Posts Tagged ‘Animation’

MOVIE: Monsters University (2013)

July 18, 2013

Look at this picture of the insanely adorable little-kid version of Mike Wazowski.  Do I really need to say anything else?

  mikewkid

I thought not.

Three Roar-Omega-Roaring thumbs up from me, my 7 year old nephew, and my 5 year old niece!  (Also: Nathan Fillion! as a sexy beast!  as usual!)

[Prequeue at Netflix | Watch trailer]

Genre:  Animation, Kids
Cast: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, Julia Sweeney, Nathan Fillion, Helen Mirren, Tyler Labine.

MOVIE: Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

May 4, 2012

Note: This review was written by my 6 year-old nephew, Luke, who watched the movie with me last weekend.

Text reads (sic where needed, he’s SIX for pity’s sake):

I wosh the movie Kung Fu Panda 2. It is fun. It is osum!

My comment:  I could not agree more, oh wise one.  This is an excellent, succinct movie review.  You have a job here, sir, if you ever want one.  p.s. Aunt Meg loves you very much.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre: Animation, Kids, Comedy
Cast:  Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Dennis Haysbert

MOVIE: Rango (2011)

March 13, 2011

Okay, professional movie critics (Ebert exempted — he loved it), what IS your problem?  This extremely kooky and delightful film got kind of trashed by most of the reviewers I read regularly, and the primary reason for it seemed to be that the cartoon critters weren’t cute enough.

What the. . .?  What do you have against warts, whiskers, and waddles?  Lizard bigots.  Sheesh.

This entertaining, clever Western is about a chameleon who is on a road trip through the desert with his human family when the car swerves after hitting an armadillo (who was pretty ugly, I’ll grant you, but hey, looks aren’t everything!), sending our new amigo flying out the back.

Totally lost and completely out of his element, he starts walking and eventually stumbles across a little town named Dirt full of a variety of other desert animals.  He moseys into the local saloon in search of a glass of water, and is immediately approached by a gang of locals who ain’t too keen on strangers.  This gives the chameleon an idea — he loves to act, so he decides to pretend to be a gunslinger named Rango, regaling the saloon’s sots with a Wild West tale about the time he took out seven bad guys with a single bullet.

As Rango settles into town, eventually given the rather dubious honor of being named sheriff (none of the other sheriffs have lived too long, he’s told AFTER accepting the gig), he begins to pick up on the fact Dirt is in trouble.  It’s the middle of a terrible drought and the town is nearly out of water.  But when he and his new gal pal, a lizard lady named Beans, start to notice strange things going on (what looks like a large dumping of water outside of town, the fact the mayor doesn’t seem terribly worried, the robbery of the last of the town’s water), they begin to suspect a conspiracy.

Can Rango and Beans figure out who’s keeping the town dry (and why) before the bad guy comes after them?

Well, of course they can, duh — this is a kid’s movie, after all; it’ll have a happy ending (though I want to note here that this movie is really more suitable for older kids than little ones — there are a lot of truly scary scenes and I’m also not sure little kids will be able to follow the story).

Any fan of Westerns will get a kick out of this smart, satirical flick, which affectionately incorporates almost every classic Western element, from rolling tumbleweeds, angry mobs, bank robbers, posses, and High Noon duels, to bar brawls, a rancher who won’t give up her land, a bad guy who wants to keep the town squished flat under his thumb, and a romance between a drifter and the woman who seems destined to help him put down roots.

There were also some pretty clever additional touches for adults, including a cameo by Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke (on their way to or from Vegas, no doubt), a batty take on the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now, and a sweet hat-tip to The Man With No Name (voiced perfectly by Timothy Olyphant, who really does a mighty fine Clint Eastwood).

The animation is absolutely gorgeous too — there were several scenic shots that were true works of art, in my opinion, and though the critters might, in fact, be a bit on the homely side, they’re intricately drawn, with tons of character in their faces, and even the ugliest of the ugly good guys had an irresistible charm that will win you over by the end.

