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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 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.

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 sť. 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.


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...


starlacs galactic musings - Blog

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Reviews for Direct-to-Video

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animated cartoon Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind © Studio 4įC / CAPCOM
Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Apr 12, 2009
As videogames, the Street Fighter series of games stands at the head of its specific genre with great controls and mechanics; it has been successful for the simple reason of being a great series of fighting games (apart from the first Street Fighter, which was awful).

Fighting games rarely need fancy things like stories, they tend to get in the way and those fighters that try to blend a story into the setting fail in every possible way that you could fail in telling a story. A story in a fighting game is, on the high pretty irrelevant, unfortunately companies will try to force one into the game to explain the motivations of all the characters. Itís as if million dollar purses of prize money or proving that youíre the best fighter in the world wasnít a good enough for entering something as simple as a fighting tournament they have to add revenge, a lust for power and greed into proceedings.

Because of these flimsy narratives, any adaptation is going find it tough from the get-go just grabbing the straws there are on offer. Ties that Bind barely bothers, it just rehashes the story from Street Fighter II Ė The Animated Movie, An evil organisation is extracting data from the world greatest fighters to create some sort of bio-weapon; Chun-Li, Guile and Cammy set out to stop them. The bad guys need Ryuís data to complete their research, but since he moves around constantly they end up finding Ken in the hope that heíll lead them to Ryu.

Animation is pretty much non-existent, IV being the type of OAV that has a lot of static images with only the mouth opening and closing and the camera generally being a quarter-inch from their face to aid in this. The only action/animation so to speak of is, naturally enough, during the fight scenes, unfortunately the lead up to this action is so dull, that the fights canít enliven anything.

Itís the bottom line really, it doesnít matter if your film is in high-definition or standard, a bad film will always remain a bad film, even when you can see the tiniest of ink-lines and all the detail of the backgrounds and Ties that Bind is a bad one.

No wonder it was only part of the gameís collectorís edition.

animated cartoon Dead Leaves © Production I-G
Dead Leaves
Rated it: 2.5
posted: Mar 22, 2009
Talking about Dead Leaves could be problematic; on the one hand it looks like nothing else from a purely aesthetic point of view, and is extremely hectic and fast paced. On the other hand, it has a basic, uninteresting plot, continually aims for the lowest common denominator and the entire cast is either uninteresting, soon to be dead or totally unlikeable.

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.

animated cartoon The Little Polar Bear: Lars and the Little Tiger © Westdeutscher Rundfunk / Rothkirch Cartoon Film
Lars the Little Polar Bearís last film managed to be a success, seeing of how most of its audience were likely European given that that was were the books it was based on originated, there was probably quite a large market for him. The film has spawned a number of sequels, not only theatrical, but DTVs and a televised animation series. So love the bear or loathe him, heís here to stay, so how does his first appearance since the movie stack up?

The main concern about this direct-to-video sequel is that it is a paint-by-numbers affair, following much of the pacing and the episodic nature of the original to the point where you could cut a scene out from one and paste it to the other without really noticing. On the other hand that is a tried and tested method for childrenís programming, so the question is does it mix around with the established formula enough to warrant owning this one if you own the previous film? Not really.

Thereís little dramatic conflict and no reason to suspect that Lars will always manage to get back home, everything is safe, too safe. All the characters Lars meets are either friendly, become friendly, or at the very worst mildly grouchy. The original movie managed to find a way to drag some semblance of conflict into it, with the disappearance of fish and the relationship between the bears and seals, there really isnít much of that here. Itís basically far too nice for it own good at times, making for one boring movie.

That said, there are a few nice touches in the film, the main one is that in the Little Polar Bearís universe, the animals behave like real animals for the most part, right down to Lars being intolerant to moderate heat in the same way that temperate zone, etc, creatures would find the artic uncomfortably - if not dangerously - cold. That the creators donít back away from the carnivorous nature of bears, tigers, etc is fine, but then they break away from this with Robby, a seal being offered and taking a ride with an orca, which kind of stretches the believability the world had previously built itself.

