Watching the Blue Sky – Robots (2005) Review

Plot: Young Rodney is a robot who always aspired to be a famous inventor like his idol, Mr. Bigweld, who is viewed as one of the best bots in the world. When he moves out to the big city to show Mr. Bigweld his inventions and try to work for him, he finds that Mr. Bigweld is gone. In his place is a tyrannical robot named Ratchet who is using his business to force all robots into upgrading instead of repairing or replacing. Thousands of bots who can’t afford to upgrade are being labeled as “outmodes” and being sent to the scrapyard. Rodney has to find Mr. Bigweld and stop Ratchet before it’s too late.

Breakdown: Being honest, I wasn’t expecting too much going into this – and I say that as someone who sincerely loves robots. I haven’t heard a whole lot about this movie before now, and the only time I remember people talking about it was when people on Twitter started circulating that one joke about how “Making the baby is the fun part.”

However, I was pleasantly surprised. I very much enjoyed this movie all the way through. It’s not a masterpiece or anything, but it’s very fun, cool, funny and even a little emotional.

The animation is pretty good. I think it’s pretty cool how each robot has a fairly unique manner of moving depending on how they’re designed. The art is also stylized quite well and is fun to look at. The characters all mostly stand out from each other, are colorful and have little quirks that either add to their comedic factor or make them more useful. I also appreciate how well the sound design worked with the robots for the most part.

I also think the way the robots “age” is interesting. They get various replacement parts each year and, I guess, undergo some mild rebuilding every year to show their aging process.

The music was a mixed bag. The orchestral score works pretty well. It was nothing too unique or memorable, but it did keep me engaged and felt very fitting to each scene. My issue comes with the pop music. Taking a note from Dreamworks, I suppose, Blue Sky included some pop songs along with some more fitting but also kinda distracting older pop songs. There was one song in the middle where I really don’t think it is a pop song, because it sounds like a song written for the movie, but that would be the only time the movie would have a legit musical number, despite no characters singing. It’s very weird.

The absolute worst moment of this soundtrack being distracting was when Fender, a bot voiced by Robin Williams, so he’s basically just Robin Williams as a robot, fights off a bunch of robots by suddenly breaking out into “Hit Me Baby One More Time”….The joke is that he’s wearing a female lower half so he….sang a girl song? Also, the song was seven years old by this point, so it’s not even relevant. Definitely the worst moment in the movie.

And, of course, there was a dance party at the end because animated movie in the 00s.

The story was very cliché, but was strong enough to hold my attention. Also, they did throw me for one loop. When they introduced Mr. Bigweld, I thought for sure he’d be the villain. Rodney hero-worshiped him, he was a fat rich guy who seemed like he loved everyone and everyone loved him, he had statues made of him and everything. But nope. Mr. Bigweld was a good guy just overtaken by an evil guy who was a pawn for an evil woman.

Big corporation bad turned big corporation good as long as the people running it are good. Which, yeah, in an ideal world. That’s nice to think about.

Speaking of big corporation bad, dear god, the body count of this movie. I can only imagine how many “outmodes” got sent to the scrapyard IE murdered because they couldn’t afford the upgrades. It’s actually kinda disturbing how many parallels you can make to our world if you imagine all the characters as people….

There are no subplots in the movie, it’s right on one track and we keep going until the end. If I had any real complaints about the story it’s that I really wish Rodney had spent more time struggling and living with the other downtrodden robots, because, as far as I see, he arrived in this city, realized the problems involving an incredibly huge and influential corporation and fixed the issue entirely in like three days.

I didn’t much care for the romantic…..anything in this movie. Fender getting a love interest, I’m cool with. However, Rodney has two love interests in this movie, Piper, who is Fender’s little sister, and Cappy, who is an employee of Bigweld Industries. He has more screen time with Piper, but it’s like she’s not considered an actual romantic interest because she’s too young, but Rodney is only supposed to be like 18 or 19 while Piper is like 16 or 17 at least.

Cappy, whose age I’d imagine is in her late 20s or so, considering she’s a high-ranked employee at Bigweld Industries, is definitely framed as the main love interest, but they barely spend any time together, and the time they do spend together is usually with a lot of other people. They don’t get any moments together, alone or otherwise, they just get a few knowing glances between them. Cappy doesn’t even have a personality. She’s just a nice lady who works at Bigweld and constantly gets sexually harassed by Ratchet because that trope has to stay alive I guess.

And, yes, even in robot world, we can’t escape women being sexually harassed.

Speaking of women, I get that this movie was made in 2005, but some of the humor around women was a little uncomfortable. Like when Rodney gets a new torso for his senior year, he has to use a hand-me-down from his cousin….who is a girl. So he has a pink torso with a boob curve to it.

Rodney finds a new lower half in a panic after losing his in the scrap yard, and it’s a woman’s. So he goes “This is so wrong!”

When they meet Ratchet’s eviler mom, Fender calls her a “sir” and she points out that she’s a woman, so Fender says “Ouch!” and one of the other robots has his lightbulb eyes burst. Some of the humor hasn’t aged well, is all.

I don’t think this movie is sexist, for the most part, as the women do get a decent degree of things to do, including fighting, but there’s the whole ‘Cappy has no personality’ thing, and the fact that nearly all of the women in this movie just act as love interests.

I also didn’t think Ratchet needed an even more evil mother running the scrapyard to basically be his puppeteer. Ratchet is evil enough on his own. Although, this did make for a few good jokes, so it doesn’t bother me too much.

The comedy was pretty good. I was laughing fairly consistently. Not busting a gut or anything, but quite a surprising amount of chuckles. They’re probably cheating a little bit because I’m a sucker for puns and there are just so many robot puns and visual gags in this movie.

The action was also alright. I think the first action scene where Rodney and Fender are being flung all around town on that transport ball went on just a little too long, though.

The emotional moments hit a little more than I expected them to. I wasn’t choking up, but it did manage to connect with me several times. I think it was a really good idea to start this movie with Rodney’s dad super excited about being a dad and watching Rodney grow up for a bit before getting into the main story. It didn’t drag, and it made me feel a lot more for him and his parents than if we just started with him as an adult.

The characters all work well enough. I like Rodney and his parents quite a bit, Piper can be kinda cool, Mr. Bigweld was pretty funny and cool, and Fender has his moments. Sometimes he can really be too much, though. Even Genie knew when to tone it down, but Fender just never stops. I also never once felt like he and Piper were siblings.

I want to really lay out why this relationship doesn’t work. Fender is voiced by Robin Williams. Piper is voiced by Amanda Bynes. When this movie came out, Amanda Bynes was 19. Robin Williams was 54….They just don’t sound, in any way, like siblings. They’re written like siblings, they act like siblings, kinda, but they don’t sound like it. He just sounds like her dad or uncle.

Overall, Robots was an enjoyable experience that I had quite a bit of fun with. You’re not going to get much in the way of anything deep or new with it, but I do think you’ll be pretty entertained by it most of the time. I’d gladly watch it again in the future.

Recommended Audience: There are a few iffy jokes in there, but they never go too far. There’s the “making the baby” joke and they make a penis joke when Rodney is finished because they forgot to attach it………….I know you’re probably wondering a lot about how sex and sexes/genders in robots works in this world…..well, me too. And I wish I wasn’t. I guess you can also say there’s some scary imagery what with the robots being destroyed and picked apart. There was one moment where they officially announced that replacement parts were being discontinued. The robots were panicking because they thought they’d wind up dying if they couldn’t pay for upgrades. A robot fell apart in front of them and the vultures just started grabbing any parts of him they could. It’s hilarious, but also really messed up when you remember these are sentient beings. I guess 7+.


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Sony Pictures Analyzamation – Open Season (2006) Review

Plot: Boog has been a domesticated bear for his entire life – ever since he was rescued by the forest ranger, Beth, as a cub. After meeting the deer, Elliot, who caused a lot of chaos and problems in Boog’s life, Beth realized that she finally had to bring Boog out into the wild and let him be free. Completely lost in the woods right before the start of Open Season, Boog and Elliot try to find their way back to town and Beth before the hunters or other animals get to them first.

Breakdown: Many years ago, I reviewed Open Season for my old blog on that old forum I’ve mentioned before. My review was….bad, like many of my old reviews. Most notably, it was a bit overly negative, again, like many of my old reviews. So, for the review series tackling all of Sony Pictures Animation’s movies, Sony Pictures Analyzamation – yes, that is a mouthful – I decided to rewatch and rewrite the review from scratch.

And I’m glad I did, because it allowed me to finally review this movie with a more level head.

One my biggest issues with the film on the first watch was Shaw and how ridiculous he was as a villain. If there was one critique that stood up from my previous review, it’s definitely that one.

Shaw is, indeed, a ridiculously awful villain. Technically he’s a fine villain because he’s VERY easily hateable. But he’s such a ridiculously over the top caricature of hunters that it’s almost too easy to hate him.

I’ll admit something, my dad is a hunter and I’ve been brought up my whole life to learn about responsible hunting practices and gun safety. While I can’t bring myself to kill an animal, I do respect responsible hunters (not trophy hunting. That can die.). I also completely understand and respect people who are against hunting. It’s one of those issues where I’m probably a hypocrite, but the point is a hunter being a villain in a movie where a deer and a bear are the protagonists is completely understandable. It’s also understandable for them to be made unlikable, but Shaw is one of the biggest most over-the-top ridiculous parodies I’ve ever seen. I say this after pausing to write these notes at a moment where Shaw had just got done whipping his rifle out in a crowd of people to try and shoot a deer and bear in the head at once with one bullet, and then, once he’s heading off in his car to chase them once they’re returned to the woods, he says this.

“A bear and a deer working together. How far does this conspiracy go? How many other animals are involved? God bless America! I hope the bald eagle hasn’t turned!”

No, I’m not kidding. He even tucks his gun into bed at night…. Shaw is an evil person, but he’s also a complete dumbass, spending a good chunk of the movie thinking the animals are taking over the world and enslaving humans….

Shaw’s not the only ridiculously overdone hunter either. Later in the movie, a giant group of hunters all go out at the start of open season being loud and rowdy on the way up there with one of them yakking about how they’re going to blow the animals’ heads off. All of these people seem to be one big hunting group, which isn’t typically allowed for a multitude of reasons.

Not to mention the fact that the only cop in the area, the sheriff, is entirely useless. He sees Shaw have a clearly illegally killed deer on the hood of his truck, splayed out, which is also against the law, and is just like ‘eh’. He sees Shaw try to shoot his gun into a crowd of people, Shaw leaves when he’s not looking and he’s just like ‘eh’ and never tries to pursue him.

But enough of that malarky. How is everything else? Well, considering how I slammed it in my first review, upon rewatching, it’s pretty okay. It’s not gonna win any awards with me, but I had a fine time watching it. Smiled a few times, kinda chuckled a bit, got a bit moved by the emotional moments and had some fun. It’s a very okay movie and decent enough first outing for Sony.

I do agree with some of the critics who said that it’s hard to get a lock on who the target audience is, however. Like, the humor is overall pretty juvenile, including an amount of toilet/poop humor, but some of the humor is somewhat adult and some of the imagery is actually pretty messed up for a kids movie.

For example, there’s a joke where Shaw warns a couple to watch out or their weiner dog will shank them, and the lady said ‘Oh no, we don’t have to worry about that. We got him fixed.’ I want to believe with all my heart and soul that I didn’t just hear a dog humping/bestiality joke in this movie. I want to believe so badly.

