Posts Tagged ‘animation’


Top 50 Films of the Decade: Pt. 4 (20-11)

December 29, 2009

20. ALL THE REAL GIRLS (2003) – David Gordon Green, before he went into teen comedies, did teen dramas and this one is note perfect. Paul Schneider, who co-wrote, stars as a dude with a womanizing reputation who returns to his hometown and falls for his best friend’s sister, played by Zooey Deschanel. How can he prove his feelings are genuine? The movie belongs to the two main actors who turn in astoundingly real, painful and genuine performances. Their actions and feelings for each other had a real effect on me. Coupled with an amazing ambient score and editing that supports the lyrical quality of the camera work and you get an amazing experience.

19. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY (2004) – Overlooked as a minor Coen Brothers, this film captures Clooney and Zeta-Jones at their most glamourous. A modern day screwball romance, Clooney plays Cary Grant playing a divorce lawyer bored with his success so he takes on impossible cases. Enter Zeta-Jones, the ambitious man-eater, looking for financial security. The zingers rip back and forth and the chemistry sizzles the screen. I found this more consistently funny and engaging than Burn After Reading, though that movie is quite good as well.

18. THE WAY OF THE GUN (2000) – Chris McQuarrie’s debut as director shows absolute confidence and control. Phillipe (in his best role) and Del Toro kidnap a pregnant surrogate for ransom. Enter bad-ass James Caan as the bounty hunter hired to retrieve the girl. A fantastic gritty thriller studded with great set pieces. The 5 mile-per-hour car chase has to be seen to be believed. With a hilarious cameo by Sarah Silverman.

17. THE INCREDIBLES (2003) – Brad Bird’s follow up to The Iron Giant with Pixar and he knocks it out of the park and into the next time zone. A great metaphor for letting your talents shine and not being afraid to be extraordinary. Great retro designs and color schemes. The best parts include the look on Dash’s face when he realizes he can run on water, and when Bob asks his wife to stay behind and be safe and she challenges him, he admits that he isn’t strong enough. So why can’t she help? Because, he confesses, that he’s afraid he won’t be strong enough to lose her. Brilliant writing, jaw-dropping action scenes, ad astounding animation.

16. ADAPTATION (2002) – Charlie Kaufman’s script is the real star here, but the dual performance by Nic Cage more than makes up for his previous crap roles (Con Air? Gone In 60 Seconds?). Nic Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, a writer tasked with adapting Susan Orleans’ The Orchid Thief. What follows is a great meta-commentary on screenwriting, truth vs. fiction and one’s ability to change. Brian Cox as Robert McKee is perfection.

15. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) – The right way to do a vampire film without the cheezy teen angst. Oskar, a bullied loner, befriends the new girl next door, Eli and discovers her true nature. What follows is an innocent romance with very dark undertones. Brilliant and simple, it does more to forward the vampire mythos than dreck like Twilight or 30 Days of Night. The brilliant final scene at the pool house remains vivid in my mind mainly for what we don’t see.

14. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002) – Leave it to PT Anderson to follow up his mega-epic Magnolia with this smaller, shorter more intimate romantic comedy that surprises and delights by casting Adam Sandler as the quirky, repressed plunger salesman who falls in love with Emily Watson. His man-child tantrums punctuate a number of memorable scenes, but what delights is how he grows out of his shell in pursuit of what he wants. All aided with the harmonium. It’s a symbol people!

13. MONSTERS, INC. (2001) – Pixar provides another of the decade’s best films with this touching and hilarious tale of monsters who scare kids for energy. The crisis occurs when a human child, Boo, invades the monster’s world. Best scene is when Sully thinks Boo has fallen down the garbage chute and is crushed into a tiny cube; it tugs at the heart-strings while serving up some hilarious reactions by Sully as he faints and swoons. If you’re not bawling by the end of the movie you have no heart.

12. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001) – The trilogy as a whole would have been included, but for my money the first film gets it 100% right while the last two provide diminishing returns. Visually stunning and well-crafted with epic scope that establishes Middle Earth as real as the New Zealand locations it was shot in. Great ensemble cast and the perfect blend of CGI with miniatures (or “bigatures” as they call them). My favorite scene is noble Boromir’s sacrifice and redemption.

11. MEMENTO (2000) – Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film explores memory, as well as cause and effect in this twisty thriller about a man without short-term memory who is hunting for his wife’s killer. Who does he trust — the sleazy Joey Pantoliano or the femme fatale Carrie Anne Moss? With its scenes starting from the end and unravelling backwards to the beginning, the reveal is a doozy and speaks volumes for the control and tight crafting executed by Nolan.


His Technique Is Strong — Kung-Fu Panda

January 2, 2009

d. Mark Osborne & James Stevenson

Another top-notch animated feature, but with a very engaging storyline, Kung-Fu Panda delights with its depiction of the least likeliest of heroes in the form of a fat panda, Po.

Po (Jack Black) starts off as the son of a noodle-shop owner (James Hong), dreaming of glory and adventures with the Furious Five, a team of kung-fu masters made up of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Liu) and led by their master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and his master, Oogway (Randall Duk Kim).

With the threat of the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escaping prison and making his way back to the valley to retrieve a sacred scroll that promises unlimited power, Oogway holds a celebration to choose the fabled Dragon Warrior who will protect and save the valley from Tai Lung. Guess who gets picked.

Po, burdened with a new responsibility, perseveres to train to become the Dragon Warrior in spite of everyone else’s misgivings and judgements. What we are treated to are some of the best animated and most hilarious training sequences committed to film. Honestly, these bits were the funniest parts of the film.

The training sequences, the bridge fight and the final confrontation between Po and Tai Lung stand out as the most amazingly choreographed fight sequences in animation that I have seen in a long time. Taking some cues from The Matrix, the animators slow down the action to emphasize hits while milking the laughs all the while. Its quite a balancing act that is successful every time.

The only misgiving I had was that the Furious Five voices did not bear easy recognition. I had no idea of all the big names attached to the characters until the end credits. Really, the only voices I recognized were Jack Black, James Hong and Dustin Hoffman. Other than that, I have no other complaints against the film.

Kung-Fu Panda is laugh-out loud funny and at the right moments very touching. Especially when Po comes into his own and realizes his own worth and power.

Another cool thing about this movie is how they allow Po to have total geekgasms when he meets the Furious Five and enters the hall of memorabilia. It’s a great way to allow us to empathize with Po, because who doesn’t act that way around their heroes?

*** stars.


Here Comes The Bride — Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

October 27, 2008

d. Tim Burton, Mike Johnson

This movie is a very charming animated tale of Victor (Johnny Depp), a sensitive young man, who is to wed Victoria (Emily Watson) in an arranged marriage according to the ambitious plans of their respective parents. However, in practicing his wedding vows, he accidentally marries a corpse (Helena Bonham Carter).

For those familiar with A Nightmare Before Christmas, this movie has a very similar look and tone, thanks to Tim Burton’s vision and Danny Elfman’s score and songs. It’s not long before ghoulish visual and lingual puns are slung about in an amusing manner.

The animation is top notch — it’s breathtaking to see stop-motion wind, flame and water effects and the character movements are extremely smooth. The designs are also very unique and fun to admire. And the assembled cast all have great bits (my favorite extra on the disc shows an assemblage of the actors voicing their characters — a great peek into the process of animation).

The story-line is predictable to be honest, but the last half hour rewards when the world of the dead mingles with the world of the living and the action ratchets up a notch. Otherwise, a harmless movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome and includes some touching moments. My favorite part is when Emily dissolves into butterflies. Very nice.

**1/2 stars.

Next up, Patrick!