Playing Catch Up: The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie


The Good Dinosaur (dir by Peter Sohn)

It may be hard to remember this now but, at the beginning of 2015, a lot of film bloggers were very excited about an upcoming film from Pixar Studios.  “This,” they said, “is the film that will remind people why they love Pixar in the first place!  In fact, this might be the first animated film to get a best picture nomination since Toy Story 3!”  Of course, there was another movie from Pixar that was due to come out in 2015 but everyone agreed that movie sounded too weird and silly to be a legitimate contender.  One of the movies would be a huge success and the other would probably be forgotten in a year or two.

And, at the time, everyone was sure that The Good Dinosaur would be the triumph while Inside Out would be the also-ran.

Instead, the exact opposite happened.  Inside Out turned out to be one of the most innovative and charming animated films ever.  Meanwhile, The Good Dinosaur — despite being a financial and critical success — has struggled to escape from Inside Out‘s shadow.

But you know what?  Taken on its own terms, The Good Dinosaur is a likable and entertaining movie.  No, it’s not as good as Inside Out but then again, the same can be said for a lot of good movie that were released in 2015.  Inside Out, of course, is a movie for adults that can still be enjoyed by kids.  The Good Dinosaur is definitely a movie for kids but it’s still visually striking enough that adults can get something out of it as well.

Plotwise, The Good Dinosaur imagines a world in which that meteorite did not strike the Earth and dinosaurs and humans developed next to each other.  A teenage dinosaur — eager to prove that he’s worthy despite being clumsy and easily scared — gets separated from his family and tries to get back to them.  Along the way, he deals with villainous pterodactyls and befriends a human child that he names Spot.  Sadly, the film brings about as much depth to the idea of talking dinosaurs as Pixar previously brought to the idea of talking cars but still, it’s an enjoyable and undeniably effective film.  Unlike Inside Out, it may not be great but it’s definitely good enough.

The Peanuts Movie (dir by Steve Martino)

My sister Erin and I saw The Peanuts Movie when it first opened last November.  As we left the theater, we both agreed that the movie was genuinely sweet and cute but that the ending just didn’t feel right.  Ultimately, we agreed that the ending was just too happy.

I don’t claim to be the world’s biggest expert on the life of Charlie Brown but I do know that he’s been around for nearly 70 years and, in that time, I don’t think he’s ever really had a traditionally happy ending.  From what I’ve seen of his holiday specials, it seems that Charlie is usually fated to end up sitting by himself while snow falls all around him.  And really, that always seemed to be the main appeal of Charlie Brown as a character.  Even though nothing ever goes his way, he never stops trying.  Even though he may sometimes get discouraged, he never gives up.  The Peanuts Movie actually rewards Charlie Brown for his patience and that didn’t quite feel right.

But you know what?  Maybe, after 70 years, Charlie Brown has finally earned the right to have at least one unambiguously positive ending.  The Peanuts Movie was a financial success so I imagine there will be a sequel.  If, during that sequel, Charlie wins a game or kicks that football or gets a kite to fly or actually wears a flattering outfit, it’ll be a problem.  But for now, it’s acceptable and perhaps even appropriate that he finally got to feel good about something at the end of The Peanuts Movie.

As for the rest of the film, it’s a cute homage to the original Peanuts specials.  Despite that happy ending, it remains true to the spirit of its source material and it’s obvious that the filmmakers had a lot of affection for Charlie, Linus, Snoopy, and all the rest.

And yes, Snoopy does steal the entire film.

Was there ever any doubt?

50 Shades of Obsession: The Boy Next Door and Bound


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Okay, I know.  It’s not Valentine’s Day yet.  But it will be soon.  50 Shades of Grey is opening tomorrow and I have a feeling that, come November, there will be hundreds of newborn babies being named Christian and Anastasia.  (And, in a few years, they’ll all have teenage babysitters named Bella…)

However, in case you can’t get into 50 Shades of Grey, here’s two other films that you could possibly watch on Valentine’s Day.  Much like 50 Shades, they both involve a woman having sex with a manipulative sociopath.  The Boy Next Door is still in theaters while Bound has just been released on video.

And they’re both reviewed below!
The-Boy-Next-Door-2015

The Boy Next Door, which was released towards the end of January, was the first film of 2015 that I was really excited about seeing.  That’s not because I thought that the film was going to be any good.  Instead, it was because I literally couldn’t watch any movie on Lifetime without seeing about a dozen commercials for The Boy Next Door.  The commercials promised a lot of cheap thrills and sordid melodrama.

