Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out gleefully turns the Star Wars characters into caricatures–it’s a mix of Empire and Episode One, apparently because that combination works out funniest. Darth Vader is upset when Darth Maul gets more of the Emperor’s attention, C–3PO (actually voiced by Anthony Daniels) annoys everyone, Luke is all of a sudden a heartthrob.
What’s impressive about Michael Price’s script is how well he tells the jokes. Lego Star Wars doesn’t revere its source material, but does appreciate it and all the pop culture hubbub it’s caused. The result’s far smarter for that approach. Price tells a lot of jokes I assumed he’d avoid.
The CG’s all fantastic; the shadowing makes some of the static LEGO figures appear to be physical rather than rendered. The John Williams music works well (and is the only thing used sincerely).
As expected, it’s fun, but smart too.
Directed by Guy Vasilovich; screenplay by Michael Price; edited by Michael D. Black; produced by Joshua Wexler; released by Cartoon Network.
Starring Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Brian Blessed (Boss Nass), Julian Glover (General Veers), Lloyd Floyd (Luke Skywalker), Matt Sloan (Darth Vader), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Lisa Fuson (Princess Leia Organa), John Armstrong (Han Solo), Andy Secombe (Watto), Tom Kane (Narrator / Yoda), Sam Witwer (Darth Maul / Emperor Palpatine) and Jason Canning (Admiral Ozzel).
Posted in 2012, Action, Animation, Cartoon Network, Color, English, Family, Sci-Fi, USA
Tagged Ahmed Best, Andy Secombe, Anthony Daniels, Brian Blessed, Guy Vasilovich, Jason Canning, John Armstrong, Joshua Wexler, Julian Glover, Kenneth Colley, Lisa Fuson, Lloyd Floyd, Matt Sloan, Michael D. Black, Michael Price, Sam Witwer, Tom Kane
Until the Missing Link shows up, The Dinosaur and the Missing Link is strangely realistic. Director O’Brien’s stop motion creations–he always uses long shot–seem like actors, like any other silent with a terrible print. It’s eerie. Even the gorilla-like Missing Link occasionally looks like a guy in costume. O’Brien’s eyes are fantastic, along with characters’ barely moving pauses between lines.
O’Brien imagines the prehistoric world as a spoof on high society. For a while, it’s just a really funny short. Then, once the Missing Link arrives, it’s clear O’Brien’s going to make the stop motion exciting in addition to excellent. The cast goes on a hunt, one involving a fantastic bow and arrow shot, the titular Dinosaur and a lot of landscape sets. Models. You know what I mean.
For the conclusion, O’Brien finds a mix of humor, realism and special effects. It’s a wonderful little picture.
Directed, animated and photographed by Willis O’Brien; produced by Herman Wobbler; released by Conquest Pictures.
Tales of the Night is a visual masterpiece. It’s computer generated silhouette animation, usually two dimensional (though director Ocelot does branch occasionally into the third), about what seems to be a futuristic theatre company. Late one night, two young actors (and costume designers and writers) and the guy who seems to be their director, sit and adapt a bunch of fables and folk tales for the stage.
Except the stage is never clear–the viewer just sees these adaptations as part of the film; one of Night’s major failings is the lack of emphasis on the actors. Its other major failing is related–the female actor invariably takes the backseat. Even when she protests she hates a role… she has to do it. Even when she says this role will be her strongest, it’s not. The boy–in the fable–is always the hero.
Ocelot keeps misses his chance to do something interesting with a female protagonist in a fable; by the last one, it’s more annoying than disappointing.
The fables involve a werewolf in Burgundy, an African one, a Caribbean one featuring the afterlife (sort of), a Tibetan one, one about the Aztecs (or Mayans). The final one is just a standard fairy tale. I may have forgotten one, but I don’t think so.
The African one might be the best, though the Caribbean one is hilarious. They’re all often touching. The stumbling starts with the last two.
Still, Ocelot makes a magnificent film. Shame about his gender issues.
Written and directed by Michel Ocelot; edited by Patrick Ducreut; music by Christian Maire; released by StudioCanal.
Starring Julien Beramis (Boy), Marine Griset (Girl) and Yves Barsacq (Théo).
Posted in 2011, Animation, Color, Fantasy, France, French, Studio Canal
Tagged Christian Maire, Julien Beramis, Marine Griset, Michel Ocelot, Patrick Ducreut, Yves Barsacq
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is near perfect. Director Melendez and writer Charles M. Schulz create this beautiful little experience. The special’s excellence is in its structure. “Pumpkin” has the main plot–Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, which actually starts as Linus writing the Great Pumpkin–and then the two subplots. First, the other Peanuts gang having Halloween and, second, Snoopy’s adventures as a World War I ace.
The three threads mix a lot–Snoopy shows up memorably in Linus’s story and Lucy is always giving Linus crap when she passes through his pumpkin patch–and the special creates its own cohesive universe. There’s no concern for anything outside it; Melendez and Schulz conceive it beautifully.
They even have time for capsule scenes, like Snoopy’s reactions to Schroeder’s piano playing.
And the end is absolutely perfect. It’s never schmaltzy and it’s always sincere without being saccharine. It’s magnificent.
Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; animated by Bob Bachman; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Sally Dryer (Lucy Van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Ann Altieri (Frieda / Violet), Gail DeFaria (Pigpen), Lisa DeFaria (Patty) and Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder / Shermy).
Posted in 1966, Animation, Color, Columbia Broadcasting System, Comedy, English, Family, Short, USA
Tagged Ann Altieri, Bill Melendez, Bob Bachman, Charles M. Schulz, Christopher Shea, Gail DeFaria, Glenn Mendelson, Kathy Steinberg, Lisa DeFaria, Peter Robbins, Robert T. Gillis, Sally Dryer, Vince Guaraldi
The strong parts of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 make the weak ones often easy to ignore. But nothing’s strong enough to overcome the weakest spots. First is the misogyny. I assume it’s straight from the comic. The filmmakers chose to embrace it (the fidelity to the source material is a lot of Part 2’s problem); it’s obvious–the new, female police commissioner ignores her smarter male elder juxtaposed against the new, female Robin who embraces hers–and tiring. Director Oliva really enjoys showing Batman punch out women too.
The second problem is Michael Emerson as the Joker. He’s awful and turns half of Part 2 into something of a waste of time. It has no emotional impact. Oliva’s action direction, Christopher Drake’s score and Christopher D. Lozinski’s editing are fantastic throughout. Part 2 is a great visual experience.
The second half has Mark Valley’s Superman and Valley does a fine job voicing him. Screenwriter Bob Goodman–and Miller–portray Superman as Reagan’s goon (the film keeps the eighties setting and Ronnie as the president), which doesn’t give Valley much to do, but he does well with what he’s got.
Peter Weller’s still good as Batman; but he too has little to do. He has maybe three real scenes in the entire runtime. Ariel Winter’s a little better as Robin than she was before, but maybe just because she’s in it less.
The filmmakers stick to the source material. They don’t improve it; it definitely needs improving.
Directed by Jay Oliva; screenplay by Bob Goodman, based on the comic book by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson and the character created by Bob Kane; edited by Christopher D. Lozinski; music by Christopher Drake; released by Warner Premiere
Starring Peter Weller (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Ariel Winter (Robin / Carrie Kelley), Michael Emerson (Joker), David Selby (Commissioner Gordon), Maria Canals-Barrera (Ellen Yindel), Mark Valley (Superman / Clark Kent), Michael Jackson (Alfred Pennyworth), Carlos Alazraqui (Congressman Noches), Tress MacNeille (Selina Kyle), Michael McKean (Dr. Bartholomew Wolper), Conan O’Brien (David Endocrine), Paget Brewster (Lana Lang), Frank Welker (Mayor Stevenson), Robin Atkin Downes (Oliver) and Jim Meskimen as the President of the United States.
Posted in Warner Premiere, Color, English, USA, Action, Animation, 2013
Tagged Frank Miller, Bob Kane, Peter Weller, Christopher Drake, Michael McKean, Paget Brewster, Robin Atkin Downes, Michael Emerson, Frank Welker, Jay Oliva, Bob Goodman, Klaus Janson, Christopher D. Lozinski, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Michael Jackson, Jim Meskimen, Carlos Alazraqui, Conan O'Brien, Maria Canals-Barrera, Mark Valley, Tress MacNeille
What does it say about a performance when the actor is better voicing a cartoon than giving a full performance? I think it says the actor’s performance is godawful, but I’m not sure that adjective is strong enough to describe Kim Basinger in Cool World.
And Cool World is not a film with good performances, so for Basinger to come out so far ahead (or is it behind?) the pack is true atrociousness. If it weren’t already terrible, she’d ruin it. She does. She makes a terrible movie even worse.
Second-billed Gabriel Byrne is pretty bad too. He has the benefit of having an awful character though. The screenplay only totally fails Basinger’s character once the cartoon vixen becomes real. Before that change, it’s up in the air–the real problem’s the handling of Byrne’s character though. He’s even supposed to be the protagonist, which is a laugh.
Brad Pitt’s more the protagonist than Byrne or Basinger and he’s fairly bad. He has occasional moments, but all the acting by himself established some bad habits. His finish in the movie is actually worse than anyone else’s.
There are some good performances, but they’re all voice ones–Candi Milo, Charles Adler and Maurice LaMarche are all good.
Bakshi’s direction is a mixed bag. His real world sequences are lousy. His cartoon ones are okay, though Cool World‘s way too cheap for its ambitions.
Mark Isham’s score is occasionally good.
It’s a truly lousy movie, with Basinger making it worse.
Directed by Ralph Bakshi; written by Michael Grais and Mark Victor; director of photography, John A. Alonzo; edited by Steve Mirkovich and Annamaria Szanto; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Michael Corenblith; produced by Frank Mancuso Jr.; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring Kim Basinger (Holli Would), Gabriel Byrne (Jack Deebs), Brad Pitt (Frank Harris), Charles Adler (Nails), Candi Milo (Lonette), Michele Abrams (Jennifer Malley) and Maurice LaMarche (Dr. Whiskers).
