Tag Archive: animation


UK Release Date: 4th July 2013

Stars: Dean DeBlois (director), Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kit Harington, America Ferrera.

Plot: Five years after the events of the first film, the once land locked Vikings are now on the backs of dragons and their world has become bigger. As Hiccup’s curiosity grows the map expands and the Vikings come across new people and new dragons, discovering a larger conflict between mankind and dragonkind which Hiccup is inevitably at the centre of.

With sequels to animated films being all the rage these days with the likes of Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 it should come as no surprise that the universally adored How to Train Your Dragon is getting the sequel treatment (trilogy treatment really with a third installment slated for 2016 release). Out of the three original films (HTTYD, Monsters Inc. and Despicable Me) I felt that HTTYD was the weakest, but with the most potential for more stories to be told, leaving me with the feeling that this could be the best animated sequel since the Toy Story films.

However, the teaser trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t give a lot away. As has become something of a trend recently, this is just one sequence from the film put into two minutes just to give the audience a peek at their old friends.

As we can see Toothless and Hiccup are still working together and Hiccup is clearly advancing Viking technology at a great pace. A glimpse at the new teenage Hiccup is something for fans to get excited about as the changed between when the original film took place and this one should be an interesting point. I look forward to seeing more beautiful footage and finding out more plot details.

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Monsters University Review

With Monsters University, Pixar attempts to take back the crown as the best animation studio out there, a title that seems to be swaying towards Illumination Entertainment after the success of Despicable Me and its recent sequel. To prove they have not lost their magic touch, Pixar have brought back a winning pair, second only in animation to Pixar’s own Woody and Buzz, Mike and Sulley. University looks at the events that forced the two loveable monsters together and what made them the record breaking team that we first met in Monsters Inc more than ten years ago.

“I’m gonna be a scarer!”

Returning characters Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), Sulley (John Goodman) and Randy (Steve Buscemi) are all back, joined by a host of new talent. The primary new characters are mature student Don (Joel Murray), Squishy (Peter Sohn), two headed monster Terri and Terry (Sean Hayes, Dave Foley) and the unpredictable Art (Charlie Day). These new monsters make up the fraternity Oozma Kappa, the fraternity that Mike and Sulley are forced to join in order to compete in Dean Hardscrabble’s (Helen Mirren) Scare Games to prove they have what it takes to be the best scarers on campus and win their place back in the University as a scaring major. But with personal rivalries and an overall lack of scariness about their new friends, will Mike and Sulley have what it takes? The answer seems almost predictable what with this being a prequel, but what’s important is the journey.

 

While Monsters Inc was arguably Sulley’s moment in the spotlight, University is all about Mike Wazowski. We’re introduced to the adorable one eyed monster as a child on a field trip to Monsters Incorporated where he gets his first glimpse at the scare floor and realises his ambition in life is to be working there in the future. This short opening sequence opens up a whole load of strings to Mike’s bow; he has an ambition, he has a background, he has room to grow and learn right from the off, and by the end of the film Mike Wazowski comes out on top as one of Pixar’s considerably best characters to date.

“I can’t go back to jail”

Sulley, however, does not come off that well: arrogant, cocksure and generally that guy in class who seems really big headed who nobody really likes. Saying that, though, watching Sulley and Mike’s friendship blossom over the course of the (near two hour) movie is something very enjoyable, even though at times it feels like Sulley doesn’t really deserve Mike’s friendship. It is not until the final sequence that he really earns any respect or likeability, but more on that sequence later.

 

Monsters University isn’t really any different to any other college movies, using tropes and plot points to move the story along in the expected fashion. But then occassionaly it veers off the path into the realm of the unknown. It would have been very easy to head straight towards the beginning of Monsters Inc but that’s not what Pixar went with; it would have been even easier to end with Oozma Kappa winning the Scare Games and everything having a happy ending but that’s not where they went either and credit has to go to Pixar for their wonderful storytelling.

“I’m going to wipe the floor with that little know-it-all”

The animation is wonderful. Everything is turned up by ten on the colour scales and the creativity to come up with so many different monsters is really unparallelled. If nothing else, this is beautiful to watch. Things take a darker (both in tone and aesthetics) turn when Mike and Sulley risk their lives journeying to the human world. This wonderful sequence brings the two characters together in a really heartfelt exchange of words and shows great comradery between the two as they work so well with one another to get the better of the humans, playing to each other strengths: highlighting the ups and downs of friendship being worth all that hassle if at the end the two parties come out stronger as one than they were on their own.

