Tag Archives: albert brooks

Finding Nemo/Monsters, Inc.

Nemo first appeared as a stuffed toy in Boo’s room in Monsters, Inc. (2001). Finding Nemo went on to tease two more future Pixar films: A kid in the dentist’s office is reading a Mr. Incredible comic book, and Luigi the little Fiat who runs Luigi’s Casa Della Tires in Cars drives by outside. But most of all, Finding Nemo gave us reason to love clown fish again. Marlin is a neurotic widower and overprotective single dad. His young son Nemo has a fin deformity thanks to a childhood accident but isn’t nearly as crippled by it as Marlin’s panic would indicate. Still, when Nemo is kidnapped by a dentist and hauled off to a fish tank in Australia, it’s kind of not great. Marlin has to confront his fears by navigating an entire ocean in order to save his son, and his only help is a forgetful sidekick named Dory.

You may have heard that Sean and I are at Disney World this week, with our two young nephews, Brady, age 7, and Jack, who will turn 5 while we’re there. The last mrrayand only other time I’ve visited the park, we were with Brady, aged just 18 months; Jack, though it’s hard to imagine life without him, wasn’t more than a twinkle. Finding Nemo was already wholeheartedly represented in the park. There’s an excellent 40 minute musical in Animal Kingdom, where large puppets are manipulated onstage. Epcot has a 5.7 million gallon saltwater aquarium filled with live sea creatures and Finding Nemo’s real-life counterparts. You ride a clam-mobile, and the ride simulates the animated characters swimming alongside the real fish, searching for Nemo, who really should dl-dory-applesknow better by now. They’ve also got Turtle Talk With Crush, which is a big hit with kids. Crush is the really cool sea turtle brimming with surfer dude wisdom. Kids see him animated on screen, and by the magic of Disney, he’s able to speak to them directly. Some guy behind a one-way mirror provides a live, interactive experience. It’s thrilling for kids when Crush says “Hey little girl in the green dress – I like your pigtails, dude!”

There’s a similar experience over in the Tomorrowland section of Magic Kingdom. It’s called Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and like Turtle Talk with Crush, it’s digital puppetry, with live actors performing voices behind a large digital screen, while computer-rendered monsters appear with the actors’ voices. Mike Wazowski hosts a stand-up comedy routine. You may remember in the movie, Mike and Sully are a team working for a factory where monsters sneak into children’s bedrooms to scare them, and collect their screams for power. By the end of the movie, the monsters file_9f77fec9have made friends with a child, and it is discovered that laughter yields ten times more power than screams ever did. Hence, a comedy club, where monsters are brilliantly using Disney World patrons to collect their laughs. When Sean and I were there 5 years ago, I was the audience patsy. I somehow got roped into the show, and there was some light roasting in my direction, but the actors behind the screen kept calling back to me throughout the show, much to Sean’s (and my brother-in-law’s) amusement. These are pretty cool attractions – the interactivity means they have to be manned (or peopled, or monstered) by some well-trained talent round the clock. These people have to be good at improv, but they also have to stay in character, and work the crowd, and keep in mind they’re turning over audiences every 10 minutes.

Disney does such a great job preserving our favourite films, and bringing them to file_560d1b9flife via not just rides, but all kinds of wonderful small detail in the park – check out these Finding Nemo candy apples, or this Monsters-inspired dress, which okay, spoiler alert: I am wearing. And the matching Mike Wazowski purse that I am probably right this very minute weakly resisting buying. And even more exciting, check out these themed rooms available at Disney’s Animation resort. We’re staying in a Cars suite with the boys, because it’s their absolute favourite. Everything at Disney is kicked up to 11.

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The Little Prince

A little girl has a bright future ahead of her. How do I know? She and her mother (Rachel McAdams) have her whole life planned out. A life plan so intense she’s more like her mother’s Senior VP than her daughter. Her mother’s best compliment: “You are going to make a wonderful grownup.”

But the crazy old man (Jeff Bridges) next door draws her out of her mature little shell with his fanciful inventions and his beautiful story-telling. His stories and drawings come to life in animation within the animation: the story of The Little Prince.

