Coco (2017)

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Coco Movie Review

Coco is a 2017 animated fantasy musical film directed by Lee Unkrich. It is a strong film from Pixar, but far from their best works.

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I thought I was related to a murderer!

You’re a total upgrade!

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Coco Movie Review

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I was tremendously excited for Coco and I have been looking forward to it for a very long time. It was actually one of my three most anticipated films for 2017. But unfortunately it ended up being a disappointment for me. The film is quite good, don’t get me wrong. But it is just not great and certainly not amazing. My expectations were too high I guess.

So it follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who is transported to the land of the dead where he seeks help from his ancestor to return him back to the living world. The boy wants to be a musician, but his family disapproves. Now basically in that disapproving part I found it to be disappointing as I never really got why they opposed music so much. And I also found the first act somewhat lacking as it was too rushed and lacking in characterization.

The film definitely became much better in the second act and that second act is easily the highlight for me as the third one was overly emotional. I do realize now why so many people are getting frustrated with Pixar’s emotional manipulation. Coco isn’t manipulative, but certainly its last scene is overly sentimental. But I do think they somewhat earned that emotion, but not fully for sure.

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Coco Movie Review

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The second act is where the movie shines because it features wonderful fantasy and adventure elements and very memorable plot points. The twist itself I did see coming. I mean I didn’t predict it fully, but I did expect the darker turn and that obviousness was problematic for me. However, they still did the best they could with it and although somewhat soapy, it made the film very intriguing nonetheless.

Let’s talk about its characters. Miguel is very good and likable. He’s a standard, but still a good protagonist. Ernesto de la Cruz is very memorable and effective. Hector is easily the best character in the entire film as he is very well developed, immensely likable and the relationship between him and Miguel is fantastic. The grandmother is too strict, the parents are boring and of course Coco herself is a fantastic plot device. The film needed more characters and better characterization of the supporting players.

Coco is definitely a musical as it relies on music so much, but I have to say that it does that with mixed results. For a film which literally is about music, you would think that we would get a great soundtrack, but what we got was a pretty weak, forgettable soundtrack which is never, ever on par with Disney’s classics.

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Coco Movie Review

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La Llorona is the only song apart from the main one which is even remotely memorable as Everyone Knows Juanita, Un Poco Loco and all of the others are so forgettable that I already have forgotten them. They really needed stronger songwriters for this film.

Of course Remember Me is the standout song. It isn’t great, but it is pretty good with moving lyrics and I particularly liked how it was used so well in all those different sequences in different contexts. But I still had a problem with that approach as using mostly this one song meant that we got less of the other songs which was a giant problem the movie never overcame.

The animation is the best reason to see Coco in my opinion. It is phenomenal. It isn’t as inventive as ‘Inside Out’ was but it’s still very strong and particularly polished and colorful with a great use of many wonderful colors to accompany its Mexican setting so well. The colors of green, yellow and orange were the highlights. The character design is solid and I loved how the skeletons looked and moved.

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Coco Movie Review

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The world building is amazing and they created this whole world populated with the dead beautifully. That is actually the highlight of the film along with its animation – the mythology. I loved the concept of fading or second death after all living people forget you. That was a very powerful and sophisticated approach and I loved it. The film does deal with the theme of death so well and cleverly which is why its final emotional scene is not manipulative.

The voice acting is especially strong and emotionally evocative. The direction from Lee Unkrich is very good as well and the pacing of the film apart from its beginning is pretty good. The score is also very good, but not as great as the trailers promised me. The whole film is just never as fantastic as the trailers were leading to an eventual disappointment for me.

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Coco Movie Review

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Coco is a very good, but unfortunately disappointing film which is far from Pixar’s best works. The standout aspects are its world building which is amazing, its animation which is beautiful and pleasingly colorful and its mythology which has some very interesting concepts very well explored. The film explores death so well, it is sophisticated in that theme and it is particularly effective in the portrayal of Mexican culture and Día de los Muertos. The characterization is good and I particularly loved the second act with the fantasy adventure angle to it. But even though its emotional ending was somewhat earned, it was still too sentimental. The twist is also quite easy to predict. And its major problem is the soundtrack. Remember Me is definitely a good, well utilized song, but the rest of the songs are very weak and never at all comparable to the works of Disney. And when you have a film that is literally about music, you need to have a killer soundtrack which sadly isn’t the case with Coco.

My Rating – 4

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a 2008 animated sci-fi action film which is the only animated entry in the franchise. It is also the weakest one.

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Master Kenobi, always chasing after Skywalker. How predictable.

Anakin leaves quite a mess, which always leads me to you, Ventress

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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I really did not care for this film although I have to say that it is far from the levels of worst proclaimed by most critics and audiences. Certainly it is mediocre, but never truly bad and of course far from horrible. But still it remains the weakest Star Wars film right in the alley of ‘Attack of the Clones’.

So it follows Anakin who gets himself a Padawan named Ahsoka. The two must help Jabba the Hutt’s son in the ongoing titular war. So let’s first state those rare positives here. I liked the interactions between Ahsoka and Anakin even though they are boring. And I really liked the villain Asajj Ventress. She is badass, powerful and all the lightsaber duels with her were the highlights of the film.

But the rest of the action is entirely forgettable and not to mention overwhelming. The movie is frenetic in pacing and filled with action scene after action scene to the point where it became very exhausting and incredibly dull to watch.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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Obi-Wan is okay, but Anakin’s story here does not match the rest of the prequels and he is portrayed as overly good and thus this entire film is one big, sugar-coated lie. Count Dooku is very good, but Yoda and Mace Windu as well as all of the others are underutilized. But I liked Jabba’s son and he was endearing. As for Ahsoka, I do realize that she is an important character, but here she came off as rather unappealing, dull and just your regular, boring protagonist with no personality whatsoever.

