Posts Tagged ‘animated film’

Ezra’s Favorite Movies Of 2014

Posted 17 Feb 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

The Lego MovieThis was the year I realized that my annual goal of seeing pretty much every movie released in a given year was more impossible than ever. The reason for this is the exponential growth in the number of films now being released in the digital age. When I started doing these lists back in 2001, there were about 300 official releases per year; now it’s closer to 700. With that in mind, I’d like to start with a partial list of movies I meant to see in 2014, but just didn’t get to in time. Then, to acknowledge the relatively arbitrary nature of these lists in general, I’m listing my Top 10 in categories by which each film corresponds to another one from my Top 20 (only the Top 10 is ranked in order of preference). It’ll make more sense as you read it, I promise.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN (40 movies I didn’t see in time for this list, in alphabetical order): Bird People; The Boxtrolls; Calvary; Chef; Citizenfour; Coherence; The Congress; Enemy; Fading Gigolo; Filth; Force Majeure; Foxcatcher; Frank; Fury; Gloria; Happy Christmas; Ida; Joe; A Letter to Momo; Leviathan; Life After Beth; Like Father, Like Son; Lucy; Men, Women & Children; A Million Ways to Die in the West; Mr. Turner; Moebius; A Most Violent Year; Night Moves; Palo Alto; The Rocket; The Sacrament; St. Vincent; Song of the Sea; Starred Up; Stonehearst Asylum; Top Five; 22 Jump Street; Virunga; Wrinkles.

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Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Films of 2012

Posted 15 Feb 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Grey is nothing but desolate Alaskan wilderness and people being brutally murdered by wolves for two hours. What's not to love?I’ve been making these lists, in one form or another, for a dozen years now, and every year I’ve done my best to balance my own personal preferences with an objective and educated view of cinema in order to recommend not only my personal favorite films of any given year, but also those I believe to be the best. Well, no more! This year, and forever onward, I strive to give you only my own subjective favorites, the films that I have watched and am likely to watch over and over again throughout the years. When I look back over the last five years, for example, I have to admit that these have proven to be my actual favorite films, despite what I may have written at the time in an effort to recognize other worthy cinematic achievements to which I may or may not have returned even once in the years since: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007); The Dark Knight (2008); Inglourious Basterds (2009); Dogtooth (2010); and Drive (2011).

Of those five, only Dogtooth actually topped my list at the time. So, with this in mind, I present my favorite films of 2012, in all their highly subjective glory. Since ranking films in order of preference is often at least somewhat arbitrary, I should admit that some of these may have made it into the top 10, rather than the runner-up category, solely because they were more fun to write about. However, my top 5 is solidly made up of films I have already seen at least twice, and feel strongly that I would be more than happy to watch again at absolutely any time. Read More

Coraline – Henry Selick And The Giant Letdown

Posted 02 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Animation, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin

Coraline, USA, 2009  Coraline is a 2009 stop-motion 3D fantasy children's film based on Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel of the same name.

Written and Directed by Henry Selick

Based on the Book Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Henry Selick, notable director of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), is hit or miss. With James and the Giant Peach (1996) and the aforementioned Nightmare under his belt, I’m not quite sure where he went wrong. Those two organically energetic and bright films were followed by Monkeybone (2001), and the soulless concoction of Coraline. His heart might have been in the right place, and I’m sure his intention outweighs the validity of the project, but it’s been years since I’ve seen a film so bereft of heart. This is not to imply that heart means something jolly or even fun, but rather a passion for craft, mainly. The film as a whole winds up being depressing, mainly because of this lack, and ugly for a slew of other reasons, and while moments of the film remain frightening, as does the entire idea behind it, there’s something intangible that’s hard to abide. Read More

Kung Fu Panda 2 – More Black Than White

Posted 21 Jun 2011 — by contributor
Category Animation, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Kung Fu Panda 2, USA, 2011

Directed by Jennifer Yuh

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a 2011 3D American computer-animated action comedy film and the sequel to the 2008 film Kung Fu Panda. Perhaps the most important aspect of Kung Fu Panda 2 (and I never thought I would type this) is that the series is aging with its fans; so much so that I could expect Panda 3 to be the most adult of the series. They’ve already started exploring more personal themes than the last entry, which mostly took the themes of following your heart and believing in yourself and employed them. Here, the story deepens more than you might expect, dealing with themes of adoption, unrequited love, and acceptance of others. More importantly, the imagination of the film has grown tenfold.

