Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs/ dir. Phil Lord & Chris Miller/ 2009

A cooky inventor creates a machine that turns water into food. The machine ends up in the sky somehow, and it rains down food…

Did you just roll your eyes? I know I did when I first heard the silly premise of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. And yes, it IS a silly premise. Loosely based on the 1978 book of the same name, the directors, writers, animators, etc. obviously had fun with this premise of food falling from the sky, as there was little bits of slapstick all over the place, sometimes too much, and many times, WAAY overdone. However, a silly premise does not necessarily mean bad movie. In fact, underneath all the comedic bits, overacting, food falling from the sky, and outrageous action scenes lies a pretty decent animated film. Actually Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs is more than decent, with subtle sophisticated social commentaries, a fun supporting cast, a genuine telling of a strained relationship of a father and son,  it’s a really deep and engaging movie. Continue reading

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Filipin@s: Ricky Nierva

Speaking of the First Quarter Storm, I thought this would be an appropriate time to bring back my Filipin@s post. This time I would like present Ricky Nierva. Yet another Pixar important person, he was a story artist on Toy Story 2, the character designer for Monsters Inc., the art director for Finding Nemo, and the production designer for Up.

Click here to hear the Spline Doctors podcast with Ricky Nierva

So the best run of animated movies since the 90s Disney movies and a Filipin@ is involved in much of the look and design… hmmm….

Astro Boy

Astro Boy/ dir. David Bowers/ 2009

Astro Boy, a character created from the mind of Osamu Tezuka (aka the godfather of anime) back in the 1950s, is one of the most famous manga/ anime characters ever. For those of us who remember watching the reruns of the 1960s anime series back in the 80s or 90s, or for those of us who are fans of old school manga/ anime, Astro Boy, much like Mickey Mouse, and Bugs Bunny, is a timeless character. I, personally, forget about his origin as Dr. Tenma’s attempt to replace his deceased son, but what I DO remember is the fantastic fights he had against other robots and alien invaders. So when I heard that a remake of Astro Boy in glorious CG was going to come out in 2009, I was a little excited. Then I thought about the idea a little more… then I came to a realization that no matter what, Astro Boy would not live up to expectations…

And yeah, I was right. However, that doesn’t mean that Astro Boy isn’t a decent movie. The story does its best with the “what does it be mean to be human” theme crossed with a psuedo “upper class” vs. “lower class” vibe, with bits of other sci-fi cliches strewn in. It’s pretty entertaining, but in the end it just wasn’t Astro Boy. Continue reading

A Christmas Carol 3D

A Christmas Carol 3D/ dir. Robert Zemeckis/ 2009

A Christmas Carol. You know the story. Ebenezer Scrooge, crotchety old man is visited by 3 ghosts on Christmas Eve and eventually learns the true spirit of Christmas, blah, blah, etc. it’s been told many times over. It has been adapted, spoofed, modernized, retro-ed, turned around, flipped, and some have even attempted sequels. I have some qualms with the story, for example its told in the perspective of a rich, old, bourgeois, white male, and at times it presents a “rich man’s burden” theme. But you know what, I actually enjoy the story. Redemption and spending quality time with friends and family, that’s the Christmas spirit I’m down with. So in my mind, you really can’t screw up the story.

What CAN be screwed up are the elements that go into  presenting that story. And as much I enjoyed the excellent animation, the visual effects, the Victorian atmosphere, and the voice performances by Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman, this newest Disney version of A Christmas Carol lacked that one thing that is essential to this classic story… heart… Continue reading

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox/ dir. Wes Anderson/ 2009

For most of 2009, I would head out to movie theaters usually before noontime and watch animated films in a near empty theater, maybe one or two more adults, and possibly a family. I felt content too, the less the better. By myself, I could analyze the animation, the story, the acting, the characters, etc. and after, while the credits roll, I have a moment or two to process what was just presented to me. However, this all changed after watching Fantastic Mr. Fox. Instead of being an early morning loner, I decided to see this movie on a Wednesday night with my friend, Jessica, and wow what a difference. Before the movie, I had someone to dialogue with about expectations for the movie, and at the end, we were able to chat about our thoughts after. Now obviously I have watched movies with other people before (I ain’t that un-social), but it was quite a long time since I saw an animated feature with someone else (the last time being here), so you can imagine how unique this experience felt to me.

Now how does this relate to Fantastic Mr. Fox? (I bet you were wondering…) After a whole year of watching animated features, they all just kind of blended together. What I got from Fantastic Mr. Fox was something different than most animated features that are released. Yeah, there were some animated features this year that were really good, and some not so good, but none were as unique or as fantastic (Oh and a pun!) as Fantastic Mr. FoxContinue reading

Ponyo

崖の上のポニョ Gake no Ue no Ponyo (English: Ponyo)/ dir. Hayao Miyazaki/ 2008 Japan/ 2009 US

It takes real skill to fill the screen with emotion and high drama without having an actual antagonist. It also takes real skill to transport the audience into a world based on real-life, but at the same time have so much magic and awe-inspiring moments that seem so natural that you can’t help but be transfixed to the screen. This is Ponyo, Miyazaki’s latest film loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid about a young goldfish that longs to be a little girl. Unlike other quality animated movies this year, that attempt to cater to the younger audience AND at the same time add in some flair here and there for the adults in the audience, Miyazaki does NONE of that. He knows his target audience is going to be 10 years and younger, but he does something equally impressive. Instead of trying to preen some adult themes into this film, he does the almost inconceivable task of transporting the whole audience back into their childhood.

And for me it worked… Continue reading

I Ain’t Done With You Just Yet….

With the new year comes a new look, some new goals, more artwork, new blog posts, and a new… well, many things to look forward to in 2010.

HOWEVER, don’t go anywhere 2009. I ain’t done with you just yet…

Most places have (stupidly) already done a 2009 year in review waay back in early December. Not me! I’m going to chew on 2009 for a bit before I make my final decisions. Yes, I’ll have a best animated movies of 2009 post, but I gotta finish writing about them (This is what happens when I take 3 months off). Anyway, I hope to have a “best of” by the end of the month. But until then, you all can look forward to seeing a write-up of all these 2009 animated movies:

Now I have already seen all these movies, save for one. I still need to see Princess and the Frog to complete my 2009 animated feature list.

Don’t worry I will watch it though, anyone want to come with me? Let me know…

I’ve got lots of writing to do ^_^!!!

Review: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D/ dir. Carlos Saldanha/ 2009

iceage3posterI enjoyed the original Ice Age. The story of a rag tag group trying to reunite a baby with his human parents during the Ice Age was at the very least, entertaining. Plus in 2002, CG animated films were just starting to trickle in, so there was still a little novelty in the CG animated movie. The sequel, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, yeah I watched it, but to be completely honest, I can not recall what the plot of that movie was. All I remember was that Queen Latifah played the female wooly mammoth. So that pretty much explains my experiences with the Ice Age franchise. So when I decided to make Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D (Ice Age 3) my early Sunday morning movie, I really had no expectations. I did hear some comments from animation students and teachers saying that it was “the best of the 3 Ice Age movies,” but my response was “eh, we’ll see…”

Well, to my pleasant surprise, Ice Age 3 delivered an entertaining movie with some great comedic moments. I still give the nod to the OG Ice Age film, since it was, you know, the ORIGINAL, but Ice Age 3 is a good family/ children’s flick that I’m pretty sure the kids will enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, Ice Age 3 was mostly family kid-friendly fluff, but it was entertaining family fluff and I’m pretty sure that was the point. Continue reading