Tag Archive for 'Animation'

Inside Out

Inside Out (6/25/15) Burbank AMC 16 (2015 ****) Directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, starring the voices of Kaitlyn Dias (Riley), Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness) and Richard Kind (Bing Bong). When a pre-pubescent girl’s family moves to San Francisco, her emotions get all mixed up. I really have to hand it to Pixar: When it comes to creating unabashedly emotionally-manipulative movies that are wonderfully crafted… well, they’re pretty damned hard to beat. And more power to ’em. Is there really anything more to add? Not really, other than, “Well done.”

Family Guy, Season 13

Family Guy, Season 13 (5/18/15) FOX (2014-15 ***) Series created by Seth MacFarlane and David Zuckerman, featuring the voice talents of Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis and Patrick Warburton. 18 episodes, originally aired 9/28/14 – 5/17/15. Peter and Lois Griffin, their offspring and dog visit American living rooms each Sunday evening… leaving a path of destruction and horror in their wake. The lucky 13th season of Quahog’s favorite family began with a well-publicized cross-over Simpsons event and ended with a marriage encounter retreat that included machine gun fire. In-between, Peter attempted to help Jesus Christ lose his virginity, Quagmire was tried for statutory rape and Peter fought Liam Neeson. While this wasn’t (with the exception of the visit to Springfield) a particularly noteworthy season, Family Guy has become an “Animation Domination” staple in our household, and unless the show goes off the rails and totally turns to shit (which it could), I imagine we’ll continue watching loyally.

The Simpsons, Season 26

The Simpsons, Season 26 (5/17/15) FOX (2014-15 ***1/4) Series created by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon, featuring the voices of Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria. 22 episodes, originally aired 9/28/14 – 5/17/15. Springfield’s best-known family continues to entertain America and the world with their heartwarming hijinks. Highlights included the 25th Treehouse of Horror, a Futurama cross-over event and a visit from Elon Musk, plus Bart took up smoking e-cigarettes to impress a girl. Maybe it’s just the nature of long-running shows like The Simpsons, but it’s a challenge to write anything particularly meaningful about this season, compared to the ones that preceded it. I continue to admire the creative team behind the show: They have managed to maintain a high level of consistent quality after all these years, and thousands of shows. The basic story engine is well-tuned, and it’s done well enough that my wife and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet, even though on some level I know we should have long before now.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (4/11/15) FXM (2011 **) Directed by Mike Mitchell, starring Jason Lee, David Cross and Jenny Slate, featuring the voices of Justin Long, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate. Dave Seville takes his musical rodent family on a Carnival Cruise, but a hang-gliding mishap strands them all (along with nemesis Ian) on a tropical island. Having watched (and not hated) the first two live action Alvin and the Chipmunks films, I wanted to round out the set and so I set our DVR to record the third. It’s definitely the weakest of the three, and I have an unsubstantiated hunch that its script might have been rushed to take advantage of the unexpected box office success of the series. There wasn’t much story to begin with and it was complicated by a villain that the audience is expected supposed to care about in spite of his or her dastardly behavior.

Home

Home (3/21/15) L.A. Live Regal Cinemas (2015 ***1/2) Directed by Tim Johnson, based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, featuring the voices of Jim Parsons (Oh), Rihanna (Tip), Steve Martin (Captain Smek) and Jennifer Lopez (Lucy). A young immigrant girl from Barbados befriends an eccentric alien who promises to reunite her with her mother. Leave it to my animation studio to create the funnest alien invasion movie ever! And if you think about it, that’s not an easy challenge to overcome. I have great respect for Home‘s director, Tim Johnson, who co-directed Antz (1998) as well as Over the Hedge (2006). I should mention that I didn’t work on Home (though many of my friends did) and in fact didn’t see any early screenings. I’m glad I didn’t because it gave me a more objective appreciation of the film. Though I must admit I tend to be a fan of my studio’s output, in part because I know how much hard work has gone into creating such beautiful films. I hope Home finds a receptive audience. It’s a bit of a gamble, considering it’s essentially a kid’s movie about aliens taking over the world, not to mention the lead character is a girl “of color.”

Archer, Season 2

Archer, Season 2 (1/24/15) Netflix (2011 ***1/4) Created by Adam Reed, featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell and Jessica Walter. 13 episodes, originally aired 1/27/11 – 4/21/11. Top-secret ISIS agent Sterling Archer deals with teenage nymphomaniacs, paternity, Louisiana Bayou crocodiles, a Monaco casino, breast cancer and the tragic loss of his true love at the hands of a bionic nemesis in this sophomore outing of the edgy animated series. While the second season didn’t pack quite the punch as the first, it was mainly because the “shock of the new” had worn off. It’s still a fun adult-oriented animated series with many memorable characters (I’m torn between Pam and Cheryl/Carol as my favorites), and I look forward to more.

