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Showing posts with label all-about-animation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label all-about-animation. Show all posts

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

"Sonic, he can really move. Sonic, he's got an attitude." That's how it went in the theme song for one of his 90's cartoons. Now, for this movie, just replace that attitude with pop-culture references that might become old in a few years. It's at least better than Sonic being a smartass.

Sonic the Hedgehog is directed by Jeff Fowler and written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, and the story basically is about Sonic (Ben Schwartz) going from a loner to finally being able to reach out and meet people. That main person is Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), and together, they have to stop the military and Dr. "Eggman" Robotnik (Jim Carrey) from capturing Sonic.

So, it's a pretty standard family movie, and I think that means, apart from some nice character moments between Schwartz and Marsden, it's only as good as its jokes. Luckily, they're usually pretty good. For every joke about Uber that's just thrown out there to fill the silence, there's one about Robotnik drones being used to deliver packages for Amazon. It seemed like a lot of the references were to companies more than anything else. It's a little concerning, but since it's mostly spoken instead of logos clogging the screen, it could be worse too. Plus, there are some more timeless gags thrown in for good measure.

Sonic's speed, on top of his overall and overhauled design, is visualized well on-screen. Slow-motion is used sparingly. Instead, his speed is best demonstrated when he's playing baseball with himself like Bugs Bunny. It's a fun homage, and it's what I would've liked to have seen more of, not the references.

Sonic is voiced by Ben Schwartz
The original design of Sonic really wasn't that bad, but this fix made a lot of people happy | Copyright 2020 Paramount

Jim Carrey's Robotnik is an interesting creation. It feels like the filmmakers started with regular Robotnik, added Tony Stark's worst qualities, and then they just unleashed Carrey to interpret the first two pieces. It's a pleasure and an annoyance to see him firing on all cylinders again. It would've been better if his co-stars could stand toe-to-toe with him more on-screen, but he regularly steamrolls over them. The worst example of this, when he's not just making random noises, is a breastfeeding joke that should've pushed the movie gently into PG-13. It's a real shame for James Marsden because it always seems like he's the most overlooked part of whatever movie he's in. He's really funny in this, and so is the actress playing his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), and hopefully that doesn't go unnoticed. Something similar happens with Carrey's sidekick, Stone (Lee Majdoub), but he's given even less to work with.

If you're a long-time fan of Sonic or a little kid, you're going to like this movie. The 90-ish minutes appropriately rush by. For everyone else, the mileage may vary.


Note: As of this review, Birds of Preywhich I also wrote about, is underperforming while Sonic is safely heading toward a profit. If you don't have kids and can only see one right now, please check out Birds of Prey. We need more of both these kinds of movies: faithful game adaptations where the studio actually listened to the fans, and risky comic book movies by women but for everyone. One is guaranteed to spark followups right now, but the other isn't. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Spies in Disguise (2019)

Note, mainly to myself, I still need to do posts for Jojo Rabbit and, now, Cats.

It's a beautiful thing when you can walk into a movie expecting to hate it but then walk out thinking it was alright. That was my experience with Spies In Disguise. It looked like they wasted the potential to do a CGI, action-packed, kid-friendly version of the show Archer, but a lot of that is there. Even better, the movie has a great message for kids who don't like being considered "weird," and there's a surprising message about how actual spies, government agencies and police need to be more accountable when working. Still, jokes can be pretty hit-or-miss, and that does hold Spies In Disguise back from being a real contender when it comes to ranking the flick next to Toy Story 4 and other animated hits from this overall stunning year for films.

The movie, directed by Troy Quane & Nick Bruno, is about superstar agent, one-man-army, Lance Sterling (Will Smith) having to team up with the agency's scientist and gadget creator, Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) so that he can clear his name after being set up for treason. Lance needs a way to be able to operate covertly, he turns to Walter for something that can help, and Walter turns him a pigeon.

Luckily animal-related "hijinks" are pretty much kept in check, and that's one of the best things about the movie. Instead, the best parts, are either Holland and Smith playing off of each other, or it's the fun and creative action that itself is character-driven. 

