Category Archives: Reviews


Cartoon Life To Hit Next Week

book_life2For fans of animation, one of the most exciting names to see attached to The Book Of Life is Guillermo del Toro. The Mexican director/producer/writer has created a massive following thanks to his truly unique style. His most recent project sees him in a producing role for a fellow Mexican filmmaker and director Jorge Gutierrez. With The Book of Life, the two men have teamed up to create one of the most exciting and unconventional animated films of the yea. For those unfamiliar with del Toro or Gutierrez’s style, it’s highly advisable to check out some of their films on demand or online before heading into The Book of Life – you’ll immediately recognize their irreverent touch on this perfectly timed Halloween film. Favorites include Mad or del Toro’s famous Pan’s Labyrinth.

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Top Five Simpsons Episodes

Don’t Have a Cow, Man! The Top 5 Episodes of The Simpsons

The SimpsonsNow entering its 26th season, The Simpsons has earned the honor of the longest-running sitcom in America. Largely considered one of the greatest television series in history, the show has earned numerous accolades during its quarter-century tenure, including being named as the best television series of the 20th century by Time magazine. It’s also received 31 Primetime Emmies, and a Peabody Award.

Despite how long it’s been on the air, The Simpsons has managed to remain relevant within pop culture by actually parodying the human condition along with elements of society and culture in America.

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The Other Side Of Maleficent

maleficent-03I have been looking forward to Maleficent with equal amounts of anticipation and dread. On one hand, she is easily my favorite Disney villain, so cold and so pure, and I want desperately to see more of her and her back-story. On the other hand, she is easily my favorite Disney villain, and I would hate to see her parodied, taken lightly or ultimately destroyed in a film that does not understand this great character. The good news is that this film almost gets it right; but that is also the bad news.

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Frozen Leaves Us Cold

Frozen_4Frozen is definitely Disney- per­haps Dis­ney Junior better describes this ‘tween movie. There are bits and pieces of what we know and expect from Disney here, but when it is all put together, a little Disney does not a great film make. This film is obviously aimed squarely at girls 12 and under, with very little for anyone outside that target audience. The music, and much of the film, is confused, unfocused and bland. The artwork, while beautiful, sets no new Disney high-points for animation, and the acting does not stand out at all. Frozen has all the elements we expect in a Disney film, but limited in scope; they do not attempt anything new in this movie. While it is definitely no Chicken Little, it also does not come close to the classics like The Little Mermaid or The Lion King; it is more one of the more forgettable films in the Disney oeuvre, a young girls version of The Rescuers.

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Cartoon of the Day: Gorilla My Dreams

Cartoon of the Day: Gorilla My Dreams

Cartoon of the Day: Gorilla My Dreams

One of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons, Gorilla My Dreams was also one of director Robert McKimson’s finest. Known mainly for creating the Tasmanian Devil and Foghorn Leghorn, McKimson made a few classic Bugs films, too, including this one.

Bugs lands in “Bingzi-Bangzi, Land Of Ferocious Apes,” where a lady gorilla whose hubby hates kids takes him as her own.

Remade in 1959 as “Apes Of Wrath.

Gruesome Gorilla’s first appearance.

Some heroes are born to fly…. Rio Review



Rio opened here last night and it was with a great deal of pleasure and relief to watch after the awfulness of Hop. Rio is a genuine animated feature unlike Hop, and it has one thing over the bunny disaster….namely quality!!

I wouldn’t go as far to say that Rio is great because it doesn’t quite lift itself into that league. It is made by the same people who brought us the Ice Age trilogy. I’m not overly fond of Ice Age as the animation isn’t quite to my taste, but I do admire the skill involved in its making, and hence, they are still worth watching. I found the animation in Rio a step ahead of Ice Age and is of a very high caliber. It isn’t Rango territory, or Pixar even, but it is well above that of the recent Gnomeo and Juliet.

