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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 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.


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...


starlacs galactic musings - Blog

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Reviews for Part Live-Action

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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 movie Hop © Universal / Illumination Entertainment / Relativity Media
Rated it: 2
posted: Apr 17, 2011
Easter movies are few and far between, what with Christmas being the big one and all, then there's the fact that Easter is never the same day year after year, which likely doesn't help matters. There’s also the question of what to do with a holiday whose modern day symbolism is based on a bunny hiding coloured eggs for Children to find. Hop’s answer is fairly simple, take the elements and motifs of Christmas and covert them into Easter ones. Easter workshop/chocolate factory, an egg-shaped sleigh pulled by dozens of chicks and chicks instead of elves. Then place the headquarters in the obvious place, Easter Island.

The film starts with a young E.B. drumming away on bongos atop of a maoi stature, he gets invited to see the inside of the factory – apparently his father, the one who owns the place, has never taken him there before – and the young lagomorph finds the place fascinating. A little later, our child version of the live action, Fred O’Hare spots the Easter Bunny outside, in a scene that is little more than a paper-thin way to tie the two characters destinies together.

Fast forward twenty years, and E.B. how in his twenties (magical bunny age differently apparently), has no interest in becoming the newest Easter Bunny, he’d rather play on his drums and gain stardom. After an argument with his father, E.B. decides to run away to Hollywood. His first point of call, and I kid you not, is the Playboy Mansion, asking them if they have a job for him as it states in his guidebook – or whatever he had, I forget – that they’re always looking for “sexy bunnies”. At this point I did wonder how this film gained its U rating in the UK, but hey, whatever, at least this film has some parental bonuses.

Meanwhile Fred O’Hare is a slacker, still living with his parents, is given an ultimatum, get a job and find an apartment. His sister conveniently finds him a job interview and gives him the keys to a mansion that she’s suppose to be house-sitting but would rather not since she doesn’t like dogs. On route he runs into E.B. – literally, with his Car – and the two end up together as the bunny feigns injury whilst Fred tries to get his head around the fact that he’s conversing with a rabbit. E.B. is obviously faking his injury, and of course trashes the place, and continually causes problems and complications in his new friend’s life through the vast majority of the movie.

Fred O’Hare sensibly points out that people in the real world are likely to freak-out at the sight of a two-foot tall talking bipedal bunny, and a few novel moments come out of this notion that make something resembling decent comedy; most centred around the notion of hiding in plain sight, how does that work, well E.B. resembles a plush toy, figure it out.

The outcome of the overarching plot is a given, since the main – live-action – character outright tells you at the beginning of the movie what’s ultimately going to happen, though I not bothered by that, after all the journey should be more interesting than the destination. That said the last act is pretty much thrown in at the last middle, this is a movie with short bookends and a long second act, it also about a movie about a magic rabbit that proves he’s an Easter Bunny by pooping candy, what you gonna do.

It’s hard to talk about and/or review comedies, as they live and die by their gags and writing about them might give away their main selling points. Hop doesn’t have to worry, since the vast majority is filled with lazy jokes, lazy references, and that stable of animated movies, cameos (though, surprisingly a general lack of toilet humour). And there’s not much to say, it has the yellow minions of Despicable Me, only this time as chicks, and will probably appeal to those who watched and enjoyed Alvin and the Chipmunks, which given both have the same director I assuming are on a similar level (I will admit to not seeing either).

Russell Brand does a decent job of voicing E.B., giving him a mix of brazenness and near-naivety, making him sympathetic despite his at times selfish nature. Hank Azaria does double duty as the Mexican stereotype would-be dictator chick Carlos and the hyperactive dancer Phil, but these are roles he could do in his sleep, while Hugh Laurie seems to be almost phoning it in, probably due to finding the time in-between recording seasons of House.

On the live action side, we have a whole load of supplemental characters alongside main Fred O’Hare, played by Cyclops/Superman Return James Marsden, who mugs his way through the film doing what he can with the material; he’s definitely not having as much fun as he had in Enchanted that’s for sure. The majority of the live-action actors are paper thin and are just there to further the plot, with Fred’s father running as a parallel to E.B.’s. David Hasselhoff, playing himself in a parody of those awful talent shows is kind of one the best thing the film has going for it, outside of the animated characters, oh dear.

Ultimately the film maybe unintelligent and bland, but it is a harmless way to spend time, the script is forgettable, the animation is serviceable, and the nicest thing I can say is that it blends with the live-action extremely well. The pop-culture references are a given and a bit old hat, there’s a few celebrity cameos, the most notables being Hugh Hefner – for just the strange juxtaposition of a reference of adult magazines in a family film – and David Hasselhoff. It worth a watch once if it gets shown on a TV channel where you live (so that you don't have to pay for it), but otherwise, I would advise you to skip it.


animated movie Jason and the Argonauts © Columbia Pictures / Morningside Worldwide S.A.
Jason and the Argonauts
Rated it: 2
posted: Jun 08, 2007
After a lot of behind the scenes talking and discussion about whether the films with Ray Harryhausen’s animation talent should be put up on Keyframe’s database of animated films or not had finished, the decision was made that they could.


Harryhausen had worked on George Pal’s puppetoon films in the 1940s and set up on his own when the company closed due to the escalating costs of producing stop-motion shorts using Pal’s methods. He - Harryhausen - set himself up as a special effects animator for advertising and live-action flicks, producing beautiful animated creatures for the silver screen over the years, before computers would ultimately take over.