Smith and Holland character promo
Smith (left) and Holland (right) are a dream-team for the studio and the audience | Copyright 2019 Fox/Disney

What I mean by character-driven action is the idea that only these guys could think of these things and pull it off. A perfect example is the character of Bullseye in the Daredevil comics, movie, and especially show. He turns even the most unlikely object anything into a projectile, and the creators play with that. In Spies In Disguise, it's all about Walter's non-lethal gadgets and approach to taking down the bad guys. In that aspect, it's like if Batman wasn't brooding because Walter, instead of spray painting everything the color of darkness, makes everything bright, colorful, and practically candy-coated. It's the perfect approach to take for animation. 

Animation-wise, Blue Sky Studio's best comparison is Sony Animation. They both love to do things in a heavily stylized manner that's closer to classic Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons than to Pixar's and DreamWorks's typically more realistic look. That's why the movie looks so good, it plays everything fast and loose, and it never really rests. That's critical when a movie's writing may not be as tight as it should be.

So, the jokes vary. Some, like one-liners by communications expert Ears (DJ Khaled) definitely won't be for everyone, but that's also why they're one-liners. It's a bump in the road just about every character hits periodically, but it's worth hearing because of what the movie really has to say.

Lance Sterling being a one-man army gets directly tied to collateral damage he does while working, and, again, it feels heavy for a kids movie. Superhero movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Man of Steel definitely opened the door to talk about this subject in media, but it still was separated by the idea of superhumans vs regular people, and are superhumans above the law. This turns it into is anyone above the law, are government agencies above the law? Admittedly, it can only go so far without becoming too heavy, or preachy, but it's more than some things like...it's tough to actually find an example...Gangster Squad, which has a line about officers leaving their badges at home. 

Spies in Disguise works hard to earn its rating.


Even with Disney buying Blue Sky Studios (Fox), they should still have a bright future ahead moving into the next decade.

Update: A shutdown of Blue Sky was announced in 2021. Details on it can be found here. Fuck Disney for doing this, and fuck them for doing this, too. A short, recent documentary on Blue Sky can be watched on YouTube here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
"Peter, these are the years when a man changes into the man he's gonna become the rest of his life. Just be careful who you change into." The Spider-Man film franchise began in 2002 and has hit the age of identity crisis. It's gone in three separate directions this year, with Avengers: Infinity War, Venom, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but that's how this empire should run. It's leagues better than when one Spider-Man movie tries to do it all, like when Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2, each attempted that.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is directed by Bob Persichetti, Rise of the Guardian's Peter Ramsey (he's finally back), and Rodney Rothman, and written by Rotham and Phil Lord, and they set out to tell the tale "one last time," seven more times...sorta. When The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) opens a wormhole that teleports other Spideys into Mile Morales' (Shameik Moore) dimension, he has to use his new powers to help send them home before the wormhole becomes unstable.

Telling Miles' story could backfire simply for being yet another Spider-Man origin onscreen, for being another superhero origin, so the filmmakers are smart to speed through the familiar cliff notes of getting his powers and giving him some villains to fight within the first ten minutes. A lasting moment from this intro is Miles exchanging "good mornings" and secret handshakes with a crowd of old classmates, on his way to a new prep school. Rotham and Lord knock Miles down a peg with the new school (and the inescapable woes of adolescence), but he's built up well as the more outgoing and adventurous Anti-Puny-Parker.

This is his story through and through, and the other Spider-People partnering up with Miles luckily reinforces that, mostly to the film's benefit. Into the Spider-Verse features a classic, but worn down, schlubbier, and (at last) adult version of Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy, the Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider Noir (Nicolas Cage), from the pulpy 1930s, Peni Parker and her spider-co-piloted robot (Kimiko Glenn), and, finally, Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney), who remarkably doesn't just predate The Simpsons Movie, but the show too. Except for Spider-Woman and Jake Johnson's version of Peter, most of visiting Spiders aren't explored too deeply. They're given more than one-liners, but it's really just a promise of what'll come in the sequels. The one-liners are fantastic though. Cage especially steals his scenes with a put-on New York accent, reference to egg-creams, and a passing mention of the "moral ambiguity of your violent actions." Billy Wilder would be proud.

