Ready Player One

I probably first heard about the Ready Player One four or so years ago, as a book recommendation from a friend. I figured I would rush right out and read it, due to their very appealing sell, but I also had found out that no, they are going to be making a movie out of it. Eventually.

So I did the right thing, and knowingly did not ready the book, knowing one day, Steven Spielberg was going to make the movie. Years later, it appeared!

Now I did hear eventually a general plot synopsis. And I did get to see parts of the book. Especially cringe worthy scenes of nostalgia for nostalgia sake, or lines that were very transphobic. All of it certainly turned me off from the book, knowing I would probably hate it at this point if it wasn’t very well written.

Sign. Somehow I became a book snob when it comes to prose. Blame Patrick Rothfuss. And let’s get on with the nostalgia.

Tech
Our star is living in a van down by the river?

RPO takes place a few decades in the future, in 2045. Life sucks by now, overpopulation, war, all the reasons you can imagine. People are living in stacks of trailers to get by and deal with the number of people. Columbus, Ohio is one of the central hubs now! Why?

Well, Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Morrow (Simon Pegg) created a game called Oasis. It is a completely VR experience, where a user is transported into a digital world where they can live their fantasies. They can be anyone. They can be tall, short, strong, fat, boy, girl, something more fluid, whatever they want. The way to buy gear and get better is through in game currency, through leveling up. If you die in game you lose all your items and go back to level one.

Anyways, everyone loves Oasis. It helps them escape their bleak miserable worlds. Wade (Tye Sheridan), our hero, is one of the people in the game hoping to find the three hidden keys to unlock and easter egg. Before Halliday died, he inputted a secret competition, so that the best of the best would compete his crazy challenges. The first one to get all three keys would gain a controlling share of the Oasis, money, and worldwide honor and praise.

But one company, IOI, is hoping to find them first, to change the Oasis into a money making ad tool, and also, do this thing with people slaves. Just general bad stuff.

Also starring Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Cooke, Hannah John-Kamen, Lena Waithe, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, and T.J. Miller.

Oasis
Hello, totally not Kratos thing!

Ready Player One is a CGI-fest film, taken to the next level, and is animated enough to qualify for Best Animated Film, should they want to go that route. It has obvious references to pop culture throughout it, using the fact that the main creator was a very autistic pop culture junkie, who wanted all of the biggest things in his world. Pop Culture knowledge was supposed to be some sort of saving grace for the characters in the movie, but only one example really helped save the day. Or at least, one non common example.

There is a lot of problems with this film. It is going for a pure popcorn flick, so it isn’t really trying hard on certain levels. Acting is never really believable, and they turn Mendelsohn into a cartoon villain, quite literally with his behavior. It just feels so juvenile.

A lot of artifacts are brought up and clearly used later in the film, but one has to wonder why they exist. Why would they put in an item that kills everyone in the game so everyone goes back to level one? Why? Why would someone make special real life suits for you to wear to feel everything that happens? Most people would just feel pain and hurt in the constant warring atmosphere, its popularity doesn’t make sense.

The game makes you wonder who are the real people behind certain avatars, and well, yeah, for the most part they are all average to attractive looking people. No uglies in this VR world, despite their fears. Come on, almost 30 years from now, in a land where most people just play video games all day? Where are the fatties at?!

One thing that Ready Player One had going for it is that it didn’t feel like a 140 minute film. It was relatively interesting to watch, but it is not something that made me very excited or happy or sad while watching. I just felt indifferent. Throwing a quick scene of a character I recognize into a film isn’t going to increase its grade, it is just going to distract me from the story that is relatively weak.

Ready Player One is a convenient movie (one where things just keep lining up nicely), that relies on nostalgia and an average story and flashy effects to sell the tickets. Easily something that can be better watched at home.

2 out of 4.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children will probably be the last animated film I see from 2017. That is, unless some anime film I missed comes out in April or Summer, all late in the United States.

