10. Minions

minionsCall us crazy, but we love the Minions, so much so that we aren’t even a little mad that Gru’s sidekicks from Despicable Me got their own film.
Since the dawn of time there have been itty-bitty yellow beings known as Minions looking for an evil villain to serve. After various wicked masters fail to live…up to expectations, Bob, Kevin and Stuart venture out into the world in the 1960s to find their most despicable master.

The Minions film is exactly what you would expect from these gibberish speaking quirky little fellows. And in that regard, there really isn’t much to say. They get into crazy conundrums but their odd antics always end up working in their favor, somehow. There’s plenty of silly humor to keep the kiddies giggling, but the jokes aren’t completely idiotic so that adults might enjoy themselves as well. The plot does lose a lot of steam once the Minions encounter Scarlett Overkill and pursue villainous adventure in England.

Minion Models

Firstly, the animation looks gorgeous; each character is nicely detailed and colored and the backgrounds look astonishing in their own ways. In addition, the character models look very unique and distinguishable, with no one model looking similar to another. But the main part that makes this movie great is its clever humor and witty dialogue.

The jokes are funny without being stupid or predictable and the dialogue definitely feels like it was written in the late 1960’s, which is when the movie is set. The movie is also very historically accurate. When the Minions, that where left in Antarctica, make it to Sydney, the Opera House is still under construction. The Opera House wasn’t complete until 1973, making the movie accurate and well researched.

We might be biased here because we’ve been speaking the exact same dialect of Minions since before we even knew Minions existed, but we can totally get down with these crazy dudes. Not a break out hit like its 2010 predecessor, the third film of the franchise that delves into prequel territory is still surprisingly charming and funny enough to satisfy audiences.

9. Nightmare Before Christmas

NightmareBeforeChristmasTim Burton‘s the Nightmare Before Christmas centers around Jack Skellington, voiced by Chris Sarandon and Danny Elfman, and his journey of self-discovery. Jack is the star of Halloween town and every Halloween puts on a show that everyone loves, but this year something is different, Jack feels something is missing. He has grown tired of this routine every year and wants something new. After a journey into the forest he discovers a door into Christmas time and proceeds to give Santa Claus a break.

He kidnaps Santa and begins preparation to take over Christmas. Jack with the help of the citizens of Halloween Town including close friends Sally, voiced by Catherine O’Hara, and Dr. Finkelstein, voiced by William Hickey, take over the task of Christmas from making toys to delivering presents.

The culture of Halloween town is different than the normal world and the toys they make begin to attack children and Santa is seen as an enemy. This leads to Jack being shot down in his sleigh and hitting a depressed state where he realizes that Halloween is what he’s good at and he needs to be the best he can at that.

Self Discovery

The theme of the film is self-discovery and conflict of nature. Jack grows bored with his everyday life and discovers something new he wants to be known for, being Santa. Throughout the film there are scenes where Sally continues to tell him that he is the Pumpkin King, not Santa and that is who he is. This reinforces the theme as Jack doesn’t realize just who he is and thinks he is meant to be someone else. The people of Halloween Town view Jack as a leader, even more so then their mayor, without the Pumpkin King they are thrown into disarray and follow him throughout his plan to take over Christmas.

The self-discovery story is well done and in some ways reminds us of Big Fish, not because of the story but about the journey of discovery of knowing who someone is that both movies take. Really, we are who we are. The music in the film is terrific and ever present. The score being written by Danny Elfman is at most times upbeat in contrast to the Halloween atmosphere. Yet despite this atmosphere, the animation and acting play well with the music.

The music is used at many times in the film to display characters, such as Sally’s and Jack’s emotions accompanied with singing. The Music is essential to this film as it really sets the tone for almost every scene. The film has a motif of Halloween / scare throughout the film.

Considering the town name is Halloween Town this isn’t too surprising but in scenes of basic explanation by Jack and other characters such as Locke, Shock, and Barrel facial expression and vocal tone bring this forward reminding the viewer of the inhabitants and Halloween’s influence. This show’s Jack’s true nature which he himself doesn’t fully realize yet thinking he can do the opposite of who he is without truly understanding what Christmas is about because he can’t understand it.

8. The Lego Movie

the_lego_movie_2014-wideThe Lego Movie is a colorful, delightful romp that is equal parts quality viewing and mindlessly entertaining. It is a movie for all occasions and audiences. The animation is delightfully done, giving the impression of stop-motion animation to fully create what it would be like to act out this movie with real Lego.

