The Little Prince

I have never read or heard The Little Prince book before, but that because I had an empty childhood. Just kidding, I had Pokemon and that was enough for me.

I did, however, play a board game The Little Prince: Make Me A Planet before though. Only once. And like, three years ago. But it apparently stuck with me, so that many elements present in the game I was able to remember and notice in the actual film version of The Little Prince.

But let’s get to the issue. This took way too long to get released in America. It was released in the summer of 2015 last summer in France! Agh! Not America! It was supposed to be released by Paramount in March in America, but a week before release they suddenly decided to drop it from their schedule as well. No news on distribution or eventually released. Sometime later, the pros at Netflix said they would handle it and gave it a nice worldwide release, finally in America and other countries. All hail Netflix, bringer of tales, singer of stories.

Prince Prince
They took one long look at the script and declared the crazy old writer to be a genius!

As you would have guessed from the title, The Little Prince is a story about a girl. The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy) is being pressured by her mom (Rachel McAdams) to get into a very good school for kids. The interview does not go well, so they decide to move into a house in the school’s neighborhood, getting in by proxy. The girl’s whole life is scheduled by the mom, to ensure future academic and financial success.

The reason they were able to get the house is because it was next to a shoddy house. In the house lived an old man, an aviator (Jeff Bridges). He was constantly fiddling with his plane and making a racket. Eventually The girl goes and talks to him, finds out he also is an artist. Over time, he tells her the story of his encounter with The Little Prince (Riley Osborne), a boy who lived on a planet barely big enough for a single person.

The aviator learns of his travels around the galaxy, learns some life lessons and so on. And you know what? The little girl is going to learn some lessons of her own.

Also featuring the voice work of Marion Cotillard, Paul Rudd, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Bud Cort, Paul Giamatti, and Albert Brooks.

Modern
“Trust me little girl, I’ve got a beard!”

The Little Prince was unlike most other animated films. Yes, it is accessible to families and kids of all ages, but it seems like something an adult would learn more from than their kids. We have a story within a story, where the inner story is the normal The Little Prince story. The added elements of the overworked girl are completely original and the entire last third act is all about her and her own adventure.

I was worried that it would be too complex for kids but a 5 and 6 year old seemed to enjoy it throughout, despite the slower beginning. The layered stories kept me interested, but the ending wasn’t as good as the beginning and middle.

The animation was different for the different story parts as well, with the animation for The Little Prince segment being unique and fantastic. The rest of the animation is pretty standard CGI and a bit uninspiring. It makes sense for the animation to be different, but one would hope that the animation for the majority of the film was just standard.

The Little Prince is still worth your time, although book elitists may get annoyed at the extra material. My only real annoyance was that the new material wasn’t as interesting in the very end and that the animation was a bit uninspiring in an otherwise inspiring story.

3 out of 4.

The Secret Life Of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets is just one of those animated movies coming out this year that I gave absolutely, positively, no fucks about. There are animated movies all the time and all of them are competing to be the best.

I wasn’t apathetic because it wasn’t Disney or Pixar. I like a lot of other studios, I am not some weird populist. No, I am apathetic because it is being made by Illumination Entertainment. Before this film, they have made 5 movies and they are all objectively bad. Despicable Me, its sequel and Minions were bad, The Lorax was bad, and Hop was racist and bad.

I only saw the original trailer for The Secret Life Of Pets a few months ago. Outside of the awkward title, it just didn’t look like it would be an original movie. Oh, talking pets? That hasn’t been done before. (Cough)

Viper
Now a 25 minute scene on venom drugs in a kids movie? That is new.

The movie takes place in NYC, big place, lot of people, lot of animals. And pets can talk and understand each other. Not just pets, all animals. They have some universal language despite not having the same noises.

Max (Louis C.K.) is a loyal house pet, taken as a puppy from a box for free by his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). He is greatful for her and waits almost all day in front of the door when she leaves. He has a ton of friends in the apartment complex and across the way who like to hang out while the owners are away. There is Chloe (Lake Bell), a fat cat, Mel (Bobby Moynihan), a pug, Buddy (Hannibal Buress), a dachshund, and a bird Sweet Pea who I guess doesn’t talk, just chirps.

But then Katie comes home with a surprise. She comes home with Duke (Eric Stonestreet). He is big, he is wild, and he is taking over the alpha dog status from Max. So Max wants to get rid of him. He wants to destroy the place so Katie will take him back to the pound. They begin to fight with each other more and more, and sure, yeah, somehow it ends up with them both now out of the apartment, collars lost, just trying to get back home.