 

There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you laugh out loud five or more times at a comedy then it’s definitely worth recommending to someone else. I can’t remember a moment when I stopped laughing while watching Monsters University; there was joke after joke, all aimed at a midway between child and adult so that everyone could share in the joy. There were fantastic set pieces, big laughs and really tru touching moments of a bond forming between lifelong friends.

“You’re just not scary”

It seems unlikely that we’ll get another Monsters prequel and it’s probably best if we don’t get a sequel. Monsters Univeristy never quite matches the original but it compliments it wonderfully.

 

My Rating: 8/10

Ask the general public who they think the best actor in the world is and you will probably be met with replies varying from Bradley Cooper to Ryan Gosling and, with the release of Man of Steel, you may even hear people citing Henry Cavill as ‘the best actor ever’: the general public are fickle when it comes to actors/actresses and they tend to follow the trends, whoever is ‘hot’ right now will be in the public eye more and the public will be tricked into liking them. I don’t wish to take anything away from the three particular actors I mentioned as I do like all three of them: they all have potential, but are they brilliant actors? I would hesitate to say so just yet.

Now if you’re reading this you probably have an interest in films and will no doubt know who Paul Giamatti is, but as the everyday cinema goer if they like him and the likely response will be “who?”; telling them that he is an Oscar nominated actor will probably not help either. While the likes of Cooper, Gosling and Cavill make headlines and get on the covers of magazines Paul Giamatti goes about his versatile projects with the utmost respect for the people he is working with and for the target audience. Giamatti is an actor that can consistently be relied upon to give great performances and make anything all the more enjoyable for his appearance. The reason why I have decided to write about him now is because of his insistence to ever expand his repertoire and has recently joined the cast of British ITV drama, Downton Abbey.

After slumming it for a few years, Giamatti got his first big break in 1997 when he starred in Private Parts, a role which catapulted him to face after he received a lot of praise for his performance. This led to Giamatti getting more and more supporting roles in big Hollywood films such as The Truman Show and Saving Private Ryan. His rise to fame in Hollywood continued after the turn of the 20th century appearing in Big Momma’s House, Planet of the Apes and Big Fat Liar. Okay, so not all of his films are good, but how often does and actor have a slate with no spills upon it? And anyway, it’s what he did after this that starts to get impressive.

In 2004, Giamatti reminded everybody just how good he is: Sideways. In this independent romantic comedy, Giamatti portrays a depressed writer with a very healthy liking of wine. Now I will admit that when I first watched Sideways I failed to see what the hype was about, nevertheless I recognised that Giamatti was putting in a terrific performance. Alongside Thomas Haden Church (another actor I’ve come to like a lot recently) Giamatti is absolutely wonderful, capturing an incredibly realistic portrayal and offering up moments of drama and comedy in equal share and to equal success. Sideways on the whole became a surprise hit and was nominated for five Oscars which helped the whole cast’s career greatly.

But Giamatti was made to wait for his personal Oscar nomination. That came when Giamatti starred alongside Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man, playing Joe Gould, boxing manager and friend to Russell Crowe’s character. Although he lost out at the Oscars to that little known actor George Clooney (Syriana) Giamatti proved once again that he was one of Hollywood’s finest.

Since then, Paul Giamatti has gone on to vary his career as much as possible in terms of the roles he takes. Whether it be in the great action film Shoot ‘Em Up, the animated The Ant Bully, comedy in The Hangover Part II, drama in The Ides of March or even a musical such as Rock of Ages, Giamatti will give it all and continue to dominate films with his performance. I fail to think of a film appearance by Giamatti in which he has ever failed to live up to my high expectations I have of him: he is just ultimately captivating and always exciting to watch on screen.

There are a huge number of projects in the pipeline (not least Turbo and the latest adaptation of Romeo and Juliet) but arguably most exciting is the fact that he will be appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as villain Rhino. This could possibly be the best bit of superhero movie casting since Robert Downey Jr. completely stole the hearts of the world as Tony Stark. Early set photos (pre-CGI) look exciting and as if this is going to be another memorable performance from Giamatti. With critical acclaim being fired at him from every angle, it is about time he became a staple in the minds of mainstream cinema-goers. Here’s hoping…

In my opinion, Paul Giamatti is one of the greatest character actors of all time, allowing himself to completely indulge himself in every aspect of his role and this comes across perfectly on screen. Certainly someone to watch in everything he does.

epic Review

Epic. Never has a summer blockbuster been so ambitiously named. After one of the most exciting and visually astounding trailers of the year so far, anticipations are set high for the latest Blue Sky outing. With a voicing cast including the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz and Beyonce Knowles, could the one hour, forty minute journey into the forest live up to the hype of a two minute trailer?

