Posts Tagged ‘ pixar ’

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

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Interesting, emotionally complex little film with kind of a stretched plot that really ought to have focused less on the predictable “save the clubhouse”  story and more on the deep, complicated relationship between the main character and her male friend. Still, it’s a good movie, even great at times, with some rather devastating scenes that are surprisingly quite heartbreaking, especially for a kid’s film. Is this movie a kid’s film? It’s humorous and light and cartoony like a kid’s film, sure, but there’s nothing magical or eccentric or over the top about it. It’s very much grounded in reality, almost to the point where you wonder why they even bothered to make it a cartoon at all when a live action film would have worked just as well, and would have probably been cheaper. Maybe it wouldn’t have looked as nice, but there’s nothing about this film that screams “cartoon!” in the way, say, a Disney or Pixar film might, or even a typical Asian anime.

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The thing is a children’s cartoon drama, plain and simple. I didn’t know such a thing existed, or was even possible, but there you go. It’s actually more dramatic and emotional than most dramas I know of, and, for a children’s film, it sure does deal with some pretty damn complicated emotional issues, stuff I’ve rarely ever seen dealt with anywhere before, children’s film or otherwise. Is this a good thing? Well, for adults, I’d say yes, because, well, wow. The stuff that’s revealed is just so thought-provoking and heart wrenching, and yet the way it unfolds is so honest and emotional that you wonder just who in the hell this film was made for exactly. Certainly not kids, at least not most kids given the complex nature of the relationship the two leads here have. And yet, it’s a cartoon. A serious, restrained cartoon by Western standards, but a cartoon nonetheless. And everyone knows adults don’t usually watch cartoons on the big screen, so, what was the thought pattern that went into making it exactly? Very, very odd.

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Not that I’m complaining; I love experimental type stuff like this, especially when it works, and it does here very much for the most part. I particularly admired how very little BS this film has, how very little “fluff” there is and how very few “tricks” it uses to get its themes across. Nothing is over the top or unnatural, save the whole “clubhouse” subplot which takes up way too much time and has its moments but felt very typical and forced and frankly couldn’t hold a candle to the far, far more interesting main story. Still, I can forgive it. It was trying to appeal to kids, I understand, trying to have its cake and eat it too, as they say. I just wish they hadn’t let it go on and on and on the way they did. But the film has such moments of sadness, like the **SPOILERS** devastating dream sequence that was just about one of the most emotional things I’ve ever seen in a film, or when the male lead finally tells the female lead why he’d been acting so distant toward her over the last few days, and the shocked silence that follows. **END SPOILERS** Just brutal. And so much restraint on the part of the filmmakers, using so little to convey so much. It’s extremely effective.

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Overall, man, this movie, let me tell you. If you’re expecting a nice happy silly fluffy laugh a minute comedy, you’re in for quite the punch to the gut. Rich, three-dimensional characters and emotional complexity galore. The film also raises some pretty deep philosophical questions about the nature of love and relationships and family, most of which may be off-putting to some viewers, at least initially. But that’s what makes the film so effective, this question of romance and family and satisfying deep emotional needs. It’s a tricky subject. Are **SPOILERS** their feelings for one another before the big revelation at the end **END SPOILERS** immoral? I don’t know. It’s a tough question, especially when raised in this context. And that’s what makes the film as good as it is, even genius at times, stupid crappy clubhouse subplot and all. And the voice acting was decent, though Aubrey Plaza? Really? Ugh.

Anyway, worth watching, absolutely, even if it is a bit slow in parts. Not really a kid’s film though. But go see it anyway! The world needs more children’s cartoon dramas!

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Brave (2012) – 3.5/5

Beautiful, visually groundbreaking film with a strong first act that doesn’t make up for the otherwise strange, choppy, awkwardly structured nature of the rest of the film. The thing is entertaining, sure, but the element they introduce at the end of the first act, the “twist” if you will, comes out of nowhere and ultimately doesn’t work at all .

On top of that, the film establishes certain things it never pays off, namely, the whole **SPOILERS** girl is an excellent archer thing emphasized in all the marketing and posters and toys and pretty much every other element associated with this film since it was first introduced to the public many years ago. Or months. Whatever. **END SPOILERS** What gives, Pixar/Disney? Did you guys have a sudden change of heart regarding this key element of your main character’s personality and just neglect to tell the rest of us, hoping we wouldn’t notice? And why call the film “Brave” if bravery really has nothing to do with the story? It’s not even one of the central themes of the film!