There’s a scene where Boog and Elliot are behind a curtain at a show Boog is doing. They get into a fight, and their shadows are meant to convey an extremely bloody and gory murder of Elliot. Boog ‘skins’ him, ‘disembowels’ him and splatters his ‘blood’ all over the curtain. And what’s even weirder is that Beth is also watching this from in front of the curtain and she won’t go behind the curtain to stop Boog from slaughtering this innocent deer. She just keeps yelling for Boog to stop while in front of the curtain.

Shaw’s cabin legitimately freaked me out. Many times when (kids) cartoons will show taxidermy, even if it’s in a scary manner, they won’t choose to design the taxidermy in the same general style as the other animals. Because showing the cutesy big-eyed goofy cartoons as a dead-eyed lifeless decorations is kinda scary to many kids. If they do maintain the style, they typically don’t try to make the scene scary. It will just be dark humor. However, in the scene in Shaw’s cabin, his walls are covered in heads that are all the exact same goofy cartoony style as the other alive animals we were watching earlier. And this scene, while having brief few frames of humor, was definitely meant to be shocking and scary. It was meant to show how ruthless and bloodthirsty Shaw really is. He’s not just a dopey hunter. He’s a violent, dangerous killer.

Then there’s all the obvious gun play and talk of violent acts on animals, it’s all very iffy.

While they didn’t spend a whole lot of time together, I think they did a good job at making Beth and Boog’s relationship feel very genuine. I felt like they were truly attached to each other and watching her have to say goodbye to him was pretty emotional.

I will, however, call her (and the sheriff) out for sending Boog off into the woods like that, though. Boog had spent his entire life in captivity, and he has to be several years old. He had his own ‘apartment’, he had a teddy bear, tons of treats, his own TV – for god’s sake, this bear is literally toilet trained. And yet they think it’s okay to send him off to live in the woods with no preparation whatsoever.

While many of the animal characters were just annoying as sin (except the porcupine, who was adorable, and Giselle, who is just a VERY typical and bland love interest) including Elliot, I don’t think they did a bad job redeeming them in the end. They ended up being pretty entertaining in their own rights. I just think it was all fairly rushed. Too many of them were flatout jerks for me to be all that glad for their happy endings. And is it really all that happy? Did the animals end hunting in that area forever?…..I mean….they did literally bomb the hunters out, so maybe they did.

The animation was okay. Bouncy and cartoony, and stands up alright after 15 years. I think the art style is very ugly, however. Nearly every animal and human is just butt-ugly. They have incredibly odd proportions, and few of them look appealing. I thought the beavers and porcupine were cute, but that’s about all. I will give them a good amount of credit for Boog’s fur, though. While it definitely doesn’t look like what you’d see on a realistic grizzly bear, it does look fluffy and soft, kinda like what you’d get on a toy bear. I would say maybe that’s on purpose because he’s a domestic bear, but I don’t think they’d think that far ahead.

The music was alright. Some of the songs were very fitting for the scenes, but the soundtrack is overall fairly forgettable.

In the end, Open Season is okay. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it a third time, but if you’re up for a predictable but reasonably entertaining movie, then have at it.

I am not, however, looking forward to the THREE DIRECT-TO-VIDEO SEQUELS at all. Hopefully they’ll be alright, but I am reading up on them and I’m not gonna hold my breath.


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AVAHS – Abominable Christmas (A Monster Christmas 2012) Review

Plot: Two young yetis go to a nearby town for Christmas in hopes of getting to see what a real human Christmas looks like. While they have their fun, their dad rushes around trying to return them to the safety of their mountain before Margaret, a crazy scientist intent on proving the existence of the abominable snowman, catches them.

Breakdown: During last year’s AVAHS, while I was trying to find information on A Monster Christmas, a 1994 seldom-known animated Christmas special, I stumbled upon information for another Christmas movie of the same name, also known as Abominable Christmas. The premise and odd cast threw me off, but I didn’t really have time to watch and review that last year, so I continued on my quest to find information on the 1994 special and mosied along.

This year, I decided to see what this movie was about. It did not look promising at all. Cheap animation, by-the-numbers plot and really nothing seemed that interesting to sink my teeth into, but, surprisingly, this special was pretty okay. It even made me smile a few times and kinda consider laughing.

It’s a little cheesy, but there’s a charm to it. Everyone is mostly likable, and they all get along quite well (except Margaret, because she’s the bad guy). The special’s also well paced. It never really felt like it was dragging its feet or rushing, even if the end was fairly abrupt to me.

I think this movie’s biggest problem is that nothing really feels impacting or big. The funny moments are never that funny. The heartwarming moments are never very emotional. The stakes don’t feel very high, even when the lives of two ‘children’ and their dad are at stake. The action never feels that exciting. Things happen, but they never feel like they’re happening, if that makes any sense. Let me put it this way – many good movies are a series of twists and turns and ups and downs, like a back road with a lot of steep hills. This movie is like a straight road with a poorly maintained rumble strip. You’re aware when you’re driving on the strip, but it never increases or decreases your blood pressure.

The characters, while being fairly well-established, also don’t do much to stand out or be memorable. Everyone fits a certain role – Abby is the adventurous little sister who is bound to get into trouble, Adam is her neurotic older brother who tries to keep her in line, and their dad is protective and kinda strict without being overly protective or mean. In the human side, you have Lily, who is a Christmas-loving kinda sad little kid who wants to celebrate Christmas with her family but her dad is a workaholic, and her brother, Matt, constantly, and I do mean constantly, has his nose in his computer.

There’s also the dog catcher who actually breaks the movie stereotype of dog catchers being these horrible evil people who take pleasure in the pain of dogs. He’s kinda nuts in that he’s too into his job, but he’s also very dedicated to doing his job properly and not harming any animals. In fact, he became a master of martial arts to protect the dogs in his care.

Many times in these movies where the main characters are dogs/animals and they get sent to the pound but the movie ends without getting the other animals out of the pound, you feel bad because you know they’ll still be tormented by the dog catcher, but in this movie I’m kinda okay with it. I think they’ll be fine and maybe find good homes. One of them actually does find a good home at the end, which was sweet.

Finally, we have our main antagonist, Margaret, who is probably the most bland character here. Her character is simply the crazy person who is trying to prove the existence of (x) and will do anything to get it. Except she’s so blah about it that she’ll willingly follow dog catcher protocol and bureaucracy and not actually do anything underhanded to get what she wants. The worst that she does is trick the dog catcher into thinking that the two yeti kids are actually unlicensed dogs so he’ll go to their house and take them away, which isn’t what would happen in real life. As far as I know, you’d just be fined, and even the fine isn’t that bad. It’s like $250-300 dollars per year if you never license them. Her big plan was to get the yeti kids caught that way and then wait three to five business days for her paperwork to go through to she could take the abominable snow children away. That is, unless, Lily’s dad’s paperwork goes through before hers so he can license and reclaim them.

She doesn’t even have a plan for stealing them once they’re in the pound. She just waits for the paperwork to go through.

Paperwork’s the real villain here….or wait, I guess it actually saved them, so it’s the hero?

In the final confrontation, Margaret confronts them with flea spray and then stands there doing nothing while Abby takes forever to tackle her and bury her in cans of dog food, which would probably kill her. I don’t know why kids shows keep acting like full unopened cans of food don’t weigh anything. Those things could definitely kill you or at least cause significant brain damage if one fell on your head from a high shelf.

Even when she had a perfect opportunity to take pictures of the abominable snow people, when they were imprisoned in the pound, Margaret just doesn’t take pictures of them. She tried earlier in the movie, but got nothing usable because they were moving. Here they are standing still in front of her with nowhere to go and she doesn’t even think to take out her cameraphone. She even asked the dog catcher if she could take pictures of them at the pound, he said yes, and she still doesn’t do it.

Margaret and the father yeti have a past, which I thought would be much more interesting than it ended up being. She used to be a respected scientist until she spotted the young father yeti in his more reckless years. She tried to convince her colleagues about what she saw, but no one believed her, and she went crazy trying to prove the existence of abominable snowmen ever since. In turn, he became much more cautious around humans.

Yep, no big consequences for what he did. No one died or got hurt or anything. He just got spotted by someone and no one believed her and that changed him forever.

Considering he’s a single father, I thought we’d learn that his mate was killed by Margaret or something. But nope. We never learn what happens to the yeti mama.

Speaking of single parenthood, it seems like no family in this movie has two parents. In addition to the yeti family having a single dad, Lily and Matt have a single father as well. Their mom, I guess, died (they use the term “gone” for both her and Matt’s mother and Abby and Adam’s mother) fairly recently considering how Lily looks about the same age as she is in the pictures with her mother. It’s such a passing mention, though. She says she used to decorate the tree with her mother and is sad about it, but after that her mother is never mentioned again. She doesn’t even seem distressed when Adam and Abby nearly break the framed picture of her mother, she just laughs about it.

Later, when the dad yeti is dressed up as Santa for a disguise, he speaks with a young boy who has a single mother who has been terribly sad since her husband “went away”. I thought for sure they’d have that woman and her son appear again and imply that she’d start dating Lily and Matt’s dad, but nope. She never appears again.

However, I did think the manner in which they handled that particular case was really good. Instead of promising the kid he’d get his mom a new husband or something cheesy like that, the yeti dad reasonably tells the boy that making his mother happy again will be complicated and take time, but the best thing he can do for his mother in the meantime is be there for her and give her lots of hugs, which was very sweet and definitely better than some hollow promise.

I’m not saying that any single parent Christmas scenario needs to be addressed by having the movie end with them hooking up with someone. In fact, I find it rather welcome that they don’t even attempt this with any of the single parents. I’m just saying that it’s weird that is pops up three different times, but none of these single parent situations have a bearing to the plot, and it’s hardly ever actually discussed. The most we get is that Lily is bummed about having to do Christmas stuff by herself because her dad is constantly working and her brother is too glued to his computer to even glance at her. However, it doesn’t take long before Lily’s dad’s workaholic nature is almost completely forgotten and he’s spending time with Lily. This minor conflict is another victim claimed by the rumble strip of a plot.

And Abby and Adam’s mother gets even less focus put on her.

The conflict with Abby learning to be more careful and the dad learning to be less strict is also not really resolved or much of a conflict. She’s like ‘Oh I’m sorry, you were right about humans.’ But I’m just like, ‘What? You just befriended a bunch of humans who are currently helping you escape the one bad and one kinda-ish bad-in-a-way humans you’ve met.’

Matt’s ‘arc’ if you want to call it that is literally just him not responding to anyone or anything the entire special until the very end where he finally speaks. It takes until this hour long feature is nearly seven minutes from the end before he finally speaks his first line. I point this out mostly because Drake “ruiner of childhoods and overall icky person” Bell gets second to top billing in the credits and he plays Matt.

Matt just acts like a deus ex machina. Turns out, he was paying attention to everything the entire time and even became somewhat internet famous for his blog posts about the abominable snowmen stuff, which is the most confusing thing about this movie. They’re trying desperately to keep the yetis a secret, but Matt’s been blogging about them and becoming internet famous because of everything his family is going through because of them….but he’s somehow not compromising their secret? He did say he was speaking mostly to the conspiracy theorist crowd, but still, he’s being treated like a hero when he’s pretty much doing exactly what Margaret was trying to do.

He knows and has everything he needs to free their dad and the yetis immediately when they’re captured by the dog catcher as well. And thus was the power of the internet.

Speaking of the odd cast, this cast is odd. This is a very “Did everyone need a quick paycheck?” cast. Ariel Winter (I see what you did there, casting department) plays Abby, Ray Liotta plays the yeti dad, Emilio Estevez plays Lily’s dad, Matthew Lillard plays the dog catcher, and Jane Lynch plays Margaret. Everyone does pretty okay in their roles, especially Ariel Winter, Matthew Lillard and Jane Lynch, but it’s such a weirdly star-studded cast for a movie that I’ve never even heard of before last year.

