Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Retrospective: 12 Pixar Films

Toy Story (1995/US)   ****

A toy cowboy, the long-time favourite of a small boy, is jealous of a new arrival, an astronaut figure that refuses to believe that he is a toy.
A brilliant, superb piece of filmmaking, with wit and love radiating from every frame. It is a formidable accomplishment, not only in being the first computer-generated feature film, but also in its incredible influence of all films that followed, animated or otherwise. Despite this, its joy, its energy and its dazzling use of character and storytelling, has never been equalled.
d – John Lasseter
w – John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Joss Whedon, Alec Sokolow, Joel Cohen
ad – Ralph Eggleston
m – Randy Newman
ed – Lee Unkrich, Robert Gordon

p – Ralph Guggenheim, Bonnie Arnold

Cast:    Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf, R. Lee Ermey, Erik von Detten

A Bug’s Life (1998/US)   ***

An ant enlists the help of some circus bugs in defeating a threatening gang of grasshoppers.
Highly enjoyable, gorgeously expressed Kurosawa-esque tale with great warmth and beautiful visuals.
d – John Lasseter
co-d – Andrew Stanton
w – John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Don McEnery, Bob Shaw
ph – Sharon Calahan
pd – William Cone
m – Randy Newman
ed – Lee Unkrich

p – Darla K. Anderson, Kevin Reher

Cast:    Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, David Hyde pierce, Joe Ranft Denis Leary, Jonathan Harris, Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, John Ratzenberger, Brad Garrett, Roddy McDowell, Mike McShane

 Toy Story 2 (1999/US)   ****

A greedy toy shop owner steals a cowboy doll so that he can complete a set of toys, based on a 50s TV show, and sell them to a Japanese museum.
Witty, brilliantly realized sequel to the masterful original; in expressing themes of celebrity and obsolescence, it is able to go even deeper and tell a story of the neglecting of loved ones. It is a marvelously handled film.

d – John Lasseter
co-d – Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon
w – John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Ash Brannon, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin, Chris Webb
ph – Sharon Callahan
pd – William Cone, Jim Pearson
m – Randy Newman
ed – Lee Unkrich, Edie Bleiman, David Ian Salter

p – Helene Plotkin, Karen Robert Jackson

Cast:    Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Estelle Harris, Wayne Knight, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf, R. Lee Ermey, Jodi Benson

Monsters Inc. (2001/US)   **

A universe inhabited by monsters and powered by children’s screams, hassle over a human girl who has become stranded in their world, and they are scared to death of her.
Pixar’s first surrender toward sentimentality is a little disheartening, for this effort relies too heavily on cuteness and sobbing to get through the day. However, it is spectacularly animated, representing another leap-forward in filmmaking technique, and the story is affectionately told with humour from everyone concerned.
d – Pete Docter
co-d – Lee Unkrich, David Silverman
w – Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon, Ralph Eggleston, Andrew Stanton, Daniel Gerson
pd – Harley Jessup, Bob Pauley
m – Randy Newman
ed – Jim Stewart

p – Darla K. Anderson

Cast:    John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Tilly, James Coburn, Bob Peterson, Frank Oz, John Ratzenberger

Finding Nemo (2003/US)   ***

A neurotic clownfish goes in search of his lost son, who has been captured by a diver and put in an office aquarium.
Despite a thin narrative, this luminously executed, beautifully animated film is an inspiring Pixar gem, with its soulful ambition of bringing together fathers and sons. It seamlessly blends technical virtue with storytelling verve.
d – Andrew Stanton
co-d – Lee Unkrich
w – Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds
ph – Sharon Calahan, Jeremy Lasky
pd – Ralph Eggleston
m – Thomas Newman
ed – David Ian Salter

p – Graham Walters

Cast:    Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Hunter, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Joe Ranft, Andrew Stanton, John Ratzenberger, Barry Humphries, Eric Bana, Bruce Spence

The Incredibles (2004/US)   ****

Forced to lead mundane lives and forget their powers, a family of superheroes return to action when the world is threatened by a megalomaniac.
Brilliant, ingeniously plotted and exceptionally directed exaltation piece on individualism that, with its enchanting characters, meticulous animation and unrelenting narrative force, mercilessly heaps on delight after delight as each sequence goes by. It could scarcely have been better.
wd – Brad Bird
ph – Janet Lucroy, Patrick Lin, Andrew Jimenez
pd – Lou Romano
m – Michael Giacchino
ed – Stephen Schaffer

p – John Walker

Cast:    Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Spence Fox, Jason Lee, Elizabeth Pena, Brad Bird, Bud Luckey, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger

Cars (2006/US)   **

In a world with only vehicles and no humans, a cocky race car finds himself stranded in a small town on Route 66.
A nostalgic and atmospheric curiosity from this majestic filmmaker. It is lyrical and moving, yet ordinary and devoid of wit.

d – John Lasseter
co-d – Joe Ranft
w – John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Jorgen Klubien, Dan Fogelman, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin
ph – Jeremy Lasky, Jean-Claude Kalache
pd – William Cone, Bob Pauley
m – Randy Newman
ed – Ken Schretzmann

p – Darla K. Anderson

Cast:    Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Michael Wallis, George Carlin, Paul Dooley, Jenifer Lewis, Guido Quaroni, Richard Petty, Michael Keaton, John Ratzenberger, Katherine Helmond

Ratatouille (2007/US)   ****

A rat with a highly developed sense of smell and a love for cooking and the garbage boy of a high class French restaurant, secretly work together to become the toast of Paris.
The epitome of the flawless Pixar imprint of the time: a poignant, witty, gorgeous, well-acted, brilliant film that seems to capture the plight of the artist in a way that has never been done before.
It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies rarely encompass anymore. A true masterwork from its director and its studio.
d – Brad Bird
w – Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco
ph – Sharon Calahan, Robert Anderson
pd – Harley Jessup
m – Michael Giacchino
ed – Darren Holmes

p – Brad Lewis

Cast:    Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Ian Holm, Peter O’Toole, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, John Ratzenberger, Will Arnett, Teddy Newton

Wall-E (2008/US)   ***

In the distant future, where mankind has abandoned earth because it has become covered with trash, a garbage collecting robot has been left to clean up the mess.
A marvel of implementation of a simple-minded story, mixing Kubrick sensibility with Chaplinesque humanity. Its charming simplicity actually elevates the film to a kind of cinema that one can be thoughtful about as a treatise for its unsettling themes.
d – Andrew Stanton
w – Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon
ph – Jeremy Lasky, Danielle Feinberg
pd – Ralph Eggleston
m – Thomas Newman
ed – Stephen Schaffer

p – Jim Morris

Cast:    Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy

Up (2009/US)   ***

By tying thousands of balloons to his home, a 78-year-old sets out to fulfil his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America.
Moving, buoyant, joyous mix of Ozu, Miyazaki and Spielberg, but with a whimsy that could only be Pixar. It builds a comedic crescendo, with a series of absurdities that top one another, that is utterly exuberant.
d – Pete Docter
co-d – Bob Peterson
w – Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Thomas McCarthy
ph – Patrick Lin, Jean-Claude Kalache
pd – Ricky Nierva
m – Michael Giacchino
ed – Kevin Nolting

p – Jonus Rivera

Cast:    Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, John Ratzenberger

Toy Story 3 (2010/US)   ***

With the approach of his leaving for college, the toys of Andy’s room, tired of having their hearts broken, relocate to a day-care centre run by a purple teddy bear.
Wistful, spirited, heartrending homecoming to a familiar world that one would be silly to gripe against when comparing it to the previous two films. It completely justifies its existence with its absolute respect to its characters and the delight that they have provided audiences with for over a decade.
d – Lee Unkrich
w – John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Michael Arndt
ph – Jeremy Lasky, Kim White
pd – Bob Pauley
m – Randy Newman
ed – Ken Schretzmann

p – Darla K. Anderson

Cast:    Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, John Morris, Don Rickles,
Blake Clark, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, Jeff Pidgeon, Michael Keaton, Jodi Benson, Emily Hahn, Timothy Dalton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Garlin, Bonnie Hunt, Bud Luckey, Laurie Metcalf, Teddy Newton

Cars 2 (2011/US)

Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix race, where they get caught up in a vehicle-based international espionage.
Bad characterization, indifferent execution, lame jokes and an uninteresting story all combine to make a poor film; a major disappointment from both its studio and director after twenty years of radiance.

d – John Lasseter
co-d – Brad Lewis
w – John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, Dan Fogelman, Ben Queen
ph – Sharon Calahan, Jeremy Lasky
pd – Harley Jessup
m – Michael Giacchino
ed – Stephen Schaffer

p – Denise Ream

Cast:    Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, Jason Isaacs, Thomas Kretschmann, Joe Mantegna, Peter Jacobson, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni, Paul Dooley, John Ratzenberger, John Turturro, Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave, Michel Michelis, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Jenifer Lewis, Michael Wallis

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crisp Criticism - "Brave", "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter", "The Cabin in the Woods", "That's My Boy"

