Screen Squinty’s “Sausage Party” Review.

Film: Sausage Party.
Directed by: Greg Tiernan.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 88 min.

Sausage Party is adult computer animated adventure comedy directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, with the story conceived by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill. The film centers around a sausage trying to find the truth to the meaning of his existence and that of every other sentient food item in a grocery store.

This is the first CGI film to ever earn an R rating, and the directorial debut for Tiernan. That is both allegorical and can be read as a spoof of big name animation companies such as Pixar and Dreamworks. it had a hamstring (for an animation) budget of 17 million; so it’s no wonder that it’s been a slow burn of 8 years to be made (among other reasons).

Usually when a film, particularly an animation, goes through such a long stretch, what comes out the other end is not always the best (Pixar’s Dinosaur is a classic example of the foibles that can arise from long term production limbo).

The question then lies if Sausage Party goes the way of other animations in this regard. Is this truly worth the ridiculously priced ticket fees?

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Nitrogen Studios, “Potato,” screen shot from Sausage Party Trailer, 2016.

The animation is certainly worth it. The simple yet clever character designs, the detail of the grocery store and human world from the perspective of the food characters, and the flow of movement of each character within the world was impressive. Then there was the horrifically detailed gore some how worked through cartoon food items so well its stunning. The attention to visual tone of the overall story combined with the walking visual puns and innuendos was a visual treat to the eye. Kudos and credit goes to all 83 of the hard working animators at Nitrogen Studios, this movie couldn’t have made it as far as it did without their amazing work.

The voice acting was top notch with Rogen (Frank), Kristen Wiig (Brenda Bunson), Michael Cera (Barry), Edward Norton (Sammy Bagel Jr.), Selma Hayek (Teresa Taco), David Krumholtz (Kareem Abdul Lavash), and Nick Kroll as a Douche of a main antagonist.

Congrats though goes to Edward Norton whose Woody Allen vocal impression combined with a reference to another famous Jewish actor (and bagels), created one of the most stereotyped walking food items to join animated history.

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Nitrogen Studios, “Sausage Party Characters,” screen shot from Sausage Party Trailer, 2016.

The humour was…well…. imagine every popular ethnic, racial, cultural, gender, and sexuality stereotype in entertainment of the past decade or more and then merge them with the animated musical snipe “Let’s all go to the lobby” from 1953, filtered through the brain of an ignorant pre-teen who plays “hot dog pants” day after watching Toy Story and you would have the humour, and this movie, in a nutshell.

Normally that would be somewhat worth dismissal on paper, and was likely a big part of the reluctance to Rogen’s proposal from the various other studios for so long, and any sane cinephile would agree with them and not give the film more then a raised eyebrow or two.

But…*sigh* how to put this?

It’s still weirdly funny. Yes, you heard it. This raunchy walking food pun was so all-inclusive in its stereotypes and crudeness, combined with some actual smart humorous moments without the stereotypes, and wrapped it in an engaging premise and narrative, that you can’t help being sucked in.

That leads us finally to the best part of the film, which is the story.

The allegory of Atheism clunks you upside the head like a bedpan to the noggin certainly, coming more as an anti-Veggie Tales. But the plot ran with an evenly balanced main Journey (Frank), and secondary journey (Barry) which engrossed you completely into this world of the Food’s perceptions. Its shock scenes in all the right places right along with its humour, destabilized any sort of standard predictability. The pace worked, and the truly great jokes outside of the aforementioned fare were carried throughout the film surprisingly well, and topped off by some really good antagonist sources in Douche and the entirety of Humanity. Finished with a very…satisfying climax.

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Nitrogen Studios, “Hot Dog Sausages,” screen shot from Sausage Party Trailer, 2016.

 

Overall, the movie in and of itself is definitely worth a watch. There isn’t a moment where something doesn’t horrify you and make you laugh at equal measures, and sometimes at the same.  Combining this with great animation, voice acting, and engaging premise- it boggles the mind to say it, but- it’s smart at being stupid, and stupidly smart at telling an engrossing story, despite going out of its way to purposefully promote an equality of offending everyone.

I highly recommend this film for anyone over the age of 18.

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Screen Squinty’s “The Boy” Review.

Film: The Boy.
Directed by: William Brent Bell.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 97 min.

This is an American Chinese horror/psychological film directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Delay and staring Lauren Cohan as Greta, a young pretty something who takes a job as a nanny to a creepy doll named Brahms in a creepy house, and gets sucked into the mystery of it all while being haunted by said doll.

The technical aspect of the film was perhaps the strongest part of it, utilizing some clever little transitions between shots here and there such as the transition from the close up of the photo of the little boy then morphing in transition to the doll in the next shot. The utilizing light and shadow was also smartly used in closeups of the doll’s face from time to time, providing this sort of eerie almost organic other-worldliness to the doll.

