The Art of Book of Life Review

P1500093The Book of Life is a film the more I’ve thought about the more forgiving I have become about its weaknesses. There are certain aspects to the story that could be better but one thing I never had any doubt on was the film’s magnificent artistry. Jorge R Guitierrez’s amazing visual palate and vision is incredible to watch and so I had to pick up the art book as soon as I could lay my hands on it!

I always like art books where you can tell there is a real affection for the film on the part of the creators. Such is the case with the Book of Life. It starts with a forward from producer Guillermo del Toro. He talks about meeting Guitierrez and that his ‘enthusiasm was overwhelming’. These are the kind of people I want making movies!

P1500094Guillermo agrees with me “Jorge is my favorite kind of filmmaker- the guy who permeates every single aspect of his work with his ideas, his vision and his hard work but, like any good leader, allows everyone to feel like a vital contributor to the tale.” He goes on to say “browse through the art in this book and you will find a crew in love with their work, inspired by the world that Jorge has presented to us…”

Next we get an introduction by Guitierrez.  It’s really cool because he talks about he loves art books and he says “And now, I swear by the blood of my ancestors, this film and this book are one! THIS I SWEAR! In fact, it was my intention from the start to have our beloved film look exactly like the art in these pages….We poured our heart and ouls into the art in your hands. And little spicy salsa….Now go enjoy the spicy art in this book.  We made it just for you and all the little mustachioed kids all over the world. We are the Book of Life”.  I love that!

P1500095The first chapter is about characters. We get the evolution of the characters which I always like to see and it’s not just the big characters but every last one of them.  It is also really cool to learn about details like the colors of the wood in the characters designated what spirit world they are in and how old they are.

P1500099Chapter 2 is about the world-building and is entitled “the Making of the Book of Life”. I really like how they lay out the different ingredients that make up each world. The Land of the Remembered contains- skulls, hearts, flower petals floating upwards, plant life and growth, 15% square shapes, 80% circular and 5% triangular.  The Land of the Forgotten contains- stalactites, stalagmites, ash, charcoal trees, giant chains, 5% square shapes, 5% circular, 90% triangular.  Isn’t that interesting? I would never have noticed all the triangles in the Land of the Forgotten!

P1500106Each page in this section is full of storyboards and concept art including a fold out page that becomes 3 pages of storyboards!

P1500101The final chapter focuses on each of the main locations.  We get to see the incredible detail in buildings like the chapel and bull fighting ring. I loved seeing all the matador posters they made.

P1500103And all the detail about the Land of the Remembered is worth the price of the book!

P1500105The final segment is a brief Afterword by art director Paul Sullivan about the collaborative process with Reel FX who I don’t think get enough credit for this film. It certainly is a huge step up from their first film Free Birds.

This Art of Book of Life is a special book because it helps you see the passion that goes into a film. I guess I particularly appreciate it because it was a film I was maybe a little harsh on the first time I saw it. Those problems are still there but I think I always saw the beauty and passion that went into it. It just makes me appreciate it a little bit more. I’m glad I own the book and would recommend it to all of you!

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart Review

jackIn my quest to see the animated films of 2014 I had a chance tonight to see the french movie Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. It’s available to all subscribers right now on Netflix and I think it is worth a watch although it has its issues.

It’s probably the most steampunk influenced animation I’ve seen since Treasure Planet, so if you are a fan of steampunk than you will especially love it.

jack7Much like Book of Life the artistic style is the films strength.  It looks very creative (as steampunk is prone to do) and it surprised me with each character design, setting and creatures.    That said, I did kind of wish they had not gone the CG route and done stop motion or hand drawn for this kind of story.  I think it would have looked better and they would have gotten more emotion out of the characters who seemed flat on occasion despite the interesting design.


It kind of reminded me of Corpse Bride a little bit which is stop motion and I think this would have been better if it had taken that approach instead of CG.

The music is stronger than Book of Life.  In fact, the entire movie is based on an album by an emo sounding band called Dionysos that included an illustrated novel by the lead singer.  Not all the songs are memorable but they create wonderful mood that goes well with the visuals.

The story is the movies weakness.  It starts out strong with Jack getting born on the coldest day on earth and his heart dies so a midwife puts a cuckoo-clock in the place of his heart.

jack2The problem is he cannot get excited or fall in love with his clock heart or he could short circuit and die.  (Robots and clocks are a big part of steampunk. It reminded me a lot of Hugo in that regard.  Reminded me of a lot I guess!).

