Hello everyone! It’s a pleasure to see you here yet again for my review of every Pixar animated feature film to date. For my thoughts on the last 10 movies, here are the links to them:
The groundbreaking animators have touched the hearts of many and connected audiences with a plethora of sympathetic characters by taking old tropes and adding a drop of their own unique spin. Although their creative genius shines in the earlier features, a sudden influx of tripe continuations throughout the 2010s have staled the studio’s influence. Diving into the duds, the masterpieces, and everything in-between, this is the third collection of Pixar films reviewed. Let’s get this show on the road!
EDITOR’S NOTE: My editing program to touch upon the featured drawing isn’t exactly functional at the moment, but when you check in next week I’m sure the drawing will be in much better quality. And now, on with the show!
Toy Story 3 (2010)
11 years following Toy Story 2, Woody and the toys have become distraught due to Andy moving on to his college years, no longer a jovial kid fidgeting around his room with playthings. They land up in a kindergarten daycare in the hopes of finding a bright new horizon being played with forever by young children. They soon come to the attention that the daycare toys, including the pink teddy bear Lotso, perhaps have something more sinister going on under wraps…
For the first time on this blog so far, I may have a controversial opinion on a film I’ve reviewed. Before we dive into this anomaly, remember that I wouldn’t label Toy Story 3 as a so-called “bad” flick, I just have varying thoughts on the whole thing that definitely deviate from the nearly universal consensus. I believe a factor to my review have to relate with the bar being raised do high; once more, with a catalog this prime, even the great efforts fall in the middle. And personally, this Woody and Buzz adventure is just meagerly decent.
But in other notions, the writing and direction is honestly quite well-done. This is a peculiar case when the paths the premise drove down and the tone draw my criticism, yet I can admit they handled it the best they could. I’m not sure. Perhaps my least favorite of the Toy Story tetralogy, but nonetheless entertaining, unexpectedly grim, and emotionally vivid.
If I were to shift down the gold nuggets present, I absolutely adore the evolution of the previous two’s themes, such as one’s owner and how to spend their time as a toy. To be loved my dozens? To have a special individual? To be on display? It’s such a welcome wonder how a series with this kind of plot has removed the fat and rendered something so brilliant with the dullest of potential. The characters continue to charm, and the Great Escape inspired plan is wildly fun to watch play out. My seething problems that arise are Spanish Buzz, which clones the same pattern as Toy Story 2‘s sub-plot (and is also kind of a odd idea in the first place), as well as the stark tonal strike away from the prior installments. Lotso’s hate-filled rant at the dump and the furnace sequence feel so pitch coffee black in contrast… will kids actually be enjoying themselves too?
In summary, my rating on Toy Story 3 is going to be a mixed bundle. There are some fantastic elements sprinkled throughout, but again, was a prison escape buildup the best pitch they had? Not bad per say… an extremely scrambled mindset on this one.
Cars 2 (2011)
The Cars franchise, echoing what I said in volume two, is generally regarded lower from other Pixar offerings. A couple of folks I know, including the passenger Vic, are fans of the first automobile animation. But, what do those people think of the sequel, Cars 2? In the film which spoofs James Bond storylines (the Espionage Christmas strikes again next Thursday), the country-slang spewing tow truck sidekick Mater is lassoed into the smoke and mirrors underworld of British Intelligence and car-imploding emitters while his friend, speed demon superstar Lightning McQueen, competes in a worldwide racing event. Will Mater prove his innocence and save McQueen from the despicable threat in motion?
This movie is a Shakespearean tragedy. Up until this point, Pixar had an unprecedented decade-long streak of critical acclaim. A Bug’s Life and Cars have been slightly less glowing, but the reception still displayed warmth. This was the poison that brought a dissatisfying drop of signature quality; according to a handful of my sources, the Pixar team behind the scenes also took a toll on their morale due to the newfound lukewarm feedback. But even despite all that, I may one of the few “critics” who doesn’t despise Cars 2.
In fact, I might not even genuinely regard myself as a critic. I prefer more of a “film romantic” sort of image. I love film through and through, and I frankly don’t see the commonplace art of criticism.
Heh, I’m not even paying much attention to the flick at hand, am I? So ricocheting back to that, obviously the animators are remarkably gifted, as proved through their previous work in the studio. All the colors and background design is well-done, seeping with professionalism. The opening action scene on the buoyed oil rig with Finn McMissile, the lead British secret agent of the film, is pretty ambient and entertaining, even if the next scene cuts to Radiator Springs. What a way to bait my interest then drown it, Pixar.
A handful of scenes in Cars 2 aren’t all that terrible, though the promotion of Mater from sidekick to protagonist as well as the klunky script drag the film down due to the heavy baggage. This is one rusty van that is worthy of the junkyard.
Set in the Scottish highlands, Merida is the unruly and objectionable daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. She has been arranged to be wed to one of three princes, but her passionate desire not to do so churns the kingdom into disarray. Fleeing home and using her archery talents and arcana for aid, Merida must take a stand against her own family as well as the elements to resolve an equally beastly occurrence.
There is also a center-stage emotional turn of events from the second-third of the way through, but for viewers who haven’t seen Brave, I’ll keep the drapes over. Now, Merida is arguably the most unlikeable main character in all the Pixar catalog. She’s always making a fuss about everything, her sour rebellion against her parents, and the fact that she does something so unspeakably antagonistic that it completely drains all the credibility the “hero” could have had in the first place. And yes, it literally is unspeakable since it ties in with the midway plot twist. But if you’ve watched this movie, you’ll understand what I’m jabbing at.
