Tag Archives: Animation

Guest Review: Up

Director: Pete Docter
Year: 2009
Score: 9.9/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Meth – not even once.

Meth – not even once.

My two boys are now at an age where they remain enthralled throughout a film, which has given me an excuse to work my way through the Pixar back catalogue again. First name on the list, without a moment’s hesitation, was Up, as it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.

Following the death of his wife, elderly widower Carl decides to live their unfulfilled dream and move to Paradise Falls. Along the way we are treated to an odyssey of emotion, one which at various points has the potential to render you a blubbering wreck. This is the beauty of Up; it offers some of the most emotive performances ever committed to film, and all through the medium of animation.

The first few minutes of the film show the life of Carl and Ellie; from childhood, to joyful love-filled marriage, to the tragedy of not having children of their own, through to rising above this and living loving and happy lives. From there we feel the heart-wrenching sadness as Ellie passes away, and we see Carl become moulded into an angry and embittered old man.

The film thunders on with the irrepressible enthusiasm of Russell, who’s still filled with joy despite the tragedy of his home life. We see the parental warmth blossom within Carl as he tries to maintain his vision of getting his house to the falls. We see the single minded exuberance of Dug the dog, and in Charles Muntz the neuroticism of a life spent unrelentingly chasing a dream.

With one of the most touching endings of all of Pixar’s many many success stories, Up is a spectacular triumph. The depth of the characters is almost endless, and with bitter sadness entangled around the child-like dream unfurling in front of the viewer offers something quite profound.

My two year old son, however, was unconcerned by this. He wanted a balloon (a blue one), and then decided that he wanted a dog.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Persepolis

Directors: Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi
Year: 2007
Score: 7.5/10

Jichael Mackson, the Ping of Kop, singer of countless hits such as 'Jelly Bean', 'Wheel the Hurled' and 'Whack or Blight'.

Jichael Mackson, the Ping of Kop, singer of countless hits such as ‘Jelly Bean’, ‘Wheel the Hurled’ and ‘Whack or Blight’.

Fascinating autobiographical French animation about a young Iranian girl who grows up during the Iran-Iraq War.

Based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels, it maintains the same art style and transforms it into a uniquely simple yet effective style of animation, perfect for conveying the protagonist’s perspective of the world, immersing the audience within that world, and giving the film its wry tone. Satrapi is an endearing character and her somewhat unusual life makes for an engaging narrative and an interesting window into the events of the time.

Considering the film’s subject matter and the wide acclaim it’s received, I found it didn’t pack quite enough of an emotional punch to be truly great, but nonetheless it’s an admirable and authentic piece of work that deserves to be seen.

Guest Review: Monsters University

Director: Dan Scanlon
Year: 2013
Score: 6.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Note: this film was previously reviewed by Movies and Bacon here.

"And we're just about done! I won't use these obviously but just to finish off the film, why don't you pop your clothes off?"

“And we’re just about done! I won’t use these obviously but just to finish off the film, why don’t you pop your clothes off?”

Oh, Pixar, what have you done?!

Pixar are one of my favourite companies in the whole wide world. The way that they take any situation, however benign and insignificant it may be, and just dream about what story might become simply staggers me. And they do it over and over – A Bug’s Life, Toy Story and its sequels, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., and let’s not even get on to the masterpiece that is Up. Every single one shares something in common; good triumphs over adversity. Now however we have Monsters University, and the message is as stark as it is cold – no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want it, no matter how dedicated; sometimes, you will never be good enough. And that, to me, is very very sad.

As the title suggests, the plot follows Mike and Sulley through university life, long before they’re working for Monsters Inc. Sulley’s character has been very cleverly reverse engineered from the original; an overly confident slacker relying on hereditary talent to get by, eventually learning the value of good work ethic, strength of character and morality. Mike on the other hand shares no resemblance to his original form; hardworking and calculating, and filled with burning ambition. A likeable character of course, but not connected to the original.

