Brief Thoughts on the Films Nominated for Best Animated Feature

I don’t know much about the film industry. I know that I like movies, usually bad ones. I also know that in the early months of the year movie types gather together to pat each other on the back and give each other little gold statues. The best films, actors and all around movie types rarely win or are even nominated. I’ve only seen one of the films that’s been nominated for best picture, granted, it was a pretty awesome movie. If you’ve read any amount of this blog, then you know that I much prefer animation to live action.

Luckily, there’s an awards show just for animation. The 43rd annual Annie Awards are happening this Saturday and I wish that there was a way that I could watch it. On top of working a double shift, I’m not even sure if it’s a televised event. Either way, I much prefer reading about the Annie’s to the Oscars. One, it covers a wider range of movies and two, it’s about more than what people are wearing. Last years Oscars didn’t even bother to show clips of each of the films nominated for Best Animated Feature. This only leads to my suspicion that the Academy doesn’t really care about the category, but with everything that’s been going on with them lately, we all know they suck.

So awards show, I’m bad at predicting them. Last year I was convinced that Lego Movie was going to take the Oscar and it wasn’t even nominated. Then I was sure that How to Train Your Dragon 2  was going to win because the original How to Train Your Dragon, should have one instead of Toy Story 3(and it won the Annie). While I was pleasantly surprised that Big Hero 6 one, Song of the Sea was the best animated film hands down and I really wish it would have won. Which brings me back to my earlier point that the best film rarely wins.

I want to say that I think the Good Dinosaur was the best animated film of the year. It was so heart warming/ wrenching and it was every western ever made and it had dinosaurs and it was perfect. So I was pretty choked that it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but at least it got a nob at the Golden Globes and is nominated for the aforementioned Annie. In the case of both the Oscars and the Annies, I think Inside Out will win. Not only is it superbly animated and a really innovative idea, but it’s also a feel good movie that helps erase the stigma of depression. But I’m pretty awful at picking winners, so I’m probably dead wrong. So in the likely chance that I’m wrong, so for a runner up I’d pick Anomalisa. Personally I found this film a little disappointing, but it’s probably one of the most technically impressive animated movies ever made. It’s one of the few films that came out this year where the characters actually look like real human beings instead of automated fashion dolls.

So  here are some thoughts on the films nominated for Best Animated picture in both the Oscars and the Annies.

I like to find themes in things and last year there was a specific theme in the films nominated for best animated picture last year and that was loss. Four of the five films dealt with the death (or apparent death in the case of Boxtrolls) of a family member, while the tale of Princess Kaguya dealt with the loss of self. This year the theme of the best animated films is largely about identity, finding out who you are and where you fit into the world (All except for maybe Boy and the World as it’s the only one I haven’t seen).

Boy and the World: This is the only film of the nomanies that I haven’t seen. It looks amazing and I want to see it so badly. I’m hoping that it will get a limited release in Calgary like Anomalisa did, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m looking forward to it’s DVD relase, which I will snap up the second I can preorder it.

OS-06

Shaun the Sheep: This is by far the cutest movie of the year, about a group of sheep lead, by the titular Shaun into the Big City, to find their farmer who has lost his memory. This is the movie that Postman Pat should have been, it stays true to its roots, pokes fun at our shallow society and stays relevant. It also doesn’t need dialogue to make a point and is all the stronger for it.

Shaun The Sheep Movie First Look Still

The Peanuts Movie: This is probably the weakest of the films, but boy is it pretty. The animation in this movie is so gorgeous and true to its source material that it alone is worth watching for. The story is simple, pretty much what you’d get out of any given Peanuts television special. The best thing about the Peanuts Movie is that Charlie Brown never compromises being Charlie Brown, even while trying to reinvent himself. There are several moments that Charlie Brown has the opportunity to be a jerk for personal gain, but he never gives in and always does the right thing.

PEANUTS

Inside Out: Inside Out is the simply complex story of a girl and her emotions as she’s moved from everything she knows and cares about. It’s probably one of the most clever films I’ve ever seen and it’s one of the few movies I’ve seen in theaters where people were openly weeping.

OS-04

The Good Dinosaur: I think that this might be the perfect movie for me. It has everything I love, dinosaurs, tragedy, over whelming cute and amazing animation. This is the best thing Pixar has done. Good Dinosaur is every western ever made, particularly the Boy and his wolf narrative. It does an amazing job of matching dinosaurs with western tropes, which are two of my favourite things in the world. It also made one of my favourite dinosaur movies, The Land Before Time, look like annoying garbage. Seriously, I would not recommend watching those two back to back, it hurts the nostalgia.