On the one day in a hundred years where Tara (Knowles), Queen of the forest, is set to select her heir an evil group known as the Boggans, led by Mandrake (Waltz) intend to kill her and destroy the forest in order to take complete control. The Leafmen are the group charged with the order of stopping the Boggans but in particular the soldiers that have to carry that weight belong to the incredibly uncharismatic Ronin (Colin Farrell) and rookie Nod (Hutcherson) with the help of a human girl, M.K (Seyfried) who gets shrunk down to two inches tall Alice in Wonderland style in order to save the forest.

No time at all is wasted in introducing the miniature world of the forest and the ongoing battle as three birds tussle in the sky with Nod and the little bird that he rides. Then the real life sized world comes into play with M.K arriving to live with her mad scientist father (Sudeikis) and you get the feeling that there is going to be a strong father-daughter relationship at the centre of this animated war film but when it ends there seems to be a great gaping hole where the human emotion of the film should have been.

It’s a film that lacks any intensity at all. For a film where the whole of the forest seems to be at stake you would expect that there is at least going to be a huge battle at the end but alas, this is not the case. The one time you think you will get to see a huge fight it is cruelly ripped away from you and you are forced to travel with the more boring companions on the quest.

There is a little humour provided in the form of a slug and a snail voiced by Aziz Ansari and the wonderful Chris O’Dowd respectively. And there’s a nice little musical number about halfway through the film in an attempt to lift the film more upbeat from its second act which is certainly lacking any determination at all.

The only thing that comes remotely close to being epic are the brief action sequences. The animation during the fight scenes does stand out as some of the best animation in recent years and the action scenes are full of potential and wouldn’t look out of place in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (although the fact that its animated might make it stick out a little).

There are some laughs, good fight scenes and another great (if underused) turn by Christoph Waltz. You cannot doubt that Epic will find an audience as it is enjoyable at times, but it does feel someone’s followed a dot-to-dot for making a children’s animated film and decided to miss out the dots that contain heart and emotion.

My Rating: 6/10

UK Release Date: 18th October 2013

Stars: David Soren (director), Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Samuel L Jackson, Snoop Dogg.

Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

With DreamWorks’ The Croods in cinemas this week, here is the trailer for the next DreamWorks animated film due for release later this year, with a quite frankly ridiculous plot of a snail trying to compete in the Indy 500 against real life cars… ridiculous…

Ridiculous but FANTASTIC. This is the kind of plot that can only work in animation and the trailer shows all signs of it being a hit for the slightly misfiring DreamWorks. They’ve put together a solid voice cast along with screenwriters who have previously worked on Shrek Forever After, Jack the Giant Slayer and The Wrestler.

What is clear from the trailer is that this is going to be a brilliant journey that audiences are going to be taken on and it’s going to be, probably, one of the feel good films of the year. The animation looks great as you would expect, the story is interesting, the cast is great, the laughs are there in the trailer. What’s not to like?

Obviously the big news of the week was the Oscars but I’m not going to bore you with the names of the winners which I am sure you have seen plastered around numerous blogs in the past weeks. Let’s start with the worst news EVER just to get it out of the way: Michael Bay has announced that Megan Fox has been cast as April O’Neil in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot that Bay insists on ruining. Has there ever been such bad casting? NO.

 

So now that that’s out of the way. Anchorman: The Legend Continues is being released late this year and as if having a cast of Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Luke Wilson and Kristen Wiig isn’t enough. Now James Marsden has been added to that list. Marsden will be playing Ferrell’s main rival in the film, a news anchor over at San Diego TV. I have previously written a blog about the lack of a career that Marsden has had other than starring in the X-Men films but if all goes well here he may become sought after property in actual good comedy films.

 

It’s common consensus that Adam Sandler is not good anymore. If he ever even picked up any of his Razzie awards that he won then he wouldn’t have anywhere to put them all in his house, there is just too many. His recent career has been nothing short of apocalyptic. Sandler has now joined a new romantic comedy following a couple who have had a disastrous blind date and somehow find themselves stuck together in a resort for families, each with their kids from a previous marriage in tow. There are several actresses in the running but the favourite at the minute seems to be Sandler’s co-star in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates Drew Barrymore which could, hopefully, signal a return to form for Sandler.

