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A Short List of My Favorite and Least Favorite Films From Summer 2016

Well the Summer Movie Season is officially over with it being September. And it was pretty lackluster. A few standout hits, but most (in my opinions) were only getting 3/5s from me with a few above averages. This summer was really like a two sided coin; on the one side, it was freaking amazing. On the other you just can’t but think “….hey why”. Now keep in mind this list is COMPLETELY subjective. Mostly based on “which ones would I willingly watch and still enjoy once they hit digital?) And all opinions. If you think some of these films sucked let me know below. For me, these 10 films (5 best and 5 worst in no particular order) are the films that made this summer amazing…And some that you wouldn’t remember in t-minus one day.

BEST FILMS

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

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A “wheeeeee!” movie if ever there was one. This time, the filmmakers knew what they wanted to do, and they just WENT WITH IT. And it works to the film’s advantage. It’s more like the 80s cartoon, which is both a good and bad thing. The Turtles feel more like characters, like family, here. They have actual personalities and plights, legit arguments between each other, and Megan Fox wasn’t all that bad either. The fight scenes were fun, the cinematography wonderful at times, there was less shaky cam, the Shredder was an actual person here, Rocksteady and Beebop were fun…It’s just a good time and a nice refresher from the seriousness of most action films this year.

 Captain America: Civil War

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Is it no surprise this will be on everyone’s best whatever list? Yeah this film was everything Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice wasn’t. Marvel has a system, and that system seems to work. Their formula is easy to spot at this point, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It’s everything Dawn of Justice wants to be but isn’t and could never be. The emotions and stakes were high, it was crowded but not stuffed to the brim, it wasn’t trying to be anything else, it had a semi-good balance of humor and seriousness….Only suggestion for the next Avengers film? KILL SOMEONE ALREADY MARVEL MY GOODNESS.

Just don’t kill Vision. Please.

Finding Dory

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You can’t step into the same river twice….But holy lord you can certainly step into the same ocean twice. Over a decade later, and it still has the charm Finding Nemo had and more. While Finding Nemo still remains the superior Pixar film, Dory delivers on intense emotional feels, wonderful animation, and a good story that serves more as a companion piece to Nemo rather than a sequel. Good show Pixar…unforgettable.

Hell or High Water

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The indie success of the late summer…Starring Chris Pine (who also voiced Jack Frost) of all people. He is joined by Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster. This movie just lets its characters breathe. What that means is that the pacing is nice and perfect; the characters are just people and not plot devices moving from point a to point b. I’m not much a fan of westerns, but this is easily a modern western classic.

Lights Out

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One of my new all time favorite films needs to be on this list. This film operates on the mechanic “the ghost attacks in the dark”. It totally validates and amplifies your childhood fears of the dark; we’re hardwired to fear dark places because back in the day when we weren’t at the top, we HAD to be careful going into the darkness for food or firewood. In modern times, we’re afraid of rapists or killers in dark allies ways or parking lots. The characters are all good-even the boyfriend-and the sheer tension could be cut with a knife. This is a film that’ll definitely make you sleep with the lights on after viewing it.

Definitely don’t watch it alone in the dark.

WORST FILMS

X-Men: Apocalypse

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What to do when you get to reboot your entire universe? FUG IT UP because why not why the hell not. And I had SUCH high hopes for this after Days of Future Past. I do like Jennifer Lawrence. She deservedly shot to fame through Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook and she was wonderful as a young, naïve Mystique in First Class and was okay in Days of Future Past. But in that second film you could see that she was getting bored with playing the blue skinned anti-hero/villain of the X-Men universe to the point where she didn’t want to be blue because “she didn’t want to be recognized” which is code for “she didn’t want to sit in makeup chair for 4+ hours”. That’s not the only thing wrong with this movie; Oscar Isaac was wasted which was a shame after being such an awesome character in The Force Awakens, the obvious build up to another Dark Phoenix saga was just shoved in, and the plot was meh. Come on Singer you can do better than this.

Independence Day: Resurgence

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………Remember when “boom!” was all that was needed to sell a movie back in the 90s? This isn’t the 90s anymore. Yet for some reason filmmakers seem to think that “Boom!” is all the audience needs to get their butts in the theaters. There are some fun elements in this movie, but without Will Smith being Will Smith it’s just a bore. The first movie isn’t as good as people say it is, but it had Will Smith which immensely helped. Alien movies were a big thing….Now….Less so. Sorry Roland but you are twenty years to late here.

