Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Movie Review: Super Slick Spy Flick

Cars 2 movie poster, image property of Disney and Pixar.

It’s that time of year, my friends.  That time every summer where Pixar offers up their yearly masterpiece!  This year’s movie is director John Lasseter’s Cars 2, a sequel to the 2006 Cars, and although it’s not their best movie I still had a lot of fun racing around the world in this super slick spy flick.

Larry the Cable Guy returns as the voice of Mater, the dim-witted hillbilly of a tow truck.  Although only a supporting character in the first film, this time the show really is all about Mater.  While his best friend—racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson)—is racing in the World Grand Prix, Mater is caught up in some international espionage.  British spies Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) mistake Mater for their American informant and the three embark on a secret mission that closely ties into the race McQueen is racing in.

The animated film takes us from Tokyo to France to Italy to London and back to Radiator Springs again and the locations are all fully-realized and create a fun backdrop to the action.  Although it’s hard to believe that McMissile and Shiftwell don’t realize Mater isn’t really a spy—and that Mater is clueless that they think he is—the action more than makes up for its implausibility.  The action sequences are well-executed, exhilarating, and often humorous.  Seriously, there is a lot of high-adrenaline awesomeness in this movie!

That being said, the majority of movie critics seem to hate this movie.  They’re calling it the fall of Pixar.  While I’ll admit that it’s probably their worst movie, I don’t think it’s by any means awful.  It’s still a really entertaining movie.  One problem many are citing is the choice to make Mater the star of the show instead of McQueen.  I didn’t mind at all because I happen to like Mater.  All I wish is that we could have seen more depth from Mater.  We’ve all become accustomed to Pixar movies being full of insight and heart, and Cars 2 just feels a bit superficial.

But as far as spy movies go, it’s more enjoyable then some live-action Bond flicks!

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!

Movie Review: Bad Teachers Tell Bad Jokes

Bad Teacher movie poster, property of Columbia Pictures.
Bad Teacher AVERAGE

Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey, a middle school teacher who has no motivation to teach.  She was hoping to marry a rich man and stop teaching for good, but that plan fell through.  Now she just slumps over her desk drinking booze and getting high while her students watch movie after movie.  But when Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) joins the staff, her plans to woo and marry a rich man are kicked into high gear.  She’s confident that she’ll win him with a boob job, so she does everything in her power to raise the money—including theft, blackmail, seduction, etc.  A fellow teacher named Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) is on to her though, and the two battle it out.

Elizabeth’s only friends at the school are the gym teacher named Russell (Jason Segel) who has a thing for her and Lynn (Phyllis Smith) who is naively oblivious to Elizabeth’s cruelty.  Segel and Smith get some of the biggest laughs and are arguably the only endearing characters in the film.  Poor Justin Timberlake is stuck playing the boring and unfunny Scott.  There really isn’t much to his character at all.  And Lucy Punch’s over-the-top example of the “perfect” teacher is comedic at times but mostly just weird and annoying.

The biggest flaw of the movie is the central character of Elizabeth.  Cameron Diaz tries her best to turn the lemon of a script (written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg) into lemonade, but there just isn’t much to work with.  She has her funny moments, but if you’ve seen the trailer to this movie you’ve pretty much seen it all.  She throws balls at kids, curses like a sailor, and insults their baked goods.  It kind of gets old quick.  And is she a redeemable anti-hero?  Not really.  She’s pretty much awful from beginning to end…

That being said, there were some really funny scenes that got me to laugh.  The problem was waiting through the awkward bits for the next working punch line.  The pacing of the movie is just so uneven!  If I were to grade this film, I’d give it a C-.  That’s a shame because I feel like the concept was good and with a bit of tweaking it really could have been an A film.  Unfortunately, the way it was handled left Elizabeth as nothing more than a bad teacher telling bad jokes.

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quote on the Fridge

Brian's mom was reading a book by the late president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley.  She read a portion that made her think of Brian and I, so she wrote the quote down on a piece of paper and stuck it to the fridge with a smiley face sticker.  Isn't she sweet?  We saw the note and appreciated it.  Thank you, Mama Kesler!

