DRIVE is hardly a burnout

September 25, 2011

Drive movie

It is a glorious thing when a film can leave its viewer completely spellbound. There’s nothing better than when the lights come up in a darkened theater and a wave of what tends to be a blend of relief, disappointment and satisfaction engulfs the audience. It usually begins with an alarming silence. Eventually a dull chatter will roar to life as the patrons grasp to decipher what is was they just witnessed.

The audience feels relieved because, most likely, the film has deviated from the intended goal – to take them out of reality and transport them to a place of fantasy and unfamiliarity. It is a place often anticipated better than the one they are in currently. But often, the film may have reminded them too much of their current situation, and worse, might not have ended in a manner that makes them feel comfortable.

The disappointment will come quite simply from the fact that, like anything good, it must come to end. I felt that way when I saw THE DARK KNIGHT for the first time. The audience sits in quiet desperation, internally screaming for more. There’s an overwhelming sense of desire to continue with the story, even though it has most likely ended at exactly the appropriate time.

And finally, the satisfaction will begin to bleed into the brain as the realization is confronted that what an audience member has just seen, was in fact, as great as it could have ever been. In my opinion, a fantastic movie can be likened to a fantastic sexual encounter. All of the same facets are there, and they follow the same path. A profound film can leave you in a similar state of ecstasy and afterglow in many of the same ways physical intimacy can – warm and fuzzy, or sometimes shattered and disillusioned.

With that said, the simple breakdown above applies to movies whose purpose has been to entirely captivate the audience with familiar situations and predicaments. It’s not difficult to move someone through a faulty relationship or the death of a loved one, etc. Everyone in the history of the world has been there. What happens, however, when a film moves someone so much, without any of the obvious plot staples?

The answer yields a masterstroke of a film like DRIVE.

DRIVE is a work that is not wholly relatable on a surface level, and barely even on an intermediate level. Not many people are professional stunt car drivers. Even less manage to direct that talent into a darker career as a getaway driver for LA’s criminal underbelly. The most unlikely percentage will own all of the above qualities and also manage to meet the love of his life two doors down from his own apartment and inevitably spend his remaining years protecting that love and her son from all the evils the world can spawn.

The few people who experience this film and understand it beyond the superficial layers are going to have an almost spiritual experience upon credit roll. From the acting, to the music, to the story, and the overall filmmaking, DRIVE is a film that maintains exactly that. Where this film could have been a disastrous and masturbatory experiment in car chases and hold-ups, cheapening every emotional value and relationship, it instead breaks down each scene into a meticulous, hand-touched, artful character study. Every minute is an exploration of the human psyche. It is a test of good versus evil and the shades of gray that muddy those two ideals. Despite the urgency in its title, DRIVE takes time to develop its numerous personalities, some of which occur even within the same character.

Ryan Gosling is without question a continuously less unsung, but still unprecedented man of the hour. With qualities that could be likened to a young Steve McQueen (the BULLITT comparison need not be explained once viewing this film), or more currently his next co-star George Clooney, he continues to push the boundaries of his silent strength and remarkable control over his craft. Gosling plays the main character of Driver, a man whose soul runs deep with clear pain and vacancy, desperately trying to cultivate his worth. Over the past few months numerous magazines have been turning up articles of the actor, implying some sort of schizophrenic dialogue. After seeing this film, it’s finally understood where that thought train is coming from. Gosling displayed a similar sort of dual neuro-occupancy in BLUE VALENTINE last year. He has had a knack for choosing roles that continuously vault him outside the typical Hollywood range, and keep him miles ahead of his colleagues.

In DRIVE, director Nicolas Winding Refn has created a masterful emotional narrative interwoven with what is most basically a heist gone terribly wrong. The mood of this film kept harkening back to certain movies of Michael Mann, particularly in the style of COLLATERAL. Between the quiet intensity of Cliff Martinez’s score, the muted but prismatic colors, and an incredibly sleek and cool attitude – all of it was slightly reminiscent. However, the framing and style of the shots, combined with some of the most critical and creative editing ever put to film separates DRIVE from any clear derivative. It manages to avoid becoming pretentious by staying true to the heart of the story and playing a perfect balance between form and function.