“No man can walk out of his own story” is a great moral to this classic tale, and I think Rango is a movie both kids and grown-ups will really enjoy (though, again, it’s rated PG, not G, for a reason).

Also glorious:  it was made in 2D and it’s being shown in 2D and there is NO OPTION to see it in 3D.  Utterly refreshing.

And highly recommended!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Animation, Western, Kids
Cast:  Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant, Ray Winstone

MOVIE: Megamind (2010)

March 12, 2011

Super-powered aliens Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt) grew up together in Metro City after crash-landing (separately) on Earth as infants.  In school, Metro Man was constantly being honored for using his powers and considerable charm for good (you can tell he’s the good guy by his hulking, square chin), while Megamind, blue-headed being of the puny jaw, was continually punished for acting out.

After years of being picked on and, in his opinion, unfairly judged as “bad,” Megamind decided it was time for a change — he was going to become as famous as Metro Man.  Only he was going to become a famous super VILLAIN instead.

Thus began years of conflict between the two supers, as Megamind developed dastardly plot after dastardly plot, all foiled time and again by Metro Man.

Then one day, Megamind came up with the perfect plan — well, okay, technically he didn’t come up with it; it was “perfect” plan mostly by accident.  But NO MATTER.  Victory was finally his and Metro Man was kaput.

At first, Megamind was ecstatic — now he was the ruling super of Metro City (which he pronounces “Metrocity,” rhymes with “atrocity”).  Only, as it turned out, being an evil genius without a nemesis is pretty, well . . . dull.

So, Megamind and his minion, Minion (a fish with a robot body), decided to create a new superhero to combat, turning a dorky news cameraman named Hal into the super-powerful Titan.

What Megamind didn’t count on, however, was Titan’s reaction to his new abilities.  And before you could recite Megamind’s “presidential” motto, “No you can’t,” Titan had gone over to the dark side.

This animated film is a true delight with tons of quirky humor, much of it clearly designed for parents my age — references to Marlon Brando as Superman’s dad, Donkey Kong, the Karate Kid, and more.  And it’s loaded with all the stuff kids love too — silly jokes, archetypal battles of good vs. evil, and ridiculous cuteness.  Stellar voiceover work by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill and bright, colorful animation round the picture out, making it a blast for the whole family.

I had a great time watching this one, and so did my 6 and 4 year-old nephew and niece.  Definitely recommended!

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Kids, Animation
Cast:  Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, David Cross, Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Jessica Schulte, J.K. Simmons

MOVIE: Despicable Me (2010)

July 25, 2010

Well, okay.  It’s no Pixar movie, that’s for sure.   And while I didn’t hate it, I was pretty disappointed by this one overall.

Despicable Me is a predictable, extremely-cheesy animated film is about a dastardly villain, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell and oddly looking a lot like him at times), who is about to lose all his villainous funding if he doesn’t commit the theft of the century.  His position as the baddest bad guy on Earth is being threatened by a young up-and-comer named Vector — a nerd turned evil whose recent theft of the Great Pyramid has the entire world abuzz.

Gru decides the best way to reestablish himself as Nemesis of the Year is to steal a shrink ray gun currently being developed by a nameless Asian government, and then use it to shrink and then steal the moon.  But when Vector gets his hands on the gun first, Gru must find a way to get inside his heavily armed fortress to steal it back.

He decides the best way in is through three little girls who have been roaming the neighborhood selling cookies for their orphanage.  So, he disguises himself as a dentist and adopts the trio of pawns.  The older girl, Margot, is a bit suspicious, but the other two, especially the little one, Agnes, fall head-over-heels for Gru immediately.  And, of course, though he tries to resist their precious charms, he’s no match for the adorableness of children, and it’s not long before the foursome is a family and Gru decides to give up his life of crime for a life of puppies and rainbows instead.

