and grating at times.

cars2-8In fact, Mater starts to annoy Lightning who in anger tells him to stop bothering him and go away.  I didn’t really like seeing the arguing in such a light silly children’s movie. Luckily it doesn’t dwell on it long. Eventually, Holly Shiftwell and Finn recruit Mater to help them hunt down the lemons convinced he is actually a genius.

I really like the old school spy movie feel to the villain lemon cars.  They are a lot of fun.

cars2-6 When the race moves to London they end up putting a bomb on Mater and there is a great chase scene where Mater, the Lemons, Finn and Holly, and Lightning are all racing around London.  It’s really energetic and enjoyable to watch.

I honestly think a lot of people who criticize Cars 2 haven’t actually sat down and watched it.  They just hear the idea of Cars 2 or read some reviews and decide it’s the worst animated film ever.  With all due respect it’s just not that bad.  In fact, in many ways I think it is good.

That said, where it falls short is the humor.  I like Larry the Cable Guy, and I don’t mind Mater, but the schtick does get old in this film where it was still charming in the original.  There are so many scenes of him being the idiot and that isn’t very funny, and like I said, the arguing with Lightning isn’t fun to watch.  I liked some of the jokes about the lemon cars but you really missed the team feel of the original and perhaps got too much of Mater in this sequel.

cars2-15Another flaw might be that while I find the lemon car villains clever as an adult I don’t know if that makes sense to the small children the film is clearly aimed at?  Do children know what a lemon car is?  It’s a small nitpick however because the bad guys are clearly bad guys-monocle and all.  🙂 .

The cars are also more like Transformers in Cars 2 than the traditional cars of the original, which for the most part all had the same limitations of regular cars. In here they can transform themselves, fly, drive on water, dive under water, shoot rockets etc.  While that is entertaining, it does make it more of a Saturday morning cartoon type of entertainment than a thoughtful Pixar film.  (Also Lightning doesn’t have stickers for lights any more.  Upgraded I guess!).

cars2-3I certainly don’t want to oversell Cars 2.  The world is nutty in the Cars universe to begin with, and if they had asked me I would have said ‘Do Incredibles 2 first!’.  But Lasseter had an idea for a spy movie and what they came up with I think is entertaining.

If you haven’t seen it I challenge you to actually watch it, and decide for yourself if you hate it or like me find something to enjoy about it.  And perhaps watch it with little children- like the Minions, kids love the Cars movies.  And as great as films like Inside Out are that challenge kids, I think there is a place for films like Cars 2 that simply give them a fun time at the movies.

Overall Grade- C+

Pixar Resurgence?

Nobody could be more thrilled with the recent overwhelmingly positive response to Inside Out than I am.  It is a spectacular film in every way and deserves to be heralded as such.  It’s one of those movies I could watch every week for the rest of my life and never get tired of.  It is emotional, funny, bright, colorful, heartfelt, smart and creative. But there is one thing in these responses that has annoyed me a little bit.  People are way over-doing it on the Pixar  ‘return to form’.  Pixar had a few less good pictures but they were by no means the bottom of the barrel when it comes to animated movies.

Collages1I have to be careful because I don’t want to spoil my reviews for Brave, Monsters University and Cars 2 but these movies are flawed but they are not that bad.  All 3 of them lie strictly in my C average movie category which for Pixar is a failure but seriously let’s have a little bit of perspective here.

crazy nightsYou want to know what is a truly awful animated film?  How about 8  Crazy Nights which has a character named Whitey who is frozen in outhouse feces.  You are going to stand here and tell me that Cars 2 is worse than that?  Give me a break.

fly me to moonHow about Fly Me to the Moon which is 85 minutes of terrible fly puns including a fly exclaiming “lord of the flies!”.  It’s mind numbingly bad.  It’s bad in every way something can be bad- it looks awful, jokes are puns and cringe-inducing, story is stupid, voice performances lame.   You going to claim Brave is worse than that?

hero of color cityHow about last years Hero of Color City?  A movie that took me a week to watch it was so painful.  In a year that had The Nut Job, Hero of Color City swooped in and took the crown as not only the worst animated film of the year but one of the worst MOVIES I’ve ever seen.  The animation is awful, characters are all grating and awful, voice performances suck, it’s a cheap rip off of Toy Story and the humor is all in poor taste.  I’d like to hear anyone try to claim Monsters University is worse than that garbage.

And I haven’t even seen either of the Titanic animated movies, Doogle, or Foodfight, which I have on good authority from many sources, are the actual worst animated films ever made. I’d certainly rather watch any of the bottom 3 Pixars than The Lorax ruin a Dr Seuss’ book.  At least Cars 2 just took aim at itself and not a beloved literary classic.

