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films

Movie review: 'Sheep and Wolves' (2016)

Your rating: None Average: 4.6 (9 votes)

A Russian poster for the movie.Sheep & Wolves (trailer) is an 85-minute Russian CG-animated movie that came out in 2016, also known as Волки и овцы (Volki i ovtsy). The writing and production took five years by Wizart Animation, whose earlier film had been The Snow Queen (2012).

Sheep & Wolves didn't quite break even at the box office, and received mixed reviews. After I watched it, I have to agree it's a middle-of-the-road film. It's not bad, it's not great - it's thoroughly so-so. On the positive side, the animation is good and very furry! But the writing... it's for kids aged six and above. There's not much in it to appeal to adults; it's what I call a "babysitting film". Plunk your tykes down in front of it and keep them distracted for a while. Still, I'd rank it a notch or two above Alpha & Omega.

Movie review: 'Guardians' (2017)

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (10 votes)

The Guardians' English promotional image.Guardians (English trailer) is a Russian superhero film released in February 2017. The early trailers looked promising - fights, explosions, and a bear-guy! It's the Russian Avengers! Expectations were high, and it did well on its opening weekend... and was so disappointing that by its second weekend, it only took in 10% of its previous box office revenue.

It's a very formulaic movie. This isn't necessarily bad - Sing was formulaic too. But if you're going to use a formula, you have to do it well. You have to add a couple of entertaining surprises, mix it up a little, and maybe throw in some humor that mocks the very structure you're relying on. Guardians fails on all these counts.

Movie review: 'I Am Dragon'

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (15 votes)

The dragon swoops down on Mira to carry her away from her town. She never stands in that location during the film.I Am Dragon (trailer) is a Russian fantasy/drama film that came out in 2015 and yes I know it's technically a wyvern. When I showed clips of it to dragon furries, that's the first thing they said, in a tone of voice like I'd gotten their hopes up and then betrayed them.

For a live-action film, it uses a lot of computer graphics (around 85%), and looks pretty good! The setting felt very real to me. Production costs were about $18 million, and it flopped at the box office. As movies go, it's... ok. I say this with some reluctance. If you're a fan of dragons, you're not missing much.

Back-story: A line of dragons lives on a secluded island, and in a medieval town, the people perform a ceremony and song with which they offer their maidens as sacrifices. This summons the dragon who flies off with one of them, until one day a warrior decides he's going to rescue the woman he loves. He finds the island (too late to save the maiden), slays the beast, and the sacrificial rite is turned into a local wedding ritual, minus the dragon.

'Sing', a second movie review

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

A movie poster, showing the main characters.Sing (trailer) was Illumination Entertainment's second animated film of 2016, released in time for Christmas. With The Secret Life of Pets, the two films earned the studio $1.5 billion worldwide.

The DVD and Blu-ray came out in late March of 2017. It's a straightforward comedy with light story arcs and anthropomorphic animals, in which a koala named Buster Moon organizes a singing competition to save his financially-failing theater. By mistake, the publicity leaflets say the prize money is $100,000 instead of $1,000. For the rest of the film, things gradually spiral out of control, as he selects and deals with the five acts who will eventually take the stage at the end.

I enjoyed it! Although it didn't perform as well as The Secret Life of Pets at the box office, I liked it more. Partially because of the wider range of species - plus it didn't plug the Minions franchise as much - but mostly because it felt fun, didn't get bogged down in itself, and I liked the music.

Review: 'The Secret Life of Pets', Cute and colourful fluff

Your rating: None Average: 4 (6 votes)

A dog sits in front of a door, waiting for its owner to come home.The Secret Life of Pets [trailer] is the first of two animated movies released in 2016 from Illumination Studios, most known for its films Despicable Me and Minions.

Compared with their competition at Disney and Pixar, Illumination relies less on strong storytelling and instead leans more heavily towards pure charm to make their movies successful. In the past, they've accomplished this with cute and colourful characters, and a child-friendly sense of humour.

With that history in mind, The Secret Life of Pets continues its studio's charm offensive, compensating well for a bland and forgettable story.

Review: 'The Secret Life of Pets', animated film

Your rating: None Average: 3.4 (10 votes)

A group of pets stare at a cityscape. The Secret Life of Pets [trailer] is Illumination Entertainment's latest CG animated film offering, released on July 8, 2016. It's an entertaining comedy that's been doing quite well at the box office. I went to a weekday early evening screening, and the theater was packed with about an equal mix of adults and kids. Everyone seemed to enjoy it!

