Little Prince Review

little princeFor a while watching The Little Prince I was ready to come on here and be pretty harsh on it.  Until the first hour mark, the movie was honestly driving me crazy but then it somehow turned itself around and became a decent flick.  Usually the ending of films is where they really tank but not in this case.  I kind of wish it had been a short 45 minute special because really the first hour is just two characters talking a lot and telling you why what they are saying is so important.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!  (I couldn’t talk about some of my issues without spoiling because it lay within the story).

So let’s talk about that first hour. My big problem was way too much exposition.  At times it felt like a Shyamalan film there was so much talking and not showing!

The plot of the movie is a Little Girl is trained by her mother to keep a tightly planned study schedule.  Truly it seemed a little over-the-top it was so micromanaged.  I mean what kid would want to plan a play date for the next summer?  It strained credulity and made the Mother look really mean.

little prince 4The goal of the Mother is for Little Girl (that’s her name) to make it into a prestigious school called Werth Academy.  They even move just to be in the school boundaries.

little prince8However, Little Girl wants to explore and is drawn to an elderly neighbor known as The Aviator. He tells her about the Little Prince who had a rose that he loves and tries to protect.  As he tells the story we see it played out in beautiful animation that looks like stop motion.

little prince111The problem is not enough happens in the story to be compelling on its own so it becomes a lot of talking about dreams and bold living.  As pretty as it was I grew weary of it.

Then The Prince in the story dies for The Rose at the hour mark.  This causes Little Girl to become angry at The Aviator for the story and it ending so sadly.  She stays away but then he gets sick and she must fly The Aviator’s plane and find the Little Prince on his asteroid.  This is when the story starts going.  We actually see things happen to our lead character!

little prince123When the Little Girl gets to the asteroid, she finds a world where everyone has grown up- kind of an opposite Neverland.  The Little Prince has forgotten his past and has been turned into a workaholic adult.  He is ruled by a man called The Businessman who is hoarding all the stars to steal all the light and happiness from the world. Now this is a story!

little prince14Little Girl then must bring the Little Prince back to his planet and he gets some closure on his lost rose. Little Girl gets a reminder that she cannot grow up too soon.

little prince15When she reunites with her Mother they have a new understanding and she is allowed to be a child a little bit longer while still going to the prestigious school.

Once the action in the story started going I was entertained by the Little Prince, but almost like a fable, the metaphors are very heavy-handed. The Businessman clearly is meant to symbolize the Mother and her routine for Little Girl (they even have a similar chalkboard with tasks listed out), but I didn’t mind it.  I kind of wish the entire movie had started at that point because I really didn’t need the background on the Prince, The Rose, The Girl and The Mother.

Even in the boring sections there is a nice heart to the film, and I did feel attached to Little Girl and her struggles to be understood by her Mother. I just needed something more concrete to happen sooner to get the plot going. The first hour felt a little like reading a greeting card. Sure it looks nice and has a nice message but I needed more story!

The vocal performances are all wonderful, providing a real warmth to the sometimes one-note characters.  Mackenzie Foy (Little Girl), Jeff Bridges (The Aviator), Rachel McAdams (The Mother), Paul Rudd (Mr Prince) are great.  Marion Cotillard is heavily billed and I thought would have a big part but she is The Rose and only has a few lines.

little prince3The animation is stunning throughout The Little Prince and it is worth seeing for that reason alone.  And it does end with real heart that made me tear up a few times.  I just wish I could condense the first hour into 15 minutes! In some ways after that reminded me of Neverending Story in its messaging and tone.  Still, I can’t ignore an hour of tedious exposition.

Overall Grade- C+

Also why this movie took forever and a day to get to a US release is beyond me.  It was written in English originally so it didn’t need dubbing or subtitles.  Why the delay?  That was very annoying.

Advertisements

2016 Oscar Nominated Short Reviews

I’ve been wanting to do this post for some time but I had a hard time finding 2 of the nominated animated shorts for this years Oscars.  I finally was able to watch them all and thought I would give you my thoughts.

animated shorts5Bear Story

Coming out of Chili by director Gabriel Osorio Vargas Bear Story is about a bear who builds diorama’s kind of like what we saw in Hugo.  He is a lonely bear and tells the story of that loneliness through the diorama.  The animation is beautiful with a heavy steampunk feel to it.

Basically the story is the bear is taken from his family to perform in the circus.  You get that sadness mixed in with the fun of the circus. Each scene is layered with movement and details.  It is extremely charming.

Overall Grade B+

animated shorts1Prologue

Animator Richard Williams vision of ancient warfare is definitely a unique nominee.  It is done using a pencil, hand drawn style and the animation is quite striking.  When it focuses on a characters eyes or face it reminded me of a lithograph or an etching.

However, this film is ADULTS ONLY!  I am not being quaint or hesitant when I say that.  It is extremely bloody and  the nudity is graphic and repeated.  For a short that is just over 5 minutes it is kind of astonishing how R rated it could be!

