Animation

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Disney to Shut Down Magic of Animation Attraction this July


Pencils down
Jul 03
// John-Charles Holmes
Disney recently announced that they would be shutting down the Magic of Disney Animation attraction at its Hollywood Studos theme park on July 12th. The attraction originally opened with the park in 1989 and allowed audiences...
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David Tennant joins animated Chew adaptation


Insert Doctor Who joke here
Jun 22
// Matt Liparota
Transylvania 2 Trailer photo
Transylvania 2 Trailer

First full trailer for Hotel Transylvania 2


Jun 19
// Nick Valdez
Although Genndy Tartokovsky leaving his passion project Popeye still stings, at least we'll see his work in Hotel Transylvania 2. Although the first film wasn't too big a deal, it's still a lot better than anything Sony Anima...

Ku Fu Panda Trailer photo
Ku Fu Panda Trailer

First trailer for Kung Fu Panda 3 brings the thunder


SO CUTE GIVE ME ALL THE PANDAS
Jun 19
// Nick Valdez
I've got quite a fondness for the Kung Fu Panda series. It's a competent cartoon that's as funny as it is endearing. It's also got some really good classic kung fu sensibility, and since that's so rare these days, it's nice t...

Review: Inside Out

Jun 19 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219580:42445:0[/embed] Inside OutDirectors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen Rated: PGRelease Date: June 19, 2015 The plot of inside out is easy, and it's been tackled before. The movie is the story of the emotions who reside inside a girl named Riley's (Kaitlyn Dias) head. There's Joy (Amy Poheler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Everything is going pretty swimmingly for Riley and her emotions until one day the family has to move triggering a flood of sadness in what was a perpetually happy girl. Joy, panicking after a particularly sad moment becomes a key memory, gets herself and sadness sucked out of headquarters and into the nether regions of Riley's brain. The two must find their way back with the help of Riley's old imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), as Anger, Fear and Disgust attempt to hold the fort down with disastrous consequences. If there is a limit to Pixar's wonderful imagination they haven't found it yet. Just when you thought the studio was going to sit back and rest on its laurels an entirely original and creative movie like Inside Out gets made. They deliver a film that has the emotional impact of the beginning of Up and yet somehow still make it fun and enjoyable. They've taken universal emotions and turned them into a children's film that somehow delivers a commentary on sadness that's more powerful than most overwrought dramas. The film is a lesson in how to address serious subjects while still having fun. The screenplay is brilliant and honed to a fine point. Inside Out's story could be an overly complex and melodramatic mess, but it's crafted to a fine point. Reigning in the chaos of two separate worlds, a plethora of characters and a bunch of complex ideas the film masterfully weaves its story. The juxtaposition of the comical Anger, Fear and Disgust at the helm of a young girl's brain with the real world reactions to that is powerful. It delivers a film that tackles depression and loss in ways that never get melodramatic or cheesy. Somehow in a children's film we find some true heart. That heart is going to make you cry. I don't care how much of a tough guy you are Pixar is going to worm its way into your heart and then play those strings like a classical guitar. Part of this is because they're just so damn good at it, but another aspect is the fact that Inside Out's themes are so universal. We've all been right where Riley is at some point in our life and Pixar has put that on the big screen in a way that is not only relatable, but enjoyable. Often films involving sadness only involve that, but the entire point of Inside Out is that our emotions are all mixed together. Sadness and happiness aren't competing forces, they lead to each other. For a film directed at children this is some of the most adult dealings with emotion I've seen. The movie may also be Pixar's most stunning visually. It's definitely a departure from their usual style, though not entirely removed. It simply looks brilliant and is constantly getting more and more creative with its visuals throughout. Joy is especially well designed as her body constantly shines with happiness. Meanwhile Sadness somehow seems to drip with the emotion. At one point the characters are reduced to abstract thoughts in a brilliant and clever animation sequence that just highlights what Pixar can do.  My only concern with the film is that it over simplifies things. Depression and emotional issues are immensely complex medical issues. Inside Out by its very nature doesn't delve into that as much as it could and it may leave some who have been through these things shaking their heads. That being said it's still an incredibly accessible doorway to talk about emotions and change. Humanity as a whole is often remiss in discussing what we're feeling and Inside Out gives us a chance to say, "Yea, I've felt like that before." It does this not by being overbearing in its message, but by inviting you in to enjoy it. So there are some words on Inside Out. They're OK. I still don't think I got it right. I guess the only words I really need to write are: see this movie. 
Inside Out Review photo
Pixar's best?
I'm having a lot of trouble writing this review, and it's not because my computer crashed and deleted the almost finished product at one point. No, I'd already been through a few drafts before that and nothing was working. Us...

