THE FILM YAP » John Lasseter We Never Shut Up About Movies Mon, 20 Oct 2014 04:12:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cars 2 Tue, 01 Nov 2011 04:08:59 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

“Cars 2″ is certainly an entertaining movie, but there’s no denying the tang of disappointment that clings to the latest release from Pixar, the king of animation studios.

It may not be fair to judge a movie on anything other than its own merits, but Pixar has set such a high standard that anything less than a wondrous film that delights the soul and mind of children and parents alike registers as a drop-off.

Considered amidst its peers, “Cars 2″ is the cinematic runt of the litter.

The sequel takes a bold turn in shunting aside the main character of the original — hotshot race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) — in favor of his hillbilly sidekick, Mater the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy). The story is that McQueen has been challenged to a series of three races all over the world, but Mater steals the show when he’s mistaken as an international super-spy.

As Finn McMissile, a snooty British agent (Michael Caine) puts it, “They’re fooled because they’re too busy laughing at the fool” — not realizing Mater really is that dense.

It’s all just an excuse for one set of action-packed hijinks after another, with the bad guys divided between a loudmouthed Italian racer and a mysterious pack of the worst lemon cars in history — Yugos, Gremlins, Pacers, etc.

“Cars 2″ is a fun bit of animation, but compared to “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo,” it’s missing a gear.

It’s notable that “Toy Story” is the only other story Pixar has seen fit to sequelize. Whereas last year’s “Toy Story 3″ was a heartfelt romp with a beloved set of familiar characters, “Cars 2″ feels slapped-together and hasty, a merchandising opportunity with a movie attached.

“Cars 2″ arrives on video in four different versions, with goodies ramping up as you move up in price point.

The DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack come with the same features. There’s “Hawaiian Vacation,” a cartoon short, plus another all-new short, “Air Mater,” and a commentary track by director John Lasseter.

Opt for the five-disc 3D combo pack, and you add deleted scenes, set exploration around the globe, short documentaries and a sneak preview of “Cars Land,” a new showcase at Disney’s California theme park.

Or you can go all in for the 11-disc Director’s Collection, which includes both the original film and sequel plus all the extras.

Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps

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Pixar Talk: A Bug’s Life Sat, 03 Sep 2011 04:15:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  


Every week Austin is going to have a chat with Victoria Disque about a Pixar film. This is all leading up to a speech Austin will be giving about Pixar at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in Muncie on November 18th. Victoria is a producer of The Reel Deal and is currently majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University. 


Austin: Here we are, back again, another week another Pixar film. I’m going to start with the same question: When was the last time you’ve seen “A Bug’s Life”

Victoria: Probably a year.

Austin: How was it different for you now?

Victoria: I definitely don’t love it as much as I did when I was a little kid. This was the first Pixar film I saw in theatres and I was in awe back then. I thought it was funny as I grew up and now I don’t think it has held up.

Austin: I would agree. It doesn’t have as many iconic lines. It has a lot of great characters but the story isn’t as strong as “Toy Story”.

Victoria: The story is, I think, darker than “Toy Story”. I mean it’s about tyranny, basically.

Austin: Exactly! It’s funny. I’ve been watching hours of bonus features and they never mentioned this movie. It’s very similar to “The Seven Samurai”, the Akira Kurosawa film with a small village under a similar problem and they find some warriors, this ragtag team of samurai. Not circus performers, but they aren’t the best samurai in the world.

It’s still so interesting about how likable the movie is. The characters are so simple, yet so likable.

Victoria: The characters are well though out. We have this huge caterpillar who is a total idiot—and German!

Austin: Very German.

Victoria: And we have the stick bug who looks like he can’t take anyone on. He’s the smartest one in the group. Then the ladybug, who is not a lady which is the ongoing joke.

Austin: It’s almost a replacement for the Mr. Potato Head jokes. It’s the go-to joke to take a pause from the plot. Dennis Leary, great casting choice. He’s very funny and masculine, in an angry sense.

Victoria: Loved David Hyde Pierce as Slim.

Austin: This is another great cast. We have Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, Dave Foley—I love Dave Foley. Never would imagine him to be a lead in…any film really.

