Editor, animation critic and researcher (and prior gaming critic). I'm stingy with my stars, so donít 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 nobodyís 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.
My Star to 10 scale ratio:
4.0 stars = 9-10 - Superb
3.5 stars = 8-9 - Great
3.0 stars = 7-8 - Good
2.5 stars = 5-6 - Mediocre
2.0 stars = 3-4 - Poor
1.5 stars = 2-3 - Terrible
1.0 stars = 1-2 - Abysmal
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, WALLēE...
Hokey is a con-artist in the style of Phil Silverís Bilko character, and pulls various cons with his younger assistant/tagalong Ding-a-Ling to coax and purloin food and/or shelter from various people, the majority being farmers, but sometimes fairytale characters like the three little pigs.
Hanna-Barbera was never a company for great animation (mostly due to the limits of TV budgets), and had a tendency to copy others and themselves in their cartoons, and Hokey Wolf had a simple concept, use Phil's Silver con-artist persona using talking animals. Hanna-Barbera would use the Phil Silvers plot again, to better affect, with their cat-centric primetime series Top Cat.
Hokey is Daws Butler, doing a fine job of impersonating Phil Silvers Ė well Philís most famous creation Sergeant Bilko Ė and the rest of the cast are on par with expectations, though I not sure whose voice Ding-a-Ling is based on.
It's decent, given the time period, or at least as much as anything else that the company behind it made. And, like much of Hanna Barberaís early work, it wonít bear up to repeated viewings, or be much discernable from other HB 60ís stuff.
With one of the most truncated titles in the franchiseís long history, Winnie the Pooh is pretty standard fare for the cast. Pooh is hungry for honey, and finding none at home decides that he must go find some, or better yet, borrow some from a friend. Meanwhile Eeyore has lost his tail and once the crew all get together; they set about finding a suitable replacement, and guess what the prize is (and guess who suggested it).
During this search the group come across a note written by Christopher Robin and, with apprehension, decide to brave the tedium of visiting Owl, who is currently trying to read his memoirs to anyone daft enough to pay him a visit. While Owl is generally able to read it he mistakes the words ďBack SoonĒ for Backson, which he interprets as a terrible beast. When probed about the nature of the beast, he does a reversal - through song naturally - to get them to decide what theyíre be up against. The majority of the movie is concerned with their efforts to catch this mythical beast, led by the possibly post-traumatic Rabbit, at least after his egoís buttered up by the others.
Pooh likes honey, Eeyore complains, Tigger likes bouncing, Rabbit seems like heís two hops away from starring in some sort of Vietnam movie (this gets really pronounced in a few scenes), Piglet would rather be someplace else as long as itís not in range of either danger or Owlís monologues. The film is read by a narrator, the characters are aware of the fourth wall, jumping from page and talking back at the narrator; the text gets used as a plot device several times, it feels much like any other Pooh film between the TV series and today.
And, depending on the viewer that could be the filmís ultimate undoing, because it really isnít treading any ground that the numerous films, direct-to-videos and various TV seriesí havenít. The film's plot level is about on par with the Tigger Movie and a tad better than Pigletís Big Movie, which is to say itís okay in the grand scheme of Pooh films, but is not something that will stick in your memory long after itís over.
Animated by Disney home studio team, Winnie the Pooh is certainly not lacking in polish, though, it should be said that the art style possibly doesnít warrant such talent as andreas deja, but two stand out scenes, one where Pooh is having a 40ís musical inspired dream about a land of honey, and another where the chalk drawings of the imagined Backson during their discussions with Owl come to life* certainly help to add a bit of sparkle to the movie's visuals.
Winnie the Pooh is nothing to write home about, itís a decent entry in the Winnie the Pooh cannon, but not much else, and while not distinct enough, will probably keep the little ones happy and sate fans of the bear with little brains.
*Which would have better if Pigletís Big Movie hadnít done a similar thing.
BTW: Thereís some mid-credit scenes and general credit playfulness.
NB: I watched the film during its UK theatrical run back in April, I will probably buy/rent the DVD, if the film is better/worse than I remember, I'll adjust the review as needed.
The basic premise is cute enough, Cluck Trent - Daffy playing a role rather than himself like in Duck Dodgers and The Scarlet Pumpernickel* - overhears a televised soap opera and mistakes it as reality. Changing costume, with the seemingly obligatorily wrong costume gag that had already been used in another, aforementioned cartoon, the duckster goes after his perceived enemy Aardvark Ratnick.
What follows is a stem of drawn out blackout gags involving Daffy misconstruing various happenings around town and elsewhere as the work of his fiendish foe. The joke wears a bit thin after a while, playing like a weak version of the Bugs vs. Daffy cartoons, minus the dialogue between them.
