Pinocchio’s Christmas Review


It’s time to look at a fresh take on Pinocchio. This one is by the Rankin/Bass guys and doubles as both an origin as well as a Christmas special. It’s an interesting version for sure, but it’s fairly short and once again this feels like it ends too soon. I also think the film didn’t work hard enough to make Pinocchio a sympathetic character and by the end you’ll be left unsatisfied with the whole thing.

The film starts with Geppetto looking to get Pinocchio a present. He decides to get the one thing he’s sure the kid always wanted, an arithmetic book. From the start you can tell that Geppetto means well but he is seriously out of touch. Pinocchio immediately sells the book and looks to buy something for his old friend. That’s when his other friends Fox and Cat show up. They tell Pinocchio about magical seeds he can buy. After suckering Pinocchio out of his money he becomes desperate for more options. He joins a travelling circus and even gets kidnapped at one point. What’s a puppet to do?

The problem with Pinocchio is that he’s never particularly sorry about what he does. The lies come very naturally to him here, even more than in other versions. Of course by the end he basically gets over his lying ways, but it took a lot of effort. He even chased out Jiminy cricket early on. Also, Pinocchio is extremely gullible in this version. Fox and Cat trick him numerous times yet he somehow doesn’t ever find out that they aren’t his friends. You’d think that after a while he would put the pieces together, but it would seem that he is simply too trusting. It becomes annoying by the end though as you’d like those characters to have met some kind of justice.

Geppetto also doesn’t look good here. When Pinocchio is lost he starts looking around town, but can’t even recognize Pinocchio through a simple disguise. So much for their strong bond right? He is very old so I guess his eyesight is going a bit, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that he should still be able to do a little better than this. Cat makes for a terrible villain with how she keeps sabotaging Fox, but Fox was reasonable. I think the voice actor had a lot of fun with this role. He was pretty over the top but in an intentional way that just worked well. If you gotta have a villain to mess with Pinocchio, you want someone like this.

As always, I do have to say that the animation style isn’t quite my thing. It’s not terrible but not as smooth as the traditional hand drawn animation we’ve all come to love. I’m also pretty mixed on Pinocchio’s design. It just doesn’t look right as I’m so used to the old one. It’s not a bad design though, it’ll just take some time getting used to it and the special isn’t really long enough for that to happen. There isn’t much of a soundtrack, but the writing is decent. Nothing special, but nothing bad. It’s just around.

Overall, Pinocchio’s Christmas is a decent special, but I wouldn’t call it the most interesting or enjoyable. It’s not a bad time and I don’t think you’ll regret the 40 minutes it took to watch this one, but it just feels bland. The writers grabbed the story of Pinocchio but didn’t actually do anything with it. Switch around the characters with other iconic figures and the plot really wouldn’t change almost at all. That’s always a bad sign. Still, if you want to watch some adventures it’s a reasonable flick to check out. Otherwise, I’d stick to the classic tale. At least in the full movie him turning into a donkey was pure hype.

Overall 5/10

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Isle of Dogs Review


It’s time to look at the Isle of Dogs. This film looked worrisome from the get go for a plethora of reasons, but the main 2 were the stop motion animation (The worst form of animation) and the fact that it revolves around dogs. Unfortunately the film goes above and beyond what I had thought it would do and turns out to be one of the worst films out there. Brace yourself because this film is brutal!

So, the film takes place in the future and dogs have all been found to be dangerous since they are contaminated with a disease. The government banishes the dogs to a lonely island where they will all end up dying. One kid heads there to find his lost dog, but this will be a difficult quest. There are robot dogs after him to ensure there are no survivors and we also have an election going on in the background. Can the kid find his dog?

The film was doomed early on as there is a ton of animal violence. I can’t think of the last time I saw this amount of dog violence in one film. It’s almost constant as they get bit, die, and undergo a lot of injuries. While the bulk of them are on screen the film also makes sure to remind you on many occasions that they’ve also already had many more injuries. The film tries to be very dark and gritty throughout its run. The movie succeeds on this, but of course that isn’t a good thing.

Not only do we get all of this happening, but the stop motion intentionally makes all of the characters look disfigured and bruised as much as possible. It’s to the point where it’ll be hard to look at the screen for most of the characters since they just look so messed up. This is the case for about 90% of the film so it’s not like it was just a quick scene or two. The injuries stay on the characters continuously in part thanks to the fact that the stop motion is keeping the same character models for so long. You’ll be cringing for the entire movie, just not in the usual cringe like when a character says something painful. It’s just because you can’t bear to see what’s happening.

