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?

Did the Right Film Win? 2006 Animated Oscars

Hey guys!  So 2005 was a very strong year.  Can’t say the same for 2006.  It is a very eclectic kind of strange group of nominees but they all have problems.

You all can read my thoughts on Cars here on the blog. It is a weird world of all Cars but if you can get past that it is a nice little movie with a good message about the loss of Main Street USA.  It looks great and the humor is well done.  It is definitely a little bit too long and drags in sections but I can see why kids love it.

Monster House was done by Image Movers and it has the pasty look of that studios films.  The animation in general I am not a big fan of .  Also, they made a mistake and had the movie go big in feel when it should have stayed small.  It turns into a Godzilla like film and it is so crass in its humor it didn’t work for me.  I can see why it has its fans but it just wasn’t for me.

Happy Feet is another strange offering.  It starts out so cheerful with the penguins singing and Mumbles dancing.  But then half way through they forget the singing and it turns into this message movie with the penguins going to tell the humans to stop over-fishing.  The last 30 minutes feel like a different movie.  It is also way too long.  But the enjoyable sections are very adorable and fun so not a total loss.

What are your thoughts?  I have loved the discussion this series has stimulated both on the channel and blog so thank you! If you like the video please give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

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 Review 19: Cars

cars3Here we go to one of the more controversial Pixar entries.  A lot of people hate this movie.  A lot more people hate the sequel but we’ll get to that later.  I do not hate them.  They aren’t masterpieces but they aren’t total trash either.

Before I start the review I will give the same caveat I gave in my Planes: Fire and Rescue review- these movies are nutty.  I recently talked about turning your brain off in a movie.  Well, this is a movie where I kind of have to turn off my brain.  Why?  Well, let me give you an example of the kind of questions this world brings up.  So we have a world of all cars, no humans.  There are girl cars, boy cars, old cars, new cars.  How do cars procreate?  Are there baby cars that grow and morph into regular cars or do they emerge full size from some kind of car tree?

Wouldn’t a world of all cars be really polluted and would they really care?  They are cars.  Their blood is basically gasoline- the grossest, dirtiest product out there.  Also, who decides when they want to discontinue a car? Isn’t that kind of cruel?  There is a Model T in the movie so obviously some cars are repaired and others are left to die with no new parts (in Planes: Fire and Rescue they have discontinued his gear box.  I guess his number has been determined by someone to be up…very odd).

You get the idea.  If you start pulling at a string on this movie you will be down the rabbit hole in seconds.  It’s bizarre.  Who thinks of a world made entirely of cars?

Well, John Lasseter loves cars and he directed this movie.  And if you can see him through all the nuttiness there are some things to enjoy in Cars.

To begin with there is a young rookie car named Lightning McQueen who is cocky, brash and rude.  All the voicework is great in Cars including Owen Wilson as Lightning.  The opening race scene for the piston cup is so much fun.  It reminds me of going past the Indy 500 track every day on my mission.  They capture the feel of the races and I think the way they added the eyes and mouths work for the characters.  Compare them to the mouths and eyes for Thomas the Tank Engine and you will see what I mean.

Lightning feels he is too good for his sponsor Rusteze who make bumper ointment which again in this nutty world is a funny joke.  I also LOVE so  much that my favorite radio guys from Car Talk Tom and Ray are featured as the Rusteze spokespcars.  This is especially moving as Tom passed away last year and I miss hearing his voice every Saturday on my radio.  I hate cars and I loved Car Talk. There are a ton of cameos in Cars including racing greats like Mario Andretti.  As someone who lived near the Indy track that was a lot of fun.

Tom and his Dodge dart. RIP Tom from Car Talk

Lightning McQueen ends up getting lost on the way to California and ends up in historic Route 66.  This is the strongest part of Cars- the love letter to Americana, Main Street USA and Route 66.  It makes you want to get in a car and take a drive down an old highway and eat at an old diner.  It’s a part of America that has been forgotten and that is the true message of Cars. To not forget the America that made us great.cars6Anyway, he runs into a town called Radiator Springs and ends up damaging the road.  In order to be released the Judge orders he fix the road which will take a few days.  Meanwhile nobody at the track knows where he is or has a way to reach him.  (We also learn earlier that Lightning has no real friends but an agent who could care less).  So Lightning is forced to spend time with the yokels of Radiator Springs.

There is Sally the Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt. (Like I said all the voice work is great)

Paul Newman is Doc Hudson- a crochety old Hudson car.  George Carlin is a hippie VW camper van, and Tony Shalhoub from Monk (the man of every accent) is one of a set of Italians who dream of changing tires of a Ferrari.

cars7Cars has a huge cast so I could go on and on but the true co-star of the movie along with Lightning is Mater, the tow truck, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy.

I know some people hate Larry and hate Mater but I think he is sweet, loveable and innocent.  I really enjoy the character.  He’s so eager to please others and make friends.  That’s very loveable.  He even says his signature ‘get r done’ that Larry used to do on tour.  So I like Mater.  And I really like the friendship Lightning and Mater form.  It’s kind of a more simpleton version of Woody and Buzz. cars4

The plot to Cars is nothing we haven’t seen before.  Of course Lightning grows to love the cars of Radiator Springs and of course he is humbled and becomes a better person. That is all fine.  Where the movie is great is like I said in the homage and spirit of old time America and Route 66.  I love this segment when Sally and Lightning are driving on their date.  It’s so beautiful.

I also love this scene where Sally tells Lightning about what happened to Radiator Springs.  It’s the story of so many American towns and a great message for kids to learn about.  They need to know about the death of Main Street America and how things used to be.