Most surprising to note, DRIVE is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. There are a few truly gut-wrenching scenes that come out of the clear blue and grow increasingly more intense as the film plays on. One of the most notable involves Christina Hendricks’ character and spares no expense on production value. These scenes are like live mines in an uncombed field and come with a switch-up in filming style that will be left to the audience to experience and determine.

From the opening scene of DRIVE the viewer understands that this film is completely atypical. It goes from a high-octane, adrenaline-pushing chaos, to a stunningly simplistic and innocent reality in a matter of minutes. The audience can surmise all they want about how this unconventional narrative will end, but nothing can truly prepare them for what will come next, or next, or next. Somehow, despite respectable run time, Refn manages to explore each character to its fullest, using extremely minimal dialogue, dependent on long takes and raw physical emotion. When the film draws to a close, the audience realizes they have been reeled in so tightly that the hands of vulnerability and humanity are choking them, and that they’ve been gasping for breath the entire time.

(I mean, come on guys. The headline practically wrote itself.)

Last night I ventured out in my new-found home of Los Angeles to experience the movie-going crowds of Hollywood on a Friday evening. As expected, the box office at the famous Sunset and Vine Arclight Theater was banging as I purchased my ticket to the highly anticipated Sylvester Stallone-directed action porn known as The Expendables. Featuring the manliest of manly movie icons of then and now, I was sure to be in for a treat of machine gun-blasting, roundhouse-kicking, indecipherable-accented proportions.

Of course, The Expendables was not the only major league hitter that came out yesterday. Julia Roberts’ Eat Pray Love was also making its debut, solidifying a veritable battle of the sexes at theaters this weekend. I was going to get my fill of that estrogen-fueled journey on Saturday night, so I figured I might as well get some action while I could.

Now, not only was The Expendables as a film not really what I was expecting, but the crowd that showed up to see this thing was not unlike the masses that storm theaters in droves for franchise hits and comic adaptations. I didn’t particularly realize I was seeing the second Iron Man of the summer. Except with less chicks in the audience. There is no doubt that the audience I was seated with – meaning myself and about 195 dudes – is what made my Expendables experience that much more special. These guys were stoked out of their MINDS for this movie. So much cheering. So much mid-movie clapping. So much raw ENERGY. Honestly, there was so much testosterone permeating the air in this theater, I was surprised when the film was over that I hadn’t actually grown chest hair and a dick.

So with all evolutionary gender modifications aside, I can now comment on how The Expendables fared as an actual movie. And folks, it was something. Rare was there a scene that I didn’t laugh through. Rare was there an action stunt for which my jaw didn’t drop. But the story. The characters. The STORY. As true as Sly Stallone’s botox, this film would not have been made without him at the helm. As I stated previously, this was a true action porno, made purely for the sake of kicking ass and taking names. Should anyone try to convince me otherwise, well, you may get a jab to the spleen.

The Expendables stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li, along with a host of other quintessential Hollywood badasses, doing what they do best. I think it’s fairly obvious by now what that is. Hint: it’s not baking cookies. Basically the movie centers around a group of old school rag-tag mercenaries who decide to take on one of their most dangerous missions to date (in case you missed it, this is the running theme of the summer). It is not a GOOD movie by any stretch of the imagination. But what it is, is fun. It’s a showcase for an amazing string of action scenes with some sequences, truth be told, that are genuinely original. There are great cameos that keep the high-octane pace going. There is no getting around saying the CGI, the acting, and once again the story, or lack thereof, are all for shit. I would almost be ashamed of Jason Statham for being a part of this, if it hadn’t been so damn fun.

If you are looking for character development, go see Despicable Me. There is no backstory to the team, and frankly it is the badassery and the badassery alone that makes you care whether these guys live or die. And yes, to answer your question, I formulated that sentence so that I could use “badassery” twice. Stallone is already in talks for a second installment, which the end of the film does leave wide open. Based on the pure electricity this film has generated this weekend, I have no doubt it will see a return that justifies a sequel. We can only hope. Quietly. And in a padded cell.

A little over a month ago a rumor was circulating targeting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as The Riddler in Christopher Nolan’s next Batman project. That rumor was quickly put to rest, however, I had written up a small piece regarding my take on the matter. Of course there have been a few changes since I have now seen Inception (twice), and the sentiment has only grown. That take basically being HELL-FUCKING-YES. Now that Inception is upon us and has all but caused the filmmaking world to implode, I figured I might as well publish this little diddy. And quite honestly, I would petition my ASS off to see JGL in this role. Why? See below.

