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starlac's avatar
KF Managing Editor
Reviews: 226
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Cars © Pixar
rated it:
posted: Aug 21, 2017

In animation, anthropomorphic cars - and airplanes, trains and ships for that matter - are really nothing new if you know where to look, from classic shorts - like The Little Blue Coupe* and Tex Avery's One Cab Family† - to the junked cars in the living appliance world of The Brave Little Toaster‡; and, of course, let's not forget Benny the Cab from Roger Rabbit. One element most cartoon cars - and "alive" cars in live-action comedy movies - have is that their headlights are generally the parts that get turned into eyes; mind you a great deal of these cars have passengers to move around, so its justified.

The last part is, of course, one of the things that Cars doesn't have, there are no humans here (or indeed any kind of animals, unless Volkswagen beetles as flies and tractor cows, etc, count); There there's the little issue that certain types of cars don't actually have headlights; like, well, NASCAR ones, so using headlights may be cute, but it certainly wouldn't make the most logical sense. Of course the reason for this in real life is because the less a car has to carry around, the faster its potential top speed becomes: most racing machines, regardless of type, tend to be a bit bare bone.

One other big upshot of having the eyes in the windscreen is that their expressions are easier to read.

Of course the reason I can go on about the cars eyes is that there’s not a lot to say about Cars story otherwise; it as simple a story as the films have ever brought about. Although I haven’t seen Doc Hollywood so I can’t say how similar the two films are outside of their basic plot arch, there’re some niche characters, but no-one comes across as being really that original, which given the animation studio behind it, is more distressing than if it had come from a lesser company.

Cars certainly has one of the most energetic openings of any of Pixar's films, playing through the Piston Cup final race of the season. It soon calms down to deliver a more understated tone as it leaves the showmanship aspects of racing behind and enters the real world outside of the track.

And here it starts to become more of a slice-of-life, series of events movie, than any Pixar film has ever been since the company started making them. The main character’s conflict is the shallowest of any protagonist that the studio's ever produced and non of the secondary characters are all that interesting.

On the other hand, the visuals are impeccable, although really this isn't surprising really, given Pixar's track record. This film's big claim to CGI frame, is that it is the first Pixar film to incorporate ray tracing, a rendering technique concerning how light behaves and reflects off surfaces, appropriate given the high amount of shiny metal the film has. In the commentary it is noted that certain scenic backdrops are actually realistic 2D matte paintings - the kind that Hollywood has used since the 1930's - rather that modelled in CGI: a pretty impressive realisation given how seamless the two are merged. Animation is peerless as usual, the production valves are through the roof and the cinematography on show is top notch, as you'd expect from Pixar.

One touch I really liked is during the flashback sequence, this part of the film is rendered with a degree of noticeable film grain that would have existed if it had been shot at the time that it was set in (on mid level grain 35mm anyway). However, this effect seems to be visible only on the Blu-ray disc as it is slight (I wonder if the effect would have been noticed beyond normal film grain when the film was out in theatres - outside of digital projectors). Everywhere else, the image quality is simply spotless and reference grade quality; if you have the means to get the most out of it, then grab the blu-ray version.

Audio is just as well done, although the 5.1 mix naturally receives the most workload at the start and end of the film; with cars passing every few seconds from different angles, its insane at times (although I am at a lose as to why driving through tires creates more sub activity than a crash of thunder). I was also a little interested when I discovered almost hidden background noise in the back speakers, like muffled audience screams at the start and the old radio the old lady car - forget her name - has; such is the attention on the sound front. 

It’s perhaps telling that Cars tends to get played more for making sure my AV setup is still working properly than actually put in to be watched, that opening sequence is great for making sure the old 5.1 unit is correctly calibrated.

At just shy of two hours, it's quite long for a western produced animated film, nonetheless it goes through well. It's a bit predictable and somewhat derivative story and character wise, but the whole turns out to be pretty much enjoyable throughout its runtime.

Ka-Chow, not quite, but still pretty good...

*Which John Lasseter noted as his favourite classic short in the director's commentary.
†Both these two shorts had their cars with eyes in their windows, I wonder if they had an influence.
‡Which had John Lasseter on the staff, hmm.

starlac's avatar
KF Managing Editor
Reviews: 226
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The Care Bears in the Land without Feelings © Atkinson Film Arts

With a successful line of greeting cards and soft-toys under their belts (and it being the 1980s), it was inevitable that the Care Bears would end up getting depicted in animation, for good or ill.