The voice acting here is quite weak. I have to commend the actors on doing the voices that are so similar to the actual actors from the prequel trilogy, but still the performances lack any emotion to them and are so flat.

And that brings me to the movie’s worst aspect – its animation. Wow, does this film look bad. Certainly the backgrounds are okay, but the character design and the animation of the humans is simply horrible as they look like robots and they move and talk in such a robot-like, puppet manner that threw me off completely. Rarely have I seen worse animation than this one.

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie Review

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So The Clone Wars not horrible, but the dialogue is overly simplistic, the script is pretty weak and the overall film is of TV quality which is obvious as these act as four initial episodes of a future show. It shows and they made a mistake for putting it in the theaters.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars has a very good villain and some memorable action sequences, but most of the action is still boring and highly overwhelming. The script is quite weak, the characterization is slight and the dialogue is rather simplistic. But its worst offender is its animation which is okay in backgrounds, but absolutely horrible in humans who look and act like robots. It isn’t a terrible film, but it is very mediocre.

My Rating – 2.5

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Loving Vincent (2017)

Loving Vincent Movie Review

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

Loving Vincent is a 2017 animated biopic directed by Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela. It is a solid, but far from great effort.

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Days seem like weeks to me.

Days are weeks

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

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The film is about the life and mostly death of Vincent van Gogh. It is presented as an examination/investigation sort of movie with a lot of flashbacks. I liked that structure and the flashbacks were the highlights here for me. However, the film is very limited in its scope. It not only is very concerned about his death, but not enough about his actual life and especially art. The art element is thoroughly lacking here and they needed to put more of that into the film.

Another problem the film has is its uninvolving nature. It is honestly a somewhat boring film which is not particularly engaging or easy to get lost in and is not overly suited for those not interested in the subject matter. The entire storyline is also very standard and although definitely solid and far from bad, it is also far from great and not only uninteresting, but also not particularly original, deep or memorable.

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

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Loving Vincent is worth seeing just for the animation alone and honestly that is its only selling point. But it is definitely brilliant in that regard. It is the first ever oil painted animated feature and also the first ever entirely painted animated film and in that way it is definitely groundbreaking, audacious and to be respected.

The film is influenced by the works of van Gogh obviously and although I am not a fan of his paintings, I really liked the animation here. Certainly the movements make the colors blurry, but witnessing the paintings beginning to move is truly a transcendent experience unlike any other in animation. The colors are excellent and the film is very atmospheric and it transports you into its time period and his works remarkably well.

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Loving Vincent Movie Review

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It is a very artistic film, but honestly those black and white sequences I liked even more as they are very noir-like in style, moody and polished. Those were the highlights for me in terms of both animation and story. But the characters are forgettable and the voice acting is nothing to write home about and it took me out of the movie at times. It is not a long film, but it is definitely pretty dull and thus far from best when it comes to 2017 animation.

Loving Vincent features stunning, artistic and groundbreaking fully painted animation that should be appreciated how difficult it was to put on film. Watching the film is like witnessing the paintings move which truly makes it a unique experience plus those black and white scenes were even more interesting to me both plotwise and visually. But the storyline, although serviceable, is very typical and not particularly engaging, the voice acting is far from great and the film is too narrow in its scope and too slow paced to be enjoyed more.

My Rating – 3.5

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Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

Sleeping Beauty is a 1959 animated musical fantasy film which is Disney’s 16th feature film and certainly one of their very best. It’s such a classic.

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Now,  father, you’re living in the past.

This is the 14th century!

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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This fairy tale is actually incredibly dark and thus the movie is also pretty dark, but much milder than the original tale and thankfully so. It is an updated, modernized and frankly much better version of the story. Again Disney made the ultimate film from this story and thus made it their own.

It was a risky, somewhat odd fairy tale to film and thus I hugely appreciate the filmmakers for managing to craft it so well and make a coherent feature film out of it. For a film where most of the characters spend sleeping, it is rather involving and intriguing to watch and that sleeping, dreamlike state is beautifully conveyed thanks to an awesome atmosphere, wonderful score and stellar animation but more on those later.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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The film is definitely childlike in its first half, especially with the fairies, but is very dark, atmospheric and mature in its second half and I loved that shift in tone and it was very well handled. Both halves are excellent and both achieved what they set out to do.

As for the characters, many argue that Aurora is a weak character, but as a princess who is only in a movie for just about 18 minutes, I honestly can’t blame her and I think that she is actually pretty well developed for little screen time that she received. She is beautiful, wonderfully animated and, for such a short time she is in the film, you manage to see why everybody would love her so much. I do realize why nowadays feminists criticize her and yes, she did fall in love with a man she did not know. However, she clearly objected to being betrothed and that progressive side of her should not be forgotten.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Aurora is more of a plot device than an actual character and there is nothing wrong with that and that choice paid off and worked really well for the film. But when you really think about it, the fairies are the protagonists of this film. They are the ultimate Disney fairies and some of the best sidekicks of all time.

They transcend the role of the sidekick stupendously as they not only help Aurora, but also Phillip and basically save the whole kingdom. Plus all three are strong, so well developed, unique characters and I loved the emphasis on them as they are so charming. Fauna is so sweet and of course the fight between Merryweather and Flora about the color of Aurora’s dress (pink or blue) is so much fun and I loved it. They share such wonderful dynamic together and all of their scenes are either very endearing and moving or just a lot of goofy, cartoony entertainment. They provide the necessary humor and childlike nature to an otherwise more serious, dark film.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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But the kings are also quite goofy and funny in their own right as well as their drunk, wine-obsessed servant. That scene almost comes off as a detour, but it is so pleasantly cartoony, amusing while also being grounded in reality in its portrayal of 14th century kings that it worked for me. And I loved the father’s argument with his son with that line about the 14th century being hilarious. It’s again a rather progressive, unfairly forgotten element to this film.

