Saturday, December 10, 2016

GOLDEN GLOBE PREDICTIONS 2016!

Some things change in the Golden Globes, some will always remain the same. For instance, I expect to see some color in the Crayola Box of nominees this year, with strong contenders like Moonlight and Fences sure to go toe to toe in the dramatic categories. What's unsurprising: seeing Globes favorites Amy Adams and the unstoppable awards magnet Meryl Streep in their respective categories. Florence Foster Jenkins has weirdly been getting a lot of buzz, and I just don't get it...is it because Streep's in it? But I'm getting ahead of myself, the nominations don't come out 'til this Monday the 12th! Down below is some educated guesses, but mostly stabbing in the dark.

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL: (The Globes are infatuated with the Coens, and their latest Hail, Caesar! will be the one movie that gets the best picture nod with nothing else. The rest are probably going to be a gaggle of indies, no offense Office Christmas Party, but I'll call right now that La La Land is taking home the gold, easy.)
  • Hail, Caesar! 
  • La La Land
  • Love and Friendship
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Captain Fantastic
BEST DRAMA: (Moonlight seems like La La Land's biggest competition for the Academy's best film prize, because white guilt will kick into overdrive there. However, here I'm calling Manchester will not only be nominated but will win the whole thing. Expect forgiveness for Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic antics, because a good movie totally wipes the slate clean.)
  • Moonlight
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
BEST ACTOR (COMEDY/MUSICAL): (What will be the ultimate joy for me is if Ryan Reynolds, who was the main reason people drove in flocks to Deadpool is nominated here, but a comic book actor hasn't been nominated for any major award since Heath Ledger. I hope to see Crowe up here, for putting in great work as the deadpan heavy in Nice Guys. What will be interesting if his co-star Gosling gets two nods in this category for Nice Guys and La La Land. Not only has this happened before (to Johnny Depp in 2010) but Gosling was also nominated twice in two separate categories in one ceremony, 2011. If anyone can do it, it's him.)
  • Russell Crowe- The Nice Guys
  • Ryan Gosling- La La Land
  • Hugh Grant- Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Viggo Mortensen- Captain Fantastic
  • Colin Farrell- The Lobster
BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY/MUSICAL): (The only far fetch here is Zellweger, who has been nominated twice for her role as Jones, so why not make it a trifecta, Foreign Press?)
  • Kate Beckinsale- Love and Friendship
  • Meryl Streep- Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Emma Stone- La La Land
  • Renée Zellweger- Bridget Jones’s Baby
  • Annette Benning- 20th Century Women
BEST ACTOR (DRAMA): (This category will likely stay belonging to Affleck throughout the season. But Will Smith wants an Oscar so bad. SO BAD in all caps, bold, underlined and italicized. He and Jada threw a temper tantrum after he didn't get one for Concussion, but expect to see him here because the Press probably wants him to come. I mean, who wouldn't wanna dine with the Prince?)
  • Joel Edgerton- Loving
  • Casey Affleck- Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield- Hacksaw Ridge
  • Denzel Washington- Fences
  • Will Smith- Collateral Beauty
BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA): (Unsurprisingly I'm predicting a lot of women playing real women. Negga was quietly charming, but I think it's between Portman and Adams. Henson won for "Empire" last year, plan on seeing her in the film category.)
  • Natalie Portman- Jackie
  • Ruth Negga- Loving
  • Taraji P. Henson- Hidden Figures
  • Isabelle Hupert- Elle
  • Amy Adams- Arrival
BEST ANIMATED FILM: (Sausage Party was such a madcap blast that I forgot to review on this site, but I doubt it'll make the final cut anywhere. Expect to see all five of these kiddie films present.)
  • Moana
  • Zootopia
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Finding Dory
  • Trolls
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: (I will unabashedly be rooting for Ali all season. The boys from Hell or High Water are a safe bet, like Christoph Waltz and Leo were here in 2012 for Django, with Waltz surprisingly edging him out. I've heard raves about Shannon's performance.)
  • Mahershala Ali- Moonlight
  • Lucas Hedges- Manchester by the Sea
  • Jeff Bridges- Hell or High Water
  • Michael Shannon- Nocturnal Animals
  • Ben Foster- Hell or High Water
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: (Kidman's already got 10 Globe nominations: what's another for a movie no one's really talking about gonna hurt? I'll be happy if Viola and Octavia have a little Help reunion, but my gut says that this is going to be Michelle's year.)
  • Michelle Williams- Manchester by the Sea
  • Naomie Harris- Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman- Lion
  • Viola Davis- Fences
  • Octavia Spencer- Hidden Figures 
BEST DIRECTOR: (Expect Denzel to be double nominated here and in the Academy, and old Mel will be nominated for having to endure being roasted by Ricky Gervais.)
  • Denzel Washington- Fences
  • Barry Jenkins- Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan- Manchester by the Sea
  • Damien Chazelle- La La Land
  • Mel Gibson- Hacksaw Ridge
BEST SCREENPLAY: (I'm going bold here: a western, a sci-fi and a musical all under one umbrella? This ain't your grandad's category.)
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight
  • La La Land
  • Hell or High Water
  • Arrival

