At the height of Pixar’s creative boon, Toy Story 3 threatened the impossible: a sequel would be the animation studio’s best movie to date. This on the heels of the triple-threat punch of Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up, to this day the finest consecutive output Pixar would manage. Toy Story, to this point in the studio’s history, was Pixar’s only ongoing franchise – Cars 2 would come along and bust their Fresh streak just one year later – but its sequels managed to keep pace with their starkly original one-off creations by diving deeper into the pathos of its collection of anthropomorphic toys and achieving an even greater sense of world-building. Woody, Buzz and the gang discovered things about themselves by exploring larger sandboxes and, accompanying them, we too saw the world with eyes renewed. Read More
The state of superhero films today can only be described as ubiquitous. In 2018, there’s a new superhero movie every month. Sometimes two. And with Marvel films like Black Panther and Infinity Wars doing absolute gangbusters at the box office, there is no sign of slowing for the super-charged genre. But before Iron Man ever suited up or Batman began again, Brad Bird and Pixar offered a family-friendly spin on the Golden Age of superheroes with 2004’s widely adored The Incredibles. Its sequel, Incredibles 2, may pick up right where its predecessor left off but its commentary about popular culture is as timely as can be. Read More
Perhaps I am dead inside but I can’t scrub free the feeling that Coco hits all the right notes but still feels like the same old song. Pixar, the studio responsible for such masterpieces of modern animation as Wall-E, Toy Story, Up and Monsters Inc., appears more than ever to have sold out, peddling mediocre stories lathered in an admittedly marvelous coat of digital paint. We all knew this day was coming at some point, Disney’s acquisition of the once smallish, creatively independent studio renowned for delivering one stunner after another a warning sign of impending doom. I remember an age where I used to anticipate a new Pixar film just as much as a new Batman film. My how the times have changed. Pixar has quite simply become formulaic and Coco, while charming, loaded with delightful music and animated with the immaculate medium-pressing precision that Pixar is known for, just feels rote.
A more lovable loser there may not be than Jake Johnson’s Eddie Garrett in Win It All. The 18th (!!!) feature from mumblecore originator Joe Swanberg, Win It All is the second “official” collaboration between Swanberg and Johnson, who paired up last year to middling success with Digging for Fire after previously working in a director-actor capacity on festival favorite Drinking Buddies. Swanberg’s brand of low-key, grounded comedy-drama has rarely been better than in Win It All as he and Johnson create an emotionally involving character study of a man whose addiction to gambling (and losing) has come back to bite him, just when life has started looking up. Read More
Semi-charmed The Good Dinosaur is slight Pixar but nonetheless a small triumph of wonder and good-nature. Its lack of the distinct creativity that so often characterizes Pixar’s products is overshadowed by a big heart and a resplendent aesthetic palette. Even though the narrative is admittedly quaint, thinly plotted and largely derivative (The Good Dinosaur is essentially a mild repackaging of The Lion King), the overwhelming sense of goodness emanating from the center of Pixar’s 16th feature film had it strike poignant blows at my admittedly exposed softer spots. As Pixar is known to do. Read More
It’s been five long years and three mediocre products since Pixar unleashed the beloved Toy Story 3, and years of bated breathe have contribution to the hot anticipation of their first original effort since 2012’s problematic Brave. The titanic mummer of Pixar’s throbbing heartbeat has been notably muted and palpably chunky over the last half-decade – the result of Disney dollars hierarchized above lush originality and narrative fervor. But with Inside Out, the Docter is in. Stethoscopes have been administered, a double bypass has been performed, the blockage has been loosened. In one fell blow, Pete Docter has served up a whopping Pixar masterpiece and restored the animation studio’s name to its former glory. All hail the king. All hail the Docter.