Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pixar: All the Movies and Ratted (in my personal opinion)

If you don’t love classic animated Disney movies, or at least feel like you’ve grown out of them, it’s much harder to say that with Disney’s Pixar movies, (most of them anyway). They just hit that note perfectly, playing to both kids and adults alike. To this day Pixar is regarded as the greatest children’s movie company of all time, and here are my personal feelings on each film as they came out in order of release. Note: This post originally came out in 2015, and I’ve sense updated it to include movies from 2019, so don’t worry, they’re all here.    

Toy Story” (1995) - My Person score is 10/10 

Perhaps one of the most sacred gems from my child hood, “Toy Story” is one of those special classics that has only gotten better with age. It’s a simple tale of a child’s playthings coming to life to fight for the most attention, and laced through that premise is terrific comedy, imagination, adventure and even legit drama. While the film will always be remembered for reinvigorating the world of animation, it’s the films humble characters, top notch writing, clever wit and near flawless execution of a simple story that make it last through the ages.  

A Bug’s Life” (1998) – My personal score is 5/10 

Following on the land mark event of “Toy Story”, and even the surprise enjoyment of DreamWorks “Ants”, “A Bugs Life” has always felt mediocre to me. The characters, while appealing to look at, were just kind of forgettable, the story was basic, there’s one too many annoying story clichés that undermined the films enjoyment, and some of it I felt got a little too intense for its own good. Still, it’s not without some merits, as some of the side characters are appealing, the film is bright and colorful, and while it’s certainly not a film I’d re-watch, it’s at least good enough for one or two viewings.

Toy Story 2” (1999) – My personal score is 10/10 

The first “Toy Story” was a big game changer in terms of animation, and a timeless classic for both its story well rounded characters … how could you possibly top that? Well, surprisingly, you get a sequel that’s not only as good, but in many ways improves on the first, one-up’s the entertainment, with funnier jokes, dazzling animation, yet also adds new layers to the characters, along with some surprising emotional backstories and you have a near perfect film. Still to this day, “Toy Story 2” remains not only my favorite movie on Pixar’s roaster, but also one of my top 20 favorite films in general. The original characters are better than before, and joining them is arguably my favorite roundup of new characters from any of these movies. It’s a movie I adored as a kid, and it’s stuck with me well into my adult years. 

Monsters, Inc.” (2001) – My personal score is 8/10

Much like the “Toy Story” movies, “Monster’s Inc.” is a treasured little gem from my youth that always manages to put me in a good mood. While the lack of drama and depth dose keep it from reaching the same heights as the “Toy Story” movies, it’s still very fun and creative. The characters are charming and memorable, the story is simple, yet very innovated, the villains are some of the absolute best that Pixar has to offer, and the climax is especially fun to watch. I love the jazzy music, I enjoy the world the film created, and it’s just a really pleasant and fun little film.  

Finding Nemo” (2003) – My personal score is 9/10 

It’s really hard not to like “Finding Nemo”, because it’s just so perfectly constructed, with an engaging story, unforgettable characters, an infectiously captivating ocean setting, and a wholesome moral that speaks to both children and adults alike. The colors and especially the details of this ocean setting are still captivating to this day, and even the hummer has aged well. This was also one of the first to have a really dramatic edge, but balanced out with all the right seeds of heart and fun. I don’t even need to comment further, if you’ve seen the movie already, then you know just how great it is. 

The Incredibles” (2004) - My personal score is 6/10 

Of all the Pixar movies, “The Incredibles” is the one that I have the most mixed feelings about. From the perspective of a super hero comedy, this film was done very well, the characters are great, the action is awesome, the jokes are funny, and the story holds my interest well. However, I really just didn’t feel a proper balance between the comedy and the cynical, even depressing moments. It’s still a good film, but it always felt just a little too tonally inconsistent for me to really love. Not one of Pixar’s best, or one of their worst, it’s just in that middle good category.

Cars” (2006) – My personal score is 5/10 

I always regarded this one as just a perfectly harmless and wholesome family film, but still average. I was mid-way through middle school at the time this premiered and I really didn’t make any kind of nostalgic connection to it. It’s also a very predictable story, with kind of an odd premise, and in a very strange setting. It still has its moments, it has its morals, and it even has some fine animation, so take it for what it’s worth.   