OS-01

Anomolisa: I wanted this movie to be a lot weirder than it was, but it’s still great regardless. It’s the story of a successful sales writer and the way his mind warps things to justify his awful behaviour. I might have been disappointed with this film when I first saw it, but I’m still talking about it with friends. So there’s that.

OS-02

When Marnie Was There: Much like Inside Out, When Marnie was there follows the emotional journey of a young girl and she goes through a bit of an identity crisis. It’s part ghost story, part love story and full of magic and whimsy. There are a lot of twists and turns and it never quite went where I expected, yet the twists never feel forced. It is one of the weaker films that was nominated, but with everything it’s up against that’s not a bad thing.

OS-08

Advertisements

On the Oscars and the difficulties of baking and smart phones

Around a month ago, the screen on my pitiful excuse of a laptop cracked and for the most part is unusable. I can save my files, but that’s about it. Fortunately my iPhone is far more powerful and it was my goal to do all my posting through the WordPress app. There was just one problem, because I am a baker and a bit of an accident prone one at that, I have very calloused fingertips. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to use a small touch screen with callouses, but the touches don’t always register (I’m typing this with my pinkies). I’d wanted to post about all of the animated movies I’d seen this year, but got frustrated and decided to do it once I have a new computer, which will be very soon.

Since the Oscars are tonight, I thought I’d fight the frustration and post a tiny bit about each film in best animated feature AKA the only category I care about. Now I know that the Annie Awards are a better guide at what’s best in animation, but the Oscars tend to be the award show that everyone watches, so there’s that.

Big Hero Six

IMG_2532

I really loved this movie. It contained the heart of the comic, but without the convoluted BS of the comic. Like most Disney films its sweet and tugs at your heart strings and is filled with memorable characters. My only issue with Big Hero Six is that I would have loved to see more of the other heroes. Hiro and Baymax are awesome, but so were the rest of the team and we got so little of them.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

IMG_2534

This film might very well be the last film that Studio Ghibli ever puts out and if it is, they left on a spectacular note. This film is exceedingly beautiful and is a thrill to watch. It never speaks down to its audience, never compromises and is so much better for it.

Song of the Sea

IMG_2533

I don’t have words for how beautiful this film it is. It’s predecessor Secret of Kells is completely blown out of the water by Song of the Sea, which is no small feat. Everything about this film is near perfect, from its sweeping scope to its storybook visuals, Song of the Sea is just plain amazing. I hope against hopes it will wins, but also nominated is…

IMG_2535

How To Train Your Dragon 2

I’m about 85% sure that How To Train Your Dragon 2 will win top prize. It won the Golden Globe, it took home the Annie, so it’s likely it’ll win. I loved this movie, but I do think it’s the weakest of the five nominated. Part of this because the film could have used a better villain. But for the second part of a trilogy its pretty damn good.

The Boxtrolls

1400.0900.fin.001._L.0184_CC.tiff

I’ve already talked about Boxtrolls, it’s awesome and an awesome labour of love that makes me smile with the mention of cheese.

Boxtrolls AKA Another reason why stop motion is amazing

2015/01/img_2495.jpg

So my sorry excuse for a computer is unusable at the moment, which makes posting quite difficult. So I’m going to try a little experiment and try to do a full entry by my Info Pod also known as my cell phone.

When I was younger stop motion animation kind of freaked me out, but in that fascinating good way that makes up childhood wonder. Despite most of the animation being quite cartoonish and in hindsight, a little creepy, it was hard not to watch. I think it was the slight jerkiness of the characters movements that intrigued me the most, because while it seemed unnatural it was ultimately organic to the world created by the animation.

2015/01/img_2496.jpg

Despite the intense labour involved in creating a stop motion production, there was a ton of it when I was growing up. Then Toy Story happened and it was amazing and we learned that computers could be used to create something similar to stop motion only without the labour. Stop motion productions started to wane and sort of became a novelty. Sure, they pop up once and a while but they’ve never been quite as prevalent as they were before the turn of the millennium.

2015/01/img_2497.jpg

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since most of the stop motion productions that have come out since the onset computer animation (as in 3D rendered pictures as most modern animated films have some element of computer effects in them) have been spectacular. Stop motion is an intense labour of love that can be seen in every background, model and movement. Even though most stop motion films these days are nominated for an Oscar (because let’s face it the academy likes to give a nod to each school of animation, typically three CG, one traditional and whatever stop motion film came out.) the quality is usually so high that it doesn’t feel like pandering. So let’s look at this years stop motion entry the Boxtrolls.