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WOOF

First trailer for The Secret Lives of Pets not so secret


I'm pretty sure we all knew this
Jun 17
// Matthew Razak
Adorable animals doing wacky things? That sounds like a bonafide hit to me, and with the team behind Despicable Me making it it may actually be good. The Secret Lives of Pets follows the basic premise of all good childre...
Peanuts photo
Peanuts

New Peanuts Movie trailer actually kicks that football


Metaphorically, of course
Jun 16
// Matthew Razak
From our first look at The Peanuts Movie it was pretty clear that something that at least looked fantastic was coming our way. The first trailer didn't tell us that much more, but it still looked damn good. Now we have o...
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Smurfing Great!

First look at Get Smurfy, the new Smurfs movie


Get Smurfy? We're going with that?
Jun 16
// Matthew Razak
Here it is. The first look you've all been waiting for since we saw that concept art for the new Smurfs movie. You weren't waiting for this? Same on you. What could make you not excited for a Smurfs movie? Oh, right.  We...

Review: When Marnie Was There

Jun 12 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219314:42335:0[/embed] When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー)Director: Hiromasa YonebayashiRelease Date: May 22, 2015Country: Japan In the wake of Hayao Miyakazi's retirement, Studio Ghibli has "temporarily" shuttered its doors. There may never be another Studio Ghibli film. There are probably people who are mad at Miyazaki for leaving. When Marnie Was There is a response to those people. It's a response to people who hold grudges and hate themselves and take it out on others. It's a a response to the fundamental negativity that drives much of modern society. And it made me cry.  It's easy to forget that cartoons can make you feel real people emotions if you don't watch many of them. And obviously calling a serious animated film like any Ghibli production a "cartoon" is reductive at best and borderline offensive at worst, but the point is that it isn't just the ultra-artistic works like Ghibli films that can get to you. They're probably about the best example, but it's just another toolset for a would-be filmmaker to use. And one that doesn't get nearly enough credit for the things it can do to you. When Marnie Was There starts in a place where the air is bad. It's a city, and Anna is a girl with asthma. She hates herself and keeps herself isolated from everyone around her. She has an asthma attack and the doctor tells her foster mother that she should be sent to the countryside. A countryside where there is nothing but Anna, nature, and whatever creepy, spirit-related things are going on in the town's abandoned buildings. (So far so Ghibli.) Before too long, Anna runs into Marnie, a blonde-haired girl who lives in the Marsh House, an old abandoned mansion at the edge of town. But, of course, Marnie isn't real. You know that. Anna knows that. The film knows it. Marnie's scenes are hyper-stylized, often dream-like, but knowing that she's not real actually makes everything more intriguing. Because the question isn't, "Is Marnie real?" It's, "Who is she?" Or perhaps, "Who was she?"    But what's never a question is what her role in Anna's arc is going to be. From the outset, it's obvious that Marnie is here to bring Anna out of her shell, to allow her to talk to others and stand up for herself and be brave. She's a self-loathing pre-teen. The world has enough of those. Marnie is there to help her come to terms with everything she's gone through. To give her some perspective. And its ability to put things into perspective without being contrived or annoying is When Marnie Was Here's greatest strength. Even in particularly expository moments, everything comes from a place of honesty in a valiant attempt to get at the fundamental beliefs we all have. A conversation between Marnie and Anna about the role of the parent begins a bit stiff, and I was worried that we were heading down the wrong path, but it ultimately turned into something exceedingly compelling. Whether it was critiquing an aspect of society found in both Japan and America, celebrating it, or simply accepting it is probably up for interpretation, but nothing in the film is skin-deep. It's all in service of these moments of revelation that turn both Anna and Marnie into an extremely compelling pair, even if the latter is "imaginary." But imaginary or not, Marnie's impact on Anna is tangible. As the truths behind Marnie's past become clearer, Anna begins to build up the strength to keep her partner safe from the evils of the world. Because there are always evils, no matter who you are or how you live. And even if you can't always fight them yourself, being able to recognize the plights of others and connect with them will make you a stronger person. Perhaps someone who can help others face their own demons as well. And when it all comes down to it, we're all in this together. Films like When Marnie Was There serve as reminders of just how meaningful life can be.
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All the places you'll go
Every so often, I think about old articles I've written, for Flixist or elsewhere, and wonder how different they would be if I'd written them now. Not from a grammatical or structural perspective. I wonder how my fundamental ...

