Coco will have you scream Ayeeee yeeeeee Yi Haha! Powerful Music To Bring To Live Culture

Coco

 

Thanksgiving, the holiday of turkey, football, preparation for materialistic shopping, and…Disney.  If you are an avid movie goer, you know the mega corporation is all about capitalizing on the holiday with one of their famous animation movies.  This year is no different, with Walt Disney Animation Studios taking a step back and allowing Pixar to come in with another big hit to sweep best picture category at the Oscars.  Tonight, yours truly hits the theater to scope out Coco, the Hispanic story of music, family, and the dead.  Robbie K here with another review, let us get started.

 

LIKES:

 

The Animation:  Pixar/Disney are the kings of animation, and they have proven themselves again in this CGI masterpiece. Coco’s characters are dynamic, presented in so many forms that give the family a spectrum of characters.  Despite a majority of the cast looking carbon copied version of skeletons, Pixar managed to inject subtle differences to make primary and secondary characters stand out.  The living members also got the anatomy altered as well, going so far to represent all stage of life (i.e. old and senile, young and energetic, and even pregnant).  Past designs, the movement itself is incredibly detailed. The subtle gestures in walking/running, the accurate capture of facial gestures for conversation, and more importantly the incredible finger motions of Miguel and cast playing the guitar.  A statement of Pixar having incredible attention to detail wasn’t kidding, because this thing was gorgeous.

 

Spirit animals:  One stand out feature of this movie are the cool spirt animals that inhabit the land of the undead.  The flying jaguar, while one of the most outstanding displays, is only the tip of the iceberg, and these creatures are sprawled out in the world.  I found it cool to see the creativity of blending common animals into a piñata like creation, each feature designed to add finesse and flare to mix and represent the culture of Mexico.

 

The Culture: Disney movies always have a way of capturing an element of the real world.  Coco’s theme is all about the Mexican culture and the various customs that we as viewers only have an inkling of understanding.  Pixar managed to bring that culture to life not only in design, but in the story, they have developed in this tale. Their belief in the afterlife is the foundation this tale is built on, allowing other things like soap operas, fiestas, food, and the western film culture.  And within all these elements are the important customs of family, the passion of music, and the pursuit of dreams through hard work All of these are beautifully integrated into the mix, occasionally crossing into cheesy territory, to craft a very stirring tale. 

 

The Music: By far the biggest element for me though, has to be the music of Coco.  Disney is always spectacular with their soundtracks, but Coco stands out to me as one of the more unique sets of music to come out of the studio.  Instead of grandiose symphonies, or Oscar designed symphonies, Coco’s music is all about representing the musical culture of Mexico.  Each song builds around the acoustic guitar as the primary instrument in its calm, yet vibrant strings.  Such a simple instrument packs an emotional kick, especially once the supporting instruments and the voice bellow out to unleash the pent-up emotion of our characters.  The songs build into the story, and are used as the primary tools for accomplishing Miguel’s goals and represents a variety of artistic styles this culture has.  It’s dynamic, it’s fun, and its relevant to the story, all big points in this reviewer’s eyes.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The opening short: While separate, the opening number is still part of the show. Olaf’s frozen adventure, while cute, was just another compilation of short songs to refresh Disney’s cash cow for the last few years.  Sure, some of the songs are powerful (the ending in particular), and the message tugs at my strings, but it lacked a lot of sustenance for just more songs.  Thank goodness Coco’s music redeemed this quality.

 

More with the creatures:  I like the spirit animals, I just didn’t like how much of a background they were.  With such cool concepts, you think that Disney would have found a way to capitalize on these monsters’ involvement in the world whether it be searching for clues, chasing our heroes, or having more bang in the final setting.  Even without their integration, the studio downplayed their powers a bit, showing inconsistencies with the potential they developed in these creatures.

 

Lackluster Excitement:  Thinking back to Pixar’s previous works, there are usually those edge on the seat moments that have you questioning the fate of the heroes (Toy Story, Incredibles, even Cars).  Coco not so much for me.  The movie stays pretty safe, with predictable antics, calm action scenes, and a final obstacle that didn’t do much for me in the suspense role. There seemed to be little hindrance to our character’s journey, and in many cases that hindered the development we could have seen.  This film blows the cultural relevance out of the water, yet it still missed its potential for a complete package without the action.

