Archive for the ‘Animated’ Category

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Batman: Under the Red Hood

March 12, 2013

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Yes, I know that this is a cartoon, but I had to watch it, because it was a shorter film, and I like to nerd out from time to time.  It ended up being a good batman story, they didn’t hide what it was going to end up at all that much, but it was pretty entertaining.  And it is a pretty nice Batman story because unlike the live action Betman movies it didn’t seem to be the same thing pretty much over and over again and it didn’t have a nice little third act to wrap everything up in a stupid little bow.  Sorry, as you can tell, I wasn’t that huge a fan of The Dark Knight Rises, it was entertaining, but a bit long, this was more focused.

The story starts with a new villain coming into town, and he seems to be taking over the criminal world, but at the same time, he is taking a more violent approach to taking care of criminals.  But to Batman this new Red Hood seems familiar, and he becomes convinced that it is his supposed to be dead former helper Robin.  It opens up old wounds for Batman as he faces many of his old villains and he has to come through a lot of emotions to face off against the Red Hood.  I’ll leave it at that, but I was pleased with the storyline.

The voice talent for Marvel and DC animated movies is actually surprisingly good.  Jensen Ackles takes on Red Hood, he might be familiar to some as he’s one of the lead characters in Supernatural.  Neil Patrick Harris and John DiMaggio are also in this film.  Neil Patrick Harris obviously has a big name for himself from How I Met Your Mother and many other things.  John DiMaggio is from Futurama lending his voice talent that.

This film is pretty well put together and the voice talent is very solid as well.  For an animated film it isn’t too bad in terms of direction and in terms of feel.  It has that grittier side, in many ways thanks to the Red Hood.  With Batman stories I’ve said it’s really been about the villain, he has stronger villains, and they will often make up for some slight problems with Batman being a weaker main character, or maybe it is that he is overshadowed by the villains, but that works really well and I like it a lot.

Overall, I haven’t seen enough Batman animated films to know where to rank this, but it isn’t too bad.  It was more serious than some superhero animated films that I’ve seen.  It’s entertaining, but I will said, you probably need to be a bit of a nerd to watch and enjoy it.  But if you are, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll enjoy the villains and you’ll enjoy the whole story.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade; C+

Overall Grade B-

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50 New Films in 100 Days: Paranorman

January 27, 2013

Paranorman

This was a fun kids movie, was unfortunately a bit predictable and while it tried to work in humor for adults, the humor ended up being really predictable.  The animation was good and the coloring was good, I would liken it in some ways to Tim Burton and The Corpse Bride where it worked more in a grey tone as compared to bright colors that you see from many of the Pixar films.

The story is of Norman, a not so normal little kid, who is a loser and who can see ghost and talk to them.  He starts having weird flashes/visions of a forest and that makes him from a loser into more of a loser.  There is one kid who likes Norman, and is also an out cast.  Norman’s Uncle comes and visits him and tries to warn him of a witch.  His uncle is like him and can see the dead.  He tries to stop the witch from raising the dead but then he finds out that things aren’t quite what they seem.  In the ends he saves the day, but not in the way that previous people had stopped the witch, like his Uncle.

Since there is only voice acting in this film I’ll focus more on the direction and the visuals of this film.  Like I said, the visuals of the film are quite good, they border a bit on Burton-esque, which when you have the paranormal in animation, you are probably going to see similar visuals.  They do a good job of creating the world, and creating a large variety of faces and body types.  I will say that the whole direction of the film was fairly good.  It tried to walk a line, I’d say, between Pixar and Tim Burton, and it doesn’t quite hit the mark.  They could have made it slightly darker in some ways, or at least put it closer to Corpse Bride, and it probably would have worked better.

This was a film that I was hoping for more out of, it isn’t a bad movie by any means, but it seemed lacking, which is a shame as it had a lot of potential, and the trailer was better.  It had a few moments, and some characters that were fun, but when it came down to it, it was just too safe and too predictable, and the main character, Norman, wasn’t that strong a character, most of the side characters were more interesting.

Critical Grade: B-

Entertainment Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

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The Secret of Kells

December 27, 2010

The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells is much unlike any animated film that I’ve seen before.  Not because the story is so unique or the characters are so rich, in both of these areas, this film is actually fairly simple, but the animation style itself is unlike anything seen before and that is what makes this film very special.