Zootopia Teaser photo
Zootopia Teaser

First teaser trailer for Disney's Zootopia


"Be-fur"? Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Jun 12
// Nick Valdez
While I still miss Disney's 2D animated style since Winnie the Pooh was great but not a film to end the legacy on, Disney's been hitting it out of the park with their CG efforts. They've found quite a groove with Wreck-It Ral...
Zootopia photo
Zootopia

New Zootopia image introduces us to Disney's latest


It's a bunny cop movie
Jun 10
// Matthew Razak
Disney Animation has been on quite a roll -- you know, that little movie called Frozen -- and while we won't be seeing anything from them until next year that doesn't mean we can't start to get excited. Personally I...
The Good Dinosaur Trailer photo
Looks good?
The Good Dinosaur has had a troubling development for the last few years. Hit with delays, losing a director, and a major reworking, the film we have now no longer resembles the original idea. It's hard to tell how much of th...

Reitman Animation photo
Reitman Animation

Jason Reitman to write and direct animated Beekle


Indie drama just ain't working no more
May 28
// Matthew Razak
Joason Reitman has not been doing so well recently with Labor Day and Men, Women & Children both flopping hard so a dramatic shift sounds in order. That shift is taking on an animated film for Dreamworks in the form ...
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Ratchet and Clank

Paul Giamatti, John Goodman and others join the Ratchet and Clank movie


The Italian Stallion is also cast
May 13
// Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
It has been two years since Sony announced their plans to make an animated movie based on the immensely popular series of PlayStation games, Ratchet & Clank, and today we learned that Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Sylveste...
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Boy and Beast

First trailer for Mamoru Hosoda's next anime film, The Boy and The Beast


Apr 23
// Nick Valdez
Mamaro Hosoda's films are always triumphs of animation. Known for Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and even The Digimon Movie, his films have a distinct and flowing art style that's always very pleasing to the eye. On top of that,...
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Spider-Man again

Lord and Miller working on an animated Spider-Man film


Apr 23
// Nick Valdez
It seems like I'm talking about Spider-Man every other day, so I care a little less every time. But you know what brings me back into the fold? Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the guys who're pretty much involved with every movie...
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Check out the new English language trailer for The Little Prince


He's got tiny hands, tiny features-- he's the little guy!
Apr 22
// John-Charles Holmes
Oh man, The Little Prince is one of my absolute favorite books, so when I heard they were making a new animated film version, my attention went up. The first trailer, while entirely in French, gave an impressive look at the ...
When Marnie Was There photo
When Marnie Was There

Here's the US Trailer for Ghibli's When Marnie Was There


Apr 17
// Nick Valdez
Since Studio Ghibli is still stuck in purgatory, and haven't announced a new feature since all of that financial weirdness reared its ugly head some time ago, When Marnie Was There might possibly be the studio's final film. ...
Justice League photo
Justice League

Trailer for Justice League: Gods & Monsters is better than that other leaked video