Victoria: Such a great voice, though. Did you see “Prep and Landing”? The half hour show they play around Christmastime? He’s the voice of the head elf. It’s so great. I wish that Disney would come out with a new one every year.

Austin: I know he’s going to be in one of the new ones. I think the upcoming dinosaur one. He’s such a great voice. I love “NewsRadio”. Also we have Kevin Spacey as a great villain.

Victoria: That’s his best roles, playing villains.

Austin: Apparently they met him at the Academy Award nominee dinner. They were nominated for “Toy Story”, he was nominated for “The Usual Suspects”. They asked if he wanted to be in an animated film and he said “Sure, why not!” He was even there after playing a villain. Oh. Spoiler for “The Usual Suspects”…

Also we have Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller…

Victoria: And Hayden Panettiere! She was Dot.

Austin: That surprised me.

Victoria: That was before she was Hayden Panetteiere.

Austin: I think she was a better actor when she was 9. Again, all the characters are so sweet and you understand their motivations. Flik is a great main character. He’s the earnest, stumbling underdog. But there’s still something missing from the story.

Victoria: Yeah, I agree.

Austin: It feels like so many things should work. They have these great moments when he flies on the dandelion across to the city. There are exciting action scenes, this convoluted circus performance and they are fun to watch but I still don’t remember them. It doesn’t last as much. I still don’t know why.

Another thing I noticed is this movie is so technically impressive. The jump of animation quality skyrocketed since “Toy Story”. It almost seems like they were too ambitious. There were too many locations, too many characters. There are a billion ants always moving.

Victoria: And they all hook arms at the end against Hopper. I was very impressed with that.

Austin: All different animals, too. With “Toy Story” they had models to base them. We all know what Mr. Potato Head looks like. This was a chance for them to make all these new specific characters. They look great, especially in Blu-Ray. The colors are really strong.

Victoria: Speaking of locations, I loved the ode to Times Square. They set up the Chinese boxes, they have the bugs that look like taxis, the lightening bug switching between the two Christmas lights directing traffic. That’s one of my favorite parts now; it’s so creative. When I was little, obviously, I didn’t know this was supposed to be Times Square but now I just think it’s brilliant.

Austin: Those are the Pixar touches I love. It makes you understand the world and all the nuances of it. Yet there is one time when that didn’t work for me in this movie. It was one of my favorite scenes as a kid, but now it didn’t work at all. It’s the opening joke with the leaf

Victoria: I love that joke.

Austin: I did too. I laughed, but the more I watched the ants walk around normally it doesn’t seem like it’s the same ants. They aren’t so conformed with their day to day life. They can pick their own seats for the speech, they can hang out together on their own path. It never seemed like the same ants who would see a leaf and not know where to go. Even though it’s a really funny idea for a joke. I was upset it didn’t work for me this time.

Victoria: I can see that now that you’ve brought it up.

Austin: Now that I’ve ruined it for you?

Victoria: I wouldn’t say “ruined”. I still love the “This doesn’t compare to the twig of ’93!” Love that line.

I like how the humor is still funny. I love the adult jokes they have like when the mosquito sits down at the bar and orders a Bloody Mary O-Positive. There’s also the humor my niece and nephew would laugh so hard at. Like when Francis is flying Slim through the trees and he loses him. “Where are you?” “I’m the only stick with eyeballs!”

Austin: That’s really funny. I love how they didn’t choose to animate the character. The audience can’t find him, either.

Victoria: I always look for him too.

Austin: Also the joke where Francis hits Slim with the wing, he falls down and says “Slapstick!” That makes me laugh.

The thing I laughed at the most, and this is what my dad was obsessed about. He would talk to people for weeks. “Did you see Bug’s Life? Did you stay for the credits?” These outtakes are the greatest idea.

Victoria: I don’t think I’ve ever seen them…

Austin: You never finished the credits?!

Victoria: This is news to me!

Austin: They made these animated outtakes of characters messing up their lines.

Victoria: I know they did it for “Toy Story 2”…

Austin: They did it first with “Bug’s Life” with the boom mic falling into the frame, the characters purposely mess up their lines to mess with other people, props fall down, they hit the camera which smudges the camera. It’s such a clever idea. They wanted to do it for “Toy Story” but they ran out of time. It’s such a fun thing to do, which is so simple and it works so well.

