Tag Archives: animated movies

Alien Xmas

Holly (voiced by Kaliayh Rhambo) and her parents are elves in the North Pole. In fact, Holly and her mom are – brace yourselves for this – puppy elves! As far as I knew, elves just hammered wood into bulky toys on an assembly line. Manual labour? No thanks. But puppy elves! It makes sense: plenty of people get new pups for Christmas, and Holly and her mom make sure their fur is all fluffy and cute, and they’ve got bows around their necks, doggie essentials for the holidays. I’m making way too big a deal out of this considering it’s a throwaway detail in the movie, but I can’t believe I’d never thought of it, and that I’ve been wasting my life this whole time.

Anyway, Holly’s dad is an inventor elf and he’s been working overtime on a new sleigh that would cut Christmas Eve delivery time by 90%. Except it is Christmas Eve, or pretty near, and his prototype’s still not working. He can’t be with his family, so to appease his daughter he hands her what he thinks is a doll.

In fact, the doll is actually an alien named X. X comes from a race of dull, kleptomaniac aliens who steal everything – and he’s the first wave in attempt to steal earth’s gravity.

It’s a stop-motion sci-fi holiday offering from the Chiodo brothers and executive producer Jon Favreau. Many of us grew up watching iconic TV movies like Rudolph and Frosty, and this is Netflix’s attempt to bring that kind of nostalgic Christmas viewing into our living rooms once again, with a 21st century twist.

The Klepts are aliens who have no longer have any concept of joy, but they take inspiration from humans – humans on Black Friday, specifically, who rush into stores frantically at 4am to buy cheap TVs they don’t need.

The Chiodos worked on the stop-motion portion of Favreau’s Elf back in 2003 (in fact, you might recognize a couple of “cameos”) and they were eager to collaborate on this tribute to beloved family holiday viewing. Like those golden age episodes, Alien Xmas is a tight 40 minutes, but a fun watch that’ll put you in the giving spirit.

TIFF20 Wolfwalkers

In a version of 1650 Ireland probably not too different from the one our history reports, Robyn (voiced by Honor Kneafsey) and her widowed father Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) are sent by colonizer extraordinaire, the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney), to a remote outpost of a town that’s growing past its own humble borders into the woods beyond it. The town has suffered wolf attacks as it creeps into their territory and Bill, a wolf hunter, is tasked with their destruction. Young daughter Robyn wants nothing more than to be just like her father, and to hunt by his side, but Lord Protector has a narrower, more traditional belief about a woman’s place. To prove her worth and bravery, Robyn takes on the woods alone and almost becomes prey herself when a pack of wolves circles around her, but she is saved at the last minute by Mebh (Eva Whittaker).

The legends are true: Mebh is a wolfwalker, a girl who has an independent life as a wolf while her human self sleeps. Luckily she also has healing powers, relieving Robyn of the nasty bite on her arm, but not before it transforms Robyn into a wolfwalker too. Robyn loves to run with her new friends at night, wild and free unlike any other female in 17th century Ireland, but she has now become the very thing her father must exterminate, the very embodiment of the village’s superstitions, both the colonizer and the colonized.

The movie’s style begs you to notice it is lovingly hand-drawn; while some images are deliberately rustic, there are so many saturated colours and levels of detail the overall effect is simply gorgeous, like looking at stained glass. It has myth in its heart and magic running through its veins. The script is good but the animation itself is enough to communicate the disparate worlds of human and beast. The lush and vibrant art is alone worth the watch, but the ethereal nature of the woods’ inhabitants makes for a captivating story reminiscent of the kind of lyrical folk and fairy tales that just don’t get told much anymore. Wolfwalkers is certainly among the best animated films of the year and I’m confident that we will see its name on the Oscar ballot this year.

Wolfwalkers is in select theatres now and will be available to stream on Apple TV December 11 2020.

Toy Story Turns 25 (but the gift is for you!)

Not only will you find several dogs (and one human) dressed as Toy Story characters for Halloween (happy Halloween by the way), we’re celebrating Toy Story’s 25th anniversary with a giveaway – and we hope you’ll enter.

While you’re on Youtube, why not hit the Thumps Up and Subscribe? It’s free to you and a boon to us! xo

Over The Moon

When Fei Fei is a little girl, her mother (Ruthie Ann Miles) tells her about the moon goddess Chang’e. The popular myth says that many, many years ago, ten suns rose in the sky together, scorching the Earth. The archer Houyi shot down nine of them, and was rewarded an elixir for immortality. He did not take it as he did not wish to become immortal without his beloved wife Chang’e. But one day his apprentice broke into his house to steal it, and to prevent him gaining it, Chang’e drank it herself. She ascended to the heavens, choosing the moon as her residence, where she mourns her husband to this day, because true love lasts forever.

