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.

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

TRON: Legacy (2010)

When I heard that they were making a sequel to TRON, I had mixed feelings about it.  At that time I still held TRON in high regard (as yesterday’s review stated, it doesn’t age as well as I wish it did), and it was nearly three decades after it was released, and blah blah blah Hollywood doesn’t have original ideas anymore, etc.  Yes, there was a potentially huge cult fanbase that would blindly embrace anything TRON-related, but could it be great or even as good as the first one?

In my opinion, yes.  A 2010 TRON movie would easily be on par with the 1982 version’s technical achievements, and with an elderly Jeff Bridges comfortable with his real life Zen persona being shown onscreen, well certainly the acting would be much better.  The set pieces would be guaranteed to be far more epic and action-packed, and with the nostalgia factor, for me the only way it would have been disappointing is if it had no heart or story.

Thankfully, it’s a decent enough tale, though not nearly as action-packed as I’m sure modern audiences would have wanted.  Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) ends up following in his father, Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) digital footprints by being transported onto The Grid in much the same manner, with Sam being forced to compete in The Games for the entertainment of the masses.  Turns out that Kevin’s creation, CLU (a digital Bridges), took over The Grid in order to create a perfect world, and Kevin had been living in hiding for 20 years or so.  With the help of Kevin’s apprentice, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam attempts to get back to the real world with his father.

If you go in expecting some sort of Matrix-style movie, you don’t know much about the original TRON.  It’s far more Zen than that.  Legacy doesn’t really speed along at points, being much more comfortable in methodically going about its business.  My biggest issue with the film is related to some of the technical effects, with the younger Kevin Flynn/CLU portrayed in such an unsettling, Uncanny Valley manner.  CGI artists just haven’t gotten the human mouth down to perfection yet.  I really enjoyed Legacy, to the point where I would put it above the original TRON simply because it is a more entertaining and enjoyable movie experience.  The first one was a trailblazer, sure, but not nearly as fun as this one.

3.5 / 5

TRON (1982)

I’m an old school video gamer from way back in the day.  For most of the 80s, all I had was an Intellivision, mostly because my dad was glacially slow at adopting new technologies.  We didn’t get a CD player until 1994.  I first got an NES sometime in 1990, I believe.  It was around the time that Nintendo Power was running that Dragon Warrior promotion.  Anyways, the games on the Intellivision system could best be described today as “crude” but immensely fun.  Even today, I could probably still kill a bunch of hours playing SNAFU or Triple Action, provided I had decent human competition.  All that being said, while today I game mostly on my PS3, I still have an appreciation for the original home gaming consoles.  That appreciation also extends to TRON, which was a groundbreaking film in 1982, but is mostly considered “adorably simple” in today’s CGI world.

While I still love TRON, every time I re-watch it, it gets a little less great in my view.  Some of the visual effects are still decently impressive, but it isn’t the cyberpunk classic that I want it to be.  A lot of the acting decisions by the cast could best be described as “laughable at best”, and the director Steven Lisberger would probably have done a few more takes if the film wasn’t such a relatively expensive movie to make.  Jeff Bridges and David Warner are pretty great from start to finish, but the rest of the cast just doesn’t seem to know what the hell is going on for the most part.

I’m not one for re-editing movies and changing certain aspects of them for modern audiences or anything, but I would like to watch a version of TRON that was scored by Daft Punk.  They did such a good job with TRON: Legacy that I think they could certainly improve upon the very dry and – at points – highly annoying synthesizer score of TRON.  I still greatly enjoy TRON, but it isn’t one of those films like The Big Lebowski where you gain a further appreciation for it each time you see it.  The Blu-Ray transfer looks great, though, and though many may decry the effects as “quaint”, I still think it’s a visually stunning movie.

3.5 / 5

John Carter (2012)

Sometimes I go into watching movies knowing little to nothing about them.  I knew that for years, this project had been around and it was originally titled John Carter of Mars and then it was inexplicably changed to something boring that unless you had the knowledge of the previous title, could have been anything.  I’d never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories, so I really had no idea what the movie was about, other than it maybe it used to have something to do with Mars, but not anymore.  Also, a guy named John Carter, pretty sure he was going to be central to the story, after all they left his name in the title.