Goodman and Crystal turn in excellent performances, as does a surprisingly impressive Helen Mirren (voicing Dean Hardscrabble), and all add depth to a plot desperately trying to distract you from an inevitable ending of disappointment. It also contains some surprisingly epic lines (“When you lose, no one will remember you” “Maybe, but when YOU lose, everyone will remember you”) and the relationship between Mike and Sulley grows and develops in a charming way. But you just can’t get away from the disappointment of cold cutting reality that rings through the whole film like the dull toll of a lone funeral bell; no matter how hard you try, you will never be good enough.

I don’t want this from a Pixar film! I don’t care how hard you try and sugar coat the ending, it’s failure. If I wanted to think about a world of failure and misery and cold crushing reality, I don’t need a film for that, I have reality. I want to believe a goldfish can swim halfway across the world to find his disabled son. I want to believe that an old man can fly his house to South America using balloons and a fat kid. I want to dream! And shame on you Pixar for pissing on my chips.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: The Lego Movie

Directors: Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Year: 2014
Score: 8.5/10

Lego Movies and Lego Bacon!

Lego Movies and Lego Bacon!

With this hilarious, thoroughly likeable film, writers/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller prove that their success with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (which I gave 9/10) was no fluke. Remarkably, they’ve now twice managed what the creatives behind most modern animated films strive for but rarely achieve: a film that works just as well for adults as it does for kids.

There are so many cultural references and gags that no child could possibly understand, but they’re interwoven with plenty of jokes for all ages (including constant physical comedy that probably only seems fresh because it’s all done with animated pieces of Lego), so it never feels overindulgent or likely to bore younger viewers. I watched it in a crowded cinema, accompanied by a 6 year old and a 7 year old, and it was great to hear the different reactions around me to the different styles of comedy. I’m not ashamed to admit there were several moments when my young charges turned to look at me, puzzled at what could be making me laugh so hard at a beat that went straight over their heads, but each time they quickly forgot my strangeness when they were themselves bowled over by the next gag.

So many of the voice actors seem to have been selected with me in mind: Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Will Arnett, stars of three of my favourite TV comedies (Parks & Recreation, Community and Arrested Development); Will Ferrell and Elizabeth Banks, both of whom I tend to enjoy; plus small roles for people like Will Forte (as Abraham Lincoln, of course) and Keegan-Michael Key (as Pratt’s boss), who I can’t get enough of. Pratt, it must be said, effectively plays a less cartoonishly stupid version of Andy Dwyer, his Parks & Rec character, but he’s so endearing that I can live with that. He’s certainly not as one-note as other TV comedy stars who have transitioned to movies (I’m looking at you, Michael Cera and Aubrey Plaza).

Some other elements worthy of praise: the animation is lovely and quite ingenious, especially the way water and laser weaponry are handled; the numerous homages to The Matrix, one of my favourite films, are nicely done without being overbearing; the song ‘Everything Is AWESOME!!!’ is pretty damned catchy; and the inclusion of live-action characters in the final stretch is a ballsy move that I think pays off.

I don’t have many criticisms. The biggest is the heavy-handedness of the obligatory ‘message’ section at the end; I could have done with more subtlety on that front, especially as it wasn’t as emotionally impactful as the equivalent section of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (though I suspect that’s an entirely subjective reaction). Another is my slight discomfort with the inescapable fact that this is a 100-minute ad for a brand of children’s toys. Lastly, I got the sense that some of the action sequences were a little lengthy in comparison to their entertainment value, so they may become tedious if the movie ends up on repeat rotation in my household.

These minor quibbles aside, it’s an extremely clever film that I wholeheartedly recommend. Lord and Miller’s style of humour is right up my alley, and based on its level of critical acclaim and commercial success, I’m not the only one. Chances are it will work for you too, dear reader, though it may also leave you with a mysterious and unshakable urge to purchase some generic non-branded interlocking brick toys.