Directors Lord and Miller have assembled a stellar voice cast, giving perfect characters to each of its actors – the seductive Elizabeth Banks, the cute Alison Brie, the wise Morgan Freeman, the enthusiastic Charlie Day and the tough Liam Neeson. Chris Pratt and Will Arnett (the latter being the most underrated comedic actor alive) are the film’s highlights as protagonist Emmet and rival Batman.

The Story

The story is simply superb. Not only is it an interesting and engaging story, it captures everything we love about Lego. Anyone who has ever played with any Lego set knows the battle between imagination and instructions. Will Ferrell’s President Business is the most perfect villain the film could have. The weapons and arguments used by each side are so perfect and no audience will have trouble identifying with one side or another.

Making a movie about Lego is something that we know tweaked a lot of noses, but it really created something incredible here. The ability to tap into almost anything – LOTR, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, the NBA and DC Comics (with voice acting from 21 Jump Street duo Tatum and Hill providing some huge laughs) – means that this movie had no boundaries, and indeed that is a huge reason why we loved it. It also provided vital jokes and story archs – see quotes like “does anyone know what this piece is, and do you need it?” for just one example.

Towards the end of the movie there is a revelation that truly changes the entire scope of the film, and that makes the film even more special. In any sense, The Lego Movie is one of those movies you can watch again and again and again, never getting over the laughs or the color or the fun. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

7. Monster Inc

monsters-inc-group-shot-cropimgIf there’s anything that Monsters Inc. proves is that the greatest stories, whether targeting a young or older audience (or both in the same person), rely on a simple yet original concept. It’s so simple in the film that you can almost guess it from the title.

What kind of business a company named Monsters, Inc. can manage? Well, what do monsters do best? They scare… but as the tag-line says, it’s only business. And like every business, you need a target. Kids, who else? But the question is: what kind of business would require for them to scare poor helpless little kids? Scares that would supply Monstropolis’ daily needs of high-power, as simple as that. Their slogan says “We scare, because we care“, so all these monsters mean good, and that one of their rules is to never be in contact with the children shows how harmless and worthy of our sympathy they are.

To add to the enjoyment of a very creative premise, the exposition is a delightful sequence too, plunging us in a world populated by monsters, each one being a gang by himself, and where we can tell that the instructions given to the artists was every single monster must be unpredictable, different, funny and somewhat memorable so we get a succession of animal-like creatures with the most bizarre or sophisticated physical attributes, big, small, invisible, hideous, you name them. And leading the show, we have Sulley and Mike. The big blue furry one with purple spots, cool and friendly and the little green Cyclopes, wisecracking and talkative. Don’t ask me who’s voiced by John Goodman and by Billy Crystal.

To Complete The Imagery

Some others monsters are such masterpiece of creativity they shouldn’t even be called monsters. Like Celia, Mike’s girlfriend, voiced by Jennifer Tilly, and whose dreadlocks-like hair are made of adorable little snakes, or bulged-eye chameleon-like Randal Boggs whose ability to change color borrows more from the invisible man powers, and guess who dubs him? A funny-looking actor with same weird-looking eyes. A final honorable mention for James Coburn who voices the CEO, Mr Waternoose, a crab-like cigar-smoking head of company who treats his best monster Sully like a son and Roz, a daunting secretary with a ravaged-by-smoking voice that sounds like scratching fingers on a chalkboard.

And this colorful gallery works in Monsters Inc. following a daily routine that coincides with nighttime from the Earth, the company provides a warehouse full of millions of doors all over the world leading to kids’ bedrooms, a parallel universes we’re most familiar with or used to be. And this is where the genius hides: the film rings that sensitive chord reminding us the time of our childhood when we were afraid ghost would come from the closet. Well, I wasn’t afraid of monsters but of clowns or wild animals and I was more staring at the window with fearful eyes, but the point is there.

Like any company, they have to face real market issues, much more, kids being more and more insensitive, this is why they only hire the best of the best, the right stuff as suggested by the hilarious slow-motion sequence parodying the famous walking scene. Boy, do these monsters scare, and apparently Sully is about to break the company’s record, closely followed by his jealous rival, Randall. But one of Randall’s evil schemes allow Sully to discover that there’s one little child he doesn’t scare, a little girl nicknamed Boo who grew an instant fondness on Sully, as she feared Boggs. From fear to realization, Sully also develops feelings toward Boo, and we know where this is leading, and the Disney magic operates.

The third Pixar movie is another little milestone of creativity and imagery that will delight kids and adults. It’s good, it’s even great, yet it lost to Shrek that year, and rightfully so, for Shrek had a less sophisticated concept but treated it with wit and heart. Monsters, Inc has the heart too, and some moments between Sully and Boo will make a few eyes shed tear. But somewhere, the film was victim of its own concept, and commits many mistakes with the whole door and closet systems, and they come mostly at the final act.


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