Top 5 Pixar Moments

When naming your favorite animated movies, chances are a Pixar movie holds at least one spot on the list.  Since Toy Story‘s debut in 1995, the studio’s feature films have been nominated for 24 Academy Awards and have taken home 11. Their thirteenth feature film, Brave, hit theaters this last weekend. What better time to list out favorite Pixar moments?

This list was a tricky one. There’s nothing quite like a Pixar film, and each of them have dozens of memorable moments. Narrowing our list down to one moment from each film was quite a task. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

DANIEL’S FAVORITES

5. The Incredibles Teaser Trailer

Even though the scene never made it into the movie, the teaser trailer for The Incredibles is easily one of the funniest things Pixar has ever done. It’s a simple enough scenario: Mr. Incredible is suiting up to go and fight crime. The only problem is he’s outgrown his belt. Comedic genius ensues.

4. “Married Life” – Up

What sets Pixar animation up from other studios is that their uncanny ability to elicit every moment from the audience. The opening to Up is a beautiful and intimate portrait of a romance that started in childhood and lasted a lifetime. With an incredibly believable story that sucks you in immediately, Up holds the record for being the only movie that makes me cry before it reaches the thirty minute mark.

3. Boo and Sulley Say Goodbye – Monsters, Inc. 

Speaking of moments that make you cry, how’s this one for a tear-jerker? Boo and Sully dont’ get much time alone during their adventures in Monsters, Inc, but their relationship throughout the film is an adorable one to watch develop. After all the chaos they’ve been through together, Boo finally gets to show Sully all her toys and get tucked into bed. It’s a wonderful moment between the two.

2. Andy Plays With His Toys One Last Time – Toy Story 3

The perfect ending a timeless trilogy.

1. “It’s okay. Daddy’s here.” – Finding Nemo

My personal favorite Pixar movie, every scene in this movie could have easily vied for a spot on this list. But there’s a small moment that makes me cry like a baby every time I watch the movie. After his wife and his children were devoured by a barracuda, Marlin finds a lone clown fish egg. Picking it up in his fins, he speaks four simple words. “It’s okay. Daddy’s here.” Later in the movie when he finally reunites with his son, he holds him again, repeating the same four words as we have a brief flashback to the little egg in Marlin hands. It’s the perfect example of how Pixar movies, after making us laugh at things like speaking whale and crazy seagullls, can also make us cry.

JOSEPH’S FAVORITES

5. “Not a Flying Toy” – Toy Story

Looking back at the Pixar films, I was kind of surprised at this one. When I watched Toy Story the first few times, I was more involved in the story of Woody and enamored with the concept of talking toys. On subsequent viewings, however, I keep coming back to this scene. It’s really emotional (it is Pixar, after all), and magnifies the Buzz Lightyear storyline even more.

4. “Define Dancing” – WALL-E

I wouldn’t be able to call myself a human being if I didn’t include this delightful moment between two robots dancing together among the stars. The music, visuals, and chemistry all blend together to make this memorable.

3. “No Capes!” – The Incredibles

Enough with the emotional scenes; there’s plenty more in the next two picks. This time I’m going with one of my favorite Pixar characters (voiced by director Brad Bird), Edna Mode. The Incredibles is Pixar’s take on super heroes, and Edna’s speech (i.e. rant) about capes is a loving jab at the genre, and great slapstick comedy.

2. “Ratatouille” – Ratatouille

There are many wonderful moments in Ratatouille, but the one that gets me every time is when the food critic Anton Ego eats the titular Ratatouille at the end of the film. His trip down memory lane is a touching, nostalgic moment that shows the power that the senses can have.

1. “Married Life” – Up

Up is one of the few movies that I enjoyed watching in 3D, and the only one that caused me to wipe off my 3D glasses 15 minutes into the film. It’s been overstated ad nauseum, but the opening montage from Up not only sets the rest of the film up beautifully, but could easily be viewed as a stand-alone short film.  I’m continually blown away by Pixar’s use of story, visuals, and pathos, and this is one of their finest moments.

Prometheus Review

As soon as Ridley Scott announced he was making a new science fiction movie, fanboys immediately dubbed it the quintessential Alien prequel. Even after its release, people are citing ways in which Prometheus relates to Scott’s original film. I cannot emphasize more that Prometheus has almost nothing to do with Alien. The two movies don’t even take place on the same planet. Admittedly, Alien will be seen in a different context after viewing this movie, but it is not at all essential to understanding the 1979 classic. Instead, Prometheus stands on its own as a solid genre piece, but is that really a bad thing?

