Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Directed by: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon (between the two of them, they are responsible for some truly atrocious films, so this is easily their best one)

Written by: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger wrote the screenplay based off of Letterman and Vernon’s story.

Starring: the vocal talents of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Paul Rudd, Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Colbert among many others.

What it’s about: a group of monsters are released by the American government to combat an alien invasion

B-Movie Alternate Title: It IS a B-Movie title

Movie Mash Up: The Monster Squad + oh I dunno, any Alien movie minus all the disturbing imagery

What I liked: For the most part I love the vocal cast, I mean look at them all!  There’s a huge “Office” presence, the former awesome real-life couple of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen and I guess Reese Witherspoon can be okay sometimes.  The monsters are wonderful, particularly the moronic B.O.B.  Paul Rudd gets to play an asshole for once, and while the role isn’t great, it is decent comedy.  Honestly speaking, I would rather this entire cast were reunited for an R-rated animated version of this exact film.

What I disliked: Well, I didn’t even realise it until the beginning of the film, but with the Russian meteor event of the past week, the entire meteorite sequence at the building was totally unrealistic.  And yes, that is only because of all those Russian YouTube videos that I knew that.  It put me off for the whole film.  I thought it was decent, but it wasn’t on a Pixar level by any means.  Enjoyable, but unless you’re a kid, repeat viewings will probably make it less enjoyable each time around.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, it is not an offensively stupid animated film, and it is decently entertaining for both kids and adults.

Rating: 3 / 5

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

ParaNorman (2012)

Nice throwback-style poster.

Nice throwback-style poster.

Directed by: Sam Fell and Chris Butler (haven’t seen any of their other movies, though I am interested in Fell’s Flushed Away)

Written by: Chris Butler wrote screenplay based upon Arianne Sutner and Stephen Stone’s story

Starring: the vocal talents of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman and others.

What it’s about: a young boy who can speak to the dead needs to save the townspeople from the spirit of a recently awakened witch

Movie Mash Up: The Sixth SenseThe GooniesScooby-Doo

What I liked: It is not often that I will actually hail the message of a film, but in this case the anti-bullying stance and accepting everyone for who they are is one that needs to be championed.  The film is absolutely gorgeous, and I hope to see more stop-motion animation movies in the future.  Now that 3D printers have been invented, it certainly streamlines the process.  The movie is dark, but fun.  The vocal cast is great throughout, and there are numerous little fun scenes throughout which showed off the sense of humour of the filmmakers.

What I disliked: Nothing in general, though I wasn’t really a fan of the big gay reveal at the end.  It really didn’t add anything to the character, and people trumpeting it as the “first openly gay character in a children’s animated movie”, well, there were absolutely no indications of him being gay until he said that he was.  It wasn’t a plot point, it was used as a cheap shock joke.  True, before that he was just another character in the movie, treated the same as everyone else which is in line with the film’s message.  I just felt it wasn’t necessary for the character or the movie at all.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, it is a fun movie for people of all ages, though I would avoid showing it to younger children.

Rating: 4/ 5

Best Animated Feature Oscar Rankings: 1. Wreck-It Ralph 2. ParaNorman 3. Brave

Someone make this alarm clock NOW

Someone make this alarm clock NOW

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

I hope they have a better cover for the Blu-Ray.

I hope they have a better cover for the Blu-Ray.

Directed by: Rich Moore (he directed many awesome episodes of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama”)

Written by: The screenplay was written by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, based on a story by Johnston, Rich Moore and Jim Reardon.

Starring: The vocal talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Ed O’Neill, Joe Lo Truglio and many other voice over artists.

