Tag Archives: family movies

WALL-E

I never appreciated just how dark the opening to Wall-E is. The landscape is littered not just with trash, but with the busted skeletons of old Wall-E models that have met their doom while relentlessly cubing trash. In fact, Wall-E sizes up one robot corpse and swaps his worn out tracks for the newer ones on the dead body of his comrade – very reminiscent of war movies where soldiers are always on the lookout for newer boots, and the soul-crushing way they’ll pry them off a bloated corpse if necessary.

Wall-E, by the way, is the last functioning trash-compacting robot (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class) on Earth. All the humans fled 700 years ago when the Earth was overwhelmed with garbage. The whole living in space thing was thought to be temporary (5 years), but no amount of Wall-Es could get the job done, and eventually all but our Wall-E became trash themselves. Wall-E is a bit of a hoarder; he collects MV5BMjZkODJmYzktMDYzNi00NWQ3LTllZTMtMWVhOTgxY2U4ODA3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzA4NzQyMjk@._V1_human treasures much the way Ariel does in The Little Mermaid. He’s got a Rubik’s cube and an Atari and he loves to watch Hello, Dolly!, which keeps his romantic streak alive despite living a pretty solitary life. But then one day a lovely robot named Eve (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) gets sent to Earth to search for signs of life. Having found a seedling, she jets back to the Axiom where humans have been living for more than 250 000 days, despite some “slight” bone loss. Enamoured, Wall-E follows her there, where her positive probe engages a return-to-Earth protocol. Unfortunately, the ship’s autopilot computer has other ideas.

The first 20 minutes or so of Wall-E are dialogue-free. This put many people off the film, but I didn’t even notice, so enraptured was I by stunning visuals. Cinematographer Roger Deakins was consulted to see how he might light and shoot the scenes, and he was happy to oblige. Those opening scenes therefore look like some of his atmospheric, sepia-hued stuff, and it’s no accident.

Wall-E has a magic that cannot quite be explained. It’s a sci-fi epic that manages to give us a glimpse into the future through the telescope of a current issue, while maintaining a nostalgic reverence. It’s Back To The Future, but with robots, and gelatinous blobs that used to be human (which begs the question: when a blobby human falls out of their chair, and literally cannot right himself without robot assistance, how in the heck are they still fucking?). Minor qualms aside, Wall-E is exhilarating and beautiful. You may know that I’m reviewing Disney movies this week because I’m at Disney World with my two sweetheart nephews, who are sure to make the experience a memorable one. It puts a literal pinch in my heart to say this, but they’re both born after Wall-E came out. Gulp. So they may not be searching for signs of Wall-E in the Magic Kingdom, but I will be – or I would be, if Wall-E had any presence at all. Sadly, he does not. Which is weird, because Wall-E was a huge movie in 2008, and it went on to score 6 Oscar nominations, a feat that had only been equaled by Beauty and the Beast, and you can be sure that both Belle and the Beast are featured heavily in these parks. In fact we’ll be dining on “the grey stuff” in the Beast’s castle, whether or not the boys get the reference because their mother and I grew up on 90s Disney, and the last time I checked, it was our Visas doing the heavy lifting.

Speaking of which, I have in fact visited Disney World once before, when the older of my two nephews was but a babe of 18 months. I had heard about this magical place all my life, and it didn’t matter that my first visit was as an adult, I went at that bitch with childhood wonder, delighting in Mickey-shaped ice cream bars, waving at the mascots on parade. I was obsessed with finding the perfect set of Mickey ears, but only knew about them from my elementary school classmates who brought them back without fail, embroidered with their names, from their own Disney vacations. I didn’t realize that today there are hundreds of dozens of possibilities: ears for every occasion, for every character, for every film, for every ride in every park. It was so overwhelming I spent my whole vacation embarrassingly ear-less. This time I’m anticipating being crippled with indecision and I’ve done two brilliant things:

  1. I’ve warned Sean to bring ALL the money.
  2. I’ve given myself permission to buy new ears each day.
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I’ve already pre-scouted these Wall-E ears that will be very hard to resist. But I think we can all agree that they only work if I can convince Sean to wear the other pair. And though the man is smart enough to never say no to me, he also doesn’t have a whimsical bone in his body and i’m just not sure I can do it to him. But probably I can! After all, this is the place where dreams really do come true.
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Disney Movies Based on Rides

I am no fan of Johnny Depp, or Orlando Bloom, or stupid movies, so when Pirates of the Caribbean came out, I didn’t need another reason not to see it. But a movie based on a ride? What does that even mean? Of course, at the time, I’d never been to Disney World, so I didn’t understand to what lengths Disney goes to actually tell a story with its rides. This was not such a stretch. Nor was it the first of its kind. In fact, unknown to me, there were several movies based on rides coming out at the same time.

