Big Hero 6

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After last year’s smash hit “Frozen”, I applaud Disney for trying something different for their latest film. They could’ve taken the safe route and done another fairytale musical that would’ve guaranteed them a box office success, but instead, they went for a superhero action movie that feels more like a Marvel film than a Disney film. This makes sense, because Big Hero 6 is in fact based off a very obscure Marvel comic of the same name. This also marks the first time that Disney has made an in-house movie based off of one of Marvel’s properties since the companies merged. Did the gamble pay off? Read on to find out.

Big-Hero-6-15 The heart of Big Hero 6 lies with it’s two main characters, namely Hiro, a young boy genius (no, not that one) and his big squishy robot Baymax. The two of them share a friendship that really carries this movie, and I’d go as far to say that it’s one of the best relationships in Disney’s history. The rest of the superhero team (GoGo Tomago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred) don’t get as much screen time as I feel they should, and feel more like supporting characters rather than part of the film’s main cast. When they do appear on screen, they’re completely memorable and loveable, as you’d hoped they would be (Fred in particular reminds me a bit of myself.) The main focus is really on Hiro and Baymax for the most part. Speaking of Baymax, he completely steals the show. When he’s onscreen, he’s either offering the biggest laughs, or the most emotional moments. I want to call him one of Disney’s best comic relief characters, but he’s more than that. Baymax is one of the most irresistible and loveable Disney characters in general.

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Once all six members team up and start working together, the movie becomes very action oriented, but sadly, none of the action scenes really struck me as being all that great. It doesn’t help that the identity of the film’s masked villain isn’t as shocking as it should be. As a matter of fact, the entire third act of the film is pretty weak in comparison to the first two acts. It just feels rushed and clunky whereas the beginning and middle of the film felt well paced. What saves the action (and the third act) from being completely dull, however, is the animation. As per the norm for Disney, the animation is some of the best you’ll see all year, and that alone makes this movie worth seeing on the big screen. One of my favorite things about the movie was the use of the microbots. The way they’re animated is incredible, and the way the characters in the film used them was often creative and unexpected. I especially love the scene where Hiro is presenting them for the first time, and his monologue sounds like Walt Disney himself wrote it. Walt was always fascinated by technology, and I have a feeling he would find a lot to enjoy about this movie.

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Mild spoiler warning ahead: One of the things Big Hero 6 excels at however, is its core theme of losing a loved one. This may seem like a scary thing to throw into a movie aimed at kids but the fact is that it’s something that everyone goes through and can relate to at some point in their lives. Seeing Disney delicately handle the concept with this film’s plot is surprising, but I was impressed by how well they handled it. I mentioned that the film’s climax wasn’t too great, but the ending (everything after the big battle) is brilliant and may even make you shed a few tears. I know I certainly did. This not only makes this one of the most mature Disney films out there, but also one of the most heartfelt. On top of that, the movie is also very funny. The humor ranges from smartly written dialogue to slapstick, and nearly all the jokes work. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard at a Disney film since 2000’s “The Emperors New Groove”. The film’s terrific balance of humor and heart alone makes this a must see this holiday season.

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In some ways, Big Hero 6 is the Incredibles meets the Iron Giant (with a little bit of The Avengers thrown in) yet it still manages to stand on it’s own as not only a great Disney film or a great Marvel film, but just a great film in general. I do wish the third act was stronger, and I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it more than Frozen. Dispite it’s flaws, the beautiful animation, loveable characters and mature story make this a very strong entry in this new era of Disney classics.

And don’t forget to stay after the credits!

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The Book of Life

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Expectations are a funny thing. For the most part it feels like they can never be fully met. I fall victim to this all the time. As a movie buff, there’s often dozens of films per year that I eagerly anticipate, and while most of them satisfy me, there’s always a few that are complete letdowns. So imagine my surprise when The Book of life, A film that i’ve been anticipating, not only meets my Expectations, but in some ways surpasses them. The Book of Life is a highly enjoyable piece of art that deserves more attention then it’s currently getting.