 

Annie is one of the most famous musicals in the world. Despite being met with mixed responses from critics when the original film was released back in 1982 it has achieved international fame and a few of its songs have become world famous. Now there is a remake in the works with plans for the film to be released at Christmas 2014. Will Smith and Jay-Z are on board as producers and Will Smith made one of the best decisions of his career by deciding to replace his daughter Willow Smith who was originally cast in the lead role. The girl now in the lead role is Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest ever actress to be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars for her performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

In 2011 Fox released Rio, an animated film about two blue macaws voiced by Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg. The original film also featured the voicing talents of will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro who are all returning for the sequel, among others, but the cast has grown even more. Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars and the amazing Pierce Gagnon (the kid from Looper) are just a few of the names signed on for Rio 2.

Paperman is the latest Oscar nominated (Best Animated Short Film) animation from Disney. It has received widespread praise for it’s innovative animation technique of blending together tradition animation with computer animation culminating in a short film that is wonderful to watch.

Paperman is the story of a young businessman named (only in the credits as) George. While waiting for his morning train George has a chance meeting with the elegant Meg. After she departs on a different train Meg is all that George can think about and when he finds out that she is in the office block opposite him he does everything he can to get her attention.

It may only be about six minutes long but Paperman tells the most beautiful love story. It’s proof that actions do speak louder than words and that such strong emotions can be evoked just from facial expression, body language and the most amazing score I’ve ever heard. This is better than a lot of feature length films that get released in the cinema.

You can’t help but smile when you watch Paperman, and if you can then there is probably something wrong with you. Here it is:

As soon as I saw the first trailer for Rise of the Guardians I instantly fell in love with it. Just from the trailer you could tell it was going to be something special; the characters, the colour scheme, the animation. It soon became one of my most anticipated films of the year… so how would it stand up to my very very high expectations?

DreamWorks’ latest feature film sees the immortal guardians: North – Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), Bunnymund – Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth – the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the mute Sandy – Sandman team up to stop the evil Boogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) from covering the world in fear and taking away all the innocence of the children. To do so a new recruit must heed the Guardians’ call: Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

The story is pretty simple, it in no way tries to over complicate things but that doesn’t take anything away from the way in which the story are told. Right from the off we are presented with this sort of outcast character of Jack Frost and we are quickly brought in to his story, feeling his sense of longing and wishing to know where he came from, wanting to be believed in by the children of Earth. And right from here you are wrapped up in the story. You’re rooting for him right from the word go and the introduction to this magical world is all you need to quickly become engrossed and want to see more. I found myself amazed at how emotionally attached I grew to Jack Frost as the film went on, there was a distinct sense of humanity in his character.

Of course, some of this humanity is installed by the wonderful Chris Pine’s voice acting and the whole cast did a terrific job in voicing their characters. I can honestly say that this is definitely one of Hugh Jackman’s best performances in my opinion, or at least one of my favourite roles I have seen him in. I almost forgot it was even Alec Baldwin voicing North as well, this sort of Russian/Eastern European accent and demeanor he seemed to have really made his character stand out and it was terrific work from Baldwin in doing this. And although Sandy doesn’t say a word (he communicates through sand drawings above his head) he quickly transforms into this lovable little guy and no doubt one of the most popular characters in Rise of the Guardians! As for Pitch, I think he may just be one of the greatest ever villains in a children’s film.

The animation is second to none. We’re talking perfection here in terms of animation. There are some wonderful sets created; Santa’s workshop, Bunnymund’s Easter retreat, Tooth’s palace and Pitch’s headquarters. There is so much attention to detail, everything is so bold and bright and it all feels so real, like your looking at something of immeasurable beauty. And there are some great action sequences to go with the wonderful aesthetics of the film. Right from the beginning where we first meet Jack Frost and he messes about on the iced over pond to the sled ride he takes Jamie (the last believer in the Guardians) on, from the scene in which the Guardians help restore belief in Tooth, right up to the final climax and fight with Pitch.

Everything is done so well. Scenes you thought were pointless when they first appear later show their importance in the film and it has a sort of poetic feel to it. DreamWorks is really showing here, as people are starting to doubt Pixar for the first time, that they can make top quality films as well as anybody else.

Director Peter Ramsay, producer Christina Steinberg, executive producer Guillermo del Toro and Jack Frost himself Chris Pine have all expressed an interest in making a sequel. Usually I do like to see films just stand alone, it makes a nice change these days, but I have to confess I would welcome a Rise of the Guardians sequel with open arms!

