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starlac

KF Managing Editor
Location: UK
Birthday: November 6
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About me:

Real name: Carl Padgham

Review Star Average: 2.25/4

Keyframe's Managing Editor, animation critic and researcher (and former videogame critic). I'm stingy with my stars, so don’t expect a lot of high scores from me, a profile has to really work to earn its balls of fire facsimiles.

Presently, I review animation based on how they bear up to the peers in their respective categories - features-to-features, DTVs-to-DTVs, etc - rather than try to unfairly compare a high budget feature film with a low budget direct-to-video. Call it a category concession if you will.

I hope to never let nostalgia affect my reviews, but then nobody’s perfect. My favourite animated cartoons tend to fall between the original "Golden Era" and the late 80s to early 90s. My interest in animation goes back years. I enjoy playing video games but tend to find their animated adaptations range from awful to okay - I could say a similar thing to game adaptations of many animation licences.

While I may prefer traditional animation to CGI, I can watch almost anything and think that the story and characters are more important to a film, etc, than the medium of animation used in it.

For what it's worth, I have Asperger's Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism.

My Star to 10 scale ratio:

4.0 stars = 9-10 - Superb: One of the best films you could hope to see in your lifetime - insofar as I'm concerned, a rare gem in animation achievement.

3.5 stars = 8-9 - Great: That film that entertains all the way through, and never truly flounders, but is still missing the spark that seperates the great from the epic.

3.0 stars = 7-8 - Good: A film, etc, that is good, but not great, something you'd watch again, but might not go hunting down the Blu-ray or DVD - at full price - for.

2.5 stars = 5-6 - Mediocre: Straight down the middle, while it's watchable, you won't call it actually good per sé. On the flip side, neither is it actually bad.

2.0 stars = 3-4 - Poor: Not so bad as you cannot get through it, but you might not care to watch it again anytime soon, or remember anything about it immediately after it finishes.

1.5 stars = 2-3 - Terrible: Maybe there some redeeming factors, but they are few and far in a overwise horrid production.

1.0 stars = 1-2 - Abysmal: Practically unwatchable sludge. or as close to it as makes no odds.

Interests:

Animation, Drawing, writing, reading (animal novels, fantasy, sci-fi, animation history), videogames, and radio comedies. Not necessarily in that exact order.

Animation that I love:

Theatrical Shorts, Animaniacs, Astro Boy (all versions), Count Duckula, Lilo & Stitch, WALL•E...

Website:

starlacs galactic musings - Blog

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2 star reviews

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animated cartoon Ain't She Tweet © Warner Bros.
Ain't She Tweet
Rated it: 2
posted: Aug 23, 2014
As I watched this short, it seemed that Sylvester is actually against Tweety because he made fun of him - with a mouse character - and the feline wants revenge. It makes a change from the standard I want to eat the birdie, but after that it sort of faded, because, beyond that, the reasons for the animosity doesn't otherwise make much difference to what is a fairly standard Tweety and Sylvester cartoon.

They're a few decent gags in here I suppose, but I can't get the feeling out of my head that as a whole, it all feels so routine. That's not to say it's bad, not the bird and feline have been in better shorts.

Not good, but nothing really memorable.

I cannot imagine that animating all those dogs was fun, yeah they're on cycles, but they're also a lot of them on screen at any one time, at a time when you'd have to copy and paste or otherwise rotate an image manually... fun.

I hate to write such a short review for a theatrical short, but I need something to write about and well, to use an analogy that I'm sure Sylvester would like, there just isn't enough meat on this one's bones to chew on.

animated cartoon Fraidy Cat © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Fraidy Cat
Rated it: 2
posted: Jun 25, 2014
Well this is a bit of a tedious cartoon, at least by usual Tom & Jerry short standards.

Before Tex Avery came along, MGM's cartoon output had been just dragged through productions with the help of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, with especially the former thinking himself at a level on par with Disney as a producer of theatrical shorts. Trouble is, he failed to grasp some of the fundamentals of why people went to see Disney's shorts, making shallow imitations rather that good films in their own right.

The one thing he was good at was spending money, something that MGM was keen on stopping. Expensive, long and often saccharine, at a time when the producer wanted quicker, wittier productions, Quimby long was fed up with the pair. That why he never renewed their contracts, that's why he hired Tex, and that's why he brought Hanna and Barbera to the directors chairs.