2015/01/img_2489.png

The Boxtrolls is the story of a group of box wearing subterranean builders who roam streets at night looking for discarded treasures. When they come into the possession of a baby the Boxtrolls world is forever turned upside down. Accused of stealing and murdering the child, the Boxtrolls are hunted by the ambitious Archibald Snatcher who plans to use their extinction as a means of gaining political power. Years later the Boxtrolls are still being hunted and the child has grown into Eggs, a boy who thinks he’s a Boxtroll.

2015/01/img_2491.jpg

With their numbers dwindling the Boxtrolls try to go on with life as usual, which proves to be very hard for Eggs. However, it’s not until Fish, Eggs father figure, is captured that Eggs ventures into the human world to reclaim his friends. Can Eggs save the Boxtrolls from the wicked Mr. Snatcher, all while learning who he is and his place in the world?

2015/01/img_2490.jpg

The Boxtrolls is a spectacularly beautiful film that’s not only stunning to look at, but a delight to watch. This follows the Laika tradition that was started by Coraline and Paranorman. Everything in Boxtrolls is a treat to look at. The sets are immersive, the characters are emotive and even the movement feels natural. When you watch the Boxtrolls you fall into a fully formed world. It’s not just the visuals that are outstanding, but the writing as well. Boxtrolls is clever and witty, pulls at your heartstrings without pandering. It never talks down or underestimates its audience, making it the perfect family movie.

2015/01/img_2492.jpg

Voice acting is something that I often compliment, because in most of the big name animated films they will have a stellar cast. Even if the movie is awful, chances are the voice work will be solid. Boxtrolls is no different with amazing performances given by Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Elle Fanning Nick Frost and Tracy Morgan. Yeah, you read that right. I’m not going to lie, I find Tracy Morgan irritating, especially in animated films. Boxtrolls is the first time I’ve actually seen Tracy Morgan play someone other than Tracy Morgan, which is kind of reason enough to give Boxtrolls a watch.

2015/01/img_2494-0.jpg

So if you’re looking for a film that will entertain you and captivate your imagination, give the Boxtrolls a shot. It’ll make you laugh, smile and even cringe a little…you may never look at cheese the same way again.

2015/01/img_2498.jpg

Just to prove I know nothing about movies…

Yesterday I predicted that the Lego Movie would not only be nominated for best animated feature, but that it would win as well. Today the Oscar Nominations came out and Lego Movie wasn’t even nominated. And that’s kind of fantastic.

I based my prediction on past films that had been nominated and won. And in the past, with the exception of Spirited Away, the best animated film didn’t always win best animated feature. Films that were very meh have been nominated over far superior films and the only factor I could fathom that could cause that was box office money. Except for How to Train Your Dragon 2, Lego Movie made the most. I’ve made an effort to see almost every animated feature that came out this year and you know what, out of everything I saw this year, the top five are nominated. My gut tells me How to Train Your Dragon, but I’m hoping for Song of the Sea.

2015/01/img_2484-0.jpg

The Lego Movie AKA My Favourite Commercial

So, the Oscars are going to be announced tomorrow(or today depending on when I hit post), which is a big thing, I guess, for the movies. Okay it’s a very big thing and a lot of people watch and get invested in them. When I was in my early teens and had aspirations of being an actress, I used to watch them religiously. I never followed these aspirations, which is good because I’m a bad actor and had very poor judgement at eighteen, there’s probably a sad alternate universe where I ended up in the adult film industry. Regardless of alternate universes, the Oscars are coming up and people make predictions about these things.

lego-06

Now there are only two categories that I care about and those are best feature and short animations. Sadly, I haven’t seen enough short animated films from 2014 to make an educated guess, luckily after the Oscar announcements finding those short animated shorts becomes much easier. So hear are my predictions for the nominations for best animated feature length film. Big Hero Six, Boxtrolls, Song of the Sea or Princess Kaguya, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and the Lego Movie. (I’d like to see Song of the Sea and Princess Kaguya get nominated, but since Dream Works and Disney both have fantastic entries, the Lego Movie made a ton of money and there is usually a nod to stop motion, there might only be one spot for traditional animation) And since the Oscar rarely goes to the best film, I predict the Lego Movie will win.

lego-01

Speaking of the Lego Movie, let’s talk about the Lego Movie. There have been several Lego Movies and video games, most of them are based on various franchises such as Star Wars, Batman and the Marvel Universe. I haven’t seen these movies or played these games, but I’ve heard they’re fun and a good watch if you can get past the production values. My experience with Lego was built entirely of my imagination. It involved epic battles between My Little Pony and the Jurassic Park dinosaurs.

