Let’s Be Honest About “Cars”

I don’t need to open my mouth even a little for you to know that I’m a ginormous Pixar fanatic. Everyone is a Pixar fan, but I’m a fa-na-tic. If my wife would let me, I’d decorate the house in full-sized Pixar posters. With frames. Backlit.

Most people knew that Pixar was making a third installment of the so-so Cars franchise.

And most people groaned inwardly.

Personally, I loved Cars, but I don’t blame anyone who can live without it. I stepped over the threshold onto the haters’ side, thought, when Cars 2 literally put me to sleep more than once in the theaters. We bought it only to own the full collection. I haven’t watched it, I don’t think.

But then today happened.

Less than a week before the release of the highly-anticipated Moana, Pixar released the teaser trailer for what we assume is going to be titled Cars 3. 

To be honest, I’ve been inwardly excited about this movie for a while. My take on the news was that Pixar was going to take the dreaded franchise in a different direction, sort of a redo, or like a “Wait, hold on, watch this one instead. We were just playing around with Cars 2, you know, being silly.”

To say that this is possibly the darkest teaser trailer ever may be an understatement. It’s intense, it’s unexpected, it’s …so far from being anything remotely related to Cars 2 (and Mater for that matter …madder, mater,Madder), that just one look at social media, it’s clear that people are actually excited about this movie now.

What a turn of events!

I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope the rest of the movie carries this same tone throughout, as John Lasseter eluded to about a year ago:”It’s very emotional and his relationship with Doc Hudson, and his memory of Doc Hudson.”

Could Cars 3 join the ranks of greats like Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, and Inside Out? 

I think it will. But what do you think? Leave your comments below! Will you be seeing this? (And based on the trailer, I can tweak this question: With or without your kids?)

What My Three Favorite Movies Have in Common

Pixar and Disney movies aside, I have three ultimate favorite movies that I can’t ever get enough of and they all have one thing in common.

Aside from the fact that they’re all based on true stories and were nominated for best picture (one won), there’s an underlying theme that drives stubborn dreamers like me back to them time and time again.

My three favorite movies of all time are The King’s Speech, Frost/Nixon, and Moneyball. 

One is about the ascent to royalty, one is about the descent from power, and the other is about a guy who just wants to make a good living doing what he believes he’s good at. On the surface they can’t be any different from one another.

But a closer look will reveal that they are each about men facing the impossible. They are about men stubborn (and stupid?) enough to go after what they believe is best for themselves, their family, and their people, even though their treks defy all logic and even saneness.

Let’s look at The King’s Speech. King George VI had two things going against him: His name (reminiscent of Washington’s own Mad King George), and his tongue. He stuttered like a madman. He couldn’t get through a speech to save his life. He didn’t want the throne. He didn’t want the responsibility because he didn’t think he could handle it with his impediment. But when his lovesick brother abdicated, King George was left with no option but to learn to overcome his lifelong problem and take the crown.the-kings-speech

In Frost/Nixon, we find ourselves in the wake of Nixon’s resignation. But a British entertainer and talk show host, David Frost, is the only man crazy enough to elicit a confession from the crook’s mouth. He lays not only his reputation, but his money and career on the line to bring the darkness to light.

frost_nixon

And finally, Moneyball. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate this brilliant movie about baseball, numbers, and ultimate risk. Billy Beane, the GM for the Oakland A’s, is determined to bring his team up the ranks from their rock-bottom status, just not the way his co-managers would prefer. His method is nontraditional, unproven, and unfounded. He lays everything on the line to test out his theory of selecting the best hitters, despite how they play in the outfield.

moneyball

Something about ultimate risk just makes sense to me, it calls to me. The way I see it is, if you have it all on the line, failing is literally not an option. I’d recommend you check these three movies out. They’re perfectly acted, they’re funny, and above all inspiring in a non-Hallmark way. Nothing about these stories is sappy or cute. They’re about real men storming the ups and downs of their lives and careers, not satisfied with the status quo. Willing to pioneer innovation in their fields.

Maybe one day I’ll get the guts to be like these guys. Because of their tenacity, bravado, and just plain awesomeness, we saw the business of baseball do a complete 360, we got a confession out of a crooked ex-president, and quite possibly the new world was saved by the steadfastness of a king with a twisted tongue.