Ask Joaquin: What is Your Favorite Pixar Movie?

From Anonymous:  What is your favorite Pixar movie?

Well, this question could essentially be answered in one sentence, and that would be a very short blog post!  So I'm going to take the opportunity to rank all twelve of their movies from my least favorite to my most favorite.  Sound good?

Now, the movies on the bottom of my list don't mean that they are bad.  Ranking Pixar movies is like ranking jewels.  The jewel that ends up in last place is still a jewel, just less shiny than the jewel in first place!

12 Cars 2
Cars 2 is vastly different from the first Cars movie.  So different that it's almost hard to think of it as a sequel at all.  And while I found it to be really fun and exciting with all of its espionage and action, it just didn't resonate emotionally like most Pixar movies do.
11 Cars
While Cars 2 is fast and flashy, the original Cars was slow and nostalgic.  While it's about friendship and finding what's important in life, it's also an ode to forgotten small towns.  Growing up in Ordway, Colorado I could definitely relate!
10 Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 broke the rule that sequels have to suck.  This movie successfully continued the story of our favorite toys while introducing us to some great new characters.  The song "When She Loved Me" makes me cry every time.
9 A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life was Pixar's second movie and it proved that Toy Story wasn't just a fluke.  It's based on the Aesop fable about an ant and a grasshopper, but it's like ten times cooler!  I just love Heimlich's "I'm a beautiful butterfly!"
8 Monster's, Inc.
The concept of Monster's, Inc. is so original!  What if the monsters in our closets were scared of us?  Brilliant!  The little girl Boo is so adorable, the monsters are so funny, and that climax with all of the doors is simply awesome!  I'm excited for the prequel Monsters University in 2013.
7 Ratatouille
This movie came out while I was living in Chile and I remember seeing some posters for it and thinking, "Who wants to watch a movie about a rat in a kitchen?"  Well, the answer to that question is "ME!"  For a foodie, Ratatouille is such a decadent and savory film!  It has a really interesting story, a great message, and I love the French atmosphere with the beautiful score and the gorgeous color palette.
6 The Incredibles
On the surface, The Incredibles is about retired superheroes.  But it's so much more than that.  It's a family drama centered around the parents feeling unfulfilled in life.  Something I think many can relate to.  I also love how the superpowers match each person perfectly.  We have the dad who is strong and dependable, the mom who stretches herself thin running the household, the teenage girl who wishes she could disappear and the little boy who is full of rambunctious energy.
5 Toy Story 
The beginning of the Pixar legacy, Toy Story is a monumental film.  Not only is it the first full-length computer animated movie in the history of cinema, it's a really good movie!  I remember when I first saw this movie and the goosebumps it gave me.  The images were so real!  The characters were so funny and relatable!  It was like nothing I had ever seen.  I was impressed with the visual style, the heartwarming story, and the great adventure of it all.  What kid didn't imagine their toys having a life all their own?
4 Toy Story 3
Over a decade later Pixar decided to add yet another sequel to the Toy Story franchise.  I was a little skeptical, because let's face it, movies that end in "3" usually aren't very good.  But in my opinion, Toy Story 3 managed to surpass the original in excellence.  Our favorite toys are on another spectacular adventure, but this time they are ten years older and so is their owner Andy.  This movie was very bittersweet, providing lots of laughs while reminding us all that at some point we have to grow up and move on.  I was so scared that the toys were going to die in the end that I was bawling my eyes out.  Who else but Pixar can make me fall in love with plastic toys?
3 Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is movie magic!  The underwater world is so artfully depicted that I wish I were an amphibian!  Oh, and this movie is where I first fell in love with Ellen DeGeneres!  Ha ha!  Her delightfully quirky Dory is so fun to watch and she balances out the serious fuddy duddy Marlin perfectly.  I loved Nemo's struggles to prove himself and his father's struggle to let him do so.  The various characters they meet and the obstacles they face are so memorable, like the stinging jellyfish or the surfin' sea turtles.  And Dory's motto of "Just keep swimming" are words to live by.
2 Up
Up, to me, was the perfect balance of comedy and tragedy.  I was laughing and crying in equal measure all throughout.  The opening sequence telling Carl and Ellie's story through music and beautiful animation is probably one of the greatest scenes in movie history.  It's so wonderful.  And from there we embark on a whimsical adventure with balloons pulling a floating house, exotic birds, talking dogs, and an unlikely friendship between an old man and a little boy.  Up is colorful and bright while dealing with the heavy themes of death and loss and regret.  I love it!
WALL-E is an exceptional film.  Not as an animated film, or as a Pixar film, or as a kid's film... no, WALL-E is hands down an exceptional film period. The cinematography is stunning, the musical score and all the sound effects are ingenious and the storytelling is pitch-perfect... and oh what a story it is!  One trash-compacting robot is the last "living" thing on earth.  Humans have long since abandoned the planet and are floating in space.  Wall-E's life is simple... that is until he meets Eve who is a robot sent to earth in search of plantlife.  She finds a small leaf in a boot and returns to the ship.  Wall-E, smitten with her, follows.  By the movie's end the robots have fallen in love and the humans have returned to earth.  Although this movie was scoffed at by some for being too environmental or too against big business, I think the real point of WALL-E is to remind us about our own humanity.  To remind us to love one another and appreciate all the good that the universe has to offer!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Here is another taste from my novel, A Tent in Summer (formerly referred to as John):

