The Incredibles came out on November 5, 2004 — I was six. Since that date I have started and finished elementary, middle and high school and gone away to college. Last Thursday, though, I, in a theater full of adults, was six again with just one big, red letter “i.” I was Ego finally tasting Ratatouille’s titular dish. Every layer of maturity I thought would float me above the draw of a 14-year-old animated movie’s sequel was shattered the instant that iconic “da da DA da daaaah” filled the theater. I was nostalgically excited when Star Wars came back, but that excitement’s become the cause of fatigue.
When my third grade teacher read A Wrinkle in Time to the class, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. In my local theater, the cinematic rendition of Madeleine L’Engle’s book failed to evoke the same emotional response: there was not a single tear shed, but rather the occasional yawn. The first act follows the typical coming of age narrative that we’ve all seen hundreds of times, even featuring the classic bully scene where the mean girls gang up to taunt the protagonist in the school hallway. The head mean girl, Rowan Blanchard from Girl Meets World, just so happens to live next door to the protagonist and spends the majority of her screen time scowling from her bedroom window. The story was written before the various tropes such as this one even existed, but when adapted to the screen, seems like a poorly executed rip-off of other movie franchises like Divergent and The Hunger Games.
Later this week, I will be going to see Sony Animation’s take on Peter Rabbit, the beloved children’s series by Beatrix Potter. What are my expectations? Considering that the promotions are filled with Animal House-style parties, and that our titular hero shoves a carrot up Domhnall Gleeson’s derrière, I’m not particularly looking forward to it. That still looks masterful, though, compared to the upcoming Sherlock Gnomes, which features truly hilarious lines like “‘We need a ship.’ ‘No ship, Sherlock.’” and an old man dancing around in a thong. How did we get here?
It’s been three months since The New York Times released its bombshell story about Harvey Weinstein. Since then, more and more sexual offenders have been brought to light, and the entertainment industry has been rocked to its core. I can’t even begin to name all the actors, producers and so on who have had allegations come to light against them. It’s become a huge movement, but has sparked some backlash too. So I figured I would put my own voice out there, focusing on one case that hit close to me and my field: John Lasseter.
The world was a much simpler place when we were six. Our imaginations ran free. Six-year-olds can find beauty and excitement anywhere, and make any setting their personal playground. It is fun to be reminded how happy the littlest things could make us when we were younger. The Florida Project gives us that opportunity by welcoming us to Moonee’s world.
After I reviewed My Little Pony: The Movie a couple weeks ago, I did two things. First of all, I went to see the next available screening of It to set myself at balance. Second, I started to look around and see what other online critics had to say about the movie, a favorite pastime of mine. To my surprise, I found a number of comments saying things like, “Go see the movie! It’s the last chance to tell Hollywood that we want traditional, hand-drawn animation back!”
After a semi-successful trilogy by Sam Raimi and two over-the-top films from Marc Webb, it seemed like everyone’s neighborhood wall crawler was going to put up the cowl for good, while studios battled over whether Spider-Man should be portrayed as an emo teenager or an emotionally challenged Tobey Maguire. Yet, who would have thought that thirty minutes of Tom Holland donning spandex in Captain America: Civil War was a sign of better things to come? Holland’s performance earned him stripes for his own solo movie in the form of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the title of which references the eponymous high school dance and is symbolic of Spider-Man joining the larger Marvel family owned by Disney. As with anyone who has to interact with new relatives, Homecoming can feel awkward and terse as it attempts to navigate and connect with past films, but once it finds its own footing, the movie flips into high gear. In the end, the latest Spidey excels as a greater extension of the Marvel Universe, and also as a solid stand-alone feature buoyed by a stellar supporting cast, infectious humor and a fresh, contemporary high school setting.
Spark: A Space Tail, written and directed by Aaron Woodley (with additional written material by Adam Rotstein, Robert Reece and Doug Hadders), has been a mystery to me. I didn’t know what to make of the film. It premiered nearly a year ago at the Toronto Animation Arts festival. There were no advance reviews, and only a nebulous plot synopsis. All I knew was that it was a Canadian-Korean production from ToonBox and Redrover, the same people who brought us The Nut Job.
Despite the recent standout successes of films like Spotlight, La La Land and Moonlight, the past several years have been dark times for cinema. Last summer, droves of Americans willingly spent a collective $176 million to see a movie titled Ant-Man, not because of any particular affection for either ants or the second-tier superhero who obtains their powers, but because we were compelled to do so as a part of Walt Disney Studios’ master plan. See, a standalone film about a man who can shrink himself to the size of an ant probably wouldn’t do so well, regardless of how unassuming and charming the actor playing him was (and Paul Rudd is about as unassuming and charming as they come). But a film about a man who can shrink himself to the size of an ant that happens to be part of a larger so-called “cinematic universe”? Instant blockbuster.
After I published my article last week, I received comments from people around me: “Hey, you didn’t mention Finding Dory! What gives?” Well, I left Finding Dory off my list to talk about it more in-depth because the Academy gave it no nominations this year. Only four Pixar movies have ever been totally ignored by the Academy Awards; all of them have been in the past five years. Those films are Cars 2, Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur, and Finding Dory. See a pattern here?