Yet to me Jason is - and has always been - a dull, plodding movie that survives thanks to those amazingly animated creatures and other assorted effects. This made me wonder about if older films were always better written, or if there was just enough good ones to ward attention away from the bad ones, or whether I just never really liked old fantasy films that played like Greek travesties, rather than tragedies. The fact of the matter is that whenever age you're in/looking at, out of the many stories written, they are bound to be a couple that are not as good as other ones, as well as those which are just terrible no matter which way you look at them: Though thankfully Jason is decidely not the later.

Like most films of this nature most of the characters are just fodder to be killed by the creatures that await them, outside of combat they row the boat and, well, that's it. Throughout the film I found myself somewhat indifferent to Jason’s plight, he going sailing across the seas to steal a fleece of a sheep so he can inspire/pay troops to overthrow the man who is currently sitting on what by rights is his throne.

I watched it to profile it and to review it, but while I enjoyed the battle scenes with the skeletons, hydras and other creatures from Greek mythology more than the story, which I thought was little to work with. Or it is not the tale itself that is the problem, rather the dialogue and performances given that marred my enjoyment of the film; that and the fact that the film seemed far too long and I was, at one point, wondering when it was going to end.

Then it did end, just like that...

It is true that Jason is an iconic movie, but in my humble opinion, it’s not a great one; at least not outside the animation anyway.

animated movie Casper © Amblin / Universal
Rated it: 3
posted: Sep 09, 2006
Casper is a nice little film which I enjoyed when it was originally released, despite only having a fleeting knowledge of the title character, from a scattered bunch of televised shorts. Time has moved on since then and how, after watching quite a few of the spectra’s original shorts and knowing a lot more about him. I can say that this reinvention of Casper is a stronger product than the original, and one that also pays homage to the ghost’s past.

Because he is not, you could say, top tier and therefore not as well known (as opposed to the Looney Tunes). Casper doesn’t suffer so much from the preconceptions that his more famous contemporaries have. It also possibly helps that the executive producer is Steven Spielberg and the head writer of the story is Sherri ‘Slappy Squirrel’ Stoner.

The Ghostly Trio provide much of the real humour of the film, them and their interaction will Bill Pullman’s character marking some of the funniest parts of the movie. Eric Idle too provides some memorable moments as Carrigan’s dimwit lawyer, yet it never feels as if he’s being used to his full effect; mind you he is an ex-python. Yet the heart of the movie is with Casper and Kat developing friendship, which provides the strength the film needs to succeed and it is pull off with a believability that is a rarity with part live-action.

It’s impossible for a film about ghosts to get away from the subject of death and what happens afterward, but here it is dealt with in a way that is logical to the world presented. All the main characters in the film have been touch by the subject in one way or another: from Carrigan getting the manor in a will and the Harvey’s lost and consequential quest to find wife and mother. Casper has a double lost: not only his life but also his identity, which is in some ways the greatest lost of all; whether a ghost or not.

Athena below points out the one real problem in the whole film; just how old is Casper suppose to be? Or rather how old was he when he died seeing as ghosts’ tend to live at that age perpetually (in this film). At times he acts like a young kid, yes seven or eight years old sounds about right and also ties in with his theatrical character. Yet this age does go against some of the perceived feelings he has for Kat; through most of the film you could say this was some kind of puppy love.

Mild Spoiler

Of course near the end of the movie, Casper age is given as a twelve-year-old, which, to be honest, doesn’t gel with his actions through most of the movie, or his general appearance.

Yet in some ways, compared to his theatrical persona, Casper has grown up.

animated movie The Water Babies © Ariadne Films / Miniatur Filmowych
The Water Babies
Rated it: 1
posted: May 08, 2006
I played an extra in a stage production of The Water Babies when I was little, so it’s not as if I never knew the story. So how in the world did this monstrosity of a film version get made and how did it become a symbol of wretchedness to me.

Try to remember the worst piece of animation that you’ve seen that made it to the silver screen. Chances are that it won’t even come close to this, whose animation makes standard television fare look like a lush Disney feature by comparison; hell at times this makes filmmation’s stuff seem decent. With repeated animation abused for all it’s worth, animation mistakes that wouldn’t look out of place on My Little Pony; and some generic to ugly character design.

All this could be excused somewhat if the plot managed to compensate for the terrible mechanics, but the story is an all out mess, plagued by some of the most awful, repetitive, songs even penned. It all starts in the realm of mediocrity to begin with, the Victorian world look fairly well realised if a little lacking in real grit, is this suppose to be London’s seedy underbelly? seems a bit too civilized. Then it plunges downhill as soon as Tom plunges into the animated world.

Neil - below - is quite right that it has simply borrowed the plot of the wizard of Oz, and replaced the three friends with underwater ones. Two of these characters don’t have any real problems, the overtly camp seahorse has a problem being lonely, though you can’t help but wonder why he is intent on scaring people away from the ship graveyard he lives in. The plot is simplistic and formulaic, the solution too easy to obtain, to me this is what makes a kids film a real Kids film.

It is in the live-action section because although it is bookend by live-action, it also tends to jolt back to the live-action sequences and tries to integrate the two together throughout. One way or the other, the one thing this film truly is, is abysmal.

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