Archer, Season 1

Archer, Season 1 (1/10/15) Netflix (2009-10 ***1/2) Created by Adam Reed, featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell and Jessica Walter. 10 episodes, originally aired 9/17/09 – 3/18/10. Secret agent and public asshole Sterling Archer must deal with the realities of office sexual politics while combating international threats. I FINALLY got around to watching this show, and I absolutely loved it from the first scene. Specifically, I appreciated the show’s biting, dialogue-based humor running simultaneously with a send-up of cold-war era spy thrillers. Of course the show isn’t for everyone, and a good litmus test might be whether or not they enjoyed Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004). One awkward note: the fictional spy agency Archer works for is referred to in the series as ISIS, a name that now has less-than-funny connotations.

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 (12/8/14) DWA Screening (2014 ***1/2) Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, featuring the voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, Damon Wayans Jr. and James Cromwell. When a teenager’s older brother dies in a tragic accident, the teen takes over his brother’s science project and transforms an automated health robot into a super-powered force for good. I was very impressed by the pro-science premise of this film as well as the animation. However, it never grabbed me emotionally and I’m sad to say I predicted the movie’s major plot twist “shocker” within 30 seconds of the villain being introduced. Still, it’s a terrific and fun animated super-hero film that’s based on a Marvel property I’m unfamiliar with. Given Disney’s ownership of both Marvel and Pixar, it’s not hard to imagine a full-on feature animated blockbuster someday based on one of Marvel’s many properties.

The New Adventures of Batman, Season 1

The New Adventures of Batman, Season 1 (11/15/14) DVD (1977 **) Directed by various, featuring the voices of Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), Melendy Britt (Batgirl) and Lou Scheimer (Bat-Mite). 16 episodes, originally aired 2/12/77 – 5/28/77. Batman, Robin, Batgirl and other-dimensional imp Bat-Mite protect Gotham City from a variety of super villains. God bless Filmation, the “animation-on-the-cheap” studio behind so many cartoons from my childhood. And I did watch these cartoons, both when they were originally aired and later when they were re-broadcast as part of the Batman / Tarzan Adventure Hour. Believe it or not, at one point Batman and Robin were on Saturday morning TV at the same time on competing networks: This program aired on CBS and (more famously) they were also on ABC with Super Friends (1973-79, 1981). I’m sure that is the answer to a trivia question somewhere. I bought this show on DVD because it featured the voices of Adam West and Burt Ward (though sadly excluded Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl). Did I enjoy it? Well, my tepid 2-star review probably provides a clue. It was actually quite a kick to hear Adam West’s voice, and he was terrific. Burt Ward’s voice, on the other hand, was not nearly as distinctive, though it was still nice to know it was my childhood idol. I was somewhat ambivalent about the inclusion of Bat-Mite, since his presence was based on the “Scrappy Doo” cartoon fad of the time, but of course the episodes would have improved by his absence. The animation quality was certainly not up to modern standards, but I had a certain interest in seeing all the re-use of animation assets. However, after watching a couple of episodes I wound up treating it more as a radio program, half-watching while working on an art project. But even then it was lacking: The writing, was pretty mediocre and, while I acknowledge that TV animation writing has come a long way (baby) since the 1970s, I have a feeling it was even sub-par for the time. Overall, the $17.80 I spent for the 2-disc DVD was probably not the best use of my money.

Penguins of Madagascar

Penguins of Madagascar (11/15/14) L.A. Regal Cinema (2014 ***1/2) Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith, featuring the voices of Tom McGrath (Skipper), Chris Miller (Kowalski), Christover Knights (Private), Conrad Vernon (Rico), John Malkovich (Dave), and Benedict Cumberbatch, whose character’s name is classified. The world’s greatest penguins join forces with a super-secret elite squad called “The North Wind” to stop an octopus named Dave from his plans of world domination. It’s always fun to see films produced by my studio that I haven’t worked on personally, though several of my friends and co-workers did. In the case of Penguins of Madagascar, while I was generally aware of the production, I hadn’t even seen any screenings. I was delighted by the final project, which more or less picks up the Penguins’ story where Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) left off. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of great laughs in Penguins, a film that is nominally a spy spoof in the tradition of Matt Helm and Austin Powers. As with any film in that genre, there are comedy action sequences galore, and the Venice, Italy chase scene was absolutely superb!