Prince Phillip is without a doubt the best of the early princes. Not only is he given most to do, but he also has a distinct, present personality and is much, much better than all the previous princes. He is a strong character in his own right, a true hero and I loved that, but I also loved his look as he is very handsome and well dressed. He’s very likable and his horse Samson is also quite endearing.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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And as for Maleficent, what is there to say that hasn’t yet been said about her. She is menacing, genuinely creepy, so well developed, beautifully animated and wonderfully cast – Eleanor Audley once again gave a standout performance after her terrific performance in ‘Cinderella’ as horrible Lady Tremaine. She is one of the rare villains who never made a mistake, is always menacing and pose definite threat to the protagonists. She is such a memorable and authentic character with unforgettable looks and voice, a standout in this film and easily one of the very best Disney villains of all time. Plus Diablo is an excellent, very helpful henchman.

Sleeping Beauty has beautiful animation. It is absolutely gorgeous to behold with a painting like, artistic quality to it and a style that is truly original and distinguishes itself from their other animations. The character design, the style, the movements – everything is polished, fits the time period and feels like a work of art. I do think that more Disney films should have utilized on this painting style as it worked like a wonder here and helped create its ominous and dreamlike atmosphere so well. It isn’t as stupendously detailed as Disney’s earliest films, but still I liked its style a lot and it is in my opinion one of the studio’s most artistic endeavors. The highlights include the forest, Maleficent’s look, her very creepy and unforgettable castle and the wonderful cottage in the woods which looks so cozy and charming. I do think that the film was obviously cheaper in terms of budget (the still backgrounds are noticeable), but still I loved that painting quality to it and it fits the storyline extremely well.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Sleeping Beauty is definitely a musical. It only has two true songs with a couple of minor ones as well, but it relies so much on the score to tell its story that it definitely is a musical, but a different one than all the previous Disney films. The score from Tchaikovsky is of course beautiful and again complementing the film’s dreamlike feel perfectly. It was a terrific choice to include his compositions and I adored this score to pieces. It is also quite diverse in style – ranging from thrilling and eerie to dreamlike to playful and comedic.

The Skumps Song, One Gift and Hail the Princess Aurora are all very short pieces which could not be called songs, but they all serve their purpose and accompany their scenes very well. I Wonder is of course the weaker of the film’s two musical numbers. Now I like this song and it is quite sweet, very well sung and with solid lyrics, but it is just too short in length and overall a standard princess fare.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Once Upon a Dream is a masterpiece. This song is just beautiful. The score is brilliant of course, but the added lyrics are so well incorporated and I loved each and every word here. That scene is the standout of the entire film and easily the most romantic scene in all Disney films. I loved the singing of both the prince and the princess and thus it succeeds as an incredible duet, but it is its ethereal, dreamy and timeless chorus that transcends it to the ranks of all-time greatest film songs. It is a perfect ballad, an impeccable waltz and the second best Disney song of all time just after Part of That World from ‘The Little Mermaid’.

The pacing here is sometimes a bit problematic, but mostly better than the troublesome pacing in ‘Snow White’. The voice acting is simply terrific and the direction is superb. Some of the imagery is iconic and visually this is truly a moving work of art. The action near the end is also excellent and thrilling to behold. The tone is diverse and well handled and the humor is not all too great and far from hilarious, but definitely charming and very endearing. I liked the dialogue as well plus the film is emotionally resonant, most especially in its wonderful finale.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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The finale is awesome, but every scene with Maleficent and her castle stole the show. Of course the forest scene is the highlight for me, but the dragon fight is amazing too. All of the action set pieces are certainly magnificent but the highlight is that very last battle between Phillip and Maleficent. And of course the spinning wheel sequence is so incredible – eerie, otherworldly and impeccable. The film truly is close to perfection even though it is very short in length. It truly belongs among the five best Disney films of all time.

With beautiful, truly artistic painting-influenced animation, brilliant score and an outstanding, simply iconic song in Once Upon a Dream, Sleeping Beauty is one of the best Disney films of all time and a moving work of art. The characters are excellent – the fairies are charming and of course Maleficent is one of Disney’s ultimate villains not only in her looks but also her voice and actions. It is an atmospheric fairy tale with a dreamlike, eerie and almost ethereal quality to it. A lot of the scenes here are unforgettable and the film achieves so much in so little time that it truly is a masterpiece in the world of animation.

My Rating – 5

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Dumbo (1941)

Image result for dumbo gif

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Dumbo Movie Review

Dumbo is a 1941 animated fantasy film which is Disney’s fourth animated feature. It is one of the better and most charming Disney outings.

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What’s the matter with his ears?

I don’t see nothin’ wrong with ’em. I think they’re cute

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Dumbo Movie Review

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The story is obviously a tale of discrimination against those who are different. It examines that theme really well and is obviously highly emotional in some scenes. I liked the film in terms of storytelling as it is very short and thus very effective and getting to point and never dragging.

I do realize that nowadays the circus setting is not as pleasant, but it was timely for the forties and I thought it was very well explored. The film showcases how the animal circuses worked and I really liked that. It has its fantasy elements and it also is a musical as it has quite a lot of musical numbers for its short runtime, but it is above all else a nice family drama that is very emotionally resonant and consistently sweet and endearing without ever being cloying.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the characters. The character development here is very strong as is expected from Disney’s Golden Age. Each character is well emphasized and properly developed and in that way the film is basically a rich character drama. The voice acting is also top-notch across the board.

Dumbo continues the tradition of Disney’s silent protagonists and of course I adored the little fellow. The choice to not have him speak paid off significantly as he is all the more endearing that way. It is impossible not to fall in love with this little elephant.