What it’s about: a villain from a classic video game decides he wants to be a good guy for once, putting the entire arcade in jeopardy

B-Movie Alternate Title: 8-Bit Ralph… I don’t know, I can’t think of one right now

What I liked: I loved the entire movie.  I was fully prepared to be cynical and dismissal of it, but NO, it ended up being completely awesome, and not just from a classic video game fan’s perspective, but also from a movie fan’s viewpoint.  It is superbly well-written, perfectly cast (my god, Sarah Silverman was AMAZING), looks absolutely gorgeous (especially with all the environment changes from the different games), the story is tremendous (not to mention surprising, my god I can’t remember the last time I was legit surprised by a plot development) and immediately after I finished watching it, I wanted to watch it again.  It is easily the best animated Disney movie since Bolt (which – if you recall – does not lend itself to repeated viewings in a positive manner), and possibly greater than Lilo & Stitch.  It also reminded me greatly of The Iron Giant, and that is one of the highest compliments I can pay a film.

What I disliked: Shut up, get out of here.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes, even people that aren’t gamers would still be able to enjoy and understand it.  It is altogether excellent.

Rating: 5 / 5

Best Animated Feature Oscar Ratings: 1. Wreck-It Ralph 2. Brave

Zangief describing the kind of women he likes.

Zangief describing the kind of women he likes.

The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

So very zany and Japanese or something.  I don't understand other cultures.

So very zany and Japanese or something. I don’t understand other cultures.

Note: I wrote this review years ago, but upon re-watching it, I felt the exact same way about it.  It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been re-reading the Fletch books and playing loads of “Ni No Kuni” recently, as this movie is pretty much the perfect blend of the two.

This is the second movie to chronicle the adventures of Lupin III, adapted from the manga and anime series about the master thief. The movie starts off with a bang, with Lupin and his partner Jigen escaping from a casino that they’ve just robbed. Once they’ve made their getaway, Lupin realises that the money is all near-perfect counterfeits and therefore, worthless. Almost immediately he decides to search out the plates used for creating the fake currency and steal them because the value of those plates would be much higher. Or perhaps just because he’s Lupin III, a master thief who steals whatever he wants whenever he wants.

The Lupin III character is quite entertaining, coming across like a mix between James Bond, Thomas Crown and Fletch. Fletch from the Gregory Mcdonald crime novels, not the Chevy Chase Fletch movie which pales in comparison, nor the possibly-soon-to-be-made Zach Braff (ugh) Fletch Won movie (NOTE: thank fuck that was never made by Kevin Smith). The literary Fletch is a wise-ass, but he tempers that with his considerable wits and investigative skills, which is pretty similar to Lupin III’s abilities in stealing priceless objects.

Even though this movie is pretty much as old as I am, the animation techniques still look better than most of the cookie-cutter CGI animated films coming out these days. Miyazaki tends to let a scene breathe, taking time to set mood and explore the lush landscape, or just have one of the characters performing a very simple everyday task. Grounding the film in a reality close to the real world makes all the amazing things that Lupin III pulls off throughout the movie even more impressive. Much of the film plays without a score behind it, making the environments the characters find themselves in feel all the more real.

The only downside to the movie would be if you had no idea whatsoever about the Lupin III magna series. Which pretty much describes me. Sitting there watching the movie, I had the feeling that there were years and years of back story behind the characters, that each of them had differing reasons for helping Lupin out with his dangerous heists. Don’t let that fact discourage you from watching this film if you ever get the chance. It’s a wonderful adventure movie that has influenced many other movies throughout popular culture, Raiders of the Lost Ark probably being the most obvious.

4 / 5

Once again, a worthless object gets cut.

Once again, a worthless object gets cut.

Despicable Me (2010)

I dislike movie posters that inadvertently give away Things.

I dislike movie posters that inadvertently give away Things.

Directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud (Renaud was responsible for the terrible Lorax movie)

Written by: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (they wrote the underrated Bubble Boy)

Starring: the vocal cast of Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Kate Fisher, Jemaine Clement, Jack McBrayer, Danny McBride, Mindy Kaling, Rob Huebel and Ken Jeong.

What it’s about: a super-villain discovers there may be more to life than evil plans

B-Movie Alternate Title: I Stole the Moon!

What I liked: This is one of those animated films that actually manages to tug at the heartstrings, which is almost unheard of in nowadays non-Pixar animated movies.  Steve Carrell does some fantastic vocal work with the character of Gru.  The Minions are of course adorable and hilarious, and credit for that mostly goes to the animators who definitely had fun with the characters.  There’s some decent writing going on here as well.  I appreciate certain amounts of zaniness, and this movie certainly was overflowing with it.

