Onward (2020) Review

Onward (2020)

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer

Production company Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.

My Opinion:

Ahh – My beloved Pixar. Pixar is up there with Studio Ghibli & Akira Kurosawa films for me in that they’re responsible for making so many movies I love & their very best are cinematic perfection (in my opinion, obviously). Pixar could do no wrong until the Cars movies came along & they’ve unfortunately had a few missteps since then. The Disney “sequelitis” thing has hurt the Pixar brand slightly, although Pixar’s weakest films are still far better than the majority of output from other animation studios. Onward is good but it’s certainly not one of Pixar’s best. However, I appreciate getting an original story instead of yet another sequel (Toy Story 4 was very disappointing after the third one had such a perfect ending & made for a fantastic trilogy).

Okay – not that anyone cares but you know I love to make lists & rank things. So here’s My Pixar Movie Ranking (Wow – I never watched Cars 3? I’m clearly not into those…). Figured this was worth doing to see where I’d place Onward:

21. Cars 2
20. The Good Dinosaur
19. Cars
18. Incredibles 2
17. Finding Dory
16. Monsters University
15. Toy Story 4
14. Onward
13. Coco
12. Ratatouille
11. A Bug’s Life
10. Brave
9. The Incredibles
8. Up
7. Toy Story 2
6. Toy Story 3
5. Inside Out
4. Finding Nemo
3. Monsters, Inc.
2. Toy Story
1. WALL-E

So, Onward is unfortunately one of the weakest “original” stories but still better than all the sequels (other than Toy Story 2 & 3, which are great). To be honest, I enjoyed it a bit more than Coco. Coco is lovely to look at & a better “film” but I liked the Onward main characters & the relationship between the two brothers.

I think maybe the most difficult thing with Onward was trying to NOT keep getting Weekend At Bernie’s vibes from it as they dragged their dad around on their journey. As usual, Pixar know how to pull on those heartstrings & there are some lovely moments in this film that are kind of ruined by that stupid Andrew McCarthy movie popping up in my head. Damn you, Andrew McCarthy! (I’m just extra mad at him as I also re-watched Pretty In Pink over the weekend. I will always be #TeamDuckie!).

I’ll try to keep this short as I’m not really planning on doing many full movie reviews this year but, as it’s Pixar, I had to write a little about it. Having just watched Onward, I’m not yet sure how I feel about it. Maybe it will grow on me as some Pixar movies did after a re-watch but I don’t think that will happen in this case & I can’t see ever loving it as I do those at the top of my Pixar list. The overall story is fine but a little weak, especially when compared to just how brilliantly inventive Pixar ideas often are (I’m still amazed by Monsters, Inc. Genius idea). The minor characters in Onward are also disappointing, which is a shame as Pixar often have such strong characters in even the smallest roles. Look at something like Finding Nemo – I love each & every damn sea creature in that thing! They all have such unique personalities. No one stands out in Onward other than the two brothers.

However, I think Onward handles the topic of losing someone well. It manages to make you care about the brothers & their dad, at least, and to yet again simultaneously warm & break your damn heart at the end in usual Pixar fashion. I won’t give too much away but, ultimately, this story is about the two brothers and they’re what make this movie work. They help make up for there being no memorable other characters (maybe that’s the reason why, so the focus is on the brothers & them wanting to see their dad again). I saw people freaking out on Twitter when someone said Onward is Frozen for boys (with people pointing out that both boys & girls can like both of these movies). Chill out, people. The comparison is accurate in that Frozen is about sisters & Onward is about brothers. They’re both about family & love & loss. They’re good films that everyone should be able to relate to in some way. I do wish Onward was a better film overall as its heart is in the right place. Well, you never know – maybe it will grow on me a bit.

My Rating: 7/10

CPD Classics: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) Review

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) by ME!