7031039

I didn’t expect much from the Lego Movie, because at its centre, it’s a feature length commercial. I’ve been burned by feature length commercials before; just look at Battleship and most of the Transformer movies or Foodfight!…but we’ll get to Foodfight! soon enough. I walked into the Lego Movie with low expectations, because how can a movie encompass all of the craziness and fun that is Lego. As a toy, Lego can be imagination incarnate. Most movies based on products suck the imagination out of you and leave a mundane husk; they will take hours of your life and laugh about it. I went in kind of expecting to be crushed and was proven completely wrong.

lego-05

The Lego Movie is about a young minifig named Emmet Brickowoski, who does his best to fit in and follow all of the rules. He wakes up, goes to work and follows all of the rules. Rules are a big part of Emmet’s life. There is nothing special about him, he is so unremarkable that his co-workers don’t even know who he is. After a chance encounter with Wyldstyle, Emmet is stuck to a mysterious and magical item. He learns from the wise minifig Vitruvius that he is the special and the key to stopping the Evil Lord Business freezing the the entire Lego world with krackle. Can Emmet unlock his potential and help the other master builders stop Lord Business or will Emmet forever be unspecial and unremarkable?

LEGO

The Lego Movie blew me away in several ways, first and foremost with its animation. The Lego Movie looks amazing, it has the tactile feel of stop motion yet creates such grand and epic effects that could have only been done on computer. Each and every brick is lovingly filled with personality, scuffed and worn as if it came from my own childhood toy box. Character movements are authentic to the way you’d play with your minifigs, these are toys and the movie never lets you forget it. Both standard sets and original creations are rendered in an homage to both those original sets and the pieces we all created as children.

lego-02

Apart from the animation the voice acting is awesome, it’s so good that you’ll forgive some of the more cliche parts of the plot. In fact the combination of animation and voice acting is so much fun that I was able to ignore that the Lego Movie’s plot revolves around my least favourite troupe. The troupe where a boring man meets an amazing woman and she teaches him everything she know and he gets all of the glory, usually makes me grind my teeth, but the Lego Movie does this well. In fact this is the best that this trope has ever been done. What the Lego Movie does right is that it captures the childhood wonder of the Lego stories we would all create. We can forgive the clicheness of the plot, because our own story-lines might have been a bit cliche themselves.

lego-03

The Lego movie may not be the best animated film of the year, but it was the most fun. The Lego Movie is a movie that’s hard to stay mad while watching. Yes it has all of the cliches, but it has so much fun with them that you forget that they’re there, you forget that you’re watching 101 minute commercial. So, if you are one of the few people that hasn’t seen the Lego Movie go watch it, you likely won’t be disappointed.

Postman Pat: The Movie AKA A Biting Critique of Pop Culture…several years too late

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Postman Pat, it’s a British stop-motion animation series aimed at very young children. Most episodes concerned Pat and his cat Jess as they delivered the mail and helped out a villager or two. The show had a really catchy theme that was just about as auditorily infectious as the Duck Tales theme. From what I remember the show either aired on CBC or YTV here in Canada and I enjoyed watching it as a kid. It was cute, quaint and was one of those rare shows that existed in a sweet, benign universe. It dealt with the adorable and sweet side of real life. The show started in 1981 and through a variety of property transfers, is still going.

pp-06

So what better way to honour a time tested and loved series than by making a feature film. You know, like Garfield or the Chipmunks or Smurfs or any other gross, unneeded violation of childhood icons. Now, Postman Pat isn’t nearly as bad as those other cinematic abortions, but it’s not great and I’m almost inclined to say that it’s the worst animated film of 2014, but then I remembered Legends of Oz.

pp-02

Postman Pat: The Movie is needlessly complicated while being incredibly dull. It starts out as any typical episode of Postman Pat with Pat and Jess delivering the mail. Pat’s excited because he’s going to get his bonus and is planing on using the money to take his wife to Italy. Upon bringing his mail to the sorting facility Pat learns from the obviously evil Carbunckle that the post office is going to become a hell of a lot more efficient and that no one is getting their bonuses.

pp-05

Distraught, Pat returns home to find his wife extremely excited about the trip and Pat doesn’t have the heart to tell her that they can’t go. That’s all right, because after watching a timely parody of singing competitions with Simon Cowbell, Pat learns that not only is one of the prizes a trip to Italy but that the show is coming to his town and he can audition. As Greendale’s acts are all made of silliness and Pat easily wins his way into round two. Pat’s boss and the evil Carbunkle see the performance and Carbunkle decides to use Pat’s new found fame to his advantage.