Brave (2012/US)   *

Determined to make her own path in life, a Scottish princess defies custom and her parents and brings chaos to her kingdom.
An agreeable animated adventure with many exciting moments but far too much on its mind to be completely stable; it launches its narrative and characters magnificently and then falls apart, offering nothing new or distinct.
d – Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
co-d – Steve Purcell
w – Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi
ph – Robert Anderson, Danielle Feinberg
pd – Steve Pilcher
m – Patrick Doyle
ed – Nicholas C. Smith

p – Katherine Sarafian

Cast:    Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, John Ratzenberger

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012/US)

The 16th President of the United States discovers vampires are planning to take over the country and makes it his mission to eliminate them..
Stupefying, confusing fantasy/mock-history which, while attempting to stimulate its audience’s imagination, just insults their intelligence.
d – Timur Bekmambetov
w – Seth Grahame-Smith   (Based on the Novel by Seth Grahame-Smith)
ph – Caleb Deschanel
pd – Francois Audouy
m – Henry Jackman
ed – William Hoy
cos – Varvara Avdyushko, Carlo Poggioli

p – Timur Bekmambetov, Tim Burton, Jim Lemley

Cast:    Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas

The Cabin in the Woods (2012/US)   ***

Five friends go for a weekend to a remote cabin in the woods.
Ingeniously executed essay which, through telling a rather humdrum horror-film story, winds up constructing a humorous and inspiring melange on questions to why and how humans interpret horrifying occurrences. It is startlingly original.
d – Drew Goddard
w – Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon
ph – Peter Deming
pd – Martin Whist 
m – David Julyan 
ed – Lisa Lassek 
cos – Shawna Trpcic

p – Joss Whedon

Cast:    Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker, Sigourney Weaver, Tim de Zarn

That’s My Boy (2012/US)

A hooligan with tax trouble impedes on the life of his structured son, whom he fathered when he was thirteen after getting his school teacher pregnant.
Dim and foul comedy of no redeeming value, from a comedian whose putrid idea of humour has now become severe cause for concern.
d – Sean Anders
w – David Caspe
ph – Brandon Trost
pd – Aaron Osborne
m – Rupert Gregson-Williams
ed – Tom Costain

p – Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo, Heather Parry, Adam Sandler

Cast:    Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Susan Sarandon, Milo Ventimiglia, Rex Ryan, Eva Amurri

Friday, June 15, 2012

Crisp Criticism - "Prometheus", "Men in Black III", "Take This Waltz", "Rock of Ages"

Prometheus (2012/US)   *

A team of explorers in 2089, who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, receive immense funding for a mission to find out more.
Philosophical, scrupulous, solemn sci-fi sequel in the Alien canon that is less akin to that film and more to the TV series Lost. Its attempt to elevate theoretical thinking by raising meaningful questions is commendable, but it ultimately buckles under the weight that those questions thrust upon it and becomes another unsatisfactory futuristic adventure with an ambiguous conclusion. It comes from a director with nothing interesting left to say.
d – Ridley Scott
w – Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
ph – Dariusz Wolski
pd – Arthur Max
m – Marc Streitenfeld
ed – Pietro Scalia
cos – Janty Yates

p – Walter Hill, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Mark Huffam

Cast:    Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan
Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall

Men in Black III (2012/US)

Agent J travels in time to MIB's early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.
Totally unnecessary and unsolicited sequel which, despite Brolin’s uncanny impression, sinks without a trace.
d – Barry Sonnenfeld
w – Etan Cohen   (Based on the Comic Book by Lowell Cunningham)
ph – Bill Pope
pd – Bo Welch
m – Danny Elfman
ed – Wayne Wahrman, Don Zimmerman
cos – Mary E. Vogt

p – Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes

Cast:    Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson,
Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger, Bill Hader, David Rasche, Michal Chernus, Alice Eve

Take This Waltz (2012/US)   *

A happily married Canadian woman falls for an artist who lives across the street.
Slight, affectionately acted domestic drama which alternates between pleasing humor and monotony.
wd – Sarah Polley
ph – Luc Montpellier
pd – Matthew Davies
m – Jonathan Goldsmith
ed – Christopher Donaldson
cos – Lea Carlson

p – Sarah Polley, Susan Cavan

Cast:     Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Jennifer Poemski

Rock of Ages (2012/US)

A small town girl and a city boy meet at a popular nightclub on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.
Dreary adaptation of the light jukebox musical, of which it actually bears only occasional resemblance; it’s bland and flaccid from beginning to end.
d – Adam Shankman
w – Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb   (Based on the Musical by Chris D’Arienzo)
ph – Bojan Bazelli
pd – Jon Hutman
ed – Emma E. Hickox
cos – Rita Ryack

p – Jennifer Gibgot, Garrett Grant, Carl Levin, Tobey Maguire, Scott Prisland, Adam Shankman, Matt Weaver

Cast:    Julianna Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Paul
Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Will Forte, Anya Garnis