Apr 17
// Nick Valdez
So the other day, Zack Snyder tweeted out a short teaser to promote the five second tease of a trailer that WB wants you to go and buy IMAX tickets to see. Since that whole situation was ridiculous, we kept ourselves clean o...
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Adam West and Burt Ward BAMFing back into action for animated Batman


Holy old people's voices, Batman
Mar 30
// Matthew Razak
Anyone who doesn't like the Adam West Batman TV show is clearly not someone you should be associating with. Now that it's finally on Blu-ray we've all been given a chance to watch its splendor once again, and it seems we...
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Smurfs reboot gets a release date


Or is that a Smurfboot? I'll show myself out.
Mar 27
// Matthew Razak
I know what you're asking yourself, and yes, the Smurfs are getting another movie and despite the fact that the whole premise was actually making a ton of money Sony has decided to reboot the series. They'll be releasing the ...
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Animators collaborating on an animated "Bartkira" movie trailer


Yelling "Milhouse" just doesn't have the same punch as "KANEDAAA!"
Mar 06
// John-Charles Holmes
What do you get when you cross one of the most influential anime movies ever made with the most famous animated family of all time? You get Bartkira, an ongoing collaboration amongst artists across the nation with the lofty g...

FlixList: Ten NEW Cartoons that Deserve Movies

Mar 05 // John-Charles Holmes
  10. Over the Garden Wall Cartoon Network’s first foray into the world of mini-series was with the hauntingly beautiful Over the Garden Wall, a tale of two brothers, Wirt and Greg, lost in a harsh and mysterious forest. As they press onward, they encounter a number of oddities that bring up imagery of classic tales like Peter Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland. If this one were a movie, imagine this one playing out like a really dark Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. But why is this modern classic so low on the list? Easy—it exists already as a miniseries about an hour and a half in length. You could go ahead and watch this one in a single sitting and you’d be getting the movie experience already. I just wouldn’t mind actually seeing this one fleshed out a little bit more story and adapted to the big screen.   9. The Legend of Korra The Legend of Korra started off by offering quite the grand promise—It’s Avatar: The Last Airbender but with adults and robots and kissing! What could possibly go wrong? Well, turns out a lot actually.  The quality of the show seemed to fluctuate back and forth during its stilted run, but I’m willing to chalk a lot of that up to having to fill four whole seasons with stories to tell. I think a little bit of restraint could do a lot of good for Korra, and perhaps boiling it down to an essential two hours might just be the way to get the story audiences want to see from a new Avatar without any of the extra fluff.   8. Superf*ckers James Kochalka’s rude ‘n’ crude teenage superhero comic melodrama was recently adapted into a series of shorts by Frederator that was criminally underrated. Essentially imagine Watchmen if all the superheroes were teenagers, but instead of being filled with drama and angst, it’s all the dumb shit that teenagers really do—like constantly thinking with their genitalia and getting high all day. The setup is already perfect for the typical R-rated comedy, but there was actually a lot of material from the original comics that could additionally be adapted into a full length story. It’d definitely make for one gut-bustingly gross-out look back on the internet generation and the recent explosion of superhero obsession fueled by it.   7. Lakewood Plaza Turbo Video games are starting to make a huge comeback in movies lately. Wreck-It Ralph and Adam Sandler’s upcoming Pixels have made good on bringing some of those nerd fantasies to life, but why not try and make something that feels like a video game without using Pac-Man or Donkey Kong? Lakewood Plaza Turbo could be just that thing. Only existing right now as a pilot for an upcoming Cartoon Network series, the premise of a mall where video game characters work and socialize could make for an awesome animated “hang-out” movie in the vein of Kevin Smith films, but with the added angle of actually feeling like a video game and not like an advertisement.   6. Bee and Puppycat Bee and Puppycat is the magical girl fantasy for a new generation, except with all the action-packed superhero parts downplayed to a minimum. What you're left with is a post-post-modern slice of life with a fantasy twist that would probably feel at home with the French New Wave. What would a movie adaption of a superhero temp and her weird cat/dog/thing look like? Well, if it’s anything like the animated series thus far, it’d be a lot of gorgeous imagery and then loafing around on the coach eating snacks and watching reality television. So basically a good version of Garfield: The Movie without the hideous GCI cat. Puppycat could still be voiced by Bill Murray, though. 