“For the past month I’ve been seeing a boy.  He’s a very lovely, and passionate, and kind-hearted boy.   Nothing compared to him, Bishop.  Nothing compared.  Not long ago we were lying together on a trampoline, looking up into the night sky, finding the constellations of the stars.  The stars are so beautiful, Bishop.  The moon is so beautiful, but nothing compared that night to him.  He outshone the stars.  I thought for a moment I must be in heaven, to be so close to a star.  I must be a part of that great firmament of holy orbs and sparkling comets.
“Because I was so very close, Bishop, to him I mean.  He was holding me so close and so tightly.  I knew that if he were to let go of me I would just fall and fall and fall, that’s how high up in the sky I felt.  So he didn’t let go.  Instead he leaned in for a kiss and it was like fireworks exploding in the night.  It was my first kiss.  He whispered ‘I love you’ into my ear, and I could feel his cool breath like peppermint on my neck.  It felt so perfect.  It felt so good.

“But all good things must end,” Deborah said flatly.  “Love is fragile and boys are clumsy.  They break us like China dolls.  We shatter like porcelain in their grips.  I don’t think this boy meant to destroy me, but he did, Bishop.  He did.  He took for granted my weaknesses.  He took advantage of my vulnerability.

“He began to kiss my neck, and I let him.  I looked up at those stars and they were twinkling.  They were smiling down on me, shouting their congratulations.  I was so wrapped up in those stars and in that moment of sheer bliss that I didn’t notice him slide his hand up my leg.  It wasn’t until those clumsy boy hands thrust into me that I realized what was on his mind.  That’s when I understood what the words ‘I love you’ meant to a boy.  Those three words were like a password, a code, a key to unlock me.  He felt he had been granted permission, because he said he loved me and I said it back.  How was I to know that’s what he meant, Bishop?  How was I to know?

“I asked him to please stop.  I tried to pull his hands away, but it seemed like he had so many hands.  There were hands all over.  I felt hands on my breasts.  I felt hands over my mouth.  I felt hands on my legs, on my thighs, on my wrists, shoulders, nipples, feet, vagina.  The trampoline was a web and he was the spider and I was his fly.  He was inside of me again, but this time it wasn’t his fingers.   He moved in and out, the coiled springs of the trampoline enunciating the rhythm of his movements.  The rhythm of those words, over and over, I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you.