The story is of an Abbey and a boy who lives there, Pangur Ban.  His parents have died and he lives there and is being trained by his uncle to take over the abbey.  This abbey, in Ireland, is in fear of attacks from the Vikings hoards who have been attacking other areas in search of gold, so they are building a wall around their abbey in order to keep the Vikings out.  This is taking place instead of the normal work of illuminating stories which they would typically be doing.  Pangur Ban is more interested in the illuminating than the wall building, and when the great illuminator, Aidan seeks refuge at the abbey after his abbey had been attacked, Pangur tries to help him out, while his uncle tries and keep him focused on the tasks at hand.  Pangur, however, spends more time with Aidan, and ventures outside of the village for the first time ever where he meets Aisling, a fairy/wolf/girl, whose forest it is.  With her help he finds berries to make inks with Aidan and Aidan trains him to become a master illuminator, but when the Eye of Columcille is lost, Aidan ventures into the forest, with the help of Aisling, to retrieve another eye from the god that lives in the woods. When he returns to it, he is able to use it to illuminate with greater detail and beauty, but the Vikings attack, and Aidan and Pangur escape with the book while his uncle tries to protect the villages who live in the abbey.  Both Pangur and his uncle fear the other dead.  Aidan finishes teaching Pangur and he illuminates the most important page in the book, and then returns to the abbey where he finds he uncle still alive, but barely as many years have passed, and shows him the book.

The voice acting in this film is good, and it was done with relative unknowns, the biggest name in this film if Brendan Gleeson, from Gangs of New York, Cold Mountain, and Troy.  He does a good job of playing Pangur’s uncle.  The rest of the voice talent is done very well by more obscure actors over here in the US anyways.  They bring the characters to life and help this film out.

What really makes this film though is the amazing visuals.  They are in many ways illuminated themselves with sweeping lines and spirals playing the stones and in the forest.  The people themselves go from fairly typically animated with Pangur and Aisling, to simply shapes with groups of towns people moving around in mounds all a unique person but seemingly connected, or one of the brothers at the abbey being simply a square.  Every part of the image is art and while it is created like a typical film with focus points as to where you should look and pay attention to, the shots themselves are worth pausing and dissecting.  Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey do a brilliant job of creating the vision, in their direction, for the world of this film, and do a good job of getting much from their actors.  Even when the vocals are a bit stiff at times, it goes with the way the film is created, as it blends in so much that is very old into its story.

Overall this is an animated film that is worth checking out if for no other reason than the visuals alone.  It is beautifully created and is a work of art and can be enjoyed as such.  The story and the acting don’t match up to the visuals in this film perfectly, but looking at it as a work of art, that becomes less of an issue, and the story is simple enough that they don’t mess it up.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

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How To Train Your Dragon

November 12, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

This kids film hits on a level that is normally reserved to Pixar films. It is cute, funny, and extremely well made. There likely is a message in the film, but it doesn’t get caught up in it, but instead lets the simple story move the film along and does a very good job of creating memorable characters.

The story is that of a young boy who doesn’t fit into his village of Vikings. He isn’t tough enough and just doesn’t seem Viking enough instead spending more time inventing things (and these inventions are generally for taking down dragons), but that isn’t the Viking way. Things change when there is a particularly bad dragon attack and many of the adults in the village go off to find the dragon’s lair and destroy them. Hiccup, the main character, and the other youngsters are left to be trained and to become dragon slayers themselves. Hiccup, however, has taken down a dragon during the last attack and goes off into the woods to find it, and finds out that dragons might not be as bad and dangerous as the villagers think.

The voice talent in this film is great. Jay Baruchel does a good job as Hiccup, and the rest of the talent, which is fairly well recognizable doesn’t over shadow the story. This is one thing that I’ve noticed about some animated films where the magnitude of the names doing voices in the films often outweigh the characters and the story in the film. Instead of a character being that character, they are the actor as that character. This film uses fairly big names, but not huge names, and I think that helps. Even Gerard Butler, probably the biggest name doesn’t over shadow his character. And you end up routing for the characters.  Jonah Hill does a good job of playing the bumbling meat head of a Viking who is all about the violence and only the violence, and American Ferrera does a great job as Astrid, the love interest in the film.  Craig Ferguson and David Tennant help fill out a very good cast, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of Superbad fame, does a good job voicing a character who means well, but is a bit of an idiot at times.  Mintz-Plasse’s character reminds me a bit of Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter at times.

Visually this is well animated film, the variety of the dragons is very well done and the expressions, especially from Toothless (the main dragon) are simply phenomenal. Visually it is on par with Pixar, and normally where DreamWorks has been lacking is the story, but in this case, it is on par with Pixar again. Cressida Cowell’s book is masterfully turned into a film.

