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Category Archives: Animated

It’s about as magical and wondrous a movie as I’ve seen with more laughs per minute than any movie in recent memory. The LEGO Movie is an absolute delight.
-Josh Hylton, Dark Horizons

A film every bit as imaginative, colourful and cleverly constructed as their plastic inspiration
-Tyler Hanley, Radio Times

O.K., I’m just going to come right out and say I have no idea what’s going on.

The Lego Movie is hilarious, exceptionally animated, completely original, and delivers a great message regarding creativity vs conformity. It is jam-packed with so many funny moments and lines, it’s impossible to catch everything with just one viewing. This film expertly walks the fine comedic line that provides equal entertainment for both children and adults. If you are looking for negatives, you won’t find them in this film.

Trust your instincts…Unless your instincts are terrible.

This film is an absolute blast to watch from beginning to end, but it isn’t just full of hollow laughs and throwaway gags. That a movie ostensibly made for children has any plot to speak of is impressive in and of itself, but the storyline that is constructed throughout The Lego Movie actually leads to a very well executed emotional payoff. It ends in a very heartfelt and genuine place while keeping you laughing from start to finish.

The Lego Movie incorporates the best mix of stop motion and cgi visuals you will see. So much is going on at any given time it almost becomes sensory overload, but in a good way. There are hidden easter eggs, site gags and jokes in the background of just about every scene. The rewatchability factor is bound to be sky high. Even better, the filmmakers take no shortcuts here as the entire world is made of up lego bricks of some kind (including water, fire and smoke).

SPACESHIP!!!

A tribute to Lego made by enthusiasts, not an ad for Lego made by hacks.
-Tim Brayton

Any movie exculsively about a toy line should probably end in disaster. The fact that this film didn’t become a 90 minute glorified Lego commercial is a real tribute to directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who have become known for successfully adapting curious properties to film (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street). The Lego Movie is no exception. No one was exactly demanding a film based on a system of interlocking bricks, but they did it and they did it their way. To great success.

Great. I think I got it. But just in case… tell me the whole thing again, I wasn’t listening.

Go see The Lego Movie 100 times in the theater. It’s fantastic fun and you won’t regret it. “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME” about this film!

FilmFire review:
4.75/5 forms

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It’s Oscar time again, and that means its time for my top ten movies of the year.
2013:

  • 10. The Place Beyond the Pines
  • An epic sprawling story of how bad decisions have consequences that can affect future generations.

  • 9. The Way, Way Back
  • My favorite of the slew of the indie comedies that came out this summer. Sam Rockwell steals the show and it’s great to see Jim Rash pop up in a few scenes.

  • 8. Inside Llewyn Davis
  • A fun and quirky story of just how much rejection one can take. Great acting all around and another notch in the Cohen Brothers belt.

  • 7. Rush
  • My surprise film of the year. Manages to create suspense out of cars racing in circles while staying away from all the cliches of the sports genre.

  • 6. All is Lost
  • Robert Redford gives a great nuanced performance of a man going through absolute hell to survive when his situation continues to go from bad to worse.

  • 5. Gravity
  • An intimate story of love and loss set in the most beautifully horrific setting one can imagine: space. An absolute visual spectable and unmatched technical achievement. Believe the hype.

  • 4. The Wind Rises
  • A beautiful tale of the sacrifices it takes to achieve your dreams. My favorite Miyazaki film since Spirited Away in 2001.

  • 3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Scorsese’s ballsiest directing gig also features DiCaprio’s best performance yet. The funniest scene of 2013 involves Leonardo crawling down a flight of stairs in a half paralyzed state. Raunchy and hilarious.

  • 2. Captain Phillips
  • Tom Hanks gives my favorite acting performance this year in the most intense film of 2013. Hanks puts on a pure acting showcase as he delivers a gut wrenchingly exposed performance in the final scene.

  • 1. Short Term 12
  • A heartbreaking and superbly acted account of the inner workings of a foster care facility. Far better written and acted than all of the over exposed Oscar-bait this year *cough 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Nebraska* , Short Term 12 is my favorite movie of 2013.


Although it falls short of the best Pixar has brought to the screen over its long association with Disney, it’s nevertheless worth a trip to the theater, especially for kids.
-James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Very, very late in these 106 minutes, we get a startling blast of meaningful Pixar storytelling that reminds us of what this team can do when they bring their A game.
-Jeffery Overstreet, Looking Closer

Just reach deep down and let the scary out!
Pixar, the once invincible animation house that could do no wrong, has really let us down with their last 2 efforts. After essentially a perfect run of 11 straight great films, (the original Cars possibly being the only exception) they went for a cash grab with Cars 2 and put out a very mediocre take on fairy tales with Brave.

What’s interesting is that their streak of below average work all comes after the Disney acquisition. Could an upstanding company like Disney be so bold to put financial gain ahead of artistic integrity? With yet another sequel to a franchise with unlimited merchandising potential a la Cars, does Pixar get back on track with their unique brand of emotionally driven story telling? Or do we see more evidence of their recent films being influenced by the money grubbing paws at Disney?