Pixar movies (like the recent Toy Story 3, which I loved) somehow always manage to be extremely satisfying for me as an adult, while still remaining completely successful for kids.  The writing is always strong, the stories always entertaining, the characters usually well-developed, the jokes a good mix of dumb and clever.  This one, not so much.  I found myself getting impatient with it, in part because it has a lot of unnecessary “cute” filler scenes (the whole little-yellow-guys-in-supermarket scene = thumb-twiddler), but also because the story is one I feel like I’ve seen a thousand times.  It brought nothing new to the table, not even in terms of the characters’ cartoon technology.   With all the possibilities animation opens up to you, the best you’ve got is a freeze ray?  A shrink ray?  A squid gun?   Yawn.

I should probably also confess that the timing of my viewing of this film may have impacted my experience of it as well.  I saw it right after I’d spent an hour listening to a trusted confidant tell me the obvious solution to all my problems is having a baby.  I didn’t really appreciate this, to be honest.  And before I had a chance to move past it, suddenly there was Steve Carell essentially telling me the same damn thing.

Hey, guess what?  Not so much, Steve Carell.

I think kids will really enjoy this one, don’t get me wrong.  It’s funny in a good kid-humor kind of way, it’s got some entertaining little yellow dorky creatures, the villains blow lots of stuff up, etc.  But adults?  I don’t know.

It’s no Pixar movie.  That’s for sure.

[Pre-queue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Animation, Kids
Cast:  Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett

MOVIE: Toy Story 3 (2010)

July 15, 2010

You know what’s even better than Toy Story and Toy Story 2

TOY STORY 3.

That’s right, you heard me correctly:  far and away the best of the series.  How often does THAT happen with sequels?  Especially threequels?  I can’t think of a single one.  Not even Jaws 3-D, which holds a special Dennis Quaid-sized place in my heart.

This hilarious and delightful film takes us back to the world of our favorite pals, Woody, Buzz, Jessie (who I met earlier this year at Disneyland, by the way — see photo here.  She’s super sweet in person, I must say, though her head is bizarrely humongous), and the rest, as their owner Andy is preparing to head off for college, leaving the fate of his toys uncertain.

When a mix-up leaves everybody but Woody in a box destined for donation to a local daycare center, the adventure begins.  Will the gang get to stay together?  Will they be split apart?  Will they have to live the rest of their toy lives in a box in Andy’s attic?  Or worse, suffer the horrors of the Caterpillar Room at the daycare center, where the toddlers too young to know better beat and bash them around?

And, man, what’s up with that big fat purple bear guy anyway?  Take a ‘lude, dude.

Pixar movies never fail to impress the heck out of me.  Not only do they feature sharp writing,  gorgeous animation, and delightful characters, but they also brilliantly manage to work just as well for adults as they do for kids.  There was a joke in this film — I wish I could remember what it was — that only adults my age and older are going to get, for one thing.  And the bittersweet ending is something I think only adults are going to appreciate fully too.   You know, those of us who have grown up and left home.  Or, even more painfully, those of us who have kids who will be doing that someday themselves.  (For example, there’s a scene at the end where Andy’s mom stands next to him, surveying his now-empty room, and it reminded me of when my older brother left for college and my mother began to cry when she saw he’d made his bed before he left.  Awwwww!  Moms are the best. . .)

Little kids will laugh like crazy, get a little teared up at a few points perhaps, and root for the good guys.  Teenagers will snort and chuckle, maybe think a little about playing with their own dusty old toys one more time when they get home.  But adults — well, those of us who do this sort of thing anyway — are going to bawl their eyes out and hold their babies a little bit closer (or, in my case, my borrowed baby:  my sister’s 4 year-old son Luke, who was  snuggled up in my lap the whole time.  Don’t be fooled into thinking the only reason I loved every minute of Toy Story 3 was directly related to the film itself.  Two hours with that boy in my lap is, to me, far more magical than any film could ever be.  Miss you, Dukes.  By which I mean: love you.).