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One of the areas this movie exceeds at is it’s pacing. I can see some people complaining that it’s a little slow and that it takes too long before the really big stuff happens, but I personally love movies that take their time establishing world and characters before introducing the larger than life conflicts. The three main characters are introduced as children and it’s not until almost a half-hour in that they grow up, and the movie’s only an hour and a half long. I personally love this because the film clearly wants you to understand that these three characters aren’t simply in a love triangle. They’re friends first, and have been friends for a long time. Speaking of main characters, the three of them ( Manolo, Joaquin and Maria) are extremely likeable and well written. Maria sort of falls into some stenotypes towards the end, but she’s still a pretty enjoyable character, and never goes overboard with her extreme feminist nature.

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My favorite characters of the film however would have to be the spirits of the day of the dead, specifically Xibalba, ruler of the land of the Forgotten. Talk about an iconic and memorable villain. His design is great, he’s voiced by the great Rob Perlman, and his character animation is unbelievable. He comes off as intimidating, while still being charismatic.He brings to mind the character of Discord (from Friendship is Magic) both in personality and design. the scenes between him and his wife (La Muerte: ruler of the Land of the Remembered) stand out as the highlights of the movie. Xibalba isn’t just my favorite character of the film. He may just be my favorite character of 2014, period. There’s also another spirit known as the Candle maker (voiced by Ice Cube) who isn’t as memorable as the others, and his celebrity voiceover sticks out like a sore thumb, but He’s got some good lines here and there.

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The animation…what can I say? It’s some of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s colorful and bright when it needs to be as well as being dark and atmospheric when required. It really does a good job at transporting you to each the different worlds, which are all unique and memorable. The decision to make the characters resemble wooden figurines was a stroke of genius and it really helps set this movie apart from the other animated features of the year. In short, The animation is as stunning as I hoped it would be. Did I mention that the film’s also kind of a musical? All of the songs are mexican covers of popular songs, and they are a joy to listen to.

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The Book of Life is a ton of fun and a must-see for fans of animation. It features some of the most impressive animation I’ve seen all year and it demands to be seen on the big screen. The story may feel familiar at times, but there are enough unexpected twists and turns that certainly kept me guessing. So far it’s my favorite animated film of the year, (which is saying alot) and I recommend you go see it before it’s out of theaters. I cannot wait to see this again.

My Top Five Most Anticipated Films of Winter 2014

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The holiday season is often when some of then biggest releases of the year come out, and this year is no exception. These are my top five most anticipated movies of Winter 2014.

Number 5: Interstellar 

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Christopher Nolan hasn’t disappointed me yet! His latest film, a sci-fi thriller, looks very compelling and emotionally driven. I don’t know much about the plot other then what the very vague trailers have shown me, but I’m hoping for another Nolan Masterpiece.

Number 4: Night At the museum 3: The Secret of the Tomb

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The first two Night at the Museum films are some of my favourite comedies, and I’m expecting good things from the third. It looks like this will be the finale of the series, capping off the trilogy. What really makes this one of my most anticipated of the year however is the fact that this will be one of the last times we will see the great Robin Williams on film. He is deeply missed, and it will be nice to see him reprise the character of Teddy Roosevelt one last time.

Number 3: Asterix: The Land of the Gods

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I’ve been an Asterix and Obelix fan ever since I was first introduced to the comic in elementary school, and it’s been quite a while since the characters were in another animated movie. ( the last one was in 2006). The animation seems to really capture the style and soul of the original cartoons. Can’t wait to see this one.

Number 2: Big Hero 6

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Being a huge fan of Disney, this one has been on my radar since it was announced a few years ago. The characters look loveable (especially Baymax) The animation looks amazing, and the idea that Marvel and Disney are teaming up to make a film together is bursting with potential. Maybe there will even be a Stan Lee cameo in there somewhere! Hey, I can dream.

Number 1: The Hobbit: The battle of the Five Armies

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Did you really expect anything else? The Hobbit isn’t just one of my most anticipated films of this season, it’s been one of my most anticipated of the year in general. After being satisfied by the previous two entires, I’m excited to finally see this epic trilogy come to a powerful and touching conclusion. It’s truly been a fantastic adventure following Bilbo and company over the past three years, and it will be sad to see it come to an end, but I have a feeling that this franchise is going to go out with a bang.