The film had some decent acting from the lead of Lauren Cohan as Greta, who did a good job in developing something of a believable dynamic with the Brahms doll (at least with what she had to work with) and a decent effort with the leads depiction all together.

Unfortunately though, whatever good qualities can be found in the film it is still hampered by the most important aspect for the film, the story.

Needless to say, there is nothing original about the rather old cliche of a doll as the focal point creep factor, but that in itself isn’t necessarily whats wrong with the film. Any movie can use cliches and still be a good movie as long as how you use them is original as possible, interesting, and clever.

You can tell that this film thought it was doing so, or at least trying to think it was, but it fell through in so many ways.

Certainly the premise can seem a little ridiculous at first glance (which rather appropriately matches peoples reaction to Brahms in the movie) but if the story is given enough time to be properly nurtured, to develop progressively overtime, whittling down Greta’s sense of what is real and what isn’t, then it could have worked. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t take the time to do so.

There is nothing overly internal that is properly developed in the character from the beginning to set her up, and the later revelation of her losing her baby was sort of rushed and just blurted out in a bit of exposition. The character rather readily accepts that Brahms is no ordinary doll, and doesn’t really try to investigate Brahms overmuch other then asking a few questions and looking at some pictures.There is no properly developed mystery, no hook that could keep spectators invested.

Because the story wasn’t properly developed by the time the twist ending happens, there really isn’t anything to support the believably of said twist. It just exists for the sake of it. Had the Greta questioned her own faculties a bit more, or the story took greater advantage of the psychological effects of her own isolation, and given her just a bit more believable skepticism, the twist wouldn’t have been so…there.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad film visually, with some decent cinematography and the doll was reasonably creepy within the cannon of the story and the acting was good (with what they had to work with). But the story is riddled with underdevelopment and rush jobs here and there which made the conclusion weak and dissatisfying and overall…meh.

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Screen Squinty’s “Batman The Killing Joke” Review.

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*Warning! There are Spoilers!

Film: Batman The Killing Joke.
Directed by: Sam Liu.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 76 min.

Based off of the acclaimed graphic Novel of the same name, with animation design by famous Bruce Timm and the returning acting talents of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill; Batman The Killing Joke tells a Joker origin story in concert with present day Joker’s final extreme.

This was a film that many fans of both the graphic novel and of DC Animation had been looking forward to for months. Particularly with the knowledge that before the DVD release the following week, spectators would get a chance to enjoy it screened in theaters, something that hasn’t been seen for a DC Animated feature since Batman Mask of the Phantasm (though Batman Killing Joke was viewed in only a few select theaters).

DC Animation has had some hit and misses over the years with their animated films, with Batman Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000), Batman Under the Hood (2010), The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2 (2013), Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox (2013), Wonder Woman (2009), Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015) etc.  being a sampling of perhaps some of the most popular examples.

What all these films had in common was great animation/visuals, voice acting, and story  in varying degrees of excellence that have earned them their little golden slots on the shelves of fans, bridging the cap between comic book fans and the movie fans alike.

The question then lies in whether Batman The Killing Joke can be counted among the pantheon of the DC Animation Golden.

Of the animation, this film did a fascinating job in combining the style inherent in the famous Bruce Timm animations with the gorgeous character styles of the graphic novel illustrated by Brian Bolland. The highlight having to be The Bolland’s Joker translated into animation.

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(Above) “Joker Cracks” From Batman Killing Joke DC Animation(2016), (Below) “Joker Cracks” from Batman Killing Joke Deluxe Edition, Moore & Bolland (2008).

The scenes, particularly the carnival were they had a decent balance of bright color saturation and creepy imagery, the throne of heads being an excellent example of this.

The only drawback in the visuals might be the transitions between present moment and flashback.  In the graphic novel, the transitions between moments were relatively smooth (seen below), with the instant visual moment of the very first and the very last thing seen was utilized in pose of the character and what he was doing in the drawn mise-en-scene to tie the present frame with the flashback frame. Certainly there was some of it, but the instant final and first sight between time shifts was not as utilized and thus the lack of this key visual made the transitions between scenes less seamless.

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DC Comics, “Joker Time transition” Batman The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition. Moore & Bolland (2008).

Some could argue that there is a difference in the mediums, but this is a technique that has been utilized quite successfully in other films. This is especially odd considering how much else they were relatively faithful with in regards to the source material.

Also, there was that lack of nods in the mise-en-scene to the previous history of the Joker that the graphic novel had. It would have been interesting to see a few nods to previous animated Jokers perhaps, but of course this could be more of trying to play safe with maintaining a sense of visual continuity perhaps.