And they are in New York City. Everyone knows it is a rough and tumble place for strays. You all saw Oliver & Company. On the streets they have to deal with animal control, the League of Flushed Pets (run by a bunny voiced by Kevin Hart), and shit like water.

Also featuring Jenny Slate as the puffy Gidget who lived across the street and was in love with Max, Albert Brooks as Tiberius, a hawk, and Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Tara Strong, and Michael Beattie.

New Dog
Duke could straight up eat Max. And Katie. And me.

Like I had feared, The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t offer a whole lot to the animation genre. The animation isn’t state of the art, with the quality looking more or less the same as the first Despicable Me film. This time there are only four or five important human characters, so their awkward proportional bodies isn’t super distracting like it is for other films. We just get slightly exaggerated pet bodies, which is a bit easier to accept.

About half of the film reminded me of Toy Story, the first one, the one that came out 21 years ago! New pet (toy), they argue and fight, both pets (toys) get lost from home and face near death to get back. Hell, there are a couple of scenes where they even have to chase a car where one or the other is trapped.

Nothing was surprising about this movie. It is incredibly simplistic and places where they could have added conflict and a bit of emotional connection are just nothing. Duke had an older owner and they attempt to find them during their time in the city. Without spoilers, things don’t go the right way. Perfect time for a nice emotional scene, but it is rushed through and another bullshit conflict is added. Bullshit conflict to move the plot is lazy, and this film is full of it.

One more complaint paragraph before some pros, don’t worry. The ending was a complete mess too. From the quickest phone call animal control response ever, to the unnecessary all out brawl between pets, to a no real stakes rescue, to the third or fourth time of the animals driving crazily vehicles, it just ended on so many bad notes. And yes, a brawl to solve a big issue is shit. Grown Ups 2 did it, and this movie did it just for a quick joke. Especially when an easy explanation could have fixed everything and taught some better morals.

Cat Face
Unrelated fun fact: An Andrew WK song appears in this movie. Party, party, party!

“But why with all these issues did you give it an average rating?” Well, surprisingly the voice acting saved the shit out of this movie. Kevin Hart as a bunny? I didn’t know I needed that in my life. His voice works great in animated films and his antics get less annoying when he isn’t the lead. Jenny Slate has been annoying to me in her last few films, but her as the Gidget was also pretty great. Albert Brooks as a hawk is the final amazing aspect of the voice acting. All three brought their A-game and brought it on hard.

The animation wasn’t completely average in every area either. The scenes with the snake, both seen above and as a sort of password felt really cool. They worked the 3D really well to make these animals pop out in unique ways. And shit, there was a dream sequence about sausage featuring the finale song from Grease, and it was a visual explosion of wonder.

The Secret Life of Pets won’t win awards for story, visuals, or make a lot of money. But the cast do the best with what they are given and technically make the best film Illumination Entertainment has ever made (in my eyes).

I still don’t want a sequel, because the entire idea behind all of this is just so uninspired. It feels like a straight to DVD animated film, just with some top tier celebrities to voice the animals.

2 out of 4.

Finding Dory

Dory, Dory, where do we begin?

I am not the biggest fan of Finding Nemo. Now, I was a pretty nerdy student in high school, who obviously liked movies, but I hated watching movies in school. It felt lazy to me and I wanted to learn things! So I was annoyed having to watch Finding Nemo, for the first time, in my 10th Grade Biology class. And then also for my 10th grade Coastal Marine Biology class. I also was annoyed at it, because now when people say Nemo, they think of that movie and not the great classic Little Nemo!

So yeah, my reasons are bad. In time I have come to see how good the animation is and like the humor and story, but it never was my fondest Pixar movie.

And now we have Finding Dory. It unfortunately is the first of many Pixar sequels over the upcoming years, including the dreadfully approaching Cars 3, another strike against it.

Also a couple years ago, after Blackfish came out, a very biased documentary that kind of irked me, but gained praise everywhere else, they announced they would be making changes to the films plot. For reasons. As to what the movie was like before the changes, no one will really know. But if they went from showcasing sea parks from good to bad, then that is super kind of awkward.

Oh well, let’s just keep reviewing, just keep reviewing.

Septo!
Oh shit, is that an Octopus? I love octopuses in film!

In this film, we get to find out about Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) when she was a cute little baby Dory (Sloane Murray), with big eyes and kid voice. This is where we meet her parents, Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy), who have made it their goal to teach Dory about her short term memory loss, the dangers of the sea, and what to do if she ever gets lost. And I think you can tell what happens. A few minutes of some of the saddest shit I have ever seen in a Pixar movie, especially as a new parents.

