Tag Archives: Pixar

Cars 3

Pixar doesn’t have many missteps in its catalogue, but for me, the Cars franchise just never had any traction. I was only just recently able to watch the films straight through, and it made me want to put the Pixar crew on suicide watch. Thanks to films like Toy Story, I already knew Pixar had a real nostalgia fixation, but Cars crystallizes that notion. MV5BZDRiYmQ1MjgtNmNiOS00YTNhLTkwNWMtMjliNWFkYmFkMDc2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjk2MjI2NTY@._V1_The Pixar animators are living for the past. But for the first time, I could also watch the film through the eyes of my  5 year old nephew. He and his younger brother adore the franchise. They have every iteration of every car that got even a fraction of a second’s worth of screen time. Last year for his birthday, I made him a Cars racetrack cake. So even before I’d truly seen the film, I had a kinship with it.

In this third installment, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) hits the racing circuit once again, but it’s been 11 years since the first film made its debut. McQueen isn’t the hot shot rookie anymore, he’s a veteran being challenged by faster, sleeker next generation race cars. Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) is the fiercest of these new competitors, but McQueen isn’t ready to be counted out. Unfortunately, McQueen’s best efforts result in a terrible crash that many believe spells his retirement. You may remember from the first film that his old friend Doc (Paul Newman) suffered a similar fate: by the time he’d healed up\gotten road-worthy again, the racing world had moved on without him, ultimately forcing him into retirement before he was ready.

Two things about what I’ve just written: One, that crash was spectacularly animated. Disney-Pixar’s animation technology has clearly improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade. They work hard to keep the cars we know and love looking like themselves MV5BZGYxZDVjM2EtMWRiMi00MWNlLWE3YWItZTYyNDcwMjQ4NjY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc3Mzk1NTk@._V1_while still improving the overall quality of the animation. The crash scene is a show-stopper. But, second, so too are flash-back scenes of McQueen and his friend Doc, in a different, more emotional way. Paul Newman, who voiced him, passed away in 2008, and so did the character by the time the sequel came out. But Doc was a formative figure in McQueen’s career, and Cars 3 pays tribute to both the character and the actor in a very satisfying way.

Cars 3 focuses on McQueen’s relationship with a new trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who is well-versed in all the newest techniques. Old school clashes with new school. In fact, watching it, I wondered if McQueen’s mid-life crisis would resonate with the kids watching it. My nephew certainly enjoyed it, though I don’t think he picked up on McQueen’s fear of being aged out\replaced. What he did like were the repetitive race track scenes, many of which I could have done without. I guess what it boils down to is: Cars 3 panders to its audience. It does not reach the heights we adults have come to expect from Pixar’s best work, but it’s exceptionally talented at marketing toys to children. There are dozens of new characters (65 to be exact) to be bought for Christmas. Is that cynical of me? Sure. Here’s the thing: I admit I was charmed by the ending, glad old McQueen had it in him. If this is the end of the franchise, it’s a pretty noble note to go out on. But as a cynical, toy-buying aunt, I can’t help but feel that this Cruz character has the whiff of spin-off to her, and I’m not convinced that Cars 3 bought into its own message of retiring with dignity.

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Cars, Cars 2, and Ultimate Lightning McQueen

My nephews love Lightning McQueen and have about a thousand toys bearing his likeness.  So when I learned about the Ultimate Lightning McQueen, I had to get it, even though I had never seen Cars (or Cars 2 for that matter).  For those who aren’t on Sphero’s mailing list, Ultimate Lightning McQueen is a remote controlled car that costs US$300, and here’s why it costs so much money:

Ultimate Lightning McQueen is not just an RC car.  This is a robot that has animated eyes and mouth, reacts to touch, and can recite tons of lines from the movies either randomly or in pre-programmed scripts.  Basically, it’s the toy robot that little Sean always dreamed of.

With the toy on the way (it arrived last night!), I felt like I should finally watch Cars beforehand so that I knew the basics about Lightning.  So that’s what we did, and it turns out that Lightning is a real jerk.  Like so much of a jerk that he doesn’t have a pit crew because he can win on his own.  So much of a jerk that he doesn’t change his tires, which naturally givecars-movie-disney-pixar_large out on the last lap and cost him a win.  So much of a jerk that when he gets lost in a small town and is pursued for speeding he wrecks the whole main street.