His mother is so sweet and all the scenes between the two are instantly heartwarming and pulling on the heartstrings. The human characters appear scarcely and rarely are fully seen on screen, but that worked as they are still well utilized but never taking the focus off of our animal stars.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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Mr. Stork is quite likable and I liked the anthropomorphized Casey Junior quite a bit. Those elephant “ladies” are a bit too on-the-nose, but they are still excellent and serve finely as the film’s only antagonists as the movie has no villains which was also a terrific choice. Some may consider the crows to be the villains, but I find them to be animal sidekicks and great ones at that.

I do realize that they may seem racist for today’s audiences as they obviously have those black accents, but I think people exaggerate too much. They are actually not stereotypical in my opinion but fully developed characters who helped our main duo significantly and not to mention that they are incredibly funny and unforgettable in behavior and many great lines.

Timothy Q. Mouse is definitely somewhat similar to Jiminy Cricket from ‘Pinocchio’, but still he is an excellent character. I loved how he cared for Dumbo and how he constantly tried to cheer him up and helped him. Their scenes are so lovely and he is such a nice, wonderful soul. The parody here is that he is a mouse and Dumbo is not afraid of him and I loved that they made fun of that stupid myth.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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Now in terms of animation, Dumbo is not great. That aspect is actually the film’s weakest one. I do not think it is bad and it is actually pretty good, but it is just not up to par with the studio’s three previous artistic achievements and some later movies as well. The reason why it isn’t as artistic is obvious – Disney opted to make a somewhat cheaper flick to capitalize in the troublesome war years and to recuperate from the losses of their two previous efforts.

That is why the film looks much less artistic and much more cartoony than Walt’s usual films in this period. The backgrounds are charming, but overly simplistic and less detailed. However, that is not to say that the film doesn’t have its terrific elements. The character design is one of them as all elephants, the mouse and crows look great. And of course the drunk sequence is amazing and so incredibly imaginative, crazy and just downright unbelievable and simply unforgettable. That is the only truly artistic, inspired animated scene in the film and it’s an all-time classic one at that.

Dumbo is definitely a musical which is all too often forgotten, but shouldn’t be as the film has a pretty terrific, very underrated soundtrack in its own right. The score itself is excellent and fitting in its setting and period, but the songs are mostly fantastic with three of them being classics by this point.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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I will first talk about the weaker numbers. Song of the Roustabouts serves its purpose in terms of imagery and plot point, but is entirely forgettable and somewhat annoying. Clown Song is actually pretty amusing, but way too short of course. Casey Junior also serves its purpose, but is again forgettable. Look Out for Mr. Stork is accompanied by a great sequence, truly wonderful. However, the song itself is somewhat dated and dull.

But let’s talk about the classics now. Pink Elephants on Parade is my least favorite of the three great songs here because it does not have enough singing in it, but the score itself is awesome, highly catchy and very atmospheric thus accompanying its wild, crazily nightmarish, imaginative sequence oh so well. This is the weirdest scene in the movie and it works because the animation is absolutely stellar and because the song is very strong.

Baby Mine is of course highly touching. This is one of the saddest Disney scenes of all time as watching Dumbo touch trunks with his mother who is confined is just heartbreaking. The scene works as it stops the entire story in its tracks and you are left with pure heartfelt emotion and such a terrific, gorgeously sung and simply beautiful musical number.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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And the standout one is of course When I See an Elephant Fly which is simply amazing when you think about it and oh so underrated when it comes to Disney’s classic songs. It is a jazz song which is in style and execution different than your usual Disney song and is thus highly original, but also phenomenally sung, infectiously catchy and with simply hilarious lyrics. I love it and I was happy that it got repeated in the end sequence.

Speaking of the ending, I have to talk about one film’s flaw which is minor but still relevant. It runs for just about 64 minutes which is basically an hour which is just too short. It is short, but sweet and it wouldn’t have worked if we got another thirty minutes as the story is too simple. However, the entire third act with the flying felt way too rushed. The rest of it was greatly paced, but that part was definitely abrupt. The circus action scenes were somewhat prolonged and not my favorites, but the highlights are the beginning, the ending, the crows scene, the mother-son reunion and the pink elephants scene.

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Dumbo Movie Review

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I loved the direction, the dialogue and the storyline – all are great. The film is simple but never simplistic. It works because its emotion is genuinely felt and because it has its charm in setting, music and characters. It is thus in the line of ‘Cinderella’ which is lower 4.5 rating, but still in the top twenty for the studio overall.

Dumbo is a great charmer. It is rushed in its third act and definitely short, but sweet. The animation isn’t as artistic as other films of its period, but it is still quite charming and highly imaginative and weird in the pink elephants sequence. The film is simple, but never simplistic and its emotional impact is undeniable as some scenes are truly touching. The characters are highly endearing as well with the crows, the protagonist and Timothy Q. Mouse being the highlights. The soundtrack is also pretty great and underrated as Pink Elephants on Parade, Baby Mine and When I See an Elephant Fly are all classics. In the end, Dumbo is one of Disney’s less ambitious, but sweetest and most endearing flicks.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

The Lego Ninjago Movie is a 2017 animated action comedy film starring Dave Franco and Jackie Chan. It is a hugely underappreciated flick.

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You ruined my life!

That’s not true! I haven’t even been a part of your life,

how could I ruin it? I wasn’t even there

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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Certainly a story about a ninja who has a villainous father who abandoned him is rather familiar. There is no denying that. But it is so well executed that I didn’t mind it all that much. I found the relationship between the two to be really sweet and strong. It’s the heart of the film. It is a very engaging, wonderfully entertaining watch.

Lloyd is a pretty good main character and I liked his struggles and how well they were depicted. Dave Franco’s voice is somewhat too mature for the role but still he did a really good job here. The ninjas are solid. They are actually rather fun and dynamic as a team, but definitely underdeveloped and underutilized individually.