“All I could do was look up at those stars shining down on me.  It was clear now that I wasn’t a part of them.  They never looked so distant.  They just sparkled and shined, gloating their freedom.  I hated those stars.  I hated them.  Shining so brightly while my own light dimmed—while my own light died.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chihuahua Comics: Mechanic

Brian got one of those "fix-it" tickets the other day when he was pulled over for having a missing headlight.  If he got the problem fixed within fourteen days, he wouldn't have to pay a fine.  So of course I nagged him to get it done, and I was very VERY impressed when I found out that he had bought the headlight and replaced it himself!  ALL BY HIMSELF!!  I never knew he could do so much with his hands...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Movie Review: It's Not Easy Being Green

Green Lantern movie poster, image property of Warner Bros. and DC Comics.
Green Lantern AVERAGE

Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, a fighter pilot who seems unable to cope with his life.  He’s never gotten over the death of his father, he seems to have messed up a perfectly good relationship with Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and his reckless behavior has lost him his job.  He appears to be the last person you’d think to bestow with tons of responsibility, but that’s just what a dying purple alien does.

I bet you are thinking that purple aliens sound silly.  Well, that’s because it’s silly.  In fact, much of this movie is really silly.  Silly and cheesy.  The dying alien leaves him with a ring and a lantern and tells him to recite the oath.  Hal does so and finds that he is now equipped with superpowers and a nifty CGI suit.  Yes, ladies, Ryan Reynolds’ gorgeous body is gone most of the movie and instead replaced with a green animated version.

He is now a Green Lantern, one of many who are responsible for protecting the universe… and boy, does the universe need some protecting!  Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown)—an evil entity that uses the power of fear—is on a rampage.  The Green Lanterns use the power of will, not fear, and the moment their will falters and they give in to fear, Parallax kills them.  Their fear only makes him stronger so he continues to grow and grow as more and more give in to fear.

None of the Green Lanterns have much faith in Hal because he is a weak and pathetic human.  By weak and pathetic I mean a nice guy and not a total jerk which is what all the aliens are.  Seriously, they are all major assholes.  But anyways, Hal overcomes his fear and with his amazing strength of will he overcomes Parallax and saves the day!!  YAY!

What made this movie just slightly subpar for me were the villains.  Parallax wasn’t that threatening to me and the final battle with him and Hal was sort of underwhelming.  It seemed too easy, somehow.  Then there was the character of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) whose side plot began really interestingly.  He was this nerdy, quiet doormat who accidentally got infected with some of the blood of Parallax, thus turning his fear into power.  He began to hear people’s thoughts, his head began to grow unattractively because of his increased brain power, and he started to control things with his mind.  He was a very damaged and angry character and I thought to myself, “Hey, he’s shaping up to be kind of an intriguing villain.”  But unfortunately, there wasn’t any payoff to that.  His character was killed off way too soon.

Besides the lame villains, ridiculous storyline, and cheesy special effects Green Lantern was actually kinda fun.  Ryan Reynolds is a really likable actor and I feel he was a good choice for this movie.  Blake Lively also did an admirable job as his love interest, providing just enough humanity to an otherwise cartoonish movie.  There were also a few laughs to lighten the load, which always seems necessary when adapting a comic book. 

My favorite comedic moment was probably when Hal flew to Carol’s balcony dressed as the Green Lantern and was surprised when she recognized him.  She says something to the effect of “I’ve known you my whole life.  I’ve seen you naked.  Because I can’t see your cheekbones you think I can’t recognize you?”  Ha ha ha!  I’ve always laughed whenever superheroes would put on their tiny little eye masks and nobody would recognize them!  Do they think we are stupid?

Anyway, if you go in wanting a popcorn flick where you can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of it all, you’ll probably leave happy.

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Indecisive Idiot

I'm sure any waiter who has ever waited on me hates my guts.  Although they always smile and say things like "No problem!" or "Take your time!" or "I'll check back later!" I've never bought it for a second.  Behind their tip-hungry eyes I can see their true feelings:  "Hurry up and order, you indecisive idiot!"

What can I say?  I'm riddled with self-doubt and lack a ridiculous amount of confidence.  I'm so apprehensive about making decisions that I can't even order from a restaurant menu.  Every waiter I have ever had has always returned to my table multiple times, only to be asked to give me just one more minute to choose.  Why do I completely suck at making decisions!?