Yet the "poisons" he was so keen to be rid of remained, at least for the time being.

I won't delve into the animation and backgrounds, because they're great; as to be expected when MGM's spending on them was second only to Disney. The short has problems, but none of are to do with the art quality.

One the problems with the first few early Tom & Jerry shorts, is that suffer from the same sludge-like pace of those that producer Quimby wanted to get away from. As the cartoons went on they sped up, partly due to friendly competition between their unit and that of Tex. Quimby may not have been the greatest producer - and wasn't well liked by his own production staff - but he did have a point.

The start of Fraidy Cat has the problem that was pandemic of this period, its slow. The first minute and forty seconds gives us a introduction, Tom listening to a radio serial. This may have been interested within living memory of the radio series it was referencing, but today it just sucks up time for a weak payoff.

Soon thereafter, Fraidy Cat just seems content to stay on a vacuum that Jerry uses to frighten Tom for over two minutes, before Tom realises what's up. It crawls the potential gags down just so it can focus on this one, the problem is, that it neither funny nor all that clever in its execution. It was a problem that affected other Tom & Jerry shorts, Puss Gets the Boot is another short that is too long for its material (clocking in at over nine minutes, again brought about by the practises of Hanna and Barbera's predecessor). Then again, for all its length, Puss Gets the Boot is still a faster paced experience and a better short for that.

I don't usually mind Jerry winning in these early shorts*, but Jerry has the advantage here throughout far too much of the cartoon. It's a tad out of character for a series that yo-yos the winner throughout the length before deciding who won. This reversal came about in Millionaire Kitty, where Tom was constantly harassed by Jerry, and came about other times when Jerry was the more obnoxious of the two, at least often enough to give some relief at any rate. Later cartoons would afford Jerry a degree of losses if he became the worst offender of the two, giving the series a kind of moral dimension which separated it from other cat and mouse cartoons.

Jerry just looks like a bit of a jerk in this short, in the pre-mentioned short Jerry is clearly being tormented by the feline, which gives him some justification for his later actions. Here, there's no context for Jerry's actions beyond malice and it makes me long to see a reversal of fortunes. Maybe part of this is that I'm watching these decades after they were made, and have the benefit of seeing the later, faster shorts alongside the earlier ones, but these shorts do not exist in a vacuum and I refuse to review them as if they did.

*Spoiler: And no, him getting covered in flour and scaring himself with his reflection is not good enough.

animated cartoon Crowing Pains © Warner Bros.
Crowing Pains
Rated it: 2
posted: May 19, 2014
When loop notes that Sylvester is atypically violent in this cartoon, he ain't kidding. Within the opening minute he's trying to murder Barnyard Dog and then whacks Foghorn with blunt piece of wood when the rooster won't shut up, although to be fair to him, I think most characters are quite keen for Leghorn to zip it.

It doesn't help that I'm a big fan of Sylvester, so seeing him so out of character is alarming, especially when their no context as to why. I cannot recall the character appearing alongside either the Dog or Foghorn, so that they seem to have a feud is something out of the blue. I understand that there's no much time for setup, but there really is no reason for Sylvester to be here, his routine is basically what Foghorn generally gets up to - until he briefly take the roll the dog normally takes. The main reason he's here seems to give Henry Hawk a new target to mistake as a chicken.

If I being more cynical, I'd say that it's because Sylvester was a more well known star at this point, in spite of being only a few months older.

The history books note that Bob McKimson was the lesser of the directors at Warner - his cartoons are less cerebral than Jones and less chaotic than Freleng - but they generally fared better than this. The animation is quite sloppy in parts given the talent at the studio, with some of the sequences of Sylvester running being particularly egregious examples.

Yet there one thing that comes to mind when viewing this short, it actual boring in a way that doesn't usually occur within Warner cannon. Maybe a better word would be lacklustre, there's nothing here that hasn't been done better in other cartoons, even Foghorn Leghorn ones. It's watchable, and yes, it is more interesting than watching paint dry.