Evidently it is accurate to ancient warriors for them to fight naked (who knew?) but there really isn’t any story here that I could see at least.  It is people brutally killing each other and then at the end a girl stands in shock over the blood.  I guess that is a message about war but not particularly inventive or thought provoking in my opinion.

Maybe we will learn more in future episodes? It is called Prologue after all

Overall Grade- C-

animated shorts44We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos is out of Russia and directed and written by Konstantin Bronzit.  It may not have the most stunning animation but the story makes up for any failings in that department.

It is 2D animation in the style of TV animation like The Simpsons, and tells the story of 2 best friends who dream of becoming cosmonauts.  It starts with them in training and they joyously complete every task.  At one point they even leap off of their beds trying to get a feeling of zero gravity.

I don’t want to spoil it for you but suffice it to say I love stories of friendship and this one had my heart. It is very sweet and lovely.

Overall Grade- A

animated shorts2World of Tomorrow

Oh boy…how do I explain World of Tomorrow?  To be honest Don Hertzfeldt’s sci-fi study of human nature makes me feel kind of dumb.  I’ve seen it a lot and I still don’t really get it.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but did it need to be quite so obtuse?  I guess for Don’s artistic vision it did.

Basically it is about a little girl named Emily who receives a video transmission of a clone version of herself from the future.  This clone takes Little Emily into her current world where they have a land called ‘the Outernet’.

Clone Emily then takes Little Emily through different memories and then tells her that the earth will be destroyed by a meteoroid. Then Clone Emily reveals she came to see Little Emily to retrieve a memory she had forgotten.  She hopes this memory will be comforting for the end of the world.

So there you have it.  The main message is we should focus on the important stuff. That when the end comes the trivial will dissolve and only the most special memories will remain.  Technology  obscures the hear and now and makes us focus only on the fluff.

Clone Emily says

“Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.”

The animation is brilliant and different in World of Tomorrow and I think it will win, and it is probably deserved.  On one hand I like it is layered and tricky to decipher it’s meaning, but I think it goes a little too far in that department, to the point of ostracizing me a bit as a viewer.  It’s great but I still don’t love it like some people do.

That said Overall Grade- A

animated shorts3

Sanjay’s Super Team

I have already done a whole blog post on Sanjay’s Super Team.  This is Pixar’s offering (Lava was actually submitted in 2014).  Everyone seems to think it is shoe-in for Sanjay to win this category but I did some research and Pixar actually doesn’t have a great track record here.  They haven’t won since 2001!  Even something like La Luna (my favorite Pixar short) was beat by Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore which is completely charming so I get it.  The academy seems to like to reward smaller studios in animated short category.

Anyway, Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is inspired by his childhood growing up as an American boy with Hindu observant parents.  The story is little Sanjay is watching his favorite superhero show when his father is praying and meditating.  His father insists he join him and Sanjay starts out bored but imagines the Hindu Gods as superheroes.

It is a beautiful film about how a meeting of the minds can occur and generations can understand each other better.  The animation is bright and colorful, some of Pixar’s best, and the lesson Sanjay learns is very sweet.  He see’s that maybe his Dad’s crazy ideas aren’t so bad after all.

Overall Grade- A+

 

My thoughts on all 5.  Prologue is too R rated for me and lacks a good story so it is my least favorite. The other 4 I like a lot, even if World of Tomorrow makes my head hurt.  I would probably order them

  1. Sanjay’s Super Team
  2. We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
  3. World of Tomorrow
  4. Bear Story
  5. Prologue

Have you had a chance to see the animated shorts? I would love your thoughts. Which do you like the best? Do you think World of Tomorrow will win or are you pulling for another choice?

Boy and the World Review

boy and the world poster2If you guys read my response to the Oscar nominations you may recall my disappointment at The Peanuts Movie being snubbed for Best Animated Feature Film.   In it’s place was a film called Boy and the World or o Menino eo Mundo in Portuguese.  I had heard of this film but it had mostly fallen under my radar so the nomination was a big surprise.  Today I had the chance to see the film and I can see why it got nominated.  I don’t know if I would pick it over Peanuts Movie but a lot of that comes down to personal artistic taste.

Boy and the World is directed by Brazilian animator Ale Abreu and was released in that country back in 2013.  It is made using mostly sketch animation with some live action imagery and paper mache thrown in.  The film’s biggest strength is it’s wild imaginative artistry.  It’s a real joy to watch.

boy and the world9999It’s a simple story about a boy who is devastated when his father leaves the family to go and find work in the city.

boy and the world89They plant a tree on his departure but the boy is still very upset.

boy and the world 7He goes on a journey to find his father and bring him back to the family but in so doing he dives into the city and confronts all kinds of people, industry, conflict and more.

boy and the world6 boy and the world4boy and the world5At one point he ends up living at a trash dump.

boy and the world8boy and the world3 As you can see the animation is quite beautiful but what adds to the appeal of the film is the wonderful music. Written by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat it combines ‘pan-flute, samba and Brazilian hip hop’ into a delightful absorbing experience that made me smile.  Here’s one of the main themes:

The visuals combined with the music at times feel like a kaleidoscope and I never grew weary of the imagery. It is a bit self indulgent and has little to do with  the main plot of the boy looking for his Dad, but I liked it.  However, I can picture that bothering some people but not me.

boy and the world kaleidescopeThe ending of Boy and the World does try to say something about war, commerce, industry and waste but  that wasn’t as effective as the rest of the visuals.  It felt a little heavy handed where the rest of the film had spread the same message using joy and light. We didn’t really need the contrasting images.