This too was a foreign animated film, based on a graphic novel. It was originally released in Spain (and Spanish), but the version I watched was dubbed.

I knew nothing about the film going in, except that it might be weird. And unfortunately, that too was an understatement.

Others
Yay animals! Time for a cute film!

This film takes place on an Island, far away from other lands. It had a peaceful animal community, that could talk, sure. Things were good, until factories joined their island. Eventually, the factories have an accident and a big blast rips through their island, killing hundreds, destroying the buildings in that area, creating rubble. No good at all.

This leads the land changed. It makes it sad. It makes it just feel, dead.

The families are now bitter. Kids are being non conformists, animals are fighting, animals are killing. And everyone is just rude.

Poor Birdboy, lost his dad, and can´t even get back to his lighthouse home. There are demons in there, and he hasn´t yet mastered how to fly.

He has friends, namely Dinky, a female mouse, are the only ones who care about him. She cares about him a lot. With the help of a fox and a rabbit, the gang plan to escape off of the island in a boat, to get away from this place of dissidence and sadness. But the island does not want them to leave. Its citizens are too bitter to allow a thing such as hope help anyone.

The four are going to struggle and face their fears, which is unfortunate, because in this case their fears are very real and dangerous parts of society.

Featuring the voices of Barbara Goodson, Jon Avner, Sofia Bryant, Dean Flanagan, Marc Diraison, Wayne Grayson, Yuri Lowenthal, Jake Paque, and Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld.

Fly
Learning to fly is also, unfortunately, a dangerous and very consequence heavy fear.

Yeah, Birdboy was weird. It was also terrifying. It was gruesome. It was nothing like I expected.

The only thing I know to compare it to is Heavy Metal, but that is based on my incredibly limited knowledge on this sort of animated film. And Heavy Metal was more sexy. We also had Nerdland recently, that was graphic in its own ways. This one is graphic in that it involves kid animals, in a disgusting world, dealing with entities trying to kill them and kill each other. We have bulging eyes, red veins, abuse, drugs, everything that would negatively affect a society, rolled into one tiny island.

It is definitely not for the light of heart.

It is a sad movie, with not really a happy ending either. Sure, maybe some hope is derived from it, but it is just a movie that will tear at your heart. Not like a romance, but like a horror, tearing at your heart.

And also, it is very, very confusing. I assumed the graphic novel tells the story a bit better. But there are sequences in this movie out of order, not a lot of exposition, and when I left I just felt confused. I did Wikipedia the plot outline, which is thankfully very detailed. I recognized some events and some scenes and could imagine them all working together, but it is not very easy to do that on your first viewing.

I appreciate that Birdboy is incredibly dark. I appreciate that the artistic style really draws you in and spits you out. I also appreciate that it tried to do something new. But in the end, it was not a very coherent plot, hard to follow, and left me feeling more empty than anything at the end.

2 out of 4.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero gets to be the first animated film released in America in 2018! Yay Bilal!

It gets to go up there with the likes of great films like…Norm of the North. Oh goodness, that is not a good list at all.

From the occasional trailer, Bilal looks like the sort of animated film that might actually have a unique and interesting plot. But because it looks so terrible, it also will have no one wanting to go out and see it.

Kid
Still good to have non white people in animated films.

Our story is of course about a kid/grown up dude, named Bilal (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). He wants to be a great and wonderful warrior when he grows up. But for now, he is just a kid, with his sister (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) and mother. And then their little home gets attacked. His mother is killed, and the kids are sold into slavery.

He has to become a hard working slave, getting whipped, growing up with nothing. All of that jazz. Eventually he is sold to the richer trader around, Umayya (Ian McShane), who is of course ruthless and dickish. He has a son that is a similar age who decides that he does not like Bilal having opinions or morals. Every time he stands up for another, Bilal gets knocked down again.

This is based on a real story, meaning it is at least a famous story in some parts of the world. Whether the events are real or not, who knows.

