Tag Archives: Dreamworks

Turbo (2013) Dir. David Soren

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As I said with my Croods review, I’ve been more and more impressed with the quality of films coming out of Dreamworks for the last few years.  They’re not all hits, but few of them have been downright terrible.  In my mind, they have been doing far superior work than Pixar, which has been a continuous decline in terms of creating engaging characters and storytelling.  Turbo is a cute, charming story, with some great visuals, and an exciting third act race.  It’s not always as hilarious as it could be, but the characters are enjoyable to watch and overall it’s just a really fun time.

Turbo, from Dreamworks Animation

One of the major aspects of the movie that works is the relationship between the pair of brothers in the film, the snails Theo (Turbo) and Chet, and Hispanic human brothers Tito and Angelo.  One of course is a dreamer while the other is a realist, trying to keep the other grounded in the reality of their situation.  One needs to get over their a snail, not a race car, and the other needs to live with the fact that they sell tacos, not enrolling snails in the Indy 500.  Which dreamer has the craziest dream?  Who knows, but it’s clear that Turbo and Tito are made for each other the moment they meet.  Turbo wants to be fast, despite his snail life, and dreams of racing all the time.  He especially admires his racing idol Guy Gang’e, the world champion racer at the Indy 500.  Turbo winds up getting his wish, when stuck on a car in a street race, he gets sucked into the engine, gets nitroed up in a special fluid, and gains the power of super speed.  In some aspects he gets literally turned into a racing car, with headlights (his eyes), backing lights, a car alarm, and blasting radio.  Gotta love it when someone’s not afraid to take some cartoon license.  Tito’s dream is to enter his new snail pal Turbo into the Indy 500, with the help of raising cash from other businesses in their outdoor mall plaza.

If I had any gripes with the film, it’s just one I have about animated films in general, in that  I sometimes wish these movies could be a lot funnier.  Not in a way that abandons kids with the humor, but I sometimes get the feeling that there could be so much more potential from the comedy, as opposed to characters just verbally cracking jokes.  It’s animation after all, and there should be the potential for far more physical comedy, especially for a movie about a speedy snail.  It’s the things we come to expect from animated films today…more talking and less action, and it’s something I hope to one day see change.

I suppose my only other complaint about the film was the need to make Guy Gang’e into a villain.  I’m not surprised they did this because there really isn’t anyone else playing as a main antagonist, but I think it’s worth pointing out that not all animated films need a villain.  In the race in the third act, Gang’e doesn’t really do anything “bad” to get in Turbo’s way…well, with the exception of trying to stomp on him to keep him from winning at the last minute.  But that’s also out of desperation.  The majority of the obstacles come from the race itself as Turbo has to keep from getting run over among other things.  Even though Gang’e is an antagonist because he’s racing against Turbo, it doesn’t mean he has to be a bad guy.  This is similar to the problem I had with “Rise of the Guardians” where the Boogyman was made evil and shown a lack of compassion for his situation by the heroes at the end of the movie.  I sometimes think it would be better and more constructive to show kids that antagonist characters aren’t inherently evil, but that they are people who are hurt or have problems like anyone else.  Making them one sided villains doesn’t give you anything to identify with, and it’s something most American animated films should change, giving us villains that have other sides to them and may not necessarily be bad.

Turbo is an entertaining ride, with some great enjoyable characters.  The visuals and racing sequences are fantastic and entertaining.  It’s not the greatest movie ever, but it’s a fun enjoyable ride that can be enjoyed by adults and kids of all ages.

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Moviecappa One Year Anniversary!!

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Hot damn!  Moviecappa is One year old!  I missed it by two days, it was actually on May 10th, 2012 that I first started this site.  I for one am very grateful that I have kept this site going for that long.  I started this site because I have always had running commentary in my head when I go to the movies as well as when I see what goes on in the industry.  It’s a place for me to talk about why I think the movies are important, and what we can do to see them get better.  It’s also been my vision that this could be a place for filmmakers to come and talk about movies, and discuss the thing we want most out of them:  good storytelling.  This site was created out of passion, and I hope to see more discussion and bigger things to come for this site in the future.  If you have been an ongoing reader of the site, thank you so much for coming back and for your support!  Greater things are yet to come!  So stay tuned!