Finally, the animation in Into the Spider-Verse is a long time in coming for the studio, for the genre, for film. There hasn't been a literal, visual adaptation of a comic in a while (except for Captain Underpants), but now the bar's been raised for other movies that want to try it. While it's not relying on a heavy outline style, probably because that would fill the screen too much, the modern visual storytelling in comics is on full display. 2D animation is utilized throughout the movie, and ranges from re-creating comic panels, to Peni's anime style, to the ludicrous antics of Spider-Ham. Text boxes, onomatopoeias, and speech bubbles also highlight how upside-down Miles's world is about to become, but he'll get used to being upside when getting the drop on villains, so it's all good.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a return to where the franchise began writing-wise, with the (typically forgotten) heart of the second generation of Spidey films. As (pile of garbage) Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker, has mentioned, the Raimi Trilogy featured the same plot structure used in Into the Spider-Verse. The movie doesn't spread itself too thin with unnecessary characters, plot points, or an inflated runtime and budget. But that just means the movie is functional. They also salvaged the message of the Webb films and made it more important than ever. "Anyone can wear the mask. You can wear the mask." Try it on.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Star (2017)

The Star
The Star,
directed by Timothy Reckart, is what the Bible, and by extension Christianity and other religions, was made for. It's an adaptation of a story. It can be adapted a hundred different ways, and viewed another hundred different ways. Being, partly, a major studio film (Columbia Pictures and their subsidiary Sony Pictures Animation), The Star's target audience is everyone, so it handles religion differently than the faith-based films that have been coming out. Actually, this isn't a faith-based film as much as it is just The Nativity Story for kid. The only problem here is kids over a certain age may not find it funny.

This Nativity Story centers around Bo the donkey (Steven Yuen) wanting to do something important with his life and joining the Royal Cavalry. Instead, after breaking out of the mill he worked at, he winds up in the care of Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and Joseph (Zachary Levi), just as Joseph realizes that she's pregnant. The scene is handled great, as they carefully sidestep the term "immaculate conception," while still stating and accepting that that's what happened. Instead, Joseph instantly jumps into scared and unprepared, but excited, father-mode. If Joseph had asked for an explanation, the movie would've either become inappropriate, boring, or both, so it's best to avoid the conversation. They soon leave for Bethlehem, and the movie is only about a third of the way through and some padding is needed. 

The Star isn't a movie that should have a conventional villain, but it does, unfortunately. When King Herod (Christopher Plummer) is informed that a new king is coming, he requests a soldier and two dogs (Ving Rhames and Gabriel Iglesias) track down and kill the king. It sounds terrible because it is terrible, but it also sparks substantive conversations about religion. There are a few moments like that, such as when God appears to a flock of (literal) sheep and asks them a request. That could play incredibly negatively to a religious-minded audience, but it's done lightly in a sincere adaptation of this story, so it's not a piece of commentary by Ricky Gervais or David Cross.  If nothing else, these moments lead to some mild action, chases, and excitement for the heroes. 

Speaking of which, one of the biggest surprises of this film is the animation. Sony Pictures uses their animation/visual effects studio ImageWorks to do some eye-popping work that ranges from the most photo-realistic (The Amazing Spider-Man movies) to the most rule-breaking and cartoony (Storks and the Hotel Transylvania movies), and The Star appeared to be no exception. But it is. The reason the animation looks more restrained than the off the wall nature of Hotel Translvania and Storks is because Cinesite is the animation studio responsible, and they did great. The animation is very clean and very smooth, and the texturing on every little clay or wooden object really shows. Most importantly, many characters at least look distinctive, even if their traits don't stand out. The best of Cinesite's work in The Star is their depiction of God. He's a beautiful blend of light and particle effects, and he's given just the right amount of personality and time on screen for this movie. 

The Star is a pretty standard, harmless family movie, but that means it's one of the few harmless contemporary Christian films. It may be the start to repairing the divides between religion, Hollywood, and the people. One of the last lines the movie is "[...]he's just a boy." And if these words are just insane ramblings then that means The Star is just a movie. One that may be worth trying.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

The Dark Knight Returns
introduced the theory that Batman riding a horse is the mark of a good movie. Director Sam Liu's Gotham by Gaslight is compelling evidence and a great movie in its own right anyway.

Gotham by Gaslight is an alternative universe story where a 19th century Batman (Bruce Greenwood) must catch Jack the Ripper. At 78 minutes, that sounds like a streamlined story, but Liu and screenwriter Jim Kreig fit a lot into their runtime. This new setting includes a reestablished origin for Gotham.