Honestly, it isn’t just Merida. Her bitter personality was so repugnant that it spread like a blight onto the other side characters! None of them are nearly as bad, but they range fro either being grading, make irrational choices, or deliver truly unpleasant humor. The word for those kinds of characters are “comic reliefs” in theory, but in Brave, they just end up being “comic woe”. Or “comic misery”, whatever sounds better in your ears.
What’s the real comedy of errors is that it feels as if Pixar and Disney exchanged animated features that year, Brave and Wreck-it-Ralph. Think about it, the offering here has the tone of a sub par Disney princess flick the studio has been milking for a rough century, and Wreck-it-Ralph presents the question ‘what if video games had feelings?’, which is a interchangeable phrase applied to every Pixar film. So what does that make Brave‘s term… ‘what if redheaded Scots had feelings?’
Not awful, but lacking in every way I can imagine. The smug demeanor displayed from the writers, holding their so-called clever subversion of a tired trope, doesn’t add any new spritz or sham to make it feel earned. Throw in cliched plot points, an abysmal bunt at laughs, and an out of place ensemble and wa-la, Brave is created. And as the flick seems to get weaker the more I dwell upon it, it’s probably best I end the review here.
Don’t go away, reviews of Monsters University and Inside Out will return after these brief messages…
Thank you so much for 100 subscribers to the Train! I never even dreamed of getting this far, and I give a kudos to every single passenger who have come back to read my thoughts on movies and television each week. I merely started the blog, not really for any fame or fortune or recognition, but so that I could have a creative outlet to express my love for media. I would honestly be happy if all I ever got was 20-something loyal passengers in my planned 5 year runtime (yes, five years… this is only my second season!). So from my heart to yours, thank you once more. Stay stellar out there in this crazy world, and safe for that manner as well.
All the best, G.h Nowak
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Monsters University (2013)
Another sequel? Oh, apologies, a prequel! *sigh* To be fair, Monsters University isn’t actually all that it makes itself out to be. A precursor to the classic Monsters, Inc., it shows wannabe “scarer” Mike Wazowski meeting his future close companion James “Sully” Sullivan in college. Despite their eventual friendship their beginnings would be less than so, first as budding accomplices transitioning to a bitter rivalry. Will Mike’s ambition land him in a dark place? Or could Sully’s outgoing nature get the duo expelled?
I couldn’t agree more with Keith Phipp’s review of this film which states; “The perfect movie for 8 year-olds who are also college students”. Jokes aside, a lot of folks seem to share the same idea that this attempt is easily not one of Pixar’s worst and packs a punch during the final 15 minutes or so, which I suppose is true, but it’s additionally disappointing and unengaging during the rest of the film. The climax offers great tension and atmosphere, but it simply doesn’t provide Monsters University worth enough value for viewer’s to switch on.
The newly introduced characters are kind of there, you know. Not bad, but predictable and not used to effect the plot. That position is mainly steered by Mike and Sully, and the emotional arc that eclipses is nice and all. The animation is… alright, by this stage I don’t think it’s practical to point out the gorgeous animation for each and every feature of theirs, unless it peaks their boundaries or is vital to my criticisms (both will happen in the future). But for the pantheon from here out, remember that the beautiful maestro of moving sketches is a given. Also, my only strong feelings towards something in Monsters University is the new college band style theme, which has a great melody even if it pales against the original jazz tempo present in Monsters, Inc.
In the metaphorical sense, this sequel, er, prequel, whatever it is, is lacking that snazzy and fast-paced wonder of the first. Instead it is filtered with a tune, while still good, has a distinctly different flavor but is more run-of-the-mill. So yeah, the theme music that highlights the duo speaks for the respective film’s creativity and beat. Screwy, ain’t it?
Inside Out (2015)
Here we are folks, the final film of the night. This was the third outing for director Pete Doctor, who is a key player for the studio thanks to his works Monsters, Inc. and Up. Does this one live up? In lieu with Doctor’s recurring intrigue with abstract imagination, Inside Out details the main emotions operating a girl named Riley. Ever feel happy? Of course, I love a good slice of pie. Down in the dumps? I’m melancholy whenever somebody betrays me. Frightened? Death is my worst nightmare. I could go on. However, what would take place after Joy is snatched off and Sadness goes nutty? If you assume that Fear, Disgust and Anger don’t handle the dilemma very well, you would be correct.
This production is a masterclass in evoking connection, memory, and obviously emotion. I think my greatest gripe is that the story is very thinly structured, and unresolved points in the premise are as frequent as potholes on an average road. Maybe skimming the problematic issue is earned; since the sentiment is prime rather than practicality I understand fully why not a ton of things need to make perfect sense, or how there are multiple conveniences sprinkled about. For all I know though, the structure is the weakest link by a landslide.
The casting on the other hand… that’s something special. Only lingering in my mind because of her performance in Parks and Recreation as Leslie Knope, Amy Poehler was an excellent choice for the sunny embodiment of Joy. Phyllis Smith, portraying Sadness, and Mindy Kaling as Disgust both come off the backs of Parks and Recreation‘s sister show The Office and do solid jobs. Bill Hader is a favorite of mine, and he nails the living reincarnation of Fear, anxious and worried on the constant. Anger, played marvelously by Lewis Black, steals every scene he’s in by creating such a hilarious persona for the fiery midget. To be honest, most of the jokes do stick the daring acrobatic stunt, with an unforgettable gag about a gum advert that leaves me in shreds on every rewatch.
Creatively delectable, but not in an overwhelming way. The acute ideas are executed with the finesse of a real auteur. A chunk of the drama is somewhat forced in my opinion and the plot as related is far from strong, but Inside Out is heartfelt and funny and bewitching to an extent where those critiques are vaporized. I will revisit my favorite Pixar feature of the 2010’s again very soon.
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