Fei Fei’s mother passed away, and every year when her family gathers for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, there’s an extra reason to remember her mother. But this year she is surprised to learn that her father (John Cho) has invited an unexpected guest: his new girlfriend, Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh) and her son, Chin. Upset by this sudden turn of events, Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) decides to build a rocket ship to the moon so she can enlist Chang’e’s help to remind her father that true love (ie, his first love, ie, Fei Fei’s mother) is forever. She and bunny Bungee (plus stowaway Chin) are surprisingly successful, but the moon isn’t exactly what she’d anticipated. Her first friend is Gobi (Ken Jeong), a pangolin former royal advisor who was exiled 1000 years ago; he has some important wisdom to impart about loneliness, if only Fei Fei would listen. But she’s still determined to enlist Chang’e (Phillipa Soo), a goddess in the form of a rock star, and every bit as demanding and self-interested as one.

Over The Moon is a new offering from Netflix, an animated musical film appropriate for the whole family. It’s more in the style of Laika films than Disney or Pixar, but unfortunately doesn’t reach the heights of any of these. Although it does use one of Disney’s favourite tropes, the dead mom, it teaches a lesson about a different kind of grief. The visuals are stunning and the moon adventure is sure to please any young child, with rap-battle ping pong games and softly glowing creatures, it’s hard to deny. But the moon adventure is book-ended with family scenes reminiscent of Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, another movie that used food as an excuse to gather and grieve. These scenes are tinged with loss but also hint that life can move on. It is heartfelt but not emotionally manipulative. Some of the feelings are nuanced enough that they may be complicated for very young audience members to understand, but anyone who has loved and lost will feel something familiar here, and that’s a pretty good reason to watch.

Zombillenium

Hector gave up his passion for music when his wife died. He put his young daughter in boarding school and he went to work to provide for her, even though his job as a safety inspector hasn’t exactly made him popular. One day, after dropping his daughter off at school, he’s off to Zombillenium, a monster-themed amusement park, where he suspects his inspection might turn up some violations.

What Hector’s inspection actually reveals is that the theme park us run and staffed by actual monsters, it’s a safe haven where monsters like mummies, vampires, werewolves, skeletons, and witches have hidden in plain sight, away from human persecution. The bad news is that to protect the secret, the park manager has to kill Hector. The good news is that Hector, now a zombie, has a job for life at Zombillenium. Or well, a job for the next few days, unless business really picks up or foreign investors take an interest. As it is, only a handsome, sparkly vampire who bears a striking resemblance to Robert Pattinson draws in any crowd.

This is an animated film on Netflix, dubbed in English from the original French. However, it remains in essence and heart, a very French film. The zombies threaten to strike and the vampires threaten to overthrow the management to instill a vampire-elite class system. It lacks the energy and manic story-telling of an American cartoon. The monsters have to find a way to turn a profit or else literally face going to hell.

Zombillenium is not a great movie. It’s meandering, it cares too little about orphaning a young girl, it’s too bland for adults to enjoy yet the monsters are weirdly sexualized- and I don’t just mean the hunky vampire. Hector the dad goes from business man dad to ripped zombie (and forever shirtless); Gretchen the witch has a tramp stamp visible thanks to low-slung jeans and a very cropped top. I’m confused about for whom this movie intended, but I’m pretty confident it won’t be enjoyed by many.

Pets United

Like many cities, Robo City grew and grew and did that ugly sprawl thing, pushing nature and wild animals away so that humans and their pets could have all the space they wanted in the city. Roger is neither a human nor a pet; he is the thief of Robo City, a stray dog serving as the un-elected, unofficial leader of the mutts in his alley. And you may have guessed by the title that many robots also populate the city as humans inevitably grew too lazy to do much for themselves. Roger isn’t fond of the “tin cans” (which sounds oddly like a racial slur) but his real hatred’s reserved for cats, of course.

Roger has an especially contentious relationship with Belle the pampered cat, who’s lucky enough to have a beloved owner. Roger’s insistent that he enjoys his freedom, but he’s also pretty happy to make a friend in Bob, a jolly little robot who looks a lot like Baymax, and who’s about to come in VERY handy. Because guess what? They’re about to have a caper! In fact, the big robot AI thingie that’s driving the whole city has started its own revolution, creating chaos and sending people fleeing for their safety. Belle was enjoying a day of pampering at a pet spa when heck broke loose, so she’s stuck there owner-less with a ragtag group of small indulged beasts, including Ronaldo the big-talking poodle, Walter the insecure pug, and Sophie who identifies as a dog, and we’ll leave it at that.

This is a UK – Chinese – German production that steals from at least that many sources – Robin Hood, Secret Life of Pets, Toy Story 3, Madagascar – and yet even with their combined power this movie still can’t find a spark let alone light up a whole Pixar lamp.