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The Croods (2013) Dir. Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco

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I’ve always liked Chris Sanders as an artist, but I have never been a huge fan of his films.  I like them, I’m just not flat out in love with them or anything.  Lilo and Stitch is a good film.  But I don’t always know whether its done any justice being under the Disney label.  It’s a little weird, which is fun, but I feel like it could have unleashed so much more, which just ends up making it moderately enjoyable.  As for How To Train Your Dragon, again, it’s a good movie.  But my feeling is that the film is a little too on the nose with it’s subject matter.  It’s kind of “Dragons 101” for anyone who wants to know more about their dragon.  In some ways, I almost wish it could have been a little less obvious.  For instance, I kind of wanted to see some boys with some girl dragons and vise versa, not simply seeing the dragons mimic everything about the characters personalities.  Part of the thing is seeing the dragons tell us aspects about the human character we don’t see on the surface.  We get some aspects of that in the film.  But overall the concept just didn’t blow me over.

Which leads me to The Croods.

I didn’t expect too much out of the film, at least at first.  But ever so slowly it started to grow on me.  I was amused at the funny introduction where the characters would “hunt” in what ended up being a kind of prehistoric football game with the whole family trying to work together to get an egg from a massive prehistoric bird.  I was a little worried at first because the main characters Eep and Grug seemed like yet another angsty teenage daughter story dealing with an overbearing father, which is so commonplace in animated films.  The one thing that was different about this film though, was the movie turned out to be more about Grug going on a journey to overcome his reliance on fear to stay alive.  I have to say that once the film got underway and the characters started off on their adventure, I completely fell in love with The Croods.  There is just incredible imagination at work here, with the wonderful and whimsical character designs for the creatures that inhabit this world.  The funny thing is that the monsters are so cute and equally terrifying at the same time!  Not terrifying in a way that’s going to frighten children, but they’re enough of a threat to keep you going with the characters, as they search for this uncharted world called “To Morrow”.

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The main reason this movie worked so well on me was the simpleness and uncomplicated nature of the story.  It’s very lighthearted and fast paced.  While I was left concerned for the characters safety, I never felt that we really needed to see any of the characters die to make this more engaging.  It never loses its sense of fun and it never takes itself too seriously.  It gently seems to poke fun at the overused father/daughter storylines we keep seeing in animated films, where Grug basically enforces that anything fun, anything that leads to curiosity leads to DEATH!  I didn’t think I was going to like Nicholas Cage being the voice for an animated character and didn’t believe his voice would be too monotone for animation.  I was wrong, and he does a wonderful job bringing Grug to life as a character, and between the voice work and the animation, he becomes a great, emotional, and well rounded character.

All the characters in The Croods are a joy to watch.  I loved Guy, the cave man who gets all the ideas, and introduces them to fire.  Grugs scenes are also hilarious when he tries to be like Guy and come up with inventions of his own, including “shades”, and then his invention of the “snapshot”, by covering his face in mud, then slamming his face against a rock for the imprint.  Every character has their moment.  What I also loved about The Croods as a family is that they are just hilariously weird and completely zany at times, partially due to the fact that they’re one of the only families left on the face of the earth.  The only character I wish had more development was Grug’s wife Ugga, who is played just a little too straight.  I almost wish there could have been room to give her some more zany attitude and fun like the rest of the family, but part of the problem too is that she kind of fades into the background at times.

Part of the adventure of the film is how the family slowly but surly steps away from Grugs over protective way of life and starts discovering new ways of living in this uncharted world.  Living in caves finally starts becoming unappealing to them, much to Grugs frustrations.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie was where the family gets split up in a canyon and everyone has to find their way out and come up with their own creative method to survive.  Everyone succeeds, except Grug, who is trapped and can’t get through based on his reliance of fear.  It’s not until the final scene, where Grug is ultimately tested when left alone to his own devices, he makes the flight to free himself.

One of the characters that stalks The Croods is a large Saber-tooth cat.  The cat is funny while also being a good threat to our heroes.  But the best scene in the film is towards the climax, where Grug is left alone and the cat stalks him in the caves.  Grug runs for his life holding a torch and being chased by the cat.  At one point the torch goes out leaving him in pitch blackness, and Grug blows frantically on the torch to get the flame back.  As the flame comes back, we also see the cat blowing on the flame trying to get it back as well!  The cat is afraid of the dark!  I died laughing at this moment because it became clear to me what the Saber-tooth cat was for Grug.  The cat is Grug’s dragon.  In this sudden twist, the two of them find each other, and the cat whose been chasing him the entire movie, no longer wants to chase him and doesn’t want to be alone in the dark.  Like Grug.  It was just a lovely, sweet moment.