Well, enough of me tearing apart the minor issues. For what it’s worth, this is a pretty laid back and chill Christmas special. I can totally see myself watching it again just for the heck of it during the holidays. There are some legitimately clever, cute and funny moments in here, but, like I said, there’s just not a lot of stuff actually happening.

I wanted to make a step-by-step review of this movie, but once I got about 15 minutes in I knew I wouldn’t have much to work with. It just felt pointless. There’s not much to poke fun at and there’s nothing much to discuss. Even the animation, while being cheap, isn’t THAT bad. It’s pretty okay for a TV movie made in 2012. I feel like it’s the budget that held it back above all else, because I really feel like the animators were at least trying and were definitely competent….however, the human faces are kinda dead, and Lily’s eyes are WAY too big.

You know your eyes are way too big when an anime fan is calling them out.

If you want to just put on something Christmassy and kinda fun without really needing to pay attention to it, check this out.


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Animating Halloween/Pixar’s Lamp | Coco (2017) Review

Plot: Miguel’s family has detested music for generations ever since his great-great grandfather abandoned his family to become a musician. Forced to follow his love of music and the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz in secret, Miguel attempts to follow his dream of becoming a musician on Dia de Muertos by entering a music competition.

His grandma, having found out about his secret, destroys the guitar he built, leaving him with no means of participating in the competition. In an effort to secure a guitar in time, Miguel winds up getting trapped in the land of the dead when he tries to steal de la Cruz’s guitar from his tomb. Only the blessing of Miguel’s deceased family members can send him back home, but they’ll only do it under the condition that he never play music again. Miguel scrambles to find another way home without sacrificing his love of music before sunrise or else he’ll be trapped in the land of the dead forever.

Breakdown: Warning – While I did my best to avoid spoilers in this review, I couldn’t avoid talking about some of them so, spoiler warning.

I have scoured far and wide for animated Halloween specials and movies, but it never really occurred to me to look for any animated media about Dia de Muertos or the Day of the Dead until I decided to finally watch Coco. Let me be very clear – I’m aware that the Day of the Dead is not Halloween nor does Halloween’s roots really come from the Day of the Dead. They seem similar due to imagery such as graveyards and skulls and a few traditions such as dressing in costumes lining up, but they are not one in the same and come from very different backgrounds. Day of the Dead is also not celebrated on October 31st – although it does come immediately afterward on November 1st.

That being said, I still feel like this counts because….pbbttt….I want it to. Animating Halloween entries technically don’t have to be about Halloween, and it fits the general criteria so I’m counting it.

Onto more important matters, I need to get this out of my system, holy frickin’ rendering, this movie is GORGEOUS. Every frame of this movie is like it’s begging you to pause and stare at each image….which I did a few times. Pixar keeps outdoing itself at every turn. It’s beyond impressive. The details on the clothing and the faces, the hair, every little item and building, the textures, the animation, the absolutely heart-stopping coloring, the amazing stylization – I want to watch it all over again just to soak in more of those visuals. They’re so good.

This movie really aimed to celebrate Mexican culture, and while I can’t attest to any inaccuracies or the like since I am not Mexican or of Latin descent, I believe it achieved this goal in spades. It definitely serves as being a fantastic Dia de Muertos movie. It lends proper focus to the main themes and traditions of the holiday without beating you over the head with the message too much. I want to read up on it as much as I can because it looks like such a cool holiday that I wish we had in the States.

In regards to the story, it had its ups and downs. I think the premise is incredibly interesting and the story as a whole is well-executed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without flaws. One of the biggest problems being that 90% of the movie is very predictable.

I’m going to say something silly right now, but believe me I have my reasons…..This is pretty much The Little Mermaid for the first 45 minutes. I’m not saying it’s about mermaids – there are approximately zero mermaids in the movie – I mean the general story notes hit the same. Something is banned and hated from the MC’s family/world, but the MC really adores the banned thing. MC enjoys the banned thing in secret until their fangirl/boyness gets found out. Parental figure destroys their hidden shrine to the banned thing, including one particularly important thing. MC runs off because of how awful and unfair they’re being. They accidentally enter another world by doing something unethical/wrong and they need to fix their mistakes without sacrificing their love of banned thing. In the end, both worlds combine and everyone’s happy. Bonus – the heavy music themes.

Even taking my comparison to The Little Mermaid out of the equation, it’s still a pretty predictable story for 90% of its runtime. However, it’s very much saved by two things; 1) The overall ride of the visuals, music and characters make this story memorable and unique. Remember, clichés and predictability are only as bad as you make them due to lack of style and innovation. 2) I said 90% of the storyline because there is a huge plot twist near the end that I never saw coming. I was really thrown for a loop when that was revealed. I knew that de la Cruz would turn out to be a bad guy because movies always tend to drive home a ‘don’t meet your heroes’ message for whatever reason, and the guy was simply hero worshipped by too many people to not turn out to be an awful person, but I never expected the other half of that reveal. I was completely blindsided.

Another issue was that I thought the family’s hatred of music was overkill to say the least. I can understand Imelda (Great-great grandmother) hating music that much, but not the entire family – most of which never even met the great-great grandfather. He could have abandoned his family for any profession. If he ran off to become a famous chef, would they all hate and banish food?

It’s revealed near the end that Coco never stopped loving her father and kept all of the letters and ‘poems’ he sent to her before his death, so why didn’t she stop this cycle of hatred? I’m not putting the full blame on her, since her mother seemed like a very outspoken person who likely passed on her hatred to Coco’s children without Coco getting a word in edgewise, but it still seems like something she had some modicum of control over, especially after Imelda died.

Give Triton credit. At least his hatred of humans and the surface world has quite a bit of justification behind it. Humans were a huge threat to sea creatures, and they were responsible for killing his wife. Abandoning your family is a crappy thing to do no matter the reason, but music wasn’t responsible for him making that crappy decision. It just happened to be the dream he was pursuing. There’s nothing inherently bad about music. To have such a deep hatred of it that you harass people on the street for playing music, yell at family members for so much as humming or act like your son is a terrible person for wanting to be a musician is just crazy.

This was probably intentional, but the hypocritical aspect of Miguel’s family holding the concept of family so dear while also damning one of their family for something as silly as playing music is definitely not lost on me.

Of course, Miguel also had to learn the importance of family while both sides had to learn to balance family and passion, which was a sweet sentiment.

Being completely honest, in the end, Hector’s story was more interesting that Miguel’s journey, but I can’t go into that very much without spoiling a lot.

Miguel is a very nice and realistic boy, and, despite some hiccups, I never stopped rooting for him to both get back to the land of the living and retain his ability to practice music. Over the course of the story, it shifts from being simply about him pursuing his own dreams to also about bringing music back to his family.

The story as a whole is a great way to tackle the subject of death with children in a manner that is extremely respectful and not scary – at least in my opinion. No matter your beliefs on an afterlife, Coco isn’t afraid to talk about death, depict it and explore it in a manner that a child would understand fairly easily without too much to worry about in regards to frightening them.

There is one aspect of this lore that is scary and depressing even to adults – the concept of being forgotten. I think a lot of people have had that existential crisis where we think about what happens after we’re long gone and forgotten. Thinking about that in the scope of the physical world is enough of a heavy topic to weigh on any adult’s shoulders. Coco, however, introduces the concept of what I’ll call a double death.

When you die, you go to the land of the dead, which is basically our world only awesome because everyone’s a cool-ass skeleton and there’s a massive city with lots of neon lights, there are insanely cool spirit animals and everything’s incredible, but not in a heavenly perfect way.

Every Dia de Muertos, those in the land of the dead are allowed to pass over to the living world to visit their relatives and enjoy the festivities. You’re allowed to enter the physical world if your family has put up your photo in their ofrenda, which is a shrine where the photos of lost loved ones are displayed and offerings are placed during Dia de Muertos. Typically, as long as your photo is kept up every year, you’re not forgotten.

However, the depressing part comes for anyone who is forgotten. If your family or another loved one hasn’t put up your photo in an ofrenda, and no one in the living world who knew you when you were alive still remembers you, you disappear…forever. You doubly die. How depressing is it to have an afterlife where you can die again, this time permanently, and the death is caused by your memory fading from the physical realm?

Hector even says disappearing in this manner happens to everyone eventually, which does make sense but geez, what a depressing concept.

Music being a central theme in this movie means the music has to be top-notch here, and I’m happy to report that it is. Both the orchestral score and the lyrical songs are phenomenal. It’s a soundtrack I’d gladly purchase.

The voice acting was also very well done. The movie has an almost entirely Latin cast, which is very appreciated, and everyone did quite well in their roles. I liked that they had Miguel be a decent singer but very obviously still sound like he’s rough and inexperienced. His passion for music and his skills with guitar playing shine through during these moments and make his performance both incredibly real and impacting without being distracting.

I loved Coco from start to finish, even if I was mostly latched onto the visuals for the first chunk of the movie before the story really took off. It’s one of Pixar’s best movies, if you ask me. I didn’t tear up at any point, but I had a blast watching it, and it did get me a tiny bit emotional near the end.

Recommended Audience: As I mentioned, this movie basically needs to talk about death and the afterlife a whole lot, which may be a touchy subject for children, but I believe it covers this topic so well that it wouldn’t be too risky for young children. Still, be warned that the themes are here and more sensitive children might not be receptive to it even with the happy and optimistic tone. It should also be noted that murder is brought up once. I don’t think there is anything else questionable or offensive etc. in this movie, so 6+.

Final Notes: Can we keep up discussing how awful Blu-ray cover art usually is? Look at the awesome poster I used for this review and then compare that with the Blu-ray.

This entire movie is chalked up to ‘Boy with guitar.’ Get your crap together, Blu-ray.


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Pixar’s Lamp | The Incredibles (2004) Review

Plot: In the golden age, superheroes were loved, admired and cherished by the masses. However, one lawsuit started a snowball effect that changed everything. Supers were suddenly vilified, and they had to go into hiding with government protection to avoid all of the backlash. Now living as normal, average citizens, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, also known as Bob and Helen Parr, try to raise their children, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack in a superpower-free world.

Bob is not content with his normal life and wants nothing more than to return to his good ol’ days of heroism. A mysterious message puts all the cogs in motion to grant his wish, but he forgot that with heroics comes danger – and danger means more when your family’s in the crossfire.

Breakdown: The year is 2004.

Marvel cinematic universe? Doesn’t exist.

DC actively trying? FEH!

This is an era where superhero movies are little more than a joke. People looked forward to them about as much as they looked forward to video game adaptations. They’d try and try again to make them work, and while they may be a box office success sometimes, they’d usually wane heavily in the critic department.

Pixar saw this as an opportunity. The Incredibles is not based on an existing comic book. It’s entire universe is built from the ground up on the silver screen. In addition, it’s animated – not live-action as a majority of superhero movies were at the time. In hindsight, this seems like a big gamble. Especially since the director, Brad Bird, was coming fresh off of his first venture into directing, which ended up being a box office disappointment.

But some people need to be reminded to keep the faith. After all, that box office disappointment….was The Iron Giant. The box office does not always reflect quality.

Let’s not keep beating around the bush. The Incredibles is……incredible. Yeah, I made that joke. Fight me.

