Luxo Jr. (1986, Directed by John Lasseter) English 6

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The short that started it all for animation juggernaut, Pixar, was merely a tease of what was to come. It’s a very simple story about a lamp and that lamp’s son playing with a ball, but it’s a testament to the studio that out of that premise, they were able to make a relatable film. To make the audience empathize with inanimate objects would prove to be their first claim to fame nearly a decade later with Toy Story.

One Man Band (2006, Directed by Mark Andrews, Andrew Jimenez) English 7

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Two market place street musicians in medieval times compete for the last coin from a young girl. After the two’s escalating performances cause her to drop the coin and lose it, she demonstrates her own musical ability earning her more gold than the two men could ever imagine. Reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon in a way, because of the intense rivalry and one-upsmanship and pettiness of the characters. Shows once again Pixar’s talent at telling an engaging story without dialogue, which they put on full display soon after with Wall-E. Their artwork and Michael Giacchino’s music tell the story.

Sanjay’s Super Team (2015, Directed by Sanjay Patel) English 6

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Uniquely personal short film from the Pixar team, relating a scene from the writer/director’s childhood with his father. Young Sanjay, like most kids, fantasizes about super heroes. A battle between his modern fantasies and the Hindu traditions of his family ensues when his father’s prayers conflict with a favorite television program of Sanjay’s. The hyper-cartoonish art style, while lovely, seems at odds with the material, and the main action feels designed to keep younger kids attention. I would have preferred a simpler design and telling of Sanjay’s story. Still, a fine short film.

The Secret of NYMH (1982, Directed by Don Bluth) English 8

Voices of Elizabeth Hartman, Derek Jacobi, Dom Deluise, John Carradine, Aldo Ray, Shannen Doherty, Hermione Baddeley

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Mrs. Brisby (Hartman), a mouse, and widowed mother, looks after her three kids with some help from an overbearing Aunt on the land of a farmer. She prepares to move her family as their current home stands in the way of a forthcoming plowing, when one of her children falls sick with pneumonia. Unable to move him in his condition, she looks for old friends of her deceased husband’s, hoping they can help her and her boy. Soon she discovers a secret society of rats with strange abilities and intelligence, but they’re in a fix themselves. Scary, exciting stuff from Don Bluth and his team of animators, in their first foray away from Disney. The animation is top-grade, the story intrigues, and there are several suspenseful scenes that had me holding my breath.

Get a Horse! (2013, Directed by Lauren MacMullen) English 6

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Attempting to update a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon for modern times, this short starts off with Mickey in a quintessential premise. The big bully Pete is after Mickey’s girl Minnie, and it’s up to Disney’s greatest creation to save her. Complicating matters, and putting a new spin on the material, is the breaking of the fourth wall, almost literally. Mickey breaks through the theater screen, and becomes a three dimensional figure. The short then sees Mickey using the fourth wall and his bag of tricks to stop Pete. Much of the short is clearly designed to show off the then booming trend of 3-D. Thankfully, the film avoids being outright gimmicky. It’s a solid piece of animation, though Mickey looks a whole lot better in 2-D.

The Incredibles 2 (2018, Directed by Brad Bird) English 8

Voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabella Rossellini, Sarah Vowell, John Ratzenberger, Jonathan Banks

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The Parr family, alias The Incredibles, are back. Fourteen years, four pretty undistinguished Pixar sequels later, and we finally get The Incredibles 2. There’s the father, Bob or Mr. Incredible(voiced by Nelson), with super strength. The mother, Helen or Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), can stretch to insane lengths, oldest child, Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell) can turn invisible and create force fields, son, Dash (now voiced by Huck Milner), has extraordinary speed, and the infant, Jack-Jack, whose powers were only hinted at in the first film. The good thing about animation is that all that lapsed time isn’t a problem. Writer and director Brad Bird can pick up right where he left off, unburdened by the effects of time on his actors, able to capably portray the Parr family just as we remember them from the first film.

So that’s what Bird does. The Incredibles 2 starts where the first film ends. Dash finished his race, Violet asked out a boy, and a new super villain, calling himself the Underminer, showed up to spring the heroic family back into action. This ending seemed like a perfect setup for another installment, but as The Incredibles 2 plays out, the Underminer proves to be only a small part of the whole. The important part of the scene is that The Underminer gets away, the Parr family cause a lot of damage protecting people, and the mandate outlawing superheroes sees the protagonists relocated once again, this time to a shabby motel where Bob contemplates returning to his soul-deadening insurance job. Fortunately, their good deed in fighting The Underminer was not completely in vain as it caught the eye of billionaire, Winston Deaver (voiced by Bob Odenkirk), who has very personal reasons for wanting to bring superheroes back. He believes the Parr family are the key. The only thing is, he thinks Elastigirl is the better choice as the face of his plan, throwing Bob for a loop. This go-around, Helen is out fighting crime while Bob stays home with the kids. Dealing with Violet’s lovesick teen angst, Dash’s complicated homework, and Jack-Jack’s ever growing list of abilities, while a larger plot begins to form slowly involving a masked figure known as The Screenslaver.

The over-arching plot, due to the super villain of the piece, is good not great. It’s the one thing holding the film back from being in line with its predecessor. The villain’s secret identity with all of the red herrings have been done before, to the point that we can see the film’s third act coming a mile away. This ends up not being a major detractor since Incredibles was always best as the first film too is best remembered for its famil commentary, genre satire, and situational comedy. All of this remains intact. Jack-Jack steals the show with one of the film’s chief pleasures being  his expansive roster of powers slowly being revealed throughout the movie. I won’t spoil them here. The great scene stealer from the first Incredibles, Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird himself) returns and has a wonderful scene with the infant Parr.

The action sequences in The Incredibles 2 are stunning. We’re reminded that the possibilities in animation are endless, and Brad Bird pushes the envelope with every new film. Stunning is how I’d describe the animation and design of the film as well. Even without living up to the ridiculous heights of the first movies, The Incredibles 2 will, in all likelihood, be the best action comedy of the year, and the best blockbuster of the summer.

-Walter Howard-

 

Brave (2012, Directed by Mark Andrews) English 6

Voices of Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson

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A teenaged Scottish Princess and world class archer, Merida (MacDonald) dreams of following her own dreams rather than do what’s expected of her. She has a complicated relationship with her loving but domineering mother, Queen Elinor (Thompson), which leads to a hasty mistake from Merida ending in the Queen being transformed into a bear. With all the makings of a modern classic fairy tale, first-rate animation and voice-over work, this film should have been so much more. The problem lies with the story which feels half-baked. With no compelling villain and no romantic love interest, there’s not much to push the story forward. It becomes a series of hijinks towards the end, and that’s really disappointing.