MOVIE REVIEW: Paddington 2

PADDINGTON 2 (2018)


GOING IN

In 2014, a movie based on a children’s book about a talking bear who is discovered in Peru and moves to modern-day London, became an overwhelmingly positive critical success. I’d never have bet on this happening. But it did, and so much so that the British live-action/CGI hit has spawned a sequel. Paddington was recognized for being a warm-hearted family-friendly adventure full of charm, wit, and with a playful sense of humor. It was also filled with gags that made it just plain fun, and my family is excited to see where the immigrant bear’s story goes from here.

1 Hour and 43 Minutes Later.


COMING OUT

Rarely does a film so exceed my expectations that I’m left with a feeling of awe, but my face literally almost broke into pieces from the immensity of my smile as I sat watching one of the most perfect post-credit scenes I’ve ever witnessed follow-up a film so adorable that I wanted to hug it, then see it again immediately. The word awesome may be overused and have a wide range of application, but when expanded to its full definition of something that is “extremely impressive; inspiring great admiration”, it applies perfectly to Paddington 2.

Now with the origin story out of the way, director Paul King is able to show us what Paddington’s every day life in London is like with the Brown family. It still requires some suspension of disbelief to see humans interacting with a talking bear as if it’s routine, but it doesn’t take long to start feeling the joy that Paddington is bringing into the lives of everyone he interacts with and accept him for who he is, and not how he looks. Watching the Brown’s operate as a family is particularly sweet, and each member has their own personal issue of identity that they are dealing with in some manner. Each of these is introduced briefly and King’s ability to pay off each individual family member’s struggle while maintaining a balance of character focus throughout the film is a triumph. As for Paddington, he simply wants to find the best present possible for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, and due to a bad case of wrong place/wrong time he ends up in the most unlikely of places… prison. The rest of the plot takes everyone on whimsical adventures, complete with treasure hunting, plenty of detective work, and hijinks on a train. The film has plenty to say about being yourself, having manners, and looking for the good in others, but it is never distracting and rather genuinely uplifting.

Along Paddington’s journey, one of the characters he meets is former star actor turned dog food salesman Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Phoenix wants what Paddington wants and serves as the villain of the film, and boy oh boy is Grant having the time of his life in this role. It’s impossible not to smile and laugh constantly because Grant’s performance evokes these involuntary reactions at every turn. While he doesn’t have the kind of Oscar-worthy moment that is thought of when awards are handed out for best acting work, his consistent greatness in playing this character perfectly should not be overlooked. Also hitting a home run with his performance as Knuckles McGinty, a prison cook, is Brendan Gleeson. McGinty and Paddington enter into a unique sort of friendship that is as much gut-busting fun as it is soft and caring. Paddington is the kind of bear who always looks on the bright side, after all, bringing people together and making the best of whatever situation he is in, and McGinty and the other prisoners find it as hard to resist his unrelenting kindness as audiences do his charm.

All of this is well and good, but what truly raises Paddington 2 to greatness is that it’s not just a wonderful family-friendly story full of laughter and smiles, but also a technical marvel. The blending of live-action and CGI work is really special, never once being noticeable or feeling out of place. The cinematography is always fantastic and often striking with vivid color. Many times I was reminded of Wes Anderson’s work, particularly in The Grand Budapest Hotel, by the way in which a variation of angles were used to frame characters and scenes in interesting ways (usually centered). That color, though, bursting off the screen as if it was alive, added so much to the overall joy of the experience and was a treat for the eyes.

VERDICT

Shocking as it may be to read this early in the year, Paddington 2 is a truly wonderful film that will stand as one of 2018’s best. As the sequel to a great film, this one is even better. More heart-warming, more hilarious, and with outstanding performances by Grant and Gleeson that set it apart from other animated and similar genre pictures. In a world that often gives plenty of reason to frown, Paddington will replace that with pure delight. Take the whole family to see it once, twice, or more. Spending time with this marmalade-loving bear will start your year at the movies off right.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 090: Arthur Christmas

It’s all about Santa’s extended family and a modern Christmas for our holiday episode this year and we hope this episode finds you smiling as much as we did during the 2011 British adventure comedy, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. 

Arthur Christmas Review – 0:00:50

The Connecting Point – 0:40:48

Contact

Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

Minisode 033: Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)

For this special minisode we are covering a film that blew us away on our first viewings, but we’ve patiently waited for it to be released on Blu-ray so that more would have the chance to see it before we had this discussion. Your Name, directed by Makoto Shinkai, is the story of a star-crossed boy and girl, perhaps destined to forever yearn for a meeting that will never come, connected across space and time by an unexplainable magic and framed against the backdrop of an but is also technically marvelous in both visuals and sound. We hope you enjoy this conversation on one of our anime favorites.

