Here’s The Super Bowl Teaser for Toy Story 4!

Right after the game ended, PIXAR snuck in this little teaser for Toy Story 4.  I have to admit that I nearly changed the channel and missed it.  I’m glad I didn’t!

Anyway, it looks like Buzz is still getting into trouble and Woody is still trying to hold it all together.  To be honest, I thought Toy Story 3 ended the series on a perfect note so I’ll be curious to see what they do with Toy Story 4.  But you know what?  It’s PIXAR and it’s Toy Story so I have faith!

Cars 3 Extended Sneak Peek

It’s been 11 years since Disney/Pixar released Cars. The audience has grown up, and from the looks of it, the story tied to Cars 3 is trying to grow with them. Another trailer was recently released, this time featuring Lightning McQueen’s (Owen Wilson) new nemesis, the ultra modern rookie sensation Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). It also introduces Cruz Ramirez, another character that appears to be a new trainer for McQueen. Most of the favorites will also be returning for this installment. Lightning is now standing in the same spot as the legendary Doc Hudson when he first met him. Is Lightning finally at the twilight of his career, or does have one more good race left in him?

Brian Fee, who’s worked on the other Cars films as well as a number of other Pixar projects , gets to sit in the Director’s chair this time around. I just hope it’s as dark as Toy Story 3.

Disney/Pixar also released a profile trailer, showing off some of the new characters.

Lightning McQueen:

Jackson Storm:

Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo):

Film Review: Finding Dory (dir by Andrew Stanton)


Finding Dory, the latest film from Pixar, tells the story of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a regal blue tang (for our readers in Vermont, that’s a fish) who suffers from short-term memory loss.  You may remember her from Pixar’s previous movie about fish, Finding Nemo.  In that movie, she helped a clownfish named Marlin (Albert Brooks) find his son, Nemo (voiced, in Finding Dory, by Hayden Rolence).  In the sequel, it’s Marlin and Nemo who are now helping Dory to find her parents.

Dory has spent years searching for her parents.  Of course, it would be easier if she didn’t suffer from short-term memory loss.  It seems that every time she sets out to track her parents down, she ends up getting distracted and forgets what she was doing.  However, while helping to teach a class about migration, Dory has a sudden flashback to her parents (voiced, quite charmingly, by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton).  She sets out once again, determined to find her parents.  This time, Marlin and Nemo are accompanying her.  As Dory continually frets, she’s can’t do it alone because she can’t remember directions.

Though her memories are fuzzy and her flighty nature leads to some conflict with Marlin (who is just as cautious and overprotective of Nemo as he was in the first film), Dory eventually finds her way to where her parents were last seen.  And, in doing so, Dory discovers that she and her parents originally lived at a water park, the California Marine Life Institute.

(One of my favorite parts of the film is that apparently, Sigourney Weaver recorded several greetings and other messages that are played continuously over the Institute’s PA system.  “Hello, I’m Sigourney Weaver and welcome to the Marine Life Institute.”  Dory becomes convinced that Sigourney Weaver is some sort of God-like being who is leaving personal messages for her.  At one point, Dory exclaims, “A friend of mine, her name’s Sigourney, once told me that all it takes is three simple steps: rescue, rehabilitation, and um… one other thing?”)

Since this is a Pixar movie, Dory meets the usual collection of oddball and outcast sealife at the Institute, all of whom help her out while overcoming their own insecurities, providing properly snarky commentary, and hopefully bringing a tear or two to the eyes of even the most jaded of viewers.  Finding Dory is full of familiar voices, everyone from Idris Elba to Bill Hader to Kate McKinnon.  But, for me, the most memorable of all the voices (with the exception of Ellen DeGeneres herself) was Ed O’Neill’s.  O’Neill brought Hank, the bitter but ultimately good-hearted seven-legged octopus, to poignant life.  I imagine that, should there be another sequel, it will be called Finding Hank.