From start to finish, the movie is filled with great humor, fantastic action, memorable characters and pokes at the superhero genre as a whole. This is a very realistic family in a, well, I can’t really say ‘unique scenario’ because the concept has been done before (In fact, when this first came out, this movie reminded me quite a bit of the short-lived, basically forgotten Nickelodeon series, The X’s.), but it is a very interesting and fun scenario.

Back in ‘the good ol’ days,’ superheroes were always hailed, respected and beloved, but you know that some jackass somewhere would ruin it by suing them. Granted, superheroes do make big messes and wrack up massive bills in damages, even the MCU addresses this, but I think whatever damage the enemy would do is almost always greater. And at least we’re lead to assume that the heroes aren’t piling up huge body counts during these battles….most of the time.

The heroes go into hiding, and there seems to be two sides to this coin. You have people like Bob (Mr. Incredible) and Dash who want to embrace their powers and be heroes. Because they’re not allowed to do so, Bob becomes very depressed and withdrawn, doing heroics in secret whenever he can with his buddy, Frozone, and Dash acts out.

Helen (Elastigirl) and Violet, on the other hand, want to be normal. They still use their powers sometimes in private, but they want to fit in – Helen wants to protect the family, and Violet wants to be a regular teenager.

In the end, they all find a middleground. Bob gets to be a hero more often, but he also comes to understand the importance of his family. Dash learns to tone it down, but he’s also now allowed to participate in school sports as long as he doesn’t play unfairly. Violet gets more self-confidence and embraces her powers. And Helen learns to not be ashamed of her life as a superhero while also encouraging that type of attitude in her kids.

It’s great that they chose to go down this route instead of having it black and white ‘this side is right, and you’re wrong.’

Helen and Bob have a great dynamic, and even Violet and Dash were really good together. I like how they eventually used their powers together. That hamster-ball idea was so cool.

Another thing to commend this movie on is, most of the time, they don’t pull any punches with the darker aspects. Helen even outright tells her children, basically telling the audience directly, that these bad guys aren’t like the ones you’d see on Saturday morning cartoon shows. They won’t show restraint on children. They will kill them without hesitation. That’s pretty heavy for an animated superhero movie in a world where kid deaths are typically taboo.

In addition to that, people attempt suicide, there’s hints of adultery and alcohol, some sexual-ish content and lots and lots of death.

Even though I said they don’t cause a lot of civilian deaths, there are a ton of bad-guy minion deaths – a good deal of which are caused by Bob and Dash. They don’t ‘directly’ cause these deaths. For instance, nearly all of the deaths caused by Dash are collisions caused by those pursuing him because he managed to out-maneuver them, but still…lots of bodies.

The ones they seem directly responsible for they kinda skirt around. For instance, Bob throws a huge tram car at two guys from a mile away, and they specifically show them moving and groaning to assure the audience that Bob didn’t straight-up murder those guys.

Outside of that, we also have numerous depictions of heroes dying in that ‘NO CAPES!’ montage, including one of two instances where someone dies by getting sucked into a jet turbine. Yugh. And we have the harrowing fact that Syndrome essentially committed hero genocide, which I don’t think is given quite enough weight, but holy crap. Bob even finds the skeletal remains of one of the killed heroes and hides under his body to trick Syndrome into believing he’s dead. Wow.

Speaking of Syndrome, he’s a very effective and memorable villain. He’s very intimidating and is a serious threat. Lest we forget the hero genocide. His backstory is a little hokey, but not too bad. It’s understandable for someone who grew up in a world of supers and was basically a super fanboy to become jaded when given a massive tongue lashing by his favorite superhero. And he obviously did have value and talent, but Bob never wanted to give him a chance. He pulls off being both funny and threatening at the same time, which is very impressive. In any other movie, he’d be a complete joke, but he can be downright scary. It’s also a bit refreshing for the master plan to not be ‘take over the world’ again. Though, considering his normal job, maybe he already does, in a way. Hm.

His plan is fairly brilliant. Design a robot that is essentially perfect by having it learn and make changes to its design based on battles it endures with hundreds of various heroes. Kill the heroes, let the robot loose on the city, stop the robot and take the credit, making him the only and, by default, best hero in the world.

I will admit that the method of defeating the robot is a bit obvious, though. With all the weaknesses that have been exposed on this thing, Syndrome never thought to program it to not destroy itself? Especially when that’s exactly how Bob defeated it the first time? It has some sense of self-preservation, hence why it targeted the remote, but it’s still too stupid to not hit itself.

Some final things that I felt were a little negative in this movie:

I find Dash to be annoying 70% of the time.

While I really liked him, Frozone was mostly a superfluous character who barely did anything. I really wanted him to be given more to do.

I worry that, should they continue the series beyond the second movie, Jack-Jack will be too powerful. His main power seems to be shapeshifting, but from what I’ve heard he has many more powers that are revealed in the sequel (sadly haven’t gotten around to watching it quite yet, but very soon!)

His power is apparently that he’s a ‘jack of all trades,’ hence the name, but it’s also been suggested that, since Jack-Jack’s a baby, his power isn’t solidified and he has ‘unlimited potential,’ which is culminating in this mass array of powers. However, if that were true, that seems like it would be a normal part of a super’s life cycle. Dash and Violet would’ve had to have gone through the same thing as babies, which I doubt they did.

I dunno.

That’s about it on the negative side, though, and that’s not a significant mark on an otherwise exceptional movie. The Incredibles stands as one of my favorite movies and a testament to Pixar’s amazing talents as filmmakers. Even today in our saturated superhero movie market, I was very excited to rewatch this movie, and I’m jazzed to finally see the sequel.

Recommended Audience: It’s surprisingly dark when you get down to it, but a good chunk of the darkness is in the details. Still, there are some blatant darker aspects like the hero genocide, the suicide attempt and the implied infidelity. 10+


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Animating Halloween: The Addams Family (2019) Review

Plot: They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky – The Addams Family! *snap snap*

Breakdown: The Addams’ Family has always been a well-respected and awesome franchise. I used to love watching the old TV show, and I am fan of the movies that came out in the 90s. They’re a very cool and creepy family who were never ashamed of who they were. They embraced their creepiness and owned it, and we loved them for it. So when I first saw the trailer for an animated movie, I was actually looking forward to it. The trailer looked fairly promising, and what better time to check out an Addams’ Family reboot than for Animating Halloween?

They definitely went into this movie having a lot of respect for the franchise. While they obviously modernize things and add some stuff, especially considering the freedom that animation provides them, they make a lot of references to the original series, even including the always beloved theme song in the trailers and the movie itself a few times, and they keep pretty much everything in line with what it has always been.

Gomez and Morticia Addams are dreadfully in love, but their family has always been hated and feared by others because of their dark and grotesque manner of living. They adore all things dreary, dirty, horrifying and gruesome, and they have supernatural friends and abilities, to a degree. They’re always playfully doing risky and harmful things in their trap-ridden haunted mansion, but underneath all of the death and destruction, there lies a family that is just as close and loving, if not moreso, than your average family.

In this movie, Gomez and Morticia are driven away again, during their wedding no less, by an angry mob. Morticia wishes for a normal life for her future children. They run over their future butler, Lurch, who is a runaway from the nearby abandoned asylum, and adopt the creepy haunted asylum as home sweet home.

Thirteen years later, Gomez and Morticia have two young children – the oldest, Wednesday, and the youngest, Pugsley. They’ve all been confined to the foggy mansion ever since they arrived because their parents were worried about their safety. Their lives are shaken when the fog lifts and reveals a nearby brightly colored, pristine perfect-person town called Assimilation, where, as you would probably guess, everyone is the same pearl-clutching bland ‘normal’ person who puts on fake smiles and goes overboard being positive and ‘accepting’ when they’re really anything but.

They go just a tiny bit too far with the depiction of these people. I get that it’s supposed to be a parody of those squeaky clean white collar neighborhoods full of stuck up snobs, but it’s a little too blatant. For instance, there’s some pep squad team thing and they sing a song that sounds like a cult that’s not even trying. “What’s so great about being yourself when you can be like everyone else? It’s easy to be happy when you have no choice.”

Enter the giant-bouncy-haired plastic-faced Margaux, who literally created the town of Assimilation. She hosts a home remodeling show, and her biggest project was fixing up an entire town and filling it with happy homeowners. When the Addams’ creepy mansion on the hill is revealed through the lifting fog, she tries to turn their house into another one of the clean, bright and sparkly houses in Assimilation because no one will want to move or stay in the town with a scary house visible in the distance. The Addams’ gladly accept her offer, but are forced to ultimately decline because they have the entire family coming over in the next two weeks and don’t have the time for her remodeling.

Margaux is not as she seems on the surface, however. She secretly installed cameras in all of the remodeled houses of Assimilation, and she frequently pretends to be other people on her neighborhood community app, Neighborhood Peeps, to spread harmful rumors about others so they’ll fall in line or the others in town will force them to leave.

Wednesday, however, is intrigued by the town and the normal people since she has never been outside of the mansion’s grounds. She soon attends the local school and befriends Parker, the daughter of Margaux. She’s a social media obsessed girl who wants her mother’s attention, but also resents that she forces her into the happy peppy pastel coated world her mother has fabricated. She finds Wednesday weird and frightening at first, but comes to respect and like her when she stands up against her bully.

Wednesday slowly starts adopting more colorful clothing styles and branches out more into the ‘normal’ world, while Parker gains the confidence to wear goth/punk styled clothing to rebel against her mother. In Wednesday’s situation, it’s kinda confusing. She expresses that she’s actually disappointed her mother was accepting of her new colorful look, but when she becomes more unaccepting of it, Wednesday runs away to live with Parker. She does treasure her freedom, so maybe she just disliked her mother controlling her more than she liked her anger.

It’s also kinda weird on Morticia’s end. She was the one concerned about her children living a safe and (ab)normal life, but when Wednesday is starting to be accepted by the outside world, she resists against it firmly. I get that a good part of it is Wednesday starting to pull away from her as well, but much of it is reacting to the stuff she’s doing.

When Wednesday goes to Parker’s house, they accidentally find Margaux’s weird lair, much to Parker’s surprise and disgust. Margaux catches them and locks them in the attic so they won’t mess up her plans to drive the Addams out of town so she can destroy their house.

Meanwhile, in plot B, Gomez is trying to prepare Pugsley for his Mazurka, which, in this case, is a very long and complicated dance with a saber that every Addams boy must complete in order to gain the respect of the family and formerly enter manhood. Above all else, though, it’s symbolic of the boy’s ability and drive to protect the family from anyone who would harm them.

Pugsley isn’t doing well with his practice. He’s more of a demolitions kid than a swordfighter, but this Mazurka is a big event. The family is gathering for the first time in thirteen years to see it, and Gomez, an avid swordfighter, put on one of the best Mazurka performances in the family. Pugsley tries his best, but he simply can’t get it down, much to Gomez’s disappointment.

You really feel bad for Pugsley because, even though he doesn’t much care about the Mazurka, he’s still trying his best and working hard to make his dad proud, and it’s just not working out.

The two plots collide when the extended Addams family finally arrives in town for the Mazurka, right as Margaux’s TV show is filming its season finale. Margaux has already planted the seeds in Assimilation to rally the townsfolk against them all, and once the family arrives, they become an all-out angry mob lead by Margaux.

And, ya know, much in same vein as how Arnold’s Halloween tends to get under my skin a little because of how believable it is for a group of idiots to nearly hurt or murder a bunch of kids because they believe they’re aliens, even if these townspeople are overly done, it’s also not outside of the realm of possibility for a town of bubbled up posers to be stirred into an angry mob, even in modern times, and actually attack a family to drive them out based on rumors and being afraid of others for being different – especially in New Jersey.