Growing up it was always Le Petit Prince to me, but even en anglais, the timeless story warms the heart. The main story, starring the little girl, and the crazy man’s story, starring the little prince, are distinguished with different styles of animation. The little girl is done in familiar CG style; the little prince is stop-motion, done not in clay but in paper. Both are lovely, 210b0b20-a7ab-11e5-88e2-828a3e695a05_1280x720but I confess a fondness for the nostalgia and simple loveliness of the latter.

The voice cast is incredible: Jeff Bridges, Paul Rudd, Albert Brooks, Marion Cotillard, Benicio Del Toro, and more. It’s a real testament to just how cherished the book is, around the world. The Little Prince is a sweet children’s book but it can be read and enjoyed by adults, with many layers of themes to interpret. The same goes for the movie, faithfully and lovingly adapted from its source.

The little girl, too grown up for her own good, rediscovers childhood lp-garden-rgb-5kthrough friendship with the batty old guy next door. But anyone who knows the story knows that along with sweetness, there is also sorrow. The first half of the movie is all poetry and imagination. The second half falters a bit when it gets further away from Saint-Exupéry’s ideas and ideals. The movie is a little less fanciful than the novella, a little more down to earth. But The Little Prince has always been the stuff of dreams, too good, too ethereal for Earth. It’s still lovely though. It’s still one of the loveliest things I’ve seen all summer.

 

The Secret Life of Pets

Illumination Entertainment has taken a page from Pixar’s mega success and included a short in front of their recent effort, The Secret Life of Pets. It’s called Mower Minions and reminds you that these little yellow compatriots are still celebrities to the 6-and-under crowd, their fart jokes just as relevant and hilarious as ever.

On to the main event, a 90 minute movie that also wants to remind you that it’s by the same team behind the Minions.  The little owner of a guinea pig snuggles beside a Minion toy at night. maxresdefaultAnd a dog gets dressed up as a Minion for Halloween (is it just me or does a second dog get outfitted as the foul-mouthed teddy bear, Ted?). Pixar does the same sly product placement, making sure its current characters are fans and consumers of their older stuff. The comparisons to Pixar, much as the humans behind Despicable Me might hope they continue, pretty much end there.

I liked this movie. Very much. But I’m a dog person and a quadruple dog owner. If you remind me of them, or engage me about them, of course I’ll smile. They’re furry little bundles of unconditional love and loyalty and joy. If you make a movie about dogs and it’s not a complete delight, you’re probably a miserable fuck.

The Secret Life of Pets earns a belly rub every time it reminds you of your own four-legged friends. For me it was the escape via temporary fencing (we had a pool built this summer, and our yard was a logistical nightmare) and the sausage-induced delirium. While I don’t think ourthumbnail_23930 dogs have ever broken into a hot dog factory (though how would I know?), they do experience what we call “wiener fever” every time we have leftovers from the grill.

The movie merely gets a perfunctory pat on the head though when it comes to story-telling. Oh, it’ll please the pants right off your kids. They’ll love it. And you’ll find it much less annoying than those insufferable Minions. But it’s a superficial story that will have no lasting impact on anyone. Of all the talking animal movies this year (Finding Dory, Zootopia), this one will seem inconsequential in comparison. Yes the doggies talked – but what did they have to say?

So take it for what it is: an incredibly talented voice cast, a solid use of 3D, and a pleasant way to either babysit the kids or while away a rainy afternoon.

Finding Dory

As soon as you hear the voices of Ellen DeGeneres (as Dory) and Albert Brooks (as Nemo’s neurotic dad, Marlin), you realize how much you’ve missed these two. It’s been 13 long years since the original was in theatres but only a single year has elapsed in the ocean where they make their home.
all-trailers-lead-to-finding-dory-check-out-brand-new-footage-in-this-japanese-internat-941918Writer\co-director Andrew Stanton had no desire to revisit Nemo’s world until he rewatched it in 3D and realized how many unanswered questions peppered Dory’s storyline. So good news, folks: those burning questions that have been keeping you awake the last dozen years finally get their time in sea – Why does Dory speak whale? How did she learn to read? And does her disability make for a lonely life?