The story is generic. The characters are generic. The music budget was apparently non-existent. Some zoo characters do a little rap that gave me major secondhand embarrassment and reminded me of grade school in the 90s when teachers would make you do raps for presentations as if our tiny catholic school wasn’t 100% white and also, apparently, 100% without rhythm and 100% without irony.

Since it has cute dogs and cute robots, young kids will probably give this is a pass, but if you get stuck watching with them, don’t expect funny jokes or quality animation or recognizable voice actors or any of the high standards we’ve come to expect from today’s animation. These guys didn’t care, and neither should you.

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe

I didn’t know my Phineas from my Ferb until about 20 minutes ago. No, I’m exagerating. I still can’t tell them apart. I vaguely knew they existed but had assumed the teal bird was either Phineas or perhaps Ferb. He’s not. Turns out he’s called Perry the Platypus, so apparently he’s not even a bird. As far as Phineas and Ferb (two human children, step-brothers) know, Perry is just the family pet, but he’s actually been placed in the family as a secret agent, which is old news if you’re a fan of the show – nearly every episode’s b-plot involves Perry trying to foil mad scientist Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz’s latest evil scheme. The main plot usually consists of Phineas and Ferb embarking on some grandiose project – like building a roller coaster in their backyard – which annoys the heck out of big sister Candace, and of which all evidence is improbably erased before she can alert their parents. This movie, it would seem, is when poor Candace finally gets her due, not to mention a starring role (although have no fear: Phineas, Ferb, and even Perry are all along for the ride).

If, like me, you’d never seen the show, worry not, because Candace basically sums up her fraught history with Phineas and Ferb in a cute opening musical number. Which brings me to the next point: Phineas and Ferb is somehow an animated musical comedy. That’s ambitious!

Anyway, poor Candace is usually portrayed as controlling and a tattletale, but I bet you’d feel kind of annoyed if you little brothers were always getting away with murder in the backyard. This is the film that finally reveals that she’s mostly been misunderstood. She’s not mean. She doesn’t hate them. She just feels excluded. So not only will Phineas and Ferb’s project today involve her, she’s actually its inspiration: Phineas and Ferb are going to rescue their sister from an alien abduction!

Yeah, I may have buried the lead. The stepbrothers witness her abduction and recruit Isabella, Baljeet and Buford to build a portal which fails to bring them to the planet where she’s been taken and instead redirects them to Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz’s lab, where he too was attempting to build a portal. So instead they board the evil doctor’s spaceship and head toward outer space, with Perry the Platypus secretly tagging along.

But Candace is not having the very bad day you might expect from the recent victim of an alien invasion. She’s bonding with her captor, who commiserates with her hardships (she also has 2 brothers, ugh), and who makes her feel special for carrying the rare element Remarkalonium.

Will the brothers find Candace before extraction takes place? And if they do – will she even want to leave? And will their parents finally catch them in the act?

The movie was surprisingly accessible to a first-time viewer, and was also surprisingly well-written. A stand-alone movie is planned for a theatrical release, but this movie, meant to have taken place before the series ended, was written specifically for Disney+ where it will find its fans the quickest. And that’s who this movie is really for, after all: the people who have loved and supported it since day one. The people, young and old alike, who miss seeing their favourite characters in new adventures. Fans of the show will be delighted with the film, which expands the Phineas and Ferb universe while working in all the things you loved about the original series.

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe features the voice work of Vincent Martella, Ashley Tisdale, Dan Povenmire, David Errigo Jr., Alyson Stoner, Maulik Pancholy, Bobby Gaylor, Ali Wong, Dee Bradley Baker, Wayne Brady, Olivia Olson, Thomas Middleditch, Diedrich Bader, Caroline Rhea, Tiffany Haddish, John O’Hurley, Weird Al Yankovic, and more besides, but my fingers are cramping. It’s a good mix of new and old, which is what you want in a nostalgia-driven sequel. And what better way to indulge your youthful whim than to spend a Saturday morning in pajamas, with a heaping bowl full of sugary cereal, and your subscription to Disney+.

Fearless

I’m sorry to have to tell you that Fearless (Fe@rLeSS_) is a not very good animated film on Netflix. It’s not even a very good video game handle, but that’s what we’re dealing with.