Granted, yeah, the Addams family do cause actual harm to others sometimes, though typically not on screen, but they didn’t do anything to the townsfolk besides be weird. In fact, many of them were quite kind and polite to them.

Parker and Wednesday see what she’s about to do from the window, so Wednesday breaks them out of the room to go save her family.

Pugsley, predictably, does poorly in his Mazurka. He apologizes to Gomez for letting him down, but Gomez apologizes for not supporting him and letting him be himself. Just as the Mazurka finishes, Margaux and the townsfolk start slinging boulders through the mansion with a catapult. Gomez asks Pugsley to remember the true meaning of the Mazurka – protecting the family. Gomez hands him one of his bombs and tells Pugsley to go out and do what he does best.

Pugsley does indeed get to strut his stuff with his precious bombs, fighting off the slue of boulders being flung through the walls and protecting the family, but eventually he runs out of bombs before they run out of boulders and it seems like it’s the end of the Addams’ family. In the nick of time, however, Wednesday shows up and uses Icabod, the living tree, to save everyone from the collapsing house. Morticia and Wednesday reunite and make up.

Thing happens to have one bomb up his slee–….Uhm….Anyway, Thing throws the bomb to Pugsley, he blows up the catapult and finishes his own brand of Mazurka.

In a rather sad scene, Gomez reiterates something Morticia said earlier – people can be cruel. As the townsfolk see the Addams’ are just people like them – people that they’ve frightened, attacked and nearly murdered – the citizens realize that THEY were the real monsters all along.

Margaux, however, doesn’t see it that way, even after Parker sides with the Addamses. She is completely adamant in destroying their house and making Assimilation and her season finale perfect no matter what. She tries to get the townsfolk back to what they were doing, but Wednesday reveals to them all of Margaux’s hidden cameras in the houses of Assimilation. Even after being ousted, Margaux still doesn’t care about what the townsfolk think. They’re just extras in her show to her, and she won’t let even them come against her.

Parker reveals that none of this matters anyway because she’s been streaming her mother’s tirade since the start. Millions of people have been watching the real Margaux Needler, and it’s caused such a backlash online that her show was immediately canceled. However, she still has a bunch of houses she needs to sell. In comes Fester with his pitch to sell the rest of the houses to the Addams family so they can all live nearby each other.

The townsfolk all offer to help fix up the Addams’ house, melding their ‘normal’ style with the rough gothic chic of the Addams (Although, this gets reverted back to the full dark, dank motif after the spirit haunting the place returns after fleeing from the attack.) Fester not only teams up with Margaux to make a realty company, but he also starts dating her…..which…I found to really unrealistic. I mean, I guess he does love her for the monster she is, but why she would love him back I do not know. Margaux did not have a redemption arc at all. She was horrible from start to finish…and not in the fun way. I’m not sure I like that she was given a happy-ish ending after all that.

Back at the mansion, the family honors Pugsley’s Mazurka and officially commemorates him as a true Addams.

Cousin Itt takes their family picture, and the movie ends with a pretty cool remake of the original 1964 opening theme song sequence of the TV show. I actually checked and did a side-by-side comparison. They did the entire sequence shot-by-shot exactly, they even mimicked slight body language like Morticia’s little smile on her second snap and Gomez’s deep breath and side smirk. That was really cool of them.

However….it is kinda ruined when the credits come in and it’s a colorfully animated sequence with a hip hop song behind it….I have nothing against the song itself, it’s actually pretty good if you ask me, but it doesn’t belong in an Addams Family movie…

Overall, it’s a pretty good movie on its own and a much better sendup to an old franchise than a LOT of other reboots and remakes. I found myself laughing several times and smiling through a good chunk of the movie.

There were some bothersome intrusions like I still find it kinda hard to get used to all the modern updates in reboots like this. For instance, the townsfolk were holding up their phones with an app running that showed a torch instead of them actually using torches. I also got very thrown off when they had a segment where Lurch suddenly sings ‘Everybody Hurts’ by REM in a far higher tone than his normal voice as they had a montage of Morticia, Wednesday, Gomez and Pugsley all dealing with their problems in the midway point. What the hell even was that?

There was also another hip-hop song that played when Cousin Itt arrived. He pulled up in a limo and had fancy shoes and a pimp cane, and it was playing him up so much. I get it. Cousin Itt is a beloved character and he hadn’t been in most of the movie, so why not make his entrance grandiose? Still, it felt a bit weird. You know what’s also weird? Snoop Dog ‘voices’ Cousin Itt…..Yeah…I…don’t know why either.

The absolute ending was a bit rushed, in my opinion. Like I already said, Margaux’s redemption was not earned in the slightest, not to mention that she suddenly started accepting these ‘freaks’ just because she was able to sell houses to them. The reunion and make up scene between Morticia and Wednesday just kinda fizzled. And they somehow managed to not properly wrap up an ending to a particularly important character.

Anyone notice that I explained the entire ending without mentioning Parker? What the hell happened to her? I had to rewatch the ending to see if she was even shown. She was. She was filming Pugsley’s final ceremony, but she wasn’t even centered in the shot – it was focused on Wednesday giving an approving nod to her brother. Did she make up with her mom? I doubt it. They never show them interacting after Parker literally destroyed her mother’s career. Where does Parker go from here? Is she going to go live with her dad (her parents are divorced), is she going to stay with the Addamses or what? What was the conclusion to her character arc anyway?

Is The Addams Family perfect? No. But given the absolute trash that we’ve had to wade through in regards to reboots and remakes over the past couple of decades, I know for a fact that they could’ve done so, so, so much worse.

They respected the franchise very well, they kept nearly every facet of the original series, though some information was more taken from the ‘90s movies, they added their own spin on it without being too bothersome with the updates and changes, and they managed to do all of that while still being pretty clever, funny, endearing and likable. They even made me give a crap about Pugsley, and I honestly never cared about him in any incarnation.

The art and animation are very stylized, and it works quite well with the Addams Family motif. And the music, while having some questionable tracks, is still really good. The voice acting was also done well. Allison Janney owned her role as Margaux. I think this would be a really good watch, especially around Halloween, for fans of the franchise and for newcomers.

Recommended Audience: This is obviously a bit dark, being The Addams Family, but there was no point where I’d ever consider shielding a child’s eyes from it. The point where I got the most weirded out was when Morticia used the ashes of her parents as eye shadow and blush. That’s about it. 7+

Final Notes: A sequel is being released on Halloween 2021. I’m looking forward to it, and will probably review it, whether for Animating Halloween or otherwise.

Screenshots Courtesy of cap-that.com.


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Animating Halloween: Fancy Nancy – Nancy’s Costume Clash/Nancy’s Ghostly Halloween

FN1

Plot: Fancy Nancy celebrates Halloween!

Breakdown:

*thunderclap*

On the darkest of nights, as Halloween approaches, the spirits of the underworld start seeping into our realm.

Screams in the night.

Thump.

Thud.

Your blood is pumping harder. A cold sweat reaches your brow. You can’t sleep. You shouldn’t have stayed up late watching the most terrifying of Halloween specials. What were you thinking? Why did you do it? Why did you put on….

FANCY NANCY!?

*thunderclap*

Should I mention that when it comes to Halloween and Christmas specials I tend to use the randomizer on the Halloween/Christmas special Fandom pages to select what I watch? Because otherwise I don’t think I’d ever be watching Disney Junior’s Fancy Nancy Halloween Special.

Up until now, I didn’t even realize Fancy Nancy was a thing. It seems like you get what you pay for when it comes to Fancy Nancy. It’s a show about a girl named Nancy who likes her stuff fancy. This is really out of my wheelhouse. I am very much not a girly girl. I don’t care to have my stuff fancy. I am a simple schlub.

So, I’m going to channel my inner fanciness…..Uhm….Hm….How do I do that?

Oh thanks, Patrick!

Our first Halloween story is Nancy’s Costume Clash. Nancy and her friend, Bree, accidentally make the same Nanette the Nice Witch costume for a Halloween party, which is a fashion faux pas. They manage to settle their dispute with a coin flip and Nancy letting Bree wear her old mermaid costume. Everything seems okay until a bitch named Grace shows up wearing her store bought official Nanette the Nice Witch costume.

Like before, they settle this dispute with a coin flip, but Nancy ends up getting the bad end of the deal this time, so she’s forced to change. Her friend, Lionel, offers his old costume, a taco, which doesn’t meet Nancy’s EXCEPTIONAL needs, but she accepts it anyway.

Oh right, the EXCEPTIONAL thing. Nancy has this insanely annoying habit of saying EXCEPTIONAL all the time and needing everything she wears, has or uses being EXCEPTIONAL. Because she’s Fancy Nancy. She needs her stuff fancy. Also, she has a habit of saying French words a lot, which, while being similarly annoying – she’s not French, and really only says those words because French things are fancy by default – is at least educational. She also has a habit of saying ‘fancy’ words, which is meant to help kids with their English vocabulary, which is pretty nice.

She fancifies her taco costume via song break. The song, ‘Exceptional Halloween,’ is actually pretty catchy. When she’s done, the taco costume does look better, but it also looks worse.

FN3

….What the hell is on her head? Is that a bowl of ice cream? Why is there stuff seemingly dripping over the edges of the shell? It really comes off more as a weird seashell costume more than a fancy taco, which actually would’ve worked better considering Bree’s a mermaid.

Everyone loves her costume, and Nancy even compliments Grace on her costume. They bob for apples, everyone’s happy, the end.

This story was pretty okay. It showed a very overused plotline resolved in a less conventional way. Usually stories with ‘OMG We’re wearing the same outfit!?’ angles just involve a lot of bitching and trying to force the other girl to change, but here they just come up with solutions on making everything fair for everyone. Bree and Lionel help Nancy out, and Nancy adds her own pizzazz to be fully happy with her ice cream sea shell taco costume.

But urgh….I don’t think I have the fanciness to continue onto the second half of the episode. It’s too much exceptionalism.

*knock knock*

Hm?

Ah, yes, many thanks, Patrick. How could I have been so absent-minded?

The second segment is about the girls trick-or-treating. Nancy is wearing a butterfly costume (with really tiny wings and a tutu, which kinda makes it look like a fairy costume.) Why she’s wearing a different costume than she was for the Halloween party, I don’t know. It’s a little chilly out, so her mom tells her to wear a jacket. Nancy doesn’t want to cover her fancy wings, so she asks if she can wear her cloak instead since she can keep it open most of the time to keep her wings uncovered and wrap it around her if she gets cold. Her mom agrees and they go off trick-or-treating…..by themselves? That’s kinda a weird thing to include in a Disney Junior show. I mean, they only seem to be going to houses they know, but still. They’re like, what, six or seven, and they’re babysitting a kid who’s like four? I didn’t think that going off on your own at that age was kosher anymore.

The kids all start getting spooked by the Halloween decorations in town, but they keep trick-or-treating anyway.

Nancy doesn’t like having her cloak on since it obscures her wings, so she leaves it on the fence of her neighbor, claiming she’ll come back for it later, which is honestly kinda rude. Her little sister, Jojo, who is out as a knight, believes Nancy accidentally left it behind, so she puts it on and rushes to chase after her to give it back.

Cue the misunderstanding – Bree and Nancy think Jojo’s a ghost because her helmet locked in place, obscuring her face and making her voice echo, she’s now all cloaked up, and she accidentally hooked a light-up foggy decoration on the cloak to trail behind her.