Ratatouille” (2007) – My personal score is 8 out of 10 

Even though “Ratatouille” isn’t a film that I watch that often, I do still enjoy watching from time to time. It doesn’t have the same charms or even characters that I love in other Pixar movies, but this movie still provides its own unique charms. The characters are likable, I absolutely love this movies atmosphere, with its warm colors, its simple story telling, and the experience feels light as air. The ending is a real joy, and one of the best from Pixar’s roster. It's simply one of those movies that just gets a little better every time I watch it, and while not one of my absolute favorites, it’s still a gem in its own subtle way.

Wall-E” (2008) - My personal score is 8 out of 10 

I remember when this film first came out, I thought for sure that I was going to hate it, but to my surprise, it turned out of be a really good film. The lead character Wall-E is so innocent, gentle and cute that it’s impossible not to like him. This is also the only Pixar movie to feature a lover’s relationship that genuinely worked. It’s even more ironic that it’s a relationship between two robots, but that just shows how great the righting is. The two lead characters are great, the visuals are stunning, the story is simple and fun, yet not without some moral subtext, and it’s just a genuine, unique little picture that’s easy to enjoy.

 “Up” (2009) – My personal score is 6/10 

I certainly admire “Up” for being a really mature film with some very adult themes, but perhaps the film just feels a little too cynical and mean spirited to really win me over. I certainly don’t have any animosity for “Up”, I just didn’t feel that same magical balance between comedy and drama that I felt in films like “Finding Nemo” or “Toy Story 3”. When I first saw this movie, I kept saying to myself “I should be enjoying this” but I just wasn’t. I think it’s simply a case of good material going a little too far for its own good. Having said all of that, this is still a very mature children's film, one that is absolutely worth viewing, especially for the opening 10 minutes, and if you were able to enjoy this from beginning to end, like any other Pixar film, then good for you, I really wish it worked like that for me. 


Toy Story 3” (2010) – My personal score is 10/10

Wow, I must seem like a broken record giving another Toy Story film a perfect 10 out of 10 … but again, this one earned it. “Toy Story 3” is that rare third installment that really works, and is a perfect ending to a classic series of films. The story is darker, the adventure edgier, yet the comedy is some of the funniest I’ve seen from any Pixar movie, and the emotional highlights … boy, get those tissue boxes ready. I felt this film took all the dramatic content I admired from the previous “Up”, but gave me the right balance of fun, excitement and a great feeling of closure to a great series. Our lovable cast of characters come full circle. The villain is intimidating, while also sympathetic. It’s a sequel that took me right back to my childhood love for the first two, and is just another solid entry into the Pixar cannon.   

Cars 2” (2011) – My personal score is 3/10 

This sequel is widely regarded as the absolute worst of all the Pixar movies, and probably for good reasons. It’s the first time that a Pixar sequel just felt like a corporate product, and not because there was an inspired idea behind it. What’s worse is that despite featuring the same characters, the story and spy movie premise have nothing in common with its predecessor at all, to the point where, it really could have just been another movie. The only saving grace is that there are some entertaining scenes with lots of energy and the animation is amazing to look at. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough to save “Cars 2” from being on the bottom run.

Brave” (2012) – My personal score is 7/10 

This was the first original Pixar movie in years that really seemed to be taking the studio into new territory. Admittedly, the execution was far from great, but it’s not without some merit. I like that for once we have a fantasy movie centered around both the struggles and bonding between a mother and doubter. The lead princess is also a winning main character, with an awesome design, but it’s also a double edge sword, as she’s better than the movie as a whole. I feel this film struggled to find the right direction, and tone, as more care and attention was clearly given to the environment rather than an engaging narrative. Still, there’s a lot to like, the animation is stellar, the mystical atmosphere is effective, the music is really nice, and I do like the set-world of this movie … I just wish the plot was more interesting. All the same, I liked seeing Pixar tackle the fantasy adventure genera, even if the final product was a bit of a mess.    