Monday, December 5, 2016

DOUBLE REVIEW: LOVING & MOONLIGHT

Remember #OscarsSoWhite? Besides future directing winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu, there wasn't a single person of color in the major nominees of last year's Academy Awards. Idris Elba, the deserving winner of the Best Supporting Actor SAG, wasn't even nominated. So this year's Academy Awards have a lot of recovery to do, especially in the wake of the horrific racial violence and tensions that have plagued America and rocked the media all of 2016. So (unless the predominantly white male Academy is really set on alienating viewers) expect to see a lot more color amidst the nominees, with acclaimed films like Loving, Moonlight and Fences all predicting to steal Best Picture nominee slots. Over my Thanksgiving break, I was thankful to have watched the former two of those movies, both in part dealing with the African-American experience.

I'll start with Loving, because it literally hits close to home, in the Old Dominion! Three years ago I was lucky enough to attend the University of Mary Washington-hosted Q and A with Peggy Loving, the daughter of the titular family. She discussed her parents' fight to have their marriage recognized in the state of Virginia (old 'Ginny doesn't come off that great here) when their case was brought into the court. What's so fascinating about this movie is how surprisingly passive the Loving couple come across. In fact, besides Nick Kroll's determined lawyer, everyone seems to be stuck in a Zack Snyder action scene, which is to say this movie is slow.

I suppose this is probably how the Lovings actually were. Joel Edgerton, who gives a quiet, transformative performance as Richard, is portrayed as an obedient country boy, the type of man that'll hold the door for you but'd be too shy to say "you're welcome" after you thank him. He quietly takes negative, harmful language from his mother, his wife's family and the justice system, who all naturally want to see he and his wife Mildred (Ruth Negga) fail. Negga has the showier role here, which isn't saying a great deal. She's also very passive, but there's a gentle warmth to Mildred that Negga exudes with great ease; a motherly love and a devout devotion to her husband. Kroll is perfectly fine as the lawyer fighting for them, I'm afraid I just expected him to break out into one of his characters from his sketch show, but that's not his fault.

Overall, I would've loved to have seen more backstory on the Loving couple; how they fell in love, more time with the kids to show their dynamic, etc. We know that their love is unfaltering, but give us why! And director Jeff Nichols...I know Michael Shannon is your good luck charm, but DON'T WASTE HIM in a two-minute part! I felt like the part was much bigger and perhaps it was cut down to time limits, but Shannon was so charismatic as a Life photographer...and then he's gone! I expected a little more from the director of Mud, perhaps something a little less conventional, like the Lovings themselves.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars.

Read on to see my review for Moonlight, one of the best films I've seen this year!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

REVIEW: ARRIVAL

Something bothered me right before I watched Denis Villeneuve's new film Arrival: the trailer to the upcoming sci-fi flick Passengers. It's a film I've been anticipating for quite some time, and perhaps I'm going in with blind admiration for it's two leads, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the current gods of movies. The trailer hooked me; these two in a spaceship already promised my butt in the seat. But then it kept going, revealing more and more about the plot that I would have gladly wanted to find out when I was seeing it for the first time. Hollywood trailers revealing too much gets enough publicity though...the ones that don't need more press for the ones that do to not succeed. The marketing for Arrival was perfect: it revealed the most sensational, attention-grabbing aspect of its product (an alien invasion) but gave you no more, and no less. So when you see Arrival, don't come expecting Independence Day 3, expect a quiet, somber exercise in sci-fi that reminded me of a tamer, more expensive version of one of my favorite shows now, "Black Mirror." And that's high praise.