Usually stop motion films can be fun for the very rapid fire styled dialogue where the characters go on and on with burns and comebacks. There is less of a chance for that here because of how seriously the film tries to present itself. There is never a chance for happy conversations like that. The cast of characters is also pretty bad. The main kid is just a nuisance the whole time as he tries to assume command of Duke when he should be worrying about getting off the island alive. He wastes time going on rides and playing fetch and generally acting like he doesn’t have a clue. The kid’s a terrible character and just not very smart to the extreme.

I don’t need to go into much detail on the animation since I already expressed that it wasn’t very good, but the main reason behind that is that it’s always very choppy. The scenes quickly jump around and there’s no time for any real detail. The film just makes everything look grotesque, but as a result there naturally aren’t any good visuals to be enjoyed. The soundtrack was all right I suppose. I can’t really fault the film in this area since it wasn’t bad. The music would work well in a better film since some of the tunes had potential. It’s nothing to write home about, but it worked well enough.

Aside from all of the dogs running around we had the political subplot as I mentioned. That plot is dreadfully slow and most of the scenes are just about the American transfer student trying to show everyone that the mayor is corrupt. The problem is that nobody really seems to care and her plans don’t go anywhere until the kid and the dogs actually appear. Otherwise all of her efforts would have been futile so her plot really didn’t end up amounting to anything.

I also have to say that keeping the languages untranslated was a terrible decision as well. You could have characters talking for whole minutes and you can’t understand any of it. It’s pretty obvious what they’re saying but it ends up being a waste of run time if you ask me. The film could have used that extra time to do anything else. It’s just a design choice that I think really didn’t work and just added to the list of woes for the film.

If I had to choose a best character it would be the Chief since he was pretty tough. It’s a shame that by the end he was forced to be more tame though and ends up going through a rather predictable character arc. The other dogs were good enough even if their resolve wasn’t quite as good. The villains are fairly generic and just evil for kicks. The last minute change of heart wasn’t all that believable so you were still ready for them to go to prison.

Finally, the film is also too long. It’s a little over an hour and a half with very slow pacing. It feels like nothing much really happens in this film. Most of it is the kid traveling with the dogs until they ultimately arrive at their destination. Any time you may try to get invested in the film you will be knocked back out by a dog scene. It’s impressive that the film got so many big names into it, but that’s not enough to actually earn the movie any consolation points. I’m afraid that it’s all over for this film.

Overall, Isle of Dogs is definitely a film that you will want to give a hard pass. Whatever message is was going for ends up getting completely lost among all of the senseless violence and cringe character injuries. I don’t think the film ever had much potential with its general plot though and if it wanted to be good it would have needed an entirely different story. I can say with confidence that this is always a really bad sign. Perhaps better animation could have helped as well, but not enough to really matter. I’d highly recommend watching a film like Air Bud instead.

Overall 0/10

Kubo and The Two Strings Review

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It’s time for another 2016 film to add to my list. I feel pretty modern after having watched so many of the recent hits. Kubo’s the first stop motion film that I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s still not my favorite style to say the least, but I do think that the film pushed the style as far as it could. The battles scenes are certainly the best that I’ve seen and this one definitely takes the crown as the best film of its kind. Prepare for a rather quick beginning as the best character takes the stage.

The film starts off with Sariatu fleeing from the villains, but her son Kubo’s eye is still taken. Kubo’s grandfather wants the other eye for certain reasons and Sariatu is determined not to let him get it. For years, the two of them hide in a cave in a fairly isolated area and Kubo grows up while knowing just one rule- Never stay outside past nightfall. If he ever does this, the villains will spot him and they will come to take him down for good. Kubo obeys this rule for a few years as he goes outside to entertain the inhabitants with his telepathic paper abilities, but one day he takes a little too long. He made a detour to engage in the paper lantern ritual and the villains find him.

The villains in particular are the two Aunts. They are the highlights of the film and their entrance is amazing. Their designs are easily the scariest in the film and I’d also say that they are the strongest villainss. Sariatu is basically said to be stronger than them, but they have the numbers advantage and Sariatu was seriously injured during her big fall in the intro. After the villains make their move and take Sariatu out, Kubo must now find the legendary items from his story in real life. Once he has assembled the invincible armor, he can defeat his Grandfather…the Moon King!