This is a film that is definitely worth checking out. Everything comes together with the story, the characters, voice talent, and the animation, and while that has become more common, it is still a lot of fun to watch a film like this one. I would definitely recommend watching it if you get the chance.

Critical Grade: B+
Entertainment Grade: A
Overall Grade: A-

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

May 3, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

I haven’t read to book by Ron and Judi Barrett, so I can properly compare the two of them, but I must say, the movie quite entertaining.  It blends a nice story of going for your dreams and a lot of comedy, both for children and adults.  The animation is wonderfully done and the voice talent is very solid in this film.

The story is of a boy who grew up wanting to be an inventor, the problem is that his inventions really didn’t work out.  And in a town that is run on the sardine industry, he just didn’t fit in.  His father wanted him to join his business, but he would always show up late because of his inventions.  After accidentally ruining the last attempt to revive the towns economy, with one of his inventions Flint Lockwood gets lucky and his invention goes up into the air and starts dropping food out of the sky.  All of a sudden, because of a news broadcast showing the event, the town takes off in terms of business.  Flint falls for the weather broadcaster, Sam Sparks, and things start to get out of control with his machine as he tries to please everyone.  The machine starts to go crazy dropping larger and larder food from the sky until there is a massive food storm that Flint, Sam, and other characters have to stop.

The voice talent in this film is pretty good.  Anna Faris plays Sam Sparks, and while she always comes across as ditz, it works for this role as most of the time she is playing the ditz, or at least giving the voice to someone pretending to be a ditz.  Bill Hader, from Saturday Night Live and Adventureland, is very good as well.  He is a good comedy actor and does a good job adding in his voice talent.  This film just has a ton of great talent in it, and odd talent, Andy Samberg, Mr. T, Neil Patrick Harris, Al Roker, James Caan, and Bruce Campbell just for a few.  That makes this film much more entertaining because you recognize the voices.  And while some films become over run by the talent in them, this film works like Love Actually and can have that all star cast.

Visually the animation style is pretty standard, but it works really well.  Phil Lord and Chris Miller do a good job in this film.  Lord and Miller have produced How I Met Your Mother, so they has worked with comedy before.  They get great performances from their voice talent, and while that doesn’t seem like much, getting great voice talent is important.  I know that this isn’t going to be exactly like the book, but an adaptation that works this well.

Overall this is a really fun film.  It is primarily a comedy for kids, but it has little bits of humor that adults will enjoy, and you look at a cast list with Mr. T, Al Roker, and Bruce Campbell, it is clear a lot of the jokes for the film are the talent.  It doesn’t live up to the standards of Up, Coraline, or The Secret of Kells, but it is still very entertaining.  And a lot of the time the entertainment is as important as being critically great, and Up and Coraline are like that as well.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

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Coraline

April 27, 2010

Coraline

Coraline

This film is animated in the style of The Nightmare Before Christmas and it enjoys the same sort of feel.  Based off of a children’s story by Neil Gaiman, this story comes to life like he can only tell it.  Keeping it light hearted at times and creepy at others.  It flows through two whimsical worlds in a clash of good versus evil.

The story starts out with Coraline and her family moving into an apartment.  Coraline, bored and ignored by her parents, wanders off to do some dousing for water and she runs into the grandson of the lady who owns the place.  Wybie is surprised that his grandmother rented the place to a family as she doesn’t like to have kids around.  That night Coraline is awoken by some mice who lead her to a small doorway hidden in the living room.  She opens the door and finds a tunnel into another world, which is just like her own world, only one small difference, everyone has buttons for eyes.  Her parents are in this world, but they are nicer and kinder to Coraline then before and want to spend time with her.  She finally crawls off to bed and wakes up back in her own world.  Coraline goes and visits tenants of the apartment, a man who trains mice and two retired actresses and their Scottie dogs.  She runs across Wybie again who says that the reason his grandmother doesn’t allow him into the apartment is because she doesn’t want him to disappear like her twin sister.  That night Coraline again follows the mice where she meets a button eyed version of Wybie and they enjoy shows from the tenants in the other world.  The other mother asks Coraline to stay, but there is a catch, her eyes have to be replaced by buttons.  Coraline, and a cat who appears in both worlds, tries to go back to her original world, but the door is locked, so she leaves the apartments and walks away until the world starts to disappear around her.  The other mother catches her and puts her behind a mirror where she meets three ghosts and finds out the truth about the other mother.  She then has to figure out a way to save everyone and everything from the growing power of the other mother.

