Tag Archive: animation


Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

What do our pets do when we are not around?

 

lady08-4-15I suspect that our lovely Lady continues to lay on the couch and nap throughout the day. Then she takes a break by barking at the squirrels who come on our porch for a snack.

 

Maybe she turns on the TV to watch Animal Planet but I doubt it.

 

After watching The Secret Life of Pets, I can’t help but wonder if my dog is really a spy or friends with all dogs. And as we contemplate getting a second dog, it makes me wonder if the reaction to a new dog will be similar.

 

You see, in this movie a cute Jack Russell Terrier named Max is very hapy with his life with his human, Katie, in New York City. He has friends in his building and neighborhood. Life is good until Katie shows up one day with a big brute of a dog named Duke.

 

They do not like each other instantly. Duke has made it known he is the top dog and Max responds but putting Duke in his place. This leads to an altercation during their daily walk with the dog walker. Max puts down Duke and puts him in his place every chance he gets. Duke responds by trysecret-life-of-petsing to get Max lost.

 

He does so in a big way. But it is a disaster that leads to Max and Duke being captured by a group of deserted pets who are lead by a demented white rabbit. After an escape that leads them across the river to Brooklyn, the two dogs try to find a way back home.

 

Meanwhile, Gidget the pomeranian realizes that Max is missing and organizes a search-and-rescue party. It involves a very fat cat, a guinea pig, a weiner dog, and a bassett hound with wheels for back legs. And a red-tail hawk who is hoping for a meal.

 

The adventures these creatures go on is very exciting. They have to expand their horizons, challenge their fears, and confront difficult situations.

 

Every moment is worth it. The animation is beautiful. And the characters are wonderfully developed. I enjoyed being around this crazy group of friends who work to find their friends who is missing. Jack and Duke develop a relationship based on need at first. But as you can imagine, they have to go through several trials and tribulations before finally making a big break through.

 

Some movies are good for a nap, some movies are good for having on while doing projects. But this movie is good for watching and paying attention and savoring the story. It is one of those few movies that really is enjoyable for the whole family.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Advertisements

Last week I wrote about how The Iron Giant would make my top ten list of best animated movies.

As much as I love that movie, it made me think of what other movies I would put in that list. People who know me, know there are a few that are naturals. I have raved about them in the past and there is no way I could do a list without them.

On the other hand, I have done this list and later wondered why I didn’t put a movie down only to realize I forgot about it amidst all of my other steller choices. That is when one must do an honorable mention to make up for something that should be on the list but never made it.

So what do I look for in an animated feature. Beautiful animation for starters. Because animation can be otherworldly in depicting our world, I want something that is both dreamy and realistic. Like any other movie I watch, I want there to be good storytelling and characters with whom I can feel a connection. And because this list is family friendly, I want something most of the family can watch together.

  1. Toy Story FriendsToy Story – This computer animated flick tells the story of a toy who is the known favorite and must make an adjustment when his human gets a new toy. It is a story of jealousy, action and adventure, and a lesson on learning to accept your situation as it changes. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were perfect as Woody and Buzz.

  2. Shrek – I loved this movie for making fun of the various fairy tales and legends of Europe while giving it’s lead monster a sincere heart and wicked sense of humor. Its sound track was pretty great, too. Parents could watch this movie with their kids and not poke their eyes out after repeat viewings.

  3. Spirited Away – Director Hiyao Miyazaki is one of the best anime masters in the world. Based on Japanese folklore, the story is about a young girl who goes to work for a spa for the spirits in order to save her parents. Along with the incredible storytelling is animation that makes you think you are looking at a black and white photo in one scene and drawings on incredible depth in others.

  4. The Incredibles – Pixar hit the trifecta with this movie. The animation is fantastic with the variety of super heroes. Then there is the story telling, taking on the issues of what does a superhero do when he can no longer be a superhero and what it means when we reward everyone with or without merit. Finally the voice-over work of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Jason Lee are simply wonderful, giving life to the characters as we get to know them.

  5. Kung Fu PandaKung Fu Panda – Jack Black plays into type here as the lovable loser who manages to succeed without the initial willing help of his teacher. Then there is the animation. One scene in particular that stands out is when the flowers on the peach tree fall and blow into the sky. While I consider this a family movie in the action/adventure vein, it is one my father would not watch. He firmly said he was not watching a movie with Pandas.

  6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – I mention this movie because it gave us the formula for all animated movies. As the Disney company’s first foray into a feature length movie, it proved animation could be interesting for 70 minutes or more. Take a classic fairy tale, create a great villain, and make the surroundings beautifully detailed. While the singing is classic to its time period, we still sing those songs today. Do you ‘whistle while you work?’

  7. The Jungle Book – This movie gave us jazz on a mainstream level while telling the story of a lost Asian Indian boy trying to find his way back to the man village. The animated background on four movable panels within one scene gave us the depth of the jungle. It is hard not to tap your fingers and your toes to this movie or be impressed by the animation.

  8. The Lion King IMDb com

    Movie poster for The Lion King, picture from IMDb.com

    The Lion King – This is one of those once in a lifetime movies where everything comes together. The music is inspiring, hitting on emotional points without pulling you too far into despair. The story telling is excellent as a young prince is driven from his kingdom by a beloved uncle. Finally, the animation is filled with splendor whether is it the opening scene or the trip to the elephant graveyard.

  9. The Iron Giant – I went in detail why I like this movie last week. But in a nutshell I love the storyline about a boy in the 1950s who discovers a giant robot. The animation, the story telling, the characterizations, and the way everything incorporates pop culture of the period is breathtaking while being relatable.