The art style follows the look of the book admirably, right down to the granulated shading, and the actual animation is fairly decent, though there isnít anything that stands out nearly half so much as the prior film. The voices are good, the English cast seems to be made up of the same actors that voiced the theatrical film, although I canít confirm thatís it is them since the credited actors on the copy I saw listed the original German cast. As a direct-to-video release the quality of the art is good, itís just a shame about the actual lack of story itís portraying.

Essentially the Little Polar Bear films are for very young children, who will probably enjoy it a whole lot more. Unfortunately for Lars, there are plenty of other films - animated or otherwise - that those same children would enjoy such as much, which their parents, etc, will actually not mind watching alongside anywhere near as much.

Still, this isnít anyway remotely near unwatchable, with its cute characters, acknowledgement of reality - albeit unreliable - and the fact that itís a young childrenís film that isnít forcing morals down your throat; I also have lower expectations for a direct-to-video release anyway. This isnít really a bad DTV considering its target audience, itís just not that much of a good one.

animated cartoon Tekken: The Motion Picture © Foursome Co., Ltd.
Tekken: The Motion Picture
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Dec 21, 2008
One-on-one fighting games are generally not all that big on plot, it either about gaining notoriety, money, some sort of special weapon or in a few cases, simplistic revenge. In-depth storytelling really isnít something which is needed in a genre which is mostly going to be played between two players in short bursts.

So turning such things into movies, etc, is always going to fraught with issues and Tekken: The Motion Picture certainly has them. For starters there is the preposterous title itself, the result of the distributors trying to pull the wool over westerners eyes and climb on the coattails of Street Fighter: The Animated Movie and grab a few sales, which is seemingly why the whole thing was made to begin with. This however is more or less academic, because there are problems with the actual film itself.

So a great many characters like Paul Phoenix, Yoshimitsu and Marshall Law have only the briefest of cameos, if that. What we are left with are not even the best characters from the game, while its granted that Kazuya is pretty centric to the Tekken franchise, I canít see many knowing or caring that much about Jun and Lei Wulong, indeed I canít actually remember playing as Jun in the games.

The animation isnít anything to get excited over, thereís a few action sequences, but they lack any real power, mostly due to a limited animation budget, the story is hackneyed and contrived, while also being mind numbingly simplistic and boring at the same time, even the inclusion of dinosaurs Ė hardly a spoiler given the fact they appear on the back coverís screenshots Ė fail to add any interest.

If youíre a fan of the games, then play them instead and save yourself the trouble of watching this.

animated cartoon Battle Angel Alita © KSS / MOVIC
Battle Angel Alita
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Dec 07, 2008
Yep, itís another anime set in a post-apocalyptic future with cybernetics beings flying around, joy. Its also was apparently intended to be a series but never got past two episodes, which were then stitched together to make something saleable under the pretence that it was as intended.

The plot is generic mush, girl robot is found and repaired by local robot guy, who also happens to be a bounty hunter, girl robot turns out to be programmed for combat to the ninth degree and becomes a hunter herself. The girl also falls for local cute boy who dreams of getting to a better place, the city in the sky, and needs a lot of money to get there.

What it ultimately amounts to is plot exposition in-between bloody, and quick (and one-sided), battle sequences; yet nothing much at all is explained. We never find out anything about the famed city of Zalem, despite having two characters who once lived there: neither is anything ever revealed about Alitaís past. In the end the whole thing is just not that interesting because nothing of interest ever happens.

The animation is generally jerky - itís on twos and suffers from design over animation practicality - to non-existent, suggesting that it was quickly scouted through the studioís production office. Talky scenes are used to aid the length of the film through the standard static drawings with moving mouths technique (well okay it has cycles of hair movement too). The backgrounds are, of course better, but thereís no real thing that stands out, thereís no hook visually, it just looks like a generic entry in the cyberpunk anime genre.

Itís short, simple and not particularly memorable.

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