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KF Animation Editor
Location: Tasmania
Birthday: August 27
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TV Series (156)
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2.5 star reviews

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animated series Ben 10: Omniverse © Cartoon Network
Ben 10: Omniverse
Rated it: 2.5
posted: May 04, 2015
Any Ben 10 fan could tell that I'm not a Ben 10 fan - because I'm giving this fourth incarnation a better review than the first. To put this in context, I panned the original Ben 10 series, largely because I thought the animation looked about 20+ years older than it was, and was so awful that it interfered with my ability to engage with the plot. - whatever it was. Conversely, most Ben 10 fans love the original series and moan about this one 'destroying the franchise' or somesuch.

I only caught the odd episode of the two intervening series, and I only started watching Ben 10 again in its most recent incarnation. I immediately noticed several things: the animation actually looked liked 21st century TV, not 1983 something awful, and the writing had improved to the extent that several of the characters sometimes produced witty lines, several of the characters in general were rather funny (especially the intellectual hillbilly guy who just likes blowing things up with his brother, even if it's the entire universe, and metaphysics are involved to put the series back together), and there was a general storyline which I could kind of relate to.

The sidekick plays the straight man 'Spock' character nicely, and whereas I can't pretend to really, thoroughly understand what has transpired between the first series and this one, I found I could at least watch this. I'm giving it an extra half star, which will probably offend both fans and non-fans.


animated movie Frankenweenie © Disney
Rated it: 2.5
posted: Mar 21, 2015
What is it about me and Tim Burton's animated films? In general I like the guy as a director. I just wish he'd make an animated feature as half as good as, say, 'Ed Wood', which is one of my favourite movies of the last 25 years. Actually, if other people are any judge - and it would be very pompous of me to assume they weren't - his adventures in animation rock. They just don't seem to quite do it for me, despite my always going in expecting to 'get it' this time (I must admit to nearly getting there with '9', but his involvement was less central to that, anyway).

I'm afraid this review will suffer from me working from notes I made a couple of months ago, and trying to fill in the blanks from memory, so apologies for any lack of fine detail. My notes include phrases like 'psychic catsuit', which I must admit I can't really expand on; others like 'Why always poodles?', which I think must have had something to do with poodles apparently being presented as irresistible to male canines in cartoons, and 'teacher like Vincent Price' which is fairly self explanatory, if also not very insightful.

What I think stuck with me most from this film was that it seemed a bit of an excercise of style over everything else. I didn't find myself involved with the characters much (though arguably that wasn't the intention). The idea of a weird and weedy kid, who, like other Burton characters manages to seem nerdy and gothic - I think he watched a lot of 'Addams Family - resurrecting his beloved, and characteristically uncosmetic pooch seems a promising if not breathtaking comic idea. Burton pulls it off with a familiar mix of fun and peculiar pathos. The black and white animation fits with the old horror movie tropes of the subject matter. And yet it fails to rise very much above the ordinary for me. I wish I could be more articulate about why.

There were some things which, if this were a more serious film would have bothered me considerably - like how did the kid become such an expert at reanimation practically overnight - but the whole thing's so silly it seems a bit daft worrying about that. In some cases these quirky omissions seem to work almost in the film's favour - like what in hell is the whole 'Dutch Day' motif about?

There a few other oddities, like why would anyone be upset about Pluto not being a planet anymore in the 1960's, but none of this is addressing the basic fact that, for me, the film just fell short of what it was trying to achieve, unless its aim was to be fairly good - and I'm flailing around a bit to work out why it didn't do more for me. About the only solid objective criticism I can come up with is that Act I seemed predictable. Perhaps when you're dealimg with so many movie cliches, it was supposed to be, but it does seem a failing to me, when you can predict what's coming next too often.

