Posts Tagged ‘Pixar’

Two Blondes Go to a Movie: Toy Story 3

July 13, 2010

Jessica says:

First off, let me just say that I made the mistake of not immediately writing my review for this movie after seeing it.  I remember liking it…and crying…  Note to self:  In the future, write reviews immediately after viewing.  You see, I was called for jury duty about two weeks ago and am STILL serving.  Now instead of my brain being filled with thoughts about cute cartoon characters (per usual), it’s full of legal thoughts and testimony notes.

I really can’t think of a movie that had higher expectations going in to it than Toy Story 3.  Not only is it the third chapter in a highly lauded trilogy, but it is also the latest release from Pixar.  Pixar has (what I’m going to call) the only undefeated streak in movie production ever.  They have yet to release a box office bomb or a critically slammed movie.  There is a reason for this success – they are just really dang good storytellers.

The story is about (from my slightly hazy recollection) the toys we have all come to know and love as Andy’s being retired, or at least the make-believe toy version of retired.  Through a series of events, they end up being donated to the Sunnyside Daycare Center.  The daycare is full of toys that have been donated by the parents of their original owners. We are introduced to all sorts of new characters as the daycare – Lotso, the dictator of Sunnyside, Ken, and Big Baby, the scariest doll since Chucky.  My favorite newbie, however, is introduced as part of the backstory of Lotso – Mr. Pricklepants.   Mr. Pricklepants is a community theatre-loving hedgehog in lederhosen.  He is pretentious and adorable.  Back at Sunnyside, things are not the Shangri-la that they initially appeared to be, however.  Our hero toys have to stage what is basically a prison break to escape.

Joining and subsequently leaving Sunnyside is really only the surface level of what Toy Story 3 is about.  Underneath that plot, like in all the Pixar movies, lies comments and themes with a much deeper emotional resonance.  They delve into the disposable nature of our society (seen before in Wall-E) and the feeling of uselessness that comes as part of the ageing process (seen before in Up).  Expect to let go of some tears in this film.  I did and I know of several grown men who did as well.  Toy Story 3 is totally worth seeing at any price.

Alison says:

Toy Story 3 melted my heart. I’m not saying my heart was actually made of ice, but if it had been (like the bad guy in one of the Care Bear movies) it would have melted, leaving me with an embarrassing puddle on my shirt and pants. Me: “I swear it’s not pee. My heart just melted while watching this film.” And then Jessica would have just shook her head at me. I’m getting a bit off point… my point is I loved Toy Story 3. I watched it in a state of absolute glee.  Well, glee and some misty eyes at certain points in the story. I watched it with three other friends who were equally moved and entertained.

I know this blog may have sounded like a tribute to Pixar in the past, but how can one not kneel at the feet of the people who brought us WALL-E and now Toy Story 3?  Thank you Pixar!!!

LA Viewers: Totally worth paying full price at the Grove or Arclight. I don’t know if you need to pay the money for the 3-D. It looked great, but for me the story was much more important than the 3-D effects. So if you’re pinching pennies (as we all are), go for the non-3D matinee.

Translation for non-LA viewers: Go see it immediately! You will laugh, cry and start to wonder about your own toys in the attic.

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Two Blondes Go to a Movie: Coraline

March 20, 2009

Two Blondes review a movie and mostly ramble about themselves:


ALISON SAYS:

My head’s a very interesting place to be.  There’s unicorns, rainbows, ghosts, funny anecdotes, Angelina Jolie, rainbow sprinkle cookieland, wonderment, etc.  But Coraline’s world might be a tad cooler.  

I was lucky enough to live in a city where I could go see Coraline in 3-D and that was pretty amazing.  It is an experience.  It’s like taking a bath in imagination.  And then suddenly someone adds a big dash of crazy nightmares that might be a result of eating too much candy before bed.  

The movie is creepy, beautiful and spectacular, which shouldn’t come as a shock, since it was directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas).  I loved being in that world and being along for the ride.  

LA Viewers: Go see it in 3-D.  

Translation for non-LA viewers: Same goes for you.  I don’t care if you live in a barn in the middle of nowhere.  

JESSICA SAYS:

Reason #482 for me to be annoyed by (the) Jonas Brothers:  I showed up at the theater all excited to see Coraline in 3-D.  The usher took our tickets and pointed us toward the right theater.  I asked where we get our 3-D glasses.  That’s when I was informed that, despite what was posted online, the movie theater decided to show Jonas Brothers:  the 3-D Concert Experience on the only 3-D screen at the theater.

After seeing the film, I now know that I really was cheated by not seeing Coraline in 3-D.  The animation in this film (for the most part, but I’ll get to that in a second) is spectacular. This style of stop-motion animation uses real materials, just on a very small scale.  Even without seeing it in 3-D, you can see the actual fibers that make up everything on screen.

