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Movies Review

Movie Review – Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Full disclosure:  if I saw the original movie as a kid, I don’t remember it.  This version of Pete’s Dragon starts out in the most Disney manner ever, with Pete (Oakes Fegley) losing his parents but being rescued by Elliott.  Pete lives in the forest for several years with Elliott, until he’s found by Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard), a forest ranger who reminds him of his mother.

Look, I’m not going to surprise you if I tell you what happens.  Bonds will form, there’s danger, happy ending, lots of tears if that’s your thing.  It’s a well-made movie, and Elliott is beautifully animated.  It moves a bit slow on occasion, so if you have younger children who are fidgety, keep that in mind.  The cast is rounded out by Wes Bentley, Karl Urban (as the closest thing to a villain, he wants to capture Elliott), and Robert Redford.  All are very earnest, I guess is the best way I can describe it.

Pete’s Dragon is a great way to spend an afternoon with your family, and hey, sometimes you need that.

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Movies Review

Inside Out and When Marnie Was There

I’m late posting this, but I saw both Inside Out and When Marnie Was There with the kids, and boy was THAT an emotional wringer.  But in the best way. Seeing them both that close together makes for an interesting comparison – both movies focus on a girl dealing with the emotions of adolescence.

Riley in Inside Out starts out with a great life – attentive parents, friends, her hockey team, but it all gets turned upside down when her Dad’s new job takes her away. Anna, in When Marnie Was There, starts out in that same dark place. She’s in foster care, sent to the country for the summer to help with her breathing. She feels cut off from everyone, with the final straw being when she find out Yoriko, her foster mother, gets a stipend for taking care of her and Anna believes that means no one would care for her without external benefits.

In both cases, we experience their journeys to maturity though in vastly different ways. For Riley, we see how she’s leaned on “Joy” her whole life, and how “Sadness” helps her by letting those around her know she needs support. Anna, by contrast, makes a surprising family connection from her early childhood, and makes some friends in the process. Both movies can bring the tears though Inside Out counters it with humor (hey, it’s Pixar!) whereas When Marnie Was There will leave you with a melancholy smile, if that make sense.

I highly recommend both movies, as both are gorgeous in their own ways, and emotionally affecting. We watched Marnie in Japanese with subtitles, but the English cast is superb (Hailee Steinfeld, Geena Davis, John C. Reilly, Grey DeLisle) and I can’t wait to hear their dub. Pre-order Inside Out and When Marnie Was There.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Big Hero 6

Took the kids to see this at an advanced screening, and had a blast.  It is technically a Marvel movie, though the book is not exactly well-known.  Consider this in the vein of How to Train Your Dragon, in that a lot of the same parts are there, but plenty was changed to work better in a movie.  Some light spoilers from here.

The movie focuses on Hiro Hamada, a 14 year old genius inventor living with his older brother and Aunt after the death of their parents (Disney, I know, right?).  He spends his time building fighting robots and hustling in the underground bot-fighting subculture in “San Fransokyo”.  That is, until he gets inspired by visiting his brother’s lab at college, where Tadashi and his nerdy friends are building all sorts of cool inventions.  He decides to finally stop brooding and go to college, and just needs to prove himself at a high-tech science fair.  However, tragedy strikes, and Hiro is again dealing with great loss.

That’s where Baymax (the soft, inflatable robot) comes in.  Tadashi built Baymax to be a healthcare bot (based on real-world research into making robots friendlier) and picking up on Hiro’s distress, Baymax does whatever he can to help Hiro.  He get’s Hiro and Tadashi’s school friends involved and allows the ‘upgrades’ so Hiro can look for the culprit behind the fire that killed his brother.

The movie is beautiful – the stylized San Francisco/Tokyo hybrid city is super-cool.  The bit where Hiro and Baymax fly for the first time takes me right back to the pure joy of Tony Stark’s first outing in the Mark II suit.  The movie slows down a bit in the middle but my kids had no problems staying with it.  There is one twist in the plot as far as who the villain is – genre savvy parents might figure it out, but the smaller ones will be surprised.  The movie definitely plays with the concept of a sympathetic villain.

We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again (and if my kids have their way, again and again and again).  It won’t capture the world the way Frozen did, but that’s a tough act to follow.  Definitely on par with Wreck-It Ralph.  See it.

