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KF Animation Editor
Location: Tasmania
Birthday: August 27
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TV Series (156)
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Reviews for Feature Film

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animated movie Home © Dreamworks
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Jul 21, 2015
After watching this anaemic, bubblegum movie, i felt so malnourished that I had to watch 'Eraserhead''. I don't consider Dreamworks infallible, but this time they've really dropped the ball. 'Home' is so uninspiringly dull; so predictable, and so full of vapid pop music that it's time someone stood up and said 'looking good ain't good enough anymore'.

The plot is idiotic: dumb, cowardly but 'cute' aliens somehow invade Earth and resettle the entire human population in Australia (in one city, which as far as I can tell when the map zooms in, must be Adelaide. That's the funniest thing in the movie). These aliens are so stupid and inept I can't imagine how they developed interstellar travel in the first place. They also speak English as if they picked it up from a phrase book last week - which is ok,except they talk to each other the same way. One of them, being an enlightened misfit, helps a human girl find her mother.

The pop music is not only godawful but it is deployed for whole scenes in lieu of dialog, which is incredibly irritating. I could go on, but it would just be a catalog of the film's shortcomings, and I don't think I'm failing in my duties if I just summarise by suggesting you don't waste your money/time.

The only thing holding me back from a one star rating is that little kids could watch this without being upset. Probably one for babysitters.


Well, I actually quite enjoyed this movie, more than I was expecting. I'm going to keep this uncharacteristically brief, because I think there's a bit of a temptation to overanalyse what is basically just a ripping yarn, which really doesn't do much wrong, if you can accept its a mocap Indiana Jones type thing. Of course the motion capture is exactly why a lot of people will have a problem with it. I admit it s somewhat unsettling at first, but I found I merely teetered on the edge of the uncanny valley rather than plunging headfirst into it as some viewers apparently did. But then I was one of the few reviewers who didn't totally pan 'Polar Express', and this is considerably less weird than that. In fact the biggest problem I had was that Tin Tin, when he first appeared, looked exactly like the guy in the video store who rented it to me.

There are some pacing problems toward the end: the non-stop action climax, which did drag on a bit, but to be honest many highly esteemed movies - 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' springs to mind - had a similarly overlong last act, and 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' just got visually exhausting.

When I grew up you were either into Asterix or Tin Tin, and myself and most of my friends were in the former category, so I don't have - can't have any beefs with it from a 'true to the priginal' POV.

I suppose my expectations were rather low, but I found myself pretty quickly settling into the groove and just enjoying a good, refreshing adventure, shelving any ethical considerations about whether or not it qualified as animation. It didn't strain my brain watching it, and I don't really have anything very deep to say about it.


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 From Up on Poppy Hill © Studio Ghibli
From Up on Poppy Hill
Rated it: 3
posted: Jan 23, 2015
Warning: long preamble.

When they first appeared on the West's radar, Ghibli were often referred to as 'Japan's Disney' or somesuch, and the comparison persisted. Recently it's struck me how misleading such analogies are. Leaving aside the different styles of the respective studios, there is simply the matter of quality. At least the consistency of it.

Without actually doing the math, I would guess that my own review average for Ghibli movies is above 3.0. That's remarkable for ME to begin with, but it's even more so when compared with Disney's batting average, which is far too difficult for me to be bothered working out, but - let's face it; Disney have been making movies for nearly 80 years, and in terms of classic periods, what do they really have? The very early 40's, a second, let's say 'silver age', almost as brief, mainly in the mid 50's - and their second golden age, riding the late 80's wave into the early to mid 90's. Since then the odd very good movie or near classic, and previously, occasional against-the-odds miracles like 'The Fox and the Hound' - but these generally being the exceptions.

That blurb probably more properly belongs at the start of my review of 'Frozen', which I watched yesterday, but what makes it pertinent here is the astonishing average which Ghibli have kept up since their inception (or before it, if you count 'Nausicaa' and Miyazaki's 'Castle of Cagliostro'). This now represents an unbroken period of over thirty years, from 'Nausicaa' onwards - a period of quality which Disney never came close to IN TOTAL, let alone continuously for their entire history.

And yet there is one sobering statistic, if my opinion's worth anything. During what I guess I'd have to call Ghibli's peak - from 'Grave of the Fireflies' in 1988 to 'Spirited Away' in 2001, they produced nine movies ALL of which scored either 4.0 or 3.5 stars in my reviews.

By contrast, in the time since 'Spirited Away', none of their movies have bettered 3.0 from me, and a couple of 2.5's have popped up. Still a formidable average, but in my eyes Ghibli haven't made a masterpiece in so long that, with the real possibility of the studio folding, they maybe never will again. I say 'maybe' because there are still several I've not seen, some of which haven't been released here yet.

A closing observation in this overweight preamble: my top three Ghibli movies were directed by Kondo or Takahata, not by either of the Miyazaki's. One of those dudes is dead, and the other has only directed one Ghibli film in the past 20 years (though, encouragingly, his name IS on the upcoming one).

So, the review. Honest!

After the tempest supposedly surrounding 'Tales of Earthsea', which apparently saw father and son refusing to speak to each other, Goro is back for a sophomore stint in the director's chair, though this time with his father responsible for the screenplay. This results in 'Poppy Hill' being a rather more recognisable Ghibli outing than 'Earthsea'. Who knows if they've put aside their differences, but the Miyazakis work pretty well together on this one.