Dory convinces Nemo and Marlin to embark on yet another oceanwide journey, this time to find her absent family. Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton voice her parents in various flashbacks (Dory was a SUPER cute young guppie!), but with a spotty memory and so much time gone by, is it even possible to find them? How to put this delicately…just what is the life expectancy of even a vegetarian, non-smoking, yoga-adhering blue tang?

The magic of Finding Nemo is safely recaptured in Finding Dory; the story makes room for both old friends and new. Hank, the cranky octopus (or technically a septapus, if you bother to count) is a definite break-out star, voiced by Ed O’Neill. He helps Dory navigate hank-octopus-finding-dorythe exhibits of an aquarium where she believes her parents live. Ty Burrell, who plays Ed’s son-in-law on Modern Family, voices a beluga whale with dubious echolocation abilities but a willingness to play “guide whale” for his visually impaired friend. In fact, the nice thing about this new world presented in Finding Dory is that the marine rescue centre in question rehabs sick fish – everyone’s got some sort of disability but they’ve got plenty of ability too, even Dory. Or especially Dory. My favourite new character is a bird named Becky, who, okay, maybe has some mental health issues, maybe is a little intellectually challenged, maybe isn’t as finely feathered as some, but MY GOD. The minute she was introduced I had a mini meltdown, wracked with laughter.

Finding Dory can’t surprise you in quite the same way the first one did, but it makes up for 107c86e0-155e-0134-fd5e-0e31b36aeb7f.pngit in laughs and heart. Last week on our podcast, Matt hoped that the sequel would make him cry as the first one did. The verdict’s not in on his tear ducts, but mine were a leaky mess.

A memory-challenged fish sets out to find her blue family and along the way remembers that she already has an orange one.  I’ve seen a lot of sequels lately that stink like 13 year old fish, but Finding Dory is a sweet and satisfying cuddle party with old friends, serving up something fresh that everyone will enjoy.

Concussion

Concussion makes you sick with guilt for being an NFL fan.  As the movie unfolds, the names and stories of these tormented souls bring back memories of news articles you’ve read, and you know that even if some of the details are fictionalized, all the important ones are true.  And even though Sony’s leaked emails reveal they toned down the movie to avoid kicking the “hornet’s nest” that is the National Football League, the watered down version is horrifying enough.  Concussion makes you feel dirty for ever having watched a Super Bowl, let alone having bought a ticket, because involvement as a fan means you actively contributed to the destruction of so many lives.

Mike Webster really died in his pickup truck.  Justin Strezelczyk really died in a fiery crash because he drove into oncoming traffic while being chased by the police.  Terry Long really drank antifreeze.  Andre Waters really shot himself in the head.  Dave Duerson really was an NFLPA executive who fatally shot himself in the chest so he could

US PRESSWIRE Sports Archive-Historical

The real-life Mike Webster.  RIP.

donate his brain to science (and Junior Seau really did the same).  All of these former players were 50 or younger when they died.  All have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease that causes symptoms of dementia including memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression.  The scariest thing is that these are just a few of the former players who have died from CTE, or are living with CTE-like symptoms (a CTE diagnosis cannot be confirmed until after death), and there are thousands more who almost surely are living with the same symptoms and/or other neurological conditions like Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or dementia.

That alone would have been enough for Concussion to make me uncomfortable but a personal connection made these issues all too real.  Growing up, I was a good athlete but my brother Bryan was better.  He was good enough to be playing both basketball and rugby on provincial teams at age 16, and then it was time to make a choice.  He chose rugby because he loved hitting people (which makes sense because he’s kind of an asshole too).  Focusing on rugby made him even better at it, and after high school he went out west to play for the Canadian junior national team.

And then everything went south in a huge way.  His first concussion was well in the past, suffered at age 14 while playing quarterback.  We didn’t think of it at the time but as the hits piled up, every big hit hurt him more and took him longer to recover from.  By the time he was playing national-level rugby, and getting hammered repeatedly by other 6’5″, 240 pound monsters like himself, he was also experiencing blackouts, memory loss, chronic pain and who knows what else.  When he came to at the top of a mountain and had no idea how he had gotten there (turns out he ran the mile from his house then continued all the way to the top), it was a rude awakening in more ways than one.  That was the end of his rugby career but only the beginning of his suffering.  He lost years to pain, headaches, and nausea, he lost his desired career as a firefighter, and he almost lost himself.