Don't worry, Bruce Wayne's parents aren't featured in the movie, but the Monarch Theatre plays a central role, as Jack attacks women who perform there. First up, is a de-powered Poison Ivy (Kari Wuhrer) who starts things off on the wrong foot. The movie opens with her performance, and the animation feels noticeably rigid. While not wanting Poison Ivy to dance to provocatively is a good thing, there are ways to give her a creative, well-animated performance that's clean. She just kind of moves left and right a little. Luckily, once Batman tries to intervene the animation picks up considerably. The fight scenes are choreographed and sound similar to the ones in The Dark Knight Returns. Batman and Jack are fast, but their blows feel heavy and satisfying.

After their first meeting, a lot of time is spent on Bruce Wayne and the locals of Victorian Gotham, and Gotham by Gaslight becomes its own film. The setting and characters are well-developed and set up in a way that suggests Liu and Kreig will return them. Characters featured include Harvey Dent (Yuri Lowenthal), Catwoman (Jennifer Carpenter), and, interestingly, multiple pre-Robin Robins who already know each other. There's no telling how this could evolve, and Gotham by Gaslight encourages second-guessing of ideas.

Similar to the opening of the movie, animation, unfortunately, isn't the only thing that's occasionally rushed. Harvey, also unfortunately, isn't that well written as the links between Jack the Ripper and Two Face are clear to anyone old enough to watch the movie. It's handled in a very upfront matter, and how annoying the audience finds it will vary. At the very least, all the lines are delivered well by the cast, especially Batman's.

Bruce Greenwood as Batman
Also, is there any correlation between a distinctive cowl and a well-portrayed Batman, or a good Batman movie? | Copyright 2018 Warner Brothers

Bruce Greenwood returns to the booth, after voicing Batman in Under the Red Hood and Young Justice. He's fantastic, and like Kevin Conroy and Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins), he understands what makes Bruce Wayne compelling with and without the cowl. Working with Jennifer's Carpenter's Catwoman and an extended amount of time as Gotham's socialite adds new dimensions to a role he already had down to a science.

Occasionally rushed writing and animation hold back a would-be perfect addition to the DC Animated Universe, but these moments are in a world as well-realized as the one in The Dark Knight Returns. That one, technically, got a sequel, so maybe this one should too?



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Loving Vincent (2017) | Short Review

Loving Vincent is a beautiful detective movie that is able to downplay the tried and try mystery aspects, and instead, it respectfully brings the victim (Vincent Van Gogh) front and center.

Many frames in flashback scenes look like real photographs, they move and become shots that look like live-action film. Cut to the next scene and you're reminded of the painstaking work that went into this movie.

Loving Vincent


Monday, August 7, 2017

Storks (2016)

No one gets society like Warner Brothers Animation. Cartoon Network shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe handle equality and representation, We Bare Bears and Regular Show handle(d) millennial culture and how technology impacts all of us, and on the big screen Storks addresses a little bit of both, corporate culture (including what an empire Amazon is becoming) and workaholism. If it sounds like The WB isn't making content for kids anymore, don't worry, they are and Storks is a return to that and a bit of their former looney-ness.

Storks answers the age-old question of where babies come from. Someone writes a letter to the stork, the baby factory automates the entire process, and storks deliver the bundles of joy. At least they used to. This was a failing business model, to say the least, but when a little boy asks for a little sibling (with ninja skills), and the baby factory is accidentally turned on it's, up to our main stork Junior (Andy Samberg) and his human co-worker Tulip (Katie Crown) to brush off that old employee handbook and go on an adventure.

The adventure is told at a fairly fast pace, if only because some of the dialogue is either a little expositional or on the nose. If these moments stretched the film out, it could've been painful. For instance, they have a locker room scene that demonstrates how career-focused Junior is, but they could've cut it and taken him almost directly to meeting his boss CEO Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) and no ounce of his character would've been lost. Instead, what we get is some reflective 21st Century water-cooler talk. It's so bad it's good, featuring a brown-nosing bro-pigeon (Stephen Kramer Glickman). It's something straight out of a "What Not To Do" LinkedIn article, and it's wonderful. A lot of the film is like that, with ridiculous profit charts, figuring out what being a boss means, and in-office golfing.

Anyway, out of the office, and in the suburbs, a couple of the same rules apply. That little boy, Nate (Anton Starkman) is the son of two workaholic parents (Ty Burrell, being very Phil Dunphy, and Jennifer Aniston, who doesn't do enough voice work). This sounds familiar, but Storks sets itself apart from most films by showing their whole home life, and not the parents' work life against Nate's home life. A baby isn't expected to magically just fix things if it shows up at the door.