Victoria: I think one of my problems with the movie is that I never remember the ending. As I was watching it today, I can never remember what happens after Hopper is put in the cannon. He flies and grabs Flik…then Ada comes to his rescue…then I really don’t recall any of that happening.

Austin: It’s been a weirdly nostaligic week for me. I’ve seen “Toy Story”, “Lion King” and now “Bug’s Life”. For the first two I remember every character and every scene even though it’s been many years since I’ve seen them. This one, not as much. I know what has to happen for the story to function.

Again, I don’t know why this happened. It’s a beautiful movie. I love the opening when it pans down on the grass.

Victoria: I still don’t understand when I get on Entertainment Weekly and I look at how they rank the Pixar movies. “A Bug’s Life” is always the last one. I wouldn’t go that far.

Austin: Exactly. Because “Cars” and “Cars 2” still exist. Well, this just bugs me for a lot of storytelling but when the main conflict is when someone is telling a lie. That means by the end of the film, the lie will be revealed, the person will get upset, and then everything will be better.

Victoria: Yep. They never get away scot-free. It never goes according to plan.

Austin: Exactly. So there will be this ten minute part when everyone is upset with the main character. Then there’s a new plan and everything is okay. Every romantic comedy ends that way especially when it doesn’t make sense. Like “Hitch”…

With this, it really didn’t work for me. “Oh they are circus bugs!!!” Then the Queen decides to get food again. They just built a giant bird!

Victoria: That’s going to work!

Austin: It’s impressively built. Really impressively built. Yet every one gives up and finds seeds and hopes Hopper doesn’t kill them all.

Victoria: What did you think of P.T. Flea? Our John Ratzenberger cameo.

Austin: You know, I forgot who he was in the movie. So when I heard the voice it was a treat. He’s really funny. I love how manically he jumps around. Probably my favorite joke in the movie is after the big circus disaster, there is one of the flies in the audience yell “Burn him again!” He’s just a fun dirtball of a character.

Victoria: I view him a secondary villain because he seems to really enjoy tearing them all down. How many times did he ruin stuff for them? He comes in and tells everyone they are circus bugs…

Austin: He does fire them…after he was burnt.

Victoria: They have Plan B which is to use the bird and he lights it on fire. What is the matter with this dude!

Austin: He’s very oblivious. He’s like what we talked about with Sid. Sid is not mean to Andy. So he doesn’t know he’s being mean to real characters. Whereas, Hopper is trying to kill the queen, enslave all the ants, run a random resort.

What did you think of his brother?

Victoria: I love how the voice, Richard Kind, looks exactly like him. I thought he was a great match for that character. It was a bit cliché though. It always seems like, especially in animated films, the villain has someone who is a complete idiot. That’s what he’s there for. He’s the comic relief to make the villain look better or something.

Austin: I think it creates more distance with the grasshoppers. Not all grasshoppers are evil, just Hopper. It really sets him up as a villain when he pens the brother against the wall and says “If I didn’t promise mother I wouldn’t kill you, I would kill you.” It’s such a great line, especially in a G rated film. Then ultimately the brother joins the circus at the end.

Victoria: Oh yeah. Again, I’ve forgotten the ending already.

Austin: I keep forgetting they actually go back to the circus

Victoria: I forget that too until I remember Heimlich turning into the weirdest butterfly I have ever seen. So I remember they fly away because Heimlich can’t fly so they all have to carry him. Random bit of trivia, that is one of the animators as the voice.

Victoria: I love it when they do that.

Austin: They kept trying to find an actor, but the guy who recorded the scratch tracks was the funniest one so they cast him.

Victoria: Wasn’t one of the animators Roz from Monster’s Inc?

Austin: I think so. I know Brad Bird was Edna Mode from “The Incredibles” and another was Dug from “Up.”

Victoria: I like when they don’t get celebrities. It’s not needed.

Austin: Exactly. My go-to favorite Disney movie, “The Great Mouse Detective”, only has one celebrity in it: Vincent Price as Professor Rattigan. He’s happily over-acting and bringing a dark sense to the character. The rest are trained voice actors. So you can’t recognize them. So I have only heard them in these roles. They are only Basil and Dawson.