And if I'm with other people who have all decided and are ready to order, suddenly I feel the pressure to just make up my mind and get on with my life.  So I'll say, "Um, you go first" to give myself just one last minute to decide.  As the waitress goes around scribbling in code on her little pad, my eyes dart back and forth across the menu like a frantic ADD bunny rabbit.  The chicken sounds good but so does the burger it's black and bleu I like bleu cheese but I don't know what's so black about it do they burn it I could always ask for it medium rare that's how I like it but the chicken does sound good it has lemon and poppy seeds but I heard that poppy seeds register on a drunk driving test and make it look like you are drunk that's really weird because I'm obviously not drunk but I won't even be driving because I don't have a car but then oh gosh why is the waitress looking at me is it my time to order oh my goodness so am I getting this chicken then I guess I will but then again there was that burger with the bleu cheese and... and... oh my gosh... eyeballs staring at me... "I'll just have the pasta carbonara!!"

Recently, my indecisiveness has reared its ugly head in more important areas of my life.  You see, I'm having mixed feelings about the Art Institute of Salt Lake City where I am supposedly starting school in a couple of weeks.  Here are some things that have me freaked out:
  • Transferring credits has been like pulling teeth.  When I was set to start at the Art Institute of California - Hollywood, that school had accepted something like 62 credits.  So I was sad that the Art Institute here was only accepting like 30 credits.  Half the credits!  So I'm currently in a battle with them over credits.  I want them to accept more, and although I was supposed to hear back from them Monday, I haven't heard anything.
  • The number of credits they accept will determine whether or not I am a Sophomore or a Junior... which will determine the amount of out-of-pocket money I will have to come up with.  The plan as a Sophomore has me paying over $400 myself.  The plan as a Junior has me paying nothing.  Of course the school is sending me bills for the large amount.
  • Apart from the bill they keep resending, I haven't received any communication from the school in weeks.  It's not for lack of trying on my part.  I call my adviser.  I email my adviser.  Nothing.  I haven't even registered for classes yet...
So this school is just seeming really fishy right now.  I can't explain it, but I'm having a really bad feeling about it all.  I feel like I shouldn't go there.

But it's not just that.  Sometimes I don't even feel like animation is what I should be doing.  I'm sure most of you are shocked by this news because that's all you've ever known me to want.  However, all through high school I was flip-flopping between Illustration or Graphic Design.  In fact, when I went to BYU the original plan was to study Graphic Design.  But because of that summer where I started doing some animation, I made the rash decision to switch majors the day that school started.  So my decision to be an animator is only three years old.  Now I find myself questioning my abilities as an artist.  I'm good, but am I that good?  I like it, but do I love it?

And what about writing?  I've always enjoyed writing.  I have a blog, for goodness sake!  Currently I'm completely consumed with working on my novel.  I've been writing much more than drawing lately.  Much more.  Does that mean anything?

I better make a decision and stick to it, because school is obscenely expensive and I don't want to rack up student loan debt for nothing.  What should I do?  Oh, Lord, what should I do?

I'm so indecisive!!

Movie Review: Popper's Penguins are Predictable yet Pleasantly So

Mr. Popper's Penguins movie poster, image property of Twentieth Century Fox.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins AVERAGE

Permit me to paraphrase the plot.  Jim Carrey portrays Tom Popper, Jr., a professional person perfectly preoccupied with his profession.  He has parted from his wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) who is presently pursuing a new partner, his progeny Janie (Madeline Carroll) and Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) often protest paying their pop a visit on weekends, and he is being propositioned by his pompous employers to persuade Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury)—the proprietor of Tavern on the Green—to part ways with her property.  His personal assistant Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond) with her perplexing problem with P’s, is particularly productive in propping Mr. Popper up and planning his professional appointments.  But a peculiar present from his passed-on papa—a pullulating party of penguins—puts everything into perspective.

This particular picture is predictable in plot.  The penguins portray plenty of propensity, and Mr. Popper soon picks up on what is the paramount prize:  his family.  He puts aside his pursuits of personal prosperity to provide for the penguins, play with his children, and rekindle the passion with his past partner Amanda.  Perhaps sappy at points, Mr. Popper’s Penguins was a pleasant picture to participate in.  The penguins were full of pizzazz and personality, providing for plenty of pranks and puns… and lots of poop!

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