But I think you know that Bilal is going to Gandhi this shit up until everything works out nicely, right?? Right.

Also featuring the voices of Thomas Ian Nicholas and Mick Wingert.

Evil
¨Damn slaves, not just being emotionless obeying robots!”- Him, probably.

I have written a lot about good and bad animated films over the last year, unfortunately more of them have been bad. This is my first look at animated films of 2018 and frankly, it definitely disappointed me on many levels.

Again, this could be an amazing story by giving us different cultures, strong willed characters and not falling into silly tropes. It it is trying to appeal to the family, not just the kid. But it just seemed to drag on and on.

And honestly, the animation style did not help. The film constantly looked like a cut scene of a PS2 game, and it made watching it feel already dated.

This is not the best start animated films in 2018 could have wanted. Not by a long shot.

1 out of 4.

Early Man

By all means, tell me that the movie is done by the people who did Wallace and Gromit. Yes I will watch it every time. I won’t always like it, but I respect it enough to give it the shot it deserves. It’s very weird, very British shot.

So why not Early Man, which is going to combine cave man jokes with very British football jokes. Ones I probably wont even fully understand.

And the best news about it is that the cast only has 3 or 4 recognizable names. They are giving roles to actual voice actors, instead of just laying us down with 40 celebrities, some which probably would have only had five or so lines.

Training
Lava is always a nice bonus, in any movie, regardless of context.

A long time ago, dinosaurs! Also this movie is saying cave people. Let’s let it slide. Meteor wipes them all out, not the people somehow. They find the hot meteor left over that created a giant valley, where it is really hot, so they decide to kick it to each other. They invent the game of football, get really happy, and live their lives in the valley.

Now, some time later, we can meet our new crew of cave people. They don’t know soccer anymore, they are relatively stupid as well. Dug (Eddie Redmayne) is young and a thinker, but the rest of the crew are content. They are content until some mammoths with armor come trampling in, as the rest of the world has decided to stop by and say hello. They are stone age cave people meeting for the first time a bronze age civilization, who is intent on mining out their secret valley for minerals, and letting them die.

Thanks to Dug who infiltrates their society, he learns that they play this game of football on the grand, coliseum like scale. This is their main religion! The only way they can probably get out of their jam and get their home back is by challenging their champions to a game. Dug saw these football paintings on their walls, but they never knew what it meant. But if their ancestors played the game, then they probably can figure it out as well!

Also starring Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Nick Park, Rob Brydon, Johnny Vegas, Selina Griffiths, Simon Greenall, Gina Yashere, and Kayvan Novak.

Soccer
With that much armor, this thing looks a lot more like…football, than football.

Early Man is one of those basic “ragtag team of misfits pull together to do a sport thing better than professionals, due to teamwork, friendship, and shenanigans!” You know the kind. Despite being the type of thing that we have seen before, Early Man still manages to bring something new to the table.

It has a lot of tiny jokes throughout, a lot of puns they worked towards. And yes, there are some modern British football jokes that mostly would have flown over my head. But I got one or two.

The characters are likable. The caveman crew has a lot of complete characters, who have their individual good jokes or moments to shine. I don’t feel like we only have a few supporting people. The whole crew got to feel supporting, always a great thing in a movie like this.

This is not going to be a game changing animated film. But it is still really well done, at points clever, and tells a fun story. Hell, even the final soccer match seems to deviate away from the norm for these sorts of things. Still some surprised out there for everyone.

3 out of 4.

The Breadwinner

It took all year, but I finally found it. I found a great animated film that came out this year, that brought me something new to the genre while also being emotional with a fantastic plot.

This is the sort of things that I would normally save for the ending, but I know you can see the rating up there, I have nothing to hide.

The Breadwinner is a foreign film, about non-American problems, a non average hero, and an above average story. It is the type of film that more people should be hyping, but unfortunately, it is foreign and had a limited theatrical run and most people just want to talk about Coco.