 “Monsters University” (2013) – My personal score is 4/10 

While the movie certainly delivers a meaningful message to young viewers, it just doesn’t add that much to “Monsters Inc.” that I really cared to know or experience. In fact, this whole college themed story is something that I’ve already seen so many times before, and this film doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It just feels like a run of the mil college movie, just with the characters from “Monsters Inc.” While the message is great, the movie as a whole just hasn’t held up for repeat viewings, speaking truthfully it didn’t hold up for one, and I feel it could easily be skipped in favor of superior animated family films.

Inside Out” (2015) – My personal score is 9/10 

You know that little voice in your head that always tells you what to do in any given situation, well, that’s an emotion or more precisely one of five distinct emotions that live in your imagination and have creative influence on how you live each day. That’s the premise of Disney and Pixar’s 2015 motion picture “Inside Out”. Jumping right to the point, this is one of the studio’s best movies, not just in recent years but in general, it’s one of their greatest animated offerings … top 5 easy. It really has the makings of a classic and has something to offer to younger audiences, older audiences and especially the young at heart. Pixar had been turning out some sub-par material lately, but this was a very strong return to the high-quality films that they’ve done in the past. It was imaginative, colorful, innovative, touching, magical and for lack of better words, a truly emotional experience that I look forward to seeing again, and again.

The Good Dinosaur” (2015) – My personal score is 3/10 

While the film accomplished some stunning photo realistic scenery, everything else unfortunately just feels … meh. If your familiar with tales revolving around either a boy and his pet, or creatures in a prehistoric environment trying to find a way home, then this film is just a waste of time, as it follows both formulas to the letter with nothing new added. The characters are boring, the cartoony creature designs don’t match the real looking backgrounds, and the tone is way off. While past Pixar films have had mixed tones, this film just felt completely joyless to experience. It’s easily my least favorite non-sequel in Pixar’s roaster, and for a genuinely good film revolving around animated dinosaurs, I highly recommend sticking with “The Land Before Time” instead of this.  

Finding Dory” (2016) – My personal score is 7/10 

While this film can’t escape the feeling of being a pointless and admittedly even forgettable sequel, I still find it better than it had any right to be. The beauty of the ocean world is still present, the characters are still enduring, and the emotional moments are all still there. Yet, for some reason, this film just didn’t stick a perfect landing for me. It was good, and kids will probably have more fun with this film, but that’s just it. While there are some touching highlights, this sequel seems to favor goofy antics and cartoony visuals over the mature tone and heart of the first movie. Still, this was a welcome reunion with some of my favorite Pixar characters, just not one that holds as much watch as others.

Cars 3” (2017) – My personal score is 6/10 

It goes without saying that I haven’t been a fan of the “Cars” franchise, and while this film certainly didn’t win me over, it’s at least better then the previous two movies. There was a clear effort to make this something poignant, as opposed to another cash grab sequel, but I just can’t say it crossed the finish line a winner either. Sports fans, or long-time followers of this series will probably get more than me, but as someone who’s never really liked them, it felt like a good but very forgettable flick. Truthfully, I’m not sure who the target audience is for this one, as it’s not goofy enough for kids, nor interesting enough for adults, and it just falls into this void as a result. Like I said, it’s at least a more thoughtful film then the previous movies, and if you’ve been a fan, you’ll probably like this fine, but for me ... that Incredibles sequel just can’t get here fast enough.  


Coco” (2018) – My personal score is 8/10 

I admittedly wasn’t the biggest fan of this movie’s initial set-up, but give it time, and it stands as another solid piece of work from Pixar. Truthfully, I think “Coco” is one of the best original films the studio has ever produced, it has incite into another cultures holiday, it talks about family ties, it has an imaginative setting, it has visual marvels, and for once, a Pixar movie has terrific songs that really stand out and give the film some character. It’s yet again a very emotion movie experience, and one that absolutely got me teary eyed by the end. While I feel Pixar has gotten too comfortable making sequels to their earlier hits, “Coco” proves that they’ve still got the talent and means to provide solid family entertainment.  


