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Archive for the ‘Cartoons and Shit’ Category

Highlander: The Search For Vengeance

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

HIGHLANDER: THE SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE is by far the best animated version of Highlander that they’ve made. Okay, that’s not saying jack shit, but I did sincerely enjoy this 2007 DTV (or OVA) anime spin-off. Like HIGHLANDER II and Highlander: The Animated Series it brings the Immortals saga into a dystopian future: “After a century of terrorism and global warming, the earth has fallen into chaos and decay,” the opening text says. And I really like this line: “Life is cheap and death comes easy, save for some.”

From the dawn of 1986 they came…moving stylishly down through the decades. Movies, TV shows, cartoons, struggling to reach the time of the reviewing, when Vern will write about the franchise

It’s a well told (if simple) tale and the design and animation are legit. Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri also directed WICKED CITY, NINJA SCROLL and VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST, plus segments in THE ANIMATRIX and BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT. Shit, I’ve seen some of those! He also wrote the live action AZUMI 2. But the screenwriter for this one is David Abramowitz, a writer, producer and creative consultant for Highlander: The Series and Highlander: The Raven. (read the rest of this shit…)

Highlander: The Adventure Begins: The Animated Movie

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

It’s the early ’90s. Less than a decade ago, HIGHLANDER became a cult hit. Producers William Panzer and Peter Davis managed to make an ambitious sequel, but it was received disastrously. They found more success by lowering their sights to syndicated television, while planning a course-correcting part III. Highlander was now officially a franchise. Time to get the kids involved.

From the dawn of 1986 they came…moving stylishly down through the decades. Movies, TV shows, cartoons, struggling to reach the time of the reviewing, when Vern will write about the franchise

In September of 1994, the USA Network debuted the Canadian/French/American cartoon Highlander: The Animated Series. Like with the live action series, I’m not dedicated enough to watch the whole series. Instead, I took a look at HIGHLANDER: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS: THE ANIMATED MOVIE, a feature length video release made from the early episodes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is the 7th motion picture starring Spider-Man (not counting unauthorized Turkish ones), the second Sony In Association With Marvel movie of 2018, and probly only the third biggest Marvel Comics movie of its year. But I honestly think it’s revolutionary. Not necessarily for super heroes – its story of colliding alternate dimensions is clever, but built on familiar comic book traditions – but for animated features. Somehow Sony, who had been considered so clueless about what to do with Spider-Man that they had to farm him out to Marvel, found people who knew how to celebrate the vast history, meaning and potential of the character in a completely new cinematic way.

So much has been done in computer animation since TOY STORY. There have been many great achievements in the form, including two funny super hero movies in the INCREDIBLES series. But the kineticism and print-inspired graphic playfulness of SPIDER-VERSE feels completely new. The Spider-men-and-women run and flip and swing and glide in exaggerated splash page poses true to the history of cartooning but rarely possible in computer models. They’re (mostly) rendered in three dimensions, but with line art details and outlines and Zip-a-Tone dot shading. Some shots or characters are done in traditional hand drawn animation. Backgrounds sometimes have spray paint coloring in honor of the movie’s graffiti writer protagonist. Comic book description boxes, sound effects and motion lines – most importantly Spidey-Sense wiggle lines – appear on screen. The filmatism includes split screens, pseudo time lapse, jump cuts and hotshot flying camera moves that seem more at home in this cartoony animation than in the special effects movies where they have to pass for live action. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

Hey man, I’m not a monster, I enjoyed WRECK-IT RALPH like anybody, and the sequel is fun too. This licensing crossover bonanza shit has kinda become its own genre since WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT invented it in earnest, so we’ve had the toy version (TOY STORY), the other toy version (THE LEGO® MOVIE), the… everything version (READY PLAYER ONE) and the horrific, soul-rattling nightmare version (FOODFIGHT!). RALPH’s video game version does it just right – an elegantly executed premise full of Pixar-worthy well-thought-out world building, funny characters, good jokes, loving homages, minute detail, occasional Q*Bert cameo. I mean they even had an end credits jam by Buckner & Garcia (look it up). Some time later I went to Disneyland and they had playable Fix-It Felix, Jr. games in the Starcade, and especially seeing it in person you realize what a nice tribute it is to the beautiful design of the Donkey Kong game cabinet and the 8-bit animations of that era of video games. It makes you remember that, crude as they seem now, they are an artform.