But read on so that you can see what The Breadwinner is all about and get psyched about watching it in the future.

Girl
This relates in no way to some TV show Breadwinners.

Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is a strong independent girl around 12 years old. She knows how to read, she can write, and she wants to be able to do anything she puts her mind to. The only problem is that she lives in Afghanistan, currently under rule by the Taliban, who are getting more and more frequently dickish. They are recruiting younger men, who have a lot of grudges, who are making the area more into a police state. I am not saying early Taliban rule Afghanistan was great, just that it was better than it is now in the film.

Parvana knows all of these things because of her father, Nurullah (Ali Badshah), who lost one of his legs previously in a war. She has a mother, an older sister, and a baby brother, but because she isn’t yet fully “mature”, Parvana can join him at the market and help sell goods to help earn money for the family.

But at some point, a young soldier gets angry at Parvana for having such a free spirit and not being covered “Enough”. This leads to a Taliban raid of their house, where they find forbidden books, so they arrest Nurullah and take him to a prison far away. The family is left defenseless and hungry, given that the next male in line is less than 2 years old, and none of the others are allowed to buy goods, or even leave without a male escourt.

Their family may die poor and alone. But not Parvana. She is resourceful. She chops of her hair, dresses like a boy, and finally gets to feel that sense of freedom she has always longed for. It is up to her to provide food and money for her family, while also figuring out how they might help their father out of prison.

Also featuring the mouth sounds of Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Noorin Gulamgaus, Shaista Latif, and Soma Chhaya.

Boy
To really commit, she should have grown her beard like how all 10 year old boys do.

In The Breadwinner we get a regular story about a girl going above and beyond the call of duty, to protect her family and try to make things right. This isn’t some goddamn princess in her ivory tower discovering how to be good, but a girl who has lived a hard life and still rising above it all. This is set in the real world that has real issues, even if the setting is no longer accurate. This is the type of story that can resonate with the youth of the world regardless of their age while also providing factual knowledge.

And even more importantly, it is not a cookie cutter story. We get violence that might seem a bit extreme for a PG film, even if it is “off camera”. We have a goddamn war zone with people running around with automatic rifles and a high assumed death count. Their entire family is put into realistic peril several times, because that is the world they are living in and it is downright frightening.

It also has a story within a story, giving us a different art style, to sort of break up the main story into sections and give us a parallel to compare things to. A common idea and one that works wonderfully in this film.

But most importantly, the ending really resonated with me. Everything didn’t magically fall into a place and it certainly isn’t a situation where they lived happily ever after. They didn’t somehow cause the Taliban to disappear and run off into the sunset. It gives a realistic enough ending for them, without giving us the picturesque fairy tale finale.

This is an animated film that took some risks and they paid off. And it took Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg to work together apparently to give it to us (not: no middle eastern countries made this movie about Afghanistan). I didn’t know anything actually came out of Luxembourg! But I am excited for whatever they brought to the table because now I have the Luxembourgian tag on my website.

4 out of 4.

The Star

As of writing this introduction to The Star, there is only one mainstream / mainstream movie I have yet to see for the year, and at this point I can say that 2017 just overall sucked.

So many sequels of films that didn’t need them, offering nothing new. We have stories that are based on books and don’t rise up to their level. We have original works that don’t focus on the smaller elements. We have two fucking LEGO movies.

And then we have The Star. The cherry on top of the year. I haven’t released all the reviews I just mentioned, because at least one or two films were actually good, but I will let them happen eventually through the rest of this month and January. But it should be obvious I was not looking forward to The Star in any level.

Donkey
No film has starred a donkey successfully since Shrek.

The film starts off at “9 months B.C” because they need to make it obvious. This angel talks to Mary (Gina Rodriguez) that God is about to give her that baby, and she is like yes!

