Tag Archives: animation

The Wind Rises | Review | Film

The Wind RisesAnimated films get a hard time. Sure plenty of them are for children, but just as many – even from the Disney stable – are good fun for adults as well. In anime there is a wealth of great storytelling out there, and few studios can claim the consistent quality produced by Studio Ghibli.

The Wind Rises posterThe Wind Rises is the latest masterpiece from the studio, and I don’t use the word lightly. Following the story of Jiro, a young japanese boy (a fact which we are, somewhat oddly, reminded of a fair few times through dialogue) who wants to design aeroplanes, the film is set between the two world wars and there is an uneasy tension in the air as Jiro begins his journey.

The balance of this film is one of its greatest strengths. The plot is driven by a combination of both Jiro’s development in aviation and his relationship with Nahoko Satomi, and just as you fear one may overpower the other the film redresses the balance – it’s a fantastic bit of filmmaking, and a credit to its world-renown director: Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki, who also wrote the film, is responsible for countless classics to come out of his studio over the years (and has had a hand in the rest), including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Nausicaa Valley of the Wind. It has been said that this will be Miyazaki’s final film (though it has been said in the past), and if that is so then it is definitely a high note to go out on.

The Wind RisesOne aspect of the film which is particularly high quality, is that of the English voice cast. Jiro is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper and Brick) and the chemistry between him and Emily Blunt as Nahoko leads to a lump in the throat at more than one point through the film. Other big names are involved include Stanley Tucci as inspirational Italian inventor Caproni and even Elijah Wood who pops up briefly.

Visually the film is everything we have come to expect from the studio, with a few 3D-style animation sequences really giving it a contemporary feel, despite its historical setting. Musically the film is a joy too, with soaring swells of strings sending a tingling sensation along your arms and a smile to your face as the sunshine blazes. One stand out piece of sound design is the sounds of the aeroplanes themselves, which are all created using human voices in a style which is SO Ghibli and fits in effortlessly into the film’s world.

As usual, it’s compelling characters which really bring the film to life, and though some might be put off by the fact that it is animation, really the film delivers drama and touching moments just as well as some of the best traditional flicks. The connections between the characters are sincere and you really relate to Jiro in his dedication – and borderline obsession – to creating his masterpiece.

The Wind RisesIn a lot of ways there are similarities to The Aviator, but mostly in the way that the fact that the film is about planes isn’t important, it’s more those characters which you care about.

In all, The Wind Rises soars (pun very much intended) as almost all Ghibli efforts do. This is a film which anyone could enjoy, so long as they give it a chance, and in fact could be the most realistic film from the studio, making it more accessible to those who might otherwise be put off by the eccentricities and surrealist aspects of some of these sorts of films.

Calling it a masterpiece is no hyperbole, the film is undoubtedly one of the strongest films this year.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

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Wreck-It Ralph Review | Film | This Is Entertainment

Wreck-It RalphBeing compared to Toy Story is no bad thing, and in a sense you could simplify the plot of Wreck-It Ralph to ‘Toy Story, but with games’, but that sells it about as short as Sarah Silverman’s diminutive character Vanellope Von Schweetz.

The film uses the past 30 years of computer games as its playground, with anyone who has even a passing appreciation for games able to find something to latch onto, whether it’s as obscure as a sound effect from Metal Gear Solid or as plain as the unassuming paddles from arcade classic Pong.

The smashing together of the old and new is what makes the film so special. On the one hand you have traditional 8-bit graphics and music, seen from the players’ point of view as they enjoy titles like Tapper or Space Invaders, and the gaming world, which is rendered in the glorious high-def CGI which will convince Pixar fans this is one of their films.

In fact it was produced by Disney itself and directed by Rich Moore, a veteran of Futurama and The Simpsons, and if you listen closely you’ll notice a few familiar voices he has brought along for the ride.

The titular Ralph is a nice guy stuck in a bad guy’s skin, complete with comically oversized hands, and longs for fulfilment in his monotonous life. The beauty of the concept is that children and adults alike can relate to feeling stuck in a rut, whether it’s just being sick of school on a Friday afternoon, or feel like the world is against you as plans continuously fall through at work.

John C. Reilly plays the role to a tee, with Sarah Silverman providing excellent ingredients for double-act moments, and surprisingly there are moments where you begin to tear up as difficult choices have to be made. Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Death at a Funeral) channels the Mad Hatter, with a dash of Tigger, to create giggling eccentric King Candy as the film’s antagonist, and is endlessly entertaining. The rest of the supporting cast perform well but don’t stand out so much, particularly with all the cameos wrestling for your attention.

The plot is as straightforward as you might expect from a Disney flick, but with equal parts action and heart, and plenty to keep you engaged for the almost two-hour run time.