The film's opening reveals to us an intimate detail about the life Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), which carries with us throughout the film as it shows she's a college professor and a highly trained linguist. When the alien spacecraft begins to appear, Forrest Whitaker, who maybe smiles once in the entire film, asks her to be a part of the team that is trying to decipher these creatures and what their presence on Earth means. So Dr. Banks and scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are granted access with a few others and attempt to speak to the extraterrestrials directly. The results are surprising.

Foolishly I waited until a plane ride to watch Villenueve's last feature Sicario, which would've easily made my top five from last year. Whenever I go to the movies, I always ask was it the right choice for the filmmakers to bring this story to the big screen, and for three times now the answer has been yes. Prisoners was a terrifying character study on how far a father could be pushed to find his daughter. Sicario was the tale of how far an FBI agent could be pushed while witnessing the crushing corruption pervading her surroundings. At a debut PG-13, Villenueve is putting the intensity away in favor of a quiet, reflective sci-fi, something Rod Serling would've bought front-row tickets for me. We don't see the stock wave of people flooding the streets, screaming that the end is nigh. The film's perspective primarily lies with Banks, so nearly everything we see comes from her POV. One of the greatest talents Hollywood has been blessed with, Adams is utterly compelling to watch, ditching movie star moments like in Enchanted and American Hustle for a more intimate character exploration. How freaked out would you be if you got to be the one who communicated with the first ever alien life forms? Adams makes it believable, and though it's a smaller role than we expect to see from the A-list Renner, he pulls it off just fine.

The special effects, in a movie where the special effects aren't supposed to be the focus, are excellent. The pace is deliberately slow, as, I would contend, a rebellion against sci-fi movies we get these days that operate at a breakneck pace. Arrival slows everything down. It's the anti-Independence Day 2, and instead of the Passengers trailer, it does much more showing than telling. It's an exploration into heady topics, and a film worth a second view down the road (or if you're a superfan, the next day). I can't wait to fully sink my teeth into Arrival later, but it's unique, original and rewarding cinema, and I'm perfectly happy we've arrived at this point
for the time being.

Rating: 3/4 stars

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

REVIEW: SULLY

If Captain Chesley Sullenberger thought landing a plane where everyone onboard could land in the middle of the Hudson River was difficult, wait until Hollywood got a hold of his life story. Sully could have been a film about the (without a doubt) heroic actions of the captain of that fateful plane, but Hollywood hasn't been kind to real life stories in the past. But when Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks are the behind the scenes and front in center elements to the recreation of what your life is going to be remembered for, I'd breathe a pretty big sigh of relief.

Directing a film about an American hero and portraying a real life man who falls under heavy duress while being the captain of a large mode of transportation is not new territory for Eastwood and Hanks respectively. They're American icons in their own right, and whoever makes the movie about them better give them the justice they gave to Sullenberger in one of the year's best films. As opposed to the film I was referring to earlier, Captain Phillips, it's important to note that this movie is not called "Captain Sullenberger" or "Miracle on the Hudson." The former would've been too formal, the man Tom Hanks presents to us would surely want us to call him "Sully" if we met him in a bar. The latter would simply not be accurate: divine forces were not in play when geese flew into Flight 1549's engines that day. It was Sully who took the wheel and saved everyone onboard.

Not since Jimmy Stewart has an actor been able to capture the everyman as well as Tom Hanks, even when the everyman does something extraordinary. I'm not sure about a win, but his very subtle, understated performance as Sully is certainly worth a nomination come Oscar time, because the Academy hasn't given him enough attention through the decades. I know they weren't the only two who made the movie, and I keep referencing them like they were, but this is one of Eastwood's better late-career works because he focuses on the specific. We get little glimpses into Sully's life to I guess see him act cool under pressure, but I'd argue you could trim it, and at only 95 minutes I would say you could make a lean movie even leaner. Chronologically (I also enjoyed the film's non-linear approach) we get an extensive look into the seat-gripping recreation of the crash, the immediate aftermath, and the lead-up/events of the trial Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) have to endure.