What films are you looking forward to in the next two months? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

The Maze Runner

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Since the Hunger Games took the world by storm, both in literature and film, there have been a ton of other bleak stories filled with teen angst and grim futures being served to us over the past few years. Divergent was one such movie that came out earlier this year, and while I didn’t really care for it, I still thought it was better than the First Hunger games. (though if you know me, that’s not really saying much) and now we have the Maze Runner. The latest young adult novel adapted into a big budget hollywood extravaganza. Complete with all the angsty attitude and boring characters that you’ve come to expect from the genre. Ok ok, maybe I’m being a little harsh. After all, this film is better than the first Hunger Games movie. Which counts for something. Right?

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The Maze Runner’s biggest strength is it’s suspense factor, which can be pretty effective at times and If your sold on the movie by the time things get really suspenseful, then you’ll probably be on the edge of your seat. Although the characters aren’t very interesting, it’s still moderately cool to see them get themselves out of trouble in the maze. Wether it be running away from Cyborg-esc monsters, or dogging traps, it’s handled pretty decently. The acting is about what I’ve come to expect from this genre; Blank facial expressions coupled with some monotone and uninterested sounding voices. I understand that the situation these characters find themselves in is dire, and i’m not expecting these kids to be all sunshine and rainbows, but I’d be hard pressed to think of someone memorable or relatable here. there’s not a single character that I felt like I could latch on to, and that’s not a good thing. One of the biggest offenders of this was a character named teresa, as the only female on the group, she makes a grand entrance….and does nothing. I’m sure her character was more important in the book, but as far as the film is concerned, she could’ve been written out of it entirely and the story would’ve stayed the same. I couldn’t get invested in this world because the characters did hardly anything to engage me.

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The creatures in this movie serve their purpose, but are almost as forgettable as the human cast. They reminded me of those old Bionicle villains, “The Visorak”. They’re not entirely organic, and have various mechanical pieces thrown on them. They aren’t terribly designed or anything, just a little bland. The idea that the Maze itself is consistently changing is sort of interesting, but the idea is nothing new. The cinematography can be effective at times, with the highlights being when they showcase the sheer size of the maze in comparison to the main characters, but other than that, it’s nothing to write home about. The movie also ends with a groan inducing cliffhanger that comes completely out of nowhere and feels kind of cheap.

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The Maze Runner isn’t awful, just sort of boring. There’s not much here that warrants a recommendation unless your a big fan of these “ dystopian” Hunger Games-Type films or have read the book. If your a fan of these types of films, then more power to you. Like I said earlier, It’s got a few things going for it, but overall, it’s not a film that I’ll be seeing again anytime soon.

The Box Trolls

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Stop motion used to freak me out as a kid. I blame the Wallace in Gromit shorts (which are wonderful by the way) which had some creepy imagery that stayed with me through most of my childhood. Over the years however, I’ve grown to appreciate it as a brilliant way of telling stories through animation. Heck some of my currently favourite animated films are stop motion (including The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Pirates: Band of misfits). Laika studios (the creative minds behind Coraline and Paranorman) help keep the art of stop motion alive and well with their latest animated feature, The Box Trolls.

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The Box Trolls’s main attraction is the animation. It’s really, really, REALLY good, and it’s hard not to marvel at it. The characters and the environments are given the finest details, and it really shows that the creators take attention to detail very seriously. There’s always something going on in every frame, wether it’s in the foreground, or a simple background joke. It’s nearly impossible to look away (save for a few intentionally disturbing scenes) and it’s incredible to see how much the animation is capable of, especially in the action sequences. I could only find one shot of the film that had a CGI effect in it, and it was towards the end. Everything else appears to be completely made by hand, and it’s stunning.

