Tag: underrated movies

Forgotten Animation Collaboration

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Hi guys! I just wanted to share with you a recent youtube collaboration I got to do with my friend over at the Lawn Gnome.  I’m a better blogger/writer than youtuber/editor but I think it turned out pretty well.  We both created videos on our Top Forgotten Animated Movies.  It was a lot of work but I think it turned out pretty well.

It is fun to see how different our lists are.

Here is The Lawn Gnome’s review.

What would be on your list?  I’ve already thought of some that should have made the list like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Wild Thornberry’s Movie.

Would love for you to take a look at both videos and subscribe to our channels.

The Lawn Gnome does movie and a few other reviews like Funko toys, but he also has a whole section called Out of the Vault that focuses on the Disney Canon.  I do subscription box reviews with some movie, DVD and TV commentaries and reviews.  I think you will enjoy the channels and I am always working to make them better.

Also I just finished #50 in my Disney Canon series so I am nearing the homestretch of the initial project. Make sure to look at the reviews and add your comments and thoughts.  I’ve loved the discussion that has come with every entry.  It has been a blast and I look forward to starting new projects with animation after I finish Nanowrimo in November.



Where the Wild Things Are Defended

Of all the movies I love the most controversial may be Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are?

I can’t think of any movie where literally half of the party I was with thought it was dazzling and half hated it.

It’s very polarizing, so let me explain why I like it.

The movie starts off with a boy named Max who builds a series of forts.  The first is a snow fort and then another is in his room with blankets.

Max becomes angry when the snow fort is destroyed by his sister Claire’s friends and she won’t do anything to help (or even look at said fort at the beginning) and then again when his mother won’t pay attention to his fort at home.

Everyone seemingly is ignoring and destroying him and he can’t do a thing about it.  His emotions feel out of control (big point of the movie). The fort, snowballs, bullies, all of Max’s emotions are all foreshadowing to what you see later with the animals except for with them Max has control and in the beginning he has none.  He is all hurt, anger, and emotion.

Then he goes to school and his teacher tells him about environmental collapse and the death of the sun.  He then has to meet his mother’s new boyfriend and he has a tantrum and runs away to our magic land.  You can feel Max like a tea pot boiling up ready to burst at any moment.

where the wild things are

Why does this work for me?  Because I remember being a kid and feeling angry and scared.  I remember puzzling at the things I was taught that seemed to be beyond belief or so sad they made me sad.  I remember staring up into the ceiling late at night and wondering why people were so mean and difficult to understand.

I remember thinking that if only people would listen to me they would see what I was trying to say.  Especially when I was teenager I  felt frustrated at my complete inability to express what was inside my heart.

One time I literally stomped my feet and told my family that

‘you are the weird one’s. I’m the normal one and you don’t get it’. (see I was the wild one….)

Granted it was a completely ridiculous thing to say, if I wanted any good done, but it was a pent up explosion of emotions.  Isn’t it basically another way of saying and conveying what Max is feeling?  ‘You all don’t understand, don’t listen and it is making me angry and worried’.

So, Max runs and finds a boat that takes him across the ocean and to a land with 7 ‘wild things’.  In a brilliant touch these are not CGI creations but puppets from Jim Henson’s studio.  This makes them feel tactile like a kids stuffed animal.

where-the-wild-things-are-figuresThe first of the creatures he meets is Carol, who is in the middle of a tantrum, caused by the abandonment of a girl wild thing named KW.  At first Max is excited about the tantrum and joins in and then realizes the wild things want to eat him.

Using his quick thinking Max convinces them not to eat him and that he is actually a king that has come to rule them and help them be happy.   They get it and this is very exciting for Max.  They do what they are told!

They agree and his first order of business is to call a wild rumpus where they destroy trees and play.

Now I tell you what kid would not do just that when named King over wild monsters?  A wild rumpus is so brilliant in its chaos yet predictability.

At this point Max looks happy for the first time in the movie.  He is finally allowed to play and let all the misunderstanding and frustrations out.  He is also allowed to lead, taken seriously by someone, and this makes him happy.

I totally relate to this as the times in my life when I am given that reaction are typically the most gleeful.