The story starts in an apartment building in Manhattan. Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is a terrier who adores his owner, a young woman named Katie. One day she brings home a second dog, a huge, shaggy brown Newfoundland named Duke. Max and Duke don't get along at all. Their conflict results in them getting lost in the city, avoiding animal control officers and a gang of abandoned pets led by an insane white rabbit named Snowball. Meanwhile, the other pets from the apartment building embark on a quest to find them, led by Gidget, a white pomeranian.

Most iconic anthro of the 2000s & 10s?

'Animation Breakdown Roundup!' comes to LA on March 8

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (4 votes)

Animation Breakdown Roundup!, a one-day 90+-minute animation festival of 25 brand-new animated experimental shorts, will play on Saturday, March 8 at 9:30 p.m. at The Cinefamily, a.k.a. The Silent Movie Theatre, 611 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036; (323) 655-2510. Tickets are $12.

Co-curator Alex MacDonald says to expect something like past compilations such as Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation, The International Tournée of Animation, or The Animation Show. Animation Breakdown Roundup! will feature “over 90 amazing minutes of animation filled with world premieres and exclusives.”

What makes it of interest to us is that half or more of the 25 shorts feature anthropomorphic animals and even Furries, counting the psychedelic duck musicians, the wolfman or werewolf bikers, and indescribable but clearly sentient "things". How many can you find in this 1’07” trailer?

Teaser trailer: 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman' (also in Russian)

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (4 votes)

At the moment, this story just repeats information already in last year’s “Animated Anthropomorphic Features in 2013” story and its followup comments. But it is time for Mr. Peabody and Sherman, the DreamWorks Animation feature directed by Rob Minkoff, based on the TV feature by Jay Ward, now due for a March 7, 2014 release, to have its own story.

The first theatrical teaser trailer was released on October 25. DreamWorks has also released a Russian trailer that is totally different. Too bad it is only available in Russian. [YouTube's attempt at English translation of the automatic captions is, however, hilarious.]

Review: 'Gusko Budori no Denki' ['The Life of Guskou Budori']

Your rating: None Average: 4.6 (5 votes)

Gusko Budori no Denki Gusk? Budori no Denki (The Life of Guskou Budori) is a 105-minute anime film released in 2012. The story had been previously adapted into anime in 1994, however the 2012 version did it with anthropomorphic cats - largely identical to the cats in the 1985 anime film Night on the Galactic Railroad. Not coincidentally, both films were directed by Gisaburo Sugii, and both were based on stories written by Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa, published in the 1930s.

The 2012 Life of Guskou Budori is visually rich, but has an incredibly dull narrative. Full spoilers ahead! Budori, his parents and his younger sister have an idyllic life in a forest by the mountains, but two years of sudden cold weather leads to the death of his parents and everyone leaving the local village. Oh, and his sister is taken away by a mysterious entity. To paraphrase:

Supernatural cat: I'm here to save you from famine. You're good kids, but that won't help you. Hey girl, if you stay here, you'll starve. Come with me.
(Budori's sister goes to him, seemingly in a trance.)
Supernatural cat: Well, bye! (vanishes)
Budori: ...Hey! You thief!

'Top Cat' theatrical feature coming August 2

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

Frame from 'Top Cat'Was Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat ever one of your favorite TV cartoons? It wasn’t one of mine, even in its original broadcast fifty-plus years ago – and there wasn’t much competition at the time.

Yet I am looking on this new theatrical feature more favorably. Thank Roscoe it hasn’t been given the CGI makeover that Yogi Bear got! Or Rocky & Bullwinkle, or the live-action makeover of George of the Jungle or Dudley Do-Right. (Can you imagine a live-action Top Cat played by Brendan Fraser?)

Jim Henson Co. to produce 'Frog and Toad' movie

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

Frog and Toad coverOn Friday, the Jim Henson Company announced the development of an animated feature film based on the Frog and Toad children's books.

Published between 1970 and 1979, the four books in the Frog and Toad series are Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year, and Days with Frog and Toad. Written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel (1933-1987), they chronicle the exploits of the amiable Frog and his curmudgeonly friend Toad.

The Henson screenplay is being written by Craig Bartlett (Rugrats, Hey Arnold!), and Cory Edwards (Hoodwinked, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil) will direct.