Contact

Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “School Road” and “Date” by RADWIMPS

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

MOVIE REVIEW: Ferdinand

FERDINAND (2017)


GOING IN

Someone decided that it was a good idea to take a 1936 short story about a pacifist bull and turn it into a film starring the voice talent of wrestling superstar John Cena. While I know the actor, I didn’t know of the book that Ferdinand is based on. The original story by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson was initially met with a mixture of opinions before becoming so much of a hit in the 1930’s that it was featured on several commercial products. And now here we are in 2017 to see if it can make a comeback and win over family audiences this Christmas. My expectations for this film are extremely low, but I have at least enjoyed the prior films of director Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age, Rio) and Cena’s casting does make me curious. Just another needless kid’s film, or heartfelt and moving animated story with an important message or meaningful life lesson? Time to step into the arena and find out.

1 Hour and 46 Minutes Later.


COMING OUT

Well, hey, it’s another anti-bullying movie. And that’s not a bad thing. Because people shouldn’t bully others, ya know? Poor Ferdinand grows up with plenty of this from his fellow calves, who have trouble accepting a bull who just wants to smell the flowers instead of fight. Tragedy strikes while Ferdinand is still young and he escapes to the country where he takes up residence at a flower farm. Convenient since he loves flowers so much, right? And also convenient that the little girl who befriends him actually knows his name is Ferdinand, too! Yes… if there is one word that I would use to describe Ferdinand it would be “convenient.” Every plot choice works perfectly because it has to, not because it makes any kind of logical sense. By the time the animals are driving a truck during the film’s climax, I was completely checked out.

Along with its message against bullying, the film promotes accepting who you are and loving others for the same. I actually never got the sense that the movie was strictly anti-violence. It (shockingly) shows what the alternative is for bulls who don’t succeed in the arena and could be emotional for young children who pick up on the subtlety. Don’t worry, though, no animated bulls were killed in the making of this movie so they won’t be scarred for life. The irony of John Cena playing a pacifist is somewhat amusing considering his fame comes from a career spent acting out violence for the entertainment of a large ground. Not all that unlike bull fighting, hm?

Characters in the film are hit and miss. Ferdinand himself is well played by Cena. A goofy “calming” goat voiced by Kate McKinnon that plays a large role in the final third of the film has importance as a character but is so annoying that I wanted to plug my ears. The rest of the bulls are unique, have their own strengths and weaknesses, and all play a part at precisely the right time to the surprise of no one. They’re… fine. Oh, and there are also German fancy horses. Who dab.

VERDICT

There are so many better animated films to recommend over Ferdinand. The bar has been raised, and every film has a positive message so that doesn’t set this one apart. It does have some charm and Cena’s voicework is good, but an overly convenient plot that tries to balance heartfelt concern with ridiculous unbelievable antics fails to connect and barely entertains. Possibly worth a rental eventually, but with Coco still in theaters there is no reason to spend money and time on Ferdinand.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 087: Coco

Pixar’s newest film Coco puts the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in the spotlight and explores fascinating cultural traditions with its vibrant animation and music. We discuss how Coco makes us feel and also talk about Kedi, a wonderful documentary about the cats roaming the streets of Istanbul and the people who love them. This episode is a happy one, and we hope our conversation captures the joy that these two films brought us.

Kedi Review – 0:01:34

Coco Review – 0:16:22

The Connecting Point – 1:06:30

Contact

Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

MOVIE REVIEW: Coco

Coco (2017)

Going In

Pixar is back at it with another original film, and their track record for such is pretty amazing. Not to be confused with 2014’s Book of Life, despite a very similar look and story, Coco tells the tale of aspiring musician Miguel  as he teams up with charming trickster Hector on an extraordinary journey through the Land of the Dead. With Coco, Disney/Pixar are delving deep into the culture and traditions behind Día de los Muertos. This is particularly exciting because this Mexican holiday is not often explored in cinema. At the very least, I expect Coco to be fun, colorful, and heartfelt. Pixar has set its bar for excellence high when producing original works and I’m excited to see what visual treats they have in store.


COMING OUT

“Remember me.”

These two words resonate throughout the beautiful, vibrant adventure that is Disney Pixar’s Coco.  In Mexican culture, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a multi-day holiday that focuses on gatherings to pray for and remember friends and family who have died, and to help support their spiritual journey. One of the traditions around this is the creation of an ofrenda in each home (a special altar composed of pictures or tokens that commemorate one’s deceased loved one). According to the story of Coco, if the dead are represented on the ofrenda then their spirits may pass over once a year and visit their loved ones that remain in the living world. So while remembrance is especially important for the living, to the dead, being remembered is what they “live” for.