Now, months later we can focus on the real hero, Bo (Steven Yeun)! Bo is a donkey, a mill donkey, who spends most of his day walking in a circle, moving the mill. Hard labor. He has big dreams though. He wants to get out of the mill and carry around important people, like royalty, like the horses. Oh yeah, that would be the life. Eventually he does get to break out and finds himself in the barn of Mary and Joseph (Zachary Levi). You see, they just got married, and Joseph is of course worried about her baby bump. But she says it is from God, and he prayed so it must be okay.

What is not okay is some animals have spread the story of the angel and the future king, which has gotten to the ears of the current King. The new King doesn’t like that and sends people out to look for and kill this dude. Also, they are having a Census, so everyone has to travel to Bethlehem, or else! I don’t know what the or else is, but no matter the condition they must go.

So Mary and Joseph are traveling when she is about to pop, with a Donkey and a bird (Keegan-Michael Key) and a lamb (Aidy Bryant), and along the way they get into many shenanigans.

Either way, this story is pretty common, so you know where we are going with it and the whole thing is basically spoiled.

There are so many goddamn people who they grabbed to get presumably tiny quick paychecks. Because the more famous people you cram into a film, the more people will come to see it. Just ask Movie 43. We have as animals or the occasional other human: Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Kelly Clarkson, Anthony Anderson, Patricia Heaton, Kris Kristofferson, Kristin Chenoweth, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan, Delilah (from the Radio), Joel McCrary, Phil Morris, and Joel Fuck The Poor Osteen.

Camel
Winfrey, Jordan, and Perry are camels. Seems…racist.

Just like I have mentioned in previous films about mythology, I don’t care if they change aspects from the original stories, because who cares, they are made up stories as well. I didn’t care with The Rock’s Hercules, I didn’t care with Percy Jackson, and I don’t care with the Star.

But if I was Christian, I would be insulted by this film. To take one of the hallmarks of your religion and turn it into a big awkward joke. To have Mary and Joseph worry so much about the donkey and bird hanging out with them, making light of some king dude, and basically implying everything worked out well due to some animals.

Shit, the manger scene before it was set up had the horses basically making meta jokes about how convient it was for there to be this space, this manger, and a big awkward shining light on it that had been bugging them for weeks.

However even worse, I am going to quote the end of the film. This is Oprah as a camel, talking about the ending (spoilers?). Seriously, real words here, it took me awhile to get it all down: “You know, I think people are gonna remember this night. What happened here around this manger will be celebrated for thousands of years. Families will come together and exchange presents and sing carols, all to remember the grace of this moment that we are witnessing right now.”

That isn’t even funny at this point, as they basically stare at the camera to update us on what sometimes happens around Christmas.

The plot is full of mostly filler material, a lot of non exciting chase scenes, a very gullible husband, a very confident wife, and a shit ton of actors earning some money. But hey, at least the colors of Mary/Joseph were attempted to be correct.

0 out of 4.

Ferdinand

When I was in the first grade back in 1945, I distinctly remember seeing Ferdinand with its really dark red cover, bull, and designs on it. It stood out amongst the children’s books merely for its boldness and not pastel everything color scheme.

So I definitely remember reading it, feeling proud at having read it. It was one of the first books I can recall reading that weren’t super basic.

This means I was a bit excited that eventually a movie was going to come out about it. It was coming out around Christmas time with no other animated film competition. Maybe it would be amazing! That would be great, given my disappointments this year on the entire genre.

But also, I didn’t remember the story, so I wouldn’t care about the plot of the film versus the plot of the book, which is something I definitely always strive for.

Goat
“There was no goat in the book, 0 out of 100!!!” – Book elitist.

When Ferdinand (John Cena) was just a kid, he lived on a ranch and was in training to be a man fighter. I guess that is what you call the bulls in bull fighting matches. But Ferdinand didn’t want to train and butt heads with the other bulls, he wanted to care for flowers and just enjoy the fucking sunshine. One day, his dad was chosen as an honor to head to Madrid and become a man fighter, Ferdinand waited for days hoping his father would return victorious, but alas, he did not.

