Tag Archive: animated movies


Raya a

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raya and the Last Dragon is the first animated movie created during the pandemic, with 900 creators working together to make a full-scale feature film from home.  The result is the best Disney animated film to date, filled with a great story combining all sorts of fantasy tropes, great visual action, exciting characters, good humor, blending historic themes with modern ideas and characters.  The entirely computer animated film also sports three strong female lead characters and is backed by an all female technical leadership team.  The result is a movie blending elements of Asian culture on par with Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the fantastical elements of The Lord of the Rings.  Count Raya and the Last Dragon among the creative works that shine brightly despite the adverse conditions of 2020. 

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Sony Pictures Animation, the studio that made Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse and the LEGO movies brought its latest and greatest animated film to Netflix earlier this month with The Mitchells vs. The Machines–a sci-fi, apocalypse, coming of age story (reviewed here) about a normal but weird family that tries to dodge a planet-wide extermination resulting from the very technologies humans are so addicted to.  Much of the action takes place during a cross-country trip, and it’s that imagery that is underplayed on the big screen, but really comes to life as incredible art in The Art of The Mitchells vs. The Machines, a behind the scenes book of exploration coming to Amazon here and a bookstore near you next week.  Gravity Falls creators Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe wrote and directed the film, a visually stunning spectacle, with contributions by the Academy Award winning duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (both known for the LEGO movies and Into the Spider-verse).  Author Ramin Zahed interviews those creators and more and shares hundreds of concept art images for this next look into the development of cutting edge animation.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Surprisingly great, surprisingly real, and surprisingly… current?  Sony Pictures Animation, the studio that brought you Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse brings its latest and greatest animated film to Netflix this weekend.  It’s The Mitchells vs. The Machines–a sci-fi, apocalypse, coming of age, story about a weird family that ends up being the last family on the planet to be exterminated from the planet by the very technologies humans are so addicted to.  Gravity Falls creators Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe wrote and directed this story, a visually stunning spectacle reflecting life as we knew it in 2020… and may know it again, with contributions by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (both known for the LEGO movies and Into the Spider-verse).  The themes are influenced by Tron and Tron: Legacy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and the Terminator movies, leaning hard on the plot of Terminator: Genisys.  It’s loud, colorful, crazy, and it gets family relationships just right, at least of the 21st century variety.  It’s also the movie I was hoping for with The Incredibles 2.

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Raya and the Last Dragon is the next animated Disney movie, coming later this winter.  Every new look at the film is more exciting than the last, and this is shaping up to be the next Mulan or MoanaRaya and the Last Dragon is entirely computer animated.  It features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classically designed visual fantasy homage to The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn.  Other cast lending their voices to the film include Gemma Chan (Humans, Captain Marvel) as Namaari, Raya’s chief rival and frenemy, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) as giant warrior Tong, and Daniel Dae Kim (Hellboy) as Raya’s father.

Here’s the second trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the Moon is Netflix’s latest achievement in animation, a Chinese-American production with Pearl Studio about a young girl named Fei Fei (meaning “to fly”) who decides to build a rocket to the moon.  The animation style is a mix of 1990s Disney, elaborate and surreal Fantasia-inspired sequences of color and texture, with doses of Japanese anime and kawaii characters while immersed in Chinese culture–and it’s a musical.   In a word the film is ambitious… in a good way.  At its best, visually the 3D CGI visual effects may recall the groundbreaking imagery of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  The sweet and innocent girl’s story is built on the idea that a kid can actually build a ship to go into outer space (just as in the 1980s film Explorers).  But as with many animated movies, like Bambi and Dumbo, its focus is on the serious issue of overcoming grief, and in this case it’s moving on after the death of a parent, so the audience for the film may be a bit narrow.  To take Netflix viewers on a deeper journey, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin has written a behind the scenes look at the making of the film and its stunning artwork.  Below we have a preview of his Over the Moon: Illuminating the Journey for borg readers.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Comic book readers knew him first when he was created in 2011 from the mind of Brian Michael Bendis in the pages of Marvel Comics, then in 2018 Miles Morales took the world by storm in the groundbreaking animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of the best animated films that year.  A new novel for teens fleshes out the young superhero as he moves to a new neighborhood and experiences a new generation’s take on the teen angst once exhibited in the comics pages of newspapers everywhere by his mentor, Peter Parker.  Spider-Man Miles Morales: Wings of Fury is a prequel novel (not a comic book) to the new PlayStation game Spider-Man: Miles Morales from Insomniac Games and Sony, but it’s a story that can appeal to anyone beaten up and battered around by life and circumstance.

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Notable in part for being the first animated movie out of Disney without the work of creator John Lasseter in 15 years, the next major animated movie from Disney features the voices of two well-known genre stars, and it looks a bit on theme with Disney’s last live-action movie, Mulan.  Raya and the Last Dragon is all computer-animated, and it features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classic fantasy The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn-homage tale.

