This Smack takes us far from the terror-tory of evil Godzilla, doing his best to annihilate Tokyo, or the mayhem wrought by the homicidal dinosaurs of the various Jurassic Parks. While monsters have been intimidating heavies in many of movieland’s most horrific films, that’s not the case with the lead characters in this pair of contestants, which feature bizarre, animated creatures as heroes and saviors in the twin Pixar offerings Monsters, Inc. and its new prequel, Monsters University. […]
When we Baby Boomers were kids, our toys had lives of their own to us. Now that our children are young, it’s their video game characters that seem real to them. So, having once cherished my Davy Crockett coonskin cap and toy rifle, it was easy for me to see poetry in Toy Story’s Woody, a child’s inanimate cowboy doll by day, and a fretting, insecure, full-blooded character, when no one was looking at night.
My 10-year-old son Jack never had a doll like Woody to play with, but he did grow up with video games and movie characters, including Mario and Luigi. So naturally, Disney, which teamed with Pixar to bring us Toy Story, has jumped into the breach with a similarly themed movie for the Millennials. The new film, Wreck-It Ralph is also about the secret lives of children’s play-things once humans are out of the way. And the same John Lasseter who skyrocketed to prominence as Toy Story’s writer-director is overseeing Ralph as executive producer. […]
In 2002, in the wake of Shrek and Monsters, Inc, 20th Century Fox launched what was soon to become one of its most successful children’s franchises, Ice Age. With few expectations and little fanfare, it became a surprise worldwide, animated hit, rivaling both those other films, if not in total box office, then certainly in audience loyalty. Its two subsequent sequels, Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) proved that unquestionably.
This week, Fox launches Installment 4, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and what was once a total surprise is now laden with great expectations. Unlike the original straight-ahead journey of our unlikely, but charming heroes, Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary), along with the indomitable prehistoric squirrel, Scrat, and his acorn, audiences are hoping and expecting this new outing to be nothing less than extraordinary. […]
Once upon a time, animated princess movies were populated by passive heroines waiting to be rescued by noble but bland princes. Disney has made strides toward addressing this anachronism, giving us, among other notable efforts, Mulan (1998), which features a different kind of female lead, one whose strength, cleverness and courage — not her looks or brawny boyfriend — save the day. Of course, the company has long relied on female protagonists of every stripe, dating back to its first animated feature, Snow White, and running the gamut through Bambi, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and on and on. Rival studio Pixar, on the other hand, has never featured a girl or woman in a lead role — until now. […]
Who needs humans for a Smackdown? In this bout, our contenders will be lumps of plasticine. England’s Aardman Animation has been entertaining audiences for years with its claymation shorts and feature films showcasing the studio’s fresh, imaginative brand of stop-motion animated comedy. Its most recent offering Pirates! Band of Misfits is a typically off-kilter, spoofish take on pirate movies, featuring an underachieving crew of buccaneers caught up in adventures at sea and onshore. […]
My generation has been whining for years about our childhoods being collectively over, in light of the end of the Harry Potter series, the death of the creators of The Berenstain Bears, and countless other life-passages coming to a close. It’s good to know, with the theatrical release this weekend of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, that something important from our childhoods—and previous generations of childhoods—has survived and is still going strong. Though the good doctor himself, Theodor Geisel, has passed on, his legacy is still alive, well, and ready to be tested in Smackville.
If you want to get technical here, The Lorax should be the reigning champion, because his original movie debuted in 1972. However, he then went into a long hibernation, vacating his title. Now, the one who speaks for the trees has made a comeback, but times have changed. In the realm of computer-generated Seuss, the reigning king is Horton Hears A Who. Horton meant what he said and said what he meant, so when he says he’s coming for the guardian of the forest, The Once-ler chopping down trees for thneeds should be the last of The Lorax’s worries. […]
Tintin felt like a real missed opportunity.
When you create a world inside a computer, isn’t one of the advantages that you can do things that you can’t do with brick-and-mortar sets and flesh-and-blood actors? Tintin only really comes alive during a couple of gigantic set pieces—a chase through an Arab village, a duel with cargo cranes—that would have been prohibitively expensive to do pre-CGI. The rest of the time, it’s like we’re watching actors wearing too much foundation.
The plot itself is creaky, starting with a ridiculous coincidence, and lurching forward from there. But the real disappointment is that despite the intricate motion-capture used to create them on screen, the characters are all lifeless. What makes Indiana Jones so wonderful is the emotion that Harrison Ford illuminates him with—his delight, when he feels it (his reunion with Marion in Crystal Skull) is glowing and childlike, but most of the time he seems to face the world with something like resigned annoyance (“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”). It’s that personality that locks us into the character and the movie. […]
Hairball, anyone? When faced with the imminent completion of the saga of Shrek, the powers that be at Dreamworks Animation made the only possible decision they could to keep the peace among the masses begging, nay, clamoring for another installment. […]