 

Many Book of Life elements:  This movie stands out on its own in so many concepts and the songs are much more original.  Yet, there is a lot of this movie based off of Book of Life, and in many cases less vibrant and unique than the predecessorIn my opinion, I felt the Book of Life was the more exciting of the two tales and I like this design more than the scale this one took.  Still, Coco holds a lot of finesse that the Book failed to have.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Coco is certainly one of the more culturally relevant Pixar movies to come out of the studio.  It’s design and animation are gorgeous, the creativity is on point, and so much of it is packed with tasteful portrayals of this beautiful culture.  Yet, it still has a few shortcomings for me to make it a perfect movie.  They dropped some of the potential they built up and the excitement element could have been amped up with more struggles as well.  When all is said and done though, Coco is by far one of the better films to hit the theaters this November and I strongly encourage many to flood the theaters and scope it out.  And for those with little ones obsessed with Frozen, this movie is only going to be better for them.

 

My scores:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.5

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Revving Up To A Better Story

Cars 3

 

“I am Speed!” A quote that will live on forever in the minds of the 2000 generation, movie quote boards, and the status of Disney fans.  For those not remembering the quote, or not realizing what this review is about, it is Lightning McQueen’s catchphrase in the famous Cars series.  Pixar’s work about living Cars took the world by storm long ago, but a flat tire left it stranded behind its cousins.  After a detour with the second installment, Cars 3 attempts to change tires and redeem itself on the winner circle.  And it’s my job to commentate and analyze the movie.  Let’s rev up and take off with another Robbie movie review.

 

LIKES:

Animation:  Let’s get the obvious out of the way, Pixar continues to prove they rock at making things move.  Cars 3 is beautifully detailed, stylish, slick, and fluid on all levels from the skidding tires to simply drinking oil at a local garage bar.  Unlike its sequels, the movie really focuses on the fast-paced world of racing, and brings the full effects of Disney animation to life. All the excitement is captivating and exciting, perfect for many audience members of all ages. And with all the new characters plenty of room for merchandising.

 

Soundtrack: Most Disney fans often won’t pay attention unless it is a flashy, over the top musical number famous from the renaissance of the 90s (and Frozen).  Well although not the famous show stopping sequences, Cars 3 has a nice collaboration of song covers to classic songs that is sure to bring up some nostalgia.  While not as good as the originals for me, I enjoyed most of the twists in this movie and felt they were appropriately placed in the film.  Certainly, not the most unique soundtrack, but strong nonetheless.

 

Comedy:  Good news, Cars 3 is still funny, but even more importantly it doesn’t rely on comedy as the only gimmick.  Rather than relying on Mater’s childlike innocence and stupidity, Cars 3 was able to bring some wit to the table and with it some dynamic comedy.  Mater still has some quips to throw into the film, but the rest of the gang has some well-timed jabs that touch on a variety of topics and styles, which again, will hit most members of the audience.

Story: The team must have taken a step back and analyzed the blue prints of their tale.  Cars 3 story is miles above Car2, dropping into the character development and life lessons made famous in the first film.  It is jam packed full of emotion, with gripping tales all coming together into a very compact package. With exciting races built into the story, the movie keeps a nice pace and remains fun to watch while also being educational.  No convoluted tales of quirky action or stretches here folks, it’s just classic country lifestyle.

 

DISLIKES:

Depressing: This really doesn’t reveal anything, but much of this movie is quite depressing.  While there is certainly a broad range of emotions “racing” through this film, I can say a good chunk is spent in the downer zone. While the kids will have a few moments that might upset them, adults are going to really take the blunt of the depression in this movie.  The trailers have already hinted at the message, but they didn’t prepare me for the intensity this movie has at times.  Fortunately, they relieve that melancholy with fun moments, but somehow Pixar keeps that sullen moment in your mind.

 

Old jokes: I told you they did a nice job balancing jokes, but I didn’t say perfect, did I?  Cars 3 gets a little obsessive with one joke category and starts to rely on it a little too much.  These jokes at times is the perfect icing on the cake, but often it goes with that depressing component I told you about.  I found the fun starting to leave and the sadness starting to set on… way to go Pixar, depressing comedy.  Still, your kids will laugh and might pick up a few annoying phrases to throw at you in the process.

 

Characters dropped:  Like many Disney films, the studios find a way to dump on the old to bring in the new. While certainly not the worst example of dropping characters, Cars 3 reduced many of your favorite character to background characters delivering somewhere between 1-5 lines.  So those heavy on Mater, Sally, and the rest of the gang need to lower your expectations, and prepare to fall in love with the new guys on hand.  This disproportion of characters is certainly sad to see, and while I do enjoy many of the new characters, you can’t help but long to have the old and new world blend a little more together.

The VERDICT:

Cars 3 was certainly rebuilt from the wreckage of the last movie.  The animation remains stunning, brought to full throttle with the exciting races thrown into the mix.  Pixar makes the tale funny and with a much deeper, enriching story than number 2.  Unfortunately for the audience above the age of 15, a somber mood hangs over much of this movie and it lacks a good balance of integrating old with the new.   There are some other components I could comment on, but I’m out of room so you’ll have to see for yourself.  Nevertheless, Cars 3 is definitely worth a trip to the theater folks, and probably the leading blockbuster of this weekend’s new releases. 

