Up (2009) Review

RATING: 4.5/5

A grumpy old man’s dream of fulfilling his deceased wife’s dream is overcome with many obstacles that gradually bring life into him.

A movie that brings in the feels for sure.

The opening, needs no introduction. Everybody had talked about how perfect it was and, yes, it was perfect. As far as the visual storytelling accompanied by the music, it was all done superbly well. Even with no dialogue, one got an immense grasp of the emotions being brought forward from the life of Carl and Ellie. It was during the sequence that one could understand clearly the reasoning for Carl’s motivations and why he wanted to go above and beyond to fulfill a promise.

The concepts alone were quite imaginary and original. Sure, a house being lifted by thousands of balloons is virtually impossible. But, it did make the film fun to look with its bright colors and gorgeous cinematography. Whenever the house was floating graciously in the clouds or when Carl/Russel were walking the house, the imagery would be amazing.

Outside of the house, the film had very nice cinematography and visuals. Especially whenever the Venezuelan environment was showcased or when the “Spirit of Adventure” blimp was revealed.

As said prior, Carl was a great character with understandable motivations and the arc he went through flowed smoothly. The rest of the cast did pretty good too. There was quite a bit of back and forth parallels. Carl never had a child and had a difficult time with handling Russel. Russel doesn’t spend time with his father and had a difficult time having a male figure in his life, guiding/caring for him. Muntz represented the dark half of Carl. Just like with Carl for two-thirds of the movie, Muntz was a man with a burning passion and he wanted so badly to fulfill a promise.

Composer Michael Giacchino nailed it. Without him, the film probably wouldn’t have worked as well as selling the teary emotions. The tracks that sold the most were whenever Carl was on-screen solo. Tracks such as “Married Life,” “Carl Goes Up,” & “Stuff We Did,” were memorable and classic pieces.

So what’s keeping me from giving this a perfect rating? Well there were a couple things.

For one, the film wasn’t humorous for me. A lot of times I would be chuckling, but there wasn’t a time where I would burst. The “humorous” segments were more cute than anything. Like Kevin’s antics, the Alpha dog having a chipmunk voice, the dogs flying mini-airplanes, was all cute but nothing worth laughing heavily on.

I do wish there was something more with Muntz. This was the man or source of inspiration behind Carl’s character and reasoning for going to Angel Falls. It would have been interesting if there was some kind of conflict revolving around this.

One thing I completely forgot and stunned me was the fact this Pixar film showcased blood as clear as day. Something that prior films did very little and something that the later films hardly did. Quite a risk for Disney on their part, but it’s something I welcome.

Such a great film, not just in the Pixar line-up, but animations as a whole. It was a film that showcased how one shouldn’t be so wrapped up in the past and how they should simply live life to the fullest. Even if one can’t fulfil their lifelong dream, that shouldn’t stop them in the present. One should enjoy life the way that makes them happy.

If you haven’t seen it, drop what you’re doing. It had strong performances, great visuals, well done cinematography, memorable music, and above all else, it’s an emotional story that everyone should see to get a lift in life.

YouTube: LoneCentric Pictures/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: lone_centric/tk_theater

Wall-E (2008) Review

RATING: 4/5

A small, compactor robot gets a visit from a female robot from a ship light-years away. The robot pursues her on a space-faring journey through the stars.

The first half of the movie, from the opening credits to when Wall-E reached the Axiom ship, was superb. Everything from the mood, setting, interactions, music, and the little dialogue portrayed, was handled so well.

As the film started, one was given an introduction to the planet Earth, while the song “Put on your Sunday Clothes” plays. Shortly one was introduced to Wall-E. He was an enjoyable character throughout. He was clumsy and na├»ve at times, but he was always pushing to thrive what he wanted, even if it meant losing his life. Wall-E always wanted to keep hope alive. As seen when he was residing in his living quarters or interacting with past Earth objects. A great design by the way. I love how it took inspirations from real-life rovers and turned it into something plausible.

I loved the scene where Wall-E was rolling through the trashy ruins of Earth. A great introduction and at the same time, a nice way for one to think of the situations that came into play to cause Earth to be like it was depicted. Even with the promo ad of B&L popping up, speculation was still there as to how Wall-E was the last of his kind cleaning up the trash. But still, it gave a healthy amount of what happened, how it happened, and what the end result was.

Once EVE dropped down on Earth, the adorable and cute factors were cranked up. The interactions between Wall-E and EVE were handled well throughout the movie. It placed a smile on one’s face when one saw Wall-E showcasing EVE his crib or when the two were harmoniously dancing around the Axiom ship. There was something about their relationship that felt really special and magical. I liked the moment when EVE lit the lighter, signifying a spark for Wall-E that she was definitely the one.

