Cars 3 (2017) Review

     Over this past decade I have actually come to have an affection for the Cars series (thanks to my nephew). Yes, even the much reviled Cars 2. But now we’ve come full circle with Cars 3 and I can see it being a bittersweet entry for the fans who grew up with Lighting McQueen. 

     Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) seems to be on his last legs. With a new racer named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) who is just plain faster than McQueen, causes him to question whether he can still cut it in today’s racing. With help from Cruz (Cristela Alonzo) a new trainer to help him back to the top. 

     I am such a sucker for the apprentice becomes the teacher stories, especially in franchises. The story has come full circle (hilariously) as McQueen trains his trainer. 

     Gone this time around is the grand scope of the previous film, and a return ro the small, intimate nature that gave the original its charm. Its more retrospective, even a little sad as Doc (Paul Newman) is referenced throughout the film and it brought the real theme of time fleeting. 

     Speaking of Paul Newman, Cars 3 did evoke some memories of The Color of Money a sequel to The Hustler. Now, Lightning McQueen was never disgraced like Fast Eddie Felson was, but the passing of the torch was reminiscent of it.  

     This is by no means a perfect film and Pixar has obviously made much better films, but the movie is light, inoffensive, and quite frankly, a little deeper than it had any business being. I finished the movie with a smile and that’s a lot more than most films this summer. 

Moana Review 

     It still astonishes me that Disney can still make a movie like Moana. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Disney can still phone it in and they’ll make a shit ton of money. A shit ton. But with the advancement of technology, which makes for an abundance of lazy animated films, the filmmakers here took such care of the story, and the technical elements, that the company just keeps setting its own bar higher than before. 

     Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) has just been made the chief of her tribe, but harsh times have fallen upon the tribe; fish, coconuts, you name it have become scarce. So its up to Moana to find the person responsible for upsetting the gods. Yep, she has to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in order to set things right. 

     It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a Disney princess movie where so many elements just fell perfectly into place. The humor, the animation, everything. Moana is a technical marvel to behold. The fact that while CGI animation is pretty much the standard nowadays, but the filmmakers also use traditional hand drawn animation as well (in particular Maui’s tattoos) just floored me. On that level, the movie needs to be studied in film courses. 

     I am fully aware that pretty pictures do not a good movie make; Moana herself as a character is such a revelation. It wasn’t until the end that it dawned on me that she has no love interest at all. Let that sink in…

     A Disney princess without a love interest. 

     All she gives a shit about is saving her home and her people. That’s all. This is so different from any other Disney princess movie. To break away from an almost hundred year formula just makes me question existence itself. Believe me folks, this is not the norm. 

     God knows when was the last time I had a shit eating grin throughout an entire Disney movie. The lush colors, the strong characters (HeiHei is my spirit animal), just the exuberant joy that seeps through every frame, every song, is something that is sorely lacking in not just family fare, but films in general. 

Batman: The Killing Joke Review 

     Here’s the Batman story that I never thought I would see as a film, much less an animated one. The Killing Joke has been cited as one of the most influential comics ever written. All it takes is one bad day…

     Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (Tara Strong) has been fighting crime for over three years and has come into her own during that time. One night while her father Jim Gordon (Ray Wise) over, the Joker (Mark Hamil) shoots Barbara in the stomach, and other things. He is out to prove to Batman (Kevin Conroy) that all it takes is one bad day, just one, to make a person go insane. 

     Look, there’s a lot of really dark shit in this movie, owning up to the spirit of the comic. Yes, you even get the Joker’s origin story (well, one of them), the unspeakable mental torture of Jim Gordon, and that disputed resolution. It’s all here. 

     I just noticed that I haven’t said if I liked the film. Weird. Short answer is yes I do. The plot of the film is just really unsavory, as it fucking should be. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil are fucking pros at this by now. This oddly enough adds to the dynamic of these two men pushing each other to limits. I grew up with these two men as Batman and the Joker respectfully, and it doesn’t get old seeing these two spar. 

     After watching the movie, and before writing this, I thought about Batman v. Superman and this movie with regards to how both present dark themes into their stories, but The Killing Joke actually has the guts to actually explore those themes in just half the running time. It can be brutal to sit through, but it does make you look into fragile state of the human mind.

     Also, the movie starts with a prologue about Batgirl that I felt was unnecessary, but I understood why it was placed there. I think there’s enough people in the world who know who Batgirl is, and you’re a real piece of shit if you show this to little kids (flick is R rated for a god damn reason). I did like the mid credit scene. That was a nice touch. 

     Once again, D.C. Animated just easily succeeds where the live action counterparts fail. I like this character driven superhero stuff. There should be more of it, don’t you think?

Zootopia Review

image

     I don’t recall much buzz about Zootopia before it came out. I know that it’s a Disney film, but I must admit that if it’s not Pixar, then I really don’t give a shit what Disney Animation puts out. So to say that this movie was a complete surprise would be an understatement.
     In a world where animals of all different types can now somehow coexist, little bunny Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of becoming a police officer, but she’s literally a bunny. Would you take a bunny seriously as a cop? Yeah, neither would every other animal from lions to tigers to rhinos. But that doesn’t stop her and actually achieves her goal. Yay!
     But the real world can be a fickle bitch, and not even her own boss, a bison (Idris Elba) takes her serious. She’s basically an Affirmative Action hire. Soon, she meets a con artist fox (not making this shit up) named Nick (Jason Bateman) and the two are forced to work together to uncover an unsettling conspiracy.
     By all accounts, Zootopia shouldn’t have fucking worked. Read that summary again. It’s fucking crazy! I’m  telling you, John Lasseter, the head of Pixar, really did a number at Disney. In recent years the output of films are not only funny, but really emotional.
     I can’t even remember the last  time I laughed out loud this much during a Disney flick.
     The DMV sloth scene is the obvious standout here, and is the key to the movies success. As adults, mostly bringing the kids, that scene is way too fucking real. Kids would find it funny because of the absurd exaggeration, but parents know that its not. The kids are entertained, the parents are also.
     Going back to the emotional side of things, the message of the movie, don’t underestimate anyone or their dreams, is just simply a wonderful one to see in a kids film. Really think about your favorite films growing up; they all had some message that helped you out in life. It just makes me happy that the studio hasn’t lost sight of the fact that life is hard, especially when it comes to your dreams, but that all difficult things are worth doing when it’s your passion. Shit, I know some adults that need to be reminded of that.