My Rating: 9/10.

UK Release Date: 22nd March 2013

Stars: Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders (directors), Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman.

Plot: The Croods is a prehistoric comedy adventure that follows the world’s first family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime when the cave that has always shielded them from danger is destroyed. Traveling across a spectacular landscape, the Croods discover an incredible new world filled with fantastic creatures — and their outlook is changed forever.

DreamWorks, in my opinion, has always been a bit hit and miss and some of it’s films, I find, are really over rated. Following this years Rise of the Guardians, a hit by all means, they are now releasing The Croods which, judging by this trailer, is a very very big miss.

The Croods seems to have had positive reception on forums across the internet but I cannot for the life of me see why. Judging from this trailer I think the three main voice actors (Cage, Stone, Reynolds) are horrible miscast although maybe their entire performance might change my mind. Their voices aren’t really the best for voice acting I don’t think and because they are three such big names at the minute I think audiences more familiar with their work may be taken away from the film by their involvement.

The trailer doesn’t do anything for me. We have a very boring first half which tries to explain a bit of back story, then we get the introduction to Reynold’s character and what seems like loads of very obvious jokes about fire. There were a couple of things that made me laugh and children will probably love it, but I think I’ll wait for it on DVD… a very cheap DVD… like 50p or less.

I look forward to being proven wrong about this though.

Pixar are responsible for bringing to life some of the greatest film characters of all time!

For years and years now Pixar have been one of the best studios in the movie business. Pixar have been turning out perfect films over and over again since their first feature length film back in 1995; that film of course was Toy Story. Since then Pixar have continued to make perfect films, some of my favourites including Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Wall-E and that’s not even mentioning Cars, Up, A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille or The Incredibles. It is plain to see that Pixar have a knack for creating real works of art with some of the best characters to ever grace the cinema screen. They have often been thought of, especially by me, as one of the best studios making films today because of their originality, their creativity and their lust to tell a story that hasn’t been told before on the big screen in a time where plenty of the biggest studios in Hollywood are relying on sequels, reboots, fairy tale adaptations and even origin stories for famous films. In other words, studios are getting desperate but Pixar always seemed like the bright spark within the industry but are they now turning in to just another studio?

Edwin E. Catmull – Co-founder and current President of Pixar Animations.

This week Pixar have announced plans to make a sequel to 2003 hit (and one of the best and most touching stories Pixar have ever told) Finding Nemo, to be directed by Andrew Stanton, the man behind the original film and Wall-E. This follows the news that there is development for a Toy Story 4 in the pipeline and of course next year a prequel to Monsters Inc called Monsters University will be released. There are also rumours that a sequel is in development for Pixar’s very own superpowered family The Incredibles. This follows the hugely successful Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 and the film seen by many as the worst Pixar have ever made, Cars 2. Obviously, film fans everywhere will be rejoicing at the fact that plans to bring Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mike, Sulley, Nemo, Marlin and Dory all back to the big screen because they are characters that were a huge part of so many people’s childhood and there will always be a sentimental connection towards those characters in the hearts of anyone who has ever watched these films. But are these proposed sequels bad news for Pixar and film fans in general?

The Toy Story franchise is a rare example of a trilogy where every film is of the highest quality, you can debate for days and days about which one is the best and why it is better than the other two but never will everyone agree. However, with Cars 2 it is the opinion of many that Pixar got it wrong; it didn’t really need a sequel and it wasn’t as good as the first one, it’s sort of a blotch on an otherwise stainless list of films in Pixar’s history. This means that if Pixar get it wrong with another sequel/prequel it could dampen feelings towards their much beloved characters.

Pixar’s feature length films have won a combined total of 11 Oscars and earned another 30 nominations!

Since 2003 Pixar have released a single film each year and it has done well commercially no matter what because Pixar is a name that will put bums on seats in cinemas, there remains no doubt about that. But with the news of the sequels it could signal one of two things: either Pixar is trying to follow suit of several other major film companies and milk the popularity of their characters for every last penny they can get out of them (something Disney are already managing to do with most of their character history) or rather more sadly, Pixar may just be running out of ideas. However, Pixar have said, although this was many years ago, that they would not consider making a sequel to one of their films if they couldn’t tell a story that was as good as the original, this suggests that a lot of hard work and thought will go into making these films but it will be a shame if this signals a slowing down in the creativity of Pixar because their characters have staying power like no others and everyone will be missing out if Pixar does indeed become ‘just another studio’.