Posted in 1992, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Fantasy, Paramount Pictures, USA
Tagged Annamaria Szanto, Brad Pitt, Candi Milo, Charles Adler, Frank Mancuso Jr., Gabriel Byrne, John A. Alonzo, Kim Basinger, Mark Isham, Mark Victor, Maurice LaMarche, Michael Corenblith, Michael Grais, Michele Abrams, Ralph Bakshi, Steve Mirkovich
A Pig’s Tail is a lovely little short, thanks to the hands-on Aardman stop motion, Cox’s straightforward but enthusiastic direction, and Catherine Taylor’s voice acting as the protagonist. The short tells the story of a determined piglet who doesn’t exactly like being in a factory farm. She decides to do something about it.
The U.S. Humane Society co-produced Tail, so it has an educational component and that component occasionally gets in the way of good narrative. For example, the farmer–who is more traditionally animated (in a deft move)–is almost more sympathetic than the pigs. Especially given how Tail shows the reality of the brutality a starving, abused animal will render.
It’s almost too short for its own good–running about five minutes. Cox and her cast could probably have held up for a lot longer. As is, Tail is still a finely produced, delicately made film.
Directed by Sarah Cox; written by Matthew Walker; director of photography, Nathan Sale; edited by Victoria Stevens; music by Steven Delopoulos; produced by Jason Fletcher-Bartholomew and Christine Gutleben; released by The Humane Society of the United States.
Starring Catherine Taylor (Ginger), Sophie Angelson (Mama Pig), Heidi Lynch (Mean Piglet), James Arnold Parker (The Farmer) and Kaia Rose (Nice Piglet).
Posted in 2012, Adventure, Animation, Color, English, Family, Humane Society of the United States, Short, UK, USA
Tagged Catherine Taylor, Christine Gutleben, Heidi Lynch, James Arnold Parker, Jason Fletcher-Bartholomew, Kaia Rose, Matthew Walker, Nathan Sale, Sarah Cox, Sophie Angelson, Steven Delopoulos, Victoria Stevens
One Rat Short is a story of chance and star-crossed lovers. It’s also the perfect example of good realistic CG animation. Director Weil and his animators revel in their medium and utilize it to the fullest.
A New York sewer rat happens upon an open Cheetos bag and follows it through a roof-top fan into a laboratory. In this laboratory are lab rats, including a rather fetching one who catches the hero’s eye. Notice my lack of gender specificity–as a filmgoer, I assume the white rat is the female… but as an rat owner, I cannot.
The whole short takes place in real time, except a period of unconsciousness for the sewer rat, which sort of amplifies the tragedy.
Weil’s direction is magnificent; Sherman Foote’s music is lovely. One Rat Short is outstanding, both technically and narratively.
It’s nice to see something so purposefully precious actually succeed.
Written and directed by Alex Weil; director of photography, Todd Winter; edited by John Zawisha; music by Sherman Foote; production designers, Michael K. Frith, Christian Scheurer and Todd Winter; produced by Bryan Godwin.
Posted in Color, USA, Animation, 2006, Short
Tagged Alex Weil, Todd Winter, John Zawisha, Sherman Foote, Michael K. Frith, Christian Scheurer, Bryan Godwin
Director Deitch does a couple brilliant things with The Hobbit. First, he condenses a novel of some three hundred pages to eleven minutes. I’m fairly sure it’s not a faithful adaptation, but there’s a wizard, a hobbit and a ring so it’s fine by me. Second, he turns The Hobbit into a folk tale. Or at least a fable. It feels classical and traditional, not an adaptation of something written in the twentieth century.
The film’s barely animated–I think the most “animation” is the moving of the wizard’s arm when he’s showing Bilbo Baggins directions on a map. Instead, Deitch uses thoughtful editing and camera movement to imply motion. For this approach to succeed, however, Deitch needs an outstanding narrator….
And Herb Lass is perfect. His narration conveys humor and excitement, along with the suggestion he doesn’t know how the story’s going to go.
It’s a fabulous little short.
Directed by Gene Deitch; screenplay by Deitch, based on a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien; music by Václav Lidl; production designer, Adolf Born; produced by William L. Snyder.
Narrated by Herb Lass.
Posted in 1966, Adventure, Animation, Color, Czech Republic, English, Fantasy, Short, USA
Tagged Adolf Born, Gene Deitch, Herb Lass, J.R.R. Tolkien, Václav Lidl, William L. Snyder
Our Lady of the Sphere has two definite narratives. Jordan’s cut-up animation seemingly defies narrative, as eggs are landing on the moon, which then grows flowers, but I found two definite ones.
The first has to do with a falling child. Jordan opens Sphere with the child falling, later showing the fall begin (and end). The first half of Sphere, moving through time and space, seems narrative free until the child reappears. Once he or she does, Sphere‘s structure becomes much more recognizable.
There’s a circus and airship sequence, which is particularly beautiful, if relatively free of connection to the rest of the short.
Jordan ends it with the titular Lady and an inference she’s trying to find her sister (or a female friend), who has been lost.
Of course, everyone might read something different in Sphere. Jordan’s outstanding animation is its own thing; interpretations are just for fun.
Directed by Larry Jordan.