I think of myself after finishing a swim and how great it feels to have conquered a wild thing, something people think is really hard.  I suspect there is something inside all of us that likes to conquer chaos.

So, the wild things pile up for the night and we get a better introduction to all 7 Carol, Ira, Judith, Alexander, Douglas, the Bull, and K.W.   Each represent a different part of Max’s life and personality.

Carol- is the tantrum, angry side that wants to be understood, Ira and Judith are a couple and Judith is loud and bossy, Douglas is a good friend and loyal to Carol, KW is lonely and on the outside of the group, Alexander is talked down to and mistreated (the victim of the group), The Bull is on the side and less developed.

There are also 2 owls that are introduced named Bob and Terry.  These are outsiders to the group who KW is friends with (much like Max’s mother’s boyfriend who comes in  as an outsider that only she likes) but the rest don’t like especially Judith who says they should not be allowed into the group’s fort.

Max had previously stated that any outsiders will have their ‘brains automatically cut off”.  To try and solve the division Max starts a dirt clod fight that he thinks will separate the good from the bad.

Look how happy he is at the beginning of this scene, how free he feels.  It’s beautiful:

Unfortunately things do not go well and Alexander is hurt, KW leaves again.  Just as Max had done earlier in the movie, Carol becomes angry at Max for not doing a better job as king.  How could he allow people to get hurt?  He was supposed to help KW not leave and yet she did anyway? Max realizes that Carol is disappointed in him much like he is disappointed in his Mother.

Carol and Max talk about what worries them.  “How can guys like us worry about a tiny thing like the sun?”  but you know they are worried and worried about their friendships and lives and whether they will be happy.

I wrote in my journal once- ‘how do you turn the worry off?’  That is so beautifully expressed in this scene:

As Carol becomes more upset, Douglas finally tells him that Max is  “just a boy, pretending to be a wolf, pretending to be a king”.  Isn’t his mother pretending to be a queen?

At least it is that way to Max and she seemingly let’s him down over and over again.  She never seems to rescue him.  ‘You are out of control” he says to Carol just as his Mom had said to him. Your emotions are out of control!

Carol says, “You were supposed to take care of us.  You promised” (gut wrenching part.) all go back to Max’s home life and his mother. His Mother was supposed to make sure bad things didn’t happen to him but they do all the time.

Feeling betrayed Carol  says he is going to eat Max just like Max had done earlier to his Mom before he bit her.  He then throws his biggest tantrum yet (much similar to the tantrum thrown by Max before being sent to bed without any supper). In his rage Carol rips off Douglas’ arm and chases Max into the forest.   Max is then saved by KW who hides him in her stomach.  Max listens as Carol and KW have an argument about why she always leaves him.

Like Claire used to be Max’s friend KW has moved on from Carol and they both feel sad about it but it seems necessary for KW to explore new worlds and friendships

Then Max starts to realize how little control his mother has over him and Claire and it is not her fault that they are growing up, becoming more distant.  It is also not her fault that she can’t understand or deal with him all the time.  He can’t deal with Carol (who is basically Max) so how could his mother? She is also not to blame for his father leaving or all the other hurts in his life.

And just as Carol is hurt and KW runs away, so him and his Mom, experience the same emotions and conflict. He knows just as he couldn’t help Carol be free from pain and neither can his mother.  What a realization for a kid!  His Mother is fallible and weak but has a good heart.

I think Max see’s the unhappiness of Carol and KW and knows for the first time that his mother is unhappy.  He see’s her loneliness  All the time he thought she controlled that but it turns out she isn’t in control.

Max understands what it is like for a second to be a parent because he was a king and his his mother has become a real person, a full human being.  He decides it is time to go home.

His goodbye to the Wild Things is so touching.  He says goodbye to his childhood and the innocence he had when he got there and now must enter the world of adult problems to help his mother. In a way it is kind of like Peter saying goodbye to Neverland.

The ending when Max and his mother reunite is perfect.  A child and Mother truly understanding each other as people not simply Role 1- Mother and Role 2- Son.   I cry my eyes out for about the last 15 minutes of this movie.

I know its a heady picture and it asks you go along with its premise, to accept unlikable characters, and see them grow, and to not have every question answered  It’s the journey of childhood.  From angry, happy, sad, worry, confused child to a man or woman trying to rule their mini-worlds as best they can. 