Another special thing about Cars is how it uses music.  This is one of the few Disney movies I can think of that uses a soundtrack (Lilo and Stitch?) instead of an original score/songs.  I think this was because they wanted to pay homage to so many of the great songs about Route 66.  They are all lovely songs.  I’ve always found Rascal Flats Life is a Highway especially engaging.  If this song doesn’t make you want to tap your toes I don’t know what will!

There’s also a lovely numbers by Brad Paisley, James Taylor, Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and more.  I love the soundtrack!

As far as weaknesses there are problems.  As I’ve already said there’s the ridiculous world-building and the predictable rather saccharin story.  Also I must admit this watch-through I was surprised how long it is.  At nearly 2 hours I did find it wearing out its welcome.  I was bored for stretches where we get long segments with Doc, Lightning and Mater racing, repairing roads, talking and other scenes.  There is one bizarre scene where Lightning and Mater go cow-tipping with tractor cows (such a strange movie!).  This movie could easily have 30 minutes taken away and not suffer a bit.  In fact, it would be greatly improved.

But all that aside I do love the message of Americana and remembering our rich history of small towns, Main Street, and Route 66.  There are towns in America that the Interstate has made us forget but they were special places and we should remember them. Even the most flourishing of small towns are full of empty abandoned storefronts. I say this as someone who lives firmly in suburbia it is a real loss.   I loved all of that.  It also looks beautiful with vistas of red rock and sunsets.  I also liked the friendships built by Lightning, Mater, Sally, and others.  It’s a nice message for kids and the ending is very sweet.

Plus, I find Larry the Cable Guy funny so Mater is great comic relief.

It’s a mixed bag for me Cars and I didn’t like it quite as much this watch-through as I have in the past. But in the end these movies were made to entertain little boys without as much concern for crossover appeal as other Pixar movies.  And I have yet to meet a little boy that doesn’t love Cars.  Nothing wrong with that.

So my Overall Grade is= B-

Here’s the trailer

Disney’s Planes Fire and Rescue: A Review


I’ve been trying to get through the 2014 animated releases and I’m not going to post reviews on all of them (Sorry Nut Job and Legend’s of Oz aren’t worth my time) but occasionally I will.  Tonight I watched Disney’s Planes: Fire and Rescue.

This is a sequel to 2013’s Planes which didn’t get very good reviews but did well at the box office.  Both films were spin offs from the Pixar Cars films but are done by the Disney Toons Studio and I enjoyed both.  They aren’t masterpieces but I thought they were fun.  The sequel Fire and Rescue is actually better than the original.

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 in 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 you have to make a logical leap and just go with the world presented.  Some people can’t do that but for whatever reason I can.  The same is true for the much maligned Cars 2.  The idea of cars being secret agents is so strange but in a world with only cars they probably would need secret agent cars. There probably would be car crime unless it is a world of only peace loving cars and planes.

Again, digging too deep on this one!   It’s just a world of cars and planes for kids that like cars and planes.  That’s it. So in this sequel Dusty has become a star on the racing circuit but at the outset his ‘gear box’ is giving him grief and unfortunately his gear box is no longer in production (another weird part of this world.  Who decides what cars are worthy of life saving organs and others are not…) so he can no longer race.


I love it in animated movies when characters fly and the flying sequences in this film are gorgeous.  It really has a sense of scope and majesty.  The scenery is beautiful although later it appeared to be a combination of Yellowstone and Yosemite but I guess in their made up world that can happen?

So Dusty causes a fire in the airport wing that threatens to close down their Corn Festival (I guess they need corn to turn into ethenol?) if they do not get a firefighter plane on site soon, so Dusty gets sent to the National Park to learn how to fight fires.

This again is beautifully drawn and felt like a national park.  The scenes of the firefighting training and the characters were a lot of fun.


There’s a helicopter named the Blade Ranger who is a former celebrity TV star that had to settle for fighting fires (isn’t that similar to the Paul Newman car?) and there is Dipper who falls in love with Dusty.  Again, best not to overthink that one. PLANES FIRE & RESCUEThere’s a fire that is encroaching upon a new lodge and the evil Cadillac car doesn’t want to evacuate and miss his grand opening (another greedy corporate villain but I didn’t mind it because he’s not in that much of the movie).

PLANES FIRE & RESCUEDusty is conflicted with his excitement over learning to fight fires and his love for racing that has just been taken from him.  The helicopter Blade Ranger can relate to that feeling and they have some nice dialogue together.


All the voice performances are pretty good with Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julie Bowen, Ed Harris and more.  And the music is very good with a score by Mark Mancina with songs from Brad Paisley (another carry-over from Cars).

But mostly the movie works pretty well because it jumps from one flying sequence to another.  They keep the action going and there is more than one fire which are all drawn quite vividly.  There isn’t many moments when you stop and say ‘wait a minute.  How would that work?’ and certainly a kid won’t worry about such things.  They will just enjoy a story about cars and planes zooming in and out of canyons and putting out fires.

This is kind of like my review of God’s Not Dead.  If you read my description of this movie and it sounds like you will hate it than you will probably hate it but if it doesn’t sound that bad than you will probably enjoy it.  It has good voice work, great flying sequences, beautiful animation of fire and non-fire settings and a briskly paced story.  I think boys will particularly enjoy it.

Of course it has problems and it is not a top tier Disney film but I don’t think it is really trying to be.  Within the limitations of the world they were given I think it is about as a good a movie as could be made.  I had a fine time watching it.

Overall Grade- C+