As far as animation goes, despite some hiccoughs with transitions, the animation team did a decent job in providing just the right amount of atmosphere to the film and faithfulness to the source material, a visual treat for spectators and fans alike

Voice Acting was another strong plus for the film.

Mark Hamill as usual blew the waters out from anyone’s expectations in continuing to prove his status as the number one Joker. He vitalized the lines he was given, seamlessly blending his various incarnations into Alan Moore’s Joker  and coming out the other end with something altogether different and so deliciously a joy to watch.

Kevin Conroy brought his amazingly stoically deadpan Batman to the screen, but when the emotions where there, like other Batman he’s played, it was perfect. With the nostalgia surrounding his voice as well -because make no mistake, Conroy owns Batman almost as much as Hamill owns Joker- there was a certain added surrealism induced by nostalgia of Conroy voice induced memories of Batman Hey-days with Moore written Batman, particularly in the ending of the film that was particularly entertaining.

Tara Strong’s voice acting chops was also given some time to shine, and she did well in making Batgirl something of her own. Strong utilizes a unique ability of hers to not somehow induce the brain to think of her other characters when in other material, more as their own identities. When you hear her, you don’t hear Twilight Sparkle (My Little Pony) or Raven (Teen Titans franchise), you hear Batgirl.

Finally, does the story compete with previous DC Animated films?

The story is where some of the strongest and weakest points can be found. The original source material was determined to be to short by the filmmakers, so within the first quarter we see entirely original material from the production staff unrelated to the source material.

This original material, lets call this section the Batgirl Arc, was centered on the final days of her being Batgirl before the events of the graphic novel.

Within the canon of  Batman the Animated series Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003), and Batman Beyond (more so here) the fact that Batgirl had a romantic relationship with Batman was well known by this point, though the reason for her separation was only briefly explained, mostly in exposition, and never went really in-depth. After watching this Batgirl Arc, you could say that this story was that missing portion, if it just stood on its own and wasn’t attached to the rest of the film.

If it were just this on its own, a lost episode or something from that part of the Animated Series franchise such as a flashback episode in Batman Beyond, or even a short film tie in, then it serves its purpose as a mode of clarification on their relationship (if perhaps not a good one) from that quarter, then at least it held some sort of purpose.

Here it does not, and not only does it feel entirely random, but the story of this arc in and of itself was poorly handled, particularly in Barbra’s reasons for giving up fighting crime being colored because she was a “distraction” for Batman was definitely insulting to many spectators, and not complimentary to either Batman or Batgirl. It was an aggravating attempt perhaps to elicit more of an investment emotionally with Barbra after the events of the second quarter, but it failed spectacularly.

In the rest of the film, let’s call it the Getting-What-You-Actually-Paid-For Arc, is of course where the film shined.

The faithfulness to the source material’s story was almost exact, with a few additions here and there that didn’t take away from anything and fit somewhat seamlessly with the rest. It had all the dark iconic moments from the comic, (even Joker’s song number!) with an enhanced final scene that climaxed much as the graphic novel did.

Unfortunately, what keeps this film from becoming excellent story-wise, was the fact that these two arcs are not isolated single stories and are supposed to be read as all one film, which just frankly doesn’t work, and the insulting nature of the first arc soured some of the experience.

The connection between the two is much too tenuous, and the obvious fact that the Batgirl arc was so upfront filler, was a disconnected from the rest of the story and early the film if the second arc hadn’t been so good. The small ending credit scene of Barbra doesn’t help anything for the sake of the film and felt just as unnecessary as the first quarter, particularly as it takes away from the impact of the final image of Batman and Joker.

We know that DC Animation is capable of producing both really good original material, such as with Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015), or comic source material such as demonstrated with the second arc here and previous films. So if they had to go this route of combination of the two, surely they could have done a better job?

Overall the answer of whether this film is worthy of the DC Animation pantheon is something of a question mark. If it weren’t for the focus on Batgirl, then the answer would likely be “yes”. It did have faithfulness to the material in the rest of the film, the voice acting was superb and the animation was spectacular, but with the first arc, especially with how badly it was handled, the answer would be “no.” Perhaps the answer would be that it straddles the edge.

The recommendation to fans would be to only watch the Getting-What-You-Actually-Paid-For Arc. Certainly it would be a shorter experience, but much more satisfying, and likely not to enrage you if you are a fan of Batman and Batgirl in particular.

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Screen Squinty’s “The BFG” Review.

Film: The BFG.
Directed and Produced by: Steven Spielberg.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 117 min.

The BFG is an Disney American fantasy film based of of the classic children’s book of the same title by Ronald Dahl centering on the adventure of an Orphan named Sophie who is kidnapped by a friendly dream catching giant when she witnesses his presence and soon befriends him.

This is a film that centers exactly on what the title says: a Big Friendly Giant.

