Tag Archive: best animated film


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

Only mere seconds into Farmageddonthe next big production from frequent Oscar-winner and stop-motion pioneer Aardman Animations–and viewers will feel the pangs of their favorite classic Steven Spielberg movies, complete with a magical score that has all the beats of a John Williams-esque adventure, thanks to composer Tom Howe.  This is a return to the lovable Aardman underdog Shaun the Sheep, star of several series and films who we last saw on the big screen in 2015’s Shaun the Sheep movie.  But this time our lovable wooly hero encounters an alien visitor and the resulting effort by directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan with writers Jon Brown, Mark Burton, and Nick Park may be Aardman’s most effective, most lovable, and most far-reaching crowd-pleaser to date.  A direct-to-Netflix presentation, it also stands a chance at being a contender for best full-length animated film at next year’s Oscars.

Shaun the Sheep steps in for Spielberg’s Elliott in this modern close encounter with a lovable extra-terrestrial named Lu-la, so adorable that she may even make Baby Yoda go “awww.”  The impeccable stop-motion animation viewers expect from Aardman is here, as well as the cast of endearing anthropomorphic farm animals, but the heartfelt story, unthinkably successful chemistry between clay characters, exquisite visual effects, lighting, and cinematography, and an emotional score make for a triumph of sci-fi and family storytelling, proving a common language is not necessary to understand relationships between someone that might be a bit different.  Here that’s a sheep and an alien, but the story is effective enough that kids (and attentive adults) will apply the message to everyone.  In fact, Aardman proves language isn’t necessary at all–the story is told entirely without spoken English dialogue, relying on expressive visuals, animal voices, and sound effects, making it truly internationally (or intergalactically) enjoyable.

This fun new sci-fi/fantasy adventure begins with a dog guarding his sheep–a motley but crafty band who live at the farm including Shaun–followed by a great homage to Looney Toons classic barnyard antics as the show establishes the farmyard bond between sheep and dog and dog and man.  The man and dog– The Farmer and Bitzer–show Aardman going back to its roots, what first made the filmmaker internationally known through its award-winning shorts.  Wallace and Gromit could be cousins to this man and dog duo, and anchoring the film with the ensemble here again (as with past Shaun stories) instead of going off in a different direction was a wise choice.  It takes a special combination to merge classic animation with expert laugh-out-loud comedy situations, and the creators at Aardman are the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the spirit and creativity of Jim Henson.  The story is sweet and can appeal to a variety of audiences.  The older crowd can try to spot all the influences, and the young at heart can marvel at Farmageddon′s sheer joyous presentation.

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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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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This weekend, we finally got a chance to see Disney-Pixar’s Brave, which we’ve been anxiously awaiting since last summer.  It was worth the wait.  This tale of a young Scottish princess who feels stifled by her mother’s dignified plans for her future may be the finest achievement in film animation to date.  Remember the excitement and celebration around 1992’s Beauty and the BeastBrave is even better, certainly deserving of Best Picture nominations come awards season.

The movie opens with breathaking panoramic establishing shots of a cliffside highland landscape overlooking the sea.  From craggy heath to towering forest to mysterious standing stones, the world of Brave is spectacular and fully realized–a setting you’re delighted to spend the next 100 minutes soaking up.  The characters are absolutely lifelike, featuring incredibly naturalistic movement and impressively detailed textures, from the coarse wool of a well-worn kilt to the flick of a warhorse’s whiskers.  I know next to nothing about digital animation, and it doesn’t matter.  Brave looks completely real.

But you don’t go see a movie because of its technical achievements (well, most of us don’t).  You go for story, characters, action, and heart, and Brave excels here, as well.  The headstrong young heroine who “wants so much more than they’ve got planned” is nothing new–even for Disney–but Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald, State of Play, Gosford Park, Boardwalk Empire) is a fun and spunky addition to the modern Disney Princess lineup.  Neither beauty nor tomboy, she defies pigeonholing–which is, in fact, the crux of her story.  She’s extremely likable, but her adventure is the product of her own poor judgment.  If anything, the well-built worldbuilding and visual mastery left the major plot turning point feeling a little bit rushed, but it’s forgivable.  What we really care about is how Merida will get out of the trouble she’s caused, and what follows is a truly unique story about shapeshifters, ancient curses, a one-trick witch, and the best (and possibly only) mother-daughter fantasy caught on film.

Brave is also commendable for what’s not in it–no wisecracking warthog sidekicks or bathroom humor assumed necessary to keep the kiddies entertained because they can’t possibly be expected to actually follow the story (there are a couple obligatory kilt jokes, and some slapstick silliness provided by Merida’s younger brothers, but it’s mostly relevant to the plot, not just stuck in to make toddlers squeal)… and no romance.  Merida’s unwanted potential marriage is the catalyst for the plot, but she rides off on adventure all on her own, and barely even speaks to the dubious suitors.  We all love a good romance, but Brave shines without one, and it’s a refreshing change to the Disney fairytale formula.

The strong cast features a host of notable Scots and English actors, including MacDonald, Billy Connolly (Mrs. Brown, Muppet Treasure Island) as Merida’s larger-than-life father King Fergus, and Emma Thompson (Dead Again, Much Ado About Nothing) as the quintessential medieval queen determined to shape her daughter in her own mold.

The film was directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell, and written by that trio and Irene Mecchi.  Brave is in theaters everywhere.