With its awkward teen romance, missing and/or dead parents, conspicuous bicycles, teenage creativity (poems this time, rather than music), and country music (íRed River Valley' this time) it struck me on several occasions that 'Poppy Hill' was alluding to 'Whisper of the Heart', and once or twice, maybe even 'Grave of the Fireflies'. Although it's a pretty and warm movie though, this one doesn't approach the passion, either positive or negative of either of those masterpieces. It's difficult to say whether it was trying to be another 'Whisper' and falling short (it tends sometimes to be my impression), but 'Poppy Hill' lacks the delicate intensity of 'Whisper'.

I wonder if other people have a fascination for movies set in the year of their birth? Here, Japan is preparing to host the Olympic Games. Old parts of the city are being torn down to make way for new facilities, and the main characters in the movie are the first generation to have no link with or memories of The War. If I were Japanese they might have been my parents. Perhaps here we see some of the true themes of the film. A sense of a new, young country and a generation trying to define itself; trying to establish something which does away with the bad parts of the old, whilst hanging on to the better parts (the main characters meet against the backdrop of a student groups campaign to stop the demolition of the old 'Latin Quarter', which includes many school buildings, to make way for new structures. This theme isn't obvious though, and it seems important to me whether Miyazaki the younger achieved the balance he was presumably seeking. Because 'Poppy' does seem unable to deploy the themes I mentioned very clearly. It would have been easy to be hamfistted about the topic, and the Miyazakis avoid that, but in its place we get a teen romance which never gets as engaging as it ought to.

Umi is a teenage student whose father died during the Korean War, working on supply ships for the Americans. Her mother is absent, in America. One of her many responsibilities is to run up the signal flags for the ships in Yokohama harbour. Poignantly these will never be seen, of course, by her father. They are noticed by a flamboyant male student, however. Shun is politically active in the school's newspaper, whose headquarters is in the threatened Latin Quarter. He too has parentage which is mixed up with the war.

Uni is initially attracted simply by Shun, but his passion for convincing the student body to get behind his campaign to save the clubhouse is infectious. She soon finds herself involved, and a romance blooms, only to be threatened when it comes apparent that they share a common parent.

All of this is handled adequately, but without the mature perspective of films like 'Whisper of the Heart' or 'Only Yesterday'. Quite probably this is because the screenplay is based on a famous Manga of a sub variety aimed at teenage girls. Nevertheless it fails to invoke the depth of emotion of the other movies I mentioned.

So what does 'Poppy Hill' do well? As is nearly always the case with Ghibli, the attention to detail, and, in films like this, to local atmosphere and setting is marvellous, now and then bordering on sublime - particularly given the backdrop of mid 60's Yokohama to work with. One scene in particular sticks in mind, where colour and detail is used to depict a delicatessen at night so effectively I could l almost smell and taste it. Ghibli excel at this sort of thing. It makes up for their 'limited' character animation. At least I assume it is. I don't know if Ghibli shoot 'on threes', twos, fours, or more likely a combination of various frame rates - but as I've bemoaned before, the movement of characters in Ghibli seems weirdly cheap and at odds with their amazing backgrounds, and if they are cutting back on their frame rates it can't possibly have been for financial reasons, for a very long time.

That gripe aside, Poppy Hill is a very likeable movie, with rich eye candy and atmosphere, but it's disappointingly ineffectual at conveying really strong emotion, which it appears, at least in part, to be aiming at. It also doesn't help that Goro's character design tends toward the bland, and (from memory I made the same complaint of his previous film) the characters sometimes break out into classic anime visual tropes, like bug eyes and impossibly dramatic facial expressions -which undercut the realism he'd been building up. At least to me.

Good, but it won't be remembered with the same reverence as their classic 90's movies.


animated movie Planes © Disney / Prana Studios
Rated it: 2
posted: Jan 06, 2015
Well, against my expectations I kinda enjoyed 'Cars', and this is set 'above the world of Cars' or some such. But that should have been a warning sign. Nothing about this movie is even remotely original. Instead it's clearly a marketing spin-off ploy by Disney. Everything is horribly paint by numbers, down to the point that around two thirds of the way through, I paused it, and sketched out what I thought the rest of the film would involve, and except for some of the locations being different I was totally correct.

I wonder what it was about 'Cars' which made it work for me to the extent that it did, because as I saw the opening scene of this movie, and the fighter planes have mouths - and then planes with TEETH, I just groaned 'No way!' I mean, seriously, whatever happened to good old mammals. What are they going to anthropomorphise next - abstract concepts? "Coming this summer from Pixar - The Beaufort Scale!"

To give them their due, if you can buy the whole planes with eyes and mouths, and apparently sexual desires, and it doesn't bother you that New York is filled with skyscrapers which presumably nobody inhabits, well they do do a reasonably good job of extracting emotion from the movement of landing struts and propellers and wings, etc, but this is only a fraction of what it would take to have made this film really soar. There are some very nice backgrounds, especially in the Himalayan sequence, but at other times the animators seem to just be slacking off, and though Dusty is a likeable enough character, he's the best of a woefully predictable bunch. I kind of like Ashanti's little speil about reincarnation, but that was just a few seconds of mild cleverness.

I can't swear I've watched every Disney film in between (ok, I definately haven't watched 'Chicken Little'), but this struck me as their worst since 'Teacher's Pet', and at least that tried to be different.

There'so nothing obnoxious about this, and it will probably entertain kids, but I'd have felt bummed if I'd paid to see this in a cinema or even rented it except on half price Tuesday. And I'm getting tired of writing two and two and a half star reviews.

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