A monster road trip?
Fortunately for us, Monsters University is VERY good. It’s obviously not going to reach the heights of the glory days of Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3, but it’s no throwaway cash grab either. It perfectly stands on it’s own as a film, but also enhances the characters and story of Monsters Inc. Although not as emotionally moving as the original, or most of the recent offerings from Pixar, this might be their laugh-out-loud funniest film to date. Monsters University never lets up on the one liners and slapstick and is more or less hilarious because of it.

Technically, Monsters University looks absolutely fantastic. Despite the decline of their recent scripts, Pixar always put out a gorgeous looking movie and this is no exception. There are dozens of intricate and complex monster character designs on screen at the same time, it’s hard to imagine the hours it took to animate this. Down to the finest detail (you can see every last strand of hair on the furry characters), it is an incredible achievement and needs to be seen.

Wanna join Oozma Kappa? We have cake.
One complaint I do have is how inconsequential Monsters University seems compared to the original. Because of how sweet and heartbreaking Monsters Inc. was, matching those same emotional heights in a prequel with the same characters again is tough task and University never quite gets there. It does have a fantastic third act that reverses some roles and ratchets up the stakes but still just doesn’t hold quite the same weight.

Monster College – obviously a rite of passage for all young monsters
MUCH more satisfying than the Cars films and Brave, Pixar seems like they’re back on the right track with Monsters University. It’s a little less consequential and “deep” than their best, but it is definitely a worthy successor to the original Monsters Inc. Visually outstanding and hilarious, Monsters University is a must see.
If you’re not scary, what kind of a monster are you?

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms


The movie’s subversive sensibility and old-school/new-school feel are a total kick.
-Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

It’s impossible not to feel a strong sense of nostalgic amusement, if not sheer delight, at the comings and goings of all these characters.
-Dave McGinn, Globe and Mail

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of how one video game villain became fed up with being the bad guy and quit his job. Fix-It Felix Jr. (presumably a take on the retro Donkey Kong Jr. arcade game) is the game that Ralph calls home, where his job is to “wreck” a skyscraper whenever a quarter is played in the machine. When Ralph realizes the characters of the game don’t like or appreciate him, he decides to quit and embarks on an unfamiliar journey.

Having the potential to be a truly different kind of animated film, after this initial setup, there isn’t a whole lot of new ground broken. A very unique beginning to the story kind of turns into a series of sugar coated (literally) takes on bullying, greed, acceptance, jealousy and other tropes that we have become somewhat accustomed to in animation from everyone not named Pixar.

Ralph: It’s hard to love your job, when no one else seems to like you for doing it…

Although gorgeously animated with top-notch voice acting (John C. Reilly was born to play the voice of Ralph), Wreck-It Ralph fails to break out and live up to it’s potential, instead relying on playing it safe after the first act and sticking to a very traditional story line.

There isn’t a whole lot more I have to say about Wreck-It Ralph, it’s an above average animated movie but really doesn’t hold a candle to the recent offerings of Pixar. It’s worth checking out if only for the beautiful job on the animation as well as the gallery of really cool retro video game characters (see above) that make appearances throughout.

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms


Brave

“Saying that Brave is entertaining but not astonishing is pretty much admitting your straight-A student got a B.”
-Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

Brave, the latest offering from animation powerhouse Pixar is a beautifully done fairy tale that relies a little too heavily on its Disney influences. Typically known for their unique style and characters (toys, bugs, monsters, superheroes, cars, fish, rats, robots, and an old man flying in a balloon powered house), Brave  almost seems like Pixar playing it safe.

Originally titled The Bear and the Bow, it seems like Brave went through a fairly tumultuous development process to become the film it is today. First conceived by Disney veteran Brenda Chapman(The Prince of Egypt), it was considered somewhat of a milestone as Pixar has never had a female director. However, the film drew criticism for ousting her in favor of writer/storyboarder Mark Andrews (The Incredibles, John Carter) due to creative differences.

The story starts in traditional fairy tale fashion with Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) choosing adventure and fun over stuffy royal traditions like picking a suitor and wearing royal gowns. After an argument with her mother the Queen, the film takes a unique turn involving magic and bears and funny blue creatures called whisps. To say any more would be delving too deep into spoiler territory, even this second-act plot development has been expertly hidden from the marketing of the film.

Brave surely lives up to the animation standards of a typical Pixar film (jaws will drop at Merida’a flowing head of red tangled hair, intricately animated to perfection), however it does suffer from the weakest plot outside of the Cars franchise. It’s tough to hold Pixar up to their own standards because of their near perfect track record, but this film seems almost a trite afterthought when compared to the Toy Story  franchise, Wall-E  and Up. Still, a less than average movie for Pixar is a very good movie by any other standard and it beats out any recent offering from other animation houses. Fans of great animation and fairy tales will love Brave, but don’t expect the same deep themes and expertly crafted plots of previous Pixar efforts.

FilmFire review:
3/5 forms

Ben