Anyways, a long time later, she meets Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). The majority of the film takes place a year after Finding Nemo, where Dory is kind of a pain on Marlin and Nemo’s lives, but they love her anyways. Things happen and she remembers that she has parents, she lost them, and a rough name of where they live, off the coast of California!

Hells to the yeah! California with a couple of Clownfish, across the entire Pacific! And the journey isn’t the issue. What they find when they get there is that Dory used to live in a Sea Park! Not one that super exploits animals. But one that takes in sick animals, helps make them better, and eventually releases them back into the wild.

And inside, Dory meets Hank (Ed O’Neill), a septopus (because he is missing a leg) who doesn’t want to return to the ocean. And Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) an old friend and a nearsighted whale shark. Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who has no echolocation. And and and Idris Elba and Dominic West voicing a couple of sick sea lions. And Sigourney Weaver as a mysterious role!

We also have Crush (Andrew Stanton, also the director) and Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson) returning, because why not.

Sea Lions
Yep, this is the closest thing you will get to a The Wire reunion in a long time.

Oh, let me also mention Piper. It was the animated short. It had crazy amazing graphics, was very cute, about birds on a beach, but it had a problem with a shit ending. Mostly, that it didn’t know how to end.

As for Finding Dory, being a feature length film, the animation is not the same hyper realistic quality of Piper, but similar to Nemo in style (which makes sense). We aren’t given a lot of new cool environments like Nemo though. We have a small dark crash site, a kelp forest, and a lot of rooms and tanks in a Sea Park. So in terms of visual pleasantries, Finding Dory feels mostly darker and bleaker in terms of scenery.

Unfortunately, Dory also feels really repetitive. In Nemo, her memory for the most part was a big joke and led to a lot of laughs. But given the cry inducing intro (damn birthing hormones) and the constant problems, this joke was turned into a very sad issue. A crippling problem for Dory that prevented her from trying new things knowing she would get distracted before she finishes. It was a good thing to acknowledge her issue and ramp up its seriousness, but it takes away a lot of joy for a problem that just, well, keeps being a problem.

The ending also feels like a complete jumbled mess, with a no way at all realistic final few scenes that turn our once scientifically accurate fish series into a Looney Tunes cartoon. I hated the ending and it dragged as the issues were never solved in an easy manner, leading to more and more issues that made me indifferent to what would actually finally happen.

Gay
Ignore the controversy. This couple have 2 seconds of screen time and are not a reason to hate/support a movie.

Despite all of this, I didn’t hate the movie. I was just mostly disappointed, expecting a certain level of plot greatness from Pixar. I loved most of the new characters, mainly the septopus, the sea lions, and the Clam whose name they didn’t say and I can’t find in the IMDB credits. (They also didn’t say the sea lion names in the movie, quite annoying when you think about that). Beluga whale started out fine, but they made him real annoying by the end.

And you know what? The message of the film is a good one. Disabilities change your life. They can make life scary, they are serious, and they affect more than just a single person. But fish (/PEOPLE) with disabilities aren’t useless creatures. Practically every new character, along with Dory, has a problem and they are able to overcome their problem, or learn to live efficiently with it. Hell, there was even a weird plot about a frazzled bird and Marlin learning to trust her to do things correctly. It is about acceptance and friendship.

It is also just a film that has weird issues about sea parks, a lot less humor and not a lot of originality. On an unrelated note, I was also annoyed that despite taking place a year later, all of the fish kids are still fish kids. Come on Pixar, grow those bad boys up.

2 out of 4.

Concussion

Head injuries are serious things. Because your brain is your most important organ. You can’t survive without your brain, so things that hurt your brain are literally the worse. And vague things like concussions become scary nightmares.

These may sound like facts, but that is because your brain is telling you they are. If you asked any organ what was the most important organ in a body, they would name themselves. What games are you playing, Brain? Making us do shit to appease you? I’m on to you.

So, Concussion. A film about head trauma and the NFL. The NFL supposedly didn’t like this movie to protect their players from hearing about the probably brain problems they may have in life. Yay controversy. It definitely sells tickets.

Science
Science used to sell tickets on its own merit.

Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) is a smart man, and you should most definitely listen to him. He has like, seven degrees, both PhD and masters levels. He is smarty smarty smart. And he is generally a coroner, finding out big mysteries as to why people die.