The voice cast isn't just remarkable by name-recognition alone. In addition to those mentioned, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are the baby-loving wolves Alpha and Beta, and Danny Trejo as Jasper one of the last of the baby-delivering Storks.

Alpha and Beta, and their pack are something special. In pursuit of the baby, the comedy dream team of Key and Peele will form Voltron-like Wolf-Vehicles and objects by linking themselves together. This is straight out of Saturday-morning cartoons, and exactly what WB fans would expect...What they won't expect, however, is these beautiful, silly visuals were created by Sony.

Sony Imageworks, who has created some of the most photorealistic CGI in the last twenty-five years, animated this entire film. It's shocking until you see the one sequence the filmmakers decide to replay. Everything else is gorgeously built from scratch and Imageworks, even with nothing to prove, showed that old wolves could learn some fun tricks. The visuals are fast and cartoony. Hopefully, when Warners Brothers starts making CGI in-house, they marry their legacy with what Imageworks has blessed them with.

The animated penguin trend may have been on its last legs at this point, but Storks helped it finish strong | Copyright 2016 Warner Media

Finally, one note about the sound. The film's score, by Mychael and Jeff Danna, occasionally uses a comedic orchestra. This is usually a pretty funny gag, and most likely it typically uses stock audio. Storks does it more than once, and it's a surefire hit each time. More than likely these were fresh recordings, and when thinking about it, it sounds more and more like this film was a real collaborative experience for those involved.

If you can ignore the unintentional existential questions about overpopulation and unwanted children this film raises (just bury it deep down in the dark corners of the mind), enjoy Storks.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

There's no shortage of things to talk about with DreamWorks Animation. Sinbad is a lean 80 minutes brought down by a mean title character who leaves the strengths of his film elsewhere. Sinbad's (Brad Pitt) journey is to return The Book of Peace, from Eris The God of Chaos (Michelle Pfeiffer). This is so Sinbad's friend Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), this film's "Socrates," and that's actually meant with complete sincerity, won't take his place in his death sentence.

First of all, this friendship is based in exposition, and not the fun, improvised exposition from The Road to El Dorado. Second of all, Sinbad's actually starts on this mission because Proteus's fiancee, Marina (Catherine Zeta Jones) is keeping an eye on him. The film goes out of its way to make him unlikeable and even further to never give us a good backstory on why. It's basically because...it's expected of pirates, even though the rest of his crew seems like a stand-up bunch. If he had a few better, wittier lines, all of which are at least well-performed, he'd be acceptable.

The humor's actually pretty funny, when it's not blended with the action, forced, homophobic (albeit, it was a different time). DreamWorks's trademark adult humor lands pretty well. There's even a silly nipple joke that's reminiscent of a classic episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The jokes generally just aren't sharp enough, and it's easy to assume that the script needed polish in that area.

Jumping back to the action, it's very solid. The camera and editing quickly draw viewers in with attention-grabbing, but not distracting movement early on. The CGI backgrounds and creatures that back the set-pieces up haven't aged well, but they're also a product of the time, and some beginning animators may find the models endearing. Personally, as a failed animator, I do.

The action also has a certain restraint that I noted was in the entire final act of The Road to El Dorado. Please watch this film's siren-song scene and compare it with Ice Age Four's. This one is actually creative with how the crew reacts to the creatures, as it's a slow burn to their potential demise and not being instantly lust-struck. The creatures themselves, liquid beings, are actually alluring and good vocalists.

A DVD cover from the classic era. They just don't look like this anymore, thanks to a leaning toward simplicity | Copyright 2003 DreamWorks Animation and Universal

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is great for making comparisons, but as a road movie, it's not much of one. Well it is one, but it doesn't tell the audience how close the characters are to the destination, and then rushes back to the starting point, so the plot needed a re-write. While the ending of the film doesn't make these issues worse, and is a bit redemptive, Sinbad could've started stronger. This would be DreamWorks's last 2D film, so they should've ended on a high note.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Road to El Dorado (2000)

The Road to El Dorado Just before the dark times of DreamWorks Animation, and animation in general, during the mid-2000s, there was The Road to El Dorado, a film that is only wounded by its Disney-isms but not destroyed because of them. 

The Road to El Dorado follows two partners, Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) in their quest for gold. When they discover the city, they inadvertently become “gods” and must keep up the charade until they can escape back to Spain.