So now we have the sequel RALPH BREAKS [sic] THE INTERNET, and at least it’s not a rehash. Sentient video game characters Ralph (John C. Reilly, CRIMINAL) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman, THE WAY OF THE GUN) are inseparable friends from frame 1, and when the arcade they live in gets wi-fi they find themselves exploring the big city that is the internet. It has an actual help desk for a search engine, an eBay building where auctions take place, flocks of Twitter birds overhead, and lots of little blocky avatars of internet users walking around trying to avoid people waving pop-up ads and clickbait in their faces. It’s all very clever and observant (they get a big laugh from an auto-fill in gag, and there’s one about “one weird trick”) and designing the behind-the-scenes characters (a messenger who delivers eBay reminder emails) in the style of ’50s advertising icons helps keep it from feeling desperately current. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mulan

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

June 19, 1998

MULAN is the Disney animated feature of summer ’98. It’s another Broadway-style musical loosely based on an old tale, in this case the legend of Chinese warrior Hua Mulan, as described in The Ballad of Mulan. Fa Mulan – voiced by Ming-Na Wen (STREET FIGHTER), singing voice Lea Salonga (NINJA KIDS) – is a young woman in Han dynasty China in the midst of training to be a great warrior. Oh, whoops, that’s a typo – in the midst of training to be a great wife. She gets all painted up and tries to walk in confining clothes and know all the etiquette for tea drinking and what not. But she’s not up to it, even has to write notes on her hand before a test, and completely fucks it up.

Luckily there is another option. The Huns are invading and every family must provide a man or boy to fight in the army. The only male in her family is her dad Fa Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh, STEELE JUSTICE, DEATH WISH 4), a war vet who is all for going again but he’s an old man who can barely walk and she’s sure he’s gonna get fuckin killed in like two seconds so at night she steals his armor and conscription notice and runs off to pretend to be a dude and fight in the army on his behalf.

Which she’s actually worse at than being feminine. There’s lots of, you know, humor about how she says something in a normal voice and then says “er, I mean” and repeats it in a not even remotely convincing fake-masculine voice. She starts to pick up other things like to spit and do gross things to be accepted as a man. It’s like JUST ONE OF THE GUYS I guess but when they see her boobs it’s off screen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Quest For Camelot

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

May 15, 1998

In the mystical past of summer of ’98, “animation” meant drawings. TOY STORY was the only computer animated feature that existed, so that was still just a novelty, not the entire industry. It wouldn’t be until the Fall that dueling bug movies kicked off the war for computer animation supremacy, so nobody wanted to be Pixar yet. They still wanted to be Disney.

The previous November, Fox Animation Studios had made their Don Bluth directed version of a Disney movie, ANASTASIA. In December Dreamworks would release their Biblical version, PRINCE OF EGYPT. And this was Warner Bros. Feature Animation debuting with their sword and sorcerer version. They took a little bit of the dark fantasy of THE BLACK CAULDRON and early Don Bluth, but mostly tried to make a musical in the vein of the ’90s classics like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and ALADDIN.

The operative word being “tried.” This is a terrible fucking movie. Nothing can compare to FOODFIGHT!, but as far as professionally completed animated features given a wide release in theaters, QUEST FOR CAMELOT (a.k.a. THE MAGIC SWORD: QUEST FOR CAMELOT in some countries) is one of the worst I’ve watched all the way through. The shamelessness with which they try to copy Disney, combined with the clear lack of understanding of why people like the stuff they’re trying to rip off, and the substandard execution of it, is honestly depressing to watch. Like any animated feature there are surely many talented people who worked on it, but it’s very obvious that the direction at the top came from a bunch of clueless executives who just had no respect for the audience or the art form, and no idea what the fuck they were doing. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Contract

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

THE CONTRACT is an animated tie-in to LOVE AND A BULLET. It’s easily the least essential part of the Ben Ramsey catalog, but its existence is what inspired me to revisit the other ones. I mean, people don’t usually know what I’m talking about if I mention LOVE AND A BULLET, so how is there a cartoon? I had to find out.

Well, it’s only 35 minutes long and its’ very crude, sub-television level animation. The credits say it was done by Elliott Animation, Inc., a Toronto based company founded by a former background painter from the Droids cartoon. They do all kinds of work for TV now – their main show seems to be Total Drama Island – but this was done as nine circa-early-2000s webisodes, so it’s Flash-type characters in front of pixelated backgrounds.