The strength of this movie lies in this simplicity. By maintaining the focus primarily on the relationship of BFG (Mark Rylance) with the other main character Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), the side characters and the antagonists, you get a very solid and somewhat focused film, and the character interactions, especially the dynamic between BFG and Sophie was the strongest yet so far in this year’s family film fair, which is particularly impressive when you consider the fact that Barnhill is interacting with a green screen figment of digital animation imagination.

Kudos goes to the voice acting of Rylance who really brought this character to life and was the perfect choice for BFG with his Shakespearean theatrical chops shining thorough especially well here.

The computer animation (through motion capture) done on BFG and the other giants was particularly good. He looked younger in the face then his cover art from the Dahl book and his depiction in the 1989 animated version, but it oddly works here when combined with the balding grayness as it somewhat helps pull across that sort of ageless quality inherent in the character (and remarked upon in the film).

Weta Digital did a good job with the the film’s special effects, particularly with the dream tree scene.

The plot meanwhile was fairly faithful to the book, if not quite capturing some of the couched darker tones of Dahl, with a pace that worked surprisingly swiftly for its run time in part carried by the relativity fluid transitions from one moment to the next carried on the back of the character byplay.

The only drawback to the film is that the less darker tone from the source material took away from the unique experience that comes from a Dahl work, and if your a Dahl fan, this will likely annoy you.

That being said it is a Disney film under the control of Spielberg which means that the “Family film” aspect will remain strictly traditional. Though its worth pointing out that with the increasing maturity of family television out there, the traditional notion is going to find a harder branch to perch on with young audiences.

Overall, while it isn’t exactly an epic film, it is a good film nonetheless that delivers on the promise of its premise with stellar acting, character designs on part of the giants, and visual effects and worth watching for all age groups.

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Screen Squinty’s “Finding Dory” Film Review.

Film: Finding Dory.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 103 minutes.

There is nothing like the sight of colorful sparkly fish with great voice overs to experience the majesty of the ocean and your local Signorney Weaver narrated Fish hospital/park.

Finding Dory is the much anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo (2003) that had been in the works for the past 13 years. Unsurprising as the first installment  was such a hit that it’s a surprise that Hollywood isn’t already on its fourth installment instead of its second.  In this installment, it concentrates on the popular character, Dory, in a collection of present moment and flash backs telling an origin story/present adventure story of Dory’s search for her family.

The film is that a lot of the old crew that made Finding Nemo such a success returned to the making of the film. Andrew Stanton, who directed the first film returned as director (paired up with relative feature film newcomer co-director Angus Macleane), and many of the voice actors returned, such as Albert Brooks the famous writer and comedian reprising his role as Marlen, and of course the queen of talk shows  herself Ellen DeGeneres as Dory.

Having Stanton manning the helm of its development has kept this film on an even keel where many films that have tread the choppy waters of long term development waters to break apart (The Good Dinosaur for Example), this film has made it into the dock with a solidly made film in which you can easily believe that it has earned the $287 million worldwide gross since it premiered June 8th.

The animation had the same high quality as the first film, with some really beautiful breathtaking imagery that shows the animation teams love of the watery kingdom. Though there was less variety of colorful settings like the first film, it did utilize what was presented in the best possible way, making an ordinary public Aquarium comically (and sometimes dangerously)  fantastical .

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Pixar “Dory” from Finding Dory, 2016. Promotional Image.

The character designs with child Dory being the precious little fish bit adorkable without quite falling into Pwecious territory fortunately, and the designs of the other inhabitants of the exhibits was enjoyably done. The strongest design tenticles down though would have to be Hank, the cranky red octopus,  with the excellent voice talent of Ed O’Niell, whose design has the smart decision of using his eyes as the dominant feature of body language communication.

Some of the strongest animations recognize the importance of the expression of the eyes.

in computer animation, though there has certainly been improvements over the years, a big flaw was the phenomenon known as “dead eyes” (The Polar Express is an excellent example of this), which accents the artificiality of the world being portrayed and generally comes across as a little unsettling. This is in part because the eyes are a common body language facet of communication among humans almost to a subconscious level.

A creative team that recognizes this important facet of human relation and communication, make it the most prominent feature of a character (particularly in a computer animation) tend to be the most successful in character design, as it helps foster greater empathy with a character, as well as puts a stamp of a high quality animation for the production company, which Pixar has in spades and is not afraid to show.

It doesn’t hurt that Hank, out side of his design, was a likable character as well, and his dynamic with Dory was easily the strongest feature of the film with dialogue that felt natural, entertaining, and engaging all at once, and definitely is one of the strongest factors in carrying the film, and a character who i can see getting his own movie if there is a third installment.

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Pixar, Hank and Dory from “finding Dory, 2016, promotional Image.

The story itself outside of the characters and animation, does holdup well. The present day and flash back transitions were clever in revealing not only Dory’s origins, but also in her psyche, as well as a plot of character development and resolution.

Granted it didn’t have the grand feel of the first film, but that’s as it should be. The first film was a heroic journey film, this one was a personal revelation story at a very internal and personal level on part of Dory, which the story does.It doesn’t need the grand oceanic delights and dangers to be what it is, with the first film about finding someone, and the second about finding one’s self.

If there were any weak points in the film, perhaps Nemo’s character didn’t feel particularly essential to the film. In fact his presence highlighted why you shouldn’t bring children into potentially dangerous or unknown situations. It weakens Marlen’s parental characterization, particularly after the first film going through the trouble of developing him in that quarter. Still, the focus was on Dory, so the draw backs are minor annoyances at best.

This film swims to the top and over he expectations going into this film, with its great animation, characters, and story it is a high recommendation for your summer viewing.

 

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Screen Squinty’s “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” Review.

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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Movie scenes and Promotional imagery. Property of Warner Bros.

Film: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
Directed by: Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm.
Released: 1993.
Running Time: 76 min.

I am sure everyone and their monkey’s uncle has perhaps had their ear  bent over the years about the first DC Animated film based off of the Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) over the years. A story about a young Bruce Wayne on the crossroads and early days of becoming Batman told in flashbacks while his present self is on the run from a frame up and facing down a mysterious antagonist that takes that one step to far approach.

So what makes this worth chatter in certain fan communities?

First, for the 90’s, a film based off of an animated television series without being just a well edited amalgamation of episodes or one long episode was rare to find, especially within shows geared towards the younger set, let alone one that was destined to have a theatrical release, instead of just going straight to video.

While the film failed in the box office, mostly due in part to the short amount of time the team was given by Warner Bros. to both make and sell people to the release (and one of those prime examples of why we all still tolerate trailers and promos now a days despite the complaints), though it did receive high praise from many critics, and has since gained cult following status.

This is everything you could want in an animated neo-noir film, directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm who carried the success and classy darker over tones of the series into the film, as well as reaching out to a variety of Batman comics, but also made it something more than its source material.

It treats itself like a serious feature film and not just an off shoot of a television show.

The amazing and clever cinematic score by Shirley Walker, one of the few female women score writers during the period in Hollywood and the original composer for the animated series and set the tone for the musical score for the DC Animated series universe franchise, greets viewers in the opening credits with a score that had an epic feel akin to listening to the scores of Superman (1978) and Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

It wasn’t just epic in feel and tone, but also contained some of the playful edge of its roots by its construction of the lyrics in an amusing inside joke that very few people caught at the time involving the choir who were not singing Latin or some other grand language, but instead, with all seriousness, they were singing the names of orchestrates Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion and Peter Tomashek (and some others) backwards.

The voice acting meanwhile of of Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Mark Hamill (Joker), and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr (Alfred Pennyworth). already excellent actors from the series, went all out (reprising their roles from The Animated Series), in particular Mark Hamill working his pre-Joker and present Joker figure.

The next positive was the story.

Loosely based off of events from Batman Year One and Batman Year Two graphic novels as well as the television series, showed a good balance of its various source materials, while being mainly its own thing. As a cinematic article in and of itself, accentuating its neo-noir lines, it stands on its own without needing to lean on its inspiration and sources to hard, but respecting the classic Batman Detective character, as well as the genre conventions of neo-noir, fitting as there were some moments in the flashbacks that were inspired/reminiscent of famous noir classic Citizen Kane (1941).

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So we can agree this film has many advantages going for it, but does it have any drawbacks?

Two criticisms have come to light over the years, so lets address them:

The first Criticism is that the plot is to slow, almost plodding, with not enough action to keep audiences engaged throughout the film.

It’s a valid criticism, the pacing of the plot is slower then many are likely accustomed to, particularly child audiences, and in comparison to later films, its pace is a little staid. The fact of the matter though is that noirs are often not normally fast paced predominantly.

Its all about setting the atmosphere, building the intrigue, or at least good noir films do this, and this is a noir film make no mistake about that, and this film does a good job in establishing its intrigue and mood with just the right amount of action scenes- and when they happened, they were really good, relevant to the story, and memorable- to satisfy. Though perhaps those who respond to higher action to story ratios might not be as in to this film.

The Second criticism would be the lead romantic role, Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany), was not a very well developed character.

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Andrea Beaumont, Played by Dana Delany. Screen shot, property of WB.

In this I would have to agree more with critics. For most of her appearance, Andrea didn’t receive much development as a character herself for a large part of the movie, but despite this she did fulfill her role for the story, and the resolution of her character in the climax of the film does somewhat save her character. You do believe the chemistry between her and Bruce as well, which was vital component as part of Bruce’s struggle in his early years as a vigilantly in making his ultimate choice for the path he takes as Batman.

Its worth noting that her character does appear in a cameo or two within the DC Franchise, particularly in the series finale of Batman Beyond (1999-2001).

Unfortunately, Andrea did reflect a trend with how women were treated rather stereotypically that was part and parcel in the Batman Animated series for the most part until more interesting characters like Harley Quinn came along. Andrea did break the mold to an extent as well, in a way that went beyond the love interest or the sexualized villianess. she is an interesting mix of breaking the mold and sustaining it at the same time.

This perhaps reflects the dated nature of the film perhaps, but when one takes into account the amazingly story, great acting, a brilliant antagonist, the noir atmosphere, and  the homage to source material with an original twist here and there, plus the spectacular climatic ending, it somewhat saves it from completely falling into the dated container, perhaps why it has retained its cult status and one of the top favorite DC Animated Film list for may fans of the franchise.

This is certainly one of my top favorites from the DC Animated Franchise, a highly recommended watch for not only Batman fans or DC Animations fans, but also for those who just want to watch a great feature film.

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Screen Squinty’s “Mune: Guardian of the Moon” Review.

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(Mune: Guardien of the Moon promotional image, Paramount Pictures, 2014.)

Film: Mune: Guardian of the Moon.

Directed by: Alexandre Heboyan and Benoît Philippon.

Released: 2014.

Running Time: 86 min.

This is a French computer animated fantasy film about a mythical world ruled by the delicate balance that exists between the Sun and Moon which are each watched over and manned by a Sun and Moon Guardian.

During the choice of a new guardian for both celestial bodies, a creature named Mune (Michaël Grégorio and Joshua J. Ballard) is unexpectedly chosen as guardian of the Moon. Untrained and highly naive, his mistakes lead to the theft of the Sun, which leaves both Mune and the guardian of the Sun, Sohone (Omar Sy and Trevor Devall), to get it back and are accompanied by the living candle wax girl Glim (Izïa Higelin and Nicole Provost).

One of the strongest features of the feature is the strong blend of inventive use of mythology archetypes combined with heroes journey poetics we are all familiar with in a very Terry Gilliam influenced construction in the overarching living myths of this place, which is appropriate considering that the writer for the film Benoît Philippon, was inspired by Gilliam’s films which also utilizes a similar use of living mythological worlds with a unique fantastical production style, such as Monty Python’s Holy Grail (1975) and Time Bandits (1981).

Altogether it gives it a very unique yet classic structure, and works as a dominant theme within the film brilliantly well, almost like reading something from an ancient mythology storybook.

The creative use of animation is another point in its favor as the animators utilized the filmatic computer animated paint brush to bring this to life in a visually creative and stunning way, in particular the character designs, done by the renowned Nicolas Marlet (Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon), and the creation of the Sun and Moon temples were a particular favorite.

Mune in particular was adorable, yet his character design didn’t completely overwhelm his identity, his motions were very much akin to his more wild nature, and a nice nod to some classical Greek mythology yet still remaining his own creature.

The only real drawback lies in the character Glim, whose construction is visually pleasing and basic concept as a character who either freezes in complete darkness or melts in the sun provides some interesting possibilities. Unfortunately this is hindered by being rather uninteresting in personality at best, and insulting at worst with her constant dependence on the two protagonists throughout most of the film, and forced as a romantic lead that was completely unneeded at all. not exactly the best female protagonist to introduce to children, and beyond outdated for the adult viewers.

She wasn’t completely horrible throughout the entirety of the film, certainly her actions with the sun in the climax of the film was her strongest moments, at least working with her basic concept to its fullest somewhat; though it’s effectiveness as a memorably dramatic scene that could have saved her character somewhat is undercut by a floating bit of deux ex machina.

The story would have been stronger if it had just been purely Mune and Sohone, leaving more chance to develop their relationship as guardians and as friends, particularly with the added element of Sohone being groomed for the position from the beginning, and Mune a complete novice, chosen over Sohone’s groomed counterpart. This would provide an excellent spring board to develop some prime character interaction, but it was not fully realized.

They are supposed to be a vital symbol of harmony and balance between the Night and the Day, according to the film’s cannon, and was also not given enough emphasis or development to work within present plot. The fact that the two didn’t really do this adventure wholly together, and Sohone himself was just as useless for a prime chunk of the film, only really redeeming himself as a character in the end climax, all took away from what would have been a spectacular story instead of an attractive mythology format.

Overall, despite its flaws this is a creative bit of classical storytelling using a unique style and original world building within the medium of animation done in a professional and visually pleasing style that is easily accessible to a wide variety of ages and audiences (it does have its modest fanart out there), though the weak use of characters, and the lack of really good development between Mune and Sohone, and Glim’s step backwards for female characters undercuts the enjoy-ability.

This is definitely a recommendation for the younger set perhaps who might not be as turned off by the weak character elements as anyone older than 10 might be, and worth a gander at least for the spectacular animation and mythology format.

Trailer:

Screen Squinty Animation Zone: http://screensquintyanimationzone.blogspot.ca/2016/04/screen-squintys-mune-guardian-of-moon.html

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Screen Squinty’s “Mr. Bean The Ultimate Disaster Movie” Review.

Film: Mr. Bean The Ultimate Disaster Movie.
Directed by: Mel Smith.
Running time: 90 min.
Released: 1997.

Recently, over on the Canadian Netflix, I found the pleasure of finding the recent addition of an old nostalgic favorite of mine from back in the day of ye olde 1990’s, that classic comedian Rowan Atkinson’s first Mr. Bean movie, The Ultimate Disaster that was very much a success for veteran fans of our favorite British star.

The highlights of course, are the comedy, in particular Mr. Bean and his interactions with various characters during his trip to the states when he is mistaken (on purpose) as an fine art scholar.

You see the classic gags from the Mr. Bean series worked out within the film, but at the same time they do combine it with newer gags, many of which work, such as the brilliant scene where Bean breaks into the art gallery in the climax of the film to right a mistake, which was one long gag intermingled with the resolution of narrative with some epic music that gave it a rather surreal amusing feel, particularly when the aggrieved security guard manages to valiantly make it to the toilet…I’m sure more than a few buttocks clenched in sympathetic relief at that scene.

Meanwhile, the strongest feature of the film was  the dynamic between Bean and David Langley (Peter MacNicol), which provided some natural comedic buddy moments, David working well with a character like Bean who had never before been depicted with a single character nearly exclusively ] with such a close prolonged interaction. MacNicol and Atkinson had great chemistry on the screen and worked well with each other.

The other amusing moments were those surrounding Bean who somewhat suffered for the interactions, as brief as they were, and Detective Brutus (Richard Grant) was the best of the lot. Though he was a straight-faced minor character, he did what many other characters usually do in an original Mr. Bean episode would do, he would directly/indirectly suffer as comedic foil to Beans mishaps, which made the scene in the hospital, in which Bean is his unwitting surgeon, particularly good as it was closer to the type of humour likely to be found in the original show when it comes to those who populated Bean’s immediate environment.

The only drawback of course was the MacNicol family…ugh.

They felt somewhat superfluous to the overall film, and hindered more then helped the story, coming across for the most part unintentionally cruel to the main characters without any real reason behind their behavior, particularly the wife. The film would have been just as strong if it were just Langley without the family.

This was the 1990’s though, and there was a thing about that back in the day for flicks geared towards the all ages bracket, so it is likely a product of the times, just handled very clunky.

Despite some of the inherent 90’s drawbacks of the film, it has always been an enjoyable film to watch when one wants to enjoy some good laughs, but of course the best of Bean, is always to go right back to the source, and that is the original series if singularly Bean humour is your thing. The original material provides the complete, uniquely Bean experience that could not be carried over in this film. There is this unique element of slice of life quietude co-existing with the physical humour that worked so amazingly well with the original, and so uniquely Bean. It would have been nice to see this film have a bit more focus on that style of humour within the story without the Americanization it went through, even if this film is enjoyable, and worth a watch for an artifact of the 90’s and some epic scenes in and of itself.

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Screen Squinty’s “Zootopia” Review.

Film: Zootopia.
Directed by: Byron Howard and Rich Moore.
Running time: 108 min.
Released: 2016.

Zootopia is a Disney computer animation feature that centers on the story of Judy Hopps in a classic underbunny story of a small town nobody with big dreams of making it in the big city as a cop, yet finds that she still has to deal with being a prey animal in a predator dominated field.

While the story at its core is something that has been done many times before, a discrimination story, though a Furry version, Zootopia does at least present it in an interesting, engaging, and fresh manner by combining it with the premise of an entire world of evolved anthropomorphic mammals with an actual somewhat explained back history, and combines it with a really great bit of intrigue, well balanced humor, and great characters.

The animation, particularly on Zootopia and all its various environments are cleverly designed and gorgeously rendered giving a very real, very present feel to the setting, particularly combined with the really great character designs have its own unique charm.

The plot flows really well, playing with events and expectations a little, and not afraid to really build up the reveals, while taking time out to focus on the little moments, which gives it a more relaitable engagement and feel for the spectators instead of smashing from one scene to the next with nary a breath in-between, which has been a common problem with many films nowadays and outside of animated shorts and Steven Universe, has a presentation so smartly and wisely utilized its flow of time so perfectly.

