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Entries in animated films (244)

Saturday
Apr182015

Tim's Toons: Star Wars - the Animated Misadventures

Tim here. A good cinephile would be able to look around the world and think about the whole range of possible movies in all their splendid variety. Me, I haven't been able to stop thinking about Star Wars ever since the new Episode VII trailer dropped yesterday. That's the poisonous fever bog of nostalgia for you.

So, as long as I'm not going to get my head right anyway, how about we take a little wander through the corridors of Star Wars and animation? Because, golly, talk about being gripped by a dubious affection for a brand name...

At some point, people subjected themselves to all of these things just to get a little tiny bit more of a Star Wars fix. And even if The Force Awakens can't live up to the awesome pileup of top-shelf fanservice in that trailer, there's not any chance in hell that it can be as bad as some of these:

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1979)
Two and a half years after the original film redefined what blockbuster box office could look like, the very first expansion of the universe came in the form of this legendarily wretched variety show that starts with ten damn minutes of people in terrible shaggy suits barking at each other in unsubtitled Wookiee-ese. After which it proceeds to get worse. The solitary highlight, and that's almost solely because of the lowlights surrounding it on all sides, is a short animated sequence by Nelvana in which Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca fall for the most transparent con job in the universe and future fan-favorite Boba Fett is introduced. He rides a dinosaur. [More...]

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Thursday
Apr162015

The High Cost of Angry Birds

Tim here. News came out this week that the upcoming feature adaptation of the handheld video game Angry Birds, a Finnish-American co-production set to be animated by Sony Picture Imageworks, has the eyebrow-raising price tag of €180 million, or a bit more than $190 million. That's not quite as dumbfounding a total as it sounds: it includes the marketing budget, something virtually never reported in advance, and the total production budget is a much lowlier €80 million. Which still makes it the most expensive movie ever made in Finland by a factor of almost ten.

No matter how you subdivide it, though, that's a huge pile of money that Sony and Rovio Entertainment are throwing at a 90-minute video game commercial. My current suspicion: most of that money is earmarked for building a time machine that transports audience members back to 2011, the last time that making an Angry Birds feature film made any sense whatsoever.

Wednesday
Apr082015

April Foolish Oscar Discussion: Animated Features

These two specialized categories can be perplexing from the outside, documentaries moreso, as to what is eligible, why it's eligible, and what motivates people to vote as they do. The official eligibility lists don't arrive until later in the year but for now on the new charts we'll add documentary titles as they make some kind of mark and we'll dive right into animated features, which apart from the foreign produced entries, are much easier to track.

Pixar vs Pixar this year?

This upcoming Oscar season, Walt Disney Studios Animation will be out of the mix after two consecutive wins. Their next features Zootopia and Moana, which both look quite promising, aren't due until March and November of 2016. To fill that giant vacuum, Pixar will likely come roaring back after an uncharacteristic absence last year with two titles Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur

But the contest that's most curious might not be a contest... at least in terms of Oscar. We have two features that are trading on collective international nostalgia for 2D classic properties: The Little Prince and Peanuts Movie. But they're both getting the CG or mixed media approach. That's not so odd since contemporary cinema loves to regurgitate and "update" (shudder) but what's unusual is that both films are clearly trying to mix the endearing flat linework and visual style of these beloved gems into newly three dimensional worlds. A safe bet: these films, particularly The Little Prince which looks "schizophrenic", will be divisive. 

Check out the charts! Which of these films are you most curious about and do you agree with the April Foolish guesswork? 

 

Thursday
Apr022015

Another look at "World of Tomorrow", now available online

Tim here. First things first: you won't spend a more worthwhile $3.99 or use up a more gratifying 16 minutes and 29 seconds this week than you could by watching World of Tomorrow, the newest short by animator Don Hertzfeldt. You perhaps recall it as one of the most rapturously received films of any length coming out of this year's Sundance Film Festival, including a rave from the Film Experience's own Michael Cusumano (a rave that popped up in the short's official trailer), which traditionally means a long crawl through the festivals until eventually most people get a chance to see it a year or more after the hype has worn off. But on March 31, Hertzfeldt made it available on Vimeo, in a continuation of the filmmaker's first experiment in an all-digital environment. So now the rest of us get to see what made so many critics lose their minds.

The answer is genius. Pure, uncut genius is what made those critics lose their minds.

 

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Sunday
Mar292015

Box Office: Get Hard at Home While We're Young

Another weekend, more millions in Hollywood coffers for by-most-accounts weak films. The three biggest hits this weekend were all poorly reviewed.

WIDE RELEASE
01 Home $54 NEW
02 Get Hard $34.6 NEW  
03 Divergent: Insurgent $22 (cum. $86.3) 
04 Cinderella $17.5 (cum. $150)  Review
05 It Follows $4 (cum. $4.7)  Review

Yup, the big stories were Home wildly overperforming (we all thought it might flop given Dreamworks history, just documented in Tim's fascinating two-part retrospective) and Get Hard doing well and reinforcing that mainstream audiences love Kevin Hart... and rape jokes. Always the rape jokes.