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The movie almost never deviates from its light comical tone.  In some ways the movie kind of reminded me a bit of The Emperor’s New Groove, a movie that also isn’t meant to be taken seriously by any means.  It’s great to see cartoons like this, because a lot of times when the story gets heavy handed and serious, it looses its focus as a cartoon and loses its spirit of fun that we just want to embrace with certain films.  I just wanted more of the zany fun that The Croods provided, and it rarely ever lets itself get dragged down with heavy story material.  What helps too is that the story was co-written by Monty Python genius John Cleese, and once I found that out at the end credits, I could see the Pythonesque humor scattered all over the film.

The Croods is a joy to watch, and one of my very favorite animated films to come out in a long time.  I have to say that this is probably my favorite of all Chris Sanders films, because it’s a chance to see his weird side completely unleashed.  The animation is terrific, the visuals are stunning, and overall, this is just a really really fun film.  By all means, go see it while its still in a theater!

Paying Attention To What Your Children Watch

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This is something I’ve struggled to say for awhile, and I’m sure there are plenty of you die hard Disney lovers who will give me hell for saying it.  But I’m going to try and explain in the best way I can why I think The Little Mermaid is a terrible film.  It is.  I have hated this film since I was a little kid.  I have been angry for awhile now how The Walt Disney Company started off back in the day as something so great only to fall apart and take the dark path because of the success of single film.  The Little Mermaid, to me, is the movie that destroyed Disney Animation.  When I was a kid I not only hated the film, I was too emarassed to tell anyone how much the movie upset me.  It was my worry that people would make me out as some kind of self centered egotist for not understanding why a movie that was so successful and loved by so many people, as Ariel would say “…could be bad”?  I am worried about what kids will take away with them when they watch a movie like this. Ariel, in my opinion, is a selfish spoiled brat who doesn’t know who she is.  She then falls for an innocent guy who also doesn’t know who he is.  Ariel doesn’t listen to her father, who tells her to stay away from humans for her own personal safety.  But if Ariel doesn’t listen to anything her father tells her, what makes us think she’s going to listen to Eric when he has something to say?

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I actually think in the movie’s story, Ariel’s father is innocent in this whole mess.  It’s not his fault with what happens to her.  The film tries to blame him as being too stubborn and pig headed, and wants us to believe he should just let his daughter go because she’s “following her dreams” and wants to “be herself”.  But the fact is, Ariel knows nothing about how the world works.  She has absolutely no discipline for herself, and quite frankly her friends aren’t any help either.  Who do we see her hanging around with all the time?  A 12 year old kid ?(Flounder)  Why doesn’t a girl her age have any girlfriends?  She seems like she’d be pretty and popular enough.  If you want to try and make sense of it, imagine of this were a live action movie about a teenager.  Why would she spend all her time with a 12 year old when she’s trying to figure out how to get laid?  It’s like spending all your time with your little brother. So what about Sebastian, then?  He tries to help her more than anyone, to the point of even singing a catchy Oscar winning song about why this thing with Eric is not going to work out and that she should stay Under the Sea.  He’s right.  He’s right the whole time.  She abandons her father who only loves her and wants what’s best for her.  She runs off to the most untrustworthy drug dealer in town (Ursula)  trading her “voice” for ecstasy…I mean legs…that will make her “human” so she can meet and fall in love with Eric.  But then she gets into trouble when she blows the whole thing, dragging first her friends into her problems, then her father, who has to turn over his entire kingdom and get himself turned into a kelp pol-lop so his daughter can be saved, and then finally getting Eric involved to fight and kill a gigantic Ursula for her.  At the end of the film her father forgets everything his daughter just put him through and decides to reward her for being selfish and spoiled by giving her ecstasy (I mean legs) so she can go on and live happily ever after with her new chump husband Eric, who apparently never got the memo that every time he hangs around this girl, the threat of getting himself killed increases.  If you need more convincing, just look at the people she associates with!  Power hungry drug dealer witches?  A clueless father?  An angry crab she never listens too?  A 12 year old boy?  Who is this girl??

I saw this movie the first time when I was 8 years old.  Admittedly at that age you’re not going to understand all the things that are wrong with a movie, except that if it’s entertaining and you’re having a good time that’s all that really matters to you.  Well, it wasn’t enough for a person like me later on when I started watching the films I liked at the time (or thought I liked) and then realizing these movies were not good for me at all!  The Little Mermaid in particular made me crazy and upset because when the end of the film came, I was so terrified and embarrassed of the giant Ursula scaring me that I had to keep it all inside.  I kept it inside out of fear of being ridiculed by my then classmates in 2nd grade who all loved the film, because lets face it, admitting you were terrified from a Disney film at that age isn’t exactly cool.  I had to hide it from my friends, and this terrifying nightmare of a film always stuck with me.  I feared as well the mean-spiritedness from others who would laugh me off to the side if I admitted the film scared me.  I had no idea how to handle a movie like this at all, and nobody to help me during that time.  So I had to figure it all out on my own.