We also learn that no matter how noble the intentions of the ruler hurt, anger, betrayal and sadness will happen.  That is life.  Even God cannot prevent sadness. Life is Where the Wild Things Are.

A similarly polarizing movie is The Tree of Life which also seeks to talk about the human experience through art.  Tree of Life says that life is awe inspiring and beautiful.  Where the Wild Things Are seeks to talk about human emotions and growth.  Both are saying ‘this is how human beings really are…”

It is also a warning to Max of what the emotions can lead to if unchecked and unmolded.  All of us feel we could rule our lives the best and resent others telling us what to do. Then we occasionally realize we know nothing and don’t like the person we are turning into.  That’s when we need to look at ourselves, or meet our own Wild Things.  In the end, the movie is about realizing the humanity (wildness, quietness, fearfullness, all emotions) in others and in ourselves, and how weak we all really are.

Sometimes I think we are too scared of kids feeling these emotions, working through them organically, and temper them with drugs and entertainment?  Maybe reconciling them is the key to becoming fully human?

In the end it is a movie about a real person who comes into consciousness with himself.  That’s a powerful thing and I am forever moved by it.

So, that’s what I think.  Does my take on it make you see the movie even a bit differently?  If you dislike it, why?

Also, the music is gorgeous, sets dazzling, acting including child actor are all great, great voice cast.  I love it!


Movie Survey


A few weeks ago I did a little survey on books.  Since people seem so fascinated with my opinions on movies I thought I would do a similar post on movies.

Here goes:

Your favorite movie: Up

The last movie you watched : Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Your favorite action/adventure movie(s) : Inception
Your favorite horror movie : The Shining/Wait Until Dark
Your favorite drama movie :  Tough call.  Slumdog Millionaire
Favorite Comic book movie:  The Avengers or possibly X-Men
Your favorite comedy movie:  Clueless, Office Space, Monty Python Holy Grail, Better Off Dead
Your favorite romance: Breakfast at Tiffanys, 500 Days of Summer
Your favorite romantic comedy:  When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail
Movie you are looking forward to:  Book Thief, Enders Game, Hobbit 2
Favorite based on a true story: (favorite genre of mine) Beautiful Mind, Rudy, Apollo 13, Walk the Line, Kings Speech
A movie that makes you happy:  You’ve Got Mail, The Artist, Silver Linings Playbook
A movie that makes you sad: Bright Star, Schindler’s List, Amistad, Les Miserables
A movie that makes you happy and sad: Perks of Being a Wallflower
A movie that you know practically the whole script of: Breakfast at Tiffanys, You’ve Got Mail
Your favorite director: Norah Ephron, Hiyao Miyazaki
Your favorite movie from your childhood: Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast
Your favorite animated movie: Up
A movie that you used to hate but now love: Pinocchio maybe?
Favorite movie in high school: Clueless
If Someone were to play you in a movie?: Melissa McCarthy
Best Adaptation:  Harry Potter movies except 7th part 1 which bored me.
Your favorite quote from any movie:  I love Nora Ephron.  Rom coms haven’t been the same (or even produced) since she left us. Some favorites:
         Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it,  or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?
         People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.
         Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.
          The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.  (how I totally feel about this blog.  Thanks everyone!)
I could go on…(love her movies and writing). See http://smilingldsgirl.com/2012/07/12/nora-ephron/
The first movie you saw in theaters: The first one I remember was Little Mermaid.  Also Home Alone sticks out.
The last movie you saw in theaters: Wizard of Oz (so amazing)
Favorite score of movie: The Mission
Favorite song in movie:  Over the Rainbow.  (Also my favorite song period)
The best movie you saw during the last year: Les Miserables
A movie that disappointed you the most:  Star Wars: Phantom Menace
Your favorite actor(s): Carey Grant, Jimmy Stewart
Your favorite actress(es): Emma Thompson, Audrey Hepburn, Meg Ryan
The most overrated movie:  What a can of worms to open again… (see post on this topic)  Terms of Endearment isn’t on my earlier post so I will go with that.  Also, hate to say it but I thought Rushmore was overrated. Just didn’t make me laugh. (send the hate mail 🙂 )
The most underrated movie: See my post on this topic Again I’ll bring up a movie I didn’t put on this list.  Stranger than Fiction.  Love it
Your favorite character from any movie: Holly Golightly
Favorite documentary: My Kid Could Paint That, Civil War (Ken Burns but not really a movie)
A movie that no one would expect you to love: Warrior if they didn’t know I was into MMA
A movie that is a guilty pleasure: Rom coms in general.  Cheesy Christmas movies. Love Comes Softly series
Favorite classic movie: His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, Notorious
Movie with the best soundtrack: The Chorus is wonderful, modern day soundtrack- When Harry Met Sally (love all the Harry Conick Jr)
A movie that changed your opinion about something: Slumdog Millionaire made me decide R rated movies might be ok and to focus on screenit reviews, content rather than ratings
Your least favorite movie: Armageddon, Contact, Drop Dead Gorgeous (only movie I’ve left theater crying in a bad way).  See Movies I Hate