Incredibles 2” (2018) – My personal ratting is 8/10 

Pixar has been either hit or mis with their sequels, and thankfully, this is a case in which I find the sequel to be largely superior to the first. It has relatable family drama, but it’s also a consistently joyful and fun, which is something I felt missing from the first film. The focus this time is placed on the family as a whole as opposed to just the dad, with touching themes at the center, yet there’s no shortage of exciting super hero excitement, and well-placed comedy. Throw in some gorgeous visuals, especially in regards to the lighting, and you’ve got a worthy follow-up to a successful movie, and one that I genuinely found myself liking even more.  


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Top 10 Favorite Jim Carrey performances

Jim Carrey is one of those actors that audiences either love or hate and personally, I think it’s impossible not to love Jim Carrey. His goofy antics, his energy, his charm, his ability to just bring a smile to ones face, it’s an art that only Jim Carrey can perfect so well. Yet, Comedy isn’t the only thing he’s talented with, in fact he’s been in some legitimate dramas, turning out some truly heartfelt and even touching performances. Whether or not you laugh at him or take him seriously, he’s always a tone of fun to watch and here are my personal top 10 favorite Jim Carry performances.  

10. Ernie “Chip” Douglas from “The Cable Guy” 

Have you ever had that annoying best friend that would always be in your face and never give you a moment of peace, well, he’s probably more tolerable then this crazy electrician out for friendship. While this was one of Carries more controversial films and certainly not one of my favorites, it was still one of his most memorable characters. As a psychopathic man with a lisp and wild attitude, Carry proved that he can just as dark and scary and he is charming and funny.   

9. Horton from “Horton Hears a Who!” 

Jim Carry already came off like a live action cartoon character, and when this 2007 animated family film came along, it was about time for him to become one with the world of animation.  Horton is an elephant with a heart of gold and cherishes all forms of life, no matter how small. Jim Carry’s lovable personality and voice fit the character perfectly and it’s honestly on par with Robin Williams when he voiced the Genie of the Lamp from Disney’s “Aladdin”. Plus, this Dr. Sues adaption and Jim Carry’s simple charm was a real breath of fresh air after seeing Mike Mires disastrous “Cat in the Hat”. 

8.  Bruce Nolan from “Bruce Almighty” 

I always liked to think of Jim Carry as a God among mortal comedians, and now he takes that the extra mile as a man with all the powers of God. In this early 2000’s comedy, Jim Carry plays a self indulgent newsman who’s given the chance to play God and either serve his own ego or take a moment to help others in greater need. It’s a movie that’s every bit as creative and funny as it is touching and somewhat meaningful, but of course the highlight comes from Carry playing God. His speed, energy and wit match with the effects and premise perfectly and the final result is another memorable comedy in Jim’s carrier.  

7. Andy Kaufman from “Man on the Moon” 

This was the first time Jim Carry had a performance that was based around an entirely real person, and while I honestly don’t know that much of what the actual Andy Kaufman was like, Jim Carry clearly did his homework and brought him to life with perfection. Many critics found his performance to be so genuine that he should have been nominated for a best actor Oscar ... that says it all. While I feel the movie itself hits as often as it misses, one thing remains certain, Jim Carry delivered a performance that was every bit as funny as it was honest and accurate to the real life comedian.

6. Charlie & Hank from “Me, Myself and Iren

The side splitting comedian has a side-split personality in this dark comedy, and boy dose he ham it up the only way Jim Carry knows how. He’s a man abused by everyone around him, which causes Carry to develop a dual personality in the form of a character named Hank, and what really elevates this into one of his funniest performances is all the physical comedy in which he literally battles himself. The on a dime transformations are amusing enough, but Carries desperate need to take control of his evil dominate side are what steal the show. With non-stop frantic energy and two crazy performances for the price of one, it’s the kind of role that Carry was simply born to play.

