“Onward”: The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants

Onward!

Are they elves? Goblins? Bugbears? Kobolds? Smurfs? I have no idea.

From the studio that brought you Up and Inside Out, it’s Onward, another in-depth exploration of a directional adverb. Expect more in this series in future adventures such as Diagonal, Hard to Starboard, Thereabouts, and Counterclockwise!

(The word actually appears in-story and makes perfect sense after you’ve seen the movie. As an enticement for luring reticent viewers into the theater, it falls…shortward.)

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Video Scorecard #22: Oscar Quest 2020 Animated Extra Credit

Klaus!

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor facing off against Disney and DreamWorks films for an Academy Award…

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. As usual I’ve been preoccupied with my annual bout of Oscar-mania to the consternation of MCC readers who show up here for any other reasons.(I promise we have a road trip miniseries coming soon, with some light travel, history, and a tribute to one astronaut. Honest!

Before tonight’s big Academy Awards ceremony on ABC, there’s one last category in which I managed to catch all the entrants thanks to the wonder of today’s sometimes generous streaming services. Thus we present in brief the three nominees for Best Animated Feature that I didn’t see in theaters:

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The MCC 2020 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

Hair Love!

This white guy and his retreating hairline kinda wish we had this young lady’s tonsorial problems.

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis (for now), to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

We’ve already covered the Live-Action half. Next we present the Animated Short Film nominees, ranked from absolute keenest to mostly keen:

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My 2019 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: Everything Below the Top Ten

James McAvoy!

James McAvoy gave his all for three different movies, all sunken into this list’s bottom half. Better luck next year, my dude.

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

I saw 32 films in theaters in 2019 — another new personal record, beating last year’s record-breaking — but four were Best Picture nominees officially released in 2018 and therefore disqualified from this list, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. Ranking those four from Best to Least Best:

  1. The Favourite
  2. Vice
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody
  4. Green Book

Of the remaining 28 contenders that I saw in theaters, we had seven super-hero films; three animated films; nine non-superhero sequels, two of those animated; just one prequel; and four book adaptations. Obviously you’ll note the following list is far from comprehensive in covering 2019’s release slate. Once again this was a busy year during which I failed to spend gas money on every film that caught my attention.

Here’s the rundown of what I didn’t miss in theaters in 2019, for better or worst-of-the-worst. Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. And now, on with the bottom half of the countdown:

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Frozen II” End Credits

Frozen II!

The band reunites for the sophomore follow-up to their bestselling self-titled debut album.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: six years ago Disney’s Frozen made a kajillion dollars, set off a new merchandising phenomenon, and inspired more than a few cosplayers at our favorite conventions. The cooled-down coterie is back for Frozen II, which was rightly deemed good enough for a theatrical release and not immediately consigned to Disney+ like that Lady and the Tramp do-over or the Teenage Kurt Russell Comedy Collection.

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Your Handy “Lion King” 2019 Review Bingo Card

Lion King Review Bingo!

For my next trick, I shall create a “Many Moods of CG Simba” T-shirt with 25 adjectives and 25 copies of that same photo.

Disney’s crass rehashes of its extensive back catalog haven’t really been aimed at me, by and large. The Jungle Book had beautiful jungles, but some of those musical numbers…yikes. Our family unanimously hated Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I have yet to see Dumbo, Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or live-action brand extensions such as Maleficent, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, or Mirror, Mirror. (Snow White and the Huntsman found ways to surprise me, but that wasn’t Disney.)

I therefore have no plans to see Jon Favreau’s nearly Warholesque repurposing of Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers’ animated classic The Lion King…and yet I’ve spent half my Thursday reading the first wave of opinions out of skeptical curiosity. After the first five reviews I read from critics and websites I follow on Twitter, I saw patterns emerging. And thus the above artifact was born. Now I can make a game out of reading still more reviews.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Toy Story 4” End Credits

Toy Story 4!

