Movie Review: WALL-E

 

There are times where I watch a movie and partake in some riffing; then there are times where I want everyone to just stay quiet and watch the film. The latter didn’t happen last night when I saw this for the first time in a while. If anything

A robot who has developed emotions finds a plant and helps bring humanity back home.

This was one of the few movies my entire family saw in the theaters when it was released. From what I can remember, it was a good experience and eventually my autistic brother got it for Christmas years ago. Over time this movie eventually moved to the movie collection in our basement, only to be retrieved whenever I felt like watching it.

I enjoyed the first half where it was just WALL-E and EVE with minimal dialogue. I cannot remember the last time an animated film started off without dialogue from our protagonist for a noticeable amount of time. Looking back, it reminds me of when I saw some silent films with a large crowd that included children. They connected with WALL-E the same way they did with Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd.

The themes of commercialism and the culture of consumerism was not lost on me. I laughed at the superficial material goods offered like the septuacentennial cupcake-in-a-cup but then it got me thinking about what I prefer in terms of brand and quality. I want the very best version of a movie if at all financially possible. But why am I willing to put money behind a brand (e.g. The Criterion Collection) if it means burning a hole in my wallet? I guess it’s more about the prestige of having a high-end version of a film on my shelf (more so if I get it autographed if the opportunity arises).

Considering it’s position in the Pixar chronology, it’s a solid installment in the post-Cars era and makes up a trilogy of great films (Ratatouille, this, and Up). I’d rather have all three of those films make the list but alas, it was this one. Not that I utterly dislike this particular film but it’s more in the upper half of my favorite Pixar films.

At least it’s comforting to know that VHS tapes will still work seven hundred years into the future.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Winner of Best Animated Feature

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Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

 

Don’t look at me like that, Toothless. Seriously, stop it.

Hiccup and Toothless try to save Berk from another dragon war by preventing a growing dragon army from attacking.

I caught this yesterday with some friends. I had heard from my friends, mostly animation majors, that this was amazing; the conclusion was mostly drawn from gasps and “I KNOW!”, so I walked in knowing that it had to be amazing. Long story short: it is, in some aspects.

Most of the images are all about scale. From seeing Toothless and Hiccup fly among the clouds to the reveal of the Alpha, there’s a bit to take in. From where I was, I was further away from the screen than I normally would be in a theater but I suppose that didn’t matter. I was caught up in the world of Berk and I felt like I had a sense of scale.

Scanning the audience, I found more adults than children present. There were groups of just adults strolling in and taking their seats. Sure, there were kids but to see the room filled with more adults is surprising. I suppose like the previous film, there is something that connects viewers regardless of age.

There are some bouts of turbulence in the film’s flight pattern. The other Viking adults (Astrid, Snotlout, etc.) are sent to the back for the majority of the film. Whenever a scene focused on them, I forgot that they were even part of the film. They’ve aged, sure, but they haven’t matured, save for Astrid.

The dialogue, while touching, does set up each plot point for the film if you pay attention. When I picked up on some of these lines, I figured it was only a matter of time before said event happened. Thankfully, I focused on other things in the meantime.

I’m sure, if you haven’t heard already, that there’s a line that Gobber mentions that hints at something that may be present in the third movie. I’d read about it and had anticipated the response in the theater. There were several chuckles among the adults, myself included. If it means what I think it means, then it’ll be a pleasure to watch.

It’s beautifully rendered, even without the 3D glasses as I saw it. I felt like I could live in Berk and be completely fine with it (as long as I get my own Night Fury). The dragon nest is stunning, though I felt like I stumbled into Avatar because of the look. Still, it’s a beautiful environment.

Is this better than the first one? Yes. New territory is explored and we see Hiccup and crew change once again. It’s not the usual retread that sequels usually suffer, but it does have some missteps. I’ll end up watching this again when the DVD comes out with some animation majors just because. Now comes the hard part: waiting for the third.

8/10

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon

 

A few weeks ago, I meant to pick it up at my library before I saw the second one. I forgot but then I saw it televised on FX and figured why not watch it again?

A young Viking comes across one of the most dangerous dragons in the world and befriends it.

I saw this in the theater with my dad; I still have the 3D glasses. At the time, I thought it was a decent film. Flash forward to a few weeks ago. My dad comes home from work and, as part of our tacit agreement regarding who gets the remote, I hand it over to him since I knew he wanted to watch golf. To my surprise, he doesn’t change the channel and we end up watching the rest of the movie together. We don’t say a word but I suppose I underestimated the outcome.

Toothless, let’s face it, is as adorable as Stitch (or at least I think so). Not surprisingly, this was made by the same people who directed Lilo & Stitch. You know he’s supposed to be mean and scary but he has this cute streak going for him that almost negates it.