The mother is typical as is her story, but I still ended up liking her and I wanted more of her. Master Wu is a lot of fun. He is that typical Asian master character and the movie made fun of him really well and he himself is particularly funny at times.

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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But of course Lord Garmadon steals the show. He is amazing! His story is definitely familiar, but again so well done that I didn’t mind it too much. And because the film takes its time to get there and it develops the father-son relationship fully, his character entirely worked and he changed throughout the course of the film and not too suddenly. But above all else has he amazing one-liners and he made me laugh so many times, especially during the film’s first half.

The Lego Ninjago Movie is expectedly superbly animated and once again the various Lego pieces seem real and not at all like CGI which definitely adds a lot of cute, real appeal to the entire viewing experience. I liked the character design and the jokes surrounding their hook hands were so funny. Garmadon in particular looked great and very memorable. The imagery is awesome, the tech looked fine and the city is fittingly Asian influenced and fueled by great attention to detail.

The problem with this film apart from the familiarity lies in its second half. I did like the family drama and, once again, it was really well done and with mostly strong dialogue. However, the film became too dramatic and less comedic and thus it lost its edge. The first half is much better and much funnier and there lie some of the film’s best moments.

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The Lego Ninjago Movie Movie Review

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I liked the role of the kitty, really well done. But despite a solid work from Jackie Chan, those live-action beginning and ending scenes did not do much for me. Meowthra was great, the Volcanic Lair was awesome and the film had a bunch of memorable set pieces. The action is really well executed too and surprisingly not at all overwhelming as I expected. Overall, the movie took me by surprise and it is actually one of the best animated films from this very weak year. It is weaker than ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ but certainly better than ‘The Lego Movie’.

The Lego Ninjago Movie definitely lost its steam in the second half and the entire story is very familiar, but still well done with a lot of heart and strong characterization. I loved that the film did not have overwhelming action but it relied more on characters and certainly Lord Garmadon steals the show as he is so hilarious. The movie is funny, but also a lot of fun from start to finish leading to one of the year’s most underappreciated films.

My Rating – 4

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Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella Movie Review

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Cinderella Movie Review

Cinderella is a 1950 animated musical fantasy film which is Disney’s 12th animated feature. It truly is one of the better Disney films of all time.

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They can’t order me to stop dreaming

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Cinderella Movie Review

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After almost a decade of low-quality package films, Disney is back with a classic Cinderella, the film which will prove to be one of the best Disney films and one of their most fondly remembered pictures decades later. It surely has its obvious flaws, but the strengths are abundant that they mostly render those flaws minor.

First, the characters. There is a plethora of characters in this movie – from the innocent protagonist to wonderfully evil villains to the prince and his silly father to the mice, the necessary sidekicks. Cinderella is, like Snow White – kind, pretty, a good singer and great with animals, but unlike the first Disney Princess, she has a bit of a feisty and rebellious attitude making her more believable and modern. She is not too developed, but still a solid early Disney Princess who is actually much more active than people nowadays give her credit for. She actually went to the ball and managed to find her own happiness instead of waiting for it to happen.

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Cinderella Movie Review

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Prince Charming is unfortunately a non-entity as the most underdeveloped character in the film. It is a shame, but at least all of the other characters are strongly developed and he would have been more utilized had the film been longer in length, but more on that later on.

Charming’s father is an interesting attempt at comedy proving to be quite an unexpectedly funny creation. He is very desperate in his need for grandchildren which is realistic given the time period portrayed and he is a needed comic relief, influencing the fathers in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in the process.

Now, the mice. They are at times funny, at times sweet and always helpful. Their chases with Lucifer should prove entertaining for children and a pleasant diversion for adults. Those action scenes are definitely cartoony, but still done so well and pleasantly reminded me of classic cartoons such as Tom and Jerry. Bruno is particularly memorable as this fat, food obsessed but also very endearing mouse.

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Cinderella Movie Review

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Their voices are awfully squeaky and they more than occasionally feel as if they were the protagonists thus ruining the film’s pacing a bit and greatly contributing to Cinderella’s lesser screen time. But still they are endearing enough that the film did not suffer too much for having them appear too often. Plus I liked that this is the ultimate Disney Princess animal film as here Cinderella not only speaks to animals and helps them, but it is a mutual relationship as they help her too and they do help her a lot. The relationship is wonderful and important in terms of storytelling too.

Lucifer is one of the most villainous animal characters in all of Disney films thanks to his mean personality and negative attitude towards the protagonist. I do think that this film is not for a cat person as they are very much the villains here whereas the dogs are heroes, but still I liked that archetypical approach as here it worked in its favor and fitted the film really well. And he truly is a great animal villain or henchman should I say.

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Cinderella Movie Review

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Grand Duke is a funny counteract to the King and I really liked their amusing interactions. Fairy Godmother is of course very endearing and such a wonderful character. She is great both as a necessary story point and as the necessary magical element in the film. Anastasia and Drizella are very funny as these ugly, incompetent and stupid stepsisters.

But the one character who totally stands out is Lady Tremaine. She is mean, cold and just plain evil, coming across as even scary in some noir-influenced scenes. Her attitude along with her voice work and actions make her one of the very best Disney villains, probably better than Maleficent and the Queen because she does not need powers to be scary and evil. She is at the top or near the top of the list of best Disney villains and definitely the most underrated villain as well. A very menacing presence and even more disturbing for being a real, non-magical person.

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Cinderella Movie Review

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This famous fairy tale is very well adapted here as Cinderella is enchanting, magical, endearing and always mesmerizing to watch. The highlights of course include the ball dance, some of the cat and mouse chases, every scene with Lady Tremaine and the dress making scene which is an unforgettable, simply beautiful Disney sequence. The film should have been much longer in length as the mice took too much of the screen time this way and the second half felt somewhat rushed. The first act is prolonged and the third is rushed but despite weaker pacing, the story is great and wonderfully traditional that it in the end works.