5. Count Olaf from “A Series of Unfortunate Events” 

While the movie itself has always been kind of a mixed bag for me, Jim Carry is undeniably on the top of his game as the villainess Count Olaf, in fact, this is easily the best villain he’s played in his entire carrier. In this movie based on the novel by Lemony Snicket, Carry plays an evil old miser out to steal a fortune from three orphaned children. The character himself is also a failed sage actor, and in his evil scheme the count always hides under a variety of discuses allowing Carry full rang to act as several different over exaggerated caricatures.  It’s a role that was simply meant for him. Carry also manages to hit that perfect balance between being lovable and hat-able all at once, which is the mark of any great villain actor. His portrayal of the Count was still appropriately hammy, without coming off as obnoxiously over the top as his portrayal of the Riddler in “Batman forever”. 

4. Truman Burbank from “The Truman Show” 

While Jim Carry had given some stellar performances in his carrier, it was his portrayal of Truman Burbank that had the masses demanding he receive an Oscar nomination. It’s a movie about a man who’s life is being broadcasted live on network television, which is already an original concept, but it’s Jim Carry at the helm who delivers such a lovable and endearing performance. It’s the kind of character that could have come off as manipulative if not in the right hands, which further demonstrates that for as over the top as Jim Carry gets, he knows how to hold back, restrain himself and convey the honest goods.    

3. Stanley Ipkiss/ The Mask from “The Mask” 

This is personally my second favorite movie of his on my list, next to another film that I’ll mention at the #1 spot, nothing quiet represents Jim Carries dual talents as an actor quiet like his portrayal in the mask. As Stanley Ipkiss he’s a quiet, shy individual with a good heart but always acts down to earth. Then on the flip side, when he puts on an enchanted mask, he becomes a living cartoon character who’s nothing short of wild and energized. The computer effects blend with Jim Carries comedic charm perfectly, neither upstages the other, and with Carries more down to earth performance to level out the fun, “The Mask” stands as a bright spot on his resume.  

2. Fletcher Reede from “Liar Liar” 

This is one of Jim Carry’s funniest comedies, with a premise that only “he” could pull off so well. Playing a dishonest family man who’s cursed to tell the truth for twenty four hours gives Carry no boundaries to utilizes his ample comedic timing, bursts of energy and elastic body movements to full effect. He even manages to show off some good drama and touching bonding moments with his family as the character goes on a reformation journey from a dead beat parent to a loving father that always sticks with the truth. The movie is a great comedy classic from the 90’s and it’s one of the funniest performances in Carry’s long carrier.  

Honorable MentionsJoel Barish from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Grinch from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Riddiler from “Batman Forever

Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb & Dumber

Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol

1. Ace Ventura from  Ace Ventura: Pet Detective 

This is the movie that made me love comedies, the first time I experienced the joy of laughing hard at something completely ridicules. That’s what makes comedies so great, you don’t take them seriously, you just have fun with them. Jim Carry’s performance as Ace Ventura is just fantastic, and astablished all his recognizable trademarks from his rubbery face, to the goofy hair due, and of course his talking butt. He’s the only actor I know who can be so hammy and over the top, yet still deliver a performance with so much class and genuine charm. In this film, Jim Carry plays a detective that specializes in looking for missing animals, and his methods for trying to rescue them are nothing short of laugh out loud hilarious. There’s even a decent mystery plot to be weaved in with all the silliness. He’s certainly one of the silliest actors ever and this is the film that captures his goofy antics perfectly. It’s the simple joy and talent of this crazy actor that make it such a joy to watch and he’ll always be one of my favorite actors of all time. 


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Field of Dreams (1989, Movie Review)

       If you’ve looked though my Blog Site you may have noticed a lack posts regarding sports movies. Well, personally I’m just not a sports guy and there are only a handful of sports themed movies that I’ve ever really loved. I just feel that if you’ve seen one sports movie you’ve seen them all, and their conventions can get a pinch repetitive. I don’t have any animosity toured the subject, it’s just not for me. Then every once in a while you get a film like the 1989 fantasy drama “Field of Dreams”, which is undeniably a Baseball movie, but completely devoid of any typical sports movie clichés, offering an experience that’s unique, simplistic and very touching. Based on the Novel “Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa”, “Field of Dreams” is a modern fairy tale that has something special to offer to viewers ... whether their sports fans or not.  