First came this. The Land with Feelings – and its sequel special – is exactly as bad as you might imagine. To the point where even Those Characters From Cleveland were unhappy with the specials and moved production of the later movies and TV series to other studios. Here the animation was provided by Atkinson Film Arts, of “The Raccoons” fame, but whether due to budget restraints or lack of time, the results are a far cry from their more famous works.

The plot is unimaginative and forgettable; a boy runs away from home to wind up in the clutches of the Care Bears' original antagonist Professor Coldheart. The bears go after him into the titular lands, and wind up getting stopped – more or less one by one – before reaching the professor's castle by way of deus ex machina.

The animation is woeful, the design of the human children especially, looking more like concept work at times than finished animation. The Care Bears like always are identical, apart from colour and the symbols on their tummies. Professor Coldheart meanwhile, gets the closest thing to a pass, as he's the only thing with a personality range.

If you must watch something starring the Care Bears,* watch the first movie; which at least is just a mediocre non-entity rather than a non-starter.

*Or, you know watch something which is more likely to have some effort put into it.

J-Kitty's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 188
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Rabbit's Feat © Warner Bros.
rated it:
posted: Jan 27, 2017

This is another favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon that features Wile E. Coyote as an adversary. You know, this is one of the last three Bug/Wile E. cartoons before the original Warner Bros. cartoon studio shut down in 1964.

I love the part where Wile E. lunges at Bugs and falls into the cauldron of water intended for the rabbit. And Wile E.'s eyes and nose peered out of the water to glare at Bugs during his: "Oh Father! You're stewed again!" I also love it when Wile E. mentions the "dynamite-in-the-carrot" idea, Bugs screams and Wile E. freaks, falls on his face, and then Bugs: "That it'd hurt." So anyway, this is another Bugs Bunny favorite.

J-Kitty's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 188
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Hare-Way to the Stars © Warner Bros.
rated it:
posted: Jan 27, 2017

This is my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon that features Marvin the Martian as an adversary. Of course, it is vying with the last Bugs/Marivn cartoon from 1963 "Mad as a Mars Hare," but I love this cartoon better. I also love Maurice Noble's layout work for Mars, very good stuff there. I also like the sound of Marivn's "Where's the kaboom?" I'm funny that way. And the "mirror" scene between Bugs and one of the dehydrated Martians.

I am sorry to said that I have nothing else to say about this cartoon, other than the animation is perfect. So anyway, I thought this is another Bugs Bunny favorite.

J-Kitty's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 188
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Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet © Bardel Animation Ltd. / Ventanarosa Productions / Participant Media / Hanson / Gibran National Committee / Creative Projects Group / Code Red / Doha Film Institute / MyGroup Lebanon / Prophet Screen Partners / FFA Private Bank
rated it:
posted: Jan 21, 2017

I was curious about this film, after I had watched the trailer online, and I was fortunate to find it on Netflix. I thought it was a visually astounding movie, and I was glad that there was a chance for 2D animation in 2014, when it comes to animated movies.

The film's story is about an exiled poet/artist named Mustafa and his relationship with a struggling widow (and his housekeeper) Kamila and her mute daughter Almitra. The film is also about the impact Mustafa's words had on the townspeople, but the town's militant government thinks those words are seditious...stupid!

I thought the casting was excellent with Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek and Frank Langella. I don't have any particular scene I like, because I love it from beginning to end. So like I had said this film visually astounding with great animation.

J-Kitty's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 188
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Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol © UPA
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posted: Dec 09, 2016

Mr. Magoo is one of my favorite cartoons characters, and this special is now another Christmas favorite; I had watched it two times. In the first TV special for Christmas, Mr. Magoo plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in a musical stage production of "A Christmas Carol," one of my favorite Christmas stories. I thought the songs were great, and so is the animation.

I'm afraid there is nothing else to say about this special other than I really love it! I love it better than "A Flintstone Christmas Carol," when it comes to a Christmas special about a stage version of Dickens' holiday story.

J-Kitty's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 188
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rated it:
posted: Dec 03, 2016

You know, I used to have the "Troll" dolls as a kid, but not anymore. I have seen the trailer for this movie (the trolls' first movie) online, and I thought it was a great, colorful juke-box musical; and it is.