Alien, a personal favorite of mine, works so well because an explanation of the origins of the planet and the grotesque, violent monster that abides in its depths is never provided. Like Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs and the Joker in The Dark Knight, some of the greatest characters manifested on film have mysterious origins. Giving the xenomorph an intricate origin story would have been a grave misstep, as most prequels usually are. Even though there are nods to the alien in this movie, the mysterious element present in Alien is preserved.

The year is 2089. Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a series of cave drawings from a number of civilizations who shared no contact with one another but each containing a map of a solar system billions of miles from earth. Five years later, the multi-trillion dollar ship known as the Prometheus lands on the distant moon LV-223. Their mission is to find what they call the Engineers, extraterrestrial beings who created human beings. As evidenced by its opening scene, the movie operates under the assumption that aliens were responsible for our entire existence. The mission of the Prometheus is not to prove this fact, but to meet their makers.

The script, penned by Lost‘s Damon Lindelof and relative newcomer Jon Spaihts, takes its time setting up its story and characters. The film is relatively uneventful for its first hour or so, introducing us to the world of LV-22 and masterfully building intrigue and an impending sense of doom. Almost all of the characters are believable and interesting, and the story never goes flat. Though that isn’t to say that the script doesn’t have its issues.

“How far would you go to get what you came all this way for, your answers? What would you be willing to do?” David, the android aboard the Prometheus played masterfully by Michael Fassbender, proposes this question to Charlie. This idea of meeting our maker and discovering our reason for existence is touched on multiple times in the film, but inexplicably abandoned by the third act. In fact, many of the movie’s plot lines are left unresolved by the film’s climax.

Decisions made by some of the characters make no sense at all and exist only to aid the plot and transition to the next scene. This adds a dose of detachment from the characters because we don’t understand why they are acting this way. For example, if you were a biologist and encountered a new extraterrestrial being, would your first reaction be to try and pet it? If a woman covered and a recently stitched surgical incision stumbled into the room would you act unphased and pretend its just another day at the office? It’s just lazy writing. While this doesn’t destroy the movie altogether, it does turn the film into a good movie rather than a great one.

On a technical level, the look of the film is breathtaking and full of detail. The visual effects are top notch, from the set design aboard the Prometheus to the mysterious depths of LV-22. The cast does a wonderful job with what they are given, and Fassbender in particular shines in yet another dynamic performance. The movie is full of memorable experiences, from a chilling operation scene to the destruction of an alien spaceship. Scott’s decision to film the movie with 3D cameras was a successful one and provides an even greater depth to the visual aesthetics in the film.  After less-than-stellar movies like Robin Hood and Body of Lies, it’s wonderful to see Ridley Scott remind us why he’s one of the best directors out there.

If you haven’t seen Prometheus yet, I urge you to do so. The fact that a summer blockbuster is generating conversation should be reason enough to check this movie out. After mindless outings like Snow White and Battleship, isn’t it nice to finally have a movie that gets people talking. Plus, we don’t get many science fiction films of this caliber. Prometheus has its flaws, some of them gaping, but it is still worth a look.

Snow White and the Huntsman Review

I’m sure there’s a good movie hidden somewhere in Snow White and the Huntsman. Some are sure to find this movie an enjoyable summer outing, but this reviewer found himself shoving popcorn into his mouth of out sheer boredom.

Imprisoned in a tower since childhood by the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), Snow White (Kristen Stewart) spends her days reciting the Lord’s Prayer and building fires to keep her warm. Her decision to finally escape her captors conveniently coincides with the Queen’s decision to kill her, and she escapes into the dark forest. Desperate to remain the fairest of them all and keep her immortality, the Queen hires a hunstman (Chris Hemsworth) to track Snow White down.

It should be noted here that the only thing keeping me in my seat was Charlize Theron’s performance. She creates a compelling villain that is terrifying and at times even sympathetic. She is responsible for some of the film’s more creative sequences, including a creepy transformation into a flock of crows. Sadly, she is inexplicably absent after the film reaches its halfway point, showing up briefly to remind us that she still exists and longs for Snow White’s death.

Hemsworth is also fun to watch as the axe-wielding, mead-chugging Hunstman. He’s perfect for action-oriented roles like this, but he still brings a certain amount of depth to his character. Kristen Stewart, on the other hand, is given almost no dialogue at all. What little dialogue she has in the film is delivered in cringe-inducing emotionless staccato. I haven’t given up on Stewart as a decent actress yet, but she needs to find a better acting coach.