5. Regular Show Fan favorite Regular Show owes a lot its charm and success to its appreciation and constant homages to pop-culture and films of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s not too unusual for an episode to just flat out be an 11-minute version of some of the kitschiest of these nostalgic films like Over the Top and Big Trouble in Little China, so why not go all out and make the ultimate feature length homage to everything generation-X with a Regular Show movie? Mordecai and Rigby are already the classic slackers incarnate, so imagining this one up on the silver screen isn’t too hard to do already, regardless of if they go the pure parody route or with something more original. 4. Homestar Runner Starting off as highly shared internet vignettes, characters Homestar, Strong Bad and others became immortalized amongst millennials in the past decade. Even today, the two brothers who created Homestar Runner are doing very well as hotshot television writers. So now, with Homestar Runner slowly making a comeback on YouTube, the time is ripe for movie studios to get the Brothers Chaps in for some studio meetings. What kind of movie could you even get out of Homestar Runner as source material? Why, the only option that short-form gag-heavy comedies have to rely on when adapted for film—the road trip movie. Sure, generic as hell, but you just know that in the hands of the Chapmans, it would be the funniest damn road trip movie you’d ever seen. Even if it’s just about Strong Bad driving a bus from end of Town to the other. 3. The Venture Bros. With every passing season of the quintessential Adult Swim show, fans have had to wait longer and longer for increasingly grandiose episodes of this twisted Johnny Quest parody. The show’s epic and convoluted structure already lends itself to a 3-hour seat warmer and would actually serve as the perfect way to conclude the show, once that ending is reached.  It’s clear that Venture Bros. has been getting more cinematic over the years all while pushing the envelope for animated (yet tasteful!) sex and violence. By trading the TV-MA rating for an R, the show could finally tell the ultimate blood-drenched tale of the manic depressive Venture family the way it was always meant to be told. 2. Gravity Falls The recent Disney Channel sleeper hit about a brother and sister discovering the mysteries of their uncle’s hometown has gained the reputation of being the Twin Peaks for a new generation, and that title is well earned. A full length mystery adventure would definitely deliver on the same offbeat adventures as the show and would be a great opportunity to up the stakes for a sleepy Oregon town on the edge of the supernatural with Disney level production. So much so that even the show’s creator, Alex Hirsch, has even gone on record saying that he could imagine the show running for three seasons and ending with a movie. And if we learned anything from Community, the second you give your fans this kind of promise to latch on to, they’ll never let go of it. Speaking of Dan Harmon… 1. Rick and Morty Rick and Morty is one of the most unexpected surprises to come out of recent cartoons with its simple premise-- the adventures of a drunk Doc Brown and his oblivious grandson. What starts as a great setup for some crass humor eventually yields way to some truly great sci-fi tales and nihilistic musings on the chaos and uncertainty of the universe at large. It comes as no surprise that this is partly due to the legendary Dan Harmon acting as co-creator and writer to the show. Much like the other mature entries on this list, a Rick and Morty feature would allow the darkly hilarious duo to pull absolutely no punches, but would also give us a true full fledged Back to the Future adventure. Rick and Morty is just as refreshingly hilarious as it is ingenious, and for that reason, it gets my vote for the new cartoon that needs a movie more than any other. It would be sure to make you laugh, make you cry, and even make you vomit in your mouth. Just a little. And honestly, isn’t that what good animated movies are all about in the end?
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These ain't your grandad's cartoons
Did you hear the recent news? They’re going to make an Adventure Time movie, and honestly, that’s pretty darn rad. I love a good cartoon to movie adaption—and not just a live action adaption or remake, we ho...

Dragonball Z photo
Dragonball Z

First trailer for Dragonball Z: Fukkatsu no F features a golden Frieza


FREEZER FREEZER FREEZER
Mar 03
// Nick Valdez
I don't think I've ever talked about it here, but Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods was one of the funnest animated films I saw last year. Didn't give it enough credit because it was essentially an hour of a dude punching a giant...