Underrated Movies

movie-clip-art11-287x300So a few weeks ago I wrote a story on movies I felt were overrated.  Now those were not necessarily bad movies I just didn’t think they were the amazing 5 stars everyone else seems to. The follow up naturally becomes what are underrated movies that deserve more playing time?

I actually struggled in coming up with a list because some of them seemed difficult to defend but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  Some might think how could I not be into the Godfather and like Sweet Home Alabama or The Blind Side? I can’t explain it.  I just do. So here are some underrated gems to check out by category:

Rom Coms that do the genre right- anyone knows I love a good romantic movie but they have been the scene of some truly horrific flops in the last 10 years.  Some that were unjustly ignored are:

IQ- a funny movie starring Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Walter Manthau about Einstein’s niece falling in love.  The banter between Einstein and his buddies is hilarious, the chemistry is right on.  Its available on netflix so check it out (many on this list are on netflix).

Sweet Home Alabama-  Predictable? yes.  do some of the jokes fall flat? yes, but I really enjoy this movie.  I LOVE Josh  Lucas.  He is super sexy and Patrick Demsey plays the other man with a lot of class.  They do not take the easy way out and make him a jerk.

Just Wright- A movie nobody saw with Queen Latifah and Common. The Queen is divine as a physical therapist tasked with helping an NBA player come back from an injury.  Yes, its predicable but you need some of that in this genre.  Its really a fairy tale with the prince charming a basketball player and Paula Patton as the somewhat evil stepsister (god-sister in this story . She’s a gold digger with a heart and boy is she pretty)

Return to Me- Similar to IQ this sweet love story of a girl who gets a heart transplant but then falls for the widower of the heart donor. Its sweet and how great to have a Hollywood romance where the character falls in love without the girl revealing a scar on her chest. A very clean simple movie with a great group of older actors playing the Irish/Italian family of the Minnie Driver character.

Better Off Dead- I can’t really defend this movie except to say that it makes me laugh every time.  A boy is infatuated with his girlfriend and then is dumped for the captain of the high school ski team. To get back he decides to ski the K-12.

Hijinks erupt with everything from Howard Cossell Japanese taxi drivers, animated burgers, a paper boy who wants his $2, a mother who boils bacon and makes goo for dinner and a brother who cuts out coupons from boxes before the cereal is eaten.  What can I say?  It just makes me laugh.

Drama’s that deserve  to be seen-

Marvin’s Room-  A gut wrenching drama with Meryl Streep, Dianne Keaton, Robert Deniro and Leonardo Dicaprio.  It reads like a good play. Two estranged sisters get back together when  one is diagnosed with cancer.  Dicaprio plays a teen with severe behavior and mental illness issues but it is done in a realistic way.   Every performance is good.  It felt like watching a real family.

Warrior- Not enough people saw this great sports/family movie.  The conceit is predictable.  We know the brothers will end up fighting against each other but the journey is so well done.  All the performances are great.  Tom Hardy is super hot and Nick Nolte is totally believable as the alcoholic father everyone has discounted.  The fight scenes are not overly long and the tension is built perfectly.  Great example of its genre.