The music in the first half was great. Utilizing songs from the 60s musical “Hello, Dolly!,” added a sense of wonder and heartwarming charm. They were handled greatly whenever it was used in the opening credits with the space in the background or when Wall-E and EVE were sharing a moment. Other tracks too like “La Vie En Rose” or “Define Dancing,” deserve a highlight.

One of the main benefits of the first half was there being little dialogue. The film was mainly visual storytelling, which was something that really stands apart from other Pixar films. It wasn’t boring in the least. It was vastly entertaining and one can easily mute the picture to tell what was happening based on the characters interactions or their personalities/expressions. Having little words helped in one getting sucked into the world and to be invested in the characters in a fine, flowing manner.

While the first half hit all the right notes, the second half sadly was when things took a turn. The moment Wall-E reached the Axiom, the movie doesn’t quite reached the levels the first half garnered.

On one hand, the social commentary on how things such as advertising and technology impacting humanity was nice to witness. I liked the aspect of how us people can be so accustomed to the digital screens that once they’re removed, one saw a whole new world. I wish it was executed a bit better as there were times where it didn’t make sense for some of the people to not know about the things available on the ship, but others do. I wish it could have explored a little more of the concepts or maybe do something more with the humans detaching themselves from technology.

Another contradiction was EVE’s directive. She wanted to seek/prove that Earth was still habitable, yet Wall-E’s roach friend wasn’t enough for her to realize that.

A vast majority of the supporting characters don’t leave an impact as they were bland or uninteresting, especially the main villain. I mean something about the villain not seeing the plant as evidence confused me greatly. Some of the designs of the robots were neat. I will say the only character in the second half I did kind of liked was the Captain. He did make me chuckle from time to time.

The only saving graces from the second half were the scenes involving Wall-E himself or Wall-E/EVE.

“Wall-E,” with its first half, was exceptional. If the entire film kept that same mood, atmosphere, and direction, it surely could have been one of the best Pixar films. If not the best. Still, regarding the film as a whole, it was a great viewing pleasure. It delivered enough heart and uplift to make one feel deeply for the two main characters and their journey to the end. The second half had its moments of joy and comedy definitely and it doesn’t hamper the film drastically. “Wall-E” is still certainly worth seeing.

YouTube: LoneCentric Pictures

Instagram: lone_centric/tk_theater

The Polar Express (2004) Review

RATING: 2.5/5

A doubtful little boy hops aboard a train ride to the North Pole to wonder if the mythical Christmas icon himself exists.

Some deem it as a Christmas classic, while others say it is rather dated and very standard with its delivery. For me, the latter seems more appropriate.

The visuals and effects were mixed across the board. Around the time of its release, it was deemed revolutionary with the film’s reliance on motion-capture. Though honestly, 16 years after, it did not age well. The expressions shown by the characters didn’t look convincing and sometimes it can be rather creepy if the camera held onto a face for extended periods. Funny to think Pixar films such as “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” and “The Incredibles,” which that one was released the same year, had CGI models that emoted way better than the “realistic-depiction” that this was trying to replicate. Goes to show that better, isn’t always better.

With the rest of the visuals, they can be nice, detailed, and beautiful at times. The snow sparkling in the forest, the Northern Lights, the detail on the train, etc. The cinematography at times can be very good. Especially at times whenever its following a certain person or object of interest. It would follow the subject wherever it would go from A to B.

There were two main settings, the Polar Express and the North Pole. One was shown fine, while the other was majorly disappointing. The North Pole was the one that appeared decent. I’m all for seeing different interpretations and this wasn’t too bad with its city of elves. There were buildings, a large globe with t.v sets showing the kids of the world, and a present-making factory which led to the sled drop-zone. The operations of getting the sled with the presents lifted in the air and carrying it was cool seeing.

The other setting, the one which this movie was named after, was not good. When it came to the train operations, I wish one could have gotten to see more. We got to see the dancing hot chocolate chefs, the engineers, and a glimpse or two of the other cars of the train, but that was it. The film was more focused on the main boy and his two friends. One doesn’t get perspectives from the other kids. The best example was the intense rollercoaster scene. The movie tells what happened after, rather than shows during. Thus making the journey feel hollow.

The lack of depth continues with the characters. The children were the ones I have the most problem with, as they either ranged from bland or annoying. I would say the adults were the most enjoyable, they brought the most life in the film. Primarily the Conductor and the Hobo. Both of whom played by Tom Hanks who did a pretty good job.

As far as comparing the movie with the book, the movie definitely placed scenes in here that either benefited some or dragged the experience down. I mean I understand the filmmakers needed to add more substance seeing that the book was only 32 pages. Like I said, adding substance to the train operations was a good idea. But there needed to be a lot more of it. I mean the kids were given a couple cups of hot chocolate and no food, come on. The main kid having doubts and questions about whether or not everything he had seen was real, was executed blandly. The world-building of the North Pole was nice. The Hobo was a fun character and it did raise questions on who exactly he was. The film placed some background info on that Billy character, as opposed to the more crucial ones. Not for the main one which the film started with. The action scenes were nicely done, but I could see how they might have been there to spice up the source material onto the screen. In terms of differentiating from the book, I say it wasn’t handled too well. Some new elements got to shine more than the other new elements.