Overall though Rio offers nothing new animation or plot wise. But this doesn’t mean Rio is a failure, because it isn’t. It is standard fare and I have found over the years that an animated feature like this is still of a consistently high standard. And unlike Hop Rio is a movie that all ages will enjoy. It is aimed at the younger generations to be sure, but any adult will get enough out of it and not be horrified to have to sit through 90 minutes of awfulness for the kiddies sake. I think most adults will actually like Rio but not rave about it. There is certainly enough ‘grown up ‘humor to be involved in with references to other movies and the likes if you are attentive enough to catch them. In one scene a bunch of monkeys is beaten up by a bunch of birds, with one bird saying, ‘ yippy i a, monkey fella’…. Die Hard anyone??!!!

The movie moves along very quickly and I think the young ones will be hard pressed to fidget and squirm as there won’t be time! The animation as stated is good and I think the kiddies will love it. Rio de Janiero is colored beautifully whether day or night, and the ‘carnival’ atmosphere adds a palpable and colorful backdrop. Rio as a movie based in South America has captured the sight and sounds wonderfully even though everyone speaks English. But hey, it is more for the kids so what does it matter?!

The characters, especially the two main protagonists, a pair of Blue Macaws are likable. Blu is well voiced by Jesse Eisenberg who perfectly captures his doubts and sheltered upbringing ( he is a bird who can’t fly and has to learn in order to save his friends at the end of the movie ). The nasties are nasty and get their just desserts in the end. There is not one dud or out of place character which helps the movie move along well. All standard stuff from an animated feature and of course sublimiley aimed at the young ones, which I don’t have a problem with. Surprisingly there are two songs in Rio which I wasn’t expecting and very Disney like. I’m not overly fond of singing in animation but in Rio they are fitting and still humorous enough to not stop the flow of the movie.

So in Rio it is all there. The humor, the plot of looking out for your family and friends, any number of sight gags that all ages will love, and some very good animation. Rio is a very colorful movie and I think the kids will be very engaged by that alone. It is a fast pace humorous color fest, with the usual array of good and bad characters. Blu’s fellow, and very female, Macaw, voiced by Anne Hathaway, reminded me a girl I knew years ago who had the most beautiful blue, and heartbreaking, doe eyes. I really enjoyed her character as the makers really made her very female to look at! Her eyes are lovely and she is a real charmer as a character, very independent and full of life. Blu’s owner too is the very typical animated female with a gorgeously cliqued, perfect figure!! But hey, again, it is animation and it is escapism, so why can’t there be an animated babe!!

If I was to grade Rio I would give it 7/10. It is all there as I have stated and is a very competent feature. It is not in the great realm, but is well above average and is for all ages to enjoy. I think the kiddies won’t be engaged so much dialogue wise as they will be color wise. It is quite something and even the oldies will admire what the makers have achieved. It may have a child like slant but any adult or parent who takes the kids to Rio will also enjoy it enough to make it a pleasant time out for all.

Another good quality animated feature that is for all. While it isn’t in the great league it is certainly among the plethora of very good above average movies making the rounds. Rio can be watched over and over by the kids when released on DVD and not annoy the parents who will more than likely partake! Above average, enjoyable, fun for all.

Hop… or Flop? (Review)



Speaking of Hop, should you Hop right out and see it, or should you scurry away as quick as you can? Our reviewer Brent Pearce went and saw it over the weekend, and he gives you his take on this film.

Read the Big Cartoon Review of Hop.

Wrangling Rango, A Review



Movie night! And it is my weekly trip to the local cinema with tonight’s offering the animated flick Rango. I had seen the promos for some time and found they gave no real indication of this movie at all. They are somewhat misleading, but in an unusual way in that Rango is far from just another animated film.