(6/21/10) Lovers of Batman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be in for some exciting news in the coming months if a recent teaser circulating the internet unravels itself to a favorable result.

The former child star turned indelible acting force has been rumored to possibly portray one of Batman’s most formidable opponents: The Riddler (previous tall tales regarding this role have pegged the likes of Johnny Depp and Eddie Murphy – both of which were quickly debunked). As of now it has been widely reported that director Christopher Nolan plans to start shooting the hotly desired Batman 3 in March of 2011, with the masterful mind-boggler as the primary foe. I, for one, would have no qualms seeing JGL take a stab at the super-villain, if only to wipe out my memory of Jim Carrey’s performance in the abysmal Batman Forever. (Honestly Joel Schumacher, SHAME ON YOU.)

All batrocities aside, Levitt has proven himself time and again that he is a boundless talent who is currently gaining star power at a momentous pace. He was a loveable geek in 10 Things I Hate About You, a tortured victim of pedophilia and homosexual deviant in Mysterious Skin, and he’s even gotten his comic chops lubed up thanks to 2009’s apathetically-received G.I. Joe. Levitt’s turn in Nolan’s Inception this summer may be exactly what he needs to give him that little extra shove into the front spot. (Now after seeing Inception I can say that he holds his own alongside the seasoned Leo DiCaprio impeccably.) JGL would also have an established relationship with Nolan, which never hurts the creative process. With Nolan consistently using recurring actors, this idea is not far-fetched in the least. It seems to me someone needs to get three dreams deep in Nolan’s brain and make him believe it.

I think it goes without saying (but needs to be said anyway) that Chris Nolan has a gift of bringing out the very best in actors. It could be a stretch (but I doubt it) to say that Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be to the Riddler what Heath Ledger was to the Joker. I mean, did you see him on SNL? Pure madness. My next recommendation would be Julia Stiles as Catwoman. And then who knows, perhaps David Krumholtz as the Penguin?

Free of conscience? Free of accountability? I’m not sure, but her new video takes a whole new approach to potential uses for music and its platforms.

This week, the latest video from Jill-of-all-trades M.I.A. dropped onto the internet like a fucking H-bomb. The single “Born Free” is off her upcoming album, while the video is directed by Romain Gavras – a man who is no stranger to explicit, controversial and downright brutal filmmaking.

I’ve already done a couple entries on Stripped Cinema regarding the comeback of “narrative” videos this year, making an example out of Gorillaz “Stylo” among others. With regard to “Born Free”, I felt it would be a disservice if I didn’t at least acknowledge its existence.

M.I.A. of course has no qualms over making extreme political statements, and the video for this single pulls no punches.  Tracking in just under 9 minutes, the actual music and lyrics to “Born Free” take a seemingly willing backseat to the ocular assault playing out before us. My intitial reaction to this video was that Gavras was showing us a horrific reality that many of the sort of “anti-US” war movies released in the past few years were afraid to show. He takes a balls-out approach and doesn’t flinch or falter in his depiction of atrocity. The only difference is that it is all playing out here – on our soil. Essentially, he has turned the camera back on ourselves as a society and shown us a reflection we are all to ignorant to acknowledge and quick to ignore.

Without getting into too much detail, I will say that I have not seen as many graphic and disturbing images in under 1o minutes as I saw in this video. There is violence toward women, violence toward children and violence toward minorities – all depicted in no uncertain terms. It definitely takes a strong stomach and an even stronger mind to make it through, especially toward the end when the story becomes particularly gut-wrenching. You may not like it, and you may not agree with it or think it’s “necessary” to illustrate such themes so…dramatically. However, there is no denying the craftsmanship and commitment to storytelling in “Born Free”, no matter how terrible the subject matter.

I absolutely feel this is a milestone not only in video-making, but filmmaking all together. Only the indiest of indie films take chances like M.I.A. and Gavras have done with “Born Free”, and usually because they have nothing to lose. Backlash has already ignited in the form of the video getting pulled from YouTube. People are angry. Outraged. Saddened. M.I.A.’s message is stated loud and clear in “Born Free”. See for yourself, if you wish, by visiting www.miauk.com.