pp-04

Focused on winning the competition, Pat allows Carbunkle to replace him with a robot for his postal service. Carbunkle plans on taking over the world with Patbots and I had to type that sentence. Pat’s fame starts to isolate him from his friends and family and he struggles with fame and what he’s willing to do for his wife, even if it pushes her away.

pp-03

So Postman Pat: the Movie is about evil robots, the pointlessness of singing shows and autotune…I think. It tries to be a satire, but it’s too cutesy to work. The robot plot sort of comes out nowhere and is far too silly to work. There’s a subplot about two brothers who are against Pat in the talent show that tries to tie things together, but ultimately feels like it was tacked on. Plus the singing is so over the top that the robot plot is more plausible than that voice coming out of Pat.

postman pat 6

There are a few great quips in the movie that’ll make you laugh out loud, but they are not worth sitting through the whole film. If you’re interested in Postman Pat, check out the original series.

pp-07

Planes: Fire and Rescue AKA Another Dane Cook Plane Movie

Planes-01

Before I talk about Planes: Fire and Rescue I want to talk about a little thing called a character arc. Now I know that I’ve talked about this before, but I think that it’s one of the most important parts in creating a great story. An arc is the characters journey, the lessons they learn and how they grow. I’d argue that in order for a character to claim the title of protagonist they have to show some sort of growth. For example, you can make the argument that in Disney’s the Little Mermaid King Triton is the protagonist over Ariel, since he’s the one who grows and changes where Ariel is essentially the same character she was at the beginning of the film.

planes-07

Now there are a lot of good stories where characters don’t change, but in a lot of those cases the point is that they can’t change and the story can serve as a sort of cautionary tale. A great example of this is the film Young Adult, where the main character is so trapped in her own delusions that when given the opportunity to change she does everything in her power to not to.

Planes-08

So why the mini lecture on character development? Well the biggest problem with Planes: Fire and Rescue, is that there’s not really a character arc. Now, I haven’t seen the original Planes, so there might have been a ton of character development that I missed out on and maybe Fire and Rescue didn’t need any character development.

The basic premise of Planes: Fire and Rescue is that, Dusty Crophopper, after becoming a world famous racer has damaged his gear box and will not longer be able to race. If he pushes himself into the red he will crash and, though the film never uses the word, die. After trying to prove that he can over come his new found weakness, Dusty nearly destroys Propwash Junction. In order to make things better and get the town up and running he offers for become the town’s backup fire fighter.

planes-03

He’s sent off to Piston Peak Natural Park to get certified as a firefighter. This proves to be a lot harder than Dusty originally imagined and his new limitations could prevent him from getting certified and saving Propwatch Junction in time for the Corn Festival. Can Dusty over come his broken gear box and save not only Propwatch Junction, but Piston Peak as well.

planes-02

Planes: Fire and Rescue was better than I thought it would be. For a sequel to a spin off the animation isn’t half bad, though it exploits the hell out of the 3D gimmick. Not having seen the first Planes didn’t hinder my viewing of Fire and Rescue. The characters and unique enough and the plot is simple enough to watch without confusion and the end result is surprisingly palatable. Unlike the Nut Job or Legends of Oz, I didn’t have to pause it several times just to get through it. It’s a movie you can watch with younger kids without being bored out of your mind. There are two jokes that made me laugh out loud, the first being a pretty good CHiPs parody and the mention of Boat Reynolds.

Planes-09

As per Pixar standards, the voice acting is great. The biggest surprise for me was Dane Cook’s performance as Dusty. I don’t mind Dane Cook as a stand up comic, some of his stuff is really funny, I just find him aggressively annoying as an actor. However, like David Spade before him, he proves to be a pretty awesome voice actor creating a sympathetic character who probably deserves a better movie.

planes-05

Now all of that being said, let’s talk about what I started this review with (and get into some spoilers): character arcs. Dusty doesn’t really go through one. Sure, he learns a new skill, but he doesn’t change, he doesn’t grow. Dusty is a nice plane and he stays a nice plane. He’s loyal, determined and brave and none of that changes. There’s a moment when he does have to push his limits and go into the red to save lives and he does crash, but that’s not really something he learns to do, it’s already ingrained in his character. He doesn’t really lose faith and instead of learning to work with his disability, it’s written away. There’s another panicky moment when Dusty has to confess to Blade Ranger that his gear box is broken and he gets a bit of a pep talk that helps him over come his fears. But it’s hard to count a pep talk as a character arc.

