Category Archives: Genre: Animated

Movie Review: Up (2009)

I’m not usually a big fan of animated films.  There have been a few very good ones (such as Toy Story, Shrek and Ratatouille), plenty of terrible ones (such as Shark Tale, Astro Boy and the worst of them all, Resident Evil: Degeneration), and a whole lot of average or overrated ones (in my opinion just about everything else, such as Finding Nemo and Happy Feet).

Accordingly, I approached the latest Pixar/Disney venture, Up, with plenty of scepticism.  I’m not going to discuss the plot – the poster is about as much background as you need.  Anyway, I ended up loving it.

For starters, Up is one of the funniest animated films I’ve ever seen.  It has that Toy Story quirkiness to it, that matter-of-fact approach to completely random and outrageous situations.  There are plenty of WTF? moments, but the execution is so sweet and cute that you can’t help but be captivated, regardless of how crazy it may all seem.

There’s also the wonderful characters – extremely unique characters.  Can you imagine any other film carried by a grumpy old man and a fat little Asian kid (plus a whole bunch of dogs) from start to finish?  Incredible.

Most of all, Up has plenty of heart.  The opening sequence summarising the life of old Carl Fredericksen up to that point is one of the most bittersweet and moving I’ve seen in any film.  And when he comes on board, the back story of Russell the kid is also very touching.  The balance between humour and drama and action is handled brilliantly, each hitting the spot at the crucial moments.

And did I mention the amazing animation?  The gorgeous blend of colours and crisp textures, coupled with the beautiful scenery and perfect character design, took the exuberance and warmth to a whole new level.

Granted, Up is not perfect – it started off wonderfully but dipped a little towards the middle before picking itself back up before the end, but on the whole it is hands down one of the best animated movies I’ve had the pleasure of watching.

4.5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Astro Boy (2009)

astro-boy-movie-poster

If you’re searching for the most disappointing movie of 2009, look no further than the much-anticipated American remake of the legendary Japanese manga/anime hero Astro Boy.

I ducked out of work early to catch an advanced screening of Astro Boy last night.  I have been a fan of the manga and anime (created by the Japanese ‘God of Manga’ Osamu Tezuka) since I could remember and was so excited to see it (in part due to the awesome posters), even if it was with modest expectations given the track record of American remake efforts.

Frankly, there is no other way to put it: Astro Boy sucked.  If you are a fan of the manga or anime, you will be particularly offended by it.  There’s almost none of the charm, excitement and heart that made Astro Boy such an iconic figure around Asia (and the world).  The plot resembles the original storyline but not enough attention and care was given to make it work.  Much of the devices used were pointless.  Apart from Astro, the characters were generally underdeveloped.  The villains were cardboard boxes.  There were a couple of amusing references but on the whole the jokes were flat and childish (my biggest gripe).  The action was no better than any ordinary episode of the anime.  It felt like a film made for young children without any regard to the now older original fans that made Astro Boy successful in the first place.

Even if you’ve never seen the original (or its later incarnations) before, you’ll still be shocked by how derivative it is.  Think AI.  Think Gladiator.  Sure, some of these things could be blamed on the original story, but they were certainly aspects the writers could have worked their way around.  They could have remained true to the spirit of the original while infusing some fresher elements to it.  Instead, it feels like the film failed on both counts.

On the plus side, the CGI was not groundbreaking, but I liked its simplicity and texture.  It was an obvious improvement on the old hand-drawn techniques but retained the smooth visual style of the original.  There was also a superb voice cast, led by Freddie Highmore and featuring the familiar voices of Nicholas Cage, Nathan Lane, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron, Eugene Levy and Samuel L Jackson.  They were all solid, though Highmore’s voice, which must have broken the last couple of years, made him sound older and more masculine than the Astro we’re used to.

If I had gone into Astro Boy having never heard of the series or character before, I’d probably give this film 2 stars, but because I was such a huge fan, I can only give it 1.5 stars out of 5!

Update: Golden Globe Film Reviews

I did a post not long ago reviewing the films that were nominated for the Golden Globes.  I guess I should now also be adding the Oscar nominated films to that list.

Since that post, I’ve seen a couple more: WALL-E and Gran Torino (the latter was not nominated at the Oscars though).  See the short reviews (from Flixter) below (ratings out of 5):

walleWALL-E (3.5 stars)

A very different animated film. I suppose it was well done, with amazing visuals (but nothing revoluntionary) and incredibly little dialogue, instead preferring to rely on the simplicity of the story, the cuteness of the characters and scattered humour to keep audiences interested. It also had a strong message about the environment and inactivity. But at the end of the day, it was still just another animated film. It certainly had its moments, but it’s going to take much much more for these types of films to seriously impress me (I should mention I’m not usually a big fan of animated films).

gran-torinoGran Torino (4.5 stars)

The story of an angry, racist, lonely old man and his relationship with his Hmong (Asian) neighbours. It was far from a perfect film – parts of it were stereotypical and heavy-handed, and some scenes lacked effectiveness. Nevertheless, it’s a film that moved me for one reason or another, and it’s a film that is likely to resonate with a lot of viewers long after the final scene. It touches on many important themes – life, death, family, loneliness, religion, racism, prejudice, redemption – and also presents the stark reality that a lot of youths are facing in America these days (and not necessarily just the minorities). In particular, I think it had just the right dosage of humour and the final resolution was also very well done.

I’ve still got plenty more to get through, including Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, Doubt, Rachel Getting Married, Defiance – just to name a few.  I’m trying to get to them as soon as I can…

2009 Golden Globes Film Reviews

I love watching movies.  I also love writing.  So it’s only natural that I also like to review films.  So far I’ve got 431 reviews and 1202 movie ratings on Flixter, so that says a lot (and that’s just what I can remember).

With the Golden Globe winners announced yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to share a few short reviews on some of the movies I’ve seen that were nominated (taken straight from Flixter). It’s also a good way to give my blog some much needed padding in its baby stage.  I’ll add more if and when I see them (and there’s A LOT I still want to see).  Feel free to agree/berate my ratings, which by the way are out of 5.

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