I was curious how they were going to create the conflict of this film, despite, of course, the idea of plane going into the Hudson as conflict. America was swooning at Sully's feet, so the only possible conflict could be the trial, which as I've found out, wasn't nearly as hostile to him as was portrayed. The man is shown with his flaws, an apparent reoccurring 9/11-tinged nightmare and some mystery domestic troubles that aren't really explained. Laura Linney is confined to a solely phone call performance, which is not only a waste of the great Linney but a waste of that character. Did we necessarily need to know an undisclosed (would she not give them the rights?) problem was happening during this tumultuous time? Linney says "I love you" and Hanks goes "I gotta go." If this movie had to be 80 minutes, so be it.

But with few exceptions, when you have Eastwood and crew piloting your vehicle, you know it can't be all bad (granted I haven't seen Jersey Boys). The real Sullenberger wouldn't want us to see him as a hero, and the film doesn't promote him as this genius of the aircraft. If this wasn't based on the Hudson incident back in 2009, I don't even know if it would've been made. Really solid, modest movies like this are a little hard to come across these days, and I hope they keep making more like this.

Rating: 3/4 stars

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

REVIEW: SUICIDE SQUAD

When I was young, and had no friends, and wrote comics as a kid ripping off Spider-Man, I always took a huge delight in figuring out who my villain would be that issue (issue meaning two pieces of looseleaf paper I stapled together and only I read). 90% of them would be plagiarized, but I still enjoyed adding the little quirks or potential powers from my villains who would be introduced with little backstory, then about a page of crudely-drawn action, then they would usually get killed. I guess I had a very black and white sense of justice in those days. But while my protagonists stayed fairly static, it was always a blast thinking up villains when I sat down to write and draw. Antagonists can be the most memorable part of your movie (take note, Marvel), but can a whole movie full of them come off as too bloated? David Ayer answers that question in Suicide Squad, a definitely flawed but firecracker time in the theaters.

When you go to college you take a lot of personality tests, and one that pops up a lot is "I let the opinion of critics affect a movie I want to watch." I always feel like a sheep, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't true. I try to avoid it now, but in the past a Rotten Tomatoes score could definitely have an impact on whether I liked a movie or not. If it was in the 90% and I wasn't enjoying it, I thought maybe I wasn't watching the movie right. That definitely isn't the way one should go in to a theater. A petition was signed to shut down Rotten Tomatoes after this film got a <30 fluctuates="" i="" it="" since="">Batman v Superman
got a similar rating some people threw a temper tantrum. I thought it was utterly ridiculous, so I just went with word of mouth. Not a big helper there: still fairly mixed, with the crowd leaning towards a thumbs up, less towards the RT gladiator thumbs down. So...I went in with lowered expectations, but looking to be entertained.

I know a whole paragraph devoted to expectations might seem a little excessive, but I can't stress how essential it is when going into Suicide Squad to have the right set of expectations. Because if you go in ready to love it, you may be disappointed. If you go in ready to tear it up, you'll find lots of material for just that cause. But with lowered expectations, you can seriously have a ball with this squad. I know I did. The plot...well, even talking about the plot reveals how thin it is. Viola Davis' Amanda Waller (who definitely shines in a marvelous ensemble) comes in with the rather brilliant idea to assemble a gaggle of powerful, imprisoned "bad guys" together to help reduce crime. If they fail, they die/they get the blame pinned on them. If they succeed, they get some time reduced from their sentences. In her efforts to try to get the team together, Waller unknowingly helps create the film's villain. To cover her mistake, she sends the Suicide Squad (whose titular name is said in a half-cheesy, half-only-Will-Smith-could-deliver-it-this-amazing way) on a mission to take this enemy down, under the guise of it being a "terrorist" attack.

Anyone who knows me know I have a soft-side for the actress who plays the villain, which I won't reveal since it's some what of a spoiler, but even I can't deny that she is the weakest part of the film. I also wasn't huge on Jared Leto's portrayal of what I would call the "gangsta" incarnation of comic books' most iconic antagonist. Leto, with his shining grill, devoured all the scenery he was in, and for me it was hammy. But there were shining moments of potential, and from his antics, he seemed to be largely in character throughout it, so I eagerly await a Joker/Harley spinoff. Speaking of which: goodness gracious. From the moment she enticed us onscreen in The Wolf of Wall Street to her literally bubbly appearance in The Big Short, Margot Robbie has shown us her capabilities as an actress are limitless. Her Harley is unpredictable, a sexpot who would bash your face in with a mallet before she'd let you touch her. Her loyalties lie with Mr. J, and the oft-lamented tragedy of "70% of their scenes together getting cut" is definitely something I would've loved to have stayed in. If BvS was two and a half hours, I think this posse film could've definitely stood to be longer.