PLATFORM RELEASE
01 Wild Tales (Argentina) 116 Theaters  $.2 (cum. $1.5) Review
02 What We Do In the Shadows (New Zealand) 146 Theaters $.2 (cum. $2.1) Review
03 While We're Young (US) 4 Theaters $.2 NEW Review
04 Danny Collins (US) 29 Theaters $.2 (cum. $.3)
05 '71 (UK) 121 Theaters $.1 (cum. $.9) Review

Wild Tales held its theaters but the big story was Noah Baumbach's seventh feature While We're Young, charting a surely-soon-to-be-broken 'best indie debut this year' with a $60,000 per screen average. Meanwhile the long and frankly mystifying journey of Serena, starring two or our most bankable actors Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence and based on a bestselling novel no less, ended with a whimper. The movie finally ended up in theaters, albeit only 60 of them and grossed just over $100,000 in its first week. Meanwhile Hungary's wildly acclaimed and Oscar submitted allegorical thriller about rampaging dogs named White God (read Jose's interview with the director) stuck its toe into two US theaters for $16,000. 

What did you see this weekend? Did any of you see Serena? Was it from morbid curiousity. If you haven't will you please take our advice and seek out Wild Tales or '71?

Thursday
Mar262015

The Rise and Fall of DreamWorks Animation, Part 2: Fall

UPDATE 3/29: Well! Now Home has gone and ruined my entire beautiful narrative arc by wildly outperforming even the most rosily optimistic predictions during its opening weekend, with an estimated $54 million. With that total in its pocket, even under the worst imaginable scenario, it should still glide past $100 million in the United States with ease - $150 mil is certainly in play - and combined with its sterling overseas performance so far, it shouldn't have any problem turning a profit for DreamWorks. The day of reckoning has been put off.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. As DreamWorks's only 2015 release, the studio won't be able to build up any momentum, but it gives the powers that be a good chance to breathe easily and take a good long time to re-work their future plans. Hopefully the right lessons are learned from this ("Non-white girls can sell movies, too") and not the easier wrong ones ("That absolute piece of crap made us money! We don't ever have to try again!), and hopefully it will encourage this and all other animation companies to experiment a little bit more with new properties instead of just retrenching to sequels every time someone says "boo". -Tim

Tim here. Last week, we took a tour through the peak years of DreamWorks Animation, during which time the House That Jeffrey Katzenberg's Hatred of His Old Bosses at Disney Built established itself as the biggest gorilla in American feature animation. And as 2010 dawned, the studio was on the verge of a remarkable achievement. That year, DreamWorks released three feature-length theatrical films – the most any studio had ever produced. It proved to be a great year to do so, an extraordinary year for animation: five of the year's top ten films at both the domestic and worldwide box office were animated, an unmatched record.

That, of course, is exactly the problem. Having perfected a factory for producing animated features that anyone could follow, DreamWorks was as responsible as any studio for the glut of animation that hit in 2009 and has continued largely unabated ever since. By making its products too ubiquitous, the studio was making them routine and increasingly easy to ignore.

Not that it was apparent from the first of the year's releases, How to Train Your Dragon, which netted DreamWorks its best reviews ever and remains its highest-grossing Stateside release without the word "Shrek" in the title. [More...]

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Tuesday
Mar242015

Q&A Part 2: Guilty Pleasures, Boytoys, and Best Animated Feature

Yesterday I  answered reader questions about film sets worth living in and all time favorite actors and I hope that conversation keeps going because I haven't heard from too many of you what your choices are. There were so many good question this week let's keep the party going for an extra day. Here's the next six questions featuring Guilty Pleasures, Oscar's Best Animated Feature and Unseen Classics. One question will be answered in a forthcoming theme week that's already been planned and one final question is getting its own post. 

You can't say we've been slacking here at TFE.

LADY EDITH: Do you have a favorite Altman? 

I do. And it's no contest. I just shout Nashville (1975) as enthusiastically and loudly as I can when asked. Which is not to dismiss the rest of Robert Altman's always at least interesting filmography. My other two favorites are Three Women (1977) for its psychosexual actressing and Gosford Park (2001) for the sheer pleasure of it but I love his movies... well, maybe not Dr T and the Women but I love quite a few of his movies.

JEFF: What's your biggest guilty pleasure movie? Or a movie that most of the readers would be surprised that you happen to love.

After so many years writing online about movies I fear I have no secrets left. I love the usual guilty pleasures and probably talk about them too much (Xanadu and Showgirls chief among them). I suppose in terms of things I rarely write about the #1 guilty pleasure would be that I do kind of have a (small) thing for B grade action movies and affection for the sometimes limited actors that star in them like Jean Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham, and Schwarzenegger of course. This is not a blanket genre appreciation; I never was interested if the movie starred Steven Seagal or Sylvester Stallone. I've seen Highlander (1986) with Christopher Lambert several times because my brother and his friends loved it. I loved Universal Soldier (1992) for some reason. One truly terrible movie that I used to enjoy with an old friend was Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) starring Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee. This actually happens in it...

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