Omalu ends up getting quite a strange case in his current city of Pittsburgh. Mike Webster (David Morse) is a famous ex-center for the Steelers, loved by everyone in the city, and now he is dead. He was having some issues near the end, going a bit crazy, alienating his friends and family.

Needless to say, Omalu spends a lot of time figuring things out. His brain had deteriorated and no one could explain it. Eventually, science happens everywhere, and he determines it must be due to the thousands of small (And large) blows to his head. Blows accumulated through youth play, high school, college, over a decade in the NFL, and of course practices for all these things. He had tiny concussions and they lead to problems most people just described as early Alzheimer’s.

This is bad news for the NFL, so they ignore the crap out of his results, make him seem like a liar, and bury him in the media. Yay PR machines.

Also featuring Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Eddie Marsan, Mike O’Malley, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Luke Wilson.

Doctor
He is making that face because Luke Wilson is playing Roger Goodell.

Speaking of selling tickets, to promote this movie, Columbia promised free tickets to any NFL players who wanted to see it in theaters. After all, they have a lot of twitter and instagram followers, so that is free press. I have two problems with that. One, NFL players make shit tons of money, even the bench riders. They can afford a movie ticket. And two, they should have offered it to High School or College players, people who make no money from the sport and are young enough to get out of it if they are truly worried about saving lives with this film. Columbia went for the cheap and shit route.

Now, the good news about this movie is that Will Smith actually acts. He isn’t just playing a cool version of himself or an action version of himself. He is playing a foreign (African) doctor, who doesn’t care about football or American things, just science. It was great to watch him actually try after seeing Focus and v.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie fails to live up to its subject matter or potential. According to news reports, the NFL was involved heavily in the editing of this film. The filmmakers didn’t have rights to NFL press reports or team names/logos, or any of that. In order to make it seem more realistic, they wanted all this in the film. So they had to offer concessions and leave parts out in order to get the logos. So the NFL helped make this film and now they don’t get attacked as hard.

Do they still look bad? Sure, but they come across as unrealistic cartoon villains, not actual bad real live people. The film doesn’t go strong on the science, strong on the PR campaign, strong on anything but Smith’s accent. And now we are left with a mostly boring and pointless film that won’t change anyone’s minds when they are facing potential millions.

1 out of 4.

A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year is one of those films I tried really hard to say before I made my best of 2014 list, because I had heard a lot of good things about it.

And uhh. That is all I can say about this movie. I mean, I might have gotten it confused with A Most Wanted Man, which became incredibly average despite also hearing great things about it. Shit, I hope this doesn’t go super average.

Dinner
Super average would describe most of my dinners. Non-violent super average dinners.

There are 365 days in a year and if you killed 365 people in a year, that would be pretty fucking impressive. Like, totally psychopathic or insane, but impressive. That is not at all what this movie is about.

It is about Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), just your average business man. It is the early 1980’s and he is the owner of Standard Oil, a heating oil company in New York City. He has big plans for his business and is working on getting a new location for his plant, right on the river. This will give him access to all the oils, allowing him to get better prices and you know, make more money!

But his trucks are being robbed at gunpoint. People are hijacking his vehicles, taking the oil and costing him thousands each time. And he has no idea who is doing it. At the same time he is being hounded by his “friend” the District Attorney (David Oyelowo), investigating him and others for price fixing, tax evasion, and the normal business stuff. This bad press in the news, plus the dangerousness of being a driver is leading his business down a dark path. The bank doesn’t want to help him get his new place anymore! And…and…he might lose it all!

Plus his wife (Jessica Chastain) really wants him to go after the culprits hard. Maybe kill them all. But he doesn’t want to do that. That would be most violent.

So Abel has to go to his competitors one by one to find out who is fucking him over and threatening his family. All while his drivers (Elyes Gabel) start carrying guns in their cabs and his lawyer (Albert Brooks) has no idea on how to help him. Oy vey, what a year.

Cuddle
And he still has to come home to give foot rubs at the end of the day.

A Most Violent Year is a hard movie to describe. It is like a mob movie, but definitely doesn’t involve the mob to any large extent. The main character is hard to really wrap your head around. You know he is definitely not “clean” in the ongoings of the business, but as to what specifically he did in the past they never really see.

Given he is our protagonist, you just have to assume you should root for him and not against him, given the lack of history. He wants that place for his company? Then by golly, I hope he gets it!

I actually liked Jessica Chastain a lot in this movie, playing the shit out of the housewife role who totally can control her husband and know everything going on in his company. The kind of woman who has a plan for everything and knows how to get things done. Was very subtle and very nice.

