Thursday, July 28, 2016

"The Magic of Disney Animation" Retrospective - 28-29: Mermaid, Rescuers 2.

Despite finding some financial success in the darkest years of their career, the output of Disney's Animation branch had stopped being the critical darlings they once were, and as time went on, their word of mouth started becoming more and more muted. In recent years, stiff competition had slowly begun rising, with one of the more prominent ones being that of their own, former in-house animator Don Bluth. Having left the company of his own free will, he eventually branched out to create his own studio alongside Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy, soon turning in great films such as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, and The Land Before Time.

Wishing to make a comeback in the animation circuit after the disastrous debut of The Black Cauldron, several factors that included the recent success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the talent of the new directors they'd enlisted, and some newfound confidence in their abilities led the studio to bet their chips on a return to their fairy tale roots, and return to releasing not only more films on an annual basis, but better ones. It was all thanks to one film performing so well, and becoming so beloved that it would single-handedly inspire one of the greatest runs in Disney's long history...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nerve movie review.

How much of a risk taker are you? Are you one to contently sit and watch others perform the most insane daredevilry stunts imaginable, or are you one to perform those stunts yourself to earn cash? Whichever side you pick, get ready to test your Nerve.

Reclusive and nervous, Venus Delmonaco (Emma Roberts) takes very little risk in her personal life, afraid to speak to her high school crush, and reluctant to accept a position in CalArts. One day when her frustrations and peer-pressure get the better of her, she signs up for a popular online game called Nerve, in which viewers give players like her a series of escalating dares in exchange for payment. After performing her first dare in which she meets fellow player Ian (Dave Franco), viewers appear to love the chemistry between the two, leading them to perform numerous tasks together, but when tasks become more dangerous, and intentions become more sinister, the two are soon forced to find a way to escape the game, or else become prisoners of it.

Nerve is directed by found footage directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who move on from their box office successes Catfish and the Paranormal Activity sequels, and now make their first foray into traditional narrative filmmaking... unfortunately it's not a transition for the better.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"The Magic of Disney Animation" Retrospective - #25-27: Cauldron, Mouse Detective, Oliver/Co.

Even with the looming shadow of the studio's fearless leader having died still hanging over them, with the aid of many of his closest friends and collaborators, the same spark of creativity was still there, even if the filmmaker's doubt and uncertainty in their abilities couldn't be easily shaken. Many of Walt's original team, nicknamed the Nine Old Men, were there to give guidance to newcomers to the studio, which included now famed Disney icons such as Glen Keane and Don Hahn, and animation graduates who would go on to become great directors in their own right such as Tim Burton and John Lasseter.

However, the Nine Old Men knew that their time at the studio was coming to an end, with longtime director Wolfgang Reitherman realizing after The Fox and the Hound that it was best to pass the torch over to the next generation. The Fox and the Hound marked the last film to feature involvement from these legends, and now was the time for the younger generation to make a name for themselves, and tell their own stories. In a few years time, this is exactly what they would manage to achieve, but their first actual film strictly to themselves proved a rocky foundation. Not only that, but one of their own, Don Bluth, had decided to strike out on his own and start his own animation company. His first film came in the form of 1982's The Secret of NIMH, which established his studio as a new force to be reckoned with, and would later gain the attention and guidance of Steven Spielberg. Indeed, the very model of Disney Animation Studios that we know and love today might never have been what it is had they not learned from the mistakes and successes of one film...

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Secret Life of Pets movie review.

Our pets. They're so sweet, so huggable, so... occasionally quite destructive. They brighten up our day, they're always there for us when we need to have a second to have fun, and they're loyal to the very end. But one must wonder, what on earth do they do while we're gone?

It's this very question that the minds at Illumination Entertainment answer in The Secret Life of Pets, a film that's been so hyped this summer that teasers for the film have been circulating since last summer. That said, I've never been very excited for it, given my very subpar feelings on Universal's flagship animation studio as a whole. I think the fact that this is their best film so far speaks volumes about the middling quality of their films thus far, but at least the film proves to be a fun and brisk, if not overly memorable diversion.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The BFG movie review.

With E.T. and Jurassic Park under his belt, as well as countless production credits under his Amblin banner, Steven Spielberg has crafted some of the most beloved, endearing, and memorable family adventure films of all time. Similarly, the late author Roald Dahl has been behind some of the most fondly remembered children's books ever written, with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox. And then Disney... well, you need no introduction there.

To think of these three famous icons coming together sounds like a dream come true, coming in the form of Spielberg's epic live-action reimagining of Dahl's The BFG. A scrumdiddlyumptious concept on paper, how does the end result turn out? Are we witness to the joyous and shiny enchantment of a Golden Phizzwizard, or are we to endure a mixture as angry as a nasty Trogglehumper? I'm sure the answer is obvious, but let's take a look.