Disney are clearly at the top of their game once again with this effort, with the visuals alone a step up from 2010’s Tangled. This film carries the sort of weight you would expect from a series a few iterations down the line, so you can expect sequels to follow.

The team unashamedly throw in product placements left, right and centre, but due to the nature of the world they inhabit, they don’t feel out of place or forced at any point.

In all, this film is made for gamers, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself in that geeky camp. There is more than enough to appreciate with identifiable characters and familiar concepts, beautifully realised with style.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Film | Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! | This Is Entertainment

Pirates never get old, making them a perfect subject for the latest feature-length jaunt from Aardman Animation (the creators of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run).

With so much experience behind the project, not to mention to success of the studio in the past, expectations were understandably high – luckily the team have played to their strengths and come out with something brilliant.

The film may not have Aardman top man Nick Park in the picture, but his co-founder Peter Lord was executive producer and co-director on the project, ensuring that the studios style shows through in every scene.

The film is an adaptation of the 2004 book of the same name and its follow up, both by Gideon Defoe, and at points the thin-ness of the plot shows through, but in all it holds together well enough to keep both old and young audiences entertained.

The real strength of the film is the throwaway lines or little touches, such as the Pirate Captain, in despair after a failed plundering attempt, announces he is retiring from pirating to make…baby clothes. Out-of-the-blue lines like these come up frequently, and are easily strong enough to induce guffaws of laughter.

 It’s no secret that animation takes time, and in a recent piece in Empire Magazine, the team revealed that the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film was pitched, written, shot, produced and released in the time that filming took for the epic stop-motion masterpiece that we have come to expect from this studio.

Every endless hour spent is worth it though, with every scene packed with detail and character, from the sea of booty to the luxurious-ness of the Pirate Captain’s beard.

The cast put on a stellar performance, particularly Hugh Grant, who is almost unrecognisable as the charismatic but baffonish Pirate Captain. Every pirate on the crew is known by their appearance rather than a name, making the characters that much more endearing.

Former Doctor David Tennant puts on his best English accent as the adorably pathetic Charles Darwin, and Martin Freeman, no stranger to number two status after playing second fiddle in Sherlock, is the voice of reason as Pirate with Scarf.

The story sees the crew jet-setting across the seas, as you might expect, as well as visiting Victorian London and taking flight in an airship as the film builds to its gripping finale.

While the film is clearly aimed at children, there’s plenty for adults to enjoy here as well, and the British-ness of the humour guarantees a smile before the credits roll.

Though this might not win hearts as much as Wallace and Gromit‘s big-screen outing, the film is a shining example of what passion and attention to detail can achieve in traditional animation, and despite falling short of ‘instant-classic’ status, this is undoubtedly one not to miss – particularly if you can get the full 3D experience.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

pics: http://www.heyuguys.co.uk, http://www.sandwichjohnfilms.com

Film: Review – Toy Story 3

The 2010 summer blockbuster season continues with a return to Andy’s room in comedic adventure flick Toy Story 3.

After a decade away from UK cinema screens (save some fancy 3D re-releases in the past year) Woody and the gang are up to their old tricks once more.

Andy, who’s voiced by John Morris (the same chap as in the first two films and now a 25 year-old!), is leaving for college and his beloved toys don’t want to be forgotten or thrown away.

Despite their best efforts the gang can’t tear Andy’s attention away from the all-too-familiar vices of modern life and after a mix-up they find themselves being donated to a daycare centre.

Here there’s a host of new, and often familiar, characters, but things aren’t as ‘sunny’ at Sunnyside as they seem.

In typical Disney (well…Pixar) style the story unfolds as organically as a modern fairytale, with some impressive little touches showing the depth of their characters, such as Jessie’s claustrophobia from her trauma in TS2.

The climax swaps the airport setting from its predecessor for a waste disposal plant, frighteningly realised as the fiery Hell on Earth for all toys, as well as alluding to the chilling dystopia from previous work Wall.E, but on a far larger (relative) scale.

The villain of the piece Lotso’ Huggin’ Bear pushes the limit on evil as well as teaching Disney’s usual lesson about why jealousy and bitterness are bad.

Stand-out character is easily Michael Keaton’s Ken, who defines the modern ‘metrosexual’ stereotype with some unusual fashion choices, while pig money box Hamm is graced with his usual selection of cynical quips and Buzz finds a whole new level of comedy after a botched factory reset…

With the rivalry between Woody and Buzz long forgotten the team work together seemlessly as the film builds to a climax with an incredibly touching moment as they are held on the brink of oblivion.

This proves to be only a hint at what’s to come though as the final coda sets tear ducts on maximum as the characters and audience alike say goodbye to a group of characters who they’ve known for over 15 years.

While some suggest the film is merely a vehicle for further merchandising; it’s obvious writers John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (who also directed) have put heart and conviction into this (surely) final chapter to a series which sparked the beginning of a new age of animation.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

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