The Haunted Mansion is a much-loved ride at Disney. Sean remembers it from anigif_enhanced-5175-1444687916-5childhood, but the ride is even older than he is – it opened in 1969 in Disneyland, and 1971 in Disney World, and both are still operating today. You ride in a doom-buggy through a dark, spook-filled mansion. To this day, Sean is disappointed that his little sister ruined the ride for him – her little body occupying the space between Sean and his dad meant that they didn’t see the ghost in their cart, but two-person carts are treated to a spectral sight between them, among many other spooky tricks.

The movie The Haunted Mansion (2003) managed to come out to so little fanfare that I never knew it existed. Its story doesn’t really draw much inspiration from the ghosts that are known and loved for the WDW ride, but anyone who’s ridden it in Paris might find something more familiar. Eddie Murphy plays Jim Evers, a real estate agent who works alongside his wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason). He’s a mv5bnzc4nwyzzjctytm5os00odqylwfiyjetmdkyzgezndexnmrhl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzq2odyxodq@._v1_workaholic and they’re supposed to be at the lake with their kids this weekend, but instead he can’t resist a detour to check out a potential listing – a cobwebbed, derelict mansion. Its “master” Gracey (Nathanial Parker) is reclusive and his butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp), is…protective. Jennifer Tilly, Wallace Shawn, and Dina Waters round out the the mansion’s creepy staff.

While the ride manages to mix horror with humour, the movie doesn’t quite manage either. In fact, I was constantly distracted by the memory of Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routine wherein he avowed that no black person would ever star in a haunted house horror movie because they would have sense enough to just leave the minute they saw anything supernatural. The Evers family does not leave. The audience feels very much like they have overstayed their welcome. Guillermo Del Toro was rumoured to be remaking this film, and I cannot overstate how very welcome that would be, but he has since parted ways with Disney so the film seems increasingly unlikely. Boo.

Country Bear Jamboree is a bunch of ursine animatronics who put on a country the-country-bear-bear-band-bears-now-in-high-definitionmusic spectacle, and have done so in Walt Disney World since 1971 – and they do to this day, in a slightly revamped version. I find it fascinating that park-goers in 2019 continue to be entertained satisfactorily by “technology” that was obsolete before most of them were born (if the popularity of the Millennial Pink Minnie mouse ears are any indicator of the park’s demographics). And yet the bears can still be found strumming banjos and talking to taxidermied heads in Frontierland.

The Country Bears  (2002) is beary disappointing. The bears are basically just people wearing dopey bear costumes, and the movie is live-action, with bears and humans mixing unreservedly. However, little Beary Barrington (voice: Haley Joel Osment) knows that he is different from his human brother and human parents. He’s detail.9e4f2ff3adopted. The only kinship he feels is toward The Country Bears, a defunct country-rock band made up of bears, who have since broken up. When Beary runs away from home to The Country Bears’ favourite venue, he finds it derelict, and about to be torn down. In a bid to save it, he tries to reunite the band for a fundraiser reunion concert. It’s a bafflingly bad film with zero laughs. I don’t know how it got made, I don’t know which 17 people went to a theatre to see it, and I don’t know how The Muppets got away with stealing this exact plot line 9 years later. And yes that’s Christopher Walken in the photo.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, it was 1998, and we thought they were pretty good, but looking back, it’s 100% cringe. What were we thinking?

It’s hard to even imagine a world in which Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the middle brother from Home Improvement, could break out into movie stardom, but Disney did right by its ABC stars, making Tim Allen the voice of Buzz Lightyear and Thomas the voice of Simba. In fact, if you watch I’ll Be Home For Christmas, also a Disney movie, closely, you’ll see some similarities to Lion King. Thomas plays Jake, a college kid who’d rather go to Mexico with his girlfriend than home for the holidays. His girlfriend Allie (Jessica Biel), however, is more family-minded, and Jake’s father (Gary Cole) bribes him with a Porsche. So suddenly Jake is motivated to get home for Christmas, but a rival for Allie’s affections gets in the way of things. Jake comes to in the middle of a desert, and the scene closely mirrors Simba’s own desert scene, down to the turkey vultures squawking at him.

Jake is wearing a Santa suit, and finds that his beard and hat are glued to him. He has no Jake-Wilkinson-763712money, and since it’s 1998, no cell phone. He does know people’s phone numbers though, which is weird, so he’s able to call people collect from a gas station payphone. Nobody comes to his rescue. So now he’s got a cross-country road trip to make, relying on the kindness of strangers, in order to get home by 6pm on Christmas Eve and claim the keys to the Porsche.

Thing is, Jake is not exactly the kind of guy who inspires kindness from strangers. He’s well known for his sweet-talking but he’s a flake and he’s selfish, so he wears out his welcome quickly. Jonathan Taylor Thomas does his best Christian Slater impersonation throughout the movie, and it never, not once, works for him. But since the rest of the cast is also rather talentless and annoying, I guess it blends in?

This isn’t exactly a classic Christmas movie, and it probably won’t win any new fans – basically, unless you had JTT centrefolds from Tiger Beat magazine on your walls as a kid, you’ll probably never get around to this movie, and that’s totally fine. On the other hand, it’s probably the only Disney movie with the world ‘butthole’ in it, so maybe that’s something?

 

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) was a child prodigy, but now that she’s 23, she’s just a woman who hasn’t made a musical mark yet. She’s the manager of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which Mr. Magorium claims to have owned for 114 years. The toy store is frantic with happy children – like FAO Schwartz given the Toy Story treatment. The toys are nearly alive with magic. The store is filled with the strange and the fantastic.

Molly’s right hand man is Eric Applebaum, a kid who struggled to make friends his own age, but shows up the toy store every day in one of the many hats from his impressive collection. One day, Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) realizes, in his 243rd year, that Magorium3perhaps it is time to get his affairs in order. He hires a very straight-laced accountant named Henry (Jason Bateman) to set things right before he dies. His lifetime supply of shoes is on its last pair, so his death is imminent, if not quite predictable. Unable to decipher the difference between important documents and doodles, Mr. Magorium’s files are intimidating, even to an ultra boring accountant like Henry. And Molly is not keen to inherit if it means the death of her friend.

The toy shop itself seems to be suffering from some affliction; it too is in mourning, sulking over its fate, and the magic is seeping out in a fit of rebellion.  With Mr. Magorium gone, from whence will magic come?

I’ve never understood how this movie isn’t more watched and applauded and beloved. Yes, it tries hard to be wonderful and whimsical. And just where, exactly, is the criticism in that? It’s about a magical toy shop, for the love of dragon scales! Isn’t maximum effort appreciated anymore? My inner child adores this movie. My grown up self adores this movie! It’s the good kind of cutesy, filled with moving pieces and primary colours. But with themes of belief and inspiration, this isn’t just for kids. It’s for anyone with a little sparkle in their hearts, or the space for some.

Angela’s Christmas

Some people believe they’ve seen a stone statue cry tears of blood. Others think they’ve seen Jesus in toast. This is the story of Angela, a little girl who thinks that the baby Jesus in her church’s nativity scene looks awfully cold, underdressed in his manger. She sneaks in to rectify the situation, which is how her sneeze has members of the congregation believing that the baby Jesus has caught the sniffles and has come to visit his germs upon them (or something like that, but very holy and earnestly felt). And if that had been the entire story, this review would be very short. But the thing is, Angela snatches the baby Jesus in order to warm him up. She is sincere in her good intentions, but this is still the theft of the lord we’re talking about – and on Christmas, no less.

Angela’s Christmas is an animated Netflix original, just 30 minutes, perfect for family viewing around the holidays. It’s adapted from Frank McCourt’s children’s book, so MV5BMDRiY2Y0NDYtODViNi00NWQzLWE2M2YtNjc4N2U4NjkzZjQ1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDkwMTM0Ng@@._V1_SX1238_CR0,0,1238,999_AL_presumably this is the very same Angela of Angela’s Ashes (McCourt’s mother). If you’re at all familiar with McCourt’s work, then you know it’s got plenty of Irish authenticity, and so does this little film.