Another perfect, perfect movie from Pixar.   Go see this one before it leaves theaters!

(Note for parents:  There’s one scene in this film I would describe as potentially too scary for little ones.  It involves a big fire pit and the imminent death of all our intrepid heroes.  But it doesn’t last long and both my 4 year-old nephew and 2 year-old niece weathered it just fine (and aren’t huge movie watchers, either, so it’s not really a question of their exposure to scary things in general).  Just thought this information might be helpful.  Enjoy!)

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Kids, Animation, Comedy
Cast:  Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris

MOVIE: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

April 4, 2010

I’m going to start this review out by saying exactly the same thing I always say whenever I watch and then review an animated film:  “I don’t really like animated films all that much.  I mean, I like them okay, but I rarely seek them out specifically.”

Then, as usual, I will continue on by saying:  “The weird thing is, whenever I see one, I almost always LOVE IT.  Why am I so stupid?  Why don’t I seek these out?  When will I learn that I love them?  Will I learn this time?  Pfft, doubtful.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

I don’t know why I’m always so mean to myself about it.  Really?  “Stupid,” Meg?  That’s not very nice.  Just seeking.  Just learning.  Still learning.  Working on it.

And Fantastic Mr. Fox is an excellent lesson.  This movie is brilliant — strange, clever, engaging, and hilarious.  Perfectly so.  I can’t think of a single thing I did not love about it.  Not one.

Based on the Roald Dahl tale of the same name, it’s about a young fox named Ash (Jason Schwartzman) trying to earn the respect of his father, Mr. Fox (George Clooney), a newspaperman who is also “a wild animal” addicted to the thrill of stealing squab.  Ash is small and cerebral, and when his cousin, karate expert Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) shows up and starts getting all the praise from Mr. Fox that Ash wanted for himself, he is spurred into taking greater and greater risks.  Pushing himself.  Trying to find the Ash he wants to be.  Or, at least, the Ash he thinks his father wants him to be.  (Don’t worry, parents, he learns the right lesson about that in the end.)

It’s a great, classic story, and it’s translated to the big screen wonderfully here by Wes Anderson’s weird, awesome brain.  The animation is stop-motion, which is a format I’m not terribly familiar with and found extremely impressive (I couldn’t figure out how they did some of it, in fact, like when the characters do flips and there isn’t a single break in the motion — amazing!) and the dialogue is absolutely sharp as a cussin’ tack.

If you, like me, are sort of hum-dee-hum-hum about animated films, do yourself an enormous favor tonight and go rent this one.  Watch it with your kids (though, warning, there are a few scary scenes in this), watch it with your spouse, watch it with your neighbor who you barely know but wish you could be friends with.

I envy you — you’re about to have a perfectly splendid evening.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Kids, Animation
Cast:  George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Eric Anderson, Owen Wilson

MOVIE: Coraline (2009)

November 4, 2009

coralineI’m not generally a big fan of animated films — I’m not sure just why, since I almost always end up loving them when I do sit down and watch them.  But I’m rarely drawn to them intentionally.  Usually when I see an animated film, it’s because somebody else wanted to see it and I went along.  And so was the case with Coraline last weekend.  (The Case with Coraline — sounds like a Nancy Drew mystery. . .  I digress.)

While looking for a movie at the video store Friday night with my husband — one we might both want to see (no easy feat since we have dramatically different tastes in film; by which I mean, he actually likes GOOD movies) — he picked this one up, read over the back of the box, and gave it a little wave in my direction.  I looked up from the box I was looking at, The Thaw starring Val Kilmer and a whole bunch of disgusting insects (more on this in a future post), squinted, and then said, “Go for it,” in part because the only other movie he’d picked up was some kind of rock music documentary, also not typically my go-to genre, and I didn’t want to be there all night trying to find something mutually agreeable.  Besides, at least Coraline looked kinda spooky.  Good pre-Halloween mood setter?  Even if it IS a dorky cartoon?