What would your impression on the world be if you dropped all pretense and caution? What are your favorite movies and are they because they inspire you to be a better person?

Villains We Love to Hate

Happy Halloween! We celebrated last night. Our son dressed as Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, and our daughter was a beautiful ballerina. Other than fighting over candy at 5:00 A.M. (our house this morning, apparently), Halloween is a time to reflect on our favorite bad guys from books, movies, and shows. Luckily, the fictional world is full of these dastardly bastards who propel our favorite plots forward into darker realms.

Be sure to leave your favorite villains in the comment section below!

 

itballoon

Pennywise the Clown (It): I’ve been reading Stephen King’s It. I’ve got to say, after about 4 or 5 of his books, I’ve finally found one that’s actually scary, and easily the scariest book I’ve ever read. I love it. I guess anything involving kids being kidnapped or bullying each other with knives is freakishly scary to me.

(Funny story. We all remember when the miniseries aired on HBO in the late 80’s or early 90’s. My sister and I were being babysat by some high schoolers. We were supposed to be in bed, but we decided to sneak out and see what they were watching on TV. It was It. And it had just started. So we stood behind their couch, unbeknownst to them, and watched in glee as the little boy spoke to the funny clown hiding in the sewer with the floating balloons – they float! Well, you know how that memorable scene ends, and needless to say, those high school boys got the scare of their lives when we screamed bloody murder behind them just as the clown bared his sharp teeth and pulled the boy’s arm off. Surround sound at its best.)

 

the-walking-dead-bald-shane1

Shane Walsh (The Walking Dead)One of the earlier bad guys from The Walking Dead. His blow-up moment brought about one of the most heart-wrenching and exciting moments in the series so far (I’m only on episode 4, so now spoilers, please). But remember that? He let all the walkers out of the Greene barn and forced everyone to shoot them in front of their family? Total, absolute freak.

 

5x13_-_jack

Jack Welker (Breaking Bad): The a-hole who shot Hank point-blank in the face. Some would argue that Gus was a worse bad guy, but I kind of liked Gus. He was just trying to do his job and stay out of the limelight. But Jack made it a hobby to kill, kill, kill.

 

Gaston-Screencaps-gaston-23409475-1920-1080Gaston, (Beauty and the Beast, 1991): Sure, his songs are funny, and his oversized ego appeals to the vainest of the bunch, and really in the end, all he wants is the girl. But the key trait here in this guy that makes him so villainous is his determination. I mean, he’s willing to pull a Hatfield & McCoy over the town sweetheart, imagine if he got her in the end. What would he chase after next? Money? Power? Fame? I shudder to think of the lengths this guy would go to to achieve such ends. Best line: “I’d like to thank you all for coming to my wedding. But first I’d better go in there and propose to the girl.”

 

Howard-Payne-speed-27932321-500-375Howard Payne (Speed, 1994): Dennis Hopper may not have been the best choice to play this bomb-happy psychopath, but it’s sure fun to watch him hijack everything from elevators to buses to subways, even if his driving motive (pun intended) was just a briefcase full of money. Best line: “Pop quiz, hot shot.”

 

Mr. FallonMr. Fallon (Reign Over Me, 2007): I think B.J. Navak (of Office fame) may have a thing for playing the jerk on screen, no matter how small the role. In his three to four minutes of screen time in Adam Sandler’s most worthy movie, Mr. Fallon, the prosecuting attorney makes a show of shoving a family portrait in front of a grieving widower’s face. I don’t care who you are, that’s just low, and worthy of a few punches and a straight jacket. Best line: (After the judge repeatedly tells him to shut up and asks, “Do you hear me?”) “Yes… shut up.”

 

Jimmy ShakerJimmy Shaker (Ransom, 1996): This guy just never gives up! In possibly Ron Howard’s darkest movie, Gary Sinise plays Detective Jimmy Shaker, the mastermind who kidnaps a billionaire’s son and holds him for ransom. Even when he’s painted up against a wall, this bad guy continues to find ways to weasel out and keep robbing the rich. If every bad guy from here till the end of movies were played by Gary Sinise, I would have no problem with that. Best line: “Anything goes wrong, you’re gonna turn around and I’ll be gone, okay? And if that happens, from this day on, anytime your kid leaves this house to go to school, go play, to see a friend, to buy a … comic book, you’re gonna have to ask yourself: Is today … Jimmy Shaker day?”