FN2

The girls and eventually Lionel, whose brilliant costume is just a zombie mask, run away from the ‘ghost’ until they realize it’s Jojo. They laugh it off, Nancy puts her cloak back on, and they all go back to trick-or-treating. The end.

This story was also pretty decent. It was spooky enough for the younglings, but they made it clear that the ‘ghost’ was Jojo so they wouldn’t get too scared. Plus, it was trying to teach a lesson about not letting your imagination run wild and scare you, especially during Halloween where many things are scary, but mostly fake.

Overall, this was a pretty good Halloween special all around. I think I would have tuned in to watch this as a little Twix. My impressions on the show as a whole? Seems all well and good. Nancy IS a little grating just because she’s a very, for lack of a better term, diva-ish character. People were complaining that she’s a brat who always gets what she wants and never learns any lessons, but as far as I saw that’s just flatout not true. She can be a little abrasive, and the EXCEPTIONAL habit is annoying, but she always tries to be fair and nice and does learn lessons when things don’t go her way. She’s a very realistic kid. People need to chill the hell out.

Granted, maybe I’d get really sick of her after watching more episodes, but….I’m probably not gonna do that.

Plus, she’s helping kids develop vocabulary skills, teaching them some very basic French, and the show manages to teach some good lessons while not being overly cheesy, talking down to kids and still managing to be entertaining. I was never bored or really irritated while watching it. In addition, the animation and music are quite high-quality. I did find myself enjoying the theme song and the ‘Exceptional Halloween’ song way more than I anticipated.

I leave off this review with the most important lesson anyone could take away from this.


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Illuminating Illumination – Despicable Me (2010) Review

Plot: An aspiring supervillain, Gru, adopts three young girls to unwittingly help him with his plan to steal the moon. While initially using the girls as tools for his scheme, Gru finds himself rather liking fatherhood, though he’d be hardpressed to admit it. Still, the life of a villain and the life of a father don’t mix. It’s either shoot for the moon or follow your heart.

Breakdown: Illumination! They’re sure a company alright……

I have nothing against Illumination, really I don’t, but they always seemed like the animation company out of the big-wigs to be solely focused on money. There’s nothing wrong with that, they are a company after all, but there’s something inherently…..artificial about nearly all of their movies. There’s never been much heart to them. And that’s before we get to the over-commercialization of nearly all of their properties. Do I need to bring up The Lorax being whored out to any company who would give them a buck, including a damn car company? The cognitive dissonance there was astounding.

And no.

No.

I’m not forgetting the minions.

It’s hard to avoid the flood of minions that came as a result of this franchise to the point where even a movie was made based on the little yellow pill bugs that ended up being, and I’m not kidding here, Illumination’s most successful movie to date. I don’t dislike the minions, I actually find them kinda cute and funny, but oversaturation can make anything a living nightmare.

The minions have become so front and center to this franchise that most of the current DVD and Blu-Ray box covers for the movies either feature them prominently with Gru and the girls in the background or it’s just the minions. There was one box art cover that was literally just one minion taking up the entire space.

But hey, they make the money.

Illumination is really is good at making money. Even their worst film by far, Hop, which I won’t be reviewing because it’s not animated, made more than three times its budget back. They’re a company that tends to know what they’re doing. They’re not out to make incredibly impacting stories or mind-blowing cinematic experiences – they’re out to make money. I can’t damn them for that, but I can give appropriate criticisms to their work.

Which leads us to our feature film.

Despicable Me is another one of those movies people would probably be surprised to hear that I’ve never seen before now. I never had much of an interest is all. No one’s ever told me that I had to see this movie for any reason or heard so many people quoting it or referencing it that my curiosity peaked. I’ve seen bits and pieces on TV before and it failed to hold my attention long enough for me to stay on that channel.

Who can really blame me? I mean, look at that plot synopsis and tell me you can’t give me a full explanation of what happens in this movie just by reading that paragraph. Not that being predictable is entirely a bad thing as long as you add substance and style to it, but this movie really does hit every beat you expect it to. About the only thing that surprised me even a little was that Vector, the antagonist, was actually a serious antagonist and THE main antagonist for the movie.

Not that that counted for much either considering he was a very predictable antagonist once it’s revealed that he is a serious threat, and that happened very early in the movie.

I actually got annoyed at the predictability at one point. Vector kidnaps the girls and holds them hostage so Gru will give him the moon. I said, out loud, “He’s not going to give the girls back once the moon is his, is he?” He, of course, doesn’t, but what irked me was, as he revealed he was doing this and was leaving Gru to his own devices, he yelled out ‘UNPREDICTABLE!’ I nearly had the pause the movie there because I wanted to slap somebody. Yes, it’s so unpredictable to do the exact thing expected of the villain in that exact situation.

Then, later, there’s a scene where Gru’s trying to save the girls from Vector’s ship midair and again, I said, out loud, “Vector’s going to show up and grab the girls before they jump, isn’t he?” Sure enough, I was right again.

While it was also par for the course that Gru had a somewhat sad childhood, that being his mother rarely ever paying attention to him, I felt like the role of his mother was kinda weird. They pepper flashbacks throughout the movie of Gru trying to impress his mother and her responding with ‘Meh.’ over and over, to everything. So, of course, he develops a complex about it. It’s even kinda implied that maybe Gru would’ve become a legitimate scientist or astronaut or something if his mother actually supported him. Instead, he became a supervillain and she’s still not impressed.

She randomly appears in the middle of the movie in present day, somehow knowing Gru adopted three girls, and the first thing she does when she arrives is show the girls a bunch of Gru’s baby pictures, which doesn’t line up with what we knew of her to this point. How do you go from a mother who seems to give zero shits about her son to her instantly visiting when she finds out he adopted kids and jumping at the chance to show them a ton of pictures of lil Gru?

Finally, she shows up at the end of the movie to watch the girls do ballet, and she tells Gru he’s a good parent, probably even better than she was, and…I guess that’s the end of that arc? It felt like they skipped a bunch of development there. She was a crappy mom, and now she’s a good grandma and passable mom?

So…..guess what the movie ends with.

A dance party.

Because someone at some point during the 2000s made a rule that all mediocre animated movies have to end in dance parties.

I want to make it clear that I didn’t dislike this movie. I knew what I was getting into from the start, and it pretty much met expectations.

It’s an okay movie. The story’s predictable as hell, but the comedy is decent. The heartwarming moments go toe-to-toe with the sad moments, but neither really go far enough to pluck any heartstrings. There is nothing explicitly bad about the movie outside of its predictability. Even its art and animation stand up pretty well after nearly a decade. The voice acting is also pretty good. Steve Carell as Gru really ran with his character, and, even though the girls could sometimes be obnoxious, they were pretty realistically portrayed and well acted.

In fact, let me give this movie some more slack. There were some aspects that strayed away from the norm that made this experience a little better for me.

First of all, even though the minions are still, well, minions, it’s very obvious that Gru cares about all of these little guys. He treats them like family instead of abusing them left and right like most villains would do. I really appreciated that. The abusive asshole aspect would have made it harder to accept Gru as a good guy and would have made the movie feel more mean-spirited.

Secondly, despite his follies, Gru is a very competent supervillain. It’s just that circumstances tend to kick him in the ass sometimes.

Thirdly, they didn’t viciously harp on the girls’ orphan status as much as I thought they would. They had every opportunity in the world to play the ‘our parents used to (blank)’ card many times, and they didn’t even really bring up their biological parents. To be honest, I’m not even sure if these girls are related at all, and they seem to be the only kids at this orphanage barring one other girl we see in the box of shame.

They did kinda play up the fact that their orphanage is a shitty place, though. The person who runs the orphanage is a total bitch who forces the girls to sell cookies door to door for the sake of the orphanage’s profit. She’s not physically abusive, but she is emotionally abusive. I wouldn’t say she’s bad enough for me to get into hatred territory, though. She’s a bitch, no doubt about that, but it’s like they wanted Delores Umbridge and got her more mellow second cousin twice removed.

Finally, Dr. Nefario, Gru’s right-hand man and head scientist, had a pretty good role and relationship with Gru. He didn’t hate the girls or even hate that Gru was showing signs that he wanted to be a dad – he just knew what their goals were and wanted to keep Gru on track. I do kinda resent him for sending the girls away behind Gru’s back, but he randomly decided to help save the girls in the end so I guess it’s all good.

In the end, it’s very much an okay movie. I probably won’t get the urge to watch it again anytime soon, but I would consider leaving it on if I saw it while flipping through channels.

I suppose I picked a good time to watch this, too, considering that the latest Despicable Me movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru, is coming out this July, and there’s a Despicable Me 4 on the production slate down the line (Even though, if you count the Minions movies as being Despicable Me movies, which you probably should, that means that title should technically be Despicable Me 6….Yikes.)

Recommended Audience: There’s some questionable humor here and there, usually relegated to potty humor, but there is one joke where Edith, the middle kid, gets caught in an iron maiden, there’s a puddle of ‘blood’ that pools as a result, and Gru brushes it off. It’s just her punctured juice box, but I was still pretty shocked they put in such a joke.

There’s also a moment where Gru makes the girls shaped pancakes and Edith’s (It should be noted that Edith has a thing for violence and the like) is a dead body that I’m almost certain was meant to be dead from a gunshot wound considering the hole in its chest…

Other than that, nothing really. 7+


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Animating Halloween: Dead Space – Aftermath Review

Plot: Three years before the events of Dead Space 2, the USG O’Bannon went to Aegis VII to collect shards of the marker that Isaac Clarke crashed into the surface. However, shortly after they were dispatched, the CEC also loses contact with the O’Bannon. When the Marines go to investigate, they find that, out of the 137 crew members of the O’Bannon, there are only four signs of life detected. Everyone else was slaughtered.

Aftermath chronicles the stories of each of the four remaining crew members – Isabel Cho, Nickolas Kuttner, Alejandro Borges and Nolan Stross – as they piece together what happened on the O’Bannon.

Breakdown: I’m going to bite my tongue for something I’ll definitely be addressing later, but let me just say this movie had me internally screaming (in a bad way) within the first three minutes and consistently remains a prevalent problem throughout the bookends.

Dead Space: Aftermath was meant to serve as a bridge between the video games Dead Space and Dead Space 2, and….it’s kinda that a little I guess. But since homework is poo, as I mentioned in the last Dead Space movie, Downfall, we’re going to be trying to take this at face value without concerning ourselves too much with continuity issues between the games.

————————-

The USG O’Bannon has suddenly ceased communication with the CEC, so they send out a ‘rescue’ team of marines to see what happened. When they arrive, they see that the ship is littered with torn apart bodies. Only four life signs are detected on board out of the 137 listed crew. When they find them, one of them, Kuttner, goes berserk and kills one of the soldiers, so they’re stunned with high powered tasers and detained.

They start interrogating all of them individually to get their stories on what happened when they were deployed to Aegis VII.

The movie is separated into four flashbacks that are bookended by the continuing plot going on in the rescue ship, the USM Abraxis. Each flashback is drawn and animated in a different fashion. This is a creative and interesting way to both convey the story of what happened on the O’Bannon while also getting specific perspectives of the information through the eyes of each of our main characters. However, I do also have to ding it because it ultimately serves no point.

People were noting some changes in certain details that show differences in perspective, like Cho seemingly being made sluttier in Stross’ flashback while she’s very tall and well-built but also mature and responsible, barring the affair she was having with Stross, in her own flashback. In Kuttner’s flashback, he easily overpowered Noah and Alejandro, but in Alejandro’s flashback he gives a much better fight, even hurling him about 300 feet as he took a swipe at him near the end.