At the center of Coco is twelve-year old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy with music in his bones. Unfortunately for him, his great-great-grandfather left his wife and child to pursue musical dreams, and the family abandonment has never been forgiven by Miguel’s relatives. Miguel’s family blames music and will not allow it to be a part of their lives. The only family member that is not strongly opposed is Miguel’s very old great-grandmother Coco, and he feels a connection to her unlike the rest. Eventually, Miguel’s pursuit of his musical dreams results in antics that lead to him ending up in the Land of the Dead where he teams up with Hector (Gael García Bernal) and goes on a journey to find musical legend Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who he believes to be his great-great-grandfather.

Throughout Miguel’s journey, much is learned about Día de los Muertos. Coco serves as something of a love letter to this unique cultural holiday and is an important history lesson for those not familiar with it. I knew very little about it myself aside from the parades I’d seen represented in movies and the typically seen calavera (known to most by the term “sugar skulls”). This aspect of the film was by far the best part of it for me, as coming out of I felt a new appreciation for something I’d never understood. Directly after my screening of Coco, a Hispanic father tapped me on my shoulder and asked what I thought of the film. I explained how intriguing the cultural history lesson was and he told me that he was so pleased by the representation of his life on the big screen and that he was very glad I now had more respect for traditions that are so widely misunderstood. This interaction confirmed that Pixar’s film has extreme value for the people it depicts, which is further evident in its setting of Mexican box office records.

As an adventure story, though, Coco never becomes great. There are themes here about pursuing your dreams, not being too controlling, listening to your elders, the power of music, and also heavier spiritual topics surrounding life after death. But despite some cute animal sidekicks, a fun banter-filled relationship between Miguel and Hector, and beautiful animation, there is just nothing very memorable about this Pixar tale. Yes, our protagonist and others learn lessons that better them, and its entertaining to watch the journey unfold, but a few days after seeing it you will likely have forgotten character names and specifics. There are also no memorable songs aside from “Remember Me,” which to be fair isn’t something Pixar typically focuses on, but with this being a film all about music would have enhanced it quite a bit. Authenticity is important, however, and the songs we do have feel very much like they belong. At times the lyrics and dialogue in the film alternate between English and Spanish. With no subtitles, I didn’t always understand fully what was being said, but the meaning was conveyed and I appreciated this little attention to detail and lack of catering to only an American audience.

Verdict

Coco is not Pixar’s best film, so don’t expect to be blown away emotionally. It is, however, a perfectly fun, fantastical adventure wrapped in an incredibly important history lesson of a culture most are not familiar with. Coco will likely resonate more with those it represents and that is a wonderful thing. It’s also the kind of film that will give you something to discuss with your children and help expand their knowledge of the world and people in a meaningful way. Not every movie is going to be “play the Blu-ray on repeat” good. Coco certainly isn’t, but it’s worth seeing once.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent (2017)


Occasionally, cinema will give us a film that pushes the boundaries of what has previously existed, either through technical advancement or unique narrative construction. Loving Vincent is such a film and is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. To simply refer to it as animation would be a disservice because what has been accomplished here is far more special than a single word could describe.

Loving Vincent‘s plot is a murder mystery exploring the curious circumstances around the death of Vincent van Gogh. One year after van Gogh’s death, a postman requests that his son Armand personally deliver van Gogh’s last letter to his brother, Theo. After finding Theo has also died, Armand seeks to complete the task by finding someone to deliver the letter to and in the process begins to question van Gogh’s actions, wondering if his suicide was perhaps a homicide instead. Armand discovers more information about Vincent through present conversations and dramatized memories recounted by those he meets. Ultimately, while the questions raised are intriguing, the manner in which this tale is told is quite lackluster. There are no answers here either, only general speculation from characters with varying perspectives. I’ll admit that I learned a bit about van Gogh’s past and personality, but a 94-minute film shouldn’t feel as long as this one does.

Let’s talk about that animation style, though. The story of Loving Vincent’s creation will likely be what is remembered most and rightfully celebrated. Filmmakers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman first shot the film in live-action before enlisting a team of 115 painters (the training of some which was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign) to paint over each of the 65,000 frames in oil paint using van Gogh’s signature style. The result is some of the most dazzling, visually stunning animation you will ever see. The film’s vibrant color palette and textured brushstrokes make you feel as if you’re quite literally living inside of a painting, and the transitions of color in the present to black and white during memories was a great visual touch-point for what time period the story was depicting. It all has such an incredible effect, though, that it sadly at times overshadowed the expository story to the point where I was focusing on the visuals and not paying attention to what was being said.