Lightning eventually does redeem himself in a very weird way, but here’s the thing: my nephews have such short attention spans that I guarantee they have not ever watched this movie past the opening race.  They will have watched that race a thousand times but probably have no idea that Lightning ever becomes less self-involved or that he ever needed help.  So it is a good thing that Ultimate Lightning can say so many lines, because I am going to be choosy with my catchphrases.  That way, maybe I can redeem Lightning in real time and teach my nephews that they do indeed need a pit crew (/more applicable sports metaphor), just like Lightning eventually figures out.

For good measure, we also watched Cars 2, which is more Mater’s story than Lightning’s (though Lightning doesn’t miss the chance to be a jerk to Mater in the sequel).  Just like in the first movie, Lightning wins with the help of his friends.  It would be a mycars-2-02172012stery why he is so loved, except that he is definitely the coolest looking racecar in the movies and that’s really all the explanation required, isn’t it?

And now, we have Cars 3 to “look forward to”.  My hopes are not high, because these movies definitely aren’t Pixar’s best work.  Still, it’s something I know our nephews will love and now that they’re old enough to go to the movies, something that we’ll probably get to enjoy with them, and that’s good enough to make me genuinely excited about Cars 3 even though I thought the first two movies were entirely forgettable.

It also makes a US$300 Lightning McQueen toy feel like a bargain, because I know our nephews are going to lose their little minds when they see it in action.  Ultimate Lightning McQueen is everything I could have expected – it blinks, it looks around, and moves as though it is alive.  It is truly animated in every sense of the word.  As a bonus, it is a powerful little car that is really responsive, does donuts on command, and has a turbo button.  Because who doesn’t love a turbo button?  Having tried it out, I am even more excited to show off Ultimate Lightning McQueen to Lightning’s three biggest fans!

Zootopia

videothumbnail_zootopia_officialtrailer_disney_a4d0f4ceIn 2006, Disney purchased Pixar for the equivalent of $7.4 billion dollars. It’s becoming more and more clear how good a deal that was for Disney. Every Disney animated movie since has been amazing, from Wreck-It-Ralph to Frozen to Big Hero 6. maxresdefaultNot only is Zootopia another success for Disney, it may be the best of the bunch since John Lasseter and Pixar came on board, and that’s probably the best endorsement I can give.

The best part of Disney Animation’s renaissance is that these movies aren’t just for kids. They’re as enjoyable for adults as for little ones. Zootopia, for example, includes a spot-on reference to Breaking Bad! Striking that balance must be incredibly hard butb17 Disney has picked up the torch from Pixar in that area and is doing it as well as Pixar ever did. Zootopia is literally a movie that all ages will enjoy. So it’s one up on LEGO!

Most importantly, Zootopia’s underlying message is timely and may be more important for adults than kids at this point, given the horror that is the U.S. Republican party’s nomination process. We as Canadians dealt with some of the same terribleness in our recent election so it’s not just an American tactic.  Fortunately, enough of us were able to reject fear and demonization of minority groups to trump-chicago_wide-af9dd849d37a7079224f21dd42973b4aae2a4c88-s900-c85choose someone who wants to bring us together instead of tearing us apart. We really, really, really want to believe American voters will do the same (just like they’ve done in the last two presidential elections).  Please don’t let us down!

As for Zootopia, it is a movie that will definitely not let you down. It’s smart, funny and deep and you should totally see it. I give Zootopia a score of ten sly rabbits out of ten.

The Good Dinosaur

I wasn’t overly excited about this latest Pixar offering. I’d seen the trailers and thought it was a little off-putting to have a cartoony dinosaur dancing around some very photo-real landscapes. Watching the movie, though, it was the furthest thing from my GD4mind. The animation is stunning. I particularly loved the bits with water, the reflective surfaces sparkling in the sun. It was gorgeous.

