35 posts categorized "Animation"

June 13, 2015

INSIDE OUT — CANNES 2015

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ColeSmithey.comChildren’s book authors will be eating their hearts out over co-writer/co-director Peter Docter’s brilliantly devised story about the emotions that people (kids in specific) feel, and how they can control the voices in their heads.

Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust are the five Emotions that vie for a prime-time spot inside the mind of 11-year-old tomboy Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) like balls in a ginned-up Las Vegas roulette wheel. But in this case, the Emotions are color-coded characters who work together as congenial pals in a spaceship-styled control center lined with floor-to-ceiling rows of colorful bowling-ball-sized orbs that each hold one of Riley’s precious memories.

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The imaginative dual-layered narrative exists inside Riley’s head and in the real world, where memory flashbacks provide comic asides. A funny episode depicting baby Riley’s attempt to avoid eating the broccoli her dad feeds her on her highchair escalates from a moment overseen by Disgust before turning over the helm to Lewis Black’s lid-blowing Anger. Another memory is made and collected.

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The premise is complicated, yet Docter and his team strike just the right tone of streamlined psychology lesson, wide-eyed wonder, and homesick heartache for an exquisitely paced film that ticks every box of audience expectation, and more.

ColeSmithey.comRiley’s mom (voiced by Diane Lane) and dad (voiced by Kyle MacLachlan) uproot the family from affable Minnesota to snotty San Francisco for dad’s new job. It looks like there will be no more hockey team action for the athletic Riley, whose budding sense of self-determination is about to go full-bloom when Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) starts touching Riley’s memories, thereby turning them blue. A crisis looms as Riley’s brain gets stuck in a mode of remorse. Puberty plays a silent role that gets gentle attention in the film’s final scenes.

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As it turns out melancholia has an important function in the hierarchy of survival instincts. The mystery of Sadness’s role provides the film’s thematic hook.

ColeSmithey.comThe pixie blue-haired Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) is an eternal optimist with a habit of big-dogging the other emotions, so it’s only natural that she leads the mission, with Sadness in tow, through the depths of Riley’s long-term memory reservoir to set things right. The pair goes on kooky excursions though the corners of Riley’s mind in places like Imagination Land and the more surreal Subconscious.

The lively animation on display is more than worthy of big-screen viewing. This is not a movie to watch on your iPad. 

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Peter Docter was sorely missed on “Toy Story 3,” after his palpable story-writing contributions to the first two films in the franchise. Mercifully, the gifted Docter is currently co-writing the upcoming “Toy Story 4,” which is due out in 2017. “Inside Out” is a contender for best children’s movie of the decade, or longer.

Rated PG. 95 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

September 21, 2014

THE BOXTROLLS

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Box of Trash
Laika Animation Goes Backwards

BoxtrollsThis animated 3D children’s picture is as clumsy, tone-deaf, and useless as they come. Laika, the Oregon animation production company behind “Coraline” (2009) and “ParaNorman” (2012) takes more than a few a steps backward.

Rather than improving on their 3D efforts, “Boxtrolls” holds less visual interest than most 2D animated films. If the filmmakers don’t intend to use 3D effects to their fullest extent, i.e. breaking the proscenium window to put objects in front of viewers’ eyes, then there is no point in indulging in the expensive process in the first place.

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Uneducated audiences and critics may not know what they’re missing, but if you’ve seen “My Bloody Valentine 3D,” you know what I’m talking about. Even Jean-Luc Godard’s latest film — his 3D enhanced “Goodbye to Language” — makes far better use of the technology than what you see in “Boxtrolls.” Darkness of images is another problem that “Boxtrolls” suffers from.

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Although the movie is based on a children’s’ novel (by Alan Snow), the story seems artificially generated to make a profit at the box office, rather than contribute on any instructional level for children.

Populated with senseless throwaway characters called boxtrolls, the equivalent of “Despicable Me’s” physically, mentally, and speech impaired “Minions,” the action is set in the town of Cheesebridge, a 19th century UK location. Boxtrolls are an all-male species of squat, blue-skinned nocturnal “monsters” that wear boxes to cover their otherwise nude bodies — read genitals, or lack thereof since they seem to not have female partners with which to procreate.

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Aside from their deathly pallor, boxtrolls are notable for the black band that surrounds their eyes, making them resemble silent-era bandits wearing cloth masks. The dim-witted beings live up to their criminal appearance. At night, the boxtrolls go around town stealing anything that isn’t nailed down, and some things that are. Address numbers from publicly exposed doors are ripe for the taking by the little misshapen beasts that ostensibly symbolize homeless (possibly immigrant) peasants.

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The boxtrolls rescue a human baby boy (Issac Hemstead Wright), believed by the public to have been kidnapped after the boy’s father, Herbert Trubshaw (voiced by Simon Pegg), was brutally murdered. The boxtrolls raise “Eggs” (the word printed on the box the boy wears as a shirt) as one of their own.