So Ferdinand escaped. There was nothing left for him at his home except for sadness, angst, and bullying. Because of bulls. He escape and, luckily, found himself at a peaceful farm where they actually grew flowers for a living! And there was a little girl there, Lily (Lily Day), who loved Ferdinand and raised him as a pet. He wasn’t mean, he just loved flowers and was a big goof ball.

But when Ferdinand got older, he was extremely large, larger than most bulls. Ferdinand was a gentle giant, who accidentally caused a lot of trouble one day thanks to not listening and due to a bee sting. This put Ferdinand back into captivity, back at the place he escaped long ago, with a Matador fight looming that he knew he would not come back from alive.

Also starring Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, David Tennant, and Tim Nordquist as additional bulls, Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, and Gabriel Iglesias as hedgehogs, and Flula Borg, Sally Phillips, and Boris Kodjoe as German show ponies.

Oh and Kate McKinnon as a goat, Bobby Cannavale as a rival bull, Miguel Ángel Silvestre as a famous bull fighter, and Jeremy Sisto as Ferdinand’s dad.

Drive
Oh. Animals driving trucks during the ending conflict. Lovely.

The book Ferdinand story was big huge bull, didn’t want to fight, liked flowers, got taken away when he accidentally messed up a village after a bee sting, went to fight a Matador, refused to fight and was saved. Simple book, and hey, that is the basic point of this movie too.

We also just get some extra kid backstory, rival characters, several groups of side characters, extra human characters, and more. There are so many goddamn animals in this one. Not just the bull friends, but we have some extra 1 of animals only, then a group of hedgehogs, a group of horses. It just seems like I was drowning in side animals, most of which were unnecessary and one dimensional. Although the hedgehogs made me laugh occasionally.

Thanks to all these characters, we got one of the worst scenes I have seen in an animated film since the entirety of Norm of the North, when there was a “dance off” between the bulls and the horses. It was bad, it didn’t match the characters, it went on too long and just was aggravating.

As for the rest of the film, the beginning was very boring, the voice acting was weak, and the film seemingly killed off characters willy-nilly without any big amount of remorse. Or at least it seemed that way, but actually the extremely efficient slaughterhouse has no actual employees. Seriously, they show up instantly to take away a bull not good enough, but when the bulls head to the place to save them, we have no employees, no people attempting to stop them, just an extremely elaborate and nonsensical “ground beef” making machine.

Add in the ending where we have our animals driving vehicles, because every goddamn animal movie needs that now, a way too long chase scene through Madrid, and an ending where, sure, Ferdinand and his friends make it but without any long term changes made.

We all know bull fighting is terrible at this point. It is a relic of the Roman Colosseum, killing animals in front of crowds for sport. It is awkward that basically every bull is super stoked about the idea of being chosen for most of the film, until they realize how bad it is. It is even more ridiculous when you’d think the goal would be to end all bull fighting to save the bulls, but apparently just their group of six is good enough.

Ferdinand had a treasured book to work with, and they used that material. Unfortunately, the people who gave us the bad franchises of Ice Age and Rio have seemingly, once again, failed to produce a quality product. Not surprising I guess.

1 out of 4.

Leap!

2017 has been a shit year for animation. That is basically how I begin everything for animation at the end of the year, by the way.

At this point the only films I gave okay ratings to were Coco and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, which is saying a lot about my opinions on these films.

Well, Leap! was released at the end of last year in France and Europe, but didn’t make it to America until August. I had been waiting for a bit and waiting even more. When it finally came out, no one seemed to care, due to lack of advertising, and even I forgot about it.

It is one of those weird films that is already in English, but has a slightly different voice cast depending on the country. Not many changes were made, but the European version had Dane DeHaan as the boy lead. And honestly, without hearing it, it was probably a good change. We don’t need to hear 12 year olds with extra deep voices as if they are constantly pretending to be batman.

