“Extinguished” (2017)

This animated short film exists in a universe where love is represented by a flame in your chest, and our main character tries to hide the flame that’s ignited when his neighbor’s…granddaughter I guess…comes for a visit. It’s actually an incredibly similar premise to In a Heartbeat, except it’s a straight adult instead of a gay boy, and it’s a flame in the chest, instead of an actual heart (and given they were both made at the same college, and released on the internet within a week of each other, that can’t be a coincidence). Anyway, this short is passable. The premise isn’t anything all that special, but it’s overall just fine. There are some decent moments. The animation is good, although it definitely pales in comparison to In a Heartbeat’s animation, and there are moments where the animation just looks off. Overall, this isn’t a bad way to spend 4 minutes, and it has cute moments, but it won’t have much lasting effect.

Rating: 3/5

“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” (2012-13)

Based on Frank Miller’s iconic comic of the same name, this animated film (it was split into two parts, but I consider this one movie) is a fine adaptation, but it can’t help but pale in comparison to its source material. Part of the issue is that this film does very little to adapt to its new medium. The pacing is very disjointed, often because scenes are lifted directly from the text, and the pacing of this story flows so much better in comic form, then in movie format. Also, some of the issues I have with the original story are brought over as well, namely that the plot feels kind of all over the place. With all that being said though, I do find this to be a good film. The animation is good, the film strikes an emotional poignancy, the action’s intense, the characters are well written, and there’s just something so satisfying and refreshing in seeing a traditionally animated PG-13 film. It won’t be as remembered and beloved as the original comic, but as an adaptation, it gets the job done.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Spring Breakers” (2012)

For as tenuous, and as divisive as this film is, I think you have to give this film credit; it takes a crapton of risks. But of course, there’s a cost to having a number of high risks; namely that if you do too many, you’re bound to have some that don’t work. The film’s style is so unorthodox and flashy, that I think it’s easy to say there is no other film quite like it. The performances of James Franco and Selena Gomez are excellent. It definitely captures a raw and unpleasant atmosphere that makes this film almost repulsive and hypnotizing simultaneously. Still, there are problems here, and they’re not minor. Out of the four lead girls, I found only one of them to be distinct, the film has way too many fan-service type party shots that really don’t seem to serve any narrative purpose whatsoever, and the film’s ending doesn’t quite stick the landing like it should. This just so happens to be one of those films that you could give any rating, and I could completely understand. Did it deserve all the controversy that got thrown its way? I don’t think so. I guess the only thing I can say is if this looks at all interesting to you, it is worth checking out, but if it doesn’t, then there’s nothing in here that will change your mind. So basically, just go with whatever your first gut instinct is telling you.

Rating: 3/5

“The Kid Who Would Be King” (2019)

This was an unexpected surprise, and a real breath of fresh air for family films. This clever and entertaining medieval adventure film set in modern times, is quite a rarity, in that this is a semi-high budget film aimed at children that’s also not based on a preexisting property. And of course, for its trouble, it was practically ignored and become a massive box office bomb. That is a terrible shame, because if people had been willing to give it a chance, I think they would’ve really had a blast. This is a family film that is equally entertaining for both kids and adults, as well as being a genuinely empowering story for children without talking down to them. The film is well acted (Angus Imrie in particular does genuinely fantastic work as a Young Merlin), is well plotted, has good characters, and is exciting. It’s pretty much exactly how you would want a good old fashioned adventure film to play out. Is it perfect? No. The film’s pacing could’ve been tightened in some places, it does sometimes rely a bit too much on clichés, and I feel like the ending could’ve been expanded on. But still, this is a kid’s film with energy, passion, and creativity. It’s just a fun experience, and it’s a film I would’ve adored as a kid. I wish more movies like this would be made. But its box office receipts unfortunately mean that’s not very likely anytime soon.