Coraline is the story of a girl who moves to a new apartment in a strange house filled with odd neighbors.  The neighbors are so odd that, if you asked me, they all probably could benefit from some time in a comfortable mental facility.  She is ignored by her parents and thus, escapes into a fantasy world (or is it?).  Now I will be honest; I procrastinated writing this review for a long time and I still and not 100% certain what I think or want to say about Coraline.  I think it comes down to the fact that the visuals are so great that they sort of cover the fact that I didn’t find the story that engrossing.  The story is definitely supposed to be a parable, but about what, I’m not entirely sure.  Is the lesson parents who ignore you are better than seemingly perfect parents who want to take your eyeballs?  Is the lesson, even though reality can suck, it’s better than fantasy?  I guess my point is – what was the point?

My only negative comment on the animation side of the film happens toward the end.  As Coraline’s alternate reality starts to unravel…literally…things get bizarre.  I understand the effect they were going for, but the look of the animation as her fantasy world unravelled seemed so out of whack with the rest of the film.  Now a warning, I’m about to get a bit snarky, but…

Teri Hatcher voices Coraline’s mother.  You know how you can always see a little bit of the voice actor in the drawing of the character?  For instance, you can see Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in the way Woody and Buzz Lightyear look and move.  Well, I didn’t see any of Teri Hatcher in the original incarnation of Coraline’s mother.  That is, until things started to go pear-shaped in Coraline’s fantasy world and her mother morphed into a scary skeletal-looking woman and eventually became a spider.  The scarier the character was drawn the more she looked like the real Teri Hatcher.  I don’t entirely understand why that is.  I mean, yes, she is a bit on the scarily thin side of things, but I think Teri Hatcher is a lovely woman.  

Coraline as a whole is good, but not great.  The animation is fantastic, but they could take a few notes from Pixar on how to structure a cohesive story.  I’m going to say if you can see it in 3-D, do.  Otherwise wait for the DVD.

Two Blondes Watch a DVD: WALL-E

November 21, 2008

Two Blondes review a DVD and ramble about themselves:

ALISON SAYS:

I’m a person who is easily excitable by nature.  But with WALL-E my level of excitement is at a whole new level, one might even say a level that is out of this world, if one was into cheesy metaphors.  I saw WALL-E twice in the theaters and was extremely moved and filled with glee both times.  I don’t cry at movies, I’m not the type of girl who goes to movies hoping to cry and be emotional.  That’s not my cup of tea.  I’d rather watch super heros battling or cars exploding.  But I did cry four times the first time I watched WALL-E.  And by cry, I mean I started welling up and furiously wiped my eyes in an effort not to look like a weepy girly girl.

As I sat down to watch it for the third time on the recently released DVD, I was smiling from ear to ear.  I could not wait to be reunited with my sweet, curious robot friend.  This movie is possibly the best movie I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think I could date someone unless they agreed on this.  WALL-E’s unconditional love for EVE is a beautiful thing to watch.  Sure, if you’re a cold-hearted person with no imagination, maybe it’s hard to care about two little animated robots.  But if your heart is pumping warm blood like mine, then you will be moved by what happens and grows between these two characters.  Maybe I’m just a nerd who thinks robots are cool (especially cute ones).  Maybe I relate to WALL-E, because I do look at the world with childlike wonder and I have the curiosity of a hyper monkey.  Maybe you’re not someone who has these traits, but you should still agree that this is one of the most amazing films ever created. Pixar obviously has a really good track record, but in my humble, robot-loving opinion, they’ve even surpassed their past achievements with this film.

The opening is a moving masterpiece.  It should be framed and hung on the wall of some fancy museum where snooty people in tiny hats eat cheese and babble on and on about meaning and art.  What is established without the use of dialogue is amazing.  After witnessing the desolation and loneliness of future Earth, it only makes WALL-E’s positive, curious, caring nature that more admirable.  Despite living in a broken world, this little robot has not become bitter or mean.  He still just wants to help and wants to find happiness in any small way he can.

The future this movie painted is terrifying, but also feels like a real possibility to me.  If you’ve ever walked down Universal’s Citywalk and been surrounded by overfilling trash cans, carts selling plastic junk and crowds of jiggling, obese tourists, then you’d realize that vision may be exactly where we’re heading.  Maybe if enough people see this movie, we can all take a breath and start making small daily choices that will add up to a big impact.  Not to turn into a “The More You Know” (SFX: DING) moment, but please recycle and please turn the water off when you’re not using it.  Turning the tap off while you brush your teeth (rather than just leaving it running for 5 minutes straight) can save gallons of water a day.  Just don’t be a dick to the earth.