Pacing and editing was an issue at times. Like when the Conductor was punching the tickets in a matter of seconds. The nerdy kid in some way getting to reach the three main kids to the pile of presents faster. I mentioned before the camera tracking of certain objects was cool, but what exactly does it add? Is it to show the visually nice scenery of the woods or the Arctic? Is it to boast on the film’s technical and “revolutionary” achievements (for the time)? Also the odds of that ticket flying back to the train, with all of the mess it went through, is astronomical.

A couple times there were musical pieces, The hot chocolate one was kind of pointless. Billy’s singing was a heart-warming one. When it came to the rest of the sounds of the movie, it was decent. It for sure did the best at immersing one in the environment.

Being an achievement in the technology used in the production, can only get one so far. There were good merits. At times it felt like a Christmas epic, with the various, nice-looking locations and environments shown. The substance thrown in here, to add to the original source material, worked in some areas but wasn’t expanded upon in the others. Resulting in a Christmas classic that could have been really special if the potential was fully reached.

YouTube: LoneCentric Productions/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Review

RATING: 4.5/5

Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, grows bored and tiresome of Halloween. To a point where a comforting, warm-hearted, and jolly makeover is in need.

Revisiting this classic from my youth was something special.

A perfect example of a musical that I like. Generally I’m not a fan, but if the songs work, then I’m along for the ride like this film. The songs sung, what I can say, many of the tracks are upright classics. From “This is Halloween,” “What’s This,” “Poor Jack,” “Kidnap the Sandy Claws,” and of course, “Oogie Boogie’s Song.” Each track was catchy and memorable in their own way. One would be singing along with the tunes during and after the film that’s for sure. They delivered the right tone and emotion for the scene it was incorporated in. Composer Danny Elfman brought it home when he came in singing.

In terms of visuals, there was so much stuff to awe and ooo over. It was simply fascinating to look at the distorted and macabre scenery, the multitude of characters, and to be amazed by the gorgeous, fluid stop-motion. The moment when Jack was walking on Spiral Hill, with the immense moon shining in the background, was an iconic shot. Other eye-popping scenes were Boogie’s lair and Christmas Town. Everything felt alive. One couldn’t look away for their was so much flavor and style. Especially in the montage sequence of Jack’s presents terrorizing the families.

As mentioned the film boasted impressive scenery, which that impressiveness transcends onto the unique look of the characters. The People of Halloween Town had their own memorable quirk and cool design to make one stand out amongst the others. There was Sally, the Mayor, the Vampires, the zombie baby (Braindead reference possibly), Zero the ghost dog, the orange/black python, the werewolf, the town band, the trick o’ treaters, etc. A vast sea of characters.

The best two in my opinion, were Jack and Boogie. They stole the camera. They had the best music and best character moments. Boogie’s time was short, but incredibly sweet. His cool design and the way he carried himself with his flamboyant and sinister vibes make up for the screen time. Jack, was the character, who owned the film. His development from A to B was understood clearly. A being stuck doing the same routine on annually basis. He wanted to change things up badly. While his attempts and ideas were there, his execution brought him down. But in the end, he was thankful of what he done and him being what he’s famous for, was the only thing he was good of. Jack was proud of what he tried to accomplish, which one can respect. If a person did try something new and it doesn’t favor them in the end, they can say in the end at least they put in the effort in doing something different.

Granted the movie was extremely easy to follow. Easy to a point where one would definitely say, including me, the film was basic and not allowing any form of depth. Again it is and maybe I could have wanted a notch more clarity in the world and the characters. Though I think the simplicity was needed. It’s a basic story that had the capability of resonating with lots of people. The whole experience felt like watching a children’s fairy tale. Now with that, I’m not saying this film was mainly meant for kids. It can be for everyone. Plus, what are the odds of watching a movie that can be watched on two holidays? That’s extremely rare and it was nailed perfectly. The juxtaposition made things even more enjoyable to watch.

You know after watching this, I had no idea Santa Claus was called “Sandy Claws” by the people of Halloween Town. Also, when is there going to be another time where Santa shouts out “Happy Halloween.”

A Halloween and Christmas movie classic. It had very nice visuals, memorable music, gorgeous stop-motion, and a basic, yet very satisfying story with nice characters. Tim Burton was a favorite of mine as a child and it felt so good to revisit him. With talks of a sequel, I’m not sure if I want one. It’s best to leave this film alone. If one hasn’t seen it, watch it now. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!

Happy Holidays to all!

YouTube: LoneCentric Pictures/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic