Archive for October, 2011

Batman Year One (2011)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 23, 2011 by dpallee

from the Warner Brothers/DC Universe Animated Original Movies release "Batman Year One"

 Once I saw how much attention and advertising this movie was getting I wanted to jump out and preview it to see what all the hype was about. Quite often when distributors overload us with advertisements and previews the best part of the film tends to be the previews. After viewing the Warner Brothers/ DC Universe Animated Original Movie release I feel my quickest review of it would be too much drama, not enough action.

Batman Year One follows the origin of the caped crusader and Jim Gordon (who later becomes Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City) during the first year of Bruce Wayne’s (Bruce Wane/Batman voice portrayed by Benjamin McKenzie) dual identity as a crime fighter. Gordon (voice of Bryan Cranston) and his pregnant wife, Barbara (voice of Grey DeLisle) move to Gotham City, a town riddled with crime and corruption. The story line reminded me more of a cop drama with it’s adult situations and reality based themes. The animation and art direction are great quality works which is what I’ve come to expect from DC Universe released animated movies like Justice League; Crisis on Two Earths  and Green Lantern; First Flight. I feel somewhat robbed of more action from this tale though as the fight sequences were superb, just few and far between. One other criticism would have to be the over use of familiar characters from various Batman movies. A good portion of the story seemed to involve references out of the Batman Begins film starring Christian Bale. We are introduced to Selina Kyle/Catwoman for no apparent reason as she does not become a nemesis in the movie; also it seemed too coincidental that Selina lives with a young ward, Holly Robinson, from the Batman Comics (ref. #404, 1987). Character references and names pop in and out just to make the tie-in; Vickie Vale, Carmine Falcone, Harvey Dent, names synonymous to the Batman franchise but somehow almost a mere namedrop in the Year One movie.

 I wouldn’t deny you the chance to catch this Batman adventure but keep in mind that it will not compare to the action-packed thrillers you’re used to from DC Universe films.

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the Illusionist (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 16, 2011 by dpallee

from the 2010 animated film "The Illusionist"

Muted pastel scenery and bittersweet moments set the mood in this fantastic movie The Illusionist” ( L’Illusionniste), a British/French film based from the script written by Jaques Tati. It is suggested by some that the inspiration behind Tati’s script was a letter sent to his estranged daughter, but regardless of the true nature to the story, the end result is a touching piece of animation.

Set in the late 1950’s a down on his luck magician in Paris begins to lose popularity and decides to relocate to find more work. Along the way he meets a small girl who believes his tricks are true magic and begins to follow the aging performer along his search for work.  Empathy for like performers (such as a manic out of work clown) pop in and out of the story while the Illusionist tries to keep the true illusion alive in the eyes of his young follower. A very touching story woven into a fitting scheme of artistic style blends the emotion needed to watch this film. It was originally released in the states but was overlooked by a lot of American audiences and was out of theaters too soon for most to catch.  One of my considerations for classifying a film as successful animation is if the movie can tell a story without relying on the usage of distinguishable dialogue. The appeal of a tale that’s told through imagery makes it understood by anyone and will not constrain it to knowledge of any language. The Illusionist falls in this category nicely and leaves us with a masterpiece of animation. A great movie to watch with a minor amount of visual adult situations, The Illusionist is a definite must see.

Watership Down (1978)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 12, 2011 by dpallee

Fiver (left) and Hazel (right) from "Watership Down

 I’m sure quite a few parents out there remember seeing this animated film, however, I feel there is an entire new generation of kids who have not seen Watership Down. Based on the Richard Adams classic novel of the same name, this English production takes us on the dramatic journey a warren of rabbits takes amid the backdrop of a pastel colored countryside. What is nice about this tale is the timeless plot and characters and the writer’s adaptation of life in a rabbit community.

 The film was originally released in 1978 and became the sixth most popular film of 1979. The backgrounds in this film were treated with care to bring emphasis on the characters and breathe a child’ storybook-like quality to the landscape. From the beginning one is given a taste of the somber life the rabbits live and from there it’s one hurdle after another for this poor group who must make their way across the meadows to search out a new home. The story revolves around a small rabbit named Hazel (voice of John Hurt) and his companions who live in a field that is marked to be developed for humans. A prophetic rabbit named Fiver (voice of Richard Briers) predicts the demise of their home and insists they leave before it’s too late. The small group of rabbits begin a trek across the countryside where they run into a number of characters and problems on their way to discover a new place to call home. While watching this one begins to get a real feel for the perils wild hares must face in our world and of course the societal dialogue included is humorous, and sometime haunting. This film captures the last film appearance by acclaimed actor Zero Mostel who is the voice of a cantankerous gull named Kehaar. Other notable voices include Harry Andrews as the voice of the sadistic General Woundwort and Sir Michael Hordern as the voice of Lord Frith.

 The very young may find this film too disturbing as there are some very unsettling scenes of small cut creatures being attacked but the story is well worth the watch and sure to continue on as a classic.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 4, 2011 by dpallee

It feels as if I could write an entire blog on the accompilshments of Studio Ghibli with such animated classics as My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky so today I place deserved credit to this masterfully told fantasy tale, Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru no Ugoku Shiro).  This movie is based on the novel “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana W. Jones and brings to life the colorful adventure of a young girl’s encounter with a wizard named Howl.  The scenery alone is enough to make this a pleasure to watch but there is so much more to enjoy that I’m certain you’ll want to own a copy of this to watch over and over. The film had it’s debut in 2004 to Japanese audiences then was subsequently dubbed into English and distributed in North America by The Disney Corporation.

Hayao Miazaki was persuaded to come out of retirement to direct and write the screenplay that tells the story of an 18 year old hatter named Sophie who decides to take a trip to visit her sister when she comes upon the mysterious wizard Howl who lives in a slow moving castle that wanders the countryside. Howl becomes taken by the young girl which angers the Witch of the Waste, who has been seeking Howl’s heart for some time. The adventure starts there with plot twists and a variety of characters, including an animated scarecrow named Turniphead, one of my personal favorites in the film. One piece of trivia for American audiences; the voice of Howl in the English dubbed version is voiced by Christian Bale.

Some scenes may be intense for the very young but for tweens and up I highly recommend this movie.