That reminds me, going back to Hayden Panetteiere. I like it when they cast actual kids as kids. That’s what makes “A Charlie Brown Christmas” so special is because they are awkwardly pausing and saying the sentence like a child would. Same with Dot, she has this energy you can only find as a kid.

Victoria: I remember when I was younger, I watched behind-the-scenes of “Monsters, Inc.”. To get the little girl to do the voice, she just ran around the playroom and they followed her with a mic.

Austin: I think that is some of the fun of voice directing. The things they do to get a different read on the line. Again, it’s Pixar having fun and being genuine.

Victoria: To actually get back on topic, I appreciate “A Bug’s Life” for it aimed towards little kids unlike some of the others, like “Up”. My nephew says he loved that one, but he only laughed twice during it. The rest was either adult humor or depressing. So I think this is still good for little kids, but it hasn’t held up.

Austin: It might just be because it’s a simpler story. The other Pixar stories like “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc”, and “Finding Nemo”—Nemo is basically a road trip movie but it’s still a complex road trip movie. Then you go to films like “Ratatouille” and “WALL-E” which is structurally complex and memorable because you haven’t seen this story before. This is just a simple underdog story, but done very well. So lower-tier Pixar is still a really good movie.

Victoria: Well yeah, it’s Pixar.








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Cars 2 Thu, 23 Jun 2011 04:19:36 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

So Pixar, the unfailing wunderkind of animated movies, has finally delivered its worst movie, by far. By that, I mean “Cars 2″ is merely pretty good.

The sequel to the 2006 flick — which many had regarded as the weakest in Pixar’s lineup — lacks the emotional oomph and layered appeal to grown-ups that is a hallmark of their oeuvre: “Finding Nemo,” “WALL·E,” etc.

“Cars 2″ is left with lots of dazzling action scenes, slick-looking CG animation and plenty of goofy humor featuring Tow Mater, the garrulous redneck sidekick from the last movie who’s been punched up to the main character. At least they had the decency to give Larry the Cable Guy, who provides the voice of Mater, top billing over Owen Wilson, who also returns as flashy race car Lightning McQueen.

It’s notable that “Toy Story,” Pixar’s first feature film, is the only other franchise the animation studio has seen fit to sequelize. Whereas the “Toy Story” movies grew deeper and more sentimental each time, “Cars 2″ seems flashy and hastily assembled.

I’m probably wandering into dangerous territory here, but this movie feels like it was made to give Disney a summer tentpole and to sell another billion dollars or two of toys and other merchandise. With last summer’s “Toy Story 3,” we could sense the heartfelt devotion the filmmakers put into visiting those characters again; I don’t feel it here.

Director by Pixar chief John Lasseter from a script by Ben Queen, “Cars 2″ is still a highly entertaining bit of animation, but the soul isn’t filled by watching it.

(Speaking of the “Toy Story” gang, they’re back from a brief visit with “Hawaiian Vacation,” a fun 8-minute short cartoon that precedes the feature.)

The film is fast-paced, even occasionally hurried, and jumps around the globe like the international spy thriller it emulates. Lightning McQueen is challenged to participate in a three-race World Grand Prix held in Tokyo, Paris and London, with the title of fastest car in the world at stake.

His nemesis is Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), a loudmouthed Italian open-wheel racer whose fender-less good looks draw the attention of Sally (Bonnie Hunt), McQueen’s special lady.

Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), a wealthy British energy tycoon, thinks he’s found a green alternative to oil-based gasoline called Allinol and want to use the races to drum up support for it.

But at the first race, Mater gets mistaken for an American super-spy and is drawn into a nefarious plot that soon takes precedence over the racing. I won’t divulge the details, but the clever upshot is that all the lemon cars of history — Gremlins, Pacers, Yugos — are behind it.

Mater’s new allies are a pair of British agents: 007-ish Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), an Aston Martin decked out with all sorts of weapons and gizmos, and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), a smart rookie on her first assignment in the field.