In fact, in talking with my friend who saw this with me, we both agreed the film felt like a two hour climax. Which is more of an observation than a critique. I don't think I've had a quicker time at the movies in recent memory. There were just always fascinating things onscreen, characters you wanted to get to know, rapid action scenes. When the film slows down a bit at a bar, and you get a little information into other's lives, it was wonderful. My personal favorite part of the film was seeing Diablo's backstory, and not to spoil anything, but what a fascinating character study, and you see how his powers reflected his lifestyle as a man on the streets. We don't get a ton of information on the other Squad members, but like Robbie, Will Smith reminds why we fell in love with him in the first place as Deadshot. There's enough of the Smith persona mixed in with a lot of anger and resentment over not being able to see his daughter, the one thing that softens up what seems like a very hard-tempered character.

And it's a real shame because David Ayers has proven skilled in writing an ensemble picture (Fury) and you could tell where the studio put its fingers. When Waller is introducing the squad it looks like something Warner Brothers would put on their Twitter page, full of cutesy sayings and irreverent information. Did they think people would understand Captain Boomerang's pink unicorn fetish? Tell us why! Killer Croc has a line at the end that is confusingly maybe-racist. Ayer allegedly went for a very dark tone with the film, and after BvS got trashed for being too dark and menacing the studio wanted to lighten things up. For me the jokes mostly worked, but it would've been intriguing to see what a gritty Suicide Squad would've looked like. I'm sick of the true vision being released on DVD five months after they've collected our money for the theatrical cut. We're going to go to your movie whether it's a comedy or a drama, three hours or 90 minutes. To the studios: have faith in your audience. As I said earlier, it's all about how you go into this film whether you like it or not. Despite some serious flaws (Was Eminem's "Without Me" essential to that certain scene?) I still had a blast with this squad.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars

PS: Forgot to add that one Squad member really struck my fancy: Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flagg. He was a great glue of the supervillains, with a relatable and heartbreaking backstory. Kinnaman's become one of my favorites with his slimy turn as Will Conway on "House of Cards."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

REVIEW: NINE LIVES

Full disclosure before you read the review of the Kevin Spacey cat movie, which right there should tell you what I'm going to think about it: I went in to see this movie with a friend as a joke. There were six people total in the theater, including my friend and I, along with a mother and a daughter (preteen-ish) and an older married couple who got quite comfortable during the screening. Does awful comedy bring a marriage together? So, as will be explained later on in this review, I know full well that Spacey's riveting turn as Mr. Fuzzypants will not bring the actor his third Academy Award. But in a time where either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump is going to lead our country for the next four years, sometimes it's okay just to sit back and realize you're about to enter a disaster, because laughing at that disaster takes some of its power away.

Nine Lives is a soulless, money-grabbing concept of a film that has no idea of who it's trying to entertain. But I'll be darned if it didn't entertain me for it's much too long 87 minutes. Part of the appeal of the comedy is the fact that it's real. It is an actual film that I paid ten and a half real American dollars to sit in a theater with other real human beings as we watch real Kevin Spacey as a cat pee on a rug, and then in a purse. It was surreal.  A surreal level of awfulness. This is the man playing (now that Walter White has left the picture) one of the most ruthless villains in television history...and his agent convinced him to take this on? Spacey can't be physically in the movie more than 20 minutes, each minute likely equalling one million dollars he was paid. Christopher Walken on the other hand, I understand perfectly. He has reportedly said that he will be in just about anything. Personally, the only way that Nine Lives could've been a success was that Walken, a la Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, play every role in the film. That means the cat, Kevin Spacey's wife, Kevin Spacey's ex-wife and Kevin Spacey's daughter. All Walken. And he doesn't change his voice to any pitch either. He plays the line dead straight.
Garner is largely responsible for the half star

This kind of Neanderthal babbling is what kept me sane thinking about this movie. You can point out things like Spacey's daughter (Malina Weissman) dancing with the CGI cat is probably creepier than the lotion in the bucket scene in Silence of the Lambs. Or the fact that this movie has no idea who it's for, when half of it is business meetings kids won't understand and the other half is CGI slapstick we've all seen before and parents will want to scream "FIRE" just to evacuate the theater. Or maybe how irredeemable Spacey's Tom Brand is throughout the feature, even when he's supposed to get his cliched comeuppance.