Review: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Feb 24 // John-Charles Holmes
[embed]219012:42246:0[/embed] The Tale of Princess KaguyaDirector: Isao TakahataRelease Date: February 17, 2015 (DVD/Blu-Ray)Rating: PGCountry: Japan The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on the classic Japanese folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which tells of a bamboo cutter and wife who find a small girl inside a stalk of bamboo.  The girl, who eventually comes to be named Princess Kaguya, grows very quickly into a beautiful young woman, which is only exacerbated by the bamboo cutter finding a trove of treasures in other stalks of bamboo in the forests.  The bamboo cutter buys his family’s way into the lap of luxury and refines Kaguya from her quaint mountain life into to the extremely restrictive lifestyle of a feudal princess. As Kaguya matures, word of her beauty spreads across the land and in due time, five overzealous suitors show up at the mansion doors.  What follows is a haunting tale of Kaguya’s struggles for independence and freedom as well as an idea of what the definition true happiness is and what it brings to us.  Is it wealth?  Security?  Beauty?  Or something else altogether? Princess Kaguya launches by wearing its folktale trappings on its sleeves.  Most of the characters act as the everyman for all the roles people play in our lives and logic is thrown to the wind in favor of mysticism and bewilderment.  However, once the stage for the story is set, emotion becomes the guiding force for most of the film.  Each moment of the film is driven by these strong moments of expression, ranging from extremes of happiness to absolute depression.  Even when it seems that the film is setting up an eclectic series of events, the narrative constantly takes a back seat to the emotional state of the film, Princess Kaguya, and the audience. The story itself is actually quite simple to digest, but the true star of the film is the unique and striking animation on display.  The film looks unlike any modern Ghibli film, trading in crisp and strong digital lines for very rough, very human brush strokes.  The visuals evoke the imagery of traditional Japanese ink and watercolor paintings.  You could take a still from any moment of the film and hang it up on a wall. It’s not quite clear through why you’d want to freeze-frame the film, though, as the animation is simply stunning in motion.  As lines are redrawn with every frame this motion implies a great sense of breath and life or quietness and weight when lines stand still.  As motion increases and action climbs, the lines get more and more out of control, as if a master artist loosened his grip on the brush.  Little details like moving accent lines to imply light or restrained palettes to direct attention add that extra polish that makes it a true masterwork. Words truly don’t do these visuals justice and honestly might be the most visually interesting film I’ve ever seen out of Studio Ghibli in years—which given their legendary pedigree, is saying a lot.  This is what makes somewhat upsetting when the film falls prey to the same pratfall of the last few Ghibli productions.  The mood and animation silently tells more of the story than the words ever do, but in the final moments of the film, an immediately pressing impetus emerges to give the film a climax that, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure was necessary.  The film seems to revolve around how Princess Kaguya feels at any given moment as well as asking the existential question of what exactly is the true nature of happiness.  Once we actually get some answers near the end of the film, it’s not exactly an answer for those questions the film sets up.  Honestly, I feel like the emotional impact of the film is so strong and so resonant that it managed to carry me through to the film’s eerie conclusion, but I would be quick to understand if audiences (particularly western audiences) found themselves very confused with final moments of the story.  As easy as it would’ve been to simply rely on the imagery of the animation through to the end, this choice probably stems more from the nature of the source material rather than a misstep of the direction of the film. Story issues aside, the film exudes a restrained and haunting air throughout its runtime.  Shots are framed like paintings in a gallery and music punctuates little moments of the film, only making itself heard with hard piano strikes at some of the more intense scenes.  Ghibli films have usually had an incredible eye for minutia, and Takahata exhibits the same mastery in his portrayal of an old, yet legendary Japan. So if you’re already a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, making a point to see Princess Kaguya is a no-brainer at this point, but for everyone else I’d still say this one is worth checking out.  The simple story keeps the film easy to follow, despite some missteps near the end, but even if the folktale isn’t enough to hold your attention, the animation and atmosphere will certainly keep you glued to your seat.  As one of the better Ghibli films of the past decade, Princess Kaguya will go down as a haunting, yet beautiful piece of work, much like the princess herself.
Princess Kaguya Review photo
Little Bamboo, big style
Isao Takahata is one of the directors out of Studio Ghibli that seems to be less discussed by fans in the west.  Takahata is responsible for directing some of the most riveting and eerie films to come from the Japanese a...

