Forget what you know about the story of "Pinocchio," and then please, please, PLEASE forget about the recent Disney+ live-action remake from earlier this year.
I entered the theater thinking to myself: Is this what we need, another Pinocchio movie?
I left the theater, shocked and elated that I had just seen without a doubt one of my top overall (animated or otherwise) movies of 2022.
They don't come any sweeter than "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On," a stop-motion, animated feature-film about a friendly shell, named Marcel, who is trying to be reunited with his family after becoming separated from them.
Review: 'Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank' a blazing samurai story puts Mel Brooks back in the saddle
If you don't already love Mel Brooks, first off, what the hell is wrong with you? I'm not sure we can even be friends. One of the few living legends of Hollywood, Mel Brooks is both featured and revered in the new absurd yet hilarious family animated offering, "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank." It's an absolute gas - especially for those that know and love Mel Brooks, specifically his iconic 1974 spoof, "Blazing Saddles," a movie that could never, ever be made today. Or if it was, it would end up looking a lot like "Paws of Fury."
The genius of "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank," is that the creators have managed to essentially remake what is now considered to be a "politically incorrect" classic, under the guise of a simple kiddie flick, and miraculously, it works for both children and adults alike. It's subversive, but comes with a positive message of inclusion. It's risky (trust me) but includes lots of laughs for young ones.
It's a surprise, but "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" is one of the funniest movies of the year, one of the best animated films of the year, and is one of the best new IPs (intellectual properties) that has come along in several years (considering the characters and the world that is created).
And oh yeah, it also features Mel Brooks who lends his voice to one of the characters.
Two new films are on Netflix as of July 8th, and both are recommended! Read on for quick takes on each of Netflix's "The Sea Beast" and "Persuasion."
"Lightyear" is now the 26 feature animated film to come out of Pixar Studios. The brand still represents the cream of the crop when it comes to animation, and while many of its titles have lived up to the reputation in both style and story, some have not...and when a Pixar movie doesn't land, it has quite often been a sequel or a spin-off (while Toy Story 2, 3 and 4 all delivered, many other sequels - like the Cars movies, "Finding Dory" or "Monsters University," have not).
"Lightyear" is the first feature-film to be spun-off of the original Pixar gem, "Toy Story." It's apparently the movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy in the first place (which is why this Buzz is voiced by Captain America himself, Chris Evans, and not Tim Allen who has voiced every toy incarnation of the space-travelling hero). It's a beautifully-rendered piece of animation that once again pushes animation forward, which is a stellar feat considering that it feels at this point like we've seen it all. But unlike several of Pixar's best films that contain deeper meaning, or powerful messages for kids and grown-ups alike, "Lightyear" is a bit muddled and "light" on nuance.
Still, as space adventures go, "Lightyear" is a crowd-pleaser, and probably lands somewhere in the upper-middle of the Pixar pack of films.
It will take a bit of nuance to understand my take on the new "Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers" movie (coming to Disney+ on Friday, May 20th).
Is this new movie funny? Oh absolutely (my wife and I actually had to stop the screener at one point during a "terrible rap" that the characters were doing, because we were laughing so hard). So if you're looking for laughs and laughs alone, this one might be for you.
But whatever it is, this is not a "Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers" movie, even if it proclaims to be. Those are not the characters that many 90s kids fell in love with, and in fact, there is nothing at all recognizable from the TV show's spirit or overall vibe. And if you were a fan of Chip n Dale prior to the "Rescue Rangers," (the characters appeared in just 23 animated shorts, debuting in 1943 and continuing into the mid 1950s), well, that history is completely and utterly discarded.
No, this version is a satire aimed squarely at adults, albeit adults that grew up watching the TV show (debuting back in 1989, its three-season run from 1990-1993 as part of Disney's afternoon line-up was how most Gen-Xers came to know of it). At it's core, it's a generic buddy-comedy, with story beats so worn-out that its almost shocking that this was the direction the filmmakers decided to go in. It's dressed up WONDERFULLY with Easter Eggs galore, which make the time spent in this world a fun-filled trip down memory lane for those with eagle-eyes or access to a pause button...
...and yet, it's as hollow as some of the uncanny-valley characters that we're introduced to.
And call it what you will, but it's DEFINITELY not a movie about the Rescue Rangers, not the ones that we've come to know and love, nor is it about those two cuddly and fast-talking anamorphic chipmunk brothers that many of us grew up with.
That makes it a disappointment.
Squandering a premise that seems ripe for fun and laughter, "The Bad Guys" is about as bad as you can get.
Yes, kids for the most part will watch anything. But don't they - and we adults - deserve more than uninspired, generic dreck?
Using a similar animation technique that he did on some of past films (like "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly"), Richard Linklater takes us on a nostalgia-fueled trip down memory lane, in one of the best films of this young year, "Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood."
It masquerades as a story about the moon landing, but it's really a celebration of a different time, back when the future looked hopeful, and a child's mind - as well as an adult's - could still be filled with wonder.
It's too bad that Pixar's latest charmer "Turning Red" is being sent straight to Disney+. This totally unique and diverse tale is the sort of family film that would tremendously help out the sagging domestic box office still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.
There has been buzz about "Turning Red" being too narrowly focused, and I don't think this is an inaccurate criticism, with context. It's just a bit of a sexist accusation that this is being aimed at a movie about a young teenage girl dealing with the realities of puberty and family pressures...we almost never would hear a film about any other topic be categorized as "too narrowly focused" or "unrelatable" by the majority of middle-aged, white and male film critics (yes, of which I am one).
I've never fought in war, or lived in the sixties, or have been to outer-space, and I've also never thought that films in any of these genres have somehow been "unrelatable" simply because they aren't my exact experience. Heck, the entire pull of movies for me is that it allows for empathy for those that are NOT like me.
If you're still not convinced that "Turning Red" is only for women, Asian-Americans, or some other prescribed demographic? Look no further than my five-year-old son, who watched "Turning Red" and despite some of the content flying well-over his head (unrelatable!), he was quick to declare it as his new favorite movie...ever!
"Encanto" is Disney's 60th full-length animated feature, and one of the only ones to not feature a typical "villain." It works, instead centering on the idea of family and community, drawing its drama out of a young girl's inward exploration of how exactly she fits into her eccentric family.
Anyone with a family (dysfunctional or functional) will relate to the themes of "Encanto," and while it feels different than most other Disney animated films, it's another successful entry into the studio's massive canon of films that will appeal to the young and old alike...and is also a wondrous celebration of Colombian culture.
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