El Dorado’s biggest strength is in the life breathed into Tulio and Miguel, two of DreamWorks's most fleshed-out characters. While they work best playing off each other, it’s incredible how the screenwriters (Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio) kept the two independent of each other. This film easily could have been good if it only featured one of them, and the script wouldn’t be that affected. Instead, something great happens, as Kline and Branagh seem like they were cast together because they’ve been a team for years. The dialogue is sharp and fast, and the animation pushes the “show don’t tell” subtleties of Tulio and Miguel’s friendship. 

The other major characters are Chel (Rosie Perez), Chief Tannabok (Edward James Olmos), Tzekel-Kan (Armand Assante). They’re all fairly well-written, and fun, and bring a lot to this film, but Tzekel-Kan is part of where the Disney-isms start.

Besides being a bit of a musical, which wasn’t requested and wasn’t needed, DreamWorks needed to import a Disney villain into this film. As the film goes on, he gets better, but the film is too clear too fast about who this man is. Hearing that he’s basically the interpreter for the Gods is enough of a tip-off for teenagers watching this film, and El Dorado is meant for all ages, but his Scar-like face and manner of speaking feel unnecessary. Having said that, his later scenes may have inspired The Princess and the Frog’s Shadow Man, so that’s a beautiful shout-out from The Mouse nine years later.

Saying the film is meant for everyone cannot be overstated. It’s smart, it dips into the brand of humor has been trying to balance for years (“adult”), without going overboard, and El Dorado doesn’t shy away from some tense scenes (human sacrifice) or playing with film tropes and clich├ęs. In fact, the movie handles religion in a very mature way, demonstrating how being a god isn’t all fun and games, but not bashing people over the head with what a responsibility it would be. While it’s fitting from the studio behind Prince of Egypt and Antz, it’s potentially unexpected today, when religion is such a major topic.

The second act may not be for everyone, although pacing in the film is hardly an issue, but the final act and climax are a breath of fresh air compared to what’s been the norm for decades.

El Dorado knows when to think small, and honestly, it could have been smaller. It could have even been a television show or even a radio play, but on the screen just about everything concerning money and time is budgeted just right, (apart from the musical segments that aren’t for everybody) and it shows when these two goofballs, and Chel, are just speaking effortlessly. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Heavy Metal (1981)

Heavy Metal
Within ten minutes of watching it, I knew I had a lot to say about Heavy Metal. Mostly, questions about the production and the art style that I've seen before in other 70s-80s non-children's animated films. So, I pressed on and tried to learn more about the actual content of this movie.

Heavy Metal story of The Loc-Nar, a green glowing orb that has the power to corrupt, and destroy, the incorruptible across multiple galaxies and dimensions. In eight-ish stories, we see it exercise that power. It would take too much time and space to go over each story, plus it's better to go into the movie pretty blind. Don't worry, I believe I can still find things to talk about.

Heavy Metal's strength lies in it's art-style. It's something I've seen before in Ralph Bakshi movies, and I don't know if it has a definite name. Basically, the inkers are the stars of the show. Textures really pop, and not just in the background art.

Heavy Metal's stories overall cover everything from mixed marriages, to multiple apocalyptic societies, to an original take on cocaine-snorting that still puts The Wolf of Wall Street to shame. One of my favorite stories is the second major one, where a king or god similar to Watchmen's Adrian Veitd, except without the questionable, or any, morals and beliefs, asks someone to steal the Loc-Nar for him, so he can unlock its power through a ritualistic, human sacrifice. There are many references to past and future material that people can imply or infer about sections of this movie, and that's what I really love about it. It's a movie where you get out what you put into it, so, knowing and/or seeing a certain homage to Heavy Metal, that was made in 2008, can cloud that a little.

My two major issues with the film are that homage feels more like a parody now, although I completely understand why it does, and The Loc-Nar's powers. The Loc-Nar's powers are not clear and sometimes feel contradictory. It's kinda whatever the writers need it to be. On the one hand, it gives the writers freedom to tell their stories, but on the other, it leads to some characters doing some stupid things, and wrapping up some of the stories a little too quickly and neatly. A few seconds of explanation maybe could've fixed this, but really this is just nit-picking.