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Featured Movies

Movie Review – Brave

I took my daughter to go see Brave yesterday, and we both enjoyed it immensely.  She is four, and there were some slightly scary scenes where she hid her face in my shoulder, but she was rivited the rest of the time.  Just an FYI if you have a sensitive kid.

It’s an interesting movie for older kids to watch, as it really deals with taking responsibility for your own actions, and their effect on others.  More than once, Merida (the daughter of a Scottish King and Queen) thinks only of herself and makes choices that put the people who lover her in grave danger.  She visits a witch to make some changes to her life, and you can imagine how that goes.  She has to race against time to try and put things right, not only to save her own family, but to keep the peace between the clans.

The visuals in Brave are stunning, some of Pixar’s best work.  It’s funny to think of how much they talked up Sully’s hair way back in Monster’s Inc., to see how easily they can create Merida’s unruly mop of hair now.  The movie is amazing to look at, showing just how far CGI has come.

Like most of Pixar’s non-Cars work, it’s must-see in the theater.  If your younger kids are particularly sensitive about scary images, it might be best just to take the older ones, but see it.

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Movies

Lightning Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast in 3D

We all know the movie, especially if you have daughters (or were a kid when it first came out, admit it boys).  So I won’t bore you with a description of it, but I’m going to talk about the 3D conversion.  Honestly, it’s pretty useless, to me.  There were a few scenes where it looked cool, but not worth an extra three bucks.  Thankfully, we saw it at the AMC for an afternoon show, so we didn’t pay huge money…well, any more than usual for a movie.

There IS a new Tangled short in front of it, the wedding.  Which is mostly a slapstick bit for Maximus (the horse) and Pascal (the chameleon), and was funny enough.  Also worth a discounted matinee showing.

One thing that DID interest me was that there would be a re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D this summer…that’s one of my favorites, and I’d love to see that underwater world in 3D.  I would think a CGI animated movie would look better when converted, but we’ll see.

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Featured Review

Kung Fu Panda 2 – Sequels 101

I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 this weekend with the kids at the Movieland 8, and we enjoyed it immensely.  Even my 3 year old sat through most of it with rapt attention, except for the times when I let her little popcorn tray get empty. ;)  Kung Fu Panda 2 is an excellent example of a sequel – something I’ve thought a lot about if you’ve been reading along here.  Here’s a few things I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 did that should be an example to future sequel makers:

  • DO introduce a new character or two to shake things up…but don’t overdo it.  When I say character, I mean a main character.  KFP2 had a new, interesting villain and a couple of new masters to team up with.  It did not overshadow the core returning characters, however.
  • DO NOT undo or ignore the previous movie.  I truly hate when a movie takes a character that had finally achieved their goal, won the day, got the girl, settled down for a long life…and uproots them and destroys it all for the sake of not having to think up a new idea.  Many movies (especially animated ones) are set up well for sequels on purpose, which is fine.  But if the movie was not set up for it, you’d better make sure you have a good reason for these characters to go back at it.  I still hate Men In Black 2 for spending a whole subplot on getting Tommy Lee Jones back when the movie would’ve been fine following Will Smith and a new partner.
  • DO show that character growth can happen off-camera.  Unless your movie starts minutes after the previous entry in the series (Quantum of Solace style), time has passed.  Po and the Furious Five had obviously learned to work well together and had a true kinship now.  It really bugs me when a character that seemed to grow in a previous film (or episode of a TV show) is the same lackwit nutjub he was in the previous installment when the sequel rolls around.
  • DO NOT be a Disney direct to DVD sequel.  Seriously, not many of these are good.  If I see a direct to DVD Tangled 2 I will be kicking Mickey’s doors down to beat the snot out of  ’em.

Got any other sequel suggestions?  Just avoid them altogether?  Comment away!

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Featured Review

Lightning Movie Review – Tangled

We took the kids to see Tangled this weekend, and Mattie in particular LOVED IT.  As in, during the moving saying ‘Mommy I WUV DIS MOVIE!’, and having to come over and sit on my lap so she could tell me the same thing directly.  Okay, and get direct access to more popcorn.  I thought it was great, better than I expected.  The horse (Maximus) is hilarious, the action scenes are good, and the villainess dies in classic Disney fashion.

If you have a princess-obsessed daughter, you’ve probably already seen it.  Even without that, it’s still worth it.