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The two main characters, Eggs and Winnie, aren’t the most engaging leads. They aren’t painful to watch or anything, and Winnie does get a few good lines here and there, but I couldn’t help but feel that I had seen these character types in countless other films. Most of Egg’s arc plays out like a fish out of water story and it’s not any more interesting here then it was the last time we saw it. The reason I take issue with this is because there are so many other interesting characters in this movie that I would rather spend time with, but don’t get as many chances to. The plot isn’t terribly original either, mostly playing out like a fish out of water storyline that feels predictable. The rest of the characters however, are a ton of fun. With the four villains, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) and his three henchmen Mr. Trout, Mr. Pickles and Mr. Gristle (my personal favourite) being the most entertaining to watch. They’re diabolical and hilarious antagonists that really carry film. The Box Trolls themselves are interesting and fun to watch as well, although they did often remind me of the Minions found in Despicable Me.

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The Box Trolls isn’t my favourite Laika film (that honour goes to Coraline) but it’s a solid and fun ride that has a great cast, some memorable characters and a fantastic sense of humour. Some of the imagery may be too intense for younger viewers, but most kids above the age of 7 should be fine with it. Animation fans should have a field day with this one, and I hope that Laika continues to improve and make fun stop motion films in the future.

Casper’s Scare School

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Casper’s Scare School, At first glance, looks pretty terrible. The animation is kind of bad, many of the characters don’t act like themselves, and the voice acting ranges from pretty great to downright confusing. Despite this, Casper’s Scare School manages to be a very enjoyable halloween flick. It’s certainly not the best the franchise has to offer, but it’s not terrible either. It’s sort of middle of the road, but I personally enjoy watching it.

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The film starts of in Deedstown (does that technically make this a sequel to a Spirited Beginning and Wendy?) where Kibosh arrives to punish Casper (sound familiar?) This time, he doesn’t send Casper and his uncles to Christmas town, but instead sentences Casper to Scare School, a place for a variety of ghouls and monsters that, like Casper, Aren’t interested in scaring. When Casper arrives, and from there He Stands up to a bully on the school bus, befriends a rather amusing pirate, A Zombie and a Mummy, and uncovers the evil plot of the school headmasters to take over the monster world, and the human world.

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Aside from a few similarities, this is definitely not your standard Casper plot, and in some ways it’s rather refreshing. It’s interesting to see Casper in a completely new environment that has a Tim Burton flair. The film’s story is actually more similar to Monsters Inc than anything else, with the monsters having their own cable networks and educational films about how terrible humans are. The problem here is that Casper isn’t supposed to BE Monsters Inc. From the very beginning, there was an established world that Casper and friends lived in, and through all the prequels and sequels and tv shows, it was the one thing that remained consistent. Here, we are thrown into a world with a very different set of rules and concepts, and I won’t lie, It’s a bit jarring.

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Another problem I have with the movie is the Ghostly Trio. They are completely out of character. When Casper leaves for school, They spend the rest of the movie missing him and crying about how much they love him.

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Now this wouldn’t have been an issue if it was handled well. I wouldn’t have minded if they behaved this way after Casper left, but they make it very clear before he leaves that they are going to miss him. This just doesn’t feel like the Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso that I know, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. As for the animation, it’s a mixed bag. The character moments are a little bland, and the humans look so unbelievably terrible , that they make the ones in Haunted Christmas look like works of Pixar.

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What saves the animation is the character designs and environments. (Although I’ve never been a fan of Casper having feet) I can’t deny that the film certainly looks creative, and if the animation had been just a little better, this would have been one of the more visually pleasing Casper Movies in recent years. The designs for the monsters are fun, and I really enjoy the school itself. It has a very Hogwarts vibe and it feels huge. Alot of the new characters are very likeable as well, with my favourites being the headmasters and the Pirate bus driver. Oh, did I mention that the school bus is a flying Pirate Ship?? That’s pretty cool.

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When it comes to Casper movies, Scare School is one that you’ll probably find at the bottom of most people’s lists. But honestly, I think it’s quite underrated. It has flaws (some major, MAJOR flaws, but the film is fun, and it really gets me into the halloween spirit. I recommend this if your a fan of Casper, or if you’re just in the mood to watch a family friendly Halloween Special.

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And with that, Casper month ends. I had alot of fun revisiting these films over the past month, and I hope that you give a few of them a chance as well. Thanks for reading, and have a happy Halloween!!