Posts tagged "Animation"

“Soul” finds heart in this emotionally complex story

December 21st, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Soul” finds heart in this emotionally complex story”

Disney Pixar has done it again with “Soul” thanks to the inspirational co-writing and co-directing of the renowned artist Pete Docter who gave us “Up,” “Inside Out,” and “Toy Story.” With animation that makes you forget it’s animated, Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett and an array of other well-known and talented actors use their voice to bring these characters to life. It’s a remarkable story, perhaps geared more toward adults than children, that sends a perfect message of living our best lives each and every day.

The opening scene introduces us to Joe Gardner (Foxx) who finds himself in a rut as a middle school music teacher. Never having attained his goal of becoming a standout jazz pianist, Joe trudges through his days. But then that day of opportunity comes and he’s ready. Auditioning for the great Dorothea Williams (Bassett), he gets his lucky break and the world is a shiny new place for Joe. Moments later, along a zippy stroll back home, he takes a wrong step and lands in a weigh station between life and death. Just when things were looking up for Joe, it looks like he’s never going to make his earthly dreams come true.

The animation changes in this new place as we only see Joe’s soul and all those who are ascending to the next phase. But Joe, unwilling to leave his life behind, runs, finding himself in The Great Before, the place where personalities and quirks are developed for each and every soul. It is here that he meets the feisty 22 (Fey) who has absolutely no want to become human but together, inadvertently, they discover the true meaning of life.

“Soul” is an existential story delving into what it means to be human and the gifts we are given and how they are attained. While this may sound like a conceptually complicated idea to convey, Docter and co-writers Mike Jones and Kemp Powers find a concrete way to demonstrate it. And in true Pixar style, the emotional element rings loudly, bringing us into the story as we forget that we are watching an animated film, connecting us with Joe and his urgency to not give up on his life. Countering Joe’s dramatic flare, 22 adds the snarky comedy that makes us laugh aloud—it’s a perfect balance. But there’s also a dark side of the film, a land of lost souls which counterbalances and adds an element of fear to Joe’s quest to live. While the darkness may seem disturbing, like in life, we cannot appreciate the light without the dark.

The imaginative elements seems boundless in “Soul” as it captivates you and pushes your cognitive boundaries. With this creativity, as would be expected with any Pixar film, the animation is stellar. Playing the piano, Joe’s fingers hit every key needed to produce the harmonic tones. A simple rise of an eyebrow or the slow turn of a head, gives Dorothea the hesitant and exasperated emotion necessary for a scene. The attention to detail is incredible as the animators find seemingly imperceptible ways to animate these characters and bring them to life. Of course, the voices are the final touch and each character is cast perfectly. Foxx finds the dramatic notes while Fey’s razor sharp wit punches each scene in staccato style. Graham Norton’s droll humor seeps into the bean counter “Moonwind” as we chuckle at his focus on precision. It’s a magical amalgam of writing, directing, acting and animation that equals the passionately evocative story telling of “Coco,” “Toy Story,” and “Inside Out.”

“Soul” is the perfect escape to find yourself and while it may appeal more to adults than children, the animation will certainly capture the heart and soul, pun intended, of everyone who watches it. Be cautioned, parents, as this is going to spur a few questions about life, death, and every existential question you could imagine from your kids…and maybe even from you!

You can stream “Soul” on Disney+ beginning Dec. 25, 2020.

4 Stars

“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” Finds the Force

November 18th, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” Finds the Force”

After countless hours of watching every single “Star Wars” movie ever made, I am almost inclined to say “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” is the most entertaining one!  Disney’s Lego artistry is of course incredible as characters embrace their swiveling hair and pincer grip hands, but it’s the writing that makes it stand out. Making fun of the concept, the never-ending saga of “Star Wars,” and the evil, good, or strange characters’ personalities, writer David Shayne incorporates every character and confusing story line and brings it to life in this time travel saga.

We begin this holiday rendition, narrated in classic syntactic style by Yoda, with Rey struggling with her inabilities to teach Finn how to be a Jedi. Questioning her own credibility, she ventures off to find answers.  Accompanied by BB8, Rey discovers a time travel key in a mysterious temple which unlocks the doors to see and meet the greats of “Star Wars” past.  From young Anakin Skywalker and Han Solo to Darth Vader himself and even baby Yoda, Rey interacts with and learns valuable lessons along the way. But…one past version of Darth Vader sneaks back to the future with Rey and begins to wreak havoc. Now, young Rey must set things back in order and get back to the present in time to celebrate the infamous Life Day.

Writer Shayne capitalizes on the “Star Wars” soap opera-like confusing genealogy of the characters, and crazy as it sounds, he creates a bit more background from these animated plastic characters, especially the relationship between the evil Supreme Leader and Darth Vader. The conversations that ensue shed light upon the character’s personalities and why they chose between the dark and the light side. In fact, many of these conversations and parenthetical comments, especially among the Supreme Leader, Darth and Kylo are laugh out loud funny. These strange little plastic figures with changeable printed garments come to life with voice overs which conjure the real life actors. They deliver dialogue that is incredibly smart and funny, particularly if you’ve been subjected to the myriad number of hours of “Star Wars” movie viewing.  

The action and vivid animation is there to hold younger fans’ attentions, even if they don’t quite understand all the “Star Wars” references, but it’s those references and attention to visual detail that we adults will appreciate. And somehow, Shayne squeezes in or makes a nod to almost every relevant “Star Wars” character or convoluted story line in the short running time of 44 minutes while it creates a captivatingly entertaining story with a complete narrative arc and lesson.

Be sure to check out “Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” available on Disney+.

3 1/2 Stars

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