       Our movie begins with some back-story of the life of Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella who’s played by Kevin Costner. Basically, this guy was a prodigy of the 1960’s, loves baseball and had a pretty stable relation with his father, at least until he left the family and started one of his own. Now in present day, this farmer finds himself hearing a mysterious voice saying “If you build it, he will come!” At first the “Voice” makes no sense to him, but soon he discovers that if he were to build a Baseball stadium in his corn field, it would call upon the spirit of his greatest Baseball idle, the disgraced Shoeless Joe Jackson. Sure enough, Ray spends a fortune on the construction of a Baseball field right in his corn field, and sure enough it does bring back the deceased Baseball player, but it doesn’t stop there. Soon, several other deceased Baseball players come out of the wood works, or corn field in this case, as they’ve all had short comings that kept them from their dream. Some Baseball players retired, taking up other professions while others were banned from the game as a result of the 1919 scandal. Now in Ray’s baseball field, these lost souls get the chance to live their dreams. Meanwhile, Ray’s mysterious voice begins asking for further requests, revolving around the lives of other people, some of whom are dead and others who have lost hope.

        It’s a very simple premise, and the simplicity of the story just adds to the wonder and charm of the film. Think of it like an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, except very heartfelt and leaving you feeling warm and cheerful inside. There’s never any strait forward explanation as to why these magical oddities happen in the film, and the characters themselves while very confused don’t ask to many questions either, they just go with flow. There’s a statement made by Ray that he was probably chosen to build the baseball field as an act of penance for something unforgivable he did to his father. As you’d expect, this all pays off and leads to a somewhat predictable but very wholesome ending. I’ve never been a huge fan of Kevin Costner but he does a respectable job in the role of Ray Kinsella, but even at his best, he’s admittedly over shadowed by the supporting cast.

       His wife Annie played by Amy Madigan is awesome, she’s full of energy, very supportive and she doesn’t shy away from standing up for what she believes in, and by that I mean loudly speaking her mind to a large group of bigots. Enter author Terence Mann played by the always awesome James Earl Jones, who’s retired from writing novels and has been reduced to a grumpy old miser. There’s a subplot in which Ray seeks him out and convinces Terence to take up his writing pin again which renews the authors faith in own dreams. This is easily my favorite character in the movie, and James Earl Jones steals the show with every scene his in. He’s funny in his stubborn attitude, but he’s also very humble and sincere as he conveys his words of wisdom to Ray and it’s just a real joy watching this grumpy old hermit come out of his shell. His introduction scene is especially funny, and his closing monologue near the end of the film is nothing short of sensational. Burt Lancaster also makes a noteworthy appearance as Doc Graham, a man who never got to see his sports dream come true as he left Baseball to pursue a carrier in medicine. To be honest, most of these supporting characters actually have more captivating stories then our main hero.

      The late James Horner composed the music for the film, and boy dose he nail the tone and feel of this track. It has a quiet, almost ghostly quality that creates an atmosphere that reflects off of the emotional tones in the film beautifully. Now, the movie is very sentimental, you can even argue that it’s overly sentimental, but personally I think it’s done in just the right way. The films emotional moments balance hand in hand with the simplicity of the story and its magical atmosphere. It’s actually a very inspiring film that can affect a wide range of people, not just die hard baseball players. It’s the films relatable themes of lamenting missed opportunities and a driving passion to pursue your dreams that give the movie substance, and there’s even a subtle enfaces on family bonding, particularly between father and son, which is done very well.

      I often think of this movie as a classic modern fairly tail. It may be sports themed and even has that same look and feel of a classic sports movie, but it’s still a fantasy and it’s an experience that’s just plain good for the heart. If you’re like me and don’t care for baseball or sports in general, I still highly recommend this movie. It’s just a very humble film that can put you in a good mood when it’s over, and while I freely admit it’s not one of the absolute greatest movies I’ve ever seen, it’s still worth experiencing more than once. If you’re someone who feels they were never able to fulfill a dream, this film might just raise your spirit and cheerfully encourage you to go the distance. 

                                                       I give “Field of Dreams” 4 stars out of 5.