Finding Dory continues the annual tradition of Pixar films making me cry.  Finding Dory is an incredibly sweet and truly heartfelt movie but, at the same time, it’s also an extremely witty comedy.  This is one of those Pixar films where the joy comes not only from looking at the amazing animation but also from listening to truly clever dialogue being delivered by some of the best voice actors around.  DeGeneres does such a great job bringing Dory to life that, as the movie ended, my first instinct was to run out and buy a regal blue tang of my very own.  But then I read an article on Wikipedia, which explained why I shouldn’t do that.

(Basically, blue tangs may look cute but they have big, scary spikes that can cut up your hand.  As well, they don’t do well in captivity.  So, if you’re planning on getting a Dory of your very own, you might be better off just rewatching this movie…)

It’ll make you laugh.  It’ll make you cry.  Finding Dory is another great film from Pixar.

Pixar Does It Again With Inside Out

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterInside Out is the latest brilliant film from Pixar’s Pete Docter and it will remind you why you fell in love with Pixar in the first place.

There are no talking cars or lovable monsters in Inside Out.  Instead, it’s the story of a very normal 12 year-old girl named Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias).  Or rather, it’s the story of what goes on in her head.  For most of the movie, Riley deals with experiences to which we can all relate: she moves to a new city, she struggles to relate to her well-meaning parents (voiced by Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane), and she tries to fit in at a new school.  Inside Out is a film about the small moments of life and how they all add up to create a bigger picture.

What sets Inside Out apart is the way that it tells its deceptively simple story.  Inside Out takes place almost entirely inside of Riley’s brain.  And it turns out that her mind is gigantic wonderland, one that is so big and complex that not even the characters who live there quite understand how it all works.  Bing Bong (Richard Kind), a pink half-elephant, half-cat, half-dolphin creature, spends his time wandering through the halls of memory and mournfully thinking back to when he was Riley’s imaginary friend.  Whenever Riley goes to sleep, the actors and directors at Dream Productions film a different nightly movie.  Meanwhile, Imagination Land is a fun place to visit but not a good place in which to live and past childhood traumass — like a gigantic stalk of broccoli and a terrifying birthday clown — are locked away deep in Riley’s subconscious, where they are guarded by officious policemen.   Zigzagging through this mental landscape is the literal Train of Thought.

And then, above it all, there’s Headquarters.  This is where five different emotions take turns “steering” Riley through life.  Fear (Bill Hader) is always nervous but, at the same time, keeps Riley safe.  Disgust (Mindy Kaling) prevents Riley from eating broccoli and hanging out with the wrong crowd.  Sadness, meanwhile, hasn’t had much to do over the past 12 years and, as a result, she spends most of her time standing in a corner and feeling … well, sad.  Sadness is voiced by Phyllis Smith, best known for playing Meredith on The Office.  Smith proves herself here to be a strong and empathetic voice artist.

Their unquestioned leader is Joy (Amy Poehler).  As befits her name and job, Joy is always positive, always upbeat, and always optimistic.  For 12 years, Joy has been in charge of steering Riley’s life but that all changes when Riley and her family move to San Francisco.  Suddenly, Joy finds it more difficult to keep Riley permanently happy.  Memories that were formerly color-coded yellow for happy start to turn blue.

When both Joy and Sadness are accidentally expelled from the Headquarters, it’s up to the three remaining emotions to try to keep Riley well-balanced until they can return.  However, the journey back up to the Headquarters is a long and dangerous one, full of some of the most imaginative (and metaphorical) imagery in Pixar’s history.  Joy and Sadness will have to work together to make it.

And really, that’s what makes Inside Out so special.  It’s the rare family film that acknowledges that allowing ourselves to feel sad is often as important as being happy.

Inside Out is a brilliant coming-of-age story and one of the best films of the year.  It’s a film that will make you laugh and cry and will remind you of why you fell in love with Pixar in the first place.  Kids will love the humor and adults … well, adults will probably be trying to hold back the tears.

What a great film!

Thank you, Pixar.