I could probably think of 50 animated movies that I think are worse than Cars 2 or Brave.  I would certainly way rather watch either of those again than Dinosaur, Brother Bear, Chicken Little, or Home on the Range from the Disney canon.  I’d rather watch both all day than nearly all of the Disneytoons library minus the Tinkerbell films.  Have you seen Hunchback 2? It’s nauseatingly bad.

Anyway, you probably get my point.  Yes, the last 3 Pixar movies have problems but they are not terrible films.  They are still beautiful to look at with a lot of creativity, color and care put into them.  In fact, I own all 3 and enjoy watching them on occasion.  I realize that Pixar set the bar very high for themselves and so perhaps the negativity is natural.  People expect brilliance when you create one masterpiece after another.  So much so that when I do my Pixar ranking it is going to be nearly impossible.  The lowest grade I will probably give a Pixar movie is a C- because they all have elements that I like and are at least an average animated film.

On the other hand, maybe this response is a good thing?  Perhaps it makes sure they know they can’t be lazy and expect people to accept it. It’s a message that I wish Dreamworks would get more of but instead their lazy films like Home get rewarded and their ambitious films struggle (speaking of Dreamworks I can think of about 6 maybe more of their movies I would put below any of the Pixar bottom 3).

Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion but I’ve just heard this so much this week that I decided to say something.  With that off my chest,  watch Inside Out.  It’s one of the greats.

Family Movies I Like that Others Do Not

A popular post on these type of movie blogs is ‘movies everyone likes but I don’t’ or vice versa. You can check out my blogging friend Animation Commendation for his highly controversial picks (Wall-e and Up overrated! Outrage!).  He is focusing just on animation and I have decided to just post about the films I like others don’t.  As I said in my post Jerks, Trolls and Critics my goal in my writing is to be an advocate for film . It is not to tear down what other people love.

So I want to use this post as  a chance to advocate for films that I believe are underrated by critics and fans in general.  These movies are far from perfect and I can understand why people don’t like them but for whatever reason I found something to enjoy while watching them.  Call it nostalgia, call it low expectations but I like the following films that a lot of others don’t like.

In no particular order.

Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything-

Veggietales are kind of like the Christian fundamentalist cousin of the animation world but you know they are done pretty well.  The music is always fun, voicework good and the colors bright and colorful.

Pirates was the first time they tried to do a non-biblical tale (previously they had done Jonah as a feature film as well as their many direct to video films about Daniel, Moses and other stories).

This film could entertain kids of any faith as it focuses on finding heroes and makes a person a hero.

Tomatometer- 39%.  I’d give it a C+ it’s certainly not top tier animation but I still find it entertaining.

The Other Side of Heaven-

I admit this one is easier for me to like because it is about a member of my faith, John Groeberg who went as a missionary to Tonga and had some amazing experiences.

This was also the only film we were allowed to watch on my mission for the Mormon church and having served a mission like Groeberg I relate too it.

So maybe it isn’t for everyone but it’s pretty well made and acted.  I would think the story would be inspirational for those of other faiths but hard for me to know.

But this is my list and I like it so it makes the list!

Tomatometer 29%.  I would give it a B

Lord of the Rings-

Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings has developed a bit of a cult following over the years and I think it is deserved.  It is not perfect and Peter Jackson’s version is definitely better but this is pretty good.  The animation is strong in parts  and weak in others but scenes like the ringwraiths in Bakshi are really well done with a style I haven’t seen in other movies (kind of looks like a hologram)

They pack a lot into the film especially if you like the extended version of the Peter Jackson films and it can feel rushed but I still like the animation and the story is so solid at it’s core that it just works.

Our friend the Nostalgia Critic did a fun compare/contrast between the Jackson and Bakshi’s versions.

Strong language warning

Tomatometer 50%, I would give it a B-

Cinderella 3-

John Lasseter, over at Pixar, says they never do sequels unless they have an idea.  That was the problem with most of the made for video sequels of the 90s and early 2000s.  Most of them are a repeat of the original but with a new character (usually a child of our leads such as Bambi 2, Fox and the Hound 2, Lady and the Tramp 2 etc).  Then there are one’s that continue the story but in incredibly trite and stupid ways. (Pocahontas 2, Brother Bear 2, Cinderella 2, and Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 are the worst examples).  Finally there are sequels that are clobbered together from animated series that came after the movie and these are usually passable, on the Saturday morning cartoon level (Atltantis 2, Lilo and Stitch 2, Lion King sequels, Aladdin sequels etc).