As I mentioned, the film starts off really quickly. It can be a double edged sword when you use up what could be the best scene in the film so quickly, but it is a surefire way to engage the audience. I knew that the Aunts would be my favorite character once they showed up and started taking names. Kubo was completely outmatched and the visuals for this really captured the intimidating aura that the villains wielded. The Aunt also returned for a second fight scene, which is the other contender for best scene in the film. She easily holds her own against Beetle, Monkey, and Kubo all teaming up. Her skills are certainly formidable and it’s a shame that she could not have appeared more. Her presence was definitely felt throughout the film though.

I was surprised at the fight scenes in general because I really wasn’t expecting all that much. Coraline and Nine are really the only other big stop motion films that I’ve seen, but neither of them really had fight scenes because it’s hard to do in this style. At the very least, you wouldn’t expect hand to hand fights with energy effects, but this one pulled it off. Whenever an energy blast or energy attack would appear, the animation could really shine. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but I imagine that they add CGI on top of the animation or use an advanced form of Movie Maker to throw the effects on top of what they filmed. Regardless, I’d say that it worked very smoothly and it definitely did help to amp up the experience.

The second half does slow down a bit compared to the beginning. After seeing the two Aunts, it’s hard to go back to trekking through the areas and fighting large monsters. I’ll admit that I was a little dismayed when the Moon King decided to shed his really cool human form in favor of that of a giant monster. It was instantly a downgrade and of course Kubo was able to slice and dice him. The Moon King should have had more confidence in his own abilities. It never gets all that slow though as every major part still adds in an action scene. The opening had the first Aunt moment, the middle had the rematch, and the ending had the battle against The Moon King. Overall I’d say that the pacing is pretty good.

Kubo is a good main character. It may have been a bit naive of him to stay out so late after all of the warnings, but maybe he was just ready for a status quo change. He certainly got that if this was the case. He acted like an ingrate for a while after meeting up with the Monkey, but eventually he got better. I also don’t totally blame him since the Monkey was being pretty mean for no reason towards the beginning. When the going got tough, Kubo took out his sword and steeled himself for battle. I’d definitely say that he did pretty good. He’s not as charismatic as the lead from Zootopia, but I’ll take him over Dory.

Sariatu is certainly strong and probably one of the stronger mothers from recent films. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get to see her fight more while at full power since she was evidently powerful. I didn’t totally get her long coma like appearances though. Especially given her later scenes and twists. I guess the injury was so bad that she had to go into those meditation esque moments, but it still felt rather odd. Certainly not her fault though and I’d say that she was the best hero.

The Monkey was a little on the annoying side. She talked tough and kept all of the vague answers to herself, but there wasn’t really much of a reason behind this. The Monkey gets a twist which actually makes the whole thing worse. Honestly, I think that the film shouldn’t have added the plot twist in. Not only does it not make any sense, but it makes all of the Monkey’s scenes out of character. The Monkey’s a good fighter though so she’s got that on her side.

Beetle barely needs any introduction as he is easily the absolute worst character in the game. It’s hard to emphasize just how bad this guy is. He’s the token comic relief character, but isn’t handled well at all and the plot twist just makes it even worse. The twist also hurts another character which is unfortunate. I just don’t know how the Beetle ended up being so bad. He can barely fight at all and he’s just annoying the whole time. He’s the kind of guy who feels like he’s always flirting and doesn’t really know boundaries so he just goes around annoying everyone. I grew tired of him minutes after he first showed up. He’s the only really bad character in the film so I was glad that he missed a lot of the first half.

Finally, we have the Moon King. He made for a pretty good main villain even if he made the risky move of turning into a giant monster. I definitely don’t recommend trying something like that when you go up against a serious main character. His motivations were a little strange. He wanted the eye so Kubo would join him in the afterlife and become a god of sorts, but in the opening scenes it seemed like he just wanted the eyes so he could see again. Is it just a coincidence that he had one eye when he first showed up? I figured that he had stolen Kubo’s so he could see again. Regardless, he was interesting and certainly strong. The scene where he just walks through the sword stab was definitely pretty hype and was sort of like a Superman moment.

Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a film that I definitely recommend. It has more action than you would expect and that’s always a big plus for me. It may not be the best animated feature of 2016, but from the theater ones that I’ve reviewed, it’s easily the most epic. I don’t recall any of the others having large scale mystical fights in the dead of night against denizens of evil after all. I want to see more action animated films in theaters so hopefully this one can pave the way for that.

Overall 7/10