Review: Shaun The Sheep

Feb 23 // Jackson Tyler
[embed]218991:42236:0[/embed] Shaun The SheepDirectors: Richard Starzak and Mark BurtonRated: URelease Date: February 6, 2015 (UK) The movie's set up is simple, yet it rapidly spirals into madcap adventures that border on the surreal. Simple version: Shaun (the Sheep) is dissatisfied with the daily grind of life on his farm, and after a plan to cause mischief goes awry, it's up to him and his fellow sheep to head into the big city and bring their farmer back home. Also, at one point there's a hairdressing/sheep shearing montage which plays out over social media. Luckily, the story's absurdist nature is fully anchored by a rock solid emotional core, so you'll have no trouble rolling with it as it swings between hilarious comedic stepieces at a breakneck pace. In no small part, this is due to the film's nature as a silent movie. For the entire 84 minutes, not a single line of dialogue is spoken, the characters brought to life through Aardman's stunningly detailed animation, and the occasional grunt or bleat. As an exercise in filmmaking craft, Shaun The Sheep is downright educational in how it hooks the audience into its emotional journey. From the suffocating mundanity of the opening montage, to the beautiful camaraderie of a mid film musical sequence, the movie is a phenomenal execution of a genre that is long extinct. The total lack of dialoguee is used honestly, to emphasise the power of Aardman's visual storytelling, and never once as a gimmick as in something like The Artist. But Aardman can make movies both heartfelt and funny in their sleep, and in fact they have, multiple times before. What pushes it from good film to a truly great one is the melancholic layer of nostalgia that permeates every frame. Aardman's heart has always had one foot in the past, its work a celebration of a rural Britain that has spent the better part of the last two centuries slowly dying, and Shaun The Sheep brings that conflict to the forefront and addresses it head on. Its rural characters are dissatisfied and loveless, going through the motions of their lives, and it is only through upon their exposure to the big city that they begin to realise what it is they don't want to lose. The design captures both rural and urban Britain to a tangible detail, from faded green road signs to sterile NHS hospital hallways, to the way a train line functions as a mark across the landscape, grafting countryside and cityscape together like a stitch in cotton. Much like Shaun is here, Aardman are a studio grappling with the reality that they are growing up in a world that is rapidly leaving them behind, and sooner or later they need to come to terms with it. This conflict is nothing new in British art, blind rural nostalgia was already old when Far From The Madding Crowd did it over 140 years ago. But whereas that terrible book (come at me, Thomas Hardy), and even Lord of the Rings to a certain extent, paint encroaching modernisation as a boogeyman ruining a superior traditional way of life, Shaun The Sheep is a domestic and honest story about finding your own space within a world out of your control. However, lest hose ridiculous literary comparisons make you forget: this is a kids movie, and a fantastic one at that. Aardman speak from the heart, but never so loudly that they lose sight of a movie that will make children laugh and cry. It's hilarious and charming, bursting at the seams with character and stuffed with approximately a billion sight gags. Shaun The Sheep is a movie that aims young but feels so old. It could have so easily been them selling out, but instead, it is a great studio's best work yet, a movie more intimate and personal than anything Aardman have released prior. I hope Aardman keep making movies forever, but it's hard to deny that Shaun The Sheep feels like goodbye. And if it is, then I can't think of any better parting words.
Shaun the Sheep Review photo
Aardman are back, and better than ever
It's hard to believe that Shaun The Sheep is only Aardman's fourth stop motion feature film. The studio initially made its name in the UK with short films in the 70s and 80s such as Creature Comforts, but it was with the re...