 

herchadesHades (Hercules, 1997): Scar was the runner-up for this slot. Both villains succeeded in killing the movie’s key protagonists (Scar/Mufasa; Hades/Hercules), and yes Mufasa stayed dead while Hercules came back because of a minor technicality, but Hades does have one thing over on Scar: he may not have a cool theme song, but he sure is funnier. Best line: “We dance, we kiss, we schmooze, we carry on, we go home happy. What do you say?”

 

President SnowPresident Snow (The Hunger Games, 2012): The guy sends kids into an arena every year to force them to kill each other for entertainment. That’s just sick. Plus, his breath smells of blood. Best line: “Welcome. And happy Hunger Games.”

 

CommodusCommodus (Gladiator, 2000): Technically, he’s based off of a real person, so he’s the least fictional of this bunch. But Commodus has to be President Snow’s distant ancestor or something. The only reason I think he’s a tad bit worse than President Snow is because he makes it so personal. That, and he’s totally got the hots for his own sister. That’s just nasty. Best line: “It vexes me. I’m terribly vexed.”

 

JokerJoker (The Dark Knight, 2008): Of course no villain list would be complete without Heath Ledger’s infamous Joker. Nothing can be more terrifying than a villain who has no motive but to  spread chaos and destruction. That means there’s nothing anyone can do to deter him. Money is no object, arresting him only stalls him for a day or two… the guy’s a genius and a sicko. Any villain would be hard-pressed to out-bad Joker, unless you’re… Best line: “How ’bout a magic trick?”

 

Lots-O-Huggin-Bear-lotso-toy-story-3-30667746-900-682Lotso (Toy Story 3, 2010): That’s right. This pink strawberry-smelling teddy bear is the second worst bad guy in all the movies I’ve ever seen, more evil than even Joker. Joker was never shown grace, nor had his life saved, that we know of. But Lotso had a chance at redemption. And really, he’s just a bit sicker than Joker because he knew the toys whom he sent to their doom personally, and he really had no reason to not stop the stupid conveyer belt. Plus, any enemy of Woody is an enemy of mine. Best Line: “Where’s your kid now, Sherif?” 

 

Col. Will. Tav.Col. William Tavington (The Patriot, 2000): Yes. The man I’ve loved to hate for the last thirteen years. I mean, he shoots a young kid in cold blood, he commands injured soldiers to be shot, he convinces General Cornwallis to overstep the rules of war, he burns down a church filled with innocent people… the only thing I regret is that he wasn’t hacked to death the way that one soldier was earlier on in the film. Best line: “You know, it’s an ugly business doing one’s duty … but just occassionally it’s a real pleasure.”

A Love Letter to Disney

IMG_0594

A while back I wrote a love letter to Pixar Animation Studios. I’ll never forget watching my viewership skyrocket that week. What was that all about? A couple of weeks later I received an email from Pixar Headquarters thanking me for my post and saying that it’s been making the rounds in the studio. Imagine that! I forget how long I cried. (The picture to the left is during the hysterics.) But the thing that made me happiest was knowing that the hard workers at the studio caught a tiny glimpse of joy they bring to our lives on a regular basis.

Yesterday Disney released the international trailer for their highly anticipated and surefire record-breaker, Moana. Take a second and watch it. I’ve watched it about nine times now and I still get chills.

It’s safe to say that Disney is on par with Pixar. After Wreck-it Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and most likely Moana, we just need to stop denying it.

They bring a class and beauty to the world that we’ve all but forgotten. In our hurried and messy lives, Disney movies have a way of, I don’t know, restoring order. Even if it’s just the illusion of restoration – or better yet, the hope of restoration.

Their movies are not devoid of evil and chaos and bitterness and jealousies. And their resolutions aren’t as cookie-cutter as they used to be. Disney’s movies sell you on cute, sure, but they deliver on substance and depth.

