Throwback Thursday: Up (2009)

Childhood dreams have a way of staying with us long after our youth has disappeared into the rearview mirror.

In the 2009 Disney/Pixar film Up, Carl Fredricksen (the late Ed Asner) is 87 years old and mourning his late wife. He is also still enamored with his childhood idol, Charles Muntz (the late Christopher Plummer).

When a young scout, Russell (Jordan Nagai) enters his life, they go on an unexpected journey to South America and the fictional Paradise Falls, a location that Carl dreamed of as a young boy.

If I were to create a list of Pixar films, Up would be close to the top. It’s a story of change and realizing that the ideas that populated our youth may be more fantasy than reality.

My only gripe (which is very common) is that the only female with any decent amount of screen time is Ellie, Carl’s wife. It is the one black mark on an otherwise brilliant cinematic creation.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Monsters University (2013)

Our university years are formative in multiple ways. Outside of the academics and the eventual degree, the friends and the relationships we make can change the course of our lives.

Monsters University (2013) is the sequel to the Disney/Pixar movie Monsters, Inc. (2001). When Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) met James P. “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman) met in college, they don’t exactly get along. Mike is your typical overachiever. Sully is coasting on his family legacy. Despite their differences, they must find a way to get along.

I loved this movie. Crystal and Goodman have amazing chemistry. As I watched the film, I was reminded of my time in college and got a few chuckles along the way.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Flashback Friday: Monsters, Inc. (2001)

One of the classic stories of childhood is thinking that there is a monster under our bed or in our closet.

The 2001 Disney/Pixar film Monsters, Inc, follows the lives of two titular monsters, Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sullivan (John Goodman). Their job is to scare children and get them to scream. Those collective screams power their city.

The one hitch, however, is that the young ones are toxic. When a toddler nicknamed Boo (Mary Gibbs) somehow escapes into their world, Mike and Sully have to keep her safe and get her back to bed. While doing so, they discover a secret plan that could destroy everything that they hold dear.

This movie is really cute. It is funny, charming, and speaks to the former child in all of us. I very much appreciated the adult humor that younger audiences may not have understood.

My only problem (which is standard) is the lack of female representation. Other than Boo, the only characters with the proverbial womb and a decent amount of screen time are Celia (Jennifer Tilly) and Flint (Bonnie Hunt).

Other than that, do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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Flashback Friday: Inside Out: (2015)

One of the most validating experiences a child can have is when adults recognize and validate their emotions. It has the power to affect the rest of their lives and hopefully prevent future mental illness.

The 2015 Disney/Pixar animated film Inside Out follows a young girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). Her life is turned upside down when her parents move the family from the Midwest to San Franciso. Her emotions are guided by Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

I was blown away by the film. I recognized myself in Riley, having also moved as a young woman, and understanding what it means to start over in a new school and a new community. I have vivid memories of feeling very awkward, unsure, and a little scared.

Instead of getting on the proverbial soapbox on the importance of mental health, the narrative guides viewers of all ages into the conversation of emotions and how important it is to talk about how we are feeling.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Throwback Thursday: Coco (2017)

Art and music have a way of enriching our lives and bringing people together. It can also bring up painful memories that would rather be forgotten.

In the 2017 Disney/Pixar film, Coco, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a young boy with the gift of song. He would like nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of his hero, the legendary performer Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But music is verboten in his family.

After entering the Land of the Dead via magic, Miguel starts on the path to meet his idol. Along the way, he is joined by Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). Though he is initially annoyed by the unwanted company, Miguel will soon learn that Hector is more than he appears to be.

I loved this movie. It has so much heart that I was completely swept away by the tale. Miguel is so compelling as the lead character that I understood who he was almost immediately. I also shed a few tears along the way. I rarely cry during movies, but this one made me cry (in a good way).

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Throwback Thursday: Toy Story 2 (1999)

In a film series, the second is the most important. It is a litmus test of two important questions: 1. Is there an audience appetite for the sequel? and 2. Is there enough of a narrative to warrant a second movie?

Toy Story 2 (1999) is the second tale within the Toy Story franchise. After Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy collector, it is up to his friends to save him. While Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) works on the outside to free Woody, Woody makes friends on the inside. Jessie (Joan Cusack) is a cowgirl and a part of the wild west line of playthings.

I enjoyed Toy Story 2. It has everything that made its predecessor great and then some. It is funny, entertaining, and suspenseful, and the addition of the new characters provides enough stretch to make the story plausible.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Lightyear Movie Review

Every narrative and IP has its limits. Though a movie studio may want to test its limit, the audience may feel differently.

The new Disney/Pixar movie, Lightyear, is an origin story/prequel within the Toy Story franchise. After being stranded for years on a mysterious planet, Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans, taking over from Tim Allen) is looking for a way to return home. His friend and co-pilot, Alicia Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), tries to be supportive while also being realistic.

As Buzz continues in his efforts to get his crew home, time moves on. When he finally achieves his goal, he discovers that it has been sixty years since his first attempt. An army of robots led by Zurg (James Brolin) is doing everything they can to steal his power source. Leading a small band of misfits that includes Alicia’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), Darby Steel (Dale Soules), and the animatronic cat Sox (Peter Sohn), they must save the day and stop Zurg.

I have mixed feelings about this film. As a standalone narrative, it’s not bad. I appreciate the diversity and representation of the characters. But I also feel like Disney and Pixar are perhaps becoming a little too reliant on a known quantity instead of trying out something new. The lessons within the story are universal and ageless, but that does not take away from the fact that this is the fifth time that we have seen Buzz on the big screen.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Lightyear is presently in theaters.

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Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

Soul Movie Review

We all know that at some point, we will exit this life. The question is, will we live to the fullest while we can?

The new Disney Plus movie, Soul, premiered yesterday. Joe Gardiner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) is a junior high school band teacher with a passion for playing music. At this point in his adult life, his dream of being a professional jazz musician has yet to be achieved. Then he gets an opportunity to play at a local jazz club.

But before he can play, he falls into a manhole. Discovering that he is in the Great Beyond, Joe tries everything he can to get back to his body. His ticket back to Earth is 22, (Tina Fey) an infant soul who is disinterested in being born. Together, they will learn about what true passion is and how to live life to the fullest.

What I like about this movie is while it is obviously a kids movie, there are themes that are well over the heads of younger audience members. The message of appreciating being alive and knowing what is truly important radiates through the narratives, reaching the viewer as only a touching and funny film can.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Soul is available for streaming on Disney Plus.

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