It is also the kind of movie I think I can re visit. And by that, I wouldn’t mind a sequel. Just not a direct one. Maybe one set ten years later, in a much less violent year, to see how the choices made influenced their lives. I would totally watch that movie.

3 out of 4.

This Is 40

Judd Apatow wants to make a realistic comedy movie about life. How do I know that? Because that is generally what he always does. This time, he is getting older, so he needs a movie about that as well. This Is 40 is the kind of sequel to Knocked Up, featuring the supporting characters from that movie as they both turn 40 in the same week. You know, because 40 is allegedly old age and time to start dying.

Strangely enough, I can’t tell if the mid life crisis mentality is a real life thing, or if it is just a movie creation. Shit, could movies be lying to me about what being older is like?

JUST WHAT IS 40 ANYWAYS!?

Cake yeah
Apparently cake. Cake is 40.

Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are both turning 40 this week, so shit might be hitting the fan. They have two kids, one going through puberty (Maude Apatow) and the other in young annoying phase (Iris Apatow).

But hey, Pete runs a record label kind of. They are poor, sure, and don’t sign any new big people, but they have regular small fan base. Chris O’Dowd and Lena Dunham work for him, but really, it is shit and they are losing lots of money. It doesn’t help that he is also letting his dad (Albert Brooks) borrow a lot of money, as he also has recently had more kids, whaaat.

Debbie isn’t flying high either. She has a small boutique, with two workers (Megan Fox, Charlyne Yi), but she is missing a lot of money from her inventory as well. She is also trying to stay in shape, change her life around, with the help of a life coach (Jason Segel).

Can the two get their life back on track, learn to trust each other again, and you know, not die alone and unhappy like the rest of people in movies?

Starfish
When you Google This Is 40, half of the images will just be Megan Fox in a bra. Why aren’t there more of Rudd with the starfish, damn it?

Hey, do you tend to love Judd Apatow movies and its cast and Paul Rudd? Then go see the movie, simple as that, you will anyways. Rudd does play the same character, but he kind of had to, since its a sort of sequel. There are amusing moments in this movie, there are awkward ones, but there are also scenes that go on pretty long. Pretty sure this movie is over 2 hours, which means more time to make you feel bad or good about your own life.

But I think this film could have been a lot better. Maybe, just maybe, a small cameo with Rogen/Heigl from the first movie? But no, we get none of them. Really big miss there in my eyes.

Other than that, this movie is exactly as you think it would be. Apatow has made enough movies to have a certain style and humor in them, and I would say it definitely falls in line with the rest of them.

2 out of 4.

Drive

From everything I heard about Drive, what I heard the most was how good the “cinematography” was. Camera choices were brilliant, chase and driving scenes sexy, and all of that. Well damn, I thought to myself, I have to see this on Blu-Ray then! Well unfortunately this is a DVD review. I know, I know, lame sauce.

Drive Drive Drice
Don’t worry. My website is still in HD quality.

Ryan Gosling plays the Driver! I like writing that because that is his cast name. So mysterious eh? Gosling works as a mechanic, and a stunt driver for movies, but also as a get away driver for criminals. He tells them the same thing every time, that he will wait for five minutes, and then get them to safety, then never talk again. He also works for Bryan Cranston for the mechanic/stunt work (not sure on the Criminal parts. Maybe). But they are looking to expand, possibly into real racing because man, Gosling is a Driver.

Cranston gets a 300k loan from some shady Albert Brooks fella to invest in a stock car to get them the monies. Also going on is that the Driver has a neighbor, Carey Mulligan, who he assumes is a single mom. TURNS OUT NO. Her husband / ex husband is still there, Oscar Isaac (named Standard wtf?). Turns out he is just gonna die possibly, and since Driver might like the neighbor, doesn’t want to see them all sad over that.

Driver agrees to help him get away from another crime that will pay off all of his debts, for Ron Perlman. Simple enough. And hey, Christina Hendricks is there too. What could go wrong?

Fear
“Fear/panic” face. Ignore stuff in the background. (cough).

Things go wrong, people die, can he save himself and the ones he might now care for?

It was a very interesting story, that really let the use of silence carry the story forward at points. Long scenes, that were yes, well shot were a great bonus. A little excessive violence never really hurt anyone either. I also loved the soundtrack. Full of weird electro synth pop stuff mostly.

I can also see why this movie could be polarizing. I think the ending was lacking, they could have done something more there. That is a common complaint you will hear. Other people may call it boring or not action-y enough. But eh, opinions are opinions. Mine is that this was pretty good but not top of the plateau.

3 out of 4.