Like all of McCourt’s work, the details are so terrifically rendered that they will inevitably bring a tear to my eye. This is a very sweet film that can’t help but please all audiences. Perhaps you’ve got a lump of coal where your heart should be? No? Well then add this to your holiday viewing list. It’s pure and innocent, and it’ll put a little coziness where you need it most. Angela’s Christmas is the anti-dote to all your holiday cynicism. There are no gifts, no turkey, no reindeer, just childhood innocence and the warmth of family. And that’s really all you need.

Elliot The Littlest Reindeer

In fact – spoiler alert – Elliot is not  reindeer at all. He’s a miniature horse who lives on a petting zoo. His best friend is a tin can-eating goat named Corkie. But Elliot dreams big. The petting zoo is attached to a reindeer training centre, a ‘farm team’ from which Santa drafts his 8 reindeer each year. Elliot does his best to train along with them, though the other reindeer laugh and call him names (will reindeer never learn?).

Luckily, Blitzen announces his retirement 3 days for Christmas, and Santa decides to hold elliot-the-littlest-reindeeropen try-outs for all the aspiring reindeer stars. Elliot and Corkie have to do some fast-talking and some fairly amateur cosplay to even get him in the gates. But Elliot is fast and surprisingly agile. Is he actually a contender? And even if he wins, is it possible for a miniature horse to be accepted onto Santa’s team?

This is a cute little movie that’s sure to please young children. You can tell it’s a Canadian production because it likens the reindeer team to a hockey team – the two great pursuits of the north. The voice cast includes Morena Baccarin, Josh Hutcherson, John Cleese, Martin Short, Jeff Dunham, and Samantha Bee. Packed with cuteness and with a protagonist the whole family can get behind, why not add Elliot The Littlest Reindeer to your family’s holiday rotation this year? It’s got a one-day only cinema engagement in the following cities December 2nd, and will be available on VOD as of December 4.

North Vancouver 🦌  Vancouver 🦌 Langley 🦌  Thunder Bay 🦌 Winnipeg 🦌  Calgary 🦌 Toronto 🦌 Edmonton 🦌  Regina 🦌  Scarborough 🦌  Halifax 🦌  Niagara Falls 🦌  Oakville 🦌 Guelph 🦌 Montreal 🦌 Barrie 🦌  Sudbury 🦌 Cote Saint-Luc 🦌  Windsor 🦌 Peterborough 🦌  Ottawa

The Christmas Chronicles

Kate Pierce is reviewing videos from Christmases past. Her father’s in all of them but he won’t be there this year, and the family’s taking it hard. Her older brother Teddy’s been acting out in dangerous ways and her mom is overworked and stressed out. When Kate’s mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) gets called in to work on Christmas Eve, she leaves the kids in a house that feels emptier than it should, but with a video that contains more than it has any right to. Just before a video cuts out, someone’s arm is seen placing a gift beneath their tree. Kate is ecstatic: proof of Santa, caught on tape! But the video is vague and an arm is not really enough, so she begs her brother to pull an all-nighter to collect more evidence.

MV5BMTYyNDE4MjI4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTc4NDY2NjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Long story short, Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) end up as stowaways on Santa’s sleigh, which causes a derailment (I don’t know the technical term for throwing a sleigh off its course while flying through the air), and a crash, and the loss of Santa’s magic sack of toys, and the temporary misplacement of the reindeer. Catastrophe! Santa (Kurt Russell, in absolute bearded glory) isn’t too happy on a whole lot of fronts, but he recognizes in Kate a true believer, so together they concoct a plan to save Christmas.

The Christmas Chronicles involves police chases, gang activity, Elvish, jingle bells, literal jail house rock, and an archive system to die for. And like any good Netflix original, it has a scene of someone watching some other Netflix original. But mostly it has Kurt Russell, who brings everything to the role. Like me, you may be a little bit squeamish about our dear Kurt Russell playing Santa. Is it really the time in his career for this? Worry not. This is not the rosy-cheeked, elderly Santa that Coca Cola is pimping (in fact, this Russell’s Santa is particularly peeved by that depiction). Russell’s Santa is a little cooler, a little leaner, but he’s still 100% magic, and that’s what counts.

Here in Ottawa, we’ve already had frostbite warning and record snowfall, and it isn’t even winter. What we need on cold nights such is these are great holiday movies to warm and soothe our souls. And while this one isn’t an instant classic, it’s a pretty decent entry into the catalogue.