What I disliked: Knowing that Russell Brand was one of the voices in the movie, and was somewhat enjoyable.  Jason Segel’s character was annoying far past the point of “he’s doing a good job BECAUSE he is annoying”.  As an adult, I disliked some of the set pieces that involved stupid physical violence for no reason than to get a laugh out of little kids, but that’s just a minor quibble on my part.  Also, I bought this Blu-Ray at my Blockbuster, previously viewed, and somehow an asshole customer managed to scratch an unscratchable disc.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Certainly, it is fun for people of all ages.

Rating: 4 / 5

So fluffy that I could die.

So fluffy that I could die.

Bolt (2008)

Stupid cat.

Stupid cat.

Directed by: Chris Williams and Byron Howard (Howard also directed Tangled which I didn’t think much of)

Written by: Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams

Starring: the vocal cast of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, Randy Savage, Nick Swardson, Diedrich Bader, Chloë Grace Moretz, James Lipton, Grey DeLisle, John DiMaggio, and Jenny Lewis

What it’s about: a dog raised on a TV show finds out that he has no super powers at all

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Dog Who Didn’t Know

Movie Mash Up: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey animated

What I liked: The animation is gorgeous – especially on Bolt – and some of the scenes that don’t involve any of the characters in the movie look like real life.  Well, the movies version of real life, I guess.  I absolutely love Jenny Lewis, and honestly, there’s no reason (except that the Oscars are bullshit political garbage) that her song wasn’t nominated in the Best Original Song category.  Really, TWO songs from Slumdog Millionaire were nominated?  Idiots.  Her song still brings a bit of the old glassy-eyed reaction out in me.  The characters were fun as well.

What I disliked: For some reason, the more times I re-watch this, the less impressed I am by it.  I still think it is a decent movie, but my enthusiasm for it has dulled since I originally watched it.  Personally, I would have rather had Chloë Grace Moretz as the lead voice like they originally recorded, rather than Miley Cyrus’ fucked up nasally cigarette-infused voice.  The movie just doesn’t impact me as much anymore, but I still want a dog.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, there’s nothing offensive about the movie at all, just an enjoyable easy-to-watch romp.

Rating: 3 / 5

That is pretty adorable right there

That is pretty adorable right there

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

I’m a big fan of alternate posters

Completely by accident, I found out that this movie was being re-released in 3D in theatres today!

Directed by: Pete Docter (I like this movie, but Up is definitely his best film so far), and co-directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3and David Silverman (director of The Simpsons Movie)

Written by: Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson, based off a story by Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon and Ralph Eggleston

Starring: the vocal talents of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Bonnie Hunt, Bob Peterson, Frank Oz, Laraine Newman and John Ratzenberger.

What it’s about: an animated tale of two worlds where monsters need to scare human children for an energy source

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Monsters in Your Closet

What I liked: It’s a Pixar movie, so I’m already pre-disposed to liking it.  Big fan of the creativity involved in making up all the various monsters, and in creating that alternate world that is similar to ours, but monster-centric.  John Goodman did a great job with his performance, as did the late James Coburn.  Oh and Steve Buscemi was perfectly cast as well.

What I disliked: This is probably my least favourite non-Cars Pixar movie.  It is hard to identify exactly why that is.  For some reason, the story just doesn’t resonate with me as much as most other Pixar movies do.  It isn’t quotable, and I am not a big fan of Billy Crystal.  Maybe that’s why it rates low with me: so much Billy Crystal.  It just doesn’t feel as polished of a work as most other Pixar movies do.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, it is a decent Pixar movie and a heartwarming tale for kids and adults alike.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Sully signals for the GTS

Sully signals for the GTS

Finding Nemo (2003)

Ha ha, "Sea" it in theatres.  That is wonderful.

Ha ha, “Sea” it in theatres. That is wonderful.

Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (Stanton directed the amazing WALL•E and Unkrich co-directed a couple other Pixar flicks, and solo directed Toy Story 3)

Written by: Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds based on a story by Stanton

Starring: the vocal talents of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, John Ratzenberger, Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Brad Garrett, Stephen Root, Austin Pendleton, Vicki Lewis, Elizabeth Perkins, Barry Humphries and Eric Bana.

What it’s about: the animated tale of a clownfish looking for his lost son, Nemo

B-Movie Alternate Title: LOST in the Ocean!

Movie Mash Up: Taken – all the violence + Toy Story or alternatively just The Pixar Formula

What I liked: I loved everything about this movie.  All of the vocal performances were top notch, the writing great, the visuals absolutely stunning (especially on Blu-Ray), and the story heartwarming.  Another in a long line of Pixar movies that get me all misty-eyed.  It’s a wild adventure that is grounded by it simply being about a father looking for his son.  I like that the fish – hell all the sea life – weren’t anthropomorphized like the terrible imitators, like A Shark Tale.  These are real fish (I mean, no, they aren’t real fish) acting like they should, not living in apartments and taking elevators for NO GOOD REASON.

What I disliked: There are some minor quibbles I have with some of the lines in the script, but nothing enough to dull my overwhelming enjoyment of the movie.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes.  I will never be a parent, so I can only imagine that this is how real parents would act if one of their children had gotten themselves lost.  It would also be fun for the kids.

Rating: 5 / 5

AUGH Kill it with fire!

AUGH Kill it with fire!

Brave (2012)

Directed by: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (Chapman directed The Prince of Egypt which I have never seen, and Andrews the Pixar short One Man Band)

Written by: Andrews, Chapman, Steve Purcell and Irene Mecchi

Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and John Ratzenberger, all voice credits for this animated film.

What it’s about: a young tomboyish Scottish princess rebels against her mother’s wishes to submit to an arranged marriage

B-Movie Alternate Title: I Turned My Mother Into a Bear

Movie Mash Up: Brother Bear + any number of Disney Princess movies + Robin Hood (the animated Disney version)

What I liked: Well it’s a non-Cars Pixar movie, so that is one thing I greatly appreciated.  The animation looks gorgeous, as usual.  The character design is wonderful, and the voice acting great for the appearances of the characters, leading me to believe that I will never truly find love unless it is with a fiery red-haired Scottish lass.  I KEEP SEARCHING.  Parts of the movie hit the Pixar mark for making my eyes tear up a little, but nothing to the extent of Up or WALL•E.

What I disliked: The plot twist which I somewhat SPOILERishly revealed in the B-Movie Alternate Title.  There’s a point where the story goes a little bit off the rails and smacks of Disney, but thankfully it mostly recovered by the end.  The title of the film makes me think that at some point the story was far more epic and grand than what the end result was.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes, though it isn’t really in the pantheon of GREAT Pixar movies.  It’s good, near great, but unlike most Pixar movies I don’t immediately want to watch it again and again.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

The Lorax (2012)

In case you haven’t been able to tell by my month-long sabbaticals, I have grown somewhat weary of watching movies.  A lot of my reviews are basically re-posts from years ago, about movies that I have recently re-watched and had nothing new to say about.  When I do watch a new movie, I find myself putting off writing about them for days because unless they were great, it kind of gets me down that they were made in this day and age.  So sometimes, my reviews are going to be short and to the point, and not going every little thing that I hated or loved.

I did not like The Lorax.  In 2012, when a company with the pedigree of Pixar exists (completely ignoring the Cars movies), animated movies should be doing their best to emulate the masters of the craft.  I don’t mean copying their ideas (Shark Tale, etc.) and completely missing the point of them, but just figure out the heart of your movie and make it Feel.  Or make others Feel watching it, and make sure it isn’t condescending to kids or adults.

I didn’t feel anything watching The Lorax, other than a slightly creeping revulsion of the whole thing.  It was gorgeously animated, yeah, but the songs were absolutely horrible to listen to, and the voice cast were good, but the crap they had to read was crap!  I do not recommend The Lorax to anyone, not even five year old kids.

1.5 / 5