The joke is the Brits think Mater’s rube routine is a ploy — “They’re fooled because they’re too busy laughing at the fool,” is how Finn puts it — without realizing he really is that dense.

That sets up a brief and not terribly convincing life-lessons moment about being true to yourself, but it carries so little weight it’s practically a throwaway moment.

“Cars 2″ is hardly a bad movie, and it’s certainly an engaging piece of entertainment. But for the first time, Pixar didn’t rev up to its highest gear.

4 Yaps


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Between Then and Now: the Evolution of Special and Visual Effects In Film Fri, 17 Dec 2010 12:04:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> When Tron was released in 1982 it wowed the movie audience with its advanced scenes of virtual reality created using extensive computer graphics. This was perhaps the first use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) in film which, over time, changed the face of cinema to how it is today.
That same year author John Culhane published a book ‘Special Effects in Movies’ and a subsequent article in the New York Times just prior to the release of Tron, ‘Special Effects Are Revolutionizing Film’. In it he discussed how ‘technical wizardry’ is changing films and it is only the beginning.
With the impending release of Tron: Legacy, a mere 28 years after the release of the first film, this article will look back over the last three decades at the seminal films using CGI or groundbreaking visual and special effects.

Tron (1982)

Groundbreaking at the time of its release this film combined backlit animation and inside video game virtual reality with live action. It contained the first extended use of computer generated imagery which amounted to about 20 minutes. This was mainly scenes depicting a high speed Lightcycle race created by legendary artists Syd Mead who also designed the Solaco spaceship in Alien 3 and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud a conceptual artist for The Abyss and designer forThe Fifth Element.

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Despite losing out to Cocoon in the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects this Spielberg produced film has the first computer generated or photorealistic animated character in a feature film. A stained glass knight freakily comes to life in a church to engage in sword play, compositing a computer generated image with a live action background. Other special effects of note: a stop motion chicken and cakes that come to life.

Aliens (1986)

A year later this sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien was released, winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. A miniature set was built to create the colony on LV-426 and special effects post production to give a much larger appearance. These effects included rear projection, mirrors and camera splitters. A beam-splitter was used to bring together many other elements that form the whole look of the scenes in the movie which include models, matte paintings and live action.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

Hand drawn and painted animated imagery was matched to live action of real characters in this defining moment for visual effects. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and animated by Richard Williams this film won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. The hand drawn characters were shaded and light and shadow was used to make them more 3D and life like. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) the visual effects studio created the blue screen effects of Toontown.

The Abyss (1989)

Here, the first example of underwater CGI effects in scenes involving the ‘pseudopod’, an underwater snake like creature that moves through the submarine and imitates Dr Linsey Brigman’s facial expressions (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Lasting only 75 seconds this was the culmination of over 8 months of work. ILM featured again to create the kinetic properties for the pseudopod. They also teamed up with Dream Quest Images who were responsible for the motion control work of the pseudopod.

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Advances in visual effects allowed Michael J. Fox to appear in the same scene simultaneously. ILM used split screen photography and a moving boundary between each section of the screen to allow Fox to play three characters at the same time, sitting at a kitchen table eating pizza. The end result was that the seams between each one were flawless, as you can see below. A VistaGuide motion control camera system allowed camera movement to be incorporated in a scene of this nature for the first time.

The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Disney’s sequel to The Rescuer’s was the first animated feature assembled and created completely in a digital environment. A new Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) was used to scan in the animators drawings and fill them in with digital ink and paint, making hand painted cels obsolete.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Scenes involving the new terminator, the T-1000, composed of a polymimetic metal, displayed the first extensive use of morphing and warping techniques on a major character in film. The liquid to solid texture was achieved by layering over a CG model. Despite the film winning the Academy Award and BAFTA for Special and Visual Effects the techniques used in the film added a unique element to the new terminator.

The Lawnmower Man (1992)

The graphics used in the virtual reality scenes here are similar in look to those used in Tron, released ten years earlier. However it was the first film to use Body Motion Capture to record the actor’s movements with a body suit. This was particularly effective in the cybersex scene with Marnie Burke (Jenny Wright) and Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey) who had to wear bodysuits, gloves and head mounted displays (HMD).