Reid is a teenage boy who is definitely “not” going to sit on his couch playing video games all weekend while his parents are away (at least that’s what he tells his mom when she calls to check up on him – he’s not even that convincing). Logged in as Fe@rLeSS_, Reid (Miles Robbins) is on the last impossible level of a very difficult game into which he’s already sunk many, many hours of play. When fat shaming the monster (I guess this is what passes for PG trash talk?) doesn’t work, he realizes that his character, Captain Lightspeed (Jadakiss), doesn’t have the necessary weapon to defeat the ultimate boss, Arcannis (Miguel). As Fe@rLeSS_ and sidekick/teammate Fleech (Tom Kenny) discover, Captain Lightspeed has one weapon in his arsenal they’ve never deployed: babies. Babies? What kind of creepy code name is that? It’s not. They’re actual babies, triplets actually, who all have some sort of super power like their dad, only they’ll have to be deposited into daycare so they can “grow” into them, or something like that. Obviously they should have been cultivating the baby potential a long time ago. But then something really weird happens (bear with me, and don’t shoot the messenger): the babies end up in Reid’s living room. Reid who is a real, human, teenage boy, with science homework due on Monday, and the babies, who are fictional video game characters, just a bunch of 0s and 1s, are now living and breathing and crying and pooping in his living room. As babies do. Real ones, anyway, which these ones aren’t…and yet here they are, adorable, needy little monsters, encouraging the awful screenwriters to commit a multitude of heinous poop puns. Thank goodness for Melanie (Yara Shahidi), Reid’s unsuspecting lab partner, who shows up to do “homework” (I see you, Melanie: don’t go thinking you invented that move yourself) but gets redeployed into babysitting/saving the world. Which is when this movie tries to rip-off The Incredibles but clearly got a pirated version and a bad stenographer.

Which may still satisfy young audiences, who have notoriously bad taste in EVERYTHING (sorry, but: velcro, Lunchables, Caillou, Baby Shark, toys with sirens, etc, etc), but it lacks Pixar’s more universal appeal. In fact, it’s so far out of Pixar’s league it would be unfair to compare them had they not brought it on themselves by making a carbon copy of The Incredibles and delivering the 7th or 8th carbon down and not pressing nearly hard enough. If you got that reference, you’re way too old for this movie. But you will get the one throw-away E.T. reference, which is hard to miss because it’s both lazy and obvious. I can’t seem to keep the contempt out of this review even though the film itself is relatively harmless. It just reminds me of the kind of forgettable movie Dreamworks would have put out 12 years ago, the kind that only ever gets played in the back seats of minivans (a local car dealership once had a “promotion” – buy a car, get some dijon mustard. Incredible, I know. Yet true. I never saw the numbers on the avalanche of deals that were made that day or just how enticing that $4 jar of mustard was on the back end of a $20 000 investment that starts depreciating the minute you sign on the dotted line ((did lines used to be dotted, or is that just a really stupid expression?)), but I’m sure the Grey Poupon ((I hope it was Grey Poupon)) was better bait than not one but TWO copies of Megamind. Two because mini vans come standard with not one but two screens that have better picture quality in a moving vehicle than even the movie theatre itself had when I was a kid, and how dare you ask your glazed-eye children to choose between The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie for the 6 minute drive to Nana’s?) (Whew, someone sure woke up on the ranty side of the bed this morning!)

Anyway, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, Fe@rLeSS_.

More like Dickless.

Heh. Cross that off the old bucketlist: end a children’s movie review with a swear. Peace out, motherfuckers!

Latte & the Magic Waterstone

The animals of the clearing are worried about drought. Collectively they have only 4 pumpkins full of water left, and the sources are drying up, but Latte, a spunky young hedgehog and an outcast from the forest community, has her own small reserve. A young squirrel named Tjum tries to seize her water for the communal coffers but in the ensuing fracas an entire pumpkin is upset, spilling a quarter or more of the clearing’s dwindling water supply. Yikes. The animals are, as always, quick to point the finger at Latte, but this time Tjum recognizes the anti-hedgehog sentiment and takes sole responsibility for the accident.

It’s nice and all but still doesn’t account for the water shortage. Luckily a crow with impeccable timing arrives to tell them all about this mythic waterstone that once rested at the top of bear mountain, allowing water to flow abundantly down to to everyone in the forest and beyond. But then the bear king stole it for himself, leaving all the other animals to go without. Latte resolves then and there to retrieve that stone, and Tjum follows after her. If the bear king doesn’t sound scary enough, they’ll have to cross a perilous forest to get to him, encountering predators like wolves and lynxes who are just as thirsty and even more desperate, not to mention a cockeyed toad whose motivations are mysterious.

Latte & the Magic Waterstone is a German animated film, and German fairy tales aren’t exactly known for their light-hearted joviality. Nobody gets their eyes pecked out (Grimm’s Cinderella) or any kind of blinding (Grimm’s Rapunzel) indeed; eyes are largely safe in this one. But there is some real sadness to contend with: a sweet little hedgehog alone in the world, a community content to shun her. But the movie doesn’t really dwell on such matters. It sticks to its simple and predictable story, an easy little adventure to find or not find a stone that may or may not exist. Dying of thirst or dying of loneliness: what’s the difference?

This movie is occasionally visually stunning and mostly just a forgettable little cartoon about a hedgehog who probably deserves better.