Unfortunately he meets a beautiful Spanish girl who sings and falls in love with her.  He also decides to go to school and meets a bully named Joe.

jack8There is an accident with Jack and Joe and Jack is forced to flee on a ghost train.  To be honest right around that point the movie started to lose me a lot.

jack11It looked really cool throughout but for the last 45 minutes or so I really didn’t understand what was happening.  There was a ghost train and he was chasing the girl and she didn’t like him and then liked him and then Joe comes and I don’t know what else.

jack4In Book of Life they have the 2 characters in love with the same girl and the songs but I liked in Book of Life there was some good in both of the boys.  It made it more interesting.  Here Joe is just a bad guy from school onward.  There was no motivation as to why he is a bully or mean to Jack.

Maybe I just need to watch it again to get a better idea of what was happening but n this watch through I was confused.


It also has a very poor English dubbing that doesn’t ever seem to match the lips very well, which is distracting.  I almost wish they had just used subtitles if they were going to do it so cheaply.

But it is visually wonderful and I love the steampunk look and the music was neat.  All together in spite of problems I still enjoyed watching it.

Have any of you seen it?  What did you think?

Overall Grade- C

It is not for very small children who might get scared or feel it is too sad.  More 10+

Double Feature Part 1: Book of Life Review

Today I decided to go to the movies! In fact, I decided to go to two of them! Book of Life and The Boxtrolls and boy did I have a fantastic time at the movies!  Anyone who thinks Hollywood has stopped making original stories hasn’t seen these 2 animated features.  I liked them both a lot.  Perhaps Boxtrolls a little bit more than A Book of Life but they were both great!

book of life

I am going to try and be less detailed in this review than some of my others because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Book of Life is a very complicated story (perhaps too complicated?) but it starts out in America somewhere and a tour guide tells some rebellious children that it is the Day of the Dead and their is a famous myth told from the Book of Life.

This narration is completely unnecessary.  Why does Hollywood always make a white person tell an ethnic group’s story?  The Rulers should have done the narration.

The rulers are Xibalba that rules The Land of the Forgotten (voiced by Ron Perlman) and Muerte ruler of The Land of the Remembered.  Basically as long as your progeny remember their ancestors you are in the Land of the Remembered when you die.  Cool concept right?

They make a bet over which of 2 boys, Joaquin and Manolo will marry Maria.  The voice casting in this movie is a problem.  Why not Penelope Cruise, Javier Bardem, or Salma Hayek?  So many great latino actors they could have used but Channing Tatem?  It sticks out like a sore thumb.  Diego Luna who is Manolo is good but Zoe Saldana is miscast as Maria.  Even latino actors like Hector Elizondo sound very American.  I wished they’d let their accents flow more freely.

The dialogue is also very modern and distracting and there are a lot of characters to keep track of in each of the lands.  If I was a kid I might be pretty confused with the story.

The worlds are amazing.

land of remembered
Land of the Remembered
San Angel the Mexican town of the story

Also the design of the people were neat.  The museum guide is telling the story using wooden dolls so everyone looks like they are made of wood.  Then when they venture to the other lands they turn into Day of the Dead etched wood.

made of wood
You can see how the characters are made of wood.  Manolo, Joaquin and Maria
day of the dead
This is the Day of the Dead look in the Land of the Remembered

They are consistent with the wood look even to the bulls, pigs and villains look like carvings.  It’s very cool.

I also liked the 3 lead characters.  Maria is a pretty layered female character.  Not just the damsel in distress or the warrior although she has moments of both.  She likes both Manolo and Joaquin and that’s probably because the movie makes both very likable.  In these kind of movies usually Joaquin would be a total jerk, a pompous Gaston type and he has moments like that but enough softer moments to understand why Maria might pick him.  The three remain friends throughout despite being romantic rivals and I thought that was neat.

The story is very complicated and it is a little bit too long, maybe one fight scene with Chakal too many.  Also the music is a mixture of original songs and covers of song like s I Will Wait and Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.  The original songs are kind of forgettable but not bad.  They could have had more of a latin flair to them.  The score is very good by Gustavo Santaolalla.

I also really liked the message of remembering those who have gone on before us and honoring all they have given us. Also the idea that if you are remembered you never really die.  That’s lovely.

But really the reason to see this movie is the animation.  It is stunning and the story is good enough to give it a hearty recommendation.  My friend said her kids did Ok following it and enjoyed it.  It’s not perfect but I really liked it.  I would definitely try to see it in 3D on the big screen if you can.  Definitely on HD so you get the full effect of the bright colors.

Content Grade- A    Overall Grade B+