Toy Story (1995)

Pixar and Disney clubbed together to create the first full length feature film made entirely by computer animation. John Lasseter and his team of 110 animators strived to make the film as realistic as possible, adding detail to every object. In total there were 114, 240 frames of animation, between 2 and 15 hours was spent on each one.

Titanic (1997)

Cameron is back once more and becoming a cornerstone himself in the field of special and visual effects. The pioneering developments in digital technology he used in The Abyss and Terminator 2 were taken further in this adaptation. A 14 metre long model of the HMS Titanic was built and split in two during the sinking sequence, with computer effects added post production. After stuntmen were injured falling off a large scale model of the ship characters falling off the boat were digitally inserted instead. Other effects of note include Kate Winslet’s digitally inserted iris morphing into Gloria Stuart’s eye and transition shots between the recreated ship and the one underwater.

The Matrix (1999)

The representation of virtual reality takes a turn for the better with the development of ‘Bullet Time’ and ‘flow-mo’. Using a combination of actors on wires, motion capture and filming segments of fight scenes at different camera angles the actors would appear suspended in the air mid action. Still cameras were used to take segment shots and were sequenced together, giving the effect of seeing two-dimensional slices of a three-dimensional moment. This was expanded by the Wachowski’s and visual effects supervisor John Gaeta so that rather than being frozen in time the scene moved at a very slow rate.

The Lord of the Rings (2001)

In the battle scene at the beginning of the film a CGI system named MASSIVE enabled thousands of individual characters to appear and act independently. This technique was used in the subsequent two sequels. In order for each main character to appear at their correct height forced perspective was used in scenes between Men and Elves. Scenes were filmed separately at Bag End between Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) at two different scales. Extensive use of make up, digital and special effects were used throughout the whole trilogy, making the mythical lands of Middle Earth and the people in it come to life, as if they were a real part of history.

The Polar Express (2004)

Robert Zemeckis took Peter Jackson’s performance capture technology and used it in an all digital film. Every character was created by taking the live performance from the actor and digitally capturing them using computerised cameras. The effect was a three dimensional representation of their movements. In The Polar Express Tom Hanks was able to play multiple characters include the Conductor, the boy and a hobo.

300 (2006)

A whole film was re imagined from Frank Miller’s comic book of the Battle of Thermopylae using blue screen technology. Using a super-imposition chroma key technique the actors performed in front of screens and then background was filled in using 1,500 CG shots. In post production more than ten special effects companies used shades of light and dark and desaturation to establish different moods.

Avatar (2009)

The latest step in the visual and special effects evolutionary tale. James Cameron, of course, makes all his 3D dreams come true in this science fiction/romance film. Over the years Cameron designed a dual-function camera that was able to film 2 and 3D simultaneously. Combined with the best that motion capture had to offer this marks Avatar as one of the greatest milestones in visual effects technology, despite the overused  storyline. Characters such as Gollum, King Kong and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean film series enabled Cameron’s dream to properly take flight.

Tron: Legacy (2010)

Watching the two Tron trailers back to back you can see the stunning visual differences between the two. 28 years later the visual effects are striking, with smooth lines and amazing depth in each scene. Filmed entirely in 3D this long awaited cult sequel also features 7.1 surround sound.
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Pixar: The Good, The Bad and Cars, Part 2 Fri, 18 Jun 2010 04:01:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Sometimes you take on endeavors that turn out to be difficult. It might not be life altering, but tough nonetheless. For me it was writing this commentary where I rate the top Pixar flicks.

I would liken it to being asked to pick your favorite child. Each has its own aspects that make them special and to narrow it down to the best of the best is a tough task. But one I take on.

So sit back, get yourself a little popcorn and enjoy what I believe are the top Pixar flicks thus far.

5. UP (2009)
An animated film with an elderly character for the lead? Are you serious? That was my first thought when “Up” was receiving an incredible amount of buzz before its release. And to be honest, my kids loved it, but I wasn’t a huge fan on my first viewing.
It was my daughters who insisted we see it again and then the charm of this story hit me full force. Just as WALL-E had done the previous year, UP delivered a compelling story that was heavier than most non-animated pictures released in ’09.

4. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Ah, the return of Woody and Buzz. Our old mates for the first Pixar feature came back and brought some new friends along for the ride. Just as the original, Toy Story 2 showed that Pixar is the absolute best when it comes to the medium because of their focus on the story.
In my eyes, this is the Empire Strikes Back of the animated world. It’s a sequel that was equally as good as the original and surpassed it in some ways. I loved the addition of the new characters and another great screenplay by Andrew Stanton and crew.

3. WALL-E (2008)
What’s not to love about this kindly little robot? Nothing. Again it was Stanton who co-wrote the screenplay and was behind the lens for this tale of robot love. OK, maybe the movie was more than that, but you gotta love a little robotic loving.
Plus, Star Wars alum Ben Burtt produced many of the ‘voices’ in the movie and you can’t go wrong with a guy with four Oscars.

2. Finding Nemo (2003)
And you might have guessed it by now, it was Stanton who brought the tale of a tiny fish’s quest to get back to his home. Nemo was Pixar’s first of five Best Animated Oscar winners and is at the top of many people’s list as the best film to come from the studio.
What makes Nemo work is the formula Pixar has adopted for all their films (except Cars), which is surround an intriguing story with great characters, add some heart and let the magic take care of itself. For 15 years the formula has worked to perfection.

1. Toy Story (1995)
Nothing can beat the film that started it all. Having two small children, I’m an avid watcher of all things Pixar and this is by far my favorite movie simply because it’s the best. It had everything I was sure at the time, a computer generated feature film couldn’t have — a great story, great characters and a great look. Toy Story accomplished all those and so much more.
Toy Story and its sequel hold perfect ratings at (plug No.2) and with early reviews in for Toy Story 3, it looks like Pixar is going to pull off the trifecta.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz Lightyear, respectively, gave children and adults alike two iconic characters that will last for infinity and beyond.

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Pixar: The Good, The Bad and Cars, Part 1 Thu, 17 Jun 2010 06:20:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Sometimes you take on endeavors that turn out to be difficult. It might not be life altering, but tough nonetheless. For me it was writing this commentary where I rate the top Pixar flicks.

I would liken it to being asked to pick your favorite child. Each has its own aspects that make them special and to narrow it down to the best of the best is a tough task. But one I take on.

So sit back, get yourself a little popcorn and enjoy what I believe are the top Pixar flicks thus far.

10. Cars (2006)
To be a Pixar offering and only garner a fresh rating at (plug!) of only 75 percent, should tell you all you need to know about Cars. It might have an All-Star cast of actors lending their voices, but the story is boring and easily ranks as the worst film the company has put out.
This surprises me with John Lasseter being the director and co-screenwriter, but even the best have a horrible outing from time to time.

9. A Bug’s Life (1998)
While the movie is a charming little story about an inventive little ant named Flik and his journey to right the wrong his inventions have delivered on the colony, it just didn’t have the same magic Toy Story had.
I think the movie suffered from being too long, and as evident in the times my kid have watched it, it’s not good enough to hold a child’s interest or an adult for that matter.

8. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
This movie really benefited from the voice talent of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. The story revolves around Sulley (Goodman) and Mike (Crystal) and their adventures to return a little girl after she followed Sulley back to Monstropolis.
It shows Pixar’s strength when a film as good as Monster’s Inc. drops all the way to No. 8 on my list. In another cruel turn, the film lost out to Shrek for Best Animated Feature at the 2001 Oscars, a fact that should turn the stomach of any moviegoer.

7. Ratatouille (2007)
A little rat that wants to become a chef. That’s Ratatouille in a nutshell. I feel bad that it fell to No. 7 on my list because in fact, I really liked the film. It’s charming, smart and very different from what Pixar had done before.
The main difference for me was the fact the film had an art house feel to it. Meaning, it’s played not as an animated film, but as a very good film that just happened to have animated characters as its leads. Very smart and very creative.

6. The Incredibles (2004)
This story about a family of superheroes really blew me away when it first opened. I usually didn’t make my way to the theater to catch animated flicks, but I loved the premise and I’m a sucker for Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson – and not necessarily in that order.
I was another success for the company because as with all its films, it felt fresh and had all the elements for a great family movie.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

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