How To Train Your Dragon – 8.5/10.

Dreamworks jewel in the crown.

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Despite enjoying huge commercial success with the Shrek and Madagascar franchises plus box office hits like Monsters vs. Aliens, Dreamworks animation still has to hide their envious glances towards Pixar as they have have tied massive profits with universal critical acclaim and adoration.

While Shrek is a decent film and there have been a couple of others on the Dreamworks roster that I have enjoyed, How To Train Your Dragon is the first film that I have loved as much as some of Pixar’s output. In Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig and Christopher ‘McLovin’ Mintz-Plasse director Dean DeBlois has assembled some of the finest comic actors currently working today with Gerard Butler adding his gruff, more dramatic voice to sweeten the pot.

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The beauty of Pixar is the emotional attachment they make you feel about futuristic robots or lost clownfish and I can safely say I was with Toothless the dragon all the way through this movie and it’s hard not to root for any character played by Baruchel.

Dreamworks output before and after How To Train Your Dragon has been patchy and inconsistent but this is a film to rival anything that either Disney or Pixar have released. Don’t wait five years to see it like I did.

IMDB TOP 250 #150

Rejected – 8/10

Madness… in every direction.

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Rejected was nominated for best animated short film at the Oscars back in 2000 and it really is a minor work of genius. Equal parts surreal, harrowing and hilarious, Rejected is a series of short cartoons by Don Hertzfeldt that were rejected by various organizations (for obvious reasons). The first five minutes give you a taster of Hertzfeldt’s style but it is the closing five minutes that are really imaginative and set this apart from all the other surreal animated shorts out there. Well worth ten minutes of your time.

Frozen – 3/10

Erm… I have no idea how to describe this plot… Disney on ice?

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There is nothing inherently wrong with Frozen. It ticks all the boxes for a Disney film. A princess, a villain, mild peril, (endless) singing, some cute little creatures (coming to a toy store near you) etc etc. The problem is there is nothing great about it either.

Frozen for me felt like Disney by numbers, no different to countless other films churned out by the famous rodent based company.

Frozen is absolutely a kids film. I don’t want to keep banging this drum but whilst Pixar are producing films that appeal equally to kids and adults, Disney are still making flat out kids movies. That is not really a criticism as surely that is what Disney is for but Pixar has shown there is a lot more to offer than lowest common denominator stuff. But I guess from Disney’s point of view If ain’t broke…

Frozen is probably a decent children’s movie but it is a distinctly average movie in general. Highest grossing animated movie of all time though. Go figure.

Brave – 7/10

Scottish princess rebels against her imminent betrothal with un-bear-able consequences.

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At this point Pixar had just completely stopped giving a fuck about making appealing movies:

‘Unpronounceable movie about a rat becoming a chef in France’

‘Robots fall in love, barely any dialogue for the first twenty minutes’
and now:

‘Film about a country where the people have accents nobody understands, ridiculous and mental plot twist half way through, no recognizable stars’

Fuck you, we are Pixar, we do what we want.

Unfortunately Brave isn’t the unmitigated success that Ratatouille and WALL•E are. That is not to say that it isn’t beautiful in places and actually surprisingly touching throughout (especially the ending *sobs*) and anything involving the marvellous Kelly Macdonald gets my approval.

It remains to be seen whether Cars 2 and Brave are just a dip or the bursting of the bubble at Pixar but there is no doubting they don’t live up to previous releases. When there is still so much humour, fun and imagination on show however, does it really matter? Rob loves Pixar 4 eva.

Toy Story of Terror – 8/10.

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Woody and co return for a Halloween themed story.

If you hadn’t already got this by now I will spell it out one more time. I FUCKING LOVE PIXAR. I wasn’t expecting much from this with it only being a TV special but it is just as hilarious and imaginative as everything else they produce. It doesn’t have the visuals but when it is so much fun it doesn’t really matter. Worth watching for Combat Carl alone (voiced by Carl Weathers).

Ratatouille – 8/10

Rat becomes chef.

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Ratatouille, whilst not in the same league as the Toy Story series or the special genius behind WALL•E, is still a brilliant piece of cinema and became an important turning point in the Pixar series.

Ratatouille marks a departure from films meant for kids but with adult elements (the still superb Finding Nemo for example) into films that appeal just as much to both age sets  (Up and Wall-E followed). In short Ratatouille was a bold move for Pixar.

Obscure food references, the name of the film itself (which had to be spelt out phonetically on the poster), a nod to When Harry Met Sally (made in 1989) and just generally poking fun at the French will all go over the heads of kids watching but this bravery pays off in spades. Like every Pixar film Ratatouille is funny, clever, visually stunning, warm without using cheap sentimentality (take note Disney), and a joy to watch. Ratatouille is further proof that there is a strong argument for the Pixar series to be the best film series ever made. I loved it.

Monsters University – 7/10.

A prequel to the slightly better Monsters, Inc. in which main protagonists Mike and Sulley meet at ‘scare school’.
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Whilst different frat houses competing in various contests is a plot as old as the hills (Animal House, Old School, Van Wilder: Party Liaison etc etc), you don’t watch what are essentially kids films for originality.
Monsters University is warm, laugh out loud funny, exciting and as always with Pixar the attention to detail in the animation is breathtaking. Certainly not the best Pixar movie but definitely a worthy addition to arguably the finest collection of films in cinema history.