But there’s a great little story that goes along with it, about a boy and his dog, Spot. Except the boy is a longneck dinosaur named Arlo, and the dog is in fact a boy, named Spot. This movie is set in a make believe time when the dinosaurs never went extinct so they’re living at the same time as humans. Little Arlo is living peaceably on the family farm (I LOVED to see dinosaurs discover agriculture) with his parents and siblings when a “critter” starts raiding their food THE GOOD DINOSAURstores. Spot is a mangy, hungry, feral critter, and the two are at odds until the script conspires to cast them off on an adventure together.

The movie had me both belly-laughing and fat-tear crying within its first 20 minutes. Neither the tears nor the laughs let up, either. It’s a fairly simple story with a lot of Pixar heart. It’s quiet for long stretches (the dinosaurs talk; humans do not) but the characters are so facially expressive and nuanced, you don’t miss it. And every scene they walk through is a painting, with depth of field and detail enough to keep your hungry eyes constantly eating up the scenery (we saw it in 3D).

This movie is probably more relatable to  younger kids than Inside Out was, but there are some mature themes here as well. Arlo and maxresdefaultSpot live in nature, which is both cruel and kind. The potential for harm is more present in this movie than in other children’s fare, and they don’t shy away from death and grief either.

Sean was a little less moved by the film than I was (which, I suppose, is always the case) but I felt quite emotionally connected to it. Maybe it’s because Spot reminded me a lot of my little nephew Jack, both in looks and in temperament (Jack’s Papa calls him ‘Joe Pesci’, completely endearingly, for his wildman ways, though Jack is not yet 2). And maybe it’s because of the very simple but very moving and dignified way they deal with loss. At any rate, I’d say it’s a welcome addition to the Pixar family and a worthy way to spend your time and money at the cinema. I wish I could get in there and tweak the ending just a smidge (let me know how you felt about it), but overall I walked out with puffy eyes but a singing heart.

 

 

Love Pixar? Be sure to check out our contest – you could win a prize pack including a copy of Inside Out on DVD.

Pixar Twofer

For the first time ever, Pixar is releasing two movies in a single year. You’ve already seen Inside Out (I hope) and today The Good Dinosaur is roaring into a theatre near you.

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To celebrate, we want to send someone a prize pack including a copy of Inside Out  on DVD.

To enter: pick an emotion – ANGER \ JOY \ FEAR \ SADNESS \ DISGUST – and leave us a comment telling us which one you’re feeling today.

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Gain additional entries by:

  1. Reading about why Jay thinks Inside Out is a bit racist, and leaving a comment.
  2. Tweeting a picture of your best angry\sad\happy\scared\ disgusted face @assholemovies #assholeemotions.
  3. Sharing an “emotional” story or picture on our Facebook page.
  4. Commenting on our review of The Good Dinosaur.

Multiple entries welcome as long as they’re all different.

And congratulations to Ashley at Syncopated Eyeball for winning our Assholes Reading Movies contest!

The Colour of Joy

Inside-OutSean and I got to see Inside Out again this past weekend (it was playing at the drive-in and yup, just as good the second time around). Pixar’s latest offers us a sweet and clever insight into the emotions ruling 11-year-old Riley’s brain – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. These emotions are personified by colourful characters and truly wonderful voice talent (Amy Pohler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling). It was a real treat to see these emotions come to life, but between the laughter and tears, I also had some follow-up questions:

1. Why is Joy Caucasian?

Anger is a squat red guy, with matching red eyes and fire shooting out of his head. Disgust is Inside-Out-Marshmallowgreen, naturally, with green hair and eyes. Sadness: blue, of course, with blue hair and eyes. Fear is purple, with – guess what! – purple hair and eyes. But for some reason Joy is a race, not a colour. Think she’s yellow? Look again. She’s a glowing peachy colour, and her eyes are big and blue and she’s got a cute little pixie cut. Joy is a white girl. This makes me vaguely uncomfortable.

2. Why is Sadness fat?

They made Sadness into a chubster in a turtleneck. They may as well have given her cats too, just to give her the complete Depressed Lady makeover. Her glasses cover almost her entire face and though we never see the emotions eating, we can imagine that she must eat the heck out of hers. Mint chocolate chip? No. Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough.