Verdict

Loving Vincent is a step forward for the filmmaking industry and will certainly spawn new attempts at using these methods. It is a magnificent artistic achievement and it’s disappointing that the narrative’s quality did not match the film’s uniquely spectacular animation. That doesn’t, however, mean it’s not worth seeing. If Loving Vincent is playing near you, make it a point to see this on a theater screen and marvel at the incredible beauty of something that has never been done before.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: My Little Pony: The Movie

My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)



Going In

Earth ponies and unicorns and pegasi, oh my! My Little Pony: The Movie has arrived and I could not be happier. For most of a year, my pony-obsessed daughter has been looking forward to this film and no matter what I think of it, seeing her excited over a movie brings joy to my soul. This feature-length film is set in the universe of the extremely popular Hasbro-produced television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. A dark force threatens Ponyville, and the Mane Six must journey beyond Equestria and get help from new friends to save their home. This movie should be a pretty typical fantasy adventure with lots of comedy, cuteness, and horse puns. I’ll admit that I’ve not watched anywhere near all 163 episodes of the cartoon series, nor am I a brony, but I have seen the show a few times and found it sweet and entertaining. I’m going in with an open mind and expecting to savor the experience of seeing my daughter full of glee. And this film has sea ponies. Sea ponies are cool.



COMING OUT

Well, that was unexpected. Come to find out, My Little Pony: The Movie is actually pretty great. And not just for fans, although I can only assume they will be extremely satisfied as well, but for families unfamiliar with the ponies too. I can genuinely say that I had a wonderful time watching this film.

You wants reasons? I’ve got reasons. To start with, this movie feels like a 1990’s Disney classic. This isn’t a film that deals with current cultural issues directly, but rather focuses primarily on one thing – the power of friendship. To be fair, there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to life lessons. Friends can accomplish more as a team, and trusting each other and utilizing individual strengths is key. But the presentation is as enjoyable as ever and the message still hits home.

Another thing that reminded me of old Disney, and elevated this film considerably, is the music. There are some great new songs and the vocal talents of performers like Sia, Emily Blunt, and Kristin Chenoweth are not wasted. Several of the songs have a strong orchestral component and feel like they could be Broadway stage productions. This was a real bright spot and we found ourselves immediately listening to the soundtrack on the car ride home. In a landscape of animated movies that usually feature over-popified tunes much like you’d find on the radio, MLP: The Movie‘s choice of music stands out as a breath of fresh air.

Another strong aspect of the film is character development. When compared with something like The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which only managed to really give its lead character an arc, MLP: The Movie does a great job of giving four of the Mane (main) Six something to do. One slight criticism is that Fluttershy and Applejack are somewhat lost in the shuffle, but there is enough attention spread out over the rest of the characters that it makes up for that. The newly introduced characters don’t have a lot of screen time, but each is well drawn and enhances the story. An additional plus is that we essentially have a multi-racial cast, all with unique qualities and all working together for the greater good. Hollywood (and Washington) take note.

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any eye-roll moments, but luckily just a few (one in particular during a joke about cell service that made me cringe). The horse puns are indeed plentiful and hilarious. I laughed a lot and the movie transitions between its emotional beats very well, with the humor never feeling out of place. Also, I now have a favorite pony. Yes… I do.

Verdict

I’ve jokingly poked fun at my daughter for years due to her love for My Little Pony, but now I get it. This colorful, goofy world has a deeper lore than I gave it credit for. It’s beautifully animated and in a different style than anything else on the big screen this year. Friendship matters and My Little Pony: The Movie manages to succeed in telling a familiar story through the use of incredible music and its great cast of characters. I wasn’t prepared to come out of the theater thinking this was fantastic, but here we are. The highest praise I can give may be that I now am anxious to check out the television series and learn more about the world of Equestria. Consider me a convert. If being a brony is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Rating:

GUEST OPINION by Ashlyn White (Superfan)

My Little Pony: The Movie was AWESOME in every way. The songs are reminiscent of Broadway musicals, and I’ve been singing and listening to the soundtrack ever since I came out of the theater. I have watched the entire TV series and can say that this movie did a great job keeping consistent with the show. Another strong spot of the movie was the introduction of the characters. When they are all first introduced, even the people who haven’t seen the show (like my dad) were able to understand the different personalities of the Mane Six. All in all, this mane-tastic film is one I will remember for a long time to come.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ It: The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Mike Ward from Should I See It joins Aaron to give their spoiler-free impressions about The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Does this newest LEGO-themed feature film live up to the dynamite success of its two previous entries? Listen now to find out what we think and help you make a smart choice with your time and money.

Contact


Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

Episode 070: Kubo and the Two Strings

This week we are talking about one of our biggest theater regrets of 2016. This beautiful stop-motion animated picture is magical, fantastical, and has a great story centered around a special family. As much as any movie we’ve discussed recently, Kubo and the Two Strings brings out the feelings and makes for great conversation.

Kubo and the Two Strings Review – 0:06:51

The Connecting Point – 0:55:50

Contact

Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!