Ice Age: Collision Course

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When I saw the poster for this I thought it was a joke. Then I saw the trailer….and yeah this franchise needs to go extinct. There’s always a few animations that give the genre the stigma of “oh that’s just for kids it’s not for adults” and this movie is definitely one of those “oh it’s just for kids who need to be babysat by uncle television” films. The first film was actually really good. Good characters, an interesting story, good quality animation…Here? Nice try guys. But….stop it.

Warcraft

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I got really bored during this movie….Video game movies don’t have to be either so boring for non-gamers or those not into the franchise. I’m not into the Warcraft franchise. I thought maybe this would be a good way to get into it…This movie makes me want to stay far away from the Warcraft games.At least I have my Nintendo Wii U and I’m happy with that…Ratchet and Clank served as a better example of what an at least okay video game movie is like….I’m still hold onto hope for Assassin’s Creed in December. Come on Hollywood you can do this.

Ben-Hur 2016

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I’m not much of an advocator for remakes. If there’s a story to be told, go for it. If it’s a blatant cash grab that’s all about “oh you liked the original here see this one why not GIVE ME MONEY!” THEN I’ll be less than pleasant towards it. This film, is in the latter category. The original chariot race is iconic and can’t be beat. Also the ending…..huh. I mean everyone has their own interpretations but….Magical Jesus healing rain? Kay.

This summer was definitely lacking….Something. 2014 had some amazing summer hits; How to Train Your Dragon 2, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Mad Max: Furiosa-Fury Road. 2015 had Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Insidious: Chapter 3, and Inside Out. 2016….A few good standout hits. It’s been a good year for indie films however, but unless your theater shows those, you’re out of luck. This year was over-saturated with Superhero films (7 in one year is way too many) and the original gems seemed to get swept under the rug. Even the good remakes like Ghostbusters 2016 got slammed simply for being a remake of a “classic” even though that classic isn’t as good as people remember when viewed objectively. If anything, Hollywood could learn from this summer’s performance….Is to try something new for next year. Sure it makes more sense to bet on the thing that people will gravitate more because they’re familiar with it…But trying something new is never a bad thing.

 

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Finding Dory movie review

 

13 years ago, Pixar released (to me) it’s all time greatest film; Finding Nemo. Toy Story had set the bar and Nemo had completely surpassed it. It seemed like that was it-in a world where sequels were on the rise, Nemo would be one of the few that was just by itself.

And now we’re presented with Finding Dory; a companion piece to Finding Nemo. And I have to say…after thirteen years of waiting….it’s well worth the wait.

What’s the story? Well a year has taken place after the events of Finding Nemo. Marlin, Nemo and Dory are back in their nook of the world, when suddenly while on a school field trip, Dory’s memory is triggered and is on a desperate search to find her family. Marlin and Nemo are taken along for the ride as they must cross the ocean once again to the “Jewel of Morro Bay”; a Marine Life Institute. Along the way, it’s Dory this time who meets a cast of colorful characters on her journey to find home.

Literally there’s nothing wrong with this movie so let’s just talk about all the good stuff. There’s a lot.

  • The CHARACTERS

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    • Once again, the characters are incredible. I’ll talk about the new ones first-Bailey the Beluga Whale, Destiny a whale shark, two seals, and Hank an octopus with only seven legs, are all funny and well written-each contributing it’s own way to help Dory. My favorites were Hank and Destiny. Hank was a scene stealer. The old crowd make a welcome return-Crush the now 151 year old sea turtle provides the means to get to California; the East Australian Current once again.
      • Marlin. I could really write an entire separate article on this character and Dory. About how this film is a huge double character study. Because his character isn’t perfectly reformed and changed after his trip across the ocean. Sure he’s a bit less stern, but he still goes into manic states, and is still overprotective-and even tries to deny things he’s done. To see him grow completely and utterly as a character-to see him take fault and responsibility for those he hurt and done, is really refreshing. Marlin here finally admits some things that he couldn’t have done before due to pride, and thus grows. There’s a wonderful scene in the pipes, and another wonderful scene with him and Dory towards the end. It’s these two scenes that SHOW you how much Marlin has grown and changed.
      • Dory. Dory here is the center of the film. Unlike most main characters where (while they have good personalities) for the most part they’re just okay-it’s the side characters that take over and become more interesting. Here, Dory doesn’t suffer that. She completely holds the film, and Ellen does a wonderful job selling both the serious heart wrenching drama scenes Pixar is best at and the comedy Pixar is known for. What’s interesting about her character, is while you can understand Dory’s plight of her memory problem, you can also understand why certain fish would get annoyed, particularly with Marlin. She’s certainly an all around interesting character.
  • The VOICE ACTING
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Finding Dory 2016; Ellen DeGeneres with dr Andrew Stanton