While the animation is not on par with the studio’s first couple of films, it is nonetheless far better than the package films thanks to an interesting beginning, colorful style and an artistic ballroom sequence. The character design is excellent and the interiors look great, but to me the highlights here are the exteriors. This is a rare animated film which feels like a concept-art come to life as some scenes (especially the outside ones) are so elegant, artistic and dreamlike in their quality that they almost felt like paintings. I loved that artistic angle here.

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Cinderella Movie Review

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Cinderella’s soundtrack grew on me over time. I still think that it is one of the weaker of the Disney Golden Age soundtracks, but still quite solid with some great songs. Cinderella serves its purpose as the opening of the film with that classic book added. The lyrics are too descriptive and spoilery, but the song is quite okay and catchy in a traditional way.

Sing Sweet Nightingale is way too short in length, but again it serves its purpose in terms of storytelling and as a showcase of the contrast between Cinderella and her stepsisters. The Work Song is the weakest song in the film which is accompanied by a wonderful scene where the mice make her a dress, but their squeaky voices ruined an otherwise catchy number. So This is Love is a forgettable Disney ballad again accompanied by a wonderful scene, but the song itself is too short and not memorable, catchy or romantic enough.

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Cinderella Movie Review

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Of course the two best numbers here are Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo and A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes. The former is such a wonderful children’s song which is incredibly catchy, fast and irresistible to sing along to while the latter actually grew on me over time as at first I did not care for it, but now I really like it. It is the classic “I Wish” Disney Princess song and the ultimate moment for the main character. The lyrics are great, the song is wonderfully traditional and so well sung with the highlight being the last chorus. I loved its scene too.

Thanks to superb villains and their awful actions, you can’t help but feel sad for the main character, making the film one of the darker films in the canon because of its evident sense of danger and sadistic intentions of Lady Tremaine.

The tearing of the dress scene is unforgettable in its brutal and heartbreaking imagery. Even though Cinderella’s characterization is not particularly strong, you always root for her and you are happy at the end when everything turns out fine. Lady Tremaine, like all of ‘Pinochio’s villains, ends unpunished and she has never made a single mistake making her one of the best villains ever to come from Disney.

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Cinderella Movie Review

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The humor is quite good at times and I loved the film’s diverse tone and also its elegant score. It is abrupt in its ending, but flies by how short and incredibly engaging and wonderful it is. The best part of the film is its emotional aspect. So in the end, the film is not quite on part with some of Disney’s previous classics, but it was still a great, important step in the right direction for the studio and certainly one of their better films out there.

It is certainly way too short in length and somewhat rushed, but Cinderella was nonetheless a phenomenal return to form for Disney with mostly strong character development, evident emotion and sense of danger, engaging story, solid humor and such an elegant, artistic animation style to it. The soundtrack is weaker than most of Disney’s Golden Age soundtracks, but it still features two classics in Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo and A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes. The mice take away too much of the screen time, but I still really like the classic cartoon animal chases here. It has its minor flaws, but it is still one of the better Disney films thanks in no small part to Lady Tremaine who truly remains one of the finest and most menacing Disney villains of all time.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Cat Returns (2002)

The Cat Returns Movie Review

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

The Cat Returns is a 2002 anime fantasy film from Studio Ghibli. It is one of their most pleasant, most underrated works.

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I respect a woman who stands up for herself.

Even if she does like sticking her nose in other people’s business!

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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This film is about a directionless teenage girl Haru who, after saving a young cat prince from certain death, is brought to the cat kingdom where she is supposed to marry a prince. I adore this film. It is actually one of my childhood favorites and I still love it now as an adult. The story reminds of Disney Princess movies as here we basically get a Ghibli princess which was awesome to witness.

The plot is similar to ‘Spirited Away’ in a sense that the protagonist is changed after going on a fantastical journey and is now a more responsible, more adult person. I loved that they repeated that journey and message and they did it wonderfully once again. But it is different than the aforementioned film because it is much more fun, childlike and jokey in its approach.

Let’s talk about the characters. Haru is an excellent protagonist. I really liked her and she is such a likable, sweet person. Her mother and her friend are solid for the little screen time that they received, but this is the movie about cats and they are the strongest characters here.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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The Baron is absolutely fantastic. This movie is literally a spin-off of ‘Whisper of the Heart’ as in that movie this character was just a figurine, but now we get him in full flesh. I loved that connection between the two movies even if they are the complete opposite of each other. He is badass, cool and like a dashing hero of yesteryear. The relationship between him and Haru is sweet, if a bit creepy when you think about it.

I really liked Toto as he is a wonderful bird. Prince Lune and Yuki are a great couple and I loved her backstory. The Cat King is such a great throwback to classic cartoon villains from decades ago – he is villainous, but very funny and over-the-top which I loved.

And of course Muta is the very best character in this film and the highlight for me. His constant obsession with food brought us many funny moments, his bickering with everyone else was great, I liked his very amusing backstory and the highlight was seeing him get angry mostly for being called fat. He is a phenomenal sidekick for sure.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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The Cat Returns is very well animated, but it is just not up to par with Ghibli’s previous classics in my opinion as it is never as moving or as memorable or as artistic. Still, the imagery is frequently beautiful, the action is so well executed, I loved the sky scenes and of course the highlight was the cat kingdom with the castle and especially the labyrinth and the tower. I also really liked the character design of the cats and the cats themselves were fairly realistically portrayed here in both their animal design and their moody, selfish behavior.