But out of all of them The Little Mermaid sequels are passable but my favorite is Cinderella 3. Cinderella 2 is just her wedding and it sucks but 3 they actually have an idea.

Through a variety of circumstances Lady Tremaine finds the Fairy Godmother’s wand, which she then uses to turn back time and make it so Anastasia’s foot fits the slipper instead of Cinderella.  The Prince now has to marry Anastasia and things seem pretty dire for our heroine.

The animation is on the Saturday morning level but it is passable and the songs are okay.  It’s not great but I enjoyed seeing Lady Tremaine back up to no good and just found it very clever.

Tomatometer is actually high with only 7 reviews at 71% but I still say this counts because the sequels are so generally disregarded and looked down on.

Tomatometer 71%, I would give it a C

North Avenue Irregulars-

I suppose this is probably more forgotten than disliked but I’ve been wanting to make a shout-out to it so here goes.

It is the kind of movie almost never made today.  A live action comedy starring A list talent for families. The story is silly and your enjoyment will probably depend on your taste of slapstick but it makes me laugh.

It was a dream team of comedic women with Barbara Harris, Susan Clark, Karen Valentine, Cloris Leachman, and a long list of faces you will recognize when you see them.

Edward Herrman is a nice foil for the ladies as the Reverend Hill who decides to take down local gambling syndicate using the ladies as the spies and detectives.

It has a pretty high tomatometer of 75% on 11 reviews but I still think it’s one that is easy to criticize but I like it. Great opening credits sequence too.

Tomatometer 75%, I would give it a B-

Disney’s Christmas Carol

Readers of my other blog smilingldsgirl.com kn0w The Christmas Carol is one of, if not my favorite stories ever written.  I make sure to see it at the local theater every Christmas and watch as many versions as I can.  There’s everything from Alastair Sims, George C Scott, to Bill Murray, Muppets,  and Mickey Mouse.

I think what I like about the story is it is about lost causes and how anyone can change their lives if they embrace Christmas (and for me Christ) and decide to be a better person.  It’s a story about redemption and I just love it.

When I heard that Jim Carey was being cast as Scrooge you can imagine my concern with a ham like him taking on my favorite character in literature.  However, he plays it surprisingly straight and there are only a few antics when soaring through space.  The spirits are done very well and there is a ton of the actual script taken from the novel, which is cool.

Some don’t like the stop motion animation but it doesn’t bother me.  It’s a style just like any other and I can go with it. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite version but I still like it.

Tomatometer- 54%, I would give it a B

Cars 2

I wonder sometimes if people really hate this movie or if they just are mad at it because it’s not Up, Wall-e, and Ratatouille.  Don’t get me wrong.  It has major problems but is it really one of the worst movies ever made? While I’m not rushing out to buy the blu-ray I thought it was fun, decent level kids movie and an homage to the spy flicks their parents and older siblings get to watch.

As I said in my Planes: Fire and Rescue review, the world of the Cars and Planes movies is nutty and does not stand up to much examination.  I guess there are car sex or car eggs hatching baby cars in this world?  But then they run out of parts which is strange.  Evidently some models are worthy of saving and others are not?

See how fast you can go down the rabbit hole with this world?  So I suggest just going with it and not diving too deep.  Just enjoy it as an homage to spy movies an leave it at that.

The other beef with this movie I hear is people don’t like Mater. I’m not sure why because I find him funny, as funny as a car can be at least…

It’s beautifully animated and the voicework is all good.  The plot is actually pretty convoluted and complicated involving natural fuel. (Wouldn’t a world of just cars actually like the world to be poluted, that is their life sustaining liquid like we have water, they have oil…Again over-thinking it!

Overall I think the bad buzz is overrated and this movie is an ok, fun time at the movies.

Tomatometer- 39%, I would give it a C

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

We’ve talked a lot about this movie on the blog. I am aware I am in the minority on it.  I thought it was a fun adventure movie with a wildly creative made up world that engaged me the way other good B Summer Adventure movies have like Indiana Jones, the Goonies, National Treasure etc.  I liked the language and culture they created and the troop of explorers was fun and diverse.

The animation is gorgeous especially once they get to the Lost City and we have the blue crystals and their power.  It has a bit of a steampunk feel and all in all I liked it.  I thought it was a fun action adventure, treasure hunting story with a good, exciting ending. It all just worked for me in the spirit of those B adventure movies.  So there you go!