DamagedDusty

There’s a lot of talk of second chances and that it’s not the end of the world if you switch careers late in the game. We find out that all of the fire vehicles found firefighting as a second career and are better for it. The movie gives the impression that once Dusty becomes certified, he’ll find a new lease on life as a Fire Fighter despite his limitations. Then he crashes and he’s put back together and his un-fixable gear box is fixed and he can still race and be a firefighter too and it all feels really hollow. And that’s the problem, Dusty gets everything and loses nothing and while a lesson is learned a lesson isn’t really learned.

Planes: Fire and Rescue is better than you probably think it is, but it’s not great. If you want to see an awesome movie with planes check out Porco Rosso or the Wind Rises, which are both beautiful, fun and poignant.

Planes-06

The Nut Job AKA Heistception

Last year it was my resolution to watch each film that came out in 2014 after missing out on Ernest and Celestine (the film that should have won Best Animated Feature…don’t get me wrong I love Frozen, but Ernest and Celestine is amazing). Well it’s 2015 and I’ve seen most of them, some are amazing (The Tale of Princess Kaguya), some were awful (Legends of Oz: Dorthy’s Return) and some were really surprising (Mr. Peabody and Sherman). Since animation is one of my all time favourite things, I wanted to give my thoughts and opinions on the animated films that came out this year.

This happened

Now all of that being said, I haven’t yet had a chance to see what might be the best animated film of the year: Song of the Sea. Right now it’s in limited release and I have my doubts that it’ll be in theaters near me anytime soon. However, judging by it’s predecessor The Secret of Kells, I know it’ll be amazing. I’m so confident of that fact that I’ve already pre-ordered it on bluray, hoping that I’ll get to see it in theaters before that.

song of the sea

So in no particular order, here’s my thoughts on the animated films of 2014.

nut-02

The Nut Job is a Canadian/South-Korean/American joint production that opened in January of 2014 about park creatures who decide to heist a nut shop. Despite some very negative reviews, it made enough money to warrant a sequel.

nut-05

The Nut Job is the story of Surly, an outcast squirrel who creates elaborate contraptions to steal nuts from unassuming humans. His only friend is a mute rat named Buddy, who is the only character in the movie with a lick of sense. Surly is quite adept at his nut thievery, but is often thwarted by the woodland creatures of the park he lives in. Namely potential love interest Andie and the delusional Grayson who are sent on scavenging missions by the shifty and shiny loving Raccoon.

nut-03

After a failed heist attempt of a nut cart, which through a series of unlikely events, destroy’s the park’s entire food stock, Surly is banished from the park. During his time in the city he discovers a nut shop and decides to plan the squirrel heist of a lifetime. However, the nut shop is in fact a cover for an actual bank heist and Surly has to work around a group of human thieves to get his score.

nut-04

After Andie discovers Surly’s find and an encounter with a rather unfortunate pug, Surly is forced to work with the park dwellers to get the nuts. Unbeknownst to Surly, Raccoon is planning on double crossing Surly and stealing his share of the nuts.

The Nut Job is one of those movies that just sort of happened, it was on my radar, but I had no desire to see it. After watching it, I can see why. The Nut Job is really unremarkable, it is the essence of meh. For a movie that has a heist within a heist, it’s a really flat heist movie. It’s predictable, it’s pretty boring and it’s kind of hard to  get through; it feels a lot longer that it actually is. There are a lot of needless fart jokes, as in farts happen and it’s supposed to be funny. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fart joke, but there has to be a set up, there has to be a joke in there somewhere. The Nut Job kind of banks on the fact that little, little kids find fart noises funny.

nut-01

As meh as the movie is, the animation is nice for what it’s budget was, very cute and stylized. Other than Katherine Heigl turning in the same performance that she does in everything she’s ever been in, the voice acting is top notch. Most of the actors give performances better than the movie deserves. Both Will Arnett and Brendan Fraser go above and beyond what their roles required.

Now as meh as the movie is, it has some of the strangest and dating credits I’ve ever seen. Remember that Gangman Style song that was really popular a while back? Well the credits feature and animated Psy singing and dancing with cast of the movie. It’s really jarring and dates the movie, I think that it might have dated the movie before it was released.

All in all, you won’t be missing a whole lot by skipping the Nut Job. Do yourself a favour, if you feel the need to watch a criminally inclined rodant, check out Ernest and Celestine. You won’t regret it.

P008187

Nostalgic Reviews – Pokemon 2000: The Power of One

Ever get that sense of nostalgia where you just have to re-experience something you loved as a child? I’ve declared November a month of new beginnings, as there are a lot of big changes going on for me right now. Sometimes when moving forward it’s fun to look back, plus who doesn’t love pulling off the nostalgia goggles from time to time.