I hope to expand on this review on the future, but for now, if you love animated anthologies, you'll love this. Just one warning, for those who don't know about the homage, this is rated "R" for violence and nudity.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians
Going against other big-name films at the box-office is always risky. There's a chance that each new film released will reach its own large demographic and everyone wins regardless of the final rankings, but there's also a chance that everyone will see that one franchise film-and who can blame them. Sadly, that happened to DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians. Years from now, it will be looked back on as that film people should have seen on the big screen and a holiday classic.

Rise of the Guardians is about the eternal battle between good and evil, and the soldiers in this battle are Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman, The Easter Bunny, and their new recruit Jack Frost, against Pitch Black: Creator of Nightmares. Both sides need the belief of children to exist and do their jobs, so both sides fight to make sure kids believe in them. That belief comes with its own reward as it allows The Guardians and Pitch to spread either joy or fear in fantastic ways.

This film tries to go deep into what it means to be one of these landmark figures that kids idolize, but only scratches the surface of what that means, leaving the rest up to the interpretation of kids watching the movie.

There aren't many characters in this film, and that's the way it should be. When dealing with all of the holidays coming together it's easy for small cameos to come up, and quickly become overwhelming. Instead, we are treated to a lot of great one-on-one moments with the people we've been introduced to. So, in a couple of ways, this is kind of like DreamWorks's Avengers.

Rise of the Guardians focuses on Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a mischievous little trouble maker who just likes to have fun. The role of being a guardian is thrust upon him without warning, but he ends up being a fast learner. Jack gets the most screen time and has a lot of great moments with each Guardian. I'm almost certain that all of the actors in this film recorded their lines together because the chemistry between everyone is phenomenal.

Since this is a DreamWorks film, people can expect nothing less than stunning visuals. Stunning action, set pieces, scenery, character design, the standard of Hollywood CGI films. Honestly though, that standard is really only guaranteed by the computer. Without designers coming up with this stuff, this film could have looked like a glossy video game-repetitive environments, characters, and everything else. Instead, any number of details could pop out to someone during any scene.

Two of my favorite scenes in this film involve how the Easter Bunny gets all of his eggs painted for easter, and a contest of who can collect the most teeth for The Tooth Fairy. Both scenes show how much fun these filmmakers wanted Rise of the Guardians to be, as the character's are constantly, comedically bouncing off each other while doing their tasks.

My only problem with this film is there may be one or two loose ends story-wise, and on the surface it is a real basic story. And what I mean by that is that the trailers (and this review) make it look like a lot less than it really is, so please check it out for yourselves.


Rise of the Guardians is a DreamWorks Animation film that stars Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, and Jude Law. It was directed by Peter Ramsey, adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire, and produced by Guillermo del Toro.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Family Guy: "Forget-Me-Not" (2012)

Still image of characters from Family Guy in hospital gowns from the episode, "Forget-Me-Not"

Family Guy has been in a decline for the last couple of years. The problem is that for every original or surprisingly intelligent joke, there are several instances of them going back to the recycle bin in the worst possible way. Those ways are, at the very least, animating blood because the writers think innocent dead things are funny, and the increasing stupidity of Chris and Peter. This episode featured a mix of the good and the bad, as Peter, Joe, Quagmire, and Brian wake up, with amnesia, in a deserted Quahog.

The stupidest thing about this show right now is the plot holes because even for a show like Family Guy there is a limit to how dumb is too dumb, such as the gang not figuring out who they based on reading tweets, and no one figuring out that Peter's newspaper picture was a prop. In real life, or a better cartoon, these issues wouldn't have even been issues.

The other problem is the lack of character development. Is it wrong to want character development from a show like this? I remember the episode after Peter said he would cut back on drinking, he came out of the Clam hammered, it's ridiculous. This time we get what should be something of an important moment between Peter and Brian, but next week I'm sure Peter will kick Brian's ass in a non-cutaway. It's just a problem the writers and producers should worry about if they want to attempt to hit the 500+ episodes of "The Simpsons," or just not make people angry they decided to watch Fox on Sunday.

What didn't save this episode, but helped, was the fact that a lot of the jokes were good this week. My favorites were the return of "Surfin' Bird" and "Who Else but Quagmire," the tour of Quagmire's house, and Joe thinking he's a stripper. Other great jokes were Stewie's cutaway about the girl's best friend and the final moments of the episode after the amnesia is explained.