It’s not that I’m mad at these people, its just perpetuated ignorance from all parties involved, including the filmmakers.  I’m certain they had no real intention of frightening or upsetting young kids.  But at the same time it’s the filmmakers themselves who could not see that the story might be going in a bad direction.  This is not a good movie.  It’s not a good movie because it teaches children all the wrong things to expect out of life.  You have to look at the original Anderson tale to understand what the story was really trying to say.  In the actual story of The Little Mermaid, the mermaid dies.  She dies because her own ignorance and self righteousness catches up with her, and it happens when the prince decides he’s not in love with her and runs off to marry somebody else.  She fails, and she’s turned into salt water.  The message of that story is what happens when we gamble our lives, when we are willing to risk giving up our existence over a petty infatuation.  The original story shows us how dangerous that can be.  It’s dangerous to give into our emotional impulses without consulting with someone or ourselves to know if this is the right choice.  The movie flops the message completely saying now that you will get what you want if you gamble your life on something that might not turn out the way you expect.  In the movie Ariel never learns anything from her experience.  Somehow we’re supposed to believe the lesson is that she had to learn to get along with her father.  But her father isn’t on her mind at all during the whole time she’s human.  During the scenes where Ariel is human on land, we cut away at one point where Triton discovers Ariel had run away and he’s afraid and upset, feeling guilt for shouting at her.  We cut back to Ariel, and she’s having the time of her life not giving her father a second thought that she might be worrying him or feeling guilty that she’s upsetting him.  She just wants to snag her prince.  At the end her father has to sacrifice his life and his power and kingdom to save her, and what happens after the witch dies and everything is back to normal?  He lets her go.  Which if you think about it was probably the smartest move on his part, because now the problems of his daughter are dumped on somebody else, and since Triton lives in the ocean and Ariel’s been changed into the human, she won’t be making any visits to daddy anytime soon, at least until somebody invents diving equipment to she can go to the kingdom and visit her father.  So unless he really wants to show up to the surface and change her back into a mermaid, he could do it but why would he want to anyway if he really feels he failed his daugther?  If anything, call it a happy ending for Triton and a sad depressing ending for Eric who now gets to find out on his own what a selfish washout Ariel really is.  Triton at least can now move on with his life, knowing that he at least did something right with his 6 other daughters, who would never selfishly run out on him.  So in that sense, we gotta give Triton credit that he actually probably is a good honest guy (and a good father) just trying to make the best of his situation.  It’s not really that Triton’s a control freak, and it’s not like his rules about merfolk staying in the ocean are part of a dictatorship.  The guy does it to keep his people safe, so nobody else will get hurt.  So of course when Ariel botches things up, and Triton is forced  to turn his power over to Ursula, making her dictator/ ruler of the ocean, fucking over an entire kingdom because of one selfish girl who wanted to get laid by a boy…I think we can start to see now how crazy this movie really is.  And we can start asking ourselves how movies like The Little Mermaid are influencing our children.  How will a movie like this influence your children as teenagers when they get angry and decide to turn against you for their own selfish needs?

Yet, this is the movie that “saved” Disney from falling apart.  It wasn’t because it was a good story.  It wasn’t because the message was so important.  It was because Disney knew exactly all the right buttons to push in its audience.  They knew exactly what they could sell to an audience to make them believe the story was speaking to them in a way that sounded like it was important, when it wasn’t really at all.  This film set up all the tactics used by filmmakers in animation from here on, when it came to manipulating audiences with wonderful songs, silly sidekick characters, and so on….all the elements that trick you into thinking this movie is an important event.  It’s not that way at all.  We allow ourselves to be taken in by it because of our backgrounds, because of our belief systems, because of everything we were told by our parents or what other people tell you you’re supposed to like about movies, animation, TV, film, etc. and never actually thinking for yourself that this kind of story might not be good for you or your kids who eat this stuff up on a daily basis.  I don’t think people should be made angry by the fact that the entertainment industry is manipulating your children to seeing the world as if it’s just like the Disney Channel.  But there comes a time when all kids need to learn to grow up, and wake up to their surroundings, their parents, their family, their friends, and even their own children when they have them.  Your kids are made to think that protagonists like Ariel and every other Disney Princess is noble and dignified in their decisions to be free and be the person they want to be.  But sadly, those princess thoughts about what it means to be free comes from a place of arrogance and selfish desire.  It’s all the things that will blind kids from the real truth about themselves and their world.  Many filmmakers making content for children in America are failing at their jobs are storytellers.  Not everything they make is bad, there are still some movies and shows made that are spectacular stories.  But it’s a problem because kids don’t know any better about what their watching.  The filmmakers don’t know any better either about what they’re trying to say because their own belief systems about the world are blinding them when they tell their own stories to other people.