The feeling you get from the promos is that this is animation primarily aimed a younger audience but which adults would enjoy to. It is the norm with animated films today. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Rango is animation for adults and if adults take kiddies along so be it. Bums on seats equates to more bucks so a film makers aren’t going to cut out a potential market by pushing it as solely adult orientated. I have consistently stated throughout my movie watching life that animation isn’t solely the domain of children and have tried hard in breaking down this barrier of ignorance within adults. If Rango doesn’t finally get through to adults then I sadly fail to wonder what ever will.

This reluctance of adults to watching animated films is ridiculous. You watch The Simpsons don’t you? And you cannot seriously tell me that our yellow four fingered friends are for a younger audience. No, they are strictly aimed at adults.

So Rango for me is a real breath of fresh air. OK it is somewhat under marketed in terms of the audience it is aimed at, but animated film makers are all too aware how difficult it is to get adults into an animated feature. So unfortunately Rango suffers from being under promoted in trying to be all things to all people. It is a shame because it a very good animated film for adults.

I don’t need to go into a synopsis for by now most of you out there are aware of the film or have seen it. All I need to go into is what I liked about it and more importantly , is it any good.

So what did I like about Rango? Well…everything! And I mean everything. I cannot fault this movie in anyway, that is a good way to start is it not?! Where to start though?! I suppose since it is animated it must be the animation. And what animation it is! Honestly it is simply unbelievable…breath taking…jaw dropping..incredible, and will just blow your mind with its crispness and clarity. The detail is just staggering, it is so good that this is as close as animation can get to replicating real life imagery.

And here again, why is this just the domain of children? I don’t believe kiddies could ever comprehend and enjoy the craftsmanship of Rango. It is flawlessly animated and the viewer can only sit watching slack jawed as one amazing scene after another comes before their feasting eyes. And that is what it is, a visual feast. It is so good that it is a pity that most will never see it in all its glory on the big screen. I will tell you now that I intend to see this film in the theater several more times just to let my eyes gorge themselves on this visual wonderment.

So yes the animation is something really special! So clear, crisp and stunning. And if you don’t believe me then you haven’t seen the scene where Rango meets ‘ the man with no name’! You can honestly believe it was Clint Eastwood himself standing there! The features are so true to life, as are all the animals of the town, warts and all!

The storyline has the obligatory moral tone of all animated features. There are several here pertaining to telling the truth as lying makes things worse, and being true to yourself and others, etc. They rarely vary but I will never knock this within animation. If it puts a good message into a kids head through humor and fun then all for the good I say. But again this is an adults movie. It is very western based and if you are immersed in western watching you’ll love this movie. It is all there. Posses, gunfights, gambling, drinking, women of dubious character, saloons, desert, cactus, sheriffs, guns for hire, the suppressed, and the loner good guy in the guise of Rango who eventually saves the day.

Yes, all you western watchers will love it. There are many so many in house jokes and subtle references to famous westerns you have to be on your toes to recognize them all. But it is visually a western to. The scenery is Utah, Death Valley etc of western fame. The dust, heat, and sheer barrenness are beautifully portrayed. This may be animation but I can’t see why it can’t be called a western in the traditional sense. It is a remarkable animated film as I can think of no other that has attempted this genre.

It even goes as far as parodying the Star Wars films but within a western type of way. Great stuff, and immensely enjoyable as a true film watcher will ‘get’ all the inhouseness and parodying.

Johnny Depp is a marvel as Rango! He is fantastic as a chameleon who doesn’t know who is. His voice and whole sense of character comes through magnificently and it is hard to imagine another actor being as good. Depp was just born to be Rango as he could play the character in a true to life film just as well.

All in all Rango is as perfect a animated feature as you can get. The storyline is good and conducive to its western theme, the voices, especially of Depp, are wonderful, the characters are believable and recognizable. This really comes down to it being a ‘must’ see, because for no other reason the animation is flawless and just stunning. You’ll want to see it again on the big screen because it is just that good.

For valid reason that I stated above the makers couldn’t push this solely as an adult feature. My advice to you is to see it without the kids because I doubt they’ll be able to absorb Rango. If they start fidgeting and whining then you’ll miss out yourself.