Honestly, I don’t read nearly as much as I should these days. Unless, of course, you count the scouring of blogs and online news sources for the latest in entertainment fodder, technological advancements and crafty DYI endeavors. For 2010 I decided I would make a solid effort to remedy that by indulging in more enlightening and engaging works. I’m not sure Richard T. Kelly’s 10 Bad Dates With De Niro counts in either of those categories, but it is what I have found myself waist deep in, currently.

10 Bad Dates is a book of compiled, not-so-obvious lists from those of a certain cinephiliac disposition – critics, filmmakers, actors, etc. Some of the lists have been quite fun so far, and tuned me in to films I had no idea existed. But in a turn of coincidental events, I came across a certain list which piqued my curiosity more than a little, as it was relevant to a conversation I had days earlier.

A certain Mark Cousins, whom I had never heard of before, and from all I gathered via a quick interweb and Wikipedia search, is an Irish film critic, had crafted a list entitled “The Ten Greatest Film Trilogies”. As I previously hinted, I just had this conversation with friends a few days ago. This topic immediately jolted me (somewhat frustratingly) from my comfortable, if somnolent state. And more so, what I read in the introduction immediately set my heart aflutter:

AMEN.

Above is a paragraph stating why the fantastic voyage of Frodo and “Precious” (not to be confused with the movie based on the novel PUSH by Sapphire) otherwise known as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is not and should not be considered in the list of best film trilogies. At least, in Mark Cousins opinion. I could not agree more. Those close to me know my disdain for these films, and while epic in their right with effects and grandeur, Cousins pinned the tail on the hobbit with the “tedious and repetitive” remark. For some reason, I just wasn’t expecting this to be stated outright. I feel very much in the minority when it comes to my inability to praise these movies, and it’s always nice when I realize I’m not the only one with these views.

If you’re curious, I wanted to list the 10 trilogies that did make Cousins’ list, and I have highlighted the ones I agree with.

10. The Golden Heart Trilogy by Lars Von Trier

9. Star Wars Episodes IV-VI by George Lucas

8. The Qatsi Trilogy by Godfrey Roggio

7. The Evil Dead Trilogy by Sam Raimi

6. The Three Colours Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski

5. The Godfather Trilogy by Francis Ford Coppola

4. The Red Curtain Trilogy by Baz Luhrman

3. The Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray

2. The Bill Douglas Trilogy

1. The Koker Trilogy by Abbas Kiarostami

This is a fairly good list although I feel it left off some pretty great modern trilogies like The Bourne Trilogy and The Death Trilogy (Alejandro González Iñárritu). It also fails to mention the Back to the Future Trilogy and The Dollars Trilogy (aka Man With No Name Trilogy) which are inherent classics. I was ecstatic to see The Qatsi Trilogy because they seem to be films that everyone has seen, but no one ever talks about, despite Roggio’s clearly GENIUS and well-executed exploration. And don’t kill me because I didn’t highlight The Godfather, okay? I’m sure the films are worthy of every acknowledgement and standing they hold on any list ever, but I only didn’t because, hells bells, I don’t think I’ve actually seen the thing in its entirety. Shameful? Maybe. But I have no regrets!!

Got a favorite trilogy? Discuss it below!

Film scores have long been the cohesive factor of the narratives they corroborate. A single note can make or break a scene. Some notes have left lasting impressions on us for decades (JawsPsycho), and some films have entire anthems that are as important as the inception of the film itself (Star WarsJurassic Park). There are HOSTS of other movies whose composers have helped solidify their place in pop culture by creating themes and music that are truly remarkable and unforgettable. However, those are composers. This is their day job. You’ve got your Hermanns, Morricones, Williams, Elfmans, Zimmers, Shores, Giacchinos, etc. etc. The list can go on forever and every one of those men listed has contributed to the filmmaking industry in an incomparable way. But a trend that I am enjoying seeing over the past decade is something slightly more…progressive.

This trend would be the influx of indie music-makers taking to the studios for the sake of celluloid. Artists like Massive Attack, The Crystal Method, Brian Eno, Karen O. and now even N.E.R.D.’s Pharrell Williams have contributed to the film score genre for movies like The MatrixWhere the Wild Things Are, this years Clash of the Titans and also this years Despicable Me. Last year the critically acclaimed group Grizzly Bear contributed gorgeous scores for two different movies at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival - Jack Goes Boating and Blue Valentine. This movement from “classic” score-making has me very excited to see what other artists and groups will do with the art form. Not only that, but it led me to write this article and finally voice my opinion of what favorite musicians of mine I would love to see compose a film score. I reasoned for 6 of them, and the latter 6 are honorable mentions, in a sense. Feel free to voice your own suggestions, or argue against my choices in the comments below!