First-time director Rupert Sanders never seems to find a comfortable pace. The movie’s second act is far too long and its finale too short and frustratingly anticlimactic. Nothing ever seems at stake. We know that Snow White defeats Ravenna, but the way it goes down in the movie is ridiculously easy. When the seven dwarfs finally do show up, it’s almost as if it was an afterthought. The action scenes, which are something of a cross between Robin Hood and The Lord of the Rings, are bereft of excitement. The whole movie’s a mess.

There’s no denying that Snow White and the Huntsman sucessfully creates a dark world full of magic and mystery at every turn. If only the people who inhabit this world were just as interesting. While it has a pretty commendable cast, the movie doesn’t employ them well enough. The movie’s meandering plot, combined with an anticlimactic finale and bland protagonist, transform this adventure into more of a boring lullaby than an epic adventure.

Why Are Super Heroes So…Super?

If you haven’t watched The Avengers yet, read Daniel’s review of it, and check it out; it’s a lot of super-heroey fun. And as always, stay after the credits. Twice. I was shocked at how many people left the theater right when the credits started. Seriously, people? Four years later and you still don’t get it? Anyways, moving on…

I recently had the opportunity to record Dave Canfield (Twitch Film writer) speaking about Super Heroes and Culture at The Row House in Lancaster, PA.

The Row House hosts a wide, diverse range of lectures and discussions from “Mom Guilt” to “Harry Potter’s Alchemy”.

Check out their podcast for old forums, and participate in one if you’re in town.

 

Eagle’s Fan (60 Second Film Festival)

UPDATE:

You can now vote for the people’s choice award at http://www.60secondfilmfest.com/ (on the right-hand side). Thanks!

 

 

I recently submitted a film for the 60 Second Film Festival in Lancaster, PA. It’s a mini-doc about my little brother.

If you’re in the Lancaster, PA area it will be shown with 11 other short films on Sunday, May 13th at 7:00pm at Penn Cinema. Tickets are free, but are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

There will also be a fan favorite award; I will post a link to that page when they put it up.

Here’s a link to the film if it doesn’t show up below.

Thank you for your support!

 

The Avengers Review

For lack of a better word, The Avengers is badass. Easily the best Marvel adaptation since Iron Man, the movie teams up Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye up against the villainous Loki and his army of robotic alien beings. Opening tonight at midnight in theaters nationwide, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers packs a wallop.

Chances are you’ve seen at least one of the previous Marvel movies that establish the characters I listed earlier, but it won’t be an issue if you haven’t – unless you’re my girlfriend of course. The movie is solid blockbuster entertainment for anyone, whether they are a comic book geek or not. This movie has everything you need in a summer movie. There are laughs, spectacular action scenes, a dash of romance, and for some people maybe even some tears.

The fact that the movie is not an origin story like almost all superhero movies is rewarding because it allows the film to jump right into the action. That being said, it takes a strangely longer amount of time for the movie to gain traction than I expected.

The movie’s first act lays out why such an impressive list of people would be summoned to fight evil and then introduces them to the picture one character at a time. This is a bit tedious and could have been trimmed down just a bit, but once the movie gets rolling there’s no stopping it.

The second act focuses on the group’s struggle to work together as a team. After all, when you bring a bunch of invincible warriors together, there’s going to be a bit of conflict. Part of the fun of the Avengers is that we get to see our favorite superheroes duke it out with each other. By the time the last act rolls around, you’ll be firmly rooted to your seat. The final action piece is a jaw-dropping action sequence that will have you cheering.

The movie’s greatest strength is that it doesn’t center itself on one or two of the characters. Nobody is put on the backburner or is turned into a supporting character. Each is given ample screen time and dialogue. Thanks to Whedon’s script and solid direction, the characters are even given further characterization, most notably Black Widow. First introduced in Iron Man 2, Black Widow was nothing more than a hot babe who packed quite a punch. Whedon, who has a history of crafting strong female characters, transforms her into a multidimensional character with a dark past. Loki isn’t as dark or mischievous as he was when we first saw him, but he is one of the highlights of the film and works as a great villain. Iron Man and Thor are enjoyable as ever, though I was slightly disappointed we didn’t see more from CaptainAmerica. Last and most certainly not least, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is easily the best version adaptation ever. Ruffalo plays the part of the mild-mannered scientist perfectly, and the way he is implanted into the action scenes helps him to steal the show.

I should mention that I was very disappointed in the way that the movie presented Hawkeye. Jeremy Renner is a very capable actor and Hawkeye is a fairly interesting minor playing in the Marvel comics. After his brief appearance in Thor last summer, I was looking forward to seeing what he would be given to work with in The Avengers. While he does shine in the action sequences, we are given a boring character that spends half the movie as Loki’s zombie and the other half spouting out dull one-liners.