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Laika puppets and art sold in auction for up to $50k


Man if I had $50,000 to burn...
Feb 18
// John-Charles Holmes
This past month, Laika recently wrapped up a touring gallery of original art, posters, props, and puppets from their animated features.  You know, those last few critically acclaimed stop-motion films of the past few yea...

Review: The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Feb 06 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218919:42195:0[/embed] The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of WaterDirectors: Mike Mitchell and Paul TibittRelease Date: February 6th, 2015Rating: PG When the Krabby Patty formula mysteriously vanishes from the Krusty Krab, Spongebob (Tom Kenny) and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) end up to blame for its disappearance after some hijinks. As Bikini Bottom falls into post-apocalyptic madness, Spongebob and Plankton form a te-am in order to find the formula and save the town. Their shenanigans eventually brings them to the mysterious pirate Burgerbeard (Antonio Banderas) and a magic book which seems to control their lives.  First off, Sponge Out of Water is definitely for kids. Unlike most animated films, Water isn't afraid to cater to its audience so it's full of hyperactivity a mile a minute. Fortunately, this isn't always a bad thing. While the rapid fire nature of the jokes might turn the older crowd off, enough of them land that the balance is tipped more in the film's favor. I found myself laughing quite a bit at the way the humor was crafted. While seemingly random, punchlines are stemmed from unlikely places and not wasted on obvious jokes. Like when Spongebob and Plankton first work together, there's so much humor mined from Plankton's inability to say the word "teamwork," and the dialogue exchanges during these bits is incredibly nuanced ("Teamwork." "Te-am wok." "Say 'team.'" "Team." "Now say 'work." "Work." "Teamwork." "Timebomb.") that it doesn't overstay its welcome. Or all the post-apocalyptic stuff. That's all golden. Sponge Out of Water is also incredibly animated. It's one of the few films that's absolutely better in 3D, and it's full of slick and gorgeous animation. The transition between the 2D plane and CG shenanigans seen in the trailers is seamless (although it's unfortunately relegated to a short finale). While the first Spongebob Movie felt more like a longer episode of the television show, Water's bigger budget and zealous effort really shines through. This is the first one that feels like a "movie," if that makes any sense. It's wonderfully experimental too. There's shifts in animation styles like with the time machine bits (which are so weirdly done, it's hard not to love), cotton candy brains, and of course with the guardian who watches over time. It's inventive, and these ever changing styles work well with this film's incredibly fast pace.  But the biggest problem with the film is simultaneously its biggest asset. It caters to its young audience, which also means it's of very little consequence. A film you can have on in the background and sort of watch, a film you can sit your kids in front of to buy you an hour of quiet time, and it's a film without some grand message about the human condition (or any message beyond "te-am wok") to interpret. And while the film is fun, there are some decisions that are far too zany and experimental to work even for the kids it's trying to entertain (the final few minutes will definitely make you scratch your head). Yet, it's hard not to love a film with a main character who, at his most rebellious, mixes garbage with the recycling. Oh, and I almost forgot about Antonio Banderas! He completely throws himself into this, and is in one of the funnest roles I've seen him in a long time.  While it's not perfect, Sponge Out of Water isn't afraid to have fun at its own expense. It's a party celebrating Spongebob Squarepants and the fact that it's still popular enough to churn out a movie ten years later. In fact, it won't care what I think as its naive charm will continue to entertain regardless of what I've said here.  If you're going to see The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water for more of Spongebob Squarepants (absorbent and yellow and porous is he) then you won't be disappointed. For everyone else, they'll drop on the deck and flop like a fish.
Spongebob Review photo
A good movie, if nautical nonsense be something you wish
This may come as a surprise to you, but Spongebob Squarepants is still the juggernaut of a cartoon it was when it first debuted back in 1999. Never ceasing to keep kids' attention thanks to its unique characters and ever evol...

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I haven't been very silent about this, but I am actually mad hyped for The Spongebob Squarepants Movie: Sponge Out of Water. The cartoon has been very good the past few years (and was even entertaining at inception, too), an...

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