So come on all you adults out there, get over your ignorance and prejudice of animated films!! If you watch The Simpsons, Family Guy, etc why not a full length feature film? This one is aimed at you, and whilst not rude or crude it is still damn good fun and I promise you this…you will enjoy yourself, and I’ll be very surprised if you don’t come out marveling at some of the best animation you are ever likely to see. Pixar had better start looking over their shoulders!

Cartoon Review ~ Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda

This is one of the abundantly clear things about Kung Fu Panda as a film: It is very popular across all spectrum and ages of society. I recommended this film to many people who took my advice and told me later how much they loved it. I think adults have forgotten that when animation first hit the big screen with Snow White etc it was not specifically aimed at children.

It is a mistake that is slowly fading as I find more adults going to animated films at later sessions to avoid children and have an exclusive adult audience. Well this is a review of a film, and not a social commentary, so I had better get back to it!

I, in a nut shell, loved Kung Fu Panda. It had me laughing from the opening scenes, which were animation within animation. you have to see it to understand what I mean there. DreamWorks along with Pixar, and to a lesser extent now, Disney, are one of the premium animated film producers. I like their style of animation and it is always of a high quality.

This is one of the better films they have released recently. A sequel is due to be released soon , and it is fair to say it has big shoes to fill!. It is also a film that has spawned several short half hour television specials that have aired over the last few Christmases. My nephews ( and I!) particularly liked the more recent one where Po had to provide an annual Christmas banquet for the kung-fu masters. Very funny, with a suicidal bunny who wanted to ‘die with honor’ for disgracing his village. We then see him trying to get Po to help him using various kitchen utensils. It has a moral, namely Christmas is for family and there is nothing more important at that time of year.

Read the rest of the review at Big Cartoon DataBase

Disney’s Tangled (Review)

I went out to Havelock North to see this film. I could have seen it in Napier but I wanted to see the film that followed this one so it made sense to see both at the same theater.

I went to the 5.30 p.m session on January 2nd. There were four children who went ahead of me. The woman on the counter called me ‘a big kid’ for seeing Tangled.

Her comment again highlights so much adult prejudice with animation. It is just not the sole domain of children. In the film Rapunzel is almost eighteen. The kids watching it with me were no older then ten. What do they know about being a teenager? I, as an, adult had more understanding of the characters than a child could.

I really can’t figure this mentally out. There is just a raft of good quality animation coming out and most adults don’t really realize what they are missing. As I’ve said previously I love animation. It, like horrors, westerns, dramas, etc, are a genre, and like all genres there is the good, the average, and the awful.

Tangle is in the good category . In my opinion it is one of the best animated Disney films in some years. The animation is just brilliant, the songs are snappy, and the humor is of a very high standard. I just can’t fault anything in this film. I truly loved it. In fact so much so I have since seen it again here in Napier! My two nephews raved about it and I have found the children I’ve spoken to have been positive towards it. The few adults who have seen it have been full of praise.

It really is the Disney studio at their very best. Rapunzel is a lovely character with an unbelievably neat little figure!! But my favorite character was Maximus the horse. I find that no other studio humanizes animals and makes them a stand alone character like Disney. Maximus is a great example of this. He starts out being tough and staunch but as the relationship between Flynn Rider and Rapunzel deepens his heart softens. At first he and Rider hate each other and constantly fight, which brings some of the funniest moments of the film.

Like all animation it has the moral tone. It is very subtle and in my experience most kids never pick it up. They like animation for the humor, and I have always found that is what kids talk about after a film. But I aren’t saying it shouldn’t be there. It adds to a storyline and kids shouldn’t be subjected to the complications of the adult world. So the morality is a good thing.

It is in a nut shell a film everyone can watch. It is aimed as a family film but anyone of any age will enjoy it. It is an animated film of the highest quality, in fact I don’t think they come much better!

See it and enjoy, as it will not disappoint!!!