“Cars 3” Review: How Lightning Got His Vroom Back

It's official: I'm just never going to "get" Pixar's Cars universe.Despite the studio's ability to make me care for friendly monsters, plastic toys, foodie rats, wisecracking bugs and personified emotions, I've been left cold by the adventures of Lightning McQueen and his buddies. There's just something about their design that makes it hard to connect. Aside from their windshield eyes and bumper-lips, these are still just vehicles moving around roadways and tracks, and something in me … [Read more...]

Review: “Beauty and the Beast” charms, never fully enchants

Disney's recent trend of remaking its animated classics has been successful because of the studio's ability to find new angles on beloved tales. "Cinderella" added a dose of compassion and was anchored by a fantastic performance by Lily James. "Jungle Book" found new notes of menace and adventure. "Pete's Dragon" brought soul to a silly, slapdash story. This approach has allowed these live-action remakes to stand proudly alongside, and sometimes above, their animated predecessors.But what do … [Read more...]

Review: “Moana”

In a year of uncertainty, one thing has held true: Don't bet against Disney.Sure, the Mouse House stumbled this summer with the box office disappointment of Steven Spielberg's "The BFG" (although I've heard that it's quite good), but they've been successful almost everywhere else. Not only have Disney's live action and animated offerings raked in the money, but they've also been critically acclaimed. "Zootopia" turned another anthropomorphized animal comedy into a timely story about … [Read more...]

Review: “Pete’s Dragon”

"Pete's Dragon" returns wonder to family movies.Director David Lowery's remake of the 1977 Disney musical ditches the songs and slapstick and spins a gentle tale of friendship, family, healing and faith.  Told with beauty and charm, it's one of the best family films in a year filled with great ones, and a reminder that Disney knows the key to effective remakes — hiring directors who can find a story's soul.Lowery relocates the tale from a Maine fishing seaport to a lumber town in the Pac … [Read more...]

Top 10 Pixar moments to make you cry

As Finding Dory just kept swimming into theaters this weekend, it provided another opportunity to look back on the output of Pixar, which has released an astonishing number of beloved films in just 21 years. I was tempted to rank all of Pixar's movies, but at a certain point you're just debating degrees of perfection (however, I do have a list).But what really sets Pixar apart from its competitors is the skilled way it deals with emotion. I may laugh harder at Shrek and appreciate the … [Read more...]

Review: “Finding Dory”

Five years after its release, "Cars 2" still instills dread in Pixar lovers. Never mind that the studio's other weakest films ("The Good Dinosaur" and "Brave") are both original works, and that the "Toy Story" followups have been lauded as some of the best sequels ever. What most people think of when they hear about returning to a beloved Pixar world is Mater the Tow Truck zipping through Japan and making pee-pee jokes.It's why the idea of a "Finding Nemo" sequel made me uneasy, especially … [Read more...]

Catching up: “Midnight Special,” “Kimmy Schmidt,” “Zootopia” and Linklater

So, for regular readers, I know that my writing's been a bit sporadic in the past few weeks. I apologize. Things at my day job have been a bit crazy as the semester winds down, which has robbed me of some writing energy in the evening, and we're still figuring out how to best navigate two kids, two jobs and extra writing. But for the moment, things appear to be getting back to normal-ish, so I thought it might be a good time to do a post where I catch up on some of the things I haven't been able … [Read more...]