RADIOHEAD

If you know me (which many of you probably do because I’m pretty sure only my friends read this thing – if that), you know my love for Radiohead runs incredibly deep. A while back they were in talks to compose the score for Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, however that never managed to materialize and Britain’s best only contributed some original songs. Then two years ago there was some controversy surrounding Chuck Palahniuk’s film version of Choke which was reported to have music entirely composed by the band. However those reports were denied by the group. Radiohead is known for doing things like providing previously recorded or original songs for films, however they have never created an entire original soundtrack. True, guitarist Jonny Greenwood scored  There Will be Blood back in 2007 but a collaborative effort from the band has yet to be seen. Their album Kid A provides a significant window into the genius that could be developed for the silver screen, perhaps in a David Lynch film or (relative) equivalent. If they would just do me a favor and commit to ANYTHING, I would be eternally grateful.
Noteworthy tracks: Idioteque, In Limbo

M83

Wikipedia quotes this band with an affinity for space galaxies as an “electronic/dream pop act.” However you want to classify these pioneers of ambient rock, there is no denying their knack for creating mood and atmosphere like no others on the scene today. Their songs have been featured in countless films and tv shows from Stranger Than Fiction to CSI: Miami. Unfortunately, they have never developed a score that would be sure to take us on an ethereal journey to the outer limits of film composing. Put them on a sci-fi or perhaps even a comic conversion, and bring the magic.
Noteworthy tracks: Run Into Flowers, Teen Angst

JUNIOR BOYS

This indie-electro duo has been churning out the sounds since 1999, and finally solidified their musical footprint with 2004′s album, Last Exit. Like M83, Junior Boys have the potential to create a definitive ambience that is not normally portrayed in film. They have no film or television credits to their name as of yet, but I would love to see that change. Their music could easily be imagined in a gritty, urban, coming-of-age tale. They also have a one-up on the competition as they are typically defined as slightly more “pop” and therefore more marketable by default (true, like it or not).
Noteworthy tracks: Neon Rider, Bits and Pieces

KINGS OF CONVENIENCE

If you’re looking for this generation’s Simon & Garfunkel, you’ve come to the right place. Remake of The Graduate? These are your guys. This dynamic duo from Norway has been on my radar for over half a decade now. You will not find a group with more soothing, delicate melodies and tranquil vocals. They have a talent for creating some of the most soulful songs I’ve heard since the heyday of folk rock in the 70′s. Make a film along the lines of The Virgin Suicides and let Kings of Convenience have at it. The score would guarantee to come out sounding like every summer you had as a teenager. The beauty is, they are diverse in their methods and have the flexibility of creating something just as up-tempo as down.
Noteworthy tracks: I’d Rather Dance With You, Parallel Lines

BECK

The man needs no introduction. What CAN’T Beck do? Everyone knows his music, everyone knows the expanse of his talents. I find it slightly incredulous that he has not composed dozens of film scores at this point in his career. Like others on this list, his songs have been featured in movies and on tv but he has never written for the express purpose of including that music in cinema. Beck is a force to be reckoned with and one that has pushed the boundaries of music since he burst on the scene with Loser in 1993. Who wouldn’t want to hear his stuff playing through some crazy Michel Gondry flick, as opposed to just a song or two?
Noteworthy tracks: Soul of A Man, Broken Drum

GORILLAZ

And last but not least on my short list of rationales, I give you: Gorillaz. The virtual group led by Damon Albarn and his band of revolving misfits has been dominating the charts as well as your subwoofers since the late 90′s. This group has the tendency for complete unpredictability, in their presentation as well as their sound, experimenting with everything from pop to punk to hip hop and beyond. Their most recent album, Plastic Beach (in which I reviewed the video for Stylo last month on SC) is a case-in-point. Gorillaz seem to be an act that will try anything once, and why should film composing be any different? Their sound, whichever shape it may take, would be a welcomed addition to any fast-paced, action-packed movie.
Noteworthy tracks: Double Bass, Every Planet We Reach Is Dead

Honorable mentions:
MUSE
THE ANTLERS
DEFTONES
BRAZILIAN GIRLS
YO LA TENGO
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST

After an inexcusable (however unavoidable) absence, we are back with a review that I am elated to report, is pretty much all good news. Over the weekend I finally managed to get my butt in a theater seat to see How to Train Your Dragon, the latest installment from the Dreamworks crew. After weeks of hearing nothing but great things, I decided I had to make a point to see it ASAP.