In all, this episode is at least worth re-watching if you can ignore the worst of what Family Guy has become. The whole series isn't terrible yet, and hopefully, before it's booed off the air, things can magically turn around for the series.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Duck Dodgers in the 24th1/2 Century (1953)

Title Card reading 'Duck Dodgers in the 24th1/2 Century' over a starry sky background
One cartoon I remember watching several times when I was little was Chuck Jones's Duck Dodgers in the 24th1/2 Century. I hadn't seen it in a while, but I was able to recall several little details when I saw it in class, and again earlier today. 

For me watching these cartoons again after many years is about remembering those little details-the giant eye in the beginning of the film, the disintegration pistol, navigating to planet "X." The navigation scene has a classic facial expression from Daffy at the end. Those are still all my favorite parts of the cartoon, but I picked up on some new stuff-the story around the voyage to the planet is hilarious nonsense, and I was able to read the ultimatum bullets. Last time I saw them I could only read "OUCH!"(I was really young). At least I was able to respond to Daffy getting his face blown up. Daffy and Porky are a classic team, and they're hard to compare to any other classic looney Tunes duo, you can't pick Daffy and Bugs because their relationship is too different. Porky is kind of like the "straight man" and Daffy is just crazy. I can't think of a single moment I didn't enjoy watching this, my only problem is it seems to run short.

Title Card reading 'Duck Dodgers in the 24th1/2 Century' over a starry sky background
Title Card | Copyright 1953 Warner Brothers and AT&T


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Still image from How to Train Your Dragon showing Hiccup tossing a fish to Toothless
When a DreamWorks Animation movie makes you feel something, it's special. When a DreamWorks Animation movie makes you question which film will win Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes and Oscars, it's interesting. When a DreamWorks Animation movie makes you wonder if this is the same studio that has become known for cramming pop culture references and farts into its movies, it's How to Train Your Dragon.

How to Train Your Dragon is the classic story of the kid who is different from everybody else. That kid is Hiccup, and if you didn't know, that voice is Jay Baruchel's. Hiccup is a small, weak kid who wants to at least fit in with his fellow vikings. He's not seeking extreme popularity, and he KNOWS being accepted for himself is a long shot. His own father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), won't even accept him. However, he figures fitting in would be nice. The way to fit in is to kill a dragon.
Along comes a "Night Fury," the most dangerous breed of dragon. Hiccup has trapped him and left him defenseless. With a blade in his hand, Hiccup looks into the dragon's eyes and sees a plea for mercy. Hiccup frees the dragon and starts their slow-building secret friendship. Hiccup names the dragon Toothless, because he has retractable teeth, and together they are able to change their world for the better.
The best part of this movie is that it's different from anything else DreamWorks has ever come up with. As I said before, no overly crude humor or cheap laughs. The goal of How to Train Your Dragon is a little less about laughs and more about creating "oohs and aahs" among the audience. This is accomplished through the action scenes. This film has some of the best flying sequences in any film. The 3D only makes it better, as it is done subtly and isn't overused.
My only problem with the plot is that Hiccup's story arc and his dad's are familiar and have been done before. The good thing is they've never been done quite like this, so it's just a minor problem.
Will How to Train Your Dragon beat Toy Story 3 at the Oscars? Hell no, but it is still an amazing movie on par with some of Pixar's other best works and older DreamWorks Animation movies like Antz and Shrek.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Hair Raising Hare (1946)

Some of the best of Bugs Bunny and Chuck Jones are shown in this film. What I really noticed about Hair Raising Hare is it shows how many different ways an action or emotion can be animated. And if I'm right, it's the director's job to pick out the best way to go for a particular scene. They decide how a scene plays out based on the script, am I right? Bugs goes through several different walk cycles, a take where he goes through several facial expressions of fear (complete with "Yipe!" sign), and several other animation exercises. Bugs has his greatest moments of breaking the fourth wall in this cartoon, my favorite being his response to the "doctor in the house." The monster is very funny, and part of his own set of interesting gags, from being in a suit of armor to "Canned Monster." His single line of dialogue-single word-is hilarious. The two things I didn't like-Bugs is WAY too smart to fall for the mechanical rabbit in the beginning of the cartoon, the second time makes up for it though. Also, that scientist guy is too creepy. If they could have made him kind of funny, just a little, this would be perfect.

Title Card for the Looney Tunes cartoon Hair Raising Hare
Title Card | Copyright 1946 Warner Brothers and AT&T