Hey, have you ever seen Army of Darkness, but wished that instead of the far-gone past and undead enemies, Ash was on Mars with some humanoid Martians and some uh, regular looking Martians?  Well good news everyone, Disney made that movie!  It’s called John Carter and it’s a fairly bland but ultimately inoffensive unintentional (?) take on the Army of Darkness story.  Or not.  Whatever, that’s what it struck me as, except Taylor Kitsch is in no way, shape or form a decent replacement for Bruce Campbell.

There are several things that I liked about John Carter, but none of them are really worthy enough for me to highly recommend seeing the movie to anyone else.  I always enjoy seeing Lynn Collins in movies, though for most of Carter I kept thinking she was really Olivia Munn.  Mark Strong did his usual job as the heavy of the film, and yeah, it’s pretty much a cookie-cutter-summer-blockbuster that wasn’t.  Also, not released in the Summer.  Kitsch kept reminding me of a younger, blander Timothy Olyphant, in fact this whole movie was an exercise in disconcerting me about little things.  You might like it though, I’m sure my parents did.

3 / 5

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

I was never a big Winnie the Pooh fan.  Those parts in “Kingdom Hearts” where you go to the 100-Acre Wood were annoying to me, and I just can’t get behind such a selfish bear, all stuffed with fluff.  I barely remember anything about the Pooh movies back in the day, other than I didn’t think they were actual theatrical releases, just broadcast on The Wonderful World of Disney or something.  However, as soon as I started up Winnie the Pooh, I was instantly familiar with everything going on.

In fact, I’m not convinced that this production actually contains any new animation.  Everything that took place, I seem to remember snippets of from back in the day.  All kidding aside, it’s apparently three A.A. Milne Pooh stories combined, and thankfully the overall arc focuses on Eeyore, otherwise known as The Best One.  Apparently the animation was hand animated on a computer which does not make sense to me as terminology, but whatever.

The movie features some lovely breathy songs sung by Zooey Deschanel, and overall, it’s not a terrible movie at all.  It’s just a non-gritty reboot and should be very welcoming to all Pooh fans.

3.5 / 5

The Muppets (2011)

Back in December, I reviewed The Muppets Christmas Carol and found it to be somewhat… lacking.  I realised that my post-Jim Henson’s death Muppets-related experiences have mostly been in watching his version of The Muppets (and their awesome job at hosting Monday Night Raw on Hallowe’en 2011).  I don’t recall ever watching any of the Muppets movies in the ’90s or 2000s, and I used to own the first three seasons of “The Muppet Show” on DVD.  Watching that Christmas Carol made me wonder if I only loved the Jim Henson vision version of The Muppets.

Thankfully, Jason Segel (whose puppet love was explored deeply in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) co-wrote a screenplay that would see the resurrection of The Muppets we all know and love… except for Frank Oz apparently.  It’s a very meta and modern-feeling movie, with the abandoned Muppets Studio in danger of being bulldozed so the wonderfully evilly-named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) can drill for oil underneath it.  This evil plan is uncovered when Smalltown residents Gary (Segel), Mary (Amy Adams) and Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) go on vacation to Los Angeles.  Apparently this is the same world that “Greg the Bunny” exists in, as Walter being a fabricated American is not really remarked upon.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s the greatest Muppet thing ever, because in my books THIS is pretty fantastic.  However, I think it honours the characters, Jim Henson’s vision and makes The Muppets relevant again for one of the first times in their Disney-owned history.  Yeah, a lot of the jokes are cheesy and slapsticky, but that’s part of the wonderful charm.  You can tell that Segel and director James Bobin (of “Flight of the Conchords” fame) truly love The Muppets and didn’t want to just churn out another straight-to-DVD installment.  There’s loads of celebrity cameos to enjoy, and Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie won an Oscar for one of the songs featured in the movie.  It’s solid entertainment, and one that I may actually grow to love upon re-watchings.

4 / 5