And what a brilliant decision it was. The short story is that of a young viking apprentice named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), who is just not the same as the other viking children. Truth be told, when the movie began, I feared for more outcast-turned-hero schlock. Thankfully, How to Train Your Dragon turned out to be far, far from any sort of schlock. Hiccup is a viking with heart, compassion, and a curious mind. Through his formative years, he has longed to become the ultimate dragon slayer and be the emulation of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler OF COURSE), one of the greatest Vikings to ever exist on the island of Berk. Unfortunately, when one of Hiccup’s oddball inventions (essentially a catapult specific for dragon-disabling) actually manages to take down one of the most feared species of the winged beasts known to the Vikings, he can’t bring himself to kill it, but rather befriends it. The audience, along with Hiccup, is then hurled into a fantastic journey of self-realization and tolerance.

I’m not really sure why I chose to see How to Train Your Dragon in 3D, but I did. I admit without apology that I am not a fan of  this whole 3D revolution, but the animated features seem to fare a bit better than the live-action films so far, so I went for it. Call it 3D, call it RealD, call it “So real it’s like this spear totally just stabbed you in the face-D” – I don’t give a shit. When I can sit in a theater engulfed by screen, and without a visual “frame” of reference, then come and talk to me about 3D. The trend so far has turned out very, very few diamonds, and lots and lots of rough. With exceptions like Coraline and Avatar, I haven’t seen any other films in 3D even worth noting. It typically seems to come as an afterthought, and therefore ends up being less engaging and more annoying.

And now that I’ve had my little rant, we can get back to the subject at hand. Granted, I don’t know too much about the technology – I just know enough to know when something looks completely crappy, so I won’t dwell too much on the 3D elements. Thankfully, How to Train Your Dragon made the most of their 3D technology and included some scenes with mesmerizing depth. For instance, there is a point where ashes fall from the sky, and the art was beautiful, delicate, and executed with a perfect level of appropriateness. This is exactly where elements of 3D become enjoyable. When it is utilized effectively to drive a moment home, and you can sit in the seat, slightly swatting at your face, the 3D has succeeded. Not to mention the flying sequences that were astonishingly exhilarating and breathtaking – never jarring or distracting. If you’re going to incorporate 3D, just do it so that it can be noticed,  but not steal the focus of the audience. Dragon manages to accomplish this with ease because of its gorgeous aesthetic and simple, yet enthralling storyline.

Let’s tackle graphics first. How to Train Your Dragon was full of some of the most rich and vibrant color this side of Toy Story 3*. I was blown away by the use of textures and pattern, especially in Stoick’s beard and certain water scenes. They truly looked “live”. Animation has come a long way since the early days of Snow White. Virtually anything that one can illustrate, one can animate, and in more detail than is probably perceived by the human eye. How to Train Your Dragon is one of the most robust films projected on the silver screen that utilizes every graphic and animation technology at the artists disposal. And they do it well. As stated above, it is neither over-bearing nor obvious. As the viewer we are able to float seamlessly through the film, and just absorb it all without thinking about the “plausibility” factors.

How to Train Your Dragon is a story that has been told time and time again, about never judging a book by its cover, giving chances, and the power of friendship – no matter the species. The way the relationship that develops between Hiccup and his new-found friend Toothless the Dragon ( who is unarguably one of the most adorable animated characters to grace cinema) is not only heartfelt, it’s timeless. The story is not complicated or boring; the film moves along at the perfect pace. Every person from child to adult should be able to connect with the themes that play out here. If you do not tear up at LEAST once during this film, something is off. For me, it was closer to ten. Seriously. Maybe it’s just my unending compassion for animals, I don’t know. What I do know is that Dragon managed to take simplistic facets of human nature and weave a wondrous and perfectly layered tale from them that will stand up against all the Ups, Toy Storys, Monsters, Incs, and Kung Fu Pandas, for years to come.

*remains to be seen, but I’m just throwing my hat in the ring now

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