But yeah, the story here is a mess. The whole **SPOILERS** magic bear transformation thing **END SPOILERS** comes out of nowhere and doesn’t work at all. Very little about the film prior to it happening implied that such a thing was even possible, and when it does happen, it’s forced and handled very awkwardly. As is the whole big bad “bear antagonist” side plot, which was very poorly developed and at times just plain stupid, especially at the end. Talk about tacked on.

I think the problem here was that the filmmakers were trying to do too much with the world they created: trying to cram too much story and theme in too broad a manner. And a lot of it feels forced as a result, and phony, and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when all is said and done.

The animation though is great, probably the best to date. This is some truly groundbreaking stuff visually, especially the way the main character looks and moves, and her gestures and facial expressions, and the background visuals, god; it’s all genius. It’s extremely photo realistic, and in a few years, I don’t think we’ll be able to tell the difference between something shot from life and something made on a computer. Hell, we’re practically there now. Impressive stuff.

So yeah, not the best film story wise ever made, but visually, hot damn! Definitely style over substance here, though. The emphasis was clearly more on the visuals than the story, and the film suffers greatly for it. Oh, but the voice acting is pretty good.

Worth a watch if you want to see where the future of computer cinema is heading. Good places, I assure you. Probably.

 

 

The Muppets (2011) – 4/5

Decent kids’ film that tries way too hard to be cutesy and fun at times, especially at the beginning, but fortunately starts to chill out as it progresses. And the plot isn’t exactly the most original. And man does a lot of the first act feel forced, with scene after scene of dead-eyed characters looking right into the camera smiling and singing, which sounds pleasant enough on paper but here just came off looking extremely creepy for some reason. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

The film also requires the viewer to have been a fan of or at least be somewhat familiar with the original Muppet shows/movies, which I wasn’t and am not. I felt like a lot of references here were lost on me, which, given that they make up a good chuck of the movie, seems like a poor creative decision on the filmmakers’ part. It’s entertaining enough, don’t get me wrong, and some scenes were downright hilarious, especially the latter ones with Jack Black, oh man. The whole last third frankly is extremely entertaining. But I was expecting more. And the plot, though unoriginal, held a lot of promise that it never quite lived up to.

Ultimately, the whole thing felt rushed, the filmmaking was pedestrian, and the songs weren’t all that memorable for the most part, with a few exceptions. Am I a man, or a muppet of a man? The jury is still out. It’s not a bad movie, and I understand, being a children’s movie, you can’t go into it expecting the most coherent of plot or the greatest of acting or the most intelligent of moments, but given the film’s hype, I was expecting something on the level of a Pixar film; a great, big, entertaining movie that appealed to all ages, not just kids and dim-witted adults, or fans of the original Muppet series. But it didn’t. Not really. Still, it’s enjoyable enough. And what a wacky assortment of pointless celebrity cameos! Yeah!

Up (2009) – 4/5

A cute, funny little film that somehow works despite a weird premise and an unlikely protagonist. And, of course, it looks great, is thoroughly entertaining, and doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator either emotionally or thematically, or narratively for that matter. Well done, Pixar! Again!

There’s not much to say about this one. Though it’s pretty good, it’s not as deep or mythic as Wall-E was. The story is pretty straightforward, and is just a matter of our main character getting from point A to point B, he just happens to be carrying a house on his back as he does so. This is a kid’s movie, so scientific logic doesn’t apply, naturally.

The visuals are pretty, and the action sequences are intense. I also loved the talking dogs; some might think them hoakey, but I thought they were hilarious, especially the “POINT!” and “SQUIRREL!” gags. Ha ha.

Overall, yeah, good movie. And a great soundtrack, though it just sounds like the same theme repeated over and over in different octaves. This isn’t a bad thing, though. Worth watching.

Toy Story 3 (2010) – 4.5/5

Awesome, and creative, and funny, with a touch of warmth and sadness for good measure. Some of the jokes were also surprisingly adult. And the visuals, especially the “pit of fire” scene near the end, were just brilliant. About as good as kids’ movies get. Go see it.

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