Bryan’s story has taken a better turn lately, as he has found treatments and medications that help him manage his pain and live his life. But for me, Concussion was a terrifying reminder that Bryan could have been Mike Webster.  He may still be.  Bryan’s only 36, which is how old Justin Strezelczyk was when he drove into a tanker truck.  Mike Webster was still playing football at 36, so 50 is still a long way off for Bryan and countless others.

Will Smith is decent in the role of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the coroner who autopsied Mike Webster and brought a lot of these issues to light after so many years of darkness and denial.  His accent is not as distracting as in the trailer but I couldn’t escape the feeling that the script was designed to include the phrases that Smith was better at saying in an African accent (“Tell the truth.  Tell the truth!”).  The same accent probably would have been more palatable coming from an unknown actor but does this movie get made or seen if Will Smith isn’t starring?  So while I probably wouldn’t have nominated him for a Golden Globe, I can see how he got one.  He is obviously trying here and maybe that was the problem for me.  In my view Albert Brooks (as Dr. Omalu’s mentor) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (as his wife) both gave better performances than Smith.

Concussion makes sure to note the similarity between the NFL’s treatment of concussions and big tobacco’s treatment of cancer, and the comparisons are apt.  They still ring true, especially when the class action settlement between the NFL and 4,500 former players was conditional on the NFL never having to admit what it knew about the danger of concussions, or how long it’s known.  It’s easy to read between the lines.

The hits these players took (and gave) are going to kill many of them.  And we watched and cheered.  For me, Concussion made me realize that I’m long overdue to stop cheering and stop pretending that any of this is okay.

For that, I’m glad I saw Concussion.  I’m not sure the movie works as well as it should, because it seemed at times to soften its message in an effort to not seem too preachy.  I’m thinking particularly of a speech Smith’s character gives where he says he doesn’t hate football after being persecuted by the NFL for his research, which to me rang false.  Still, despite that scene and a few similar missteps, Concussion got to me and made me think, and that’s worth something.

Concussion gets a score of seven (six for the touchdown and one for the PAT) out of ten.

 

Defending Your Life

Daniel gives a thank you speech to his colleagues that would be welcome at any stand-up club. Then he goes to pick up his pretty new car, a gift to himself on his birthday. Driving around with the top down, he’s singing his heart out to Barbra Streisand on the radio when – blammo – a truck hits him and he’s dead.

Just like that.

He winds up in Judgment City, a resort-like version of afterlife limbo where the recently deceased must defend their lives in a courtroom setting – they’ll either move on to whatever’s bigger and better, or they’ll be sent back to Earth to live another life and try to be more worthy.

Daniel (Albert Brooks) feels he’s lived a good life, been a good person. But as his ‘trial’ unfolds he’s surprised to learn what we’re actually judged upon – not our good deeds or charitable contributions, but on the risks we took (whether they panned out or not), and the fearlessness with which we’ve lived our lives.

Uh oh. Suddenly Daniel’s not so confident. And the prosecutor has hundreds of instances in his life queued up to illustrate the many times he had bad judgement. To make things simultaneously better and worse, he meets the beautiful Julia (Meryl Streep), whose life seems to have been meritorious in every way imaginable. It seems certain that she will move on to the better place while he is likely to be sent back, their newfound love cut short.

I can’t believe I never saw this movie before – these are two of my top five people. Albert Brooks wrote and directed it too, so you better believe it’s funny. But it’s also surprisingly warm and thoughtful. Brooks makes the best of his platform, and treats it like his vehicle. Streep therefore appears in it much less that you might expect, but she makes a lot of her scenes, and it’s a great reminder of he excellent comedic timing. Plus she just has this glow about her – a glow that totally justifies a man falling with her during the 5 most important days of his (after)life.

Defending Your Life is wise and witty and a whole lot of fun. Worth digging into the back catalogue for.