Category: kids movies

Has There Been a 10/10 Dreamworks Animated Movie?

The family watched Penguins of Madagascar last night. (It just got added to Netflix!). We all had a great time with the film. Plenty of laughs and penguin hijinx, just as you would expect. But after the movie was over and I went to rate it (8/10), TRC wondered why I wasn’t giving it the full 5 stars on Netflix.

“What was wrong with it?” he asked.

It’s a good question. I avoided it last night by just giving it 5 stars, but even after thinking about it, I still don’t feel like it’s a 10/10 movie. I laughed (lots), and it was a bunch of fun, but . . . it’s a Dreamworks movie, and frankly, they all pretty much blend together.

Think about it. They’ve got a pattern down at this point. Can you really remember the difference between the Shrek movies? Madagascar? Kung Fu Panda? Then there’s a slew of stand alones. The Croods. Megamind. I’ve enjoyed all of them, but they all start to feel more or less the same. You’ll get some snappy, irreverent humor. Characters will come to some heartfelt discovery about themselves, band together, and defy the odds.

Rinse and repeat. (I don’t count the Aardman animated movies. Those are really Dreamworks.)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 departed from that a bit, but still nowhere in the 10 classification. What do I think of when I think of 10/10 animated movies? Well, there’s obviously Pixar. Yes, their movies have also begun to follow a pattern (and it’s not too different from the one I just described), but they do it so well. I remember Up and Wall-E and Toy Story years later. I remember the support characters, the jokes. Compare Toy Story 1-3 with Shrek 1-3, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Then again, I pride myself in accepting a movie on its own terms. Of rating it according to what it was shooting for. So what could Penguins have done differently? Nothing, really. It was what it wanted to be. So why doesn’t that deserve a 10? What was wrong with it?

In the end, nothing really. But it’s still an 8. A movie that aspires to be a forgettable, fun time does not a 10 deserve.

Maybe I’m a movie snob. What do you think?

Once Upon a Monster Reacher

It’s been a while since I did a movie review, so how about two for the price of one today? Especially since the two movies are very different from each other. First up let’s do Jack Reacher, a Tom Cruise thriller about the investigation into a sniper shooting. I’d heard some about the movie before I watched it (the biggest tidbit was that 5′ 7″ cruise was playing the part of 6′ 5″ Reacher), but I didn’t quite know what to expect. Overall, i was happy with the results. It wasn’t the most awesome thriller I’ve seen, but it certainly was diverting, with a plot that toed the line between predictable and ridiculous from time to time, but never quite went over. Quite violent for a PG13 movie. If you’re in the field for a thriller, you could do much worse than this one. 3 stars out of 4.

Once is a strange movie to review. It’s a musical romance that borders on far too cutesy from time to time. A street musician in Ireland meets a girl from the Czech Republic. There was a lot about the movie that I really enjoyed. The songs were good–and I was even more impressed when I discovered that the two leads are also the singers and songwriters for the music in the film. I don’t recall seeing something like that ever. It also managed to avoid some of the bigger ruts a lot of other movies like this fall into, so props for that. On the other hand, it’s got 38 f-bombs, most of which are in the first five minutes of the film. I watched this one with Denisa, because from what I’d heard of the movie, it was right up her alley. She almost made me stop the film right at the beginning. Thankfully, some judicious use of the fast forward button (coupled with the fact that this was Irish swearing, and for some reason the f-word doesn’t seem as harsh when it rhymes with spook.), got us over that speed bump, and she also ended up enjoying the film. (Though if I’d known exactly how many swears were in those first five minutes, I likely never would have given the film a try. It’s not one I’d watch on my own.) And it won an Oscar for best song. Nice movie (3.5 stars out of 4, with bonus points awarded for artistic talent), but really–why would filmmakers go and do something like alienate a large potential audience right off the bat, for a throwaway scene that didn’t need the bad language to begin with?

Finally. Monsters University. I enjoyed the first movie a great deal. This second one? Another strong showing. It’s very different from the first, which was really fanciful. I loved the world building in that first movie. This one falls more in line with a straight up college movie, but the jokes are rapid fire, and the characters are well done. Did it feel like I was watching a retread of other college movies like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, or any number of summer camp flicks? At times, yes. It’s definitely deep in its genre. But should you penalize a movie for being what it says it’s going to be? I don’t think so. It still managed to be surprising in parts, and I really enjoyed it. 3 stars out of 4, mainly because it’s a shade less strong than its predecessor, and so it pales some in comparison.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think?