Utensil friend and me! Utensil friend and me! When your aunt makes her chili, or you’re eating cole slaw at KFC…

The Toy Story trilogy remains an unparalleled cinematic achievement in animation with its track record of consistent excellence through every chapter. The original put Pixar on the map and legitimized three-dimensional computer animation as a feature film-making medium. The follow-up was loaded with at least as much humor and heart, and arguably topped the original for some viewers. The grand finale may have been a hairbreadth beneath its predecessors in quality, but it brought the series full circle, gave us fully satisfactory closure on the saga of Andy’s room, and remains the only animated sequel ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. All three remain shining jewels in Pixar’s crown, a fixture in millions of childhoods, and an object lesson for anyone who wants to teach kids what grade-A movies look like so that they can judge the hollow offerings of other Hollywood studios all the more harshly.

It’s therefore with a sigh that we now give a round of polite, lukewarm applause for the arrival of Toy Story 4, the Zeppo of the series. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, mind you.

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“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”: Ride or Die

Train Your Dragon 3!

We gather today for a Toothless farewell.

Time was, I used to see a lot more animated films per year — partly because my son was once a youngster with lower standards, and partly because good animated films used to come out more frequently. Or maybe that’s the middle-aged fogey in me talking.

To this day the original How to Train Your Dragon — an imaginative, action-packed flight of fantasy with a gut-punch of a climax — remains my favorite Dreamworks Animation project to date. The first sequel wasn’t bad, but never addressed the deadbeat-mom issue at its center to my satisfaction. Five years after How to Train Your Dragon 2 the trilogy concludes with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World — a definitive ending to the saga of Jay Baruchel’s awkward young Viking Hiccup and his fierce, loyal dragon partner Toothless. I nearly typed “pet”, but that descriptor is a bit reductive and and refuted by this very movie itself.

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C2E2 2019 Photos, Part 5 of 8: Last Call for Cosplay

Calvin and Hobbes!

Calvin and Hobbes, complete with Watterson-accurate expression.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! My wife Anne and I just got home from the tenth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″), another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous conventions in larger, more popular states. We missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team…

…and sooner or later we run out of cosplay photos as a team. It’s time to share all the cosplay that’s fit to print and left to post. Same disclaimers apply as in Part Two. Enjoy! Some more!

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The MCC 2019 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

One Small Step also!

To infinity and beyond!

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis, to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

Once upon a time we would do both sets as a one-day double-feature date, which gives us time between showings to look around the fashion mall connected to the theater. This year we couldn’t accommodate both in our schedule, but kept half the tradition alive. What follows, then, is my rankings of this year’s Animated Short Film nominees, from fine to finest. All five were likable in their own ways and difficult to rank without getting arbitrary. Three were hand-drawn animation. Three featured Asian or Asian-American main characters. Three had their end credits squashed to half-screen to make space for the directors’ “Oscar Nomination Morning Reaction Videos” squeezed into the other half. Three were silent for the sake of “universal appeal”, which I suppose saves them money by not having to pay any top-tier voice actors.

If they’re not showing at a theater near you and/or if don’t mind waiting, the complete set will be available February 19th on assorted streaming services. (Barring any convenient changes in our theater’s schedule next week, we may have to settle for watching the Live-Action Short Films via Google Play.) Links are provided to official sites where available if you’re interested in more info. Enjoy where possible!

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Yes, There’s a Scene after the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” End Credits

Spider-Verse!

Introducing: Spider Squad Six!

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse one of The Year’s Best Films!

So…there’s that. But I can’t simply post a screen shot of Ralphie’s teacher from A Christmas Story writing “A++++++++++” on her chalkboard and be done with it, because we know that’s not how I roll.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During AND After the “Ralph Breaks the Internet” End Credits

Ralph Breaks the Internet!

Fun in-joke scene for the eight people over 40 who ever loved AskJeeves.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the original Wreck-It Ralph. Not only did John C. Reilly’s layered performance hit me squarely in the heart with that big act of would-be noble sacrifice in the climax, but it later inspired me to write a jokey Top Ten-style follow-up that remains one of the site’s most enduring “evergreen” entries to this day. 2012 was a fun year for me in a lot of ways, and it tickles me to remember that Ralph was no small part of that.