Tomatometer- 49%, My Grade A-

Where the Wild Things Are

This is a movie you either go with and love or hate.  I love it.  It takes Maurice Sendak’s children’s story of a boy sent to bed without any supper finding a land of wild things and turns it into a brilliant movie.

It is the only film I’ve ever seen that captures the brooding quiet nature of childhood.  Some say that makes it depressing but I remember being that kid.  I remember hearing things in school like global warming or war and puzzling at how this could be.  To me it was amazingly refreshing to have a kid who isn’t perky but a real person with all moods.  His behavior when he meets the Wild Things is so authentic to what a kid, especially a boy, would do and I love it!

It’s a brilliant film in how it gives our character an opportunity to confront himself and his mother and realize they are both imperfect but trying. What a beautiful moment that is?

The puppets were the perfect choice as opposed to CGI.  It makes it feel real and palatable and the voicework is PERFECT!

I broke down the movie in more detail on my Where the Wild Things Are Defended post.

Tomatometer is high because of people like me- 72%, My Grade A+

Space Jam-

To be honest I am really surprised the Space Jam tomatometer score so low. This is one of the few spots we can see our Looney Tunes friends on the big screens and I think it is charming.  All the characters like Bugs, Daffy, Yosemite Sam and more are there in this live action/animation combo.  Bill Murray is pretty funny and Michael Jordan is one of the better athletes turned actors (need I mention Shaque in  Kazaam?)

I guess the plot follows a similar underdog theme but is anyone watching this for the intricate plot?  No.  They are watching it to see Bugs, Daffy and others tell good jokes and have a fun time and I think that’s what they get out of it.

Give it a watch through I bet you will agree it’s an entertaining flick.

Tomatometer- 35%, I would give it a B-

Follow that Bird-

Again this is probably more underrated than disliked.  It has a very high tamotometer score in fact but I wanted to give it a shoutout anyway.  Follow that Bird is the first Sesame Street movie and it is a real gem.  Some people might discount it as a only a movie for little children because it is from Sesame Street but if you do that’s a shame because it is very clever and heartfelt.

Big Bird finds out he should be raised with a family and is adopted by the Dodo family making his new name Big Dodo.  Despite having everything with the Dodo’s he isn’t happy, so he runs away.  The rest of the film is part roadtrip and part our yellow bird finding out who his real family is.

It’s a lovely message for kids, there are lots of laughs and real heart too.  I love all of the Muppets movies but this one will be close to the top for sure . I need to do a list of my favorite Muppet’s movies soon.  What are your favorites?

Tomatometer- 91%, I would give it an A

Soul Surfer-

Another Christian film critics were incredibly tough on.  It tells the true story of Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark while surfing and how she made it back to compete in the pros with one arm.  I will agree that the special effects are not great and it does look pretty obvious where they cut off Anna Sophie Robb’s arm in post-production.

However, if you can get over the technical flaws there is a lot to like . Bethany is an amazing person.  In fact, at the moment she is on The Amazing Race and tearing it up there.  I thought at first she was stunt casting to get sympathy but she has been up for every challenge.  She does with one arm what others struggle with 2.  Everything from rock climbing to balancing tasks she’s been up for and she’s done it all in such a pleasant and happy way.  I like her even more than I did after this movie.

The supporting cast is strong with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as her parents and Carrie Underwood as a youth minister. Aside from the arm special effects the rest of the surfing shots are well done and the story didn’t play out exactly as I thought it would and it is an exciting moment when she gets back on the surfboard.

Doesn’t reinvent the wheel but what it does it does well and I enjoy watching it.

Tomatometer- 46%, I would give it a B-

American Tail Fievel Goes West

Most people like the first American Tail but are tough on this sequel.  I would agree it is not as good but I still enjoy it.

This one is not directed by Don Bluth like the original but Steven Spielberg is a producer.

In part 2 we get the Mousekewitz family deciding to leave New York for the promises of the West (streets weren’t paved with gold I see!).  Fievel idolizes Wylie Burp the sheriff of the west who is brilliantly played by the great Jimmy Stewart in what I believe is his last role on screen.

On the way they meet a conniving cat who is trying to get them out there as cheap labor.  Our friend Tiger voiced by Dom DeLuise again shows up and we also get Amy Irving, John Cleese and Jon Lovitz.

In the end, it’s a pretty entertaining story with twists and turns. I enjoy the homage to the western and hearing Jimmy Stewart as Wylie.

The music by James Horner is also wonderful and I particularly love Dreams to Dream.

Tomatometer- 40%, I would give it an A

So that’s my list!  What do you think? Seen any of these?  Do you hate them or think they are pretty good? I’d love your thoughts. Thanks for reading my ramblings.