Ever notice now in a lot of children’s programming, it’s becoming more prevalent with adult themes, even if the themes are not appropriate for children or a children’s show?  You can watch something like Adventure Time for instance, which is a a show that, quite frankly, has no idea what it’s audience is supposed to be.  Kids laugh at the goofiness of it, but miss out on all the themes, which are not targeted at them at all and are trying to talk more to adults.  That show would probably be better off as an Adult Swim kind of series.  But you look at the majority of the shows that are doing this, and it’s frustrating.  When I watch animated films, all the messages they want to communicate are adult messages, but they’re so convoluted in making the thing for kids the filmmakers don’t know who or what their aiming at when they think they’re trying to speak to adults and teenagers.  You will notice however that when you look at Japanese Animation, they have a very clear definition as to what’s for adults and children.  You just have to look at the films of Hayao Miyazaki, who has made movies for every age group, speaking DIRECTLY to that age group.  All of his films are wonderful and beautifully told, and the messages of those films are understandable and clear to their audience age group.  What happened in America was when a movie like The Little Mermaid came along, it may have been a whopping box office success, but it made things confusing for everyone about how we should tell stories for animation. When you look at animation that was produced before The Little Mermaid in the 80’s, it may not have been perfect, but those filmmakers at least knew who their audience was.  The Secret of Nimh, The Last Unicorn, Rankin/Bass, Heavy Metal, The Adventures of Mark Twain, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  I even like to give credit to movies like The Black Cauldron, a film that Disney like’s to consider a bad wart on their list of films, but the one thing we can admire about that movie is it it had balls.  It tried to do something different, and it was Disney’s attempt to try and make something more adult.  The same happened with Atlantis and Treasure Planet.  It’s not that any of those films were a bad idea, but what happened is that Disney wasn’t willing to let go of their child audience, and as a result those movies failed because there were too many mixed messages to its audience members.  So if you’re a filmmaker and you are watching these movies, it’s a good idea to ask yourself who the movie is  for, and what is it supposed to be about?  You can tell it’s a problem when you can’t answer those two questions by the end of the movie.  It’s not a bad thing if you cant answer the second question if the movie has a lot of themes running through it.  But if you are watching a film where the message should be obvious, you need t ask yourself again if you were actually receiving the intended message.  In most cases, you may not be.  Yet this is what plagues many animated films made in America.  For many of us as audience members, we may come up with our own personal reasons for why these movies are supposed to be great.  But when we don’t want to face what’s really there,  we make up many reasons in our heads to justify to others why these movies are supposed to be good. But they might not be.

This is just my own personal feeling as to why animation today is bad for our children.  We have an important job as storytellers, and it’s not about raising kids on our own personal bias’ or religious beliefs.  What it is about, being a storyteller, is finding that center place that communicates directly with your audience.  The power of every great story are the things we all carry with us through life.  Every great movie you love that everyone can agree on (a movie like Star Wars for instance) has a message that resonates with everyone inside.  It speaks to us all as people and the true life adventure experiences that every individual faces.  It’s not simply about getting what you want all the time for selfish reasons, it’s about teaching others to get what they want out of life, so that other people can see the amazing person they are inside and inspire those people to find the things they want most in life on their own, and in turn share the same feeling with others.  It’s the worlds most powerful butterfly effect.  Story isn’t just about teaching you how to surviving in this world, it’s about teaching others to find their own path in life, and finding your place in the world as a human being.  And it’s not all happy endings, sometimes we have to show the bad stuff too!  Because showing a bad end teaches children and adults in a safe way not to take that path in life, and what happens when we stop listening to the universe and believe ourselves to be alone in this world.  The truth is, you’re never alone at all, even if you happen to be by yourself at the time.  That’s what great storytelling teaches you and the tremendous power it has to help people find their way.  Pay attention to the stories you watch, especially the ones being told to your children.

New! Film Reviews and Hollywood Leftovers Pages

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Two new pages have been added to the website!  Now if you look at the Header, you can check out my Archive of Film Reviews, and I have another new page called Hollywood Leftovers!, where you can visit posts I’ve written about Classic movie stars, and see my past tours of Hollywood!

New Page Added: Cartoon Murals!

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A brand new gallery has been added to my website.  Now you can see all the cartoon animation murals I’ve done in the past. Check them out here! Or click on the Carton Murals link on the header bar.