Not the first time I've said something like this about a movie; it's almost a cliche itself, but Burton lovers will like it, while it probably won't bowl anyone else over.


animated movie Astro Boy © Tezuka Productions / Imagi Entertainment
Astro Boy
Rated it: 2.5
posted: Dec 23, 2014
Some people are Tezuka fans, others are Astro Boy fanatics, while a smaller group are Kimba fanatics - and quite often these latter two groups aren't mutually exclusive, it's just common for fans of one show to have only a passing interest in the other.

For whatever reason I was a Kimba fanatic. It seems that the original Astro series, being slightly older than me, either aired before I was watching TV, or simply never aired here. That rather long preamble is just to explain that I don't have a big emotional investment in Astro, and therefore am probably less likely to either forgive all shortcomings, or criticise every tiny point. I remember the 1980 series (which for some reason screened here in 1985) and have a general familiarity with the characters, but couldn't be relied upon to pick up on every point where this movie departs from Tezuka's original manga or the first or second TV series.

Still, there are some obvious changes. Dr. Elephun was a major regular character in the series, but barely appears here (more's the pity, as he's well-voiced by Bill Nighy), but I get that this a close-focus on Astro's origins rather than an episodic chronicle of his subsequent adventures.

I don't think I'd be posting spoilers if I said that the original 'child' on whom Astro is based dies and is brought back in robot form by his father - who rather quickly decides it was a mistake and disowns him. Perhaps departing from the original story (I don't know), Astro ends up on the surface, ejected from the elite, floating Metro City, and winds up with a bunch of street kids looked over by an apparently Faganesque character. Oh, and there's this stuff about red and blue energy wiping each other out (I shouldn't have waited two weeks to write this).

Well I won't say anymore about the plot, except to say.. well, in a minute...

The style of the... I was going to say 'animation', but I think 'art design' is more appropriate - is quite unusual. It doesn't strive for realism at all, nor does it go in the opposite direction and make everything shimmeringly fantastical. This isn't a problem, but it does kind of relate to something which bothered me a bit. Where and when exactly is this supposed to be set? I get that Metro City is set either in an alternative reality, a far more advanced one, or probably both - but there are pop cultural references which situate it here and now. For one thing, they celebrate July 4th. I suppose that's a minor beef, but I'd have decided one on version and stuck with it.

I may as well get a few other peeves out of the way: the way which robots are treated with contemptuously dismissal in the opening scenes seems too cruel for any recognisably human society to behave, given that the bot's behaviour manifestly is not that of mindless automata, and - look, this is perhaps quibbling, because Nicola's Cage does a decent job as Astro's father - but why pay some big name Hollywood live action star, when there are specialist voice actors out there who could do a better job, and probably need the work. In a few cases (Woody Allen in 'Antz' springs to mind) this works, but just as often you end up with great film actors like Robert de Nero appearing in abominations like 'Shark Tale' and making fools of themselves for no sensible reason.

My gripe which is actually a bit more substantial though, is to do with the pacing. The 'reveal' sequence where Astro... well I said I wouldn't give this away, but basically it's blown through far too quickly to be credible. And this came after a middle act which, given the running length, was too long.

But despite all of this, I enjoyed the movie. Just not hugely.. which is, I guess, a bit how I feel about Astro in general. I'm not sure if this film was aimed at hardened Astro nuts, or new converts. It seemed to try to strike something of a balance. It's probably best left to others to say if it succeeded. For me it was an enjoyable eighty-something minutes, but I'll probably not watch it again.


animated movie Ice Age: Continental Drift © Fox / Blue Sky
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Rated it: 2.5
posted: Dec 15, 2014
Ice Age is the franchise that just keeps on giving; or the one that doesn't know when to quit, depending on your point of view.

I've been a bit of an apologist for the quirky, surprise hit series from the company which sounds like it was named after a designer drug. The original was a huge hit in Australia, and I actually thought #2 was an improvement, but I expressed qualms after #3: the cast was just getting bigger and bigger and it was hard to see where they were going to go from there.

It's even harder to see now, and the cast of an Ice Age 5 is going to be colossal, with a female white saber tooth added (Diego has a girlfriend), the near inevitability that Manny will become a grandfather ( unless - and this appeals to me - Peaches decides to reward Louis' unrequited love. I mean, why not? She and her mother are already inter-species torch-carriers), and the distinct feeling that Sid's grandmother isn't going away.