  10. Beauty and the Beast – There has been some chatter lately as to Frozen having great female characters who do no wait to be saved by the male characters. True but Elsa and Anna are not the first of these role breaking women in the Disney world. That honor goes to Belle from Beauty and the Beast who does all she can to save the Beast. Her story is wrapped around with fantastic music, the conversation of if a small town for your entire life better, and a villain who is very handsome despite his cold heart.

Until Next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Working Up to Animated Oscar

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

Can I admit that I have not kept up with movie viewing as much as I should?

 

I have been watching some movies. The other week a friend and I went to see Les Mis. But let’s be honest, the movie that is the most grand at being sad is the one that will win the Oscar. The one that tries to state the most about the human condition and its actors will be the one that wins.

 

This year I have tried to focus more on the animated features with the thought that I have seen those.

 

Once I looked at the list I realized I had seen just one – Brave.

 

Judging an animated movie means I am not looking at just the story and how well it is told and portrayed. I am also looking at the animation. What about the animation of a particular film makes it better than any of the others out there?

 

This year, the big feat was creating the curls of Merida’s hair in Brave.

 

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

I assume that most animated characters have straight hair or a helmut of hair because it is very detailed work to make curly hair. Even the Japanese anime have hair that is a consistent collection of angles and sharp points. This way, hair does not have to change very much.

 

With curly hair, the story is different. Strands move with every tip of the head. You don’t have to merely move the shadow on the head, you have to move over 100 strands of corkscrew curls. That takes effort.

 

We did rent Frankenweenie after the nominations came out. The story is about a boy named Victor who re-animates his dog, Sparky, after the pet is hit by a car. But as competition for the upcoming science fair heats up, the other kids want the secret to Victor’s success. But problems occur, monsters are created, and only Victor and Sparky can solve the problem.

 

I like the stop action-animation, it worked smoothy and integrated well with the storyline. I also liked the black-and-white color palate which was a reference to every monster movie that would have inspired director Tim Burton.  This movie had many references that the parents or movie buffs would have recognized more readily than the kids for whom this movie was aimed.

 

I found the story to be very sweet, how actual love of a project makes it successful in terms of ending up the way you want it. But overall, I was under whelmed by Frankenweenie. It is a good movie, it is not a great movie. While that is good enough for deciding what to watch at home, is it enough for the grandest award in the film industry?

 

I would love to see Wreck-it Ralph before it completely leaves theaters. It is possible to rent The Pirates and ParaNorman but to be honest, neither of those movies appeal to me or my kids. Every time I say “Let’s get The Pirates,” they say “let’s not.”

 

When it comes to family viewing, sometimes what you want more than an award nominated film is something everyone wants to watch.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

With the Easter holiday just around the corner it is time to pull out all of those classic light and fluffy Easter  movies.

I bet you are thinking “what classic light and fluffy Easter movies?”

Exactly.

The only one that comes to mind immediately is Easter Parade starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. Perhaps there are some TV animated movies but none come to mind as a “must-watch.”

This year that has all changed.

This year we have Russell Brand starring as E.B. in Hop which opens on Friday, April 1st. It is a cute movie that combines live action with animation  seemlessly.

E.B. at his drum set from the movie "Hop," picture from IMDB.com

E.B. is the son of The Easter Bunny. He is afraid of never being good enough for his perfectionist but loving father (Hugh Laurie). Plus, E.B. has a dream to be a drummer in a band. So the night before he is to be crowned as the new Easter bunny, E.B. runs away from home.

Meanwhile, Fred O’Hare (James Marsden) has been given an ‘intervention’ by his family who are tired of his slacker ways. He has been out of work for a year and cannot find a new job because nothing is ever quite right for him.

E.B. and Fred (James Marsden) in "Hop," picture from IMDb.com.

It is during this period of change that the two young seekers find each other. And freak out. Somehow these two work out a compromise and begin to really like each other.

Back home, trouble is brewing. E.B.’s disapperance has been noted. The chick who is second in command, Carlos (Hank Azaria) has decided it is time for a regime change. Will E.B. get his chance to shine? Will he save the island? Will Fred figure out what he wants in his life?

While there are times I wished this movie could move just a little faster, there were other times I was totally and completely won over by E.B. He is not a bad bunny, just a little self-absorbed and needing to learn a few lessons the hard way. Fred, on the other hand, got on my nerves. Can James Marsden play anything besides goof (Enchanted) or super serious (X-Men)?

Russell Brand gives voice to E.B. in "Hop," picture from IMDb.com

I have to admit I was taken aback when I saw that Brand was going to be in this family movie. With Brand, I think of a comic who is willing to take things as far as they will go in an adult sort of way.

He was Aldous Snow, the ‘hip’ rock star in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He returned as the same rocker in need of career rehab in Get Him to the Greek. Why in the world would I think that this man is capable of the restraint needed for a family movie about the Easter Bunny?

The answer is that I have also seen Brand in Bedtime Stories with Adam Sandler and as the voice of Dr. Nefario in Despicable Me. Brand uses restraint in regards to language but his characters are funny and relatable, especially with kids.

The adults can relate to E.B. who is terrified to work under his father’s shadow. Kids will laugh at the jelly bean joke and the chase scenes and the pink berets. All will be taken in by the sweetness of the story and the feel-good moments. While no one will mistake this movie as a classic, it is a movie that you will watch again and again because it’s enjoyable.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t some forced moments here. Or that there were times characters needed to say things that were not said, that some of these characters needed to act in a way most of us would. 

However, if your goal is to find light-hearted, feel-good fare for the Easter season that the whole family can watch, Hop is the movie for you.

(Two and a half-stars)