There is little to no dialogue in Boy and the World so there are no cultural limitations or barriers.  I know films with no dialogue aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoy them when done right and this is.

boy and the world2So is it better than The Peanuts Movie? Again, it just depends on what you like.  They both have simple stories at their centers with depressed little boys and great music.   Both are also visually innovative and beautiful.  If you like more earthy, surreal art you’ll like Boy and the World better.  If you like the more modern realistic pop art than you will like Peanuts Movie better.  I personally have an attachment to Charlie Brown so I enjoyed his story more but I also loved the newness and creativity of Boy and the World.

Either way I can see why the academy nominated it.  It’s a beautiful film and adds a strong artistic entry to 2015 that we really didn’t have outside of The Prophet.  If you get a chance to see it let me know what you think.

My youtube review

Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos Review

un galloI have a goal to see all the animated films released each year and 2015 is no exception.  I thought I had a good handle on the films coming out but was surprised today when looking at the box office to see an animated film that had flown under my radar.  It is a Mexican film called Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos.  Being Monday is my movie day I went out gave it a watch.

Gallo (as I will call it) is made by Huevocartoon Producciones and it is done with mostly CG with some 2D dream sequences thrown in (kind of strange the characters dream in 2D?).  Over all, I thought the animation looked pretty good especially considering a 5 million budget.  It’s bright and colorful and tells the story pretty well.  It’s really hard to believe Dreamwork’s Home cost 135 million and I certainly liked this better than that…(Isn’t that just insanity that one movie can cost 130 million more not including marketing than another!).

Anyway, Gallo features a bevy of Mexican stars doing voice performances and to my ear at least they all did a fine job.  The music by Zacarias M de la Riva was also pretty good.

un gallo5Gallo is about on the level of Minions for me.  The plot isn’t that great and it had way too much adult humor but there was some things to like.  Over all, I thought it was average movie. I’m glad I saw it.

It’s about a rooster named Toto who is the runt of the litter but always dreamed of fighting in the cock fights downtown (evidently cock fights are legal in Mexico).  These cock fights are actually done with gloves like a boxing match. There’s a star fighter named Bankivoide and a former star fighter called The Red Rooster.

un gallo8A sort of weird element to the film is that the eggs all have personalities and talk.  I was a little bit late so I may have missed an explanation but it didn’t seem like these eggs were ever going to crack which I found strange.  There is also a piece of bacon that moves and talks which was strange. You think a processed slice piece of meat, even if it is pork, might make the chickens a little uncomfortable.

You do see the owner of the farm and her husband has died and they are behind on the mortgage.  Unfortunately this brings us the tired plot we’ve seen a million times of ‘save the farm’. Sigh…

un gallo3The animals decide to enter Red Rooster in a cock fight to win back the money to save the farm but when they challenge Bankivoide the Godfather Egg (yes, you read right) says Toto must enter the fight.

un gallo6They accept the offer and Red Rooster tries to find a duck who beat him when he was a fighter.  This leads to a strange section with a rapping Snoop Duck…The star duck has died but his trainer egg is around and he agrees to train Toto.

un gallo9There is also a sexy chicken that looks like a peacock who sets vultures on Toto and the gang so that they won’t beat Bankivoide.

It’s very predictable and silly but just nutty enough to be mildly entertaining.  However, the kids in my audience did not seem to enjoy it and kept having to go in and out, up and down the aisles (was a little annoying!).

un gallo5As a movie fan there were some pretty good in-jokes and references to other movies that made me laugh.  The script isn’t that bad. It’s just in the service of a super corny, played-out story.un gallo4

And there are a lot of inappropriate jokes.  We get jokes like the sexy bird singing about a rooster ‘hitting my sweet spot’ and lots of jokes about cocks and breasts that were completely uncalled for.  It will probably over most little kids heads but that is no excuse.  I hate that kind of content in children’s films.

un gallo10

If your kids speak Spanish then it might be a good experience for them to hear a movie in their language, or if they are trying to learn Spanish it could be a useful tool.  It’s right on that level of Minions.  Bright, colorful, a few laughs and weird choices to keep me semi-interested.  It’s not one to rush out to see but if you get a chance give it a watch.

Here is the trailer to give you more of an idea.

Overall Grade- C, Content- B-