Pokémon is one of those things that I ever quite grew out of. I first experienced Pocket Monsters when it first came out and a Japanese exchange student I knew was playing it. I loved the idea, but had no comprehension of how the game worked. When it came out in Canada, I rushed to get copy…even though I hadn’t quite saved up enough for a Gameboy. When I finally did get a Gameboy I was hooked and have been playing Pokémon ever since.

pk-07

The first episode of the Pokémon animated series I ever watched was Tentacool & Tentacruel, part two of a two part episode where the first part never aired because of fake boobs. I remember thinking  that the show was incredibly stupid, but here’s the thing, it knew it was stupid and that kind of made it charming. Despite the fact that I knew the show wasn’t great, I loved it and would watch it every day after school. It was silly and nonsensical, it had a great theme song and was stupid but cute and for the most part the characters were really likable. Looking back, the show still kind of holds up. It’s still stupid, but fun, which is something I cannot say about the later seasons.

pk-08

When I first heard about the first Pokémon movie I was stoked, but was ultimately disappointed when I saw it. The best part were the promo cards that came with the tickets, which I still have to this day. Despite my dislike of the first movie, I still looked forward to the second one. I’ll admit, I really liked it and saw it a couple of times in theaters and got it as soon as it came out on VHS. From what I remember, it was the strongest of the Pokémon movies, with the third one coming in as a kind of close second…the fourth and possibly beyond are pretty un-watchable.

Worst Time Travel Movie Ever!

Worst Time Travel Movie Ever!

So let’s look at Pokémon 2000 and see if it holds up past the nostalgia goggles.

Disturb not the harmony of fire, ice or lightning, lest these titans wreak destruction upon the world in which they clash. Though the water’s great guardian shall arise to quell the fighting, alone its song will fail, and thus the earth shall turn to ash. O Chosen One, into thine hands bring together all three. Their treasures combined tame the Beast of the Sea.

So the basic plot of the movie is that Lawrence, collector extraordinaire, needs to collect the legendary Pokémon Lugia for his collection. In order to do this he needs to capture the three legendary birds, Moltres, Zapados and Articuno. In doing so, he disrupts the environmental harmony, unleashing some insane weather all over the world. Meanwhile, Ash Ketchum and friends are stranded on Shamouti Island where Ash is invited to take place in a legend ceremony. He is told that he needs to collect three orbs from Fire, Ice and Lightning Islands and bring them to a central shrine. Ash, being Ash, decides to rush things and heads to Fire Island. Because of Lawrence’s tomfoolery, the prophecy comes to fruition and it’s up to Ash to save the day.

pk-10

As I mentioned before, back in the day I thought that this was the strongest Pokémon movie. Now saying that Power of One is the best of the Pokémon movies is like saying Puppet Master 3: Toulon’s Revenge is the best of the Puppet Master movies, it doesn’t mean a lot. (Although, now that I think about it there are a lot of similarities between the Puppet Master Series and Pokémon. Both are about little creatures who can do good or evil in their masters hands, with emphasis on collecting them all. Perhaps Puppet Master is a stupid, proto Pokémon. If you combined the two you’d get Puppetmon from Digimon, but I digress). Upon re-watching Power of One, I can safely say that yeah, out of all the Pokémon movies I’ve seen Power of One is the best.

pk-06

Now don’t get me wrong, it is by no stretch a great movie or even a good one for that matter. It’s an hour and a half commercial for something far more awesome. It is, however, a far better commercial than Battle Ship or Transformers two and on. The plot is predictable,but fun. The animation is poor and suffers from what a lot of animated features from the late 90’s and early 2000’s suffered from and that’s unnecessary use of CG graphics. Nowadays traditional and CG can be blended quite seamlessly, but back then it was jarring, ugly and would really take you out of the film. Disney and Don Bluth couldn’t do this right, Pokémon didn’t have a chance. Now I have read that in the first movie a lot of the CG stuff was added, but I haven’t been able to confirm this for the Power of One.

pk-04

Despite all of that, it still kind of holds up. I could watch the whole film without having to pause it and it didn’t grate on me that much. It still has that charm that the original series had, where it knew it was bad, but was having fun with it. So here are the things that I think made Power of One a better movie than it should have been.