Overall, The Avengers is an immensely enjoyable cinematic experience, solid blockbuster entertainment from beginning to end. Not only is it big screen entertainment at its finest, but it reminds us why the big screen experience is essential to enjoying some movies. I don’t care how good your entertainment system at home is. This is a must-see on the big screen. The Avengers starts summer off with a bang and was very much worth the wait. It might even turn you into a comic book geek.

Short Spotlight: Sockfeet

My appreciation for short films began when I first attended the Nashville Film Festival. Blown away by the wide range in content and talent, I immediately went to the Internet to find more short films. Modern short films are a fascinating genre, ranging from no budget backyard productions, to low budget indie films, to full-blown blockbusters. Short films are a great way to glimpse future talent, or a window into the origins of a respected director. The goal of this series is to showcase a wide range of short films from all over the world. If you want to have a short film featured, please comment and leave a link. Enjoy the show!

The first film in this series comes from my Alma mater, Bryan College. It’s a short, sweet love story told from a unique perspective.

 

2012 Oscar Predictions

JOSEPH’S PREDICTIONS

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin
Best Actress: Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer
Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Best Film Editing: The Artist
Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Art Direction: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Best Costume Design: Jane Eyre
Best Makeup: Albert Nobbs
Best Sound Editing: War Horse
Best Sound Mixing: War Horse
Best Original Score: The Artist
Best Original Song: ‘Man or Muppet’
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris
Best Live-Action Short: The Shore
Best Documentary Short: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

CASSIE-MARIE’S PREDICTIONS

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Best Actor: George Clooney
Best Actress: Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer
Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Documentary: Undefeated
Best Foreign Language Film: Bullhead
Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Best Film Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Visual Effects: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Best Art Direction: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Best Costume Design: Jane Eyre
Best Makeup: The Iron Lady
Best Sound Editing: War Horse
Best Sound Mixing: War Horse
Best Original Score: The Artist
Best Original Song: ‘Man or Muppet’
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris
Best Live-Action Short: Raju
Best Documentary Short: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

DANIEL’S PREDICTIONS

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin
Best Actress: Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer
Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Documentary: Undefeated
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Best Film Editing: The Artist
Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Art Direction: Hugo
Best Costume Design: The Artist
Best Makeup: The Iron Lady
Best Sound Editing: Hugo
Best Sound Mixing: Hugo
Best Original Score: The Artist
Best Original Song: ‘Man or Muppet’
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris
Best Live-Action Short: Saving Face
Best Documentary Short: Tuba Atlantic

See you all tonight at the Oscars. Follow our Twitter accounts for LIVE up-to-date results and opinions:

@jdemme / @cinexcellence / @dtuck318 / @CMarieDemme

Top Ten of 2011

I put this list off for quite some time, intent on catching up with all the movies that had come out this year. It wasn’t a spectacular year for film, but there were ten movies that stood above the other mediocre outings and hold a place in my heart. Here are those movies.

10. THE MUPPETS

An irresistible and charming movie that cemented a smile onto my face and  had me skipping out of the theater with glee, The Muppets was one of my favorite movie-going experiences of the year. It had been 12 years since the last Muppet movie, and their return to the big screen resulted in the most charming, lighthearted family movie of the year.

9. TAKE SHELTER

I caught up with Take Shelter later than most did, but it left a lasting impression on me nevertheless. Michael Shannon stars as Curtis, a man plagued by apocalyptic visions. He feels it is his responsibility as a husband, a father, and a man to protect his family from looming danger, despite the fact that everyone believes he is losing his mind. Take Shelter culminates in a chilling finale and is a movie that will stay with me for quite some time.

8. WARRIOR

I didn’t initially expect Warrior to make this list, but by the time the film reached its halfway point I was glued to my seat. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton light up the screen and have believable chemistry as two estranged brothers, with Nick Nolte turning in a rousing performance as their ex-alcoholic father. The ending of the film will have you on the edge of your seat. It is a movie not to be missed.

7. THE TREE OF LIFE

The most talked about and analyzed film of the year, Terence Malick’s Tree of Life has produced about every possible reaction from glowing praise to raging hate. I found to be one of the most intriguing films of the year. The film has its flaws, but I found its philosophical musings hard to resist. Malick, who holds a degree in philosophy from Harvard, examines the meaning of life from its origins to our time on this earth to what happens after we die. It is a film unlike any other, and one that I will continue to visit and glean new meanings from for years to come.