In any other story, these might be amusing changes, but in this circumstance, who cares about such petty discrepancies in perspective when over 100 people were brutally murdered? It’s no time for dick measuring contests and slut shaming.

The first one to be interrogated is Kuttner, who was the first one to have exposure to a fragment of the marker on Aegis VII. He went insane almost immediately after that, having constant hallucinations of his recently deceased young daughter, Vivian, leading him to have violent outbursts that set most of the events of the downfall of the O’Bannon into motion and created a slue of problems on the Abraxis.

The art style used for his segment is pretty good. It’s a sort of melding of Western and anime-styled art that is craggy but overall good. I did have a good laugh at Vivian’s face in one shot only because they made her eyes into sharp diamond shapes for no reason when they never look that way again after that.

Next up is Borges’ flashback, and uh…the art, but moreso the animation, for his segment is uh….stiff. Like, for several instances at the beginning, it seems like people are pivoting and turning like actual robots stiff. Outside of that, the art is much more in the realm of anime and is overall more detailed than Kuttner’s, but everyone keeps their suits on so it’s hard to tell for most of it.

Also, in case you somehow manage to forget because god knows they remind us enough times, Noah, who is part of Borges’ engineer crew, is his cousin. And as if we couldn’t already figure it out by the fact that he’s not a fellow survivor, Noah dies. Also, in case you somehow forget because, again, god knows they remind us enough times, Alejandro has a robot arm. He got it from trying to save his crew in a mining accident.

The robot arm is pretty cool, admittedly. Especially with the art in this segment.

Borges’ flashback continues further than Kuttner’s as it includes Noah’s death, their escape off of the exploding rig and the gratuitous death of several characters. Dead Space is no stranger to gruesome deaths, but yeesh.

Soooo….Halfway through the flashback, the only real views of actual faces have been either behind helmets that block nearly everything or Noah’s smashed up face. Once we get back to the main ship, we see the facial art, and it’s not nearly as good as Kuttner’s flashback to say the least. The mouths are particularly ugly, being overly large (most notably on Borges) with nearly always-showing teeth, the oddly proportioned eyes, the heads are thin, and the stiff animation continues to bleed into it, particularly in the area of the horrible lip syncing.

They manage to return to the ship, and seem to be one of the only ships that made it back since the rest got destroyed in the debris of the planet as it was exploding. But the deaths aren’t over. The O’Bannon gets heavily damaged while trying to escape, and apparently they put TNT in the control panels because several of them blow up and kill crew members as they take damage.

Once the marker fragment has been given to the Captain, Borges demands to know why a rock was worth his cousin’s life, but gets little answer besides that it’s worth a lot of money.

Next up is, surprisingly, Nolan Stross. I say ‘surprisingly’ because Stross is the only character from Dead Space 2 who appears in this movie. I thought for sure they’d save his segment for last, but whatever.

By the way, they get all of the survivors to talk by tormenting them with hallucinations of their worst fears…….but 1) I don’t understand how they’re even doing that and 2) there’s no indication they wouldn’t have talked beforehand. It’s literally that they put them in the chair and then torture them without asking any questions.

Stross’ flashback is definitely the most anime-ish one so far. Outside of some eye designs that remind me of Reign: The Conquerer, it’s pretty darn good. I don’t exactly know why the Captain now has a collar so popped it’s covering his ears, though. Apparently, the marker fragment is making him think he’s in the 1980s.

Stross, being the head scientist on board the O’Bannon, is tasked with studying the fragment. He’s having marital problems as he struggles to maintain both his job and his family, including his precious infant son. Doesn’t help that his wife thinks he’s cheating on her with with Cho.

As Stross studies the fragment, he finds that it’s a blueprint for DNA and could completely revolutionize life as we know it…..But enough of that, time to prove his wife right by boinking Cho right in the research lab.

Later, Stross explains that the marker fragment has an odd effect on dead tissue. On contact, it reanimates it. When living beings touch or are around the marker for long periods of time, they have visions and nightmares at the start and eventually psychotic breaks – some being more susceptible to this effect than others. Kuttner was the one to break because he both touched the fragment (though, he was wearing gloves…) and was already on edge because it had only been weeks after losing his daughter.

Showcasing some pretty cool effects, we see that Stross is also slowly losing his sanity due to his exposure to the marker piece (And considering how he is in DS2, that’s no surprise.)

Well, it’s 45 minutes into this 80 minute long movie, so it has to be time for necromorphs to finally emerge, right? Right! And Stross actually manages to MAKE one.

He’s so interested in the powers of the marker, that he decides to grab a cadaver and test out its power of reanimation on it. Surprise, surprise, it turns into a necromorph and kills his colleague before going on a murder spree. It’s not long before the, this is probably the wrong term but let’s call it, infection starts spreading like wildfire and the entire ship is thrown into chaos.

Stross runs to save his family, only to be shocked to find that there are two creatures in the room that he swiftly kills. It doesn’t take much for the viewer to realize that the creatures he killed were actually his baby and wife, and that they most likely weren’t killed and reanimated as necromorphs – he just killed them in a psychotic fit, believing they were posing a threat to his family.

Our final flashback is Cho’s and….wow. Her segment has some crazy craggy-ass art. It’s jagged faces on top of weirdly proportioned bodies. It’s so weird. It’s like someone took the art from Akagi and made everyone super buff. Even Stross is completely cut, but he also a beak nose, so I’m really conflicted.

I’m also endlessly baffled at the fact that they will show some of the most graphic deaths they can, but actually show a full-out sex scene? Oh dear god no! Children might see this! Now go twist another young girl’s neck ten times over until her head pops off. (See: Vivian)

Most of her flashback is stuff you can surmise from the others. She meets up with the other survivors as well as the Captain and some stragglers, all of which will obviously die because, again, this movie kinda has too much balls to believe it has the story strength to be able to work with showing us the only survivors at the BEGINNING of a horror movie. (And, dammit, that’s the same problem Downfall had.)

Some confusing deaths happen. One of the stragglers gets all of her head meat melted off by a necromorph throwing up in her face. I’m pretty sure that would be an insta-death, but they not only show her still standing several moments after her head has literally be reduced to a clean skull, but she can also hold her hands up to her head like she’s in pain. Can a doctor please tell me if any of that is plausible?

Other straggler dude dies because of a boring death, but then the Captain dies. There’s a hull breach, and they try to shut the airlock doors, but the power is out so the Captain sacrifices himself to shut them….since the manual lock…is outside of the door…..What purpose does it serve to have the only manual airlock mechanism…be outside of the airlock doors?

His death is actually pretty cool, though, because, realizing he won’t make it out, he grabs a grenade and launches himself into the group of necromorphs to take as many of them down as he can with him.

Now tasked with throwing the shard of the marker into the reactor core of the engine to stop the necromorphs, the survivors go and….well, do that.

Cho throws the shard into the reactor, the necromorphs all stop moving, and we’re looped right back around to the start of the movie.

Catching up on what happened in the bookends, Kuttner accidentally gets himself killed by opening an airlock in an attempt to chase the hallucination of his daughter, Borges gets executed after they find out he didn’t touch the marker piece, thus he’s more of a liability than an asset now, Stross is put into a pod and kept in storage for experimentation on the effects of the marker, and Cho is lobotomized by the overseer after she refuses to help him create a coverup so they can blame her for the ‘terrorist’ attacks on the O’Bannon, the Ishimura and Aegis VII.

…..Which is…some sort of coverup story indeed. Who in their right mind would believe this spindly little doctor was the mastermind behind three of the worst ‘terrorist’ attacks in human history? By herself? She slaughtered everyone on the Ishimura and trashed the ship. She slaughtered everyone on the O’Bannon and destroyed the ship. She BLEW UP AEGIS VII. It’s ridiculous to think anyone’s accepting that.

The people who were interrogating the survivors are killed because I dunno. As we see Isaac’s pod right next to Stross’, our movie ends.

So, yeah, the events of this movie are largely inconsequential to the plots of either Dead Space 1 or 2. It mostly just explains how Stross came into contact with the marker and gives him a little more backstory.

The overall plot is at least a little more interesting than Downfall, even if they did go over the same information a couple times over. I like that they explored the concept of the much larger conspiracy regarding the unitologists here than they did with the few yahoos they had on Downfall. The characters were definitely given more exploration and personality than those in Downfall too. (Please note, however, that this is not a direct sequel to Downfall, as several reviewers were noting.)

The structure is interesting, and even though it doesn’t really serve much of a purpose here, I thought it was fun that they had different art and animation styles for each flashback, even if the art and animation quality of each varied a lot as well.

I also kinda liked the buildup to the necromorphs. Even though we waited quite a while for them to finally appear, there wasn’t a shortage of action in the meantime, and there was certainly a sense of foreboding as I realized Stross would try to use the marker piece on a dead body.

While the voices weren’t the best, I think most of the cast did a pretty good job, particularly Curt Cornelius as Stross (though, that might be cheating because that’s his game voice actor) and Graham McTavish as Captain Campbell.

Well, now. That sure is a lot of positive things I’m saying.

Allow me to ruin it all as I break out into raucous laughter in response to the art and animation of the bookends.

I have been holding that in for over an hour.

I wish I had taped myself reacting to the first few non-credit shots of this movie. I was in awe at the horrible. First, we see entrails flying by that look like the cheapest of cheap plastic toys.

This was when I started muttering “Oh! Oh…god, that’s…that’s not good.”

And then this motherfucker popped up on screen.

I had to pause the video just to process how terrible this looked. I was astounded. But then I took a step back and remembered that this is outside of the ship, so maybe the main scenes will look better.

Uhm.

Yeah.

I’m uhh…

I’m gonna go with a hard ‘no’ there.

How did they manage to make CGI that looks exponentially worse than the video games from which they were based? Isn’t that the bare minimum we’re meant to expect from modern day animated video game movies? This is from 2011!

This….is almost Food Fight levels of bad CGI and animation. Barring the lack of animation errors, it’s basically the same level. Complete lack of detailing, non-moving hair that looks like it was rendered on a Speak and Spell, really odd design choices, and everything simply looking like it wasn’t completed on time so they just said ‘fuck it’ and sent it out. I continued to be increasingly blown away by the lack of quality in the CGI spots. It was impressive it was so bad.

Some of my personal favorites were the doll-like representation of Kuttner’s bloodied daughter.

Looks more like raspberry jam.

Whatever default pose they left Kuttner’s character model in after his death.

These bowling ball spiders.

And even though I would never be able to get a good quality gif of it, the little animation of Cho they made to show her psychotically shooting up someplace that is literally her with her mouth agape and turning as if she were on a mechanical pivot joint swaying back and forth while laughing maniacally. That was the pinnacle of robot animation right there. I laughed out loud for a good minute. No regrets.

Something I should mention is that it wasn’t just different art styles being applied to these separate sections – it was also a slue of animation studios. The animation for the bookends was given to Digiart Productions. You may know them from such masterpieces as Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief, Garfield Gets Real, Bling and the Shark Tale ripoff, Shark Bait/The Reef.

Contrast that with Kuttner and Stross’ flashbacks who had a bit more quality and competence with DongWoo Animation, who produced Magi-Nation and did animation work on shows like Avengers Assemble, Justice League, Kodocha, Rurouni Kenshin and Steamboy.

Then we have Borges’ flashback, which was done by JM Animation. They did animation work on 32 episodes of Avatar the Last Airbender, Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.

Finally, Cho’s flashback was also done with JM Animation, but specifically Team Seed, whoever they are because I cannot find a single drop of information on them.