Secret Life of Bees- Another movie with a strong ensemble cast that nobody saw.  Based on the bestselling novel by Su Monk Kidd tells the story of a little girl who runs away from home in 1964 South Carolina. She finds a new home with a family of black women that knew her mother and are beekeepers.  I loved the book and the movie.

Jane Eyre 1996- I have yet to dislike a version of this story (including the 2011 filming) but this one may be my favorite big screen adaptation.  Charlotte Ginsberg is the most plain Jane but that totally works for the character.  William Hurt is brooding and fun as Rochester even without a British accent.

The Blind Side- Obviously this film has its fans as it won an oscar for Sandra Bullock but amongst critics it is frequently chided as sentimental and even manipulative.  My answer to that is so what?  Hasn’t sentimentality always been an essential aspect to the movies? Even going back to Gone with the Wind or Mrs Minver.  If it is done well I enjoy a good hearted fable that helps encourage me to be a better person.

This story is of course about future super bowl winner Michael Oher and how he is adopted by the Tuohy family of Mississippi.  Its the kind of movie I want to watch when I’m having a bad day or feeling discouraged and I don’t think that is a bad thing.  Our society could use a little more hope and little less cynicism.

Children Movies You Might Have Missed

Winnie the Pooh Movie- Finally a movie designed for little, little kids.  Its short enough for them with a simple sweet story that I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for.  I LOVE the music.  No winking humor for adults just an unabashed little kids movie (5 and under)

Holes- The first time I saw this movie I was blown away.  I called my family and said ‘you have to see it’.  They weren’t as impressed but I thought it was so creative.  Weaving a story of a kid sent to a desert camp to dig holes and an cowboy love story that ended badly leaving a curse on the entire family.  I still think it is brilliant.

Where the Wild Things Are- This movie has its fans and I admit it is one you either go with or don’t. I did.  When I saw it in the theater half of us thought it was amazing and half a big bore.  I loved its realistic depiction of a child, without any of the cloying sweetness of most Hollywood movies.  This is a real kid with tantrums and stubbornness.

Then he is given the chance to actually lead creatures, creatures that feature all of his good and bad traits and he realizes how hard it is. He gets a new empathy for his mother.  I loved the music, voice acting, the kid is a great actor (plus looks like my step-nephew).  Its different but I totally bought it.

Ponyo-  A weird but delightful animated movie from Hayao Miyazaki who made Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.  Both of those are better movies but this one is more like My Friend Totoro and is designed for little kids. The story is simple but the images are so creative and the basic idea so dazzling that the kids have room to write some of their own story.  It is about a little boy that adopts a gold fish that is the daughter of the great sea wizard.  The ocean begins to search for the adorable Ponyo and everything begins.

Classics You Should See-

Talk of the Town- At its release this movie was nominated for Oscars but I doubt many have seen it.  Certainly Cary Grant’s other comedies such as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday (both wonderful) are more popular but I love Talk of the Town . It has Jean Arthur who plays the high school crush of town good-for-nothing Grant who has been framed by a union for a fire that killed a man.

Knowing the jury is rigged Grant escapes from prison and seeks refuge at Arthur’s summer home which is soon to be occupied by a potential supreme court nominee played by Ronald Coleman.  Justice vs mercy is amazingly mixed in with some great slapstick.  I laugh my head off at this movie and think about philosophy at the same time.  A rare combination.

Brigadoon- The Gene Kelly musical most people haven’t seen.  Lerner and Loewe’s broadway musical comes to life about a town that ages only one day every hundred years.  Kelly and his friend stumble upon the town on a hunting trip and meet the lovely Cyd Charisse.   Some great songs such as Almost Like Being in Love, There but for you go I, Waitin for my Dearie and other great music and dancing.

Lili- A movie most people probably haven’t seen but a sweet fairy tale with amazing dancing.  Its the story of a girl named Lili played by Leslie Caron who stumbles upon a circus in a small town who agree to give her a job as a magicians assistant.  Young, she botches the first night and runs away in distress.  To her surprise she stumbles upon a puppet show and the puppets start to speak to her.

She agrees to be the MC for the puppet show but gets so lost in the illusion that she doesn’t remember who is behind the scenes. Could it be jaded carnival operator who is bitter about his career in dance going down the tubes because of an injury? You will have to see! The dancing is magnificent and like I said it is a gem.