Dancer
Now if DeHaan had voiced the lead? I would pay extra for that uncomfortable version.

Felicie (Elle Fanning) is an orphan in a small French town, in a Church. She doesn’t want to be there of course, she wants to escape and become a famous dancer! Partially because the only thing she has from her mother is a dancing figure in a music box, her main treasure. Her best friend, Victor (Nat Wolff) also wants to escape with her. He has dreams of being an inventor and is focusing a lot of his efforts on a flying machine.

Well, Victor finds a flyer for a famous ballet school in Paris, so they decide they should run away and make it there! And they do!

But they immediately get separated, so Felicie is on her own to achieve her dreams. She finds the dance hall, sees an amazing dancer, but gets found out by the groundskeeper and almost given to the police, but a cleaning lady saves her. Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) walks with a cane, clearly having once been a dancer and had her life ruined by something or another. She stays in the guest house of a mansion, she just also has to clean it up as well. And the owner, Regine (Kate McKinnon), is a huge bitch.

She is rich though, so she can be a bitch. She has raised a bitch daughter too, Camille (Maddie Ziegler), who just so happens to be a dancer. And because she is a bitch, Felicie steals her invite to the dance school and pretends to be Camille to get a shot of her dream coming true. She just has to be good enough every day to not be the one person cut, so she can have a feature spot in the upcoming Nutcracker show.

Also featuring the voices of Shoshana Sperling and Mel Brooks.

Friendship
Oh he is definitely in the “best friend for years until she loves me” role. Silly boy. This isn’t the 90’s anymore.

Leap! tells a very standard story about a girl and a boy running off to achieve their lofty ambitions, and do so, quite easily! How they both fall into their respective positions is meant to be quick and easy, which is part of the comedy and charm, so that is not an issue.

It has its moments, both funny and cute. The animation is fine, Victor makes a good comic relief, and Felicie a great go-getter lead! The film also had some Karate Kid moments, just to keep things interesting.

But the devil is in the details, and this film was a mess. I first noticed it on my own, after three very specific references happened, and I was curious if they all were around the same time. That would be, The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and Sherlock Holmes. The first Holmes story was in 1887, the Eiffel tower started being built in 1887, but the Statue of Liberty was already in America in 1886. So to show it barely built at the same time as the Eiffel Tower was barely built is just wrong. And it had the statue already green, which is also quite annoying.

So I figured it must be set in 1887 and they had one mistake, sure. But apparently the film was set in 1979, years before all of these things. In addition to those facts, the dancers were trying out for a part in The Nutcracker, which came out in 1892. I learned the last fact and more from IMDB’s goof section, after I already found out these inconsistencies. If they are going to set the film in a lively part of the world and go for a realistic story, then it just seems terrible to have so many references just wrong.

Another aspect that just consistantly threw me off was the soundtrack. There five or more pop songs used as montage music mostly, including songs from Sia and Jepsen, and these things took me out of the experience. They never quite melded well with the scenes behind it. Given the subject matter, actual ballet, opera, classical, anything music wise like that would have felt better for the story.

Despite being called Leap!, this film was unable to rise above other animated films this year. It just ended up okay like the rest of the best.

2 out of 4.

Coco

Walt Disney Animation Studios have been on a kick lately, where they want simplistic, yet bold film titles, often in one word. Tangled. Frozen. Moana. Zootopia. Gigantic, which apparently isn’t going to happen anymore.

Disney isn’t officially doing Coco, Pixar is (Which is owned by Disney), who, outside of the franchise that should not be named, has mostly shied away from these sort of titles. Is Coco a sign of things to come for Pixar in the title department? It is hard to say, given the fact that its previous two movies, and next two movies are all sequels. Ugh.

I will note I experienced almost no hype for Coco. And that is because of its immediately similarity to The Book of Life. They aren’t even doppelganger films, because the other one came out years earlier, so it is just a bit odd to see such similar topics in animated films so close to each other. But the good news is, The Book of Life was only okay, I forgot basically all of it by now so it really didn’t mess with my opinion.