1. The Story.

Despite the story being predictable, it has a more epic feel than the rest of the movies (at least that I’ve seen). The use of the prophecy is an effective, if not, cliche way to tie things together. It feels like there’s a lot at stake and that it might really be Ash and Pikachu’s biggest adventure.

pk-03

2. Misty Gets To Do Something.

At this point in the series Misty had essentially been delegated to protector, caretaker and overseer of all things Togepi. There are very few moments in the series after Togepi hatches that Misty would get to do something not related to Togepi. In the film she actually plays a big part, even if a lot of the film involves her denying her crush on Ash. She’s the one that saves Ash and by extension the world. Hell, even Tracy, (who in my opinion is the series most useless character, come on, even Todd got his own video game) got a little something to do.

pk-02

3. The music is pretty good

The soundtrack from the first movie was largely pop songs…and not great pop songs at that(except the one by Weird Al, cause Weird Al is awesome). The Power of One has a largely instrumental soundtrack and a couple of fun pop songs, including one from the B52’s. Lugia’s theme is strangely haunting and works as an instrumental piece outside of the film.

pk-05

4. Team Rocket

Jesse, James and Meowth are great, because in the movies they are aware that they’re in the movies. They are constantly breaking the fourth wall and despite their wicked ways, help out as best they can. They don’t have a lot to do, but they provide the comic relief, which balances out the tone of the movie.

pk-01

So Pokémon 2000: the Power of One isn’t great, but it’s fun. So if you liked the show growing up and you have a high tolerance for late 90’s cheese, it’s worth a re-watch.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman Redux

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve neglected this space quite a bit. My twenty-four hour comic book was finished, I’m just waiting to get it scanned so I can post a finished version. I also went through the stressful process of quitting my current job and getting a new and much better job two days later. Going through training again is super fun, but takes a lot mentally and physically. So just to keep in the habit of posting, here are some thoughts on Mr. Peabody and Sherman now that it’s available for home release.

I fist saw Mr. Peabody and Sherman when it was in theaters and despite a few issues, I thought it was great. It’s a sweet coming of age story that focuses on the father son relationship of the titular Mr. Peabody and Sherman. It is also one of the better time travel movies that has ever been made. On top of a solid story, clever jokes and beautiful animation it’s a solid adaptation of the best part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Peabody-04

Mr. Peabody’s Improbable History was a short segment of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show that featured the smartest dog in the world and his pet boy. The pair would travel to a various time periods and run into funny voiced historical figures. Undoubtedly there would be something askew with history and it would be up to Mr. Peabody to make things right. It was a fun little show that gave kids tidbits of historical information in a way that was entertaining and easy to process. It was kind of a proto Carmen San Diego if you will.

Carmen

The film serves as both a continuation and origin story for the original series. Everything in the film is authentic to it’s source material, from Mr. Peabody’s introduction, his puns and the over the top historical figures. The addition of Mr. Peabody’s calculations as he explains things was a nice touch and really fits with the whole motif of the film. We get to see his brilliance in motion, the how and why behind his plans. Another nice touch is the future/retro design of the WABAC, which could have been ripped right out of the sixties.

Peabody-03

The film opens with an escapade through the French Revolution before Sherman’s first day of school. While he shines during his first day of school, impressing both students and teachers, he brings on the ire of fellow student Penny. She teases him for being related to a dog and Sherman ends up biting her. Because of the biting incident, Mr. Peabody’s parenting skills are called into question by the boisterous (and likely cat person) Ms. Grunion. She threatens to have Sherman taken away and Mr. Peabody does the most logical thing can to save his son: throw the dinner party of a lifetime. He invites Ms. Grunion, along with Penny and her Folks to smooth things over. Mr. Peabody gives Sherman one instruction for the evening, do not show Penny the WABAC. Of course, as plot conventions go, Sherman instantly shows Penny the WABAC and loses her in Ancient Egypt. It’s now up to Mr. Peabody and Sherman to get Penny back in time to save the dinner party and prevent Ms. Grunion from taking Sherman away.

peabody-02

In my initial review of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, I was irked at Penny’s character arc. I’d felt that she’d gone from antagonist to love interest too quickly. Upon a few subsequent viewings, I don’t think that’s the case. I really like Penny as an antagonist, she’s a brat on par with Rugrats’ Angelica Pickles. It’s clear that Sherman might have a bit of a crush on her, but I don’t think that she notices or likes him that way. Their progression towards friendship does happen a little fast, but they do go through some pretty extreme things together, so I can let it slide. The one thing I didn’t like, is that Penny becomes fairly helpless after her and Sherman become friends after being quite self sufficient beforehand. There’s a part where the plot require her to get her dress caught on a nail and instead of freeing herself, she calls for Sherman’s help.

peabody-01

Other than that one small detail, it’s a great movie and I’d recommend it to anyone that wants an entertaining film that can be watched by anyone of any age. So if you haven’t, check it out, it’s well worth a watch.