 

My scores:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Jump Inside To See Pixar’s Creativity Come Out!

Inside Out

            We all are victim to our emotions, always susceptible to a tantrum or sobfest that overruled our logical side. The trigger for these outbursts can vary in form, a bad day at school, a breakup with a boyfriend, or in my case sitting through bad movies. Whatever the cause, have you ever stopped to picture what is going on in your mind to cause this? Pixar has, and their latest film has brought those thoughts to life in a way only their studios can. Today I review Inside Out and take a look at what creative sparks lie in their studio.

Pixar has been on the sequel train for quite a while, so I was thirsty for a drink from the original pool. Inside Out emerges from that source we fell in love with years ago, and brings it back ten fold in the world of young Riley’s (Kaitlyn Dias) mind. Inside Out is a beautiful personification of the inner workings of the mind, filled with colorful visuals that pop off the screen. A high tech “head”quarters for the cortex looks like something from Star Wars, where futuristic control panels govern all the memories and thoughts that govern our being. Outside command central, Pixar gives you more of their magic in their creations; forming a maze for long term memory, a movie studio as the source of your dreams, and an obvious train for your train of thought. Tacky as some of the puns are, Pixar puts their wit back into the game to design a unique world that is sure to entertain many, as well as become the next theme park attraction.

As the emotions transverse the chaos that is our brain, Pixar not only takes you on a physical adventure but an emotional one as well. Of course being a kids movie there are a lot of comedic moments that had me, as well as other audience members, laughing. Slapstick humor involving bodily harm, one liner puns that will appear in memes, and plenty of witty dialogue that represents the internal struggle of indecisiveness. In particular Anger’s (Lewis Black) ranting had me laughing the hardest, as the simplistic yelling and rash threats to curse were to my tastes. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) had to be my second favorite, more so in how she presented her lines with that perfect twist of depression to make it funny, and yet sad at the same time.

Yet while comedy is a big portion of this movie, Pixar/Disney always manages to bring other emotions into the mix. Seeing as one of the emotions is Sadness, you can guess there are a few moments that can bring tears to your eyes as Riley’s memories unfold before your eyes. Joy offsets these moments though, with beautifully crafted sequences that cover those special times in life. And all of it is edited together at just the right times to make the emotions hit home, building slight tension, but delivering a satisfying finish. Pixar represents this emotional instability both inside Riley’s mind and outside in her actions, really capturing the look and feel of someone troubled, hence the title. It’s balanced well with the humor, and gives older audience members a tether to the film to keep their interest.

Voice acting though is the factor that really brings things to life, as each emotion is matched with their voice counterpart. Poehler’s optimism shines bright in joy as she rambles off her ideas to keep Riley happy, and you can feel the actress in the character. Phyllis Smith brings her character to life, her whispy voice selling the hopeless emotion, and yet still bringing a comedic edge to her lines that made her humorous. Lewis Black is perfect for anger, his ability to play heavily angry roles where his character consistently yells has been established, and he fits right at home with the emotion he plays so well. Mindy Kaling as Disgust was another good choice, the shallow, image obsessed emotion playing strong to that sassiness we love from her. And Bill Hader cleans up with fear, bringing the anxious tone of fear, while also providing that dry sarcasm.

For all the good this movie has there are a few quirks that took away from this movie. The first is a few of the jokes are beaten to death and lose their comedic intensity. In addition the trailers have also given you a lot of the funny moments, which for those who are heavy Disney watchers will be lost from the constant barrage of commercials. As a movie overall, Inside Out has some decent editing, but there are times where the editing needed to be tweaked. The ending of the movie was very drawn out at times, and lacked suspense for me because of the obvious ending to come. I would have liked them to sacrifice some of the prolonged and slower scenes, and give us some glimpses at the personality islands they kept bragging about, or perhaps more time in the darker recesses of the mind. Diving into that creativity may have offset the predictability a bit, and played to the strengths of this movie more.

Overall I was impressed with Inside Out and loved to see Pixar’s classic performance shine once more. Audience members of all ages are sure to enjoy this film, with the younger generations laughing in high shrills and the older appreciating the emotional side of things. It holds that creative magic we love of Disney, and keeps you entertained despite some of the longer moments. While not the best, Inside Out certainly shows promise for the studio’s future works and more fun adventures to be had. I would say it is worth a trip to the theater for any age group and strongly recommend you see this film.

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Comedy/Drama: 9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0