Worth a watch, but the duckís been in much, much better stuff.
*Both much better shorts than this BTW.
It is also very, very short.
The plot is straightforward in essence, though it tries to throw in superfluous things like amnesia, revenge and the like, it is in essence a prison breakout movie with sci-fi overtones. Once in the prison we are shown how brutal and sadistic the place is before the two amnesia suffering protagonists are able to break everyone out - to tell you how would spoil what little plot there is - and attempt an escape, the prison defence systems close by.
I'll give the film its credit, if you want manic action it certainly delivers above and beyond. Bullets and fists fly, blood is spilt, and the destruction of something new is only mere seconds away at any given time. Itís a mad trip to be sure and as long as you think of it as a ride and nothing else, youíll likely enjoy it. However if you want something that will stay with you and has something meaningful to say, stay away from here as youíll be disappointed.
It looks unique certainly, and outside of a few graphic novels I canít recall seeing anything like the style it uses, especially in animation, it also moves smoothly, at least for anime direct-to-video. The soundtrack is a mix of trance, techno and other music which youíd find at rave joints and it fits with the package. The dialogue is merely there, trying to fill in exposition and such, but itís so forgettable and add nothing to the film of any meaning, the whole thing might as well free of dialogue altogether.
Iím sure many teenagers will think that Dead Leaves is the best thing ever, for those a bit more mature, itís probably worth a watch just to see such onscreen mayhem; and then you can take it back to the rental store and forget about it.
It doesnít look like Iíve been missing all that much.
When I first heard of the problems this film had concerning its original creator Chris Sanders and conflicts with John Lasseter over the filmís direction I mentally put it down as a film with a troubled creation. While some films have managed to pull through their difficult production without a hitch, many more bear the scars of such internal conflict; as clear as the marking on Boltís side.
The opening minutes are very watchable, in much the same way as the beginning of a James Bond film, the kinetic action of a chase sequence plus some cheesy Ė but tongue in cheek Ė dialogue make a fun few minutes. It also provided me with the one laugh I had in the whole film. Itís too bad the rest of the film wasnít like this, because thereafter we get into territory that been done before and done better.
Boltís biggest problem is that the basic premise of a character Ė in the case the titular canine Ė not knowing that his or her perceived life is nothing more than an illusion. Itís a plot device that has been done to death in both of Pixarís Toy Story films, and other films as diverse as The Truman Show and the original Matrix, all films which found an original route for the narrative. Bolt is an altogether predictable film which holds no surprises, leaving a viewer to wonder what the point of it all was.
The analogy with Toy Story is quite appropriate, both Bolt and Buzz suffer from the same illusion Ė or delusion in Buzzís case Ė of grandeur, though admittedly in Boltís case it was induced into him Ė like err, Truman Ė through deliberate manipulation. Same goes with Mittens, sheís a recycle of Jessie from Toy Story 2; itís almost as if John Lasseter decided to remake Toy Story with animals.
The other film it borrows elements from is Homeward Bound, as Bolt ends ups in New York and wants to get back to his master, enlisting the help of a unwilling cat named Mittens; end up with a kinetic hamster who seems to be on a constant sugar high, blah, blah, blah; none of this is incredibly enticing on its own, it an attempt to add a physical journey on top of a psychological one.
The characters mildly survive, but even they could be perceived as recycledÖ
Bolt is noble and true to himself Ė at least his perception of himself Ė and while his learning of reality is a little endearing, his refusal to believe in the evidence of his own pain borders on self-delusional at times. Mittens is at once an interesting and yet uninteresting character, her pessimism and cynicism is nice and dandy and all that, but the audience is bound to figure out why she feels such things long before the 'revelation'. Rhino is an annoying, totally unfunny character who adds nothing at all to the film other than make me flinch every time he said anything, leaving me wishing he either died or was never created to begin with.
Technically, thereís nothing wrong here, the animation is superb; the animals behave like their respective species, with enough anthropomorphism added as was needed. However, this is Disney and as such I expect animation of the highest calibre, so the production values are something of a mute point. The art direction is soft plush all the way, with Bolt, Mittens and Rhino definitely being overly adorable, the better to sell toys with. I canít remember too much about the soundtrack to be honest, it sort of fits and is in the background, but itís nothing too memorable.
It cute and cuddly and safe, in fact itís too safe, with almost no true dramatic conflict throughout, it kind of not to care about the characters, the lack of original plot, or even original ideas doesnít help in this regard either. Donít get me wrong, there is fun to have with Bolt and it certainly is worth a watch or two, but there is little real meat on these old recycled bones.
*As opposed to Pixarís