Back to the movie.  A shout out must be given to Fred Willard who is always hilarious.  As always, Pixar chooses their cast for talent rather than who’s recently graced the cover of “US Weekly.”  If I could find him, I would bow down in a “We’re not worthy” moment to Ben Burtt for creating the voice of WALL-E.  WALL-E’s manner of speech and sounds can make me giggle with glee.  There is not much else in the world that makes me as happy as hearing WALL-E talk and “ohhh” and ahhh.”  And looking over Burtt’s IMDb page made me even more awestruck at his many credits and his creativity with sound engineering.  Here’s two really interesting bits fom his trivia page:

To create the rumbling sound of the gigantic boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), he placed a microphone close to the tire of his Honda Civic as it coasted slowly down his gravel driveway. The recording was later engineered at various speeds to best replicate the rolling boulder.

For Star Wars (1977), he created the sound of the lightsabers by mixing the humming sound of his TV set – tuned between channels – with the sound of an old 35mm projector.

Pixar, thank you, thank you, thank you!  You constantly make me believe and make me happy.

Final Word: Buy the DVD and watch it many, many times.  But be sure to recycle any plastic packaging after you buy it.

JESSICA SAYS:

I don’t have a good history with robots which might be why I didn’t feel compelled to see WALL-E in the theater this summer, no matter how many times Alison told me it made her cry and she never cries in movies.  I remember the first ‘bad’ grade I ever got in school (OK, it’s at least the first one I really remember).  It was in my junior high gifted class.  We had just finished the unit on the Maya and I loved it–not the part where we had to learn how to multiply and divide in the Mayan math system (base-twenty…don’t ask me to explain it.  I couldn’t if I wanted to, but maybe Wikipedia can help).  Math was always by far my worst subject, so I barely had a handle on our numerical system, much less anything else.

Things took a sharp downward turn for me when I found out our next unit was robotics and computer programming.  Keep in mind that I went to a public school in a small town in Missouri, so the budget for the program was approximately $2.74.  We were each given a box of parts we were supposed to assemble into something that resembled WALL-E.  The problem lay in that the robot I was given was used…heavily used.  I came to discover that it was missing at least 20% of it’s parts–most importantly, the instructions.  At the end of the unit what was supposed to be my robot was a collection of seven pieces that just looked like choking hazards.  My mom was called in for a conference.

Alison would not stop going on about how much she loved this movie, so when I saw it was coming out on DVD I decided to swallow my biterness towards robots and suggested we review the DVD.  The movie is set on future Earth, where WALL-E is a robot designed to compact garbage into a cube and stack it.  He appears to be the last remaining working robot, as humans abandoned the planet years before when it became so overrun with trash that life was unsustainable.  The story is part cautionary tale about where our planet is headed and partly a portrayl of that most basic emotional human need for companionship.

I loved the first section of the film on bleak, desolate future Earth.  WALL-E collects random pieces of the trash he compacts–a spork, an eggbeater–and keeps them in his home.  They are just tiny examples of the millions of things we use and discard without much thought on where things come from and where they go when we throw them away.

I loved the film less when WALL-E left Earth and joined the remaining humans on their spaceship.  Everything became shiny, fast, and silly.  It just felt so disjointed after the beginning of the film that my mind began to wander.  I started to think about how the companies behind this movie are as culpable as any for the consumerism and consumption the first part of the film warned against.  Now, I don’t want this to sound like I’m getting up on my soapbox against Disney or Pixar.  For the record, both companies have made films that would be on my list of favorites.  It’s just that people become the fat, lazy, narciscistic creatures like the humans in the movie by spending a childhood plopped in front of the TV for hours watching things like the WALL-E DVD, playing the WALL-E game on their PS3, etc.  Where does all that garbage that Wall-E collects in the movie come from?  Things like the 20+ variations of the WALL-E figure and all that packaging they come in, the comforter set, lunchbox, sticker book, Halloween costume, stuffed dolls, and laptop–all available at http://www.disneyshopping.com for your convience, but keep in mind kids, “Only grown-ups can buy stuff at DisneyShopping.com.”

I loved the scenes set on future Earth, but the rest left me unsatisfied (especially the happy ending, but like there was a chance of anything but a happy ending in a children’s movie).  I would recommend watching this with little ones, but it would be nice if parents followed the movie with a conversation about what we can do right now so that our planet never looks like where WALL-E lives.  When you wish upon a star…

DVD extras:  I loved the feature on the sound design process for animation, but I am a geek:  see paragraphs one and two of this review.  Of the two shorts, I prefered Presto over BURN-E, but they were both cute and definately worth checking out.