As for the human side of the relationship, I wanted more. Sure, Hiccup as the social outcast was nothing new but there was something about him that was different. Maybe it the voice, the humor, or his awkward nature, I can’t pinpoint just one aspect but the combination seemed to fit. Either way, I found myself rooting for him, if only because killing off the main character at the end would make the movie less enjoyable.

Back when I was a computer animation major, I found that there were more people talking about the film than when I saw it in high school. I don’t recall anyone discussing it back then; I left it as a film that was good, not great. In college, it became apparent that I missed something when I saw it. People discussed different parts of what they liked and that led to a repeat viewing.

Before I go see the sequel with some friends, I can say that I’ve only seen one or two episodes of the show and none of the spin-off shorts. Based on word of mouth, I don’t think it’s necessary. But if the second one is as good as I hear it is, then I’ll make sure to pay attention when I see it.

7/10

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

 

If that isn’t an impressive shot for a stop-motion film, I don’t know what is. I’m jealous. Last night, I went to my library and found this in the “new releases” section. This was the first time I could get it as other patrons had previously checked it out. Now I want the Criterion print on my shelf.

Mr. Fox returns to stealing chickens from three evil farmers who try to kill him.

I’m still new to Wes Anderson’s work, only having seen Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and now this. Even from just those three films, I can see that he has an eye for composition and color palette. Nearly every frame can be a beautiful photograph tucked away in some scrapbook in the attic. Speaking of color, here’s the color map for the entire film.

As I waited for the DVD player to warm up, I noticed the rating on the back listed “slang humor” as an advisory. While it isn’t the strangest reason I’ve found for a rating, I saw where it came from. In the film, instead of using actual profanity, every word is replaced with “cuss”. I don’t have a problem with the actual use (other than making sure my viewing environment is secure from impressionable ears) but after a while, it does lose power and meaning. Here, the euphemism (being a family film and all) has a new spark of life and maintains its power throughout. At one point, a wall in the background is seen vandalized with “CUSS”. That’s funny, along with the fact that this was a 20th Century Fox film.

Halfway through the film, I was interrupted and was asked to do some chore. It was the first time my eyes looked away from the screen. I felt a little disoriented as for the past 45 minutes, I was in a symmetrical world with clearly defined focal points. Now, everything was asymmetrical and unclear. Once I resumed play, I felt back at home until the end of the film. I’m fine now, but it’s incredible if a film can do that to your vision.

Looking back on it, I wonder who the audience was. Besides fans of Wes Anderson, Roald Dahl, and stop-motion animation, I didn’t see any indication of a specific audience. I don’t remember seeing tie-ins with fast food joints or any kind of merchandising outside of a soundtrack. People did watch it, as it made a little more than their budget. It’s an official Criterion Collection selection, like I mentioned above, but those are mainly for the serious collector and viewer. So who is it for? I’m not exactly sure.

It’s not a perfect film but I enjoyed this film and look forward to adding it to my personal collection. It’s different but fantastic.

8/10

Movie Review: The Fox and the Hound

 

This film is not the first to answer that age old question that has plagued the greatest minds of all time, “What does the fox say?” If anyone was going to use that as a comment, sorry I spoiled your fun.

A fox and a hound, natural enemies, become friends as kids and then grow up to realize the awful truth.

I only watched this maybe one or twice as a kid but the tape “mysteriously disappeared” for a long time. I dug it out yesterday and watched it with my family. It was interesting how my autistic brother immediately recognized Paul Winchell playing someone other than Tigger. Other than that, the movie itself has some faults.

The screentime is divided in a curious fashion where the film could easily be called A Fox, a Hound, and Two Birds. The relationship of Dinky and Boomer, instead of providing brief moments of comic relief, has more than its fair share of screentime. As I watched their scenes, I questioned what characters the movie was supposed to focus on. I didn’t find them entertaining and I wanted them to vanish with each passing second the movie stayed solely with them.

I thought Chief should’ve stayed dead once he got hit by the train. The damage he takes during his fall was enough to have him out for good. Besides, he didn’t go through a noticeable character arc for the entire film. We see him wrapped in bandages and that’s that.

But what about Tod and Copper? I only remember watching them in their early days, mostly due to one of those Disney Sing-Along tapes as “Best of Friends” was featured. Of course, they’re cute as kids; just look at baby Tod in the picture. Once they turn into adults, their tone becomes more serious when they’re together. It’s quite striking, seeing as how each of their perceptions have changed because they have to follow the laws of nature. The ending does leave them resolved, but to be apart.

It’s just an average film. I suppose it’s fine for kids but probably better with an adult around for the more serious imagery. The fox is cute, no doubt about it.

5/10