Strum
Guitars, afterlife, Mexico, love, sadness, revenge. Very similar films indeed.

Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) has a sad story, but a strong one. She had a daughter, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), with her husband, who had more loves in the world than just his family. He left them, to become a singer and a star, and never returned. Poor Imelda had to raise Coco on her own, while also bringing home the bacon. She learned to make shoes and started her own shoe empire, going down her line of children.

Now, many years later, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12 year old boy, and he loves music. He wants to play the guitar and sing, but there is a ban on music in his family, given the past incident. His Abuela (Renee Victor) is the main matriarch now, since his great-grandmother, Coco, is in a chair and doesn’t speak much.

Miguel idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who is basically the Mexican Elvis in this film, extremely famous and well loved. But he has to keep his obsession secret. Well, due to some shenanigans involving a dead man’s guitar, Miguel finds him in the underworld! And on this, Dia de los Muertos, when the dead are trying to get back to the real world, not the other way around.

Miguel is going on an adventure, on the run from disapproving and dead realities, while he searches for his great great grandfathers approval, so that he can return to the real world AND play music officially. And he has bumbling Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) to help him, who just wants someone to post his photo in the real world so he can cross over to the real world just one time before no one remembers him.

Also featuring the voices of many others, including Edward James Olmos, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Herbert Siguenza, Lombardo Boyar, and Sofía Espinosa.

Familia
Well, Miguel doesn’t LOOK like his ancestors.

It is interesting that this film came out in Thanksgiving weekend and not like, the week before Dia de los Muertos like the film takes place on. Usually films go into effort to come out near specific holidays, but Pixar needed that Thanksgiving break money. It was released in Mexico before the day at least, so it has been out for almost a month somewhere else in the world.

On an emotional level, Coco hits on most of the cylinders. It should be a relatively easy feat, given the subject of DEATH and loss being its main focus. Relatives dying? Wives, kids, parents, whatever the level, it will get people choked up. It had a diverse soundtrack of authentic sounds, and despite Remember Me getting the most screen time (and one cry), my favorite song was Proud Corazón by the end, which tied up everything with a nice bow, as these films tend to do.

Miguel’s relationship with his various family members feels real on the level that a 12 year old boy might feel, including the parts where no one lets him talk. But adults refusing to listen to children in films end up usually being a pet peeve, as they just create lazy plot situations where communication does not occur and leads to all of the conflict.

Coco is a beautiful film, physically and emotionally, but it just seems to falter on the smaller elements. Ideas I couldn’t get out of my mind. Timing these events on Dia de los Muertos seemed to have hurt it instead of helping it. On this day, the dead want to go to the real world to party, hang out, get trinkets. And yet the city of the dead is so fucking full of people. We see a very small shanty area of folks who can’t cross because they don’t have pictures. But all of the biggest underworld celebrities are just still there? All the citizens are having their own parties in the place they are stuck so many days of the year?

It seems like a minor nitpick, and maybe it is, but it really distracted me most of the film. There were issues with the spirit animals, in that apparently one is so much more powerful than the others that it can just murder in the underworld and be basically okay. We have the fear of falling to death ruined by a last minute save, that would have still killed the person falling based on how they did it.

And we had SO MANY times when slow decisions were being made just toe extend the film. At least three times we had moments where the viewer would assume that everyone is fine now, time to fix things, and then wham, nope. Whether it be from last second pointless arguments, lack of communication, or just forgetting how to move.

The plot felt very lazy, so much that the film became more tearjerky than anything.

I love the culture of the film, I love the authentic voice actors, and how some of the songs were actually all in Spanish. Having this much of a multicultural element in a Pixar film is a welcome change (since most of their culture is inanimate/dead things with feelings). It just relied to heavily on that component and not enough on a decent plot.

And to bring us back to the beginning, Coco is not a good title for this film.

2 out of 4.

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