Alas, with great success comes the threat of sequels. Disney Animation hasn’t released a theatrical sequel since Fantasia 2000 graced IMAX screens 18 years ago. Someone up high decided it was time to break the streak with Ralph Breaks the Internet, which, to be fair, tops very nearly every direct-to-video Disney sequel ever. I would have to see Aladdin and the King of Thieves again to decide between the two. That’s faint praise, though. Even as I dwell on the phrase “direct-to-video Disney”, memories of Dan Castellaneta’s Genie, Princess Ariel’s daughter, and The Fox and the Hound 2 return and make me wince.

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Wizard World Chicago 2018 Photos, Part 3 of 6: Last Call for Cosplay!

Is This a Pigeon?

Yutaro Katori from The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird. Or if you’re on Twitter a lot, the “IS THIS A PIGEON?” meme, live and in 3-D!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! This weekend my wife and I made another journey up to Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we found ample enjoyment and new purchases alongside peers and aficionados of comics and genre entertainment. Once again we lead off a new convention miniseries with the mandatory cosplay galleries. We captured whoever we could while wandering the show floor Friday and Saturday…

…and here are all the rest, all the other cosplayers whose works we appreciated and whose souls we captured. We apologize sincerely for the hundreds of other great cosplayers we didn’t photograph, but: (a) we were trapped in lines a lot; (b) we’re getting older and recognizing fewer costumes; (c) Deadpool variants notwithstanding, we tend to sidestep characters that show up in packs of fifty; (d) I’m getting less excited every year about competing with roving herds of Instagrammers who don’t even bother to learn the names of the characters they photograph; (e) we don’t do costume contests anymore; (f) no ever runs up to us and demands we take and post their pic, which would be most welcome and super convenient for us if they did; and (g) by 5 p.m. Saturday we’d accomplished all our goals and lost our wills to walk.

If you don’t see yourself here, I’m really sorry, but I do hope you get to see a few other fellow cosplayers that you missed this weekend. We saw a lot of fine efforts all around the Stephens Center, breathing new life into favorite characters and generally enriching the WWC experience. Enjoy!

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“Incredibles 2”: Further Feats of the Fantastic Five

Incredibles 2!

The expressions every time Emily Blunt gets top billing over some quote-unquote “A-list” dude.

Writer/director Brad Bird’s 2004 The Incredibles remains one of my all-time favorite Pixar films, and not just because it was about superheroes. I could relate to a film about an aging guy who considers himself talented but thinks he should be doing something better with his life, but whose family had much more important concerns than his, and everyone has to dive deep into their conflicts but come out all the stronger for it as a unit. And a film where there are spectacular chase scenes. And just so happens to draw on seventy years of mainstream super-hero culture.

Fourteen years later Incredibles 2 brings back Bird and the family to pick up where they left off. But are the viewers in the same place fourteen years later?

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My Free Comic Book Day 2018 Results: The Best and the Least Best

Maxwell's Demons!

A boy and his toys go to war. From Maxwell’s Demons #1, art by Vittori Astone.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on May 5th I once again had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration.

This year my Free Comic Book Day involvement took on a different form. My local shop offered a special deal that sounds crazy on the face of it: for a fair sum of money, we could pre-purchase a bundle of all 52 Free Comic Book Day comics that their stores planned to order. Normally these would all be free, but you’d look like a schmuck for casually walking in, picking up all 52, and walking right back out. Instead they set aside copies of all those comics, bagged ’em up, and let buyers pick them up late Saturday afternoon, once all the furor and hubbub had subsided. I went for it. I liked the idea of playing the role of patron, donating extra cash to help facilitate Free Comic Book Day for other folks in town, in a way that would help my shop offset the costs.

I spent the rest of Saturday night and nearly all of Sunday reading all 52 and then posting my impressions on Twitter after each comic, along with photo excerpts from every single comic. I took photos rather than scans because (a) our scanner sometimes ruins the hard work of comics colorists, (b) I wanted to capture the feel of comics on actual physical paper, (c) I wanted to test my new phone, and (d) snapping pics was faster than scanning. This reading/photography project took until 11:30 p.m Sunday night to complete, and would’ve taken until sometime Tuesday if I hadn’t cut corners somewhere. I had to put this entry off for a few days because I needed a break after spending so, so much time with them all.