Directed by Jeremiah Chechik

Written by John Hughes

Starring:
Chevy Chase
Beverly D’Angelo
Randy Quaid
Juliette Lewis
Johnny Galecki
John Randolph
Diane Ladd
E.G. Marshall
Doris Roberts
William Hickey
Mae Questel
Miriam Flynn
Nicholas Guest
Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
The Griswolds decide to stay home for Christmas. And this “vacation” is the funniest by far.

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My Opinion:

I love Christmas movies. When I was younger and had time, I’d watch loads of them through all of December. It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, etc etc… I don’t have the time for that these days but there are TWO Christmas movies I still try to watch every December without fail: Scrooged and, of course, this.

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I don’t think I need to go into this one too much – I’d be very surprised if anyone has actually not seen it. By far the best of the “Vacation” films, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation may not be It’s A Wonderful Life but is certainly every bit as much an American Christmas Classic. What I’ve always loved about it is that it SO accurately portrays a fairly typical American Christmas with crazy family (although of course exaggerated for comedic effect). I’m not sure if this one is as successful outside of the US – I WILL admit that it’s very “American”. My British hubby has never been able to relate to this one in the same way that I can and, since living in the UK, I’ve seen that Christmas is quite different here. But that’s probably made me love this movie even more – I can put it on each December and get all warm & fuzzy remembering my Christmases as a kid.

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The other thing I’ve always loved about this movie is that it’s actually REALLY EFFING FUNNY!!! Comedy isn’t exactly my favorite movie genre as there are so few that I’ve found funny over the years. But Christmas Vacation is hilarious. The mishaps with the Christmas lights, the crazy old aunt & uncle, the squirrel, the dry turkey, the cat getting fried, Danny Fucking Kaye, “it is a bit nipply out”, the snobby neighbors, the Star-Spangled Banner, Hallelujah! Holy shit! And, of course…. Cousin Eddie. How awesome is Randy Quaid in this movie? “Shitter was full!”. That’s right, James Stewart – I love you and Zuzu’s petals & your “Attaboy, Clarence” and all that but nothing beats “Shitter was full” when it comes to the all-time best Christmas movie quotes.

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Summary:

This movie never fails to cheer me up. I can’t imagine a Christmas going by without me watching it. It’s very American which makes me feel all nostalgic, it’s funny as hell, and it actually has a lot of heart without being annoyingly saccharine like most Christmas movies are. These are the reasons why National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a CPD Classic.

My Rating: 9/10

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**I could only track down the above poster art to Pinterest HERE. And I looooove this piece of artwork from artist Jude Buffum (site HERE).

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) Guest Review

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This review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Diane of Tvor Travels. Thanks for another review, Diane! This is her second National Lampoon’s review after European Vacation. Now let’s hear her thoughts on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 🙂

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Griswold family are back for a third go-round and this time it’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Christmas also lends itself to a lot of stress, financially and emotionally and this year, Clark has the pressure of both.

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The fun starts with the Christmas tree hunt, skids into both sets of in-laws on full-bicker bode, Cousin Eddie and the whole family on board, complete with RV, and Clark’s over the top, wayyyy over the top light display on the house. Never mind being able to see it from space, you could see it on the other end of the universe. When it works, and when it doesn’t power down the whole city.

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Clark is determined he’s going to give everyone a memorable Christmas ever and, well, giving your family the Best Christmas Ever is fraught with its own pressures. and he does, but not quite the way he expected. His bonus at work is late and he’d hoped to use it to give his family an in ground pool but the bonus doesn’t materialize. Poor Clark, things go from bad to worse to utter chaos as usual and as usual, he feels like everyone is against him. But at rock bottom, when the the family name is defended against the insensitive boss, in the end, everyone’s happy but in the middle there are some really funny scenes as well as a few touching ones. In the end Clark gets back the Christmas spirit just when he’s run dry.