3. What gender are YOUR emotioInside-Out-Father-Headquartersns?

Riley’s emotions are mixed-gender. Anxiety is a dude, Disgust is a dudette. But her father’s emotions are all mustachioed men while her mother’s are all bespectacled ladies. Now, why might this be? Sean thought it might just be for simplicity’s sake. Her mother’s brain is instantly identifiable since all her emotions have the same drab haircut. Her father’s brain is even worse shape: it’s being run by a bunch of hockey-obsessed jerks (or soccer-obsessed, for international audiences). This felt uncomfortably stereotypical but got a big laugh from the jam-packed theatre because – haha – men never listen!

4. Why is Joy lone-wolfing it?

As a counsellor, I often find myself telling people that no emotion is necessarily good or bad because all might be helpful or have purpose. Certainly this movie does a good job of justifying Sadness, but I still feel like the balance is a little off-kilter. Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust: all couldmomemotions be said to be on one side of the positive-negative spectrum of emotions, while Joy is lonely on the other. It may be true that Amy Pohler is worth at least 3 Bill Haders but I still felt a little sad that she was representing positivity and light all by her lonesome. And when Joy went missing, everything went to hell, so it would seem that a little Hope or Excitement might have been a good pack up plan (though admittedly I understand why 5 characters were a manageable number from an engaging, story-telling point of view). Still, there are many emotions left out – which would you have liked to see?

5. What is your primary emotion?

It is clear from birth that Joy is running the show. She leads the other emotions and guides Riley’s experience, always striving for the perfect, happy day. Not so for Riley’s parents. Anger seems to helm the control console in her father’s brain. He does not seem to be an outwardly angry person, but maybe we’re once again short-hand stereotyping anger as somehow masculine. Worse still, Riley’s mom’s primary emotion appears to be Sadness. She doesn’t seem depressed to us, but it made me feel blue to think of her every move being tinged by a pall of unhappiness. Who do you think is the captain of your ship? I think I might have Joy and Anger as co-pilots; I’m at my best when I’m in full-on snarky bitch mode.

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Anyway, today my primary emotion is Anticipation! Just like Riley and her family, we’re about to embark on a San Francisco adventure (well, it’s our first stop, anyway) and I can’t wait to land there and be filled with Joy and Excitement and Wonder and Dread of Eventually Going Back to Work, which is too a legit emotion as I have it ALL THE TIME. While the Assholes are in California we’ll be posting about our favourite movies as they relate to our sight-seeing adventures, so please keep checking in to see what we’re up to next – and if you’re feeling brave, follow us on Twitter ( @assholemovies ) to see things like Jay’s contemptuous travel face, Sean’s hungry frown, an orange blur that might be the Golden Gate Bridge, 13 pictures of Jack Nicholson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame obscured by half of Jay’s fat finger, Matt riding a train off into the sunset like he’s in some kind of goddamned movie. It’ll be good times, I promise!

 

Inside Out

Inside Out is a return to form for Pixar, a brand that hasn’t been quite as synonymous with quality and originality over the last five years as it used to be.

The general story, of five walking talking emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust) controlliinsdie out 2ng a young girl’s emotional life and decision-making from inside her head seemed just plain silly to me when the trailers for Inside Out were first released. What I couldn’t have possibly anticipated was how much insight we’ get through what seems to be such a simplistic concept into the way these five emotions interact as we grow up.

Inside Out works for two reasons. First, the voice-casting couldn’t have been better, especially for Riley’s emotions. Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Hader- all very funny people- are the perfect companions for this wild ride through Core Memories, The Train of Thought, The Subconscious, and Abstract Thought (look out for that last one). There’s a lot of fun to be had with this idea and the good people at Pixar don’t miss a chinside outance.

Second, with all the insanity and cartoony visuals in Riley’s inner life, the creative team never forget the importance of keeping her real life believable. It doesn’t hurt that the animation of Riley, her parents, and her surroundings are so real they’re scary. It’s more than that though. Her memories and the mini-crisis she faces when she moves to San Francisco are handled just right, making this Pixars’ most moving film since Toy Story 3.