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Childhood is rife with milestones. The journey toward adulthood has loads of highlights and lowlights (that are sometimes the same thing, depending on the day) and features more than a few obstacles.

The folks at Pixar have long shown a propensity for capturing those transitional times in a manner that is both hilarious and heartfelt, evoking the magical moments with beautifully realized animation and meticulously crafted stories.

Their latest – “Turning Red,” currently streaming on Disney+ – is no exception. Directed by Domee Shi from a script she co-wrote with Julia Cho, it’s the story of an Asian-Canadian girl who is confronted with a very peculiar family secret just as she’s coming into her own as a young teenager – a secret that coincides rather neatly with other changes that she’s going through.

It’s a smart and funny film, a period piece of sorts (set in the year 2002) that is a celebration of what it means to become your own person even as those around you might prefer you stay the same (or at least not change quite so fast). There’s an empowering undercurrent to it all, as well as a thoughtful degree of Asian representation that we don’t get to see nearly often enough. The importance of family and of friendship – it’s all here, presented in an absolutely lovely visual package.

Published in Style

There are any number of reasons that one might want to heap praise on Pixar. The studio has been producing exceptional work for almost three decades now, redefining the possibilities of American animated filmmaking along the way. Many of the films they’ve made over the years have become legitimate modern classics, iconic movies beloved by audiences and critics alike. Pixar films are fun and funny, packed with jokes and references aimed at every level of the audience.

Now, this success can be a double-edged sword. Because the studio has proven itself capable of crafting these wonderful works – arguable masterpieces, in fact – they can also find their efforts being viewed as somehow disappointing if they offer up a film that is merely very good. It’s not really fair (save in the case of the two “Cars” sequels, which, by all means, be disappointed).

Some people will argue that the latest Pixar offering – “Luca,” directed by Enrico Casarosa currently available for streaming on Disney+ - is minor Pixar. And those people won’t be wrong. However, what we need to remember is that even a lower-tier Pixar film is almost certainly a legitimately good film (again, leaving aside the aforementioned “Cars” movies).

That’s definitely the case with “Luca,” which is a charming and touching coming-of-age tale about fitting in and making friends and learning to accept yourself for who you are. It doesn’t have the full depth of emotional complexity that we often see from the studio – though you’ll still have plenty of feels – and it certainly seems more directly kid-oriented than some of the more layered Pixar offerings, but so what? It’s still a delightful movie experience, one that might even prove to resonate a little more fully with younger audiences than some of the more celebrated adult-conscious fare.

Published in Movies
Monday, 28 December 2020 14:57

‘Soul’ has heart

Hey there! Would you like to watch a beautifully animated film rife with cute characters and silly gags that also causes you to contemplate the deeper meaning of life? Are you interested in a cartoon that may trigger something of an existential crisis? Do you want to laugh and cry in equal measure?

If your answer to these questions is yes, well … you probably already watch Pixar movies.

The studio’s latest offering is “Soul,” another masterful piece of work that is currently streaming on Disney+. Directed by Pete Doctor – the animation auteur who previously helmed Pixar heartbreakers “Inside Out” and “Up” – with co-direction from Kemp Powers, it’s a film that takes a look at what makes us us, an emotional and cleverly rendered look at where we go after we die and where we are before we are born.

It’s smart, of course, and absolutely stunning to look at. This being Pixar, it also takes the opportunity to emotionally eviscerate us, showing us the power of self and of sacrifice while offering up some thoughts on just what it’s all about. Another triumph from a studio that simply doesn’t miss.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 11 March 2020 13:21

Fractured fairy tale – ‘Onward’

Obviously, I love Pixar movies. I’m a human being with feelings and a soul, so of course I dig the work of the acclaimed animation studio. That being said, I also have to accept that because they have set the bar so very high, there will be occasions in which they fail to clear it.

So it is with their latest offering “Onward,” a film that, were it to come from any other studio, would likely be hailed as great work, but because it bears the Pixar name, it feels just the slightest bit underwhelming.

Make no mistake – “underwhelming” is by no means the same as “bad” – this is actually a charming and fun film. The concept is interesting enough, the vocal performances are typically strong and the execution is quite good. Jokes are made and heartstrings are tugged. All the usual pieces are here. It just doesn’t quite ascend to the level of accomplishment that we’ve come to expect from the studio.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 17:00

‘Toy Story 4’ plays well with others

I didn’t want “Toy Story 4.”

Yes, I understand that sequels are valuable currency in the cinematic realm these days. And no, it’s nothing against Pixar – my admiration for their work is significant and well-documented. I just remember being so innately, fundamentally satisfied with how the trilogy wrapped up that the idea of another movie felt somehow … wrong.

So it was with some trepidation that I stepped into “Toy Story 4,” trying to give the studio the benefit of the doubt while still expecting to be vaguely disappointed.

Instead, what I got was a shockingly worthwhile addition to the series, a film that moves the saga forward in a way that is both respectful of what has come before and enthusiastic about exploring new directions. It is consistently hilarious, of course, with performers old and new delivering big-time. And while it is undeniably heartfelt – prepare for things to get dusty a couple of times; you know, standard operating procedure with Pixar – it also pulls its punches just a bit, largely avoiding the grown-up-targeted emotional haymaker.

Honestly, it’s just about the best possible follow-up to a movie that seemingly needed no follow-up.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 19 June 2018 15:22

‘Incredibles 2’ is incredible too

We’ll start with the obvious: like anyone who loves great animated movies (or really, great movies, no qualifiers), I’m in the bag for Pixar. Ever since their initial outing with 1995’s “Toy Story,” the studio has produced an exceptional collection of high-quality fare (and also the “Cars” sequels) – and everybody has their favorites.

For me, while I’ve loved many of the movies that Pixar has given us over the past 15 years – heck, the 2008-2010 run of “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3” is as good a stretch as any studio has ever put up, animation or otherwise – but for me, the best Pixar movie has always been “The Incredibles.”

As you might imagine, my affection for that film meant that I was both excited and apprehensive when I heard about the impending sequel. To think that they were finally revisiting that story, bringing these characters and that world into a moviegoing culture that has not only accepted, but passionately embraced superheroes, well … would it work?

Oh yes. Yes yes yes. A thousand times yes.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 12:55

Pixar’s ‘Coco’ brimming with life

Exceptional animated offering is beautiful and touching

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:25

‘Cars 3’ runs a good race

Pixar sequel offers simple, unchallenging fun.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 22 June 2016 10:05

Fish out of water Finding Dory'

Pixar sequel an entertaining, emotionally charged offering

I'm in the bag for Pixar.

Published in Movies

Let's just start by saying that Pixar's latest movie 'Inside Out' is amazing. Of course it is. But it's also slightly different than past Pixar offerings and you should probably bring a pack of tissues. Though, this is coming from the office mom, with a degree in crying at movies.

This follows the life of Riley and her inner emotions, Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear. The first emotion on the scene is Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler, TV's 'Parks and Rec') followed almost immediately by Sadness (Phyllis Smith, TV's 'The Office'). They are joined by Anger (Lewis Black, 'The Daily Show'), Disgust (Mindy Kaling, TV's 'The Office') and Fear (Bill Hader, 'Accidental Love'). All is going well as Riley is growing up, and most of the memories she's formed are ones of Joy they form the core of her personality, surrounded by loving family, friends.

Published in Movies
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