Anyway, my BFF Evelyn and I saw The Boy Next Door on the weekend that it was first released and we had a great time watching it.  Though the film may start slow, it eventually becomes a minor triumph of so-bad-its-good filmmaking.  This is the type of film that you would normally expect to see going straight to cable but, somehow, it managed to get a theatrical release.  Making it all the more fun is the fact that it stars Jennifer Lopez, playing the type of role that you would normally expect to see Jennifer Love Hewitt or Elizabeth Berkley playing in a Lifetime movie.

Jennifer Lopez plays an AP English teacher who has recently separated from her adulterous husband (John Corbett).  When a teenage boy (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door and starts standing naked in front of his bedroom window, can you really be surprised that he and Lopez end up spending one night making torrid love?  Well, unfortunately, Guzman turns out to be a bit obsessive and, when the new school year begins, he suddenly shows up as one of Lopez’s students.  And you can probably guess what happens from there…

As directed by Rob Cohen, there’s really nothing surprising or interesting to be found in The Boy Next Door but we still had a lot of fun watching it, if just because it gave us an excuse to be snarky.  Ryan Guzman was undeniably hot and, wisely, Jennifer Lopez didn’t seem to be taking the film that seriously.  The great Kristin Chenoweth showed up as Lopez’s best friend and the film’s climax was appropriately over the top.

And, three weeks after seeing the film, Evelyn and I are still laughing about the scene where Guzman gives Lopez a gift, a copy of The Illiad.   Looking down at the book, J. Lo says, “Oh!  A first edition!”  Evelyn and I were just like, “Really?  So, that book’s from 760 B.C!?”  Seriously, did the character have a time machine?

Now, that would have made for an interesting movie!

Bound

If, for some reason, you can’t find a theater showing 50 Shades of Grey this weekend, I would suggest instead watching the Asylum’s mockbuster version, Bound.  

(Personally, I would have titled the film 50 Shades of Charisma but anyway…)

In Bound, Charisma Carpenter plays Michelle, a real estate broker who has an unsatisfying sex life and who finds herself regularly being bullied by her boss (Daniel Baldwin).  However, Michelle then meets Ryan (Bryce Draper), who is young, handsome, rich, and very much into domination  He even has a red room in his mansion where…

Oh wait, does this sound familiar?

Okay, so Bound pretty much tells the same story as 50 Shades of Grey but there are a few significant differences.  A big one is that, as played by Carpenter, Michelle is a much stronger character than Anastasia Steele.  For one thing, she’s not an innocent and naive girl being introduced to sex for the first time by a charming sociopath.  Instead, she’s significantly older than Ryan, which also brings an interesting dynamic to the film.  Michelle’s not a virgin, she doesn’t say things like “jeez” or “oh my,” and she’s capable of getting aroused without obsessing about what her inner goddess is doing as a result.  And, while her relationship with Ryan does head in a similar direction as Anastasia’s relationship with Christian Grey, Michelle never seems weak as a result.  Instead, she’s experimenting and there’s no way you can’t root for her as you watch the movie.

(Ryan, meanwhile, is ultimately portrayed as being the type of manipulative sociopath that Christian Grey would be in real life.)

Perhaps my favorite part of the film was Michelle’s relationship with her teenage daughter, Dara (Morgan Oberender).  The two actresses play off each other well and, from the minute they first interacted, I believed that they could be mother and daughter.  They’re relationship felt real and, as a result, you cared about both of them and found yourself hoping that things would work out for the best.  And, as a result, it made one of the film’s final plot twists feel very immediate and real.

Bound is the type of film that will be (and has been) dismissed by a lot of mainstream critics but it deserves more consideration than it’s been given.

Trailer: The Boy Next Door


So, January is coming up and as a film lover, you already know what that means.  Along with at least one movie featuring Liam Neeson killing people, we’re all going to get a slew of really bad films that the studios and stars are hoping no one will notice.

That said, sometimes a January film can prove to be good, trashy fun.  That’s certainly what I’m hoping will be the case with The Boy Next Door.  I have to admit that I was not even aware that there was an upcoming movie called The Boy Next Door until earlier tonight.  My sister Megan and I spent four hours watching Lifetime and, every 15 minutes or so, they showed a commercial for The Boy Next Door.

As for the movie itself, it would appear to have a few things to recommend it.  First off, the great Kristin Chenoweth appears to be playing Jennifer Lopez’s undoubtedly sassy best friend.  Secondly, it looks like there will be at least a few minutes of soft-focus, saxophone-themed sex and that’s always a good sign for those of us who like our January films to be just a little bit over-the-top and ludicrous.  Finally, the entire trailer reminded me of the trailer for another trashy film that I happen to have really enjoyed, The House At The End of the Street.*

On the negative side — well, it’s coming out in January.  You know what else came out in January?  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.  Consider that.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for The Boy Next Door!

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* a.k.a. The Cleavage At The End of The Street, as my friend Evelyn renamed it.