Movie Review: Toy Story 3 and Comments on 3D

Toy Story (Two-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo w/ Blu-ray Packaging)As alluded to in my brief post yesterday, I took TRC to the movies yesterday to see Toy Story 3. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the movie is fantastic. Probably the best of the trilogy, although with movies as great as this series, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Of course, when you see a movie like this, sitting next to your six year old son (who brought his stuffed elephant with him to watch the movie) how can you help but love it? My one piece of advice to you all would be to read as few of the reviews as possible. This is one where you should just go in not knowing anything about “great moments” or “the themes.” Enjoy it. Savor it. It’s that good. An easy four stars, and it deserves a nod for best picture this year–at least a nomination.

The thing is, this movie wasn’t a “kid movie.” It also wasn’t an “animated movie.” Shrek fills those shoes, or even How to Train Your Dragon. Those are both good movies–fun movies. Even moving movies, for Dragon, but in the end, they’re movies. They’re fun. You watch them, and then you go on with your life. You don’t find yourself thinking about them later on, pondering different scenes and thinking about the performances of the characters.

Not so with Toy Story 3.

This isn’t a movie–it’s a Film. It’s got meaning, but it’s got it in ways that don’t pound you over the head with Art. It’s the best sort of art–one that is multifaceted, complex, funny, entertaining, sad . . . all at once. It’s like visual Dickens, but done for the modern day. Can I talk this film up enough? No way. You really need to go see it.

Now, that said, let me go on to another point–my comments on 3D. I saw the film in 3D, of course, and . . . I’m no longer as sold on the technology as I was when I watched Avatar. I’m just not sure that it adds enough to the mix to really warrant its existence. What’s my main gripe? Those darn glasses. 3D right now changes the experience you have in a movie theater. It becomes more of an isolated thing. Each time I wanted to look over at my son, I had to take the glasses off to be able to, because otherwise it was too dark. The glasses make the film darker. They get smudged and can blur the picture. The lights of the aisle can make a reflection inside your glasses, reminding you that YOU’RE WEARING GLASSES the whole movie. (Seriously–I’m never sitting on the end of a row in a 3D movie again.)

What do we get in return for this? Slightly more immersion. No more meaning. No more complexity. It adds a cool factor, but it does so at a cost to the rest of the movie. If Toy Story 3 had been in 2D, would I have gone to that version, instead?  Probably not. The 3D is cool.

But it will always feel gimmicky until they can do something about the glasses. The Nintendo 3DS is bringing glasses-free 3D to the masses on a small scale. I look forward to technology that brings it to the movie theater. One day, my friends.

One day.

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon

I went with TRC to the movies to see How to Train Your Dragon today. I thought it was fantastic–superbly done. The animation, 3D, story, characters, score–really, there’s not a thing I can find wrong with the movie. Best of all, it’s a 100% fun time. Go to it if you want to enjoy yourself thoroughly. Four stars. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s guest reviewer TRC with his take on the subject:

I thought it was AWESOME! But best of all, the huge dragon, well . . . that dragon was kind of cool, but at the beginning, it was kind of scary, but it was really loud, but I plugged my ears and I could still hear, but the characters and a funky ball looked like they were actually coming at me. The ball was like boing boing boing. Getting closer. I also liked when they were riding the dragons. It was so cool that I could have popped my head off. You should see it yourself. It is really really really really really really really reeeeeeeeeeally awesome. So if you want to see it, you should take your kids. They would really like it. But if you just want to go yourself, make sure that if you have two people going, that you have $10 if you’re going to How to Train Your Dragon. And we had $10. We were fine to go in. I liked it when we came home, because I got a snack. A tiny snack and a cookie. They were yummy snacks.

by TRC.

Movie Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Another film review for you today. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was not a movie I expected to really like. I’m not even sure why–I hadn’t read any reviews, I hadn’t talked to anyone who’d seen it . . . Something about the title just said “this is going to be a stupid movie” to me, so I wasn’t eager to watch it. However, I thought TRC would get a kick out of it, so I ordered it on Netflix.

I was very pleasantly surprised.

It tells the story of a young inventor who just isn’t that successful at inventing things. Case in point: he invents impervious spray-on shoes, but once they’re on you, there’s no way to get them off. That sort of stuff. Finally, he comes up with an invention that turns water vapor into food. Thus, you have raining pizza, or a cheeseburger drizzle. Trouble ensues.

The film was very well done. The plot makes sense, the characters have believable arcs, and it has Mr. T in it voicing one of the characters. That’s basically the formula for a successful movie right there. In the end, it hits on the “It’s OK to be a Nerd” theme a touch too hard, but I forgave it. I’ll say that the climax–and how it’s resolved–was a wonderful example of how to properly resolve a major plot line in an unexpected–but believable–manner.

Three stars. Maybe three and a half. Strongly recommended for anyone looking for a fun family film.

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