I mean, how gut-wrenchingly hard is it to watch Hiro release Baymax into the Unknown? If that doesn’t tear you apart, I question your mortality. Not only is their attention to detail and vivid color out of this world, but almost every note strikes a cord with something deep inside us.

Why?

Because they take beauty to the extreme. They push the bounds of reality and expose us to a world of bliss and hope.

Like Pixar, they no longer make movies for kids. Their movies address us adults just as profoundly. Zootopia reminds me that even if I achieve my dreams, my story doesn’t stop and the struggles will keep coming.

Wreck-it Ralph delivers the hard message that I’ve been dealt my cards and I need to figure out how to make the best of it.

Frozen sings about letting go. Big Hero 6 shows us how to do it.

Thank you Disney, for the work and painstaking efforts you infuse in your movies. You have the challenge of not just catering to one specific audience, but to literally every single demographic. And you pull it off with class and style and unimaginable beauty.

I believe Disney movies do make the world a better place, even if it’s just a little. They bring families together. A reason for parents to take the kids out. They provide contexts for us to talk about serious things with our kids. They give us parents footing to address things such as good byes, racism, bullying, sibling rivalry, and my favorite: You don’t have to be a jerk just because you’re popular (Fix it Felix, Jr.).

I know there’s people out there who don’t watch Disney or Pixar movies just because they’re cartoons. I pity those people. They’re missing out on some of the greatest filmmaking in the history of film.

Thank you Disney, for all that you do. Keep at it, and we’ll see you in November!

For more on Disney check out

Baseball and Disney

and One of the Greatest Companies in the World.

 

Make This Your Next Netflix Movie

c79c1b7da94b81f238dc4eea5026f193e690f6ac

Hilarity ensues in the Netflix original The Fundamentals of Caring. It’s the first Netflix original I’ve ventured to watch, but wow, I was impressed!

I expected just another melodramatic indie film that attempts to tie everything together at the end just for the sake of closing out smoothly. But this Paul Rudd-led film was anything but a half-hearted effort. It was hilarious from the very beginning.

And for me to call a movie hilarious is pretty impressive. There are only three movies I think are actually funny. This makes four.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into the specifics except that you’ll want to watch it when the kids are in bed due to the excessive amount of F-bombs dropped.

So if you have 90 minutes to spare, or if you’re like me and your work schedule has completely changed and you don’t know how to adjust to no longer having to wake up at 5:00 AM, then get your Netflix on and enjoy this gem of a movie. The book is on my Christmas list.

How Pixar Movies Can Make You a Better Dad

We had on The Incredibles the other night and I was stuck by a crazy thought. Bob Parr, as Bob_Parrincredible as he is as a super hero, is actually more endearing as a dad. When he’s playing catch with his son or hugging his daughter, there’s a certain gleam in his eyes that you don’t get when he’s fighting crime.

I’m not trying to be sappy here. I’m not. I’m just making an observation.

That made me think. Of course that’s how it comes across. Pixar movies are made primarily by parents who live in the world world. They know firsthand the trials and joys of parenthood. And it comes across crystal-clear in their films.

Finding Nemo is perhaps the most obvious one, and possibly the best father/son movie ever made. It reminds us as parents not to take our kids for granted, because they can be taken from us at any moment. And that’s a reality made even more clear as foster to adopt parents.

marlin and nemo share one last hug

Actually, Pixar movies even make us closer to our kids just by their mere existence. My son and I bonded when I took him to see The Good Dinosaur last year for his birthday. Sure, he couldn’t talk yet, but it was an experience we got to share together that we’ll always have. It was fun!

It’s not like going to the latest installment of Ice Age (not Pixar) where, as a grown-up, I’d likely fall asleep.

heart-in-handPixar films are brightly colored adult movies that just happen to be appropriate for kids. It would be inappropriate for me to gather our kids on the couch to watch Apocalypto, but it’s far from a sacrifice to snuggle with my daughter and watch Brave for the eightieth time.

Most Pixar movies appeal to us as parents. They show us the world through our own children’s point of view so that we can better understand them and better parent them.