The Cat Returns has a bunch of memorable sequences so let me say which ones are my favorites. I loved the beginning and the scene where she rescued the cat prince was so well done. Baron’s little house was so cute and the attention to detail was so overwhelming in there. Overall, the architecture in this film is beautiful to witness.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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That scene where the king threw some cats from the window because they did not provide proper entertainment was hilarious as it was basically murder but portrayed amusingly. It was both dark and funny. The labyrinth was of course absolutely fantastic. I loved the king’s cheating and how The Baron realized that. This film is such a wonderful, enchanting adventure and those labyrinth and tower scenes are the best examples of that. And of course the descend through the sky is gorgeous to watch and the ending itself is poignant and emotionally satisfying.

The Cat Returns has absolutely brilliant voice acting. Yes, this is one of Ghibli’s strongest works when it comes to acting as each performance is phenomenal and everybody did a great job with the highlights being Tetsu Watanabe and Tetsuro Tanba as Muta and The Cat King, both very funny characters.

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The Cat Returns Movie Review

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Yes, the humor in this film is absolutely terrific and it probably is Ghibli’s funniest film as I laughed out loud many times while watching it. The film is so poignant, sweet and emotionally resonant while also being very funny and wonderfully childlike in its approach. The only problem is the pacing which is rushed as the film is just way too short in its runtime which was unfortunate. But the dialogue is strong and the score is particularly great with a wonderful closing number. It is one of Ghibli’s best and most underrated films.

The Cat Returns is overly rushed in pacing owing to ridiculously short runtime, but it remains one of Ghibli’s better and definitely most underrated works thanks to brilliant voice acting, excellent characterization (Muta, Haru, The Cat King and The Baron are all great characters), a wonderful story and terrific humor as it made me laugh so many times definitely being the funniest film from the studio. It is wonderfully childlike in its quality, very adventurous and enchanting in its journey and highly resonant emotionally. It is such a wonderful follow-up to ‘Spirited Away’ thematically and such a successful spin-off to ‘Whisper of the Heart’.

My Rating – 4.5

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Top Ten Disney Revival Songs

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Top Ten Disney Revival Songs

The Revival period for Disney thankfully revived not just the studio in terms of quality, but it also revived their traditional musical format and to stellar results. Half of these movies are not musicals at all which means that this list is not going to be as strong as the characters list, but still they brought musicals back after a hiatus in the 2000s (those movies had songs but weren’t musicals) and there are enough good songs here to fill up a top ten list so here we go.

 

10. Friends on the Other Side

It start off pretty slow and basically consists of slow singing/talking for a while there, but ends on such a strong, effective and highly catchy note that it truly is one of the better Disney villain songs out there. I loved the descriptive lyrics and the imagery which accompanies the entire affair. It works great as a plot point and as a song too.

 

9. Dig a Little Deeper

The Princess and the Frog gets another song on the list because it has a damn strong, highly underrated soundtrack. I’d take as much of Mama Odie as I can possibly get and this is basically her only sequence and she is great in it. Again the lyrics serve the plot and character development superbly and it is just such a catchy number accompanied by colorful animation.

 

8. For the First Time in Forever Reprise

This is one of those scenes where the characters sing the words and an almost entire conversation is sung. I know that most do not like that, but I do and this is one of the better examples of such an approach. The singing from both is great, the words are mostly terrific and the entire sequence is not only powerfully sung, but highly intense and emotional as well.

 

7. I’ve Got a Dream

I really adore this catchy number. The lyrics here are actually funny. Not just funny, but some lines are even hilarious! The thugs are awesome, Flynn got a great, funny moment and Rapunzel is wonderful here. The entire sequence in this tavern is childlike and sweet with the song being innocent in a good way and immensely entertaining.

 

6. For the First Time in Forever

Frozen has a pretty overrated soundtrack with only a couple of good songs and this is one of them. The reprise is great, but here we got a full, longer version and it is probably the sequence which best describes Anna’s character in such a short time. She is infectiously amusing and likable here and the song is catchy but also quite grand in its last moments where both sisters sing together.

 

5. How Far I’ll Go

It actually isn’t the best Moana song, but How Far I’ll Go remains a pretty great “I want” song in its own right. This is the defining scene for the movie and especially for Moana’s character and it is beautifully built up through excellent imagery and action on screen. The lyrics are fine, but it is the singing that is the highlight along with its fantastic last chorus which was perfectly accompanied by animation and action on screen. A classicaly done, wonderful song.

 

4. Almost There

Almost There, on the other hand, is not classic Disney at all. It isn’t a ballad and it isn’t pop. It is a jazz number and while I usually tend to not care for this genre, here I loved it. We get to see the entire suffering and hard work Tiana puts and what he dreams of – opening a restaurant. I loved that artistic animation employed here, really well done. The number is infectiously catchy, beautifully sung and with particularly strong, descriptive lyrics. It is a fun, different kind of Disney song that benefits from being faithful to the time period and setting of the film.

 

3. We Know the Way

I know that Moana came out so recently, but I have to put this song so high on my list as it is absolutely magnificent. It is the highlight of the film and although the transition from scene to song was not smooth at all, the sequence itself is terrific. It showcases the culture of its people so well and it actually uses the Tokelauan language in its lyrics. In tone and in language, it fits to its setting much more so than ‘Frozen’ ever did. But it is above all else incredibly, hugely catchy and I know it by heart and I have listened to it a hundred times by now. It is by far the catchiest, most entertaining song out of these ten.

 

2. I See the Light

I See the Light is a contemporary, but wonderful love ballad. I loved how it was a return to those classic duo songs from the Renaissance and it reminded me wonderfully of Kiss the Girl from ‘The Little Mermaid’ as it is similar in imagery. Finally here their love has blossomed, both Rapunzel’s and Flynn’s singing is excellent, the words are very good and fit the story and their characters well and seeing those lanterns lift in the sky provides a beautiful, exceedingly romantic experience. It is such a wonderful moment from Tangled when the entire film just starts and your breath is taken.