The film started 20 years ago when the happy little trolls were being harvested from their tree by the ogre-ish Bergens as food. They eat the trolls by a means to be happy. Fortunately the trolls led by their king Peppy escape through a tunnel during a Bergen festival, where their young prince would taste his first troll. Now years later in their new forest village, the optimistic and extremely happy Princess Poppy organizes a big party to celebrate their escape. But the village's grey, glum, survivalist nay-sayer Branch thinks it's a terrible idea, for the loud music and bright, glitterly lights would alert the Bergens. And it has when a Bergen chef who was banished on that very date 20 years ago, spotted the party's lights and captures nine of the trolls, who are Poppy's friends. So Poppy takes it upon herself to ask Branch to go with her to Bergen Town to save her friends. Of course Branch refuses and Poppy sets off by herself. But after an encounter with a bunch of spider-like monsters, Branch saves Poppy knowing she wouldn't last long beyond their village. So the two trolls decide to continue the journey to Bergen Town. And that is all I could tell you folks.

All I have to say is that I love the film's animation, humor and music.

J-Kitty's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 188
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The Secret Life of Pets © Universal / Illumination Entertainment
rated it:
posted: Sep 25, 2016

I got curious about this movie after seeing the trailers. Then my mom and I saw it in the theatre; I thought it is another great animated movie of the year. Also Max & Gidget are my favorite characters.

The story is about Max living a good life in his New York apartment with his beloved owner Katie. That is until Katie brings home a big, shaggy stray name Duke, who Max thought is trying to muscle in on his happy home. One day during a walk with the dog-walker, the resentive Duke tricks Max into travelling far into the city, and they are attacked by a feral cat gang in an alley. The cats remove Max and Duke's collars and the dogs are caught by the city's Animal Control. Fortunately the two dogs were saved by a rogue band called "The Flushed Pets". That is all I could tell you folks.

I don't have a favorite scene (as I said many times), because I love the whole film from beginning to end. I also love the movie's humor and great animation. One more thing to point out is that Max was so cute as a puppy! So overall, this is a great film for all pet lovers.

Maxtaro93's avatar
Fledgling Reviewer
Reviews: 6
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Mune: Guardian of the Moon © Onyx Films / Orange Studio / Kinology / ON Animation Studios
rated it:
posted: Jun 29, 2016

Mune is one of the strangest animated projects ever churned out by the French, and not at all in the usual way. Its ambitions show, boasting a colorful, dazzling world of ideas unlike anything conceived by modern Hollywood animation, but it overindulges in these ambitions and ideas without making way for storytelling along these lines.

The titular character and his life's duties strike as familiar and problematic enough; he is given this name before he knows what occupation he's set himself up in. His plucky love interest and "ladies' man" sidekick can't help but end up as outdated, sexist sterotypes (case in point: the classic eyelash flutter), and all the villains fall under nearly every animated villain trope in the book. C2C's "Happy" also has a place on the soundtrack to make sure the film is as profitable as possible. How can a film this visually inspired blow its chance to be as original as it looks this hard?

On the bright side, the film occasionally makes use of its visual creativity just as well as it should, with some much-needed captivation to boot and some absolutely stunning hand-drawn animation sequences. However, it's an European Book of Life - a film that strives to accomplish rare feats in CG animation but does not take enough time to avoid the kind of clichés and narrative issues bound to water it down. No wonder it was the only film at the festival I had seen that nobody applauded.

Vulpecula's avatar
Animated Enthusiast
Reviews: 32
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Ratchet and Clank © Sony Computer Entertainment / Rainmaker Entertainment / Blockade Entertainment
rated it:
posted: Jun 28, 2016

It has been a long time that I've written a review here, and I thought I would write one on a movie based on one of my favorite video game franchises, Ratchet & Clank. *Although just a simple short review so no spoilers here*

It is a shame that the film is doing poorly in the box office and gotten negative reviews from most critics (you can blame the "Disney Revival" for that). I thought the movie was pretty good. Not as good as the game it was based on of course, but still good. The film tells the story origin of Ratchet and Clank, much like the first game and the recent PS4 game did, but in greater detail. You will have to find out and see for yourself.

If you're a fan of Ratchet & Clank, then check it out. You will like this film if you are.

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