Though not as much fun as actually painting mind you.

animated movie The Smurfs © Sony Pictures Animation
The Smurfs
Rated it: 2
posted: Jul 18, 2013
The biggest fault with The Smurfs, is that it is a regurgitation of the same worn plot that was present in both Alvin & the Chipmunks and Hop (the latter also released in 2011), almost down to the letter. And like Alvin, the entire goal of the film is to introduce audiences to the blue critters. The fact that it did well enough to warrant a sequel is worrisome; as we can expect more of the same junky, pop-culture filled trash that fleets through the cinema, but won't mean a thing in years to come.

Yet like Hop ad Alvin, I managed to survive until the end with the notion that it wasn't as bad as it could've been. It's still pretty poor, don't misunderstand me, as bland and uninspired as the TV series it's based on (itself inconsequential filler in a decade filled with worthless material), yet it's ultimately harmless enough to basically pass the time if you need to do so without wanting to ever task your brain.

Hank Azaria's depiction of Gargamel helps, hamming it p for the camera instead of behind a microphone, and stealing every scene he's in (along with his CGI cat). One hopes that he earned enough to weather this project, or is enjoying himself as much as his performance suggests. Otherwise, there's little to recommend with the generic

The Smurf are preparing their village for the celebration of the coming of the blue moon (an actual blue moon, not the lunar cycle of reality). The smurf's keep Clumsy from proceedings, to prevent him, well damaging them. Ostracised by his fellow species Clumsy winds up inadvertently leading Gargamel to the village. In their haste to escape the warlock, a group of smurfs - Papa, Smurfette, Gutsy, Grouchy, Clusmy and Brainy - wind up sucked through a vortex that takes them to Central Park and subsequently, the human couple that make up the film's human protagonists.

You know what to expect, the humans, okay the male lead, resist the smurfs antics, the film makes reference to pop-culture and every visual pun to go with the colour blue it can muster. Brainy, Grouchy and Gutsy might as well not be in the film for all they contribute to it; and to a lesser extent neither really are Papa and Smurfette. Clumsy gets the only real character arc during the run-time and it boils down to cliché, in this case "you more than you think". It's silly and more than a little trite, but the whole thing is inoffensive because it's too bland to be anything else.

Like the TV series it is based on - and no it's not really based on the work of Peyo, or at least no more than said series - The Smurfs is the movie equivalent of filler, never ambitious enough to be meaningful nor bad enough to be truly awful. Unlike the animated series, the animation of even a bad CGI movie is generally going to be adequate, and that's what it

Maybe it's because the movie isn't all sickly and saccharine all the time. There's something therapeutic about watching Gargamel smashing the mushrooms that make up the smurf houses, and it has a time limit for a plot device, which at least put it on a mildly better footing than Hop or Alvin.

Yes, the fact that it's trying to sell me M&Ms and Rock Bank (or was it Guitar Hero), et al. It's annoying as ever, but somehow I got to the end credits without wanting to break some smurf's neck. On the other hand I'll certainly choose dozens of other films in it place. It's a poor effect, bland and uninspired; something to only bother with if it airs on television, rather than put any money towards.

animated cartoon The Loan Stranger © Walter Lantz Productions
The Loan Stranger
Rated it: 2
posted: Jul 03, 2013
Unlike most of the best Woody Woodpecker cartoons, there's a certain lack of insanity here, or is it kinetic energy? The end result is a short that's watchable enough, but will unlikely be much remembered after viewing (I've watched it a few times and cannot recall it readily).

Woody sings his trademark "So I'm Crazy" song, and his car breaks down near a loan company. This being a cartoon the loaner is a fox/wolf predatory-type that is preying on "suckers" to acquire their cars (given that Woody's car is a complete wreck, one has to wonder why the fox lets the bird borrow anything). Woody signs the loan and promptly forgets about it 30 days later.

What follows is a second act some lacklustre and poorly paced gags that really don't go anywhere as Woody keeps the fox from him, and the fox tries to get Woody to pay him back plus a ton of added interest. A gag that involves a giant mousetrap isn't fast or violently exaggerated enough to really be funny and that's part of the issue; the whole short is too plodding and slow for its own good.

Compared to Woody later cartoon shorts, like Barber of Servile this is quite poor, yet in the grand scheme of theatrical shorts, it is watchable, just not memorable. It just feels like the whole short feels like it's running on flumes.

 
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