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This, for me, is even funnier than the first Vacation movie and is my favourite. The giant tree, the dry turkey, the fate of the cat, the bickering relatives with high expectations, the blindingly bright light display are all just a taste of what will tickle every bone in your funny. Even just the little scenes with a joke like sticky fingers had superb timing. The writing seems to sparkle, even more than the first Vacation movie. There are sweet scenes where Clark is watching old home movies in the loft and helping a little girl believe in Santa. There are manic ones like his rant about his boss, the toboggan ride, and the squirrel hunt. you can see Clark’s heart is as big as all outdoors and he can’t turn anyone away if he can give them a Christmas that’s special.

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The European Vacation movie suffered for not having buffer characters like Cousin Eddie (played by the wonderful scene-stealing Randy Quaid), the snobby neighbours and the in-laws and you really notice that in this movie where Clark can bounce off any number of wonderful characters, careening from crisis to crisis, supporting by his long suffering wife, played again by Beverly D’Angelo and by his son and daughter, Audrey and Rusty, recast again for this movie, this by by Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki as Audrey and Rusty in the best incarnations yet.

This movie quickly became a Christmas classic and they probably should have stopped the franchise here on a high note.

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Planes (2013) Review

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Planes (2013)

Directed by Klay Hall

Story by:
John Lasseter
Klay Hall
Jeffrey M. Howard

Starring Voice Actors:
Dane Cook
Stacy Keach
Priyanka Chopra
Brad Garrett
Cedric the Entertainer
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Roger Craig Smith
John Cleese
Carlos Alazraqui

Studio:
Walt Disney Pictures
DisneyToon Studios

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is a cropduster plane who dreams of being a racer in the upcoming Wings Across The World race. He qualifies for the race, surprising everyone. Can Dusty overcome the odds and win the race and, perhaps more importantly, the respect of his fellow racers?

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My Opinion:

Planes isn’t great but it isn’t BAD. It’s certainly no Pixar film but I’d say it’s at least better than Cars 2. This wasn’t made by Pixar but is set in the same world as Cars, which will probably make a lot of people assume it’s a Pixar film due to it having the same look as Cars. I’m still not sure why they’ve chosen to do a spin-off of Pixar’s weakest set of films? I suppose it’s down to all the money that has been made from the Cars toys & merchandising.

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I went in with very low expectations so I ended up enjoying it more than I assumed I would as I’m not a fan of the Cars films (although the first Cars is still a better film than Planes). Unlike the majority of Pixar films, which most adults love just as much as their children do, Planes is definitely for the kids. In this way, it feels more like the stuff we get from studios like Dreamworks – I see those as decent enough kids’ films but would never consider any of them to be actual all-time favorite films of MINE, like I do with things like WALL-E & Toy Story.

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Planes has the usual kind of feel good story with a moral that you always get from a Disney film (believe in yourself, be kind to others, yada yada). It’s simple & predictable but your kids will be kept entertained. They’ll root for Dusty and his two likeable friends that stick by him as he tries to compete in the famous race.

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The friends are a forklift/mechanic named Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher) and a fuel truck named Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett). And an old war plane named Skipper Riley (voiced by Stacy Keach) helps Dusty to train for the race (think “Gill” in Finding Nemo as it’s pretty much the exact same character but a plane instead of a fish). Then there’s a bit of a love interest and some double crossing from a nasty race rival – You know, all the usual stuff in a kids’ film… There’s nothing exactly groundbreaking here! Which isn’t what kids want from a movie anyway. I think us adults have just been spoiled by some excellent animated films in recent years so it’s hard to not expect a little more from them. But they can’t all be Monsters Inc, I guess.

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Summary:

Predictable feel good Disney film that will keep your kids entertained. This one really is for the kids, though, so don’t expect Pixar-levels of fun for the entire family. This isn’t made by Pixar nor is it even as good as their weakest offering, Cars (of which Planes is a spin-off). If your kids like Cars, give this one a go. I’m sure they’ll like it but you’ll probably be a little bored. It’s not bad – It just comes nowhere near some of the all-time classics we’ve had from Disney and Pixar in the past.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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