This entry, then, is a condensed version of that epic-length tweetstorm: my ranking of the twenty best books of the bunch, followed by my six least favorites of the entire stack. I never trust a comics reviewer or website that shares nothing but relentlessly glowing opinions — nor, conversely do I trust a critic who hates all comics and can’t be pleased — so this is my way of not becoming that which I disparage.

Up first: that happy Top 20. On with the countdown!

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 4: Last Call for Cosplay!

Princess Lolly!

Princess Lolly from Candy Land, the classic board game that taught us kids all about colors and sugar.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz. If it’s a convention, that means it’s time for more cosplay photos! Anne and I are fans of costumes and try to keep an eye out for heroes, villains, antiheroes, supporting casts, and various oddities that look impressive and/or we haven’t seen at other cons…

Part Two featured the majority of Marvel characters we met; Part Three covered more Marvel, DC Comics, Star Wars, and a bit of video games. This time around: all the cosplay that’s fit to print and left to post. Same disclaimers apply as in Part Two. Enjoy! Some more! Still!

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Indiana Comic Con 2018 Photos, Part 2 of 3: More Cosplay!

Bunny Fett!

Happy Easter from MCC and the Easter Boba!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! This weekend my wife Anne and I attended the fifth annual Indiana Comic Con at the Indiana Convention Center in scenic downtown Indianapolis. It was another opportunity to dive into comic boxes, meet people who make comics, boggle at toy displays, make way for the youngsters who can’t get enough of anime merchandise, and find space to breathe in those cheerfully ever-growing crowds. To be honest, we were surprised how many of the actors on hand were folks we’d met at previous cons, but Anne and I found a few new intriguing names on the guest list and decided to drop by once more.

While we recuperate and wait for our feet to forgive us for their punishment, please enjoy this collection of cosplayers who brightened the day around the show floor. The actors and comics creators will be shared at the end of this special miniseries because everyone loves costumes. In all we took over three dozen pics of varying degrees of tailoring talent and photo quality. We regret we can only represent a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the total cosplay wonderment that was on display this weekend. We’re just an aging couple doing what we can for happy sharing fun…

…and in Part Two, it’s time for all the remaining cosplay that’s fit to print from the worlds of TV, animation, gaming, Netflix, and more. Enjoy! Again!

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The MCC 2017 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

Lou!

In this Pixar playground, the Lost have come to seek and save you.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis, to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not. We like to do both sets as a one-day double-feature date, which gives us time between showings to look around the fashion mall connected to the theater, gawk at clothing, grab snacks, and buy a new piece of cookware from Crate & Barrel.

Next up: my rankings of this year’s five Animated Short Film nominees, from keenest to next-level deluxe keenest-of-the-keenest. As with this year’s Live-Action Short Film nominees, I was so impressed with the uniform brilliance on display that the quote-unquote “rankings” are very nearly arbitrary. These may or may not be uploaded to your usual streaming services at the moment, but their availability should widen in the near future. Links are provided to official sites where available if you’re interested in more info. Enjoy where possible!

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So There’s a Collage and a Message After the “Coco” End Credits

Coco!

Welcome to the Land of the Dead, where there’s never an affordable housing shortage!

A word of advice from someone who’s been there to other empathetic souls out there: do not go see Pixar’s new grade-A adventure fantasy Coco immediately after attending services for a dearly departed family member. Some unmanageable side effects may occur.

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Wizard World Chicago 2017 Photos, Part 2: Animation Cosplay!

Belle + Adam!

I understand Disney’s live-action Beauty & the Beast is 2017’s highest-grossing film in America. On a related note, here’s Belle and Prince Adam, waiting for you to tell your 70,000 closest friends to come here and see this photo, please and thank you.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time once more! This weekend my wife and I made another journey up to Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we found much enjoyment and new purchases alongside peers and aficionados of comics and genre entertainment. Friday night left us near death by the end of our day, after a few miles’ worth of walking up and down the aisles and hallways, with breaks to go stand in lines of varying lengths and value. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

…and naturally cosplay photos are all part of the service, otherwise why bother conventioning. Last time we showed you some costumes, and now please enjoy more from myriad animated realms.

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