 

1. Let It Go

This is a cliched choice, I know. But sometimes what majority thinks is actually right. Some may hate on this song because it has certainly been overplayed by now, but nobody can deny its power and its sheer spectacle. The entire scene is breathtaking and one of the best in Disney history, but the song is the standout aspect there as it gives Elsa excellent development and a moment to shine alone. It is a transcendent scene and a kind of majestic Broadway song which is beautifully sung by Idina Menzel. But the reason why it is so great lies in its lyrics which are absolutely amazing, clever, descriptive, almost artistic and just perfect in every way. Probably the most poetic and sophisticated of all Disney songs, Let It Go certainly is one of the best of all time and undoubtedly the best of the 21st century.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Try Everything – This is the only song from Zootopia which closes off the film in such a fun fashion. It is very catchy and fittingly worded for the film.

Gonna Take You There – This is another strong song from this underrated soundtrack that is too short, but incredibly entertaining and catchy.

Everything Is Honey – This Winnie the Pooh outing is not all that memorable, but it is accompanied by a great scene and features a pretty good, stellar final chorus.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman – This Frozen number is overly childlike and short, but it works in the context of the story and is very sweet and heartbreaking.

Shiny – This is far from Moana’s best songs and I do not like that it is rap basically. However, it is very amusing, funny, catchy and a pretty memorable scene overall.

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Top Ten Disney Revival Characters

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Top Ten Disney Revival Characters

Probably the biggest reason why this current Disney Revival period is so great and a fantastic return to form lies in the character development which is actually terrific in almost every of its eight films so far. With that in mind, I am going to choose ten best characters from this period and this is going to be a highly personal list that will coincide pretty closely with my best movies list as usually when I love a film I love it because of the characters.

 

10. Baymax

Big Hero 6 surely is the weakest Revival film, but I cannot deny how wonderful this character is. Baymax is sweet and also quite funny at times. The relationship between him and Hiro is the heart and soul of the movie. He definitely has a very interesting design to him and is essential for the movie so he takes this tenth spot deservedly.

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9. Prince Naveen

There are a lot of truly wonderful characters from The Princess and the Frog with whom I could easily populate half of this list with, but the central duo has to be the highlight. Naveen is a different kind of Disney Prince as he is lazy, rich and spoiled at first and has to learn how to better himself. His interactions with Tiana were great as the two are so different from one another.

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8. Elsa

I know that the eighth place for Elsa might seem too low for many but she is just not that much in the movie and remains a mystery purposefully. Everything she stands for is important and great, her relationship with Anna is moving and she is such a memorable, kickass magical queen. It’s just that Anna is the main and more important character for the film.

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7. Flynn Ryder

Flynn Ryder (or Eugene as is his real name) is another excellent Disney Prince. He is the type of modern, overly confident, fun and selfish dude who influenced Maui from ‘Moana’ who is a pale imitation of him. Flynn is a lot of fun and quite funny at times and I loved Rapunzel’s relationship with him and how nuanced it felt.

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6. Anna

Anna is crazy. Not as much as Kristoff, but still pretty crazy and foolish. But that is why she is great as she makes mistakes and realizes them and we follow how much she changes and grows up throughout this story. Spunky and energetic, funny yet sweet, she gives Disney princesses a fun, contemporary make-over.

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5. Tiana

I love Tiana and she is an enormously underrated Disney Princess. The mix of contemporary and traditional is phenomenal here which is why I like her more than most subsequent princesses. She is the only princess who is a worker which is very important, but she also learns to have fun in the end and changes her wardrobe the most out of any other princesses. Determined, yet sweet while being very complex, she is what every little girl should strive to be.

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4. Rapunzel

And my favorite modern Disney Princess is Rapunzel. She is spunky, fun and definitely capable of defending herself, but at the heart is a traditional princess – warm, caring and immensely kind and charming. Not to mention that she is the most beautiful and cutest princess after Ariel. I cared for her and I rooted for her which is a testament to her great personality and portrayal.

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3. Mother Gothel

Yes, the best character from Tangled is actually Mother Gothel. Wow, is she awesome. She used Rapunzel for years, she managed to trick her and Flynn later on and she never made a single mistake. Scary, creepy, but non-magical and a real person which makes her all the more menacing – she truly is one of the best villains that the studio has ever had.

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2. Vanellope von Schweetz

This crazy kid is terrific. She is also a Disney Princess surprisingly enough, but much more than that. Feisty and brave, yet also vulnerable and sweet, she is a realistic, tough and admirable kid who got one heck of a backstory here. I rooted for her constantly and wanted her to succeed so badly. That is how much she had an impact on me. And her relationship with Ralph is simply wonderful.

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1. Ralph

Speaking of the devil, Ralph is definitely the best character on this list. He had a tough job beating up so many great characters here, but he did it as he is the most nuanced, most complex of the bunch and such a perfect Disney hero who should prove influential to others in the future. He is never too good or boring and bland and is thus rather realistic and again with an excellent backstory, goal and interactions with every other character in the film. He, along with Vanellope, carries most of this awesome film on his shoulders and in no small part thanks to such a wonderful performance form John C. Reily who assured him the first place on my list.

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Honorable Mentions:

Charlotte – She easily could have been just a dumb wealthy Southern debutante, but she has a giant heart and was a wonderful friend to Tiana. Loved her.

Judy Hopps – Although overly aggressive at times, Judy is a memorable protagonist who made mistakes and apologized for them which made her all the more human. Ironic for a bunny.

Nick Wilde – Nick is also very well developed and quite complex of a character who has a fantastic, nuanced relationship with Judy which is the best thing about Zootopia.

Moana – Although not all that memorable and at times not likable, Moana is still a solid, competent heroine who got a particularly entertaining and perilous adventure.

Mama Odie – This is a somewhat different, crazier version of the Fairy Godmother character and it worked entirely as Mama Odie is funny and silly, but wonderful all the time.

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