But movies like this will always be made, and I made the very intentional decision to come see this movie because I knew it would be bad. No one will see this movie. No one will remember it. It's not going to hurt Spacey or Garner, and especially not Walken, a nearly mythical figure in cinematic ambiguity and strangeness. Obviously don't watch this movie, because it didn't care so you shouldn't either. But since I did, I don't regret it. I'm not going to put it on my worst-of list at the end of the year, because unlike Bad Words it didn't offend me morally or feel like it had wasted my time. If you do decide to pop in this film for your five-year-old after getting it in the Wal-Mart bin ten years from now, sit down with the right mind frame, and it might be a four star experience.

Rating: 0.5/4 stars

Saturday, August 6, 2016

REVIEW: FINDING DORY

Over three years ago, when this blog was my biggest commitment (college will knock a lot of things over in it's savage quest to consume your time) I talked about how this film had the possibility of being a disaster. My biggest fear was that they would Materize the sequel by putting in a sidekick as the main star of the film. Many folks thought the rusty redneck truck was irritating on the first go round, but Dory the blue tang absolutely stole the show amidst Australian sharks, Californian surfer turtles and a crazed dentist. So where does Dory land along side Pixar's other sequels? Well let's just say it's more Toy Story 2 than Cars 2.

With a less obvious title than it's predecessor, Finding Dory finds Dory finding herself, where she came from, how she was raised, and her search for her parents. I guess Finding Mr. and Mrs. Dory doesn't have the same ring to it. Marlin and Nemo pop up of course, this time in supporting roles to Dory. I guess fish don't have last names? The film starts with reintroducing audiences to Dory's endearing amnesia...which admittedly gets old after a few minutes. And it did get me a little nervous. If Mater's tick was him being a hick, was the whole movie going to be Dory forgetting things? Well, naturally, but I'm happy to say that they never rely on that as the film's main source of humor. Finding Dory is one of Pixar's funniest, while simultaneously being one of the darkest of the 17 films the company has put out.

That's right, maybe that's why Dory earned Pixar the less frequent PG rating it wears. Nemo dealt with a lot of the same issues, but this movie gets to you. First off, the idea of never being able to fully remember anything is a little scary to me. Getting separated from your parents for YEARS is actually wholly terrifying, and Dory almost dies like 10 times throughout this movie. It's a little intense. But if any animated film can tackle such adult themes with whimsical grace like Pixar is wont to do, Finding Dory achieves it. There are positively wonderful additions to the oceanic ensemble, which is hard, because just going through the creatures I mentioned earlier (sharks, turtles, the dentist) I was leaving out the jellyfish, Nemo's friends in the fish tank, Marlin's fellow parents. Maybe it's because I have literally seen Finding Nemo over 20 times, but everything about that film is warm and iconic. Now you have a grumpy septopus voiced by none other than Al Bundy himself Ed O'Neil, a couple of whales (one nearsighted, one...telepathic?) and so many more that I don't want to spoil here. Also, needless to say, Ellen DeGeneres is stellar as our little blue tang. With such a recognizable warm voice, you would think you'd be picturing DeGeneres saying all these lines, but her work is seamless.

While Finding Dory will likely never be ranked amongst Pixar's greatest achievements...that's okay. Before Cars 2 they had never really had a foul-up, and with films that have received less than masterpiece ratings (Monsters UGood Dinosaur) it's alright that the bar has lowered a bit. We can't expect a Toy Story level film every time, but even a bad Pixar film isn't necessarily a bad movie. This ultimately hopeful and super sweet sequel may not be up to it's predecessor's legendary status, but there's no doubt it'll be beloved through the ages, and it serves as one of Pixar's greatest sequels yet.

Rating: 3/4 stars