Rating: 4/5

“The Place We Go to Hide” (2014)

This short film’s idea of two sleepwalkers falling in love in their dreams, while not being aware of each other’s existence in the real world, is such a novel and majestic concept, almost like something straight out of a fairy tale. And this short film mostly takes advantage of it. The film makes great use of imagery to tell the story visually; most striking is the intelligent decision to portray the dream world as being bright, colorful and vibrant, but the real world to be dull and grey. And film absolutely nails that almost nonsensical, and otherworldly feel that dreams often have. And the two main leads have wonderful chemistry. The main issue I had, is that I wish the film’s plot had been more developed. Instead of just showing us one dream like the film does, it could’ve shown the audience the multiple times this has happened to them, in order to make the contrast between their dull monotonous routine, and their vivacious dreams much clearer. I wanted more. I wanted more of them. I wanted more creative imagery. But at the end of the day, that’s not a bad complaint to have at all. This is a really good, and almost magical little short from writer/director Zawe Ashton. She hasn’t directed anything else since, and it’s been 5 years. Hopefully she gets the opportunity to direct something new, because this short film makes it clear that she has talent.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Hedgehog in the Fog” (1975)

I’ve always had a soft spot for animated shorts in which every single frame looks like it could be freeze framed and hung in an art museum. This one, of course, is no different. The animation in this is somehow both crude and beautiful at the same time, creating a style that’s wholly its own, and without coming across as showy. On top of that, the short’s eerie and mystical atmosphere makes this experience one-of-a-kind. It may not be deep or complex, given it is a relatively simplistic premise, but the film’s incredible presentation and style means this is a gripping, beautiful short that will stick with you long after it’s over.

Rating: 5/5

“Disobedience” (2017)

All the pieces are in place for this to be a great, compelling film; a great cast, a familiar plot with potential, and interesting themes and concepts to explore. But, they just never come together. The film takes its time with its pacing, clearly going for a mature feel. But the film is exploring concepts about homosexuality that have been done before; there’s nothing really all that new added here, it’s all very surface level. As such, the slower, more thoughtful pacing, feels wasted. And if you’re going to tell a story that’s been done to death, you need to make sure that there’s something else in here that can draw the audience in. But the film’s direction is standard, the characterizations are standard, the writing thinks it’s more complex than it really is, the acting, while certainly fine, isn’t anything fantastic, and the chemistry between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams is spotty (although there certainly are moments where their chemistry sizzles). Also, a decision made by one of the main characters near the end of the film just seems kind of out-of-character, abrupt, and wish-fulfillmenty. The result is a film that’s completely competent in every way, but is also utterly forgettable.

Rating: 2.5/5

“The Box” (1967)

While this is a cute, mostly entertaining little short, I fail to understand why exactly this short was worthy of an Academy Award. The animation is very 1960s (I don’t really have any other way to describe it), and the plot is very simple and straightforward, with an actually decent twist at the end. Also, the pacing is kind of disjointed, as it takes a little bit too long to establish the premise. It’s decent, and highly watchable, but it’s not something that you’ll keep coming back to either.

Rating: 3.5/5

“I Love You, Man” (2009)

This movie has the look and feel of a romantic comedy, although the film’s focus isn’t on the relationship between a man and his fiancé, but rather him and his new best friend. It’s a unique concept, exploring a bromance under a rom-com lens, and it provides a refreshing twist on a rather trite and formulaic genre. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Paul Rudd and Jason Segal have good chemistry. And while the writing isn’t as fresh as it could’ve been, this is a decently made film. There are a lot of funny moments, and these characters don’t feel like archetypes. Still, because this film is essentially applying rom-com tropes to a male friendship, this does mean the film doesn’t deviate far from the typical formula (the film’s third act is unfortunately very predictable). If the film had been more willing to take risks with its premise, or maybe if it had just gone through one more solid rewrite, this could’ve been something truly fantastic. But as is, this is a good, funny comedy that is worthy of your time.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Norm of the North: King Sized Adventure” (2019)

I would like to remind you all that legendary director Richard Williams spent 30 years of his life painstakingly trying to get an artsy, beautiful looking animated film made, only to have it taken from him and completely butchered by execs, and the original version as Williams intended it to be seen has yet to be released. And yet we live in a world where not only does Norm of the North exist, but it somehow managed to spawn two sequels within three years. That’s literally all I could think of while watching the third film in this disaster of a series; how there are so many amazing and creative animated films that we could’ve gotten, but we’ll never get to see, and yet trash like this exists. If I could use one word to describe this film, it would be “tedious.” This is one of the most tedious and boring films I’ve ever seen in my life. The film’s plot is incredibly straightforward, but it moves at such a sluggish pace. It painfully stretches a cliché 22-minute long animated TV episode to a near torturous feature length running time. The script is a disaster, as the film goes on and on and on about the message of the importance of keeping your word, and finds itself home to completely asinine dialogue, and ludicrous plot developments. I don’t know how these films keep getting worse, but hey, I’m sure the fourth film will find a way.

Rating: 0.5/5