The narrative meanwhile is really good! it is very much a serious series of events in which an overarching conspiracy/mystery is going on, and during the times when it is in focus, they treat it in a serious manner with surprising little humor, which they save for interactions between the various characters and background gags.

The film also utilizes its moral lesson smartly (though rather bluntly), but doesn’t tread that fine line in to rehash preaching that often turns off the viewer from a rather important lesson. No one here has the moral high ground, everyone has both obvious and subtle faults and points of view that are both conscious and subtle, and is used as a device for character development, adding a layer to the dynamic between Judy and Nick.

Speaking of Judy, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White from Once Upon a Time), and Nick voiced by Jason Bateman (Michael Bluth in Arrested Development)- and did a stellar job with the voice acting- brought character dynamic that was just brilliant! Their growing relationship provided not only some of the best dialogue,and the way they worked off each other in action scenes, humorous scenes, and the final confrontation felt very natural and between them carried the overall tone of the movie all the way through (also unrelievedly this was a non-romantic pair for once, kudos for going against an overused trope, particularly for something from Disney).

Overall this was a feature that super-seceded expectations by presenting an all-around great film by taking a common sometimes overused concept and made it interesting with some creative and well thought out animation, narrative flow, and some great characters.

A definite recommend for viewers of all ages.

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The Seven Days of Christmas: A Christmas Horror Story.

note“On the last day of Christmas (yes I know it’s the 29th),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

A Christmas Horror Story.

Well, for those of you who haven’t heard of it before, A Christmas Horror Story; is a Canadian 2015 horror film directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan that is a loosely connected set of stories of various residents of the town of Baily Downs and there horror stories during the holidays: Santa is beset by zombie elves, a family invokes the wrath of Krampus, a group of teenagers get locked in the basement, and scene of a previous murder, beneath there school, and a troubled couple and their son should have paid attention to the no trespassing sign and gotten a plastic tree instead. All the while William Shatner is manning the radio station with Christmas carols and egg nog to spare.

This Frankenstein amalgam is a beast of the bits of good, the “meh,” and the bad sandwiched between a great opening and ending. To deconstruct this holiday horror hoagie, I will break down the various fillings and see if this film is worth taking a bite into.

First off, the good.

The opening of the film was actually really intriguing. It opened with this great little mildly creepy opening score that was surprisingly well composed and moderately epical. The opening scene of a Santa (George Buza) in the reindeer stable turning around and facing the stable doors, covered in wounds, before it flashes onto 12 hours before hand, was actually a very attention grabbing scene. It makes you want to find out what the hell happened to Santa, and what lay beyond that door, and when the ending came, it tied it neatly into into the opening in a way that saved a really cheesy middle ground of the Santa’s arc, and made one go “Well…that part was actually good after all.”

The cinematography was also pretty good, and the mise-en-scene of each scene was well presented for each scene, with a particular nod to Santa’s North Pole, and its creepy nativity scene props in the school arc, and of course, the appropriate amount of elf gore.

The best of the arcs perhaps would have to be the Santa arc. Granted it had its faults, but it was fun in the sheer fact of seeing Santa Buza brutally smashing up undead elf skulls, and the great little twist in the closer as I said really saved it.

The “meh” parts are rather profuse throughout the film: Krampus was okay, but nothing to write home about, and rather underwhelming overall for that story arc, though the fate of teenager was not too bad.

In the basement arc meanwhile, there was some decent build of tension in one scene, and the great use of those nativity props out of focus and in shadow really heightened the tension, though the rest of the story was a bit half-assed, and you’re not surprised or overly interested at all by what is happening to them either.

Now for the bad.

This film, while maintaining separate story arcs only vaguely connected by the setting and some relationships between characters which was more plot convenience, could have benefited by an overarching element that would have really tied them all together, which this film actually did have on hand in the reveal of Buza’s character. All these separate arcs with some different endings using Santa as the over-arching element, and this would have been a really good film, but nope, they went with going for to many different fillings, spilling all over the place.

The characters were also not overly fleshed out enough, and plot elements were introduced suddenly and without proper believably, and an element like the Krampus, in two of the arcs makes no sense unless Santa was in both of them.

The most useless of the arcs was the Christmas tree one. underwhelming, and felt put in there to fill up time better utilized elsewhere. it was beyond half-assed, and more negative zero-assed that was uncomfortable, characters out of nowhere, and not necessary. even the acting was somewhat awkward.

Overall, this is not a necessarily bad film, just a mildly entertaining film with zombie elves, that had a great beginning, a great ending, but the filler in between leaves you mildly confused, bored and frustrated, particularly as there was potential here to have brought this into the, perhaps not fantastic, but at least good film category, which sadly this falls short of, Santa Buza or no Santa Buza.

Film Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z3ybMTpqFw

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