I can’t count the number of times I put the computer away to play with my kids because Inside Out reminded me that my kids will always remember these days. It’s my job to make their memories yellow/gold. Not blue. So I chase them around the house pretending to be Bruce the shark or Mor’du.

Inside-Out-2

Woody couldn’t have said it any better: “I can’t stop Andy from growing up, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

That’s a haunting and encouraging reminder. But multiple viewings of Toy Story 2 has implemented that message in my head permanently. And then, of course, the next Toy Story installment screams out: “No, seriously! Your kids are going to grow up really, really fast! Don’t bloody miss it! Don’t miss it! Don’t miss it!”

Toy-Story-3-image-toy-story-3-36556938-1280-720

Don’t throw your daughter’s bow in the fire. Don’t tell your kids to act happy when everything sucks. Buy your kids lots of toys (not video games). Go on road trips and put the brake on at rest stops. Don’t lose your temper over their limitations. Don’t try to convince them that a rock is a seed. Teach them to slow down. Cross the ocean if you have to to find them. Your kids are your greatest adventure. Teach them to cook!

I’m not an expert parent and will never claim to be. But Pixar movies have been a better parenting resource than any psychology book I can think of.

Have a happy Father’s Day and take your kids to see Finding Dory. Or buy them a bunch of toys. Make today about the kids, because without them, there would be no Father’s Day.

How Finding Dory Will Make Me a Better Dad

maxresdefaultYou may laugh, but I highly doubt I’m the only dad who wanted one specific thing for Father’s Day: to go see Finding Dory. It couldn’t have come at a better time as we’re struggling through a hard time in our extended family. (Thank you so much Pixar, for consistently providing a light to us in dark times.)

The movie’s release also comes at a time when my kids are still young, which I’m so grateful for. Finding Dory sucker-punched me in the father-gut as it forced me to examine my current parenting techniques.

By the way, this post will be spoiler-free if you haven’t seen the movie, which you should (it’s shattering records already).

Right off the bat being a father has shown me how impatient I can be. You really never know how much of a perfectionist you are until you become a parent! But when my kids mess up, I’m quick to lose my temper and, I’m sad to say, make them feel bad for what they’ve done.

Finding Dory was like looking into a mirror when Marlin berates Dory (his surrogate daughter, I take it) for her disability (short-term memory loss). I can sympathize with Marlin because- “Son! I JUST told you not to pull on the dog’s ears! What’s wrong with you??”

See what I mean?

findingdoryjpn600_size3

The way Inside Out reminds us parents not to encourage our kids to act contrary to how they feel, Finding Dory practically scolds us for expecting our kids to be perfect despite their learning disabilities (and, as my wife often reminds me, they’re just kids). And for me, the message stung like a jelly fish.

635948550074796045-finding-dory-fdcs-dory10-125-per16-125There are plenty of messages to be found in Dory for the kids too, such as they never need to feel limited by their imperfections. And no matter what, there’s always a way out of their problems, no matter how dire, if they’re just brave enough.

Okay, maybe those reminders aren’t just for the kids.

All in all, Finding Dory doesn’t disappoint. It’s no Toy Story (1,2, or 3), but it’s still millions of leagues (pun) from being an animated movie not closely monitored and fostered by the Disney/Pixar powerhouses. In fact, Finding Dory, in all it’s excellence and daring, encourages, inspires, and illuminates laughter and happiness in an increasingly dark world.

Perhaps it’s a timely movie for all of us at this stage in our history.

Oh, and by the way, the photorealistic short film that precedes the feature is nothing less than 100% brilliant (my second favorite in Pixar’s short film lineup, just behind Presto!). I’m so excited for our kids to see it so I can teach them that things aren’t always as threatening as they seem.

piper+2

Yeah, we left the kids at home to go see an animated movie. How often do I have to stress that Pixar/Disney movies are not made for kids? They’re brightly colored adult movies that kids can happen to enjoy, and Dory is no different.

Once it’s been out for a little while, I’ll talk about the film’s climax and why I think it’s so perfect.

Oh! And what did you think about that Beauty and the Beast trailer?? Is that going to be amazing or what? Sarabeth and I have already made the proper arrangements to see it next March.