Of course, there’s a bit of formula; you can’t escape the fact that it’s a kid’s movie, but it gets further away from the drama-killing formula that impeded the first film. When I sat down in the movie theater in 2008, I knew exactly what I was getting. It was going to be a film about a goofy “man-boy” (bear-cub?) panda who doesn’t quite belong, who gets a Jungian call to duty to learn kung fu and save his village. Here, that formula is side-stepped in favor of a generally engrossing and slightly depressing storyline. Po (voiced by Jack Black) finds out that he’s adopted and wants to find his biological parents, he’s in love with Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), who may or may not share his feelings, and the entire country of China is under attack by a villain who has a cannon that shoots a blast so powerful it wipes out any trace of the kung fu that seems to be the nation’s bread-and-butter. So Po and his Furious Five – Tigress, Crane (voiced by David Cross), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen), Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan), and Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu) – go off to defeat it; but how do you use kung fu to stop something that stops kung fu? “By finding inner peace,” Po’s mentor, Master Shinfu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), tells him. That’s heavy. Read More


Posted 25 May 2011 — by Nicole P
Category Animation, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Rango, USA, 2011

Directed by Gore VerbinskiRango film

I wasn’t prepared for Rango to be as dark as it was. Gore Verbinski has always been a director to dabble into life’s bigger questions with a lot of subtle ease, without losing the ostensibly fun side to his films, but, with this being an animated Nickelodeon production and all, I was blind-sided by the depth of John Logan’s screenplay and the heartfelt genuineness of Johnny Depp’s performance as a chameleon with an identity crisis. To be fair, the screenplay’s base elements are very standard – there is a formula, and you know where the film is headed as soon as it starts – but, to the film’s credit, everything that happens in between is remarkably intelligent.

And the whole thing feels like a painting. Gotta love that.

Consider that this one of the rare CGI films that pays respects to traditionally animated films; remember that Tangled (2010) was specifically designed to look like oil paintings and 2D animation. Rango achieves this without the oil painting angle, and does so seamlessly. I couldn’t point to one shot that didn’t look carefully rendered. I also had a hard time not picking out references to other films. I like movies that respect their elders. Nods to Star Wars, Raising Arizona (tell me that score doesn’t have echoes here), and obviously older westerns are everywhere. There’s even a certain cameo that ties the entire story together and references that by which the entire Western genre has come to be recognized. Read More


Posted 22 May 2011 — by contributor
Category Animation, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Rio, USA, 2011Rio film in 3D

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

There aren’t many reasons to seek out a film like Rio. It’s probably the very definition of inconsequential. But I  imagine that the filmmakers, who also gave us the three Ice Age movies, didn’t have much consequence in mind. A domesticated blue macaw is kidnapped and taken to Rio De Janeiro to mate with the only other bird of his kind. A weird hypothesis for the film to take, considering that we aren’t told what kind of blue macaw these birds are – hyacinth or throated? Is it a Spix blue macaw? And even so, why are there only two of them left? I’m not an ornithologist, but this crossed my mind more than once during the film. Suspending disbelief works most of the time.

Early on in the film, and by “early on” I mean “pretty much during the opening credits”, we’re let in on the joke: this is a film about a bird finding the courage to fly. Of course, flying is a metaphor for being free. It’s not that the bird can’t fly, so he doesn’t have any sort of disability to overcome; it’s that he was knocked out of a tree by poachers when he was extremely young, and just never learned. This bird is Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), and he grew up in the warm protective arms of a woman named Linda (voiced with love by Leslie Mann). Linda has no idea how special Blu is, and neither does he, until (for some reason) a Brazilian bird doctor walks past their bookstore and sees Blu for what he is – the last of his kind, sort of. The three of them go to Brazil, right before Carnival, to mate Blu with Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway) in order to continue the race. The birds are kidnapped for other gains, and the film finally truly starts, with absolutely no urgency whatsoever. Read More

Gnomeo & Juliet

Posted 07 May 2011 — by contributor
Category Animation, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin

Gnomeo & Juliet, UK / USA, 2011Gnomeo and Juliet Poster

Directed by Kelly Asbury

In what might become an anthem for the Gnome Liberation Front, Gnomeo & Juliet (very loosely) retells the story of William Shakespeare’s famed tragedy of nearly the same name. But, after all, a movie about doomed garden gnome love by any other name is still as dreadful. Oddly enough, a pastiche of Shakespeare puns and gardening jokes took nine writers – Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Mark Burton, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Steve Hamilton Shaw, Kelly Asbury, Rob Sprackling, and John R. Smith – to fully realize. That might be the funniest thing about the film. Between them, be it final touch-ups, penning the original stories, script drafts, or tossing in jokes here and there, they pulled off true movie magic: a film that feels like it has no screenplay at all, written by a small committee.

Most of us grew up knowing the story of Romeo and Juliet, and for the little kids who are for some reason seeing this film, a small gnome sets our scene: “Two gardens, both alike in dignity, in fair grass, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil dirt makes civil ceramic unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes a pair of star-cross’d gnomes pull through it all right; whose misadventured piteous overthrows do with their lame puns bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage of their scuff-mark’d love, and the continuance of their parents’ rage, which, but their children’s end, nought could remove, is now the 86 minutes’ traffic of our stage; the which if you with patient ears attend, what here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.” And if you’ll buy that, I have a bridge I need to get off my hands. Baz Lurhmann’s take, 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, was rooted in gang violence in Southern California. That feud was believable. All other versions, we’re committed to going along with simply because they’re direct adaptations of the play. Here, we’re expected to believe several key things without batting an eye. Read More