Meanwhile, Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley) is secretly a cross-dressing entertainer known as Frou Frou who is obsessed with leveraging his way into the town’s white-hat-wearing nobility so that he can partake in their private cheese-tastings. Snatcher imagines that if he can kill off all of the boxtrolls that plague the town, that Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) will hand over a white hat that will elevate him to one of the town’s aristocracy. That Snatcher is horribly allergic to cheese hardly dissuades him in his quest, although it does allow for some truly grotesque episodes of flesh swelling.

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Lord Portley-Rind is the king of the town’s castle, and father to Winifred (Elle Fanning), a gore-obsessed girl who befriends Eggs. Winnie takes responsibility for dressing and socializing Eggs, who may as well have been raised by wolves.

Visually and thematically, the movie is all over the place. Clearly, the creators at Laika have yet to receive the memo that Steampunk is passé. The limited appeal of Rube Goldberg mechanical machines has passed its date of expiration, and yet wonky gears are all over the movie as a substitute for any purposeful use of imagination.

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From a political perspective, the movie’s “Dare to be brave” and “Dare to be free” message is directed toward its lower-class boxtroll members of society. The end of the story indoctrinates these mentally and physically inferior “monsters” into civilization as menial workers; guess who’s washing your dishes at restaurants in the town of Cheesebridge?

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Hooray for the formerly oppressed and their sad capitalist victory. No longer will they have their own personalized, private society, but rather they will be subject to all of society’s laws, taxes, and public humiliations even if they never learn to speak.

Laika’s first two films (“Coraline” and “ParaNorman”) were about the extraordinary value of the outlier. “The Boxtrolls” is about how a group of outsiders is sold out by its own humanitarian effort to save a “human” boy. As in America, and in England, no good deed goes unpunished. You, and your kids will love this movie, not.

Rated PG. 97 mins.

1 Star

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

April 07, 2014

RIO 2

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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Lost in its Own Jungle
“Rio 2’s” Socially Awkward Agenda Has a Racist Streak

ColeSmithey.comBrazilian co-writer/director Carlos Saldanha returns to the music-driven children’s animation franchise he began in 2011. Written alongside three other screenwriters, “Rio 2’s” skewed racial hierarchy of animal characters is spelled out beneath their colorful camouflage. The filmmakers’ offensive agenda of international hegemony, however wrapped up in a ruse of ecological activism, is hard to miss.

At the bottom of the film’s social pecking order is Tracy Morgan’s slobber-dripping bulldog Luiz. The drooling canine character is so disgusting, you can’t wait for the scene to change so you don’t have to look at him anymore.

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Jamie Foxx and Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am occupy this society’s second rung from the bottom to support this troubled film’s marginalization of blacks. They voice a “super-mega-dope” rap-singing duo that provides the movie with snarky comic asides. Jamie Foxx’s bottle-cap-hatted canary Nico says, “Ama-what?” — in response to the word Amazon. Think of it as endorsed ignorance for the pro-ebonics set.  

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Such heavy-handed use of racial stereotypes has been common in Hollywood’s animated films dating back even before 1941, when Disney’s use of dark-skinned crows in “Dumbo” made an obvious editorial commentary about blacks. 

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The film’s white equals top / black equals bottom simile is oddly reinforced with a pro-ecology subplot that gives the story its bulldozer-filled conclusion in the middle of the Amazon jungle. The lumber laborers are dark-skinned men with chainsaws and bulldozers. The film’s most ferocious villains are dark-skinned brutes, drawn in a more naturalistic style than the film’s other characters.  

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Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway do Jewish-and-gentile voiceover duties as Blu and Jewel, a pair of rare blue macaws from Brazil; no need for Portuguese-descent actors here. Eisenberg’s miscasting comes into higher relief this time around. An opening musical sequence exposes the actor’s lack of singing ability to a painful degree. Hathaway’s proven singing skills are on display, although the tunes themselves rarely connect to the story in an organic way as occurred in “Rio”-one. The energy and content of the songs seldom matches up with the dialogue or storyline.

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A television report about Blu’s former owner Linda (Leslie Mann) and her naturalist husband Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) alerts Blu and Jewel to the presence of other blue macaws in the Amazon forest. Anxious for their three children Carla, Tiago, and Bia to learn about survival in the jungle, Jewel requests the family pick up and moves out of the city to the Amazon. Reuniting with her long-lost dad seals Jewel’s desire to stay in the jungle rather than return to the city. However, Brazil’s lumber industry is in the process of tearing down the jungle.

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Between the film’s white-world-order depiction of a multicultural society and its ham-fisted treatment of an ostensibly pro-ecology agenda, “Rio 2” is a confused piece of animation propaganda. Its ideological disorientation contributes to the unsettled sense that the movie leaves with its audience. It might be pretty to look at, and the music might be perky enough, but “Rio 2” gets lost in its own jungle.

Rated G. 101 mins.

1 Star

Cozy Cole

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