    • Once again, everyone brings their A Game here. Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres and Andrew Stanton return as Marlin, Dory and Crush the turtle. Ty Burrell voices Bailey, the Beluga Whale, Eugene Levy is Charlie, Kaitlin Olson is Destiny the Whale Shark, and Diane Keaton voices Jenny. Ed O’Neil voiced Hank the octopus. The emotional scenes are so well acted, and every line was just well performed. At least this time I knew immediately who Dory was. After Finding Nemo had premiered….Sad to say that it took me a long, LONG time before I would realize who Dory was voiced by. Once again, with voice acting, as you see above this paragraph, actors don’t have much to go on other than a few photos, maybe a few barely rendered scenes, and their own instincts. They have to really rely on their director and themselves to bring these characters to life.
  • The ANIMATION
    • At this point it’s almost pointless to talk about Pixar animation. Even their most disappointing, pointless films have had great to stunning animation. The way animation can capture so many emotions on the face in the span of seconds fascinates me. When there were extreme close ups of Dory you could see she doesn’t have scales like Marlin or Nemo her skin is different. She also still has the scars from her and Marlin’s run in with the Jellyfish Forest. The lighting from the Kelp Forest was nice and eerie, and the aquarium looked great and how they all managed to get to the different exhibits and how those looked was great too.
  • The SCRIPT
    • In some ways…this film is in fact better than the first. In one important way, is the script. Here the characters are given more time to just breathe, and let you experience the journey. With the first, there was a simple goal-find Nemo. It’s a fine goal, and the movie is still to me Pixar’s best yet…sometimes it felt a bit slow, and the message a bit hammered in. it’s a good message, but maybe I’d skip when a moment when they’re in the whale, or when they’re talking to the turtle. Here? I’d skip the first 5 minutes-I’d start the movie when they’re getting chased by this giant squid-after Marlin yells at Dory for putting Nemo at risk and his son in shock, it’s Marlin who sets this journey into motion. The way the characters interact with each other is great-nothing felt forced, nothing felt too rushed or not worked on enough…There’s a saying that if you have to tell your story through flashbacks you’re doing something wrong in film…but here…it works because it adds to the mystery of the film. There were about 3 powerhouse scenes; when Dory finds out what happened to her parents and goes into shock (I’ll explain later), when Dory and Marlin and Nemo are in the pipes, and a scene revolving around her parents and shells.
  • The CINEMATOGRAPHY
    • There’s this scene where Dory is with other blue tang and Marlin and Nemo. She finds out what may have happened, through Marlin who has to unfortunately explain it to her. She then goes into this state of shock-I’m not sure how but through animation PIXAR did this amazing “Double vision” you often see in film when people are about to black out. It then becomes this incredible Point of View shot where Dory can’t hear a thing going on around her until she’s back into the ocean in front of the institute. As someone who’s had a few panic attacks here or there….that scene was spot on-you feel out of control you don’t pay attention to anything going on around you, you just try to think of a way to calm yourself down. That whole scene is one of my favorites in the film.

CONCLUSION

Like with Finding Nemo, while there’s a lot to talk about in Finding Dory review wise, not so much since…it’s so good. It’s easier to talk about the bad films than the good-with the good you say what’s good and move on. With bad films, you can just clamor on and on and on. This film builds upon this universe in a good way-the returning characters contribute to the story in unique and important ways. And they address a lot of Marlin’s issues as a character from the first film over here. There are some things that might annoy people-the first ten minutes feel strikingly familiar and Marlin’s constant going on and on about their journey can get annoying but this is thirteen years since people may have seen the first; maybe Pixar felt they needed to be reminded of Finding Nemo. All in all, it’s just as perfect as the original.

Is it BETTER than the original? Welllllllllll………………

For now….I’ll just go ahead and give it 5/5 stars how about that?

5-star-review

Comment below what Pixar movie is the BEST of the best?