As it turned out, not five minutes into this totally-not-at-all-dorky movie, I was COMPLETELY  IN LOVE.  The visuals in this film are fantastic — the colors, the shapes, the backgrounds, the characters.  And the story is absolutely great.  And John Hodgman!  JOHN HODGMAN, my friends!  Sigh.  Sigh of dreaminess.  Dreamy sigh.

It tells the story of a little girl, Coraline (not “Caroline”!), who has just moved into a big old house with her parents (Teri Hatcher and The Hodge), gardening writers who apparently hate gardening.  Go figure.  Coraline’s parents are hard at work on their latest book and so have little time for their daughter, who is a smart, creative girl with a lot of energy and interests.  Frustrated by her parents’ seeming neglect and missing her old friends tremendously, Coraline is the perfect target for an evil villain (not sure just what kind of entity she was — not really a ghost; more like  a cross between Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands) who desperately wants a daughter of her own.

The villain takes the form of Coraline’s mother — looking and sounding just like her except for the fact she has black buttons for eyes (like a doll).  She woos Coraline into her alternate reality, complete with “Other” versions of her father and her new friend Wybie, by lavishing her with attention and home-cooked meals, making her beautiful new clothing, and in general feeding right into every need or desire Coraline has ever had.

It’s not long before Coraline begins to realize the true nature of what’s going on, though — not just that the “Other Mother” is a bad entity who wants to steal Coraline (and replace her eyes with buttons too, eep!), but that she’s tried this before on other children and killed them when they did not conform to her wishes.  Eep, again!

Desperate to escape, Coraline finally finds her way back through the little door into her real life, only to find the “Other Mother” has taken her parents and locked them away.  Now, with the help of Wybie’s cat, who is able to travel easily between the two worlds himself, Coraline must craft a plan to rescue her parents, free the spirits of the dead children, and get her life back to the way it was.

Of course, a lot of elements of this story are familiar — it’s not really that different, if you think about it, from It’s a Wonderful Life:   Be careful what you wish for, e.g.  But here, the story is told with such great visuals and characters that it felt completely fresh and exciting to watch.  The animation is stop-motion and super-cool, and though we had the option of watching it in 3-D on the DVD, we went with 2-D instead, in part because my first (and last) 3-D cartoon experience was with last summer’s Up, and I felt that the 3-D had really muted the sharpness of the lines and colors of that film — two of the things I love the most about the look of an animated film.  I think it was the right choice here as well.    Not to keep repeating myself, but the way this film LOOKS is just wonderful.  It uses strange shapes — the bodies of the characters are strange, the shape of the cat, the tilt on the buildings, etc. — and bold, simple colors, and the combination was extremely effective.  The look of the movie gives it a creepy weight that I think the story alone might not have been able to attain.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with this one!  If you have been putting off seeing it because you’re not that into animated films yourself, I definitely think you should give it a shot.  Recommended, in other words!  Also:  JOHN HODGMAN!!  I’m pretty sure for many of you, I need say no mo’.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Animation
Cast:  Dakota Fanning, John Hodgman, Teri Hatcher, Keith David

MOVIE: Kung Fu Panda (2008)

February 26, 2009

kungfupandaSorry the blog has been radio-silent for the last week or so — I went out of town for several days of sunshine, warmth, and adorableness (my 1 year-old niece and 3 year-old nephew and 35 year-old twin sister and 29 year-old mother (hi, Mom!)), and neglected to alert you all to the fact I’d be out of commission for a bit.  Sorry about that!  I had lofty plans to get a lot of reviews written while I was out of town, but at the last minute had to leave my laptop at home (I’m nursing an injured shoulder and it was just too heavy!).  Such is life when you are a blogger with lots of broken body parts.