Either way, any of these studios and teams could’ve done a much MUCH better job on the bookended segments than Digiart, but nope. Technically the main part of our movie is the part they gave the people behind Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (Lucky Goes to Hollywood!)

And just to give everyone fair shame, I’ll also list the main production studios who more prominently put their names on this – Starz Media, Pumpkin Studios, Film Roman and the bastards themselves – EA.

Bottom Line: The differing art styles will either leave you impressed and refreshed with the variety or will leave you confused and put off because most of the segments look passable at best. Some people were saying Cho’s part was the best animated, but I’d have to disagree as I found Stross’ flashback to be quite a bit better.

The CGI bookend segments are, by far, the worst offenders. Put the flashbacks back to back, and the transitions aren’t too jarring, but throw in the CGI bits and it’s like falling off a cliff at the beginning and end of each flashback.

At the very least, the CGI is so bad I got a good laugh out of it. Being fair, too, the shots of the ship in most of the versions look pretty okay, outside of Cho’s flashback where it looked a bit too fake and like it was moving out of sync with what was hitting it.

The voice work is pretty good, the music has quite a bit of tension to it and most of the time the direction and cinematography are nice enough.

This is largely a pointless movie, though, that hardly acts as the bridge between Dead Space 1 and 2 that it seemingly wants to be. While I do believe the story is a bit better than Downfall, the structure will definitely put some people off. There’s also no getting around the fact that all of the tension gets drained out of a horror movie when you show the only survivors at the start and tell the story through their eyes. The only tension left is who will be left alive in the bookend segments, and considering Stross is the only person we see or hear about from this story in Dead Space 2, most people can instantly infer that most will either die or otherwise be silenced.

It’s a perfectly fine movie. It’s fine. It’s very okay.

If you can survive a few vicious assaults on your eyeballs, it’s perfectly watchable for both Dead Space fans and people who just want an animated horror movie.

It’s, sadly, not as good as Downfall, despite some of my earlier notes. I was definitely more immersed in a horror environment with Downfall. The art, while not being fantastic, was far more consistent. And the pacing was much better because we didn’t have to go over some spots twice or more and we didn’t have to come to a near halt four times due to transitions between storytellers.

In the end, I feel like Aftermath is a movie they both put more work into but also cared significantly less, if that makes any sense.

Recommended Audience: It’s Dead Space, so….duh. If you don’t know Dead Space level gore, it’s really, really high. People get brutally crushed, their heads smashed in, head meat melting off, heads sliced in half, burned to death in lava, and even though it was masked as a necromorph at the time, there’s also a very brutal baby murder, etc.

There’s also a few brief spots of nudity, all of which is contained to Cho’s segment. It’s also the only segment that includes sexual content, but it’s nothing porny. It’s mostly just a brief shot of movement, her sitting on him naked and then a couple suggestive shots.

We also have a bunch of swearing, if that bothers you in comparison to everything else. 17+


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Watching the Blue Sky – Ice Age (2002) Review

Plot: In the dawn of the ice age, all of the animals have begun migrating south – All except Manfred “Manny” the mammoth and Sid the sloth. Sid got left behind by his family while he was sleeping and Manfred purposely went the opposite direction so he could live his life in solitude. The two are brought together when a dying woman entrusts her baby to the pair and they make it their mission to find its ‘pack’ and reunite it with its father.

Along the way, they begrudgingly team up with Diego, the saber-toothed tiger, who is sent out on a mission from his boss to get the baby, but decides to add a bonus mammoth to the haul. He sets up an ambush right next to their destination. With the tigers and the dangerous hunters waiting for them, can Manny and Sid get the baby to its father with their lives intact?

Breakdown: Ah, Blue Sky Studios – long time runt of the animation company litter. I have nothing against Blue Sky Studios, but they’ve always had a problem with reaching a level of quality that was the same as the top dogs – Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. Funny how both Pixar and Blue Sky are now under Disney’s umbrella.

They at least tended to stay at the upper part of the animation studio B-squad list (with Sony Pictures Animation and Illumination) but nowadays I’d say even that’s not accurate since Sony keeps upping their game, especially with Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse. They probably grapple with Illumination above all else, but they’re still doing better at the box office with the damn Minions taking over all of society.

Blue Sky rode the coattails of Ice Age for a long time, to the point where it became a joke. Now that the Ice Age train has seemingly stopped (There supposedly has been talks of another sequel, but nothing has been said since 2016, and their future slate doesn’t include anything Ice Age related), they don’t have much of a stake anymore. Only future endeavors will tell. I am somewhat interested in Spies in Disguise, so there’s something.

It might be surprising to some people to hear that I’ve never watched any of the Ice Age movies, considering how they were everywhere for a while. I only had bare minimum knowledge on them, too. I knew Ray Romano was in them, there was a funny acorn-obsessed saber-toothed squirrel named Scrat, and it took place in the ice age. That’s about it. It just never interested me.

Now that I’ve given it a shot, I’m happy to say that it was a pretty good movie and surpassed my, albeit somewhat low, expectations. It never really made me laugh, but it kinda made me smile. The action was pretty good, and, somehow, this movie managed to tug on my heartstrings several times.

It even went down a bit of a dark path with Manny’s past. I figured his family had died and that’s why he was such a loner, but I didn’t figure that not only was it a case of him being a father and husband (instead of him losing his family as a child or something) but that his family was killed by hunters and it’s implied that they stoned them to death…..

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I also didn’t expect that Diego was on a path to being a good guy until about halfway through, which is strange because typically plotlines like that are easier to spot at the start.

I did feel a bit ripped off at the very end, though. Death fake-outs are nothing new, and this movie did a couple already, but they had what seemed to be a real death scene, goodbyes and all, for Diego near the end. We didn’t see how badly he was wounded, because kids movie, In fact, we can’t see any wound at all, but it’s implied that it’s a bad wound with how they’re all reacting. Manny doesn’t even argue very much when Diego tells him to leave him behind because it’s implied that he realizes his wounds are simply too grave.

I was shocked when they actually did leave him behind. For a few moments, I thought for certain that they were going to have the balls to kill off a main character in a touching and respectful manner. I was prepared to write the review and give them so much props for that. He was a bad guy gone good because of the influence of those around him and his dying act was an ultimate act of redemption…..

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……But, nope.

Right after they bring the baby back to its father, Diego just comes out of nowhere, no wound in sight, not even limping – perfectly fine. I had to pause the movie because I just felt that insulted. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Diego. That’s one of the reasons why his ‘death’ emotionally impacted me at the time. I’m glad to see him alive, but at the same time I feel insulted that they pulled such a ridiculous bait and switch.

I can’t really fault the writers here too much because, upon further investigation, this was a change made at the last minute. Diego was originally set to die, but when they presented the film to a test audience of children, they burst into tears when Diego’s death scene occurred. Since emotional responses are apparently bad, they opted to hastily rewrite the ending to have Diego unrealistically live.

From a studio standpoint, I get it. But from a writing standpoint, I don’t. You write a death scene for a main character, you get tears – that’s a GOOD thing. That’s the emotion you’re going for. Why would you see that response and take that as a problem that needs to be fixed? It’s just frustrating, is all.

Diego’s story is interesting in its own right. At first, I really thought he was merely a lackey character for the main bad tiger, but he showed some signs of having sympathy for the humans at the start, and he developed a lot over the movie as he traveled with Manny and Sid.

However, I think the one big downside to his story arc is the fact that the main bad tiger is so forgettable. I even confused him with Diego several times because they didn’t do much to differentiate them, design-wise. His motivation is hatred against the humans because they killed half of his pack and wore their furs. He wants to kill the baby of this group personally because the baby’s father was the one who lead the slaughter. A bit of emotional and mental revenge rather than just killing the guy.

It’s actually somewhat weird, because, if we’re meant to hate this guy and feel sympathy for the humans because he wants to kill their baby, doesn’t that mean we’re meant to hate the humans too because they killed Manny’s kid?

The main bad tiger does have a name, Soto, but he’s so forgettable and bland that I couldn’t remember it until I read the Wiki synopsis. I even had a list of the other tigers’ names in the credits and I still wasn’t 100% sure I’d be getting his name right.

The way the humans are portrayed is very realistic, which surprised me. I thought for sure they’d be demonized like most any other hunter is in nearly any show or movie where animals are the main characters. The animals do show a clear distaste for them, even Manny, but the hatred isn’t born of ‘they’re humans and hunters, so they’re terrible beings. It’s born of personal vendettas. Soto hates them because they killed tigers in his pack and wore their pelts, Manny doesn’t like them because they killed his family, Diego hates them for the same reason as Soto, and Sid is simply afraid of them. In fact, Sid’s the one who first openly accepts the kid and vows to get it back to its pack.

One question that continues to pop up as they go about their journey is ‘Why help this kid? It’ll probably just grow up to be a hunter.’ and the answer is never really given. It’s just the right thing to do. Plus, even if you do hold a grudge against humans for hunting animals, the baby hasn’t done anything itself yet, if it will at all.

It’d be wrong to demonize them anyway because they really have no choice but to hunt animals. It’d be like demonizing literally any carnivore. especially in the ice age considering that foliage is extremely scarce. They need the meat for food. They need the animal pelts to keep warm. They need their bones for weapons, etc.

They show that the child’s parents are very loving. The mother literally sacrifices her life to save her child (even though the method could’ve easily killed the baby too…) and they cut to the father several times throughout the movie, holding a necklace that belonged to his wife and looking behind the group as they travel, hoping to see a glimpse of them trying to follow. It’s very sweet and sad.

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However, that’s slightly tainted when we get to the part where they show Manny’s wife and kid being killed by hunters. The wife thing is bad enough, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth knowing they killed a baby mammoth too – the child of a main character, no less. Though, I guess that goes to show how big of a person Manny is as he doesn’t only not hold a grudge, but he lovingly cares for the kid and returns it without issue.

The dynamic between Manny, Sid and Diego is pretty good. Manny’s the voice of reason, Diego’s the also reasonable but somewhat aggressive one, and Sid’s the annoying idiot.

Sid did grow on me as the movie went on, mostly because of how much he clearly loved the kid, but it’s a really terrible start for a character when the first memorable thing they do is stomp through the food of two innocent rhinos as he tries to scrape shit from his feet. He even eats the last dandelion, which was supposed to be a nice little special treat for them.

The CGI and animation has certainly not aged well, especially in regards to the humans. The animals are passable, especially Manny and Scrat, but Sid’s design is all sorts of fugly.

The voice acting is pretty good. There’s not a whole lot of emotion to be had here. I appreciate that the humans didn’t talk most of the time and, when they did, we couldn’t understand them. I don’t know if that was for the sake of the main characters being animals, so, since they can’t understand them, neither can we, or they’re adhering to the fact that English and most other languages hadn’t been created at that point.

The music is okay. At least they didn’t load the movie up with pop songs or anything. Most of the music is a traditional score with only one vocal song, ‘Send Me On My Way’ by Rusted Root, being present.

Bottom Line: Ice Age was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t knocking my socks off or anything, but it was a fun and touching story that I’m sure kids and adults alike would be able to enjoy. The art and animation are certainly dated, but outside of some freaky shots of the human characters, it’s nothing too bad.

Recommended Audience: There are some light poop jokes and mentions of killing. Even though we see Manny’s family get killed, it’s done in a cave painting animation (which is pretty cool) and the death is never seen or heard. The animation ends once we see the hunters above them holding up rocks. There are two deaths that occur in real time, but one just has her vanishing in the water, and the other is off-screen (impaled by falling icicles.) There is absolutely no blood in this movie, even when we saw Diego with his supposedly horrible life-threatening wound from a zoomed out shot. 6+


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