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It wasn’t enough they got to co-star on Supernatural.  We’ve seen them in a few live action movies, but now we get to see Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Fred, and Daphne on the big screen in animated form in their first full-length animated film The movie is titled Scoob! and it looks like the animation is cranked up a few notches, more like the style of The Incredibles, The Peanuts Movie, Toy Story, and Ferdinand.  And now with theaters closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, this means Scoob!, scheduled to debut in theaters this Friday, instead is coming directly to your home Friday via streaming platforms including Amazon Prime and Vudu.  As part of Vudu’s Theater at Home, you can also get a $3 credit via email by pre-ordering Scoob! today–May 14–only.

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altered-carbon-resleeved

Review by C.J. Bunce

Audiences have seen some great animated films in recent years, with movies upping the ante on technology and visual magic, whether in Ferdinand or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse or Spies in Disguise or Klaus.  Netflix’s new anime movie, a sequel to its live-action, futuristic, sci-fi hit Altered Carbon, takes animation and visual effects even further.  Altered Carbon: Resleeved is part Blade Runner 2049, part Marvel’s The Punisher (season two), and part Wu Assassins.  Live-action action sequences are rarely as thrilling as those choreographed in this film.

As with the live-action Altered Carbon, the inspiration from Syd Mead’s trademark futurism is all over this film, and that world looks just as stunning in anime form.  The storyboarding and layouts, the surprise screen angles, wipes, and character movements are like nothing you’ve seen before, and the details are at times life-like and three dimensional.  The story and execution is a vast improvement on the second season of the live-action show, which was a really good season of episodes to begin with.

Gena

Two years after the end of season two we catch up with Takeshi Kovacs, resleeved and working a job for Mr. Tanaseda, who has him pursuing a girl named Holly, a tattoo artist with cybernetic eyes and pawn of the yakuza, who carries some critical secrets.  Working for CTAC is Gena, a badass agent carrying secrets, who clashes with Kovacs early on.  It’s two days from an ascension ceremony–the anointing of a new mob boss–and in that time Kovacs must figure out why Mr. Tanaseda has set him on this job.  The anime film, available with English subtitles or dubbed, has a new hotel and a new concierge named Ogai (voiced in the dubbed version by Chris Conner, who plays the concierge, Poe, and hotel manager in the live-action series).  Ogai is a holographic Japanese man loyal to the new boss, but fond of Holly.  Fans of the series will find his hotel to have equally exciting defensive feature’s as Poe’s hotel, The Raven.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A blend of Spectre, Mission: Impossible, and Zootopia is coming your way this Christmas, and it has the look, humor, strong writing, and overall vibe of The Incredibles.  It’s director Nick Bruno and Troy Quane′s new animated film, Spies in DisguiseWant to see a U.S. version of James Bond?  How about Will Smith as James Bond?  Or a story focused on the character Q?  Like The Incredibles it has a great musical score, fast action, quick edits, lifelike CGI environments, and fun that will having you laughing out loud throughout the entire movie.  That and more is what you get with Spies in DisguiseIn his third film this year, Will Smith isn’t actually playing James Bond, but a familiar type of spy named Lance Sterling, who works in a U.S. spy facility in Washington, DC, located under the National Mall.  At the section that is the equivalent of the Bond world’s Q Branch is a host of scientists making the latest weaponry and safety equipment for Sterling and his peers.

Enter Spider-Man actor Tom Holland′s Walter Beckett, who has been an inventor of spy gadget toys since his youth, living with his mom who was a cop who later died on duty, and now he’s creating the real thing.  Only Walter’s gadgets don’t kill or hurt–they resolve conflicts in other ways.  Sterling learns this when he tries to set off a bomb when surrounded by 70 villains at a drug lord’s lair in Japan.  Instead of leaving everyone dead, it sets off Walter’s Kitty Glitter bomb–which allows Sterling to escape by temporarily disorienting the enemy with a glitter cloud and cute cat video.  This is a great family film with heart like you’d find in the Aardman’s holiday treasure Arthur Christmas, putting a stiff master spy with a young optimist very much like Arthur of the Christmas movie, borrowing that film’s theme, “being weird or different is cool.”

To defeat Sterling’s greatest foes–a cyborg with a high-tech arm named Killian voiced by Rogue One, Ready Player One, and Captain Marvel’s Ben Mendelsohn and the drug lord, Kimura, voiced by Heroes, Hawaii Five-O, and The Meg’s Masi Oka–Sterling needs the ultimate weapon.  Walter thinks he has that weapon almost perfected, but before he has a chance to explain it Sterling drinks down the formula for it.  As advertised in the trailer, it makes Sterling d-i-s-a-p-p-e-a-r, and in Walter’s view disappear means take on the form of a pigeon–yes, a pigeon–so the spy won’t be detected, because nobody pays attention to pigeons, right?  Every city has ’em.  And it only gets better from there.  Walter’s Q shop of tech ideas is nothing short of brilliant, funny, and even thought-provoking, including his all-protective Inflatable Hug.

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