6. DRIVE

I wasn’t familiar with Nicolas Winding Refn before his latest film this year, but after seeing Drive I am eager to catch up with the remainder of his filmography. Ryan Gosling gives a subdued performance in Refn’s solidly directed outing that recalls films from the 70s, my personal favorite decade. Gosling plays a man simply known as Driver. We don’t know much about his past. We can only judge him by his actions. The film’s style is mesmerizing, making up for the simple story. It’s a masterfully made genre peice, and evidences a great director in the making.

5. THE HELP

Racism is a theme that has been explored countless times in movie after movie. What makes The Help stand out is its characters, brought to life by enchanting performances by every cast member. No matter how pivotal their role in the film, every character leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Another aspect that makes this film so unique is that all of its characters are women. For a movie that made over $200 million worldwide, that’s saying a lot. Some of the best movies are those that can elicit every emotion from you, and The Help does just that. You’ll be laughing one minute and then crying the next.

4. SHAME

One of the most intense character studies ever put to film, Shame also showcases the year’s best performance. Michael Fassbender is quickly joining the ranks of other greats character actors like Robert DeNiro and Daniel Day Lewis. Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan, a successful individual struggling with a crippling sex addiction. The film has some content that may be hard to stomach, but those who can sit through this piece of cutting-edge movie-making will be rewarded with a compelling character study of a man struggling to keep his life together.

3. MONEYBALL

Bennet Miller directed both Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill to Oscar nominations in the widely acclaimed baseball drama Moneyball, a film that is about so much more than baseball. It is about a man coming to grips with who he is, trying to do something with his life. It is a film about taking chances, going with what your gut tells you when everyone else tells you that you’re crazy. Bennet Miller made more than a simple sports drama. He gave us a wonderful testament to human spirit.

2. 50/50

I revisited 50/50 last night and was struck by the thematic importance of human relationships to the story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, who is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. The film examines the ways in which Adam’s cancer effects his relationships with his parents, his girlfriend, and his best friend. It is in the hardest circumstances that our true colors show. 50/50 masterfully maintains the balance between comedy and drama, and never overdoses on either. It is a wonderful film about friendship that I will cherish for years to come.

1. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

Ten years have passsed and we’ve finally reached the end. I was a Potter fan from the start, and will continue to be one until the day I die. It may sound silly to you. Allow me to explain this somewhat unorthodox choice for the best movie of the year. Harry Potter’s adventures defined my childhood, and I was caught up in the magic of J.K. Rowling’s world. I attended midnight releases for both the books and the movies, dressed up in costumes, and hung posters in my room. Harry, Ron, Hermoine were very real and dear to me, their adventures epic. The finale to the Harry Potter franchise was a very emotional experience for me. My childhood was truly at an end. However, on a cinematic level it is also one of the most exciting fantasy adventures I have ever seen. The adventures may be over, but my love for these stories will never die. Mischief managed.

5 Worst Movies of 2011

I was wise enough to avoid films like Jack and Jill and Bucky Larson, but there were still a healthy handful of films that didn’t make the cut. I haven’t walked out of a movie in a while, but these five movies tested my strength.

5. The Sitter

I laughed twice in this movie. Once was because I found a joke slightly funny and felt obligated to laugh. The second time was a laugh of joy that the movie was over and I could leave. The Sitter is a boring, sometimes offensive adventure into joyless territory. As a big fan of Jonah Hill, I was sorely disappointed.

My review.

4. Columbiana

Columbiana is a ridiculously over-the-top action flick that totally lost my interest 15 minutes in. In a scene that had everyone in my showing snickering, a young girl promises her uncle that she will go to school in exchange for training to become an assassin. The action sequences are barely entertaining and a ridiculous script can’t make up for a sexy leading lady.

3. Battle: Los Angeles

If I had a penny for every time this movie entertained me, I’d be broke.

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Point of advice to future screenwriters: don’t fall in love with your first draft. If Michael Bay had employed such a philosophy with Dark of the Moon, maybe we would have had a more engaging first half that was devoid of painfully unfunny performances by John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, and Frances McDormand. Instead, we get an uneventful movie where the actions scenes would have been more impressive had the rest of the movie not been so uninspired.

My review. 

1. Your Highness

The second film of David Gordon Green’s to appear on this list, Your Highness is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a very, very long time. I’m all for crude humor, but only if its funny. There isn’t a single moment in this movie that even comes close to well-executed humor. There aren’t enough negative adjectives to describe this movie. Just steer clear of it.