The voice talent in this film is very entertaining.  Dakota Fanning voice Coraline and does a very good job at it.  Her voice flows into the curious character of Coraline and matches her actions wonderfully.  Robert Bailey Jr. voices Wybie and while being much less of a known acting commodity, he does a good job, bordering on annoying and then scared as Wybie does throughout the film.  Teri Hatcher plays Coraline’s mother and other mother.  She is the other big name talent in this film and she does a great job of going from uncaring, with the mother, to sickeningly sweet and terrifying with the other mother.  Keith David is the last name that I’ll mention in terms of voice talent.  He gives voice to the cat and does a great job at it.  He comes across as slightly haughty, disinterested, and generally cat like throughout the whole thing making little quips and explaining things that he believes Coraline should already know.

Visually this film is very well done.  It has vibrant colors throughout and is very detailed.  It matches the tone of the world that Neil Gaiman creates in the children’s book.  Henry Selick, director and writer of the screenplay, does a brilliant job on what is the longest stop motion film to date, just over an hour and a half.  His direction and creation of this world is simply brilliant in a film that I think bettered Pixar’s Up in the year 2009 for an animated film.  I would be remiss not to mention the wonderful score created for this film.  Bruno Coulais, who also composed for The Secret of Kells, another animated film in 2009, does a brilliant job filling in the background of the worlds which are created.

This film, even though animated, comes to life much better then many live action films.  It flows between joyous points in the real and other world to the cold terror of the other mother and Coraline ends up having.  With most novel writers, it is hard to adapt their work onto the screen, but Neil Gaiman, with Stardust and Coraline, has proven that at least some of his books can be adapted, and it would be wonderful to see him write more screenplays for his entertaining stories such as MirrorMask.  I highly recommend this film, not as something you need to watch with kids, but as a film that all ages can enjoy.

Entertainment Grade: A

Critical Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

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Corpse Bride

April 15, 2010

Corpse Bride

Corpse Bride

I’m trying to decide if it would be fair for me to call this one of my favorite Tim Burton films.  It is definitely one of his more memorable films with the stop motion animation that Burton uses so brilliantly.  It comes together with an engaging story and a pretty well thought out and displayed idea in this film.

The story is of a young man, Victor Von Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp), who has been put into an arranged marriage by his family, marrying him up into a higher level of society that his family likely belonged to before.  It isn’t that he doesn’t like his bride to be, Victoria Everglot (voiced by Emily Watson) but he has cold feet with the whole marriage thing and can’t get the vows right during the rehearsal of the ceremony.  He runs off into the woods to get his head on straight and practice the vows only to accidentally place the ring on the skeletal finger of the Corpse Bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) and by the rules of the undead world he ends up marrying her.  He is then sucked from the world of the living into the world of the dead where he is serenaded and tries to escape back to the real world.  Things get even crazier as it is explained how the Corpse Bride ended up as a corpse and what is playing out at the same time in the real world.  Victor realizes that he can stay there and that he really doesn’t want to and with the help of many other undead they right the wrong that was committed against the Corpse Bride.

The voice talent in this film is very good.  It stars two regulars in Tim Burton films with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.  They give good performances as always.  The rest of the cast is very good from Emily Watson playing the non-corpse bride to be and Christopher Lee (Star Wars as Count Dooku and Saruman from Lord of the Rings) voices the pastor who is set to marry Victor and Victoria.  Danny Elfman, who is generally a composer, even gets into the act doing the voice for Bonejangles who introduces Depp’s character, Victor, to the afterlife with a rousing little number.

What makes this film really pop is Burton’s visual style that shows up in some many of his films.  He is simply a master when working with color and color schemes.  In this film he is really attacking how people lead these boring and drab lives.  This shows up in the world of the living everything borders on gray and any colors that there are end up being extremely muted.  The dead, without a care in the world, live in a much more vibrantly colored place.  The colors are much brighter and there is a full array of colors as compared to the few tones used in the real world.  The point that Burton is making with the coloration is that people end up being stuck in drab, boring, and colorless (how the film shows it) lives and it isn’t that being dead is so much more vibrant and exciting, but that they don’t have the same cares and worries, they can just enjoy what is going on around them and have fun.  And that is what is missing in real life the ability to enjoy and have fun.

Overall this is a really well put together film.  Burton, through all the films of his that I’ve seen, manages to put together the story in a visually entertaining way.  I know that some people don’t love his work as much simply because a lot of the films work with the same variety of visual styling, but he always works it in such a way that it matches the story.  This film works really well as an entertaining kids film, but it is shown as a “dark comedy” by IMDB for a reason, there are subtle jokes and twists to the story that Burton places in there to keep an older audience equally as interested in the film.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+