But it does have Treach and some of the other actors from the movie, making it seem much more legit. And it’s written by Ramsey and Kantz, so it has the same type of dialogue as the movie. In fact, the same dialogue in many cases! For some reason this is not a prequel or an additional Malik Bishop adventure, like what happens when he runs off with Mylene at the end. No, this is an abbreviated version of the same basic story told in a different, cheaper looking medium, with some of the same scenes, conversations and narration (re-recorded, I believe). (read the rest of this shit…)

Battle For Terra

Monday, August 21st, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

May 1, 2009

BATTLE FOR TERRA is a computer animated sci-fi fantasy that opened wide with almost no advertising or awareness. I thought it was the big expensive one that was an infamous flop, but it turns out I was confusing it with DELGO, which was released the year before, but not in the summer, so I don’t have to watch it. This one was actually a low budget independent production, but it did open wide and did not seem to capture the public consciousness, so I’ll go ahead and call it a Summer Fling in the tradition of TITAN A.E.

In the opening scene I was unsure I’d be able to make it through this one, because the alien race at the center of the story, the Terrians, look like this:

I pictured people working hard on this movie for months or years and then being crushed when they realized what it was gonna look like, but maybe I’m just picky about alien designs. Boxofficeflops.com says they spent just below $20 million on this (less than a third of the first SHREK’s budget), but Wikipedia says $4 million. If it’s the latter that’s insane because PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 cost $5 million and it’s a fuckin found footage video that doesn’t have an all star cast like this does! However much they had, it’s obviously not gonna have Pixar-level textures, but it doesn’t take more money to have better designs. For my money the worst decision made in this production was “Yes, I am okay with this being what the main character looks like.”

So thank God the story is pretty good. It starts in this world of Terra, a peaceful society of floating pea-pod E.T.s who fly around in wind-powered vehicles in harmony with flying whales. With better visual craftsmanship I think this would feel kinda like THE DARK CRYSTAL, though some things seem a little too close to modern human life (they have school and the teacher takes attendance and they have dinner at the dinner table and if they get in trouble they get sent to their room). (read the rest of this shit…)

Titan A.E.

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

June 16, 2000

Just before a race of alien energy-beings called the Drej blow up the Earth, Errol Flynn looking scientist hero Sam Tucker tosses his towheaded son Cale on an evacuation shuttle with Tone Lōc and goes off to fly a ship called the Titan on a mission to save the human race. He gives the boy a ring and it’s obvious to the audience that it will be the key to saving humanity but jesus christ dude make it clear to the kid! All he says is “Take this. As long as you wear it, there’s hope.” it’s a god damn miracle that he still has it when we pick up 15 years later. What in the hell were you thinking you god damn idiot, don’t be subtle about this shit.

So, grown up Cale (Matt Damon, THE DEPARTED) is some kind of space-iron-worker, a roughneck working class dude from Colorado, gettin it done on the outsides of ships and stuff, but he still has the same dumb ’90s boy band haircut from childhood. Since most humans are dead he’s a minority living among a bunch of creatures who eat food that he thinks is gross. So when a square-jawed Earthling captain and contemporary of his father named Korso (Bill Pullman, CASPER) comes to find him, you can see why he eventually agrees to join him on a mission to find the Titan. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Flintstones

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

May 27, 1994

The Flintstones are an example of a pop culture phenomenon that’s long past its relevance, but it’s so simple and recognizable that it lingers like a ghost in the public memory. Or like a fossil! As the first prime time cartoon, it originally aired between 1960 and 1966, but more than half a century later – whether because of the spin-offs and TV movies, the vitamins and cereals, or just cultural omnipresence – almost any American could identify the show on sight.

That doesn’t mean they’ve given it much thought, though, because there’s not much to chew on here. I know I watched it for some period of my life, but couldn’t point to a favorite episode, or even a specific one. There are different stories, technically, but the joke doesn’t really go beyond “what if there was a Honeymooners type family sitcom, but with cave men?,” and with the gimmick that modern lifestyles and technology (cars, drive-in theaters, kitchen appliances) exist, crudely constructed out of rocks, bones, wood, animal skins, and talking, subservient prehistoric animals. The plots reflect the same middle class concerns as a normal show would – trying to keep your job to pay for the house, trying to make your wife not mad that you spend too much time out with your buddies – but mostly it’s that one anachronistic joke of “the modern stone age family.” It’s humor with one wink and a whole lot of taken-for-granted cartoonist ingenuity. (read the rest of this shit…)