Finding Nemo (2003) Movie Review

In a world where fish have personalities, and have lives of their own, the life of clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) is shaken when his only son Nemo is taken from him by divers. He goes on an oeanwide journey to find his son, meeting a friendly but forgetful blue tang fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a cool sea turtle Crush, and many other creatures-learning a valuable lesson along the way.

So the question is….Does Finding Nemo still hold up after being out and about in public for thirteen years?

Well….That’s a definite yes. With an attraction at Walt Disney World Resort where you can talk to Crush, or ride in a sub at Disneyland and now with a “companion piece” which is a much nicer term for a film like Finding Dory out and breaking all sorts of records at the box office, Finding Nemo’s staying power seems to be going strong. But why? Let’s take a look.

  • The ANIMATION
    • The ocean is a stunning, dangerous, beautifully gorgeous place. And even though this movie was released in 2003 and production years before, when CGI wasn’t at the place it is now, the film holds up extremely well in blu-ray and Digital HD. The lighting, the flowing animation, the way the characters are designed, the sound effects of the water….everything is done just beautifully.
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Meet Marlin and Dory; two fantastic leads and one of cinema’s BEST dads.

  • The CHARACTERS
    • All of the characters are wonderful. Especially the two leads Marlin and Dory. It’s important the audience like your leads; they don’t like your leads they very well won’t like your movie. Thankfully, these leads are wonderful. Marlin’s character is more than understandable after the horrific loss he suffered at the movie’s prologue at the hands of a nasty predator known as a barracuda. He’s manic, overbearing, over-protective, distrusting, and just downright neurotic type of fish. His exact counterpart is Dory; a fun-loving, lives in the moment regal blue-tang. His adventurous son Nemo is cute to a degree, the Tank Gang is funny and holds up the subplot well enough and the characters Marlin meets along the way are funny and memorable. Particularly Crush dudes.Also Marlin is one of cinema’s BEST dads ever. For a lot of reasons-in particular his sheer determination to find his son.
  • The SOUNDTRACK
    • The soundtrack completely fits the movie; mysterious, energetic, depressing, and just relaxing. Exactly like the movie, and exactly like the ocean in which this takes place.
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FINDING NEMO, Ellen DeGeneres, director Andrew Stanton at a recording session, 2003, (c) Walt Disney

  • The VOICE ACTING
    • Everyone brings their A game in this movie. It actually took me a LONG while after this movie was released before I even knew Dory was voiced by THE Ellen. Albert Brooks does a remarkable job on Marlin, and Alexander Gould as Nemo, Willem Dafoe as Gill (go figure eh?), Geoffry Rush as Nigel a pelican, and Andrew Stanton as the 150 year old sea turtle Crush, bring about wonderful and memorable characters. Voice acting often revolves around actors just in a booth surrounded by pictures of their characters and how the director wants them to read their lines. It’s a hard task to pull off well and these guys did over the moon amazing. Albert Brooks in particular really sells Marlin’s misery and woes in the beginning and his determination to find his son.
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One of cinema’s best dads ever right here.

  • The LESSON
    • The lesson for this movie is more so for parents than kids. Marlin as stated before is overbearing and over-protective, and doesn’t seem to lose traits completely in Finding Dory. He only slightly overcomes these traits during his epic voyage….Which is what happens in real life. He slowly but surely comes out of his scales, and learns the value of having friends, of trusting others (there are quite a few scenes that almost hammer this in for Marlin but not to the point of “ok we get it already”) and in the end, he learns to let his son go. Which is the lesson here; go to the ends of the earth for your child, but learn when it’s time to let them go. More often than not, an animation (which typically are seen as “just for kids” movies) have lessons thus geared for the children. So for an animation from Pixar no less to have a lesson for adults isn’t something you see everyday.

The CONCLUSION

In the end, there are plenty of reasons why Finding Nemo is still remembered, still regarded as one of Pixar’s BEST films, won the Academy Award for Best Animation, and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. It’s just a wonderful, heartfelt story about a father’s determination to save his son, and a father’s journey to grow as a character. Sometimes the movie can be a little to dialogue heavy, but for the most part, the movie just breathes. This movie is all about “Show don’t tell”; it just lets the audience experience this beautiful world Pixar has created. It’s no wonder they decided to create the sequel/Companion piece Finding Dory.

Finding Nemo deserves nothing short, of a 5/5 from me.

5-star-review

Also every dad ever should watch this movie with their kids.

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