None of the series are bad movies, and this tenth anniversary edition starts off quite strongly, with some nice scenery, the introduction of the mildly appealing character Louis, voiced by Josh Gad, who has a major crush on Peaches (who, ironically, could majorly crush him). She meanwhile is getting all hormonal over a Mastadon Fonz. Meanwhile the movie serves notice almost immediately that any vestiges of historical credibility are forthwith jettisoned. After all, as Sid notes, they fought dinosaurs on the ice in the last episode, so it's not like it was a high priority to start with.

Not that I mind. Anyone who seriously nitpicks over that theme would have to be a cast member of 'Big Bang Theory' (or maybe someone who thinks its funny). The problems for 'Continental Drift' are that after a decent start it just seems to lose steam, and the introduction of a villainous bunch of pirates (at least their leader, an ape who just HAS to have been modelled after Ron Perlman, is villainous. The rest, with the exception of that she-tiger I mentioned, are ninnies) somehow just doesn't work. The whole Pirates of the Caribbean bit doesn't really work - though maybe it's just me. It doesn't seem to me that the movie really needs a conventional villain, though. The quest to become re-united with Ellie and Peaches would have been a sufficient replacement for one (our heroes are cut off from them and the rest of the animals when things get all seismic and they drift off on an Iceberg).

There are still fun moments, and it's probably about as good as its predecessor, but the plot just seems a bit desperate, nothing elevates it ABOVE pretty good, and the addition of Jennifer Lopez as Shira just seems contrived and formulaic. And I was serious about the cast just getting too big for its own good. Remember when it was just the three of them, and Scrat?

This instalment will probably please fans though, without recruiting new ones. And there's only so long you can keep that up til your original fan base dwindles to DTV size.

Maybe next time they move in next to Manny's parents, forget the historical bit altogether and Elly spends the rest of the franchise making him miserable because his mom criticises her cooking. I'm just throwing ideas out here.

animated movie Ponyo © Studio Ghibli
Rated it: 2.5
posted: Sep 02, 2014
This is the most recent Miyazaki-directed film I’ve seen, and whilst watching it, it struck me that most of my very favourite Ghibli films weren’t directed by the man who is usually synonymous with that studio.

I checked my old Keyframe ratings, and my top four rated Ghibli films were ‘Whisper of the Heart’, ‘Only Yesterday’, ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, and ‘Spirited Away’ – roughly in that order. Only ‘Spirited Away’ was directed by HM.

I think I’m meandering up to the idea that whereas Miyazaki was certainly responsible for the inception and fruition of Ghibli, and whilst he directed many outstanding films from their earlier catalogue, he peaked in the late 90’s and has become progressively more disappointing since then.

‘Ponyo’ is a worthy enough film; it does nothing catastrophically wrong – if you'd never seen a Ghibli film before I'm sure you'd be enchanted by the 'hand drawn' appearance, the attention to detail, the lovely backgrounds, the softness of the whole thing - but to me it just feels like more of the same. This sort of thing (and you’ll have to imagine what I mean by ‘thing’) probably peaked with ‘My Neighbour Totoro’. Nowadays cute tiny people (oh wait, wasn’t the next or previous Ghibli film a tiny person film, too?) is just getting a bit stale and dull.

I didn’t engage with the characters particularly (in fact I entirely failed to engage with Ponyo’s ex-half-human father, who just seemed like a total nutter), and while the animation was actually better than other releases from this studio, the story seemed a bit third-hand ‘Little Mermaid’.

I admit my standards for Studio Ghibli are very high, and perhaps if this had come out of the blue from some unknown source I’d have rated it higher, but I just can’t get excited about this movie. It’s certainly above average, and it came close to getting three stars. Perhaps on another day it would have made that mark, but my overwhelming feeling of ‘here we go again’ sort of deep-sixed that.


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