Lisa Marie Gets Brave (dir. by Mark Andrews)

I want to make one thing very clear before I start this review:


Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

2011 was something of a disappointing year for me because it was the year that I discovered that the people at Pixar Studios are as fallible as any other filmmaker.  Cars 2 was cute but, ultimately, rather forgettable and it was the first Pixar movie that failed to move me tears.  Certainly, Cars 2 was not a terrible film but, when it comes to Pixar, moviegoers just naturally expect more and it was difficult to watch those expectations dashed.

Well, last night, I saw this year’s offering from Pixar, a little film called Brave. I’m happy to say that Pixar has redeemed itself from Cars 2.  I loved Brave.  It not only kept me entertained but it made me cry as well.  In short, Brave is a film that earns its place in the Pixar library.

Set in a beautifully animated version of the Scottish highlands, Brave tells the story of Merida (voiced, quite brilliantly, by Kelly MacDonald), the red-haired daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).  Merida takes after her extroverted, stubborn father and can’t understand why her refined mother isn’t as enthusiastic as Merida is about things like archery, hunting, and exploring the wilderness. 

When Merida finds that, by tradition, she is to be married off to the first-born son of one of the kingdom’s three lords, she devises a plan to prove just how unfair this practice is to her.  She announces that the winner of an Archery competition shall be her suitor,  However, during the actual competition, Merida announces that she will compete “for her own hand” and proceeds to out-shoot all three of her moronic suitors.  After an argument with an enraged Elinor, Merida flees the castle in tears. 

Merida eventually meets a witch (voiced in perfect busy-body style by Julie Walters) who offers to cast a spell that will change Elinor.  Merida impulsively agrees and then returns to the castle where Elinor is eventually transformed into a gigantic bear.

I have to admit that Brave nearly lost me when Elinor turned into that bear.  Pixar’s trademark has always been that they make animated films that feel like live-action films and Elinor’s transformation felt almost too predictably cartoonish.  However, as close as the film came to losing me at that moment, the important thing is that it didn’t.  That’s due to both the impeccable animation (which managed to give the bear some very recognizable Elinor-like facial expressions) and the strength of Kelly MacDonald’s  vocal performance, which brings a true sense of reality to a very unreal situation.

(Perhaps my favorite moment was when Merida hastily explained to her three younger brothers, “Mum’s turned into a bear but it’s not my fault!”  That’s exactly the same thing I would have said if I had been responsible for turning my mom into a bear.  And yes, I have to admit that as a stubborn redhead, I very much identified with Merida throughout the entire film.)

Merida and the Elinor Bear flee from the castle (and from King Fergus who doesn’t know that the bear is actually Elinor and who is known as the Bear-killer) and start to bond as Merida tries to find a way to turn Elinor back into a human being.  It was here that Brave turned into a rather emotional experience for me and it didn’t take long for the tears to come.  (What’s a Pixar film without plenty of tears?)  So much of Brave hit home for me, from Merida’s desire to be independent to her complicated relationship with her mom and the fear and regret that she feels when she realizes that she might lose her mom forever.  Like the best fairy tales, Brave uses a fantastic situation to tell a story about some very basic and simple human truths. 

Whenever you review an animated film, there always seems to be one question that has to be answered: will boring old adults get as much out of the film as kids?  Well, I know that I certainly enjoyed it but I’m not sure if I’m ready to admit to being an adult.  The main thing to remember about Brave is that it’s not Toy Story 3 and it’s not Up.  At the same time, it’s not Cars 2 either.  Instead, it’s a heartfelt film for kids (and girls, especially) that won’t transform adults into bears. 

Finally, I have to note that between Brave and the Hunger Games, 2012 is turning out to be a pretty good year for girl power.  For once, we’re actually seeing films where girls can be heroes without being cast as either emotionally damaged refugees (like in the David Fincher version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) or as perpetual virgins just waiting for the right man to come along and give their life meaning (like in just about every other movie that comes out of Hollywood).  This is a good trend and I hope it continues.