In any case, I’m making it up to you by telling you to go rent Kung Fu Panda this weekend.  Because it’s HILARIOUS.  And extremely entertaining and fun.  All that AND it stars a big fat panda who does kung fu — voiced by Jack Black!  Things just don’t get much better!

The story is about an evil snow leopard warrior named Tai Lung (the awesome Ian McShane, who is an upcoming Boyfriend of the Week, incidentally) who has just escaped from prison and is on his way to destroy the Valley of Peace.  To protect the Valley, Kung Fu Master Oogway decides it is time to hold the ceremony that selects the Dragon Warrior, a kung fu sooooper genius who, it is believed, will be the only one capable of defeating Tai Lung.

Meanwhile, there’s this big fat panda named Po who works with his dad in a noodle restaurant and spends his days dreaming of being a kung fu warrior himself.  When Po hears Master Oogway is going to hold the Dragon Warrior selection ceremony, he races out of the restaurant to go watch — and soon finds himself sort of accidentally selected!  Even though he doesn’t know any real kung fu!

The rest of the famous Furious Five (kung fu warriors), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogan), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross), are not too impressed with Po but ultimately decide the best way to get rid of him is to try to train him and let him fail.

But, of course, that completely backfires, due to Po’s AWESOMENESS. Something for which he does not charge.

SKIDOOSH!!

My brother told me his five year-old son was laughing so hard at this movie that he was crying and that, therefore, I needed to watch it immediately.  Since I find many of the same things hilarious that the five year-old does (which either means I’m really childish or he’s very precocious — or some combination of both), I thought that was a pretty decent recommendation.

I now pass the same recommendation along to you.  Do with this information what you will.  As long as what you will is to rent and watch Kung Fu Panda as soon as possible.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Animation, Kids
Cast:  Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, David Cross

MOVIE: WALL-E (2008)

December 30, 2008

I knew this was going to be a great movie when I asked my nearly-three nephew what his favorite flick was and he answered WALL-E instead of Cars.  The kid’s a Cars MANIAC, people, and for a robot to have replaced Kachow — even temporarily — for first place tells you everything you need to know about that robot’s awesomeness.

And, indeed, this is an absolutely fantastic and beautiful film.  In fact, I’d say it’s now my favorite of the Pixar movies as well.  Take THAT, Toy Story! It’s got the perfect combination of sweetness, humor, and incredible, mind-blowing art (I’m sure it didn’t hurt that I watched it at my sister’s on her HDTV, in that regard, but even in regular-def, I think you’ll be stunned by its visuals).  It’s sheer genius, compacted down into a squarish, grubby little metal-bot with big eyes and an even bigger heart.

Most of you have heard the plot of this one — it’s about a solitary old  trash-collecting robot who lives on a deserted, dirty Earth and spends his lonely days cleaning up the clutter, watching Hello, Dolly over and over, and wishing for companionship.  One day, a ship drops off another robot — a high-tech one named Eve who is there on a focused mission to find any traces of remaining plant life.  Wall-E immediately falls in love with Eve and the two become friends, but as soon as Eve finds what she was sent to look for, she is immediately deactivated until her ship returns to scoop her up.  (I defy you not to exclaim, “Awwww, adorable!!” when you see what Wall-E does with Eve while she’s turned off — what a sweet li’l boo!)

Desperate to stay with her when her developers return to take her home, Wall-E hitches a ride and follows Eve back to the Mother Ship where, we soon learn, humans have been living extremely slothfully for decades now that Earth has become uninhabitable.  Through the discovery of the plant, plus Eve and Wall-E’s dedication to a happy life for themselves and the world, the humans are inspired to get off their chubby behinds and return home.

I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say I was bawling by the end of this movie.  I LOVED it.  Highly recommended, and I can’t wait to watch it again soon myself.  Don’t miss this one, peeps!

(p.s. Confidential to my nephew:  Oy, my goitah!)

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Animated, Kids
Cast:  Ben Burtt, Jeff Garlin, Elissa Knight, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy


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