Monday, 30 May 2011

Films 41 - 45: Animation Special

I cant help but feel I picked a really stupid point in my life to start doing this challenge. Don't get me wrong, I'm still enjoying it but I've taken it on at a time in my life when things are actually happening for me! I've opened my own shop, I've been published in a Graphic Novel known as '10thology', I have freelance work going on and along with my good friends Kris and Jim, am about to publish my first comic book! So obviously it doesnt leave me with much in the way of free time! I'm not complaining, not even a little bit but I always seem to have sucked with my timing...

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Anyway, with this set of films I didn't intentionally set out for it to be so specific as all animation. I started off with  the first film by accident as it was on tv and I hadn't seen it. I didn't plan it out. Then the second one I wanted to watch because of childhood nostalgia. I watched the third one and then found out it that there was a sequel to that one so made a point of watching that for number four... Then I intentionally went looking for an animated film I hadn't seen before that was sci-fi to fill the number five slot.

Here are the results!

41.) Monsters vs Aliens (2009) Dir: Rob Letterman & Conrad Vernon

Now I don't really remember seeing this promoted that much around the time it came out. Sure I was aware of it but it wasn't constantly rammed in my face like Toy Story 3 was. So I hadn't really ever gotten around to watching it despite occasionally seeing it for a fiver in Tescos. For this challenge I didn't even set out to watch this one, just stumbled across it on Sky one day and figured it would count. It had made that little an impact on me. I'm kinda sick to death of most animated features these days being done in CG too. Coming from a 2D animation background, that's my preference. I find that sometimes when they lipsync CG they don't get the emphasis or emotion that the voice actor is conveying expressed enough in the way they animate.
All that said though, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Certainly nothing groundbreaking about it and not really a particularly original idea but it was still pretty darn good.
White haired chick (pictured) is about to get married but due to some alien... mineral, ends up being turned into a giant chick (Make sure you're out of the country when she's having her period folks! I don't think they make tampons in her size and I don't see Noah with no Arc anywhere around...) and she's therefore classed as a monster (Watch out for her mood swings when she's having her... Oh wait... I can't make that joke twice.) and incarcerated with a handful of other monsters that the U.S government have deemed a danger to society.
Anyone else noticed how these things always seem to happen in America? It's never in Australia or Libya or anything like that. Always the States... Just saying.
Anyway it turns out the thing that made our heroine a giant is also something that the bad guy Alien also wants for himself to make himself all powerful. Which seems a bit redundant as he's already managed to wipe out all of his own planet without it. How much more power could you possibly need? It couldn't be a case of him wanting it to conquer Earth as he didn't even really know of the planet until he knew the source of power had landed there. But hey! It's a kids film so we can let it slide.
Of course then the Aliens come to Earth and the U.S Government tell the monsters that if they fight off the Aliens then they will be allowed to go free. Much hilarity ensues and the good guys win. That's cutting it short quite a bit but you get the idea and films like this are always predictable anyway. That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable though. The gags throughout are enough to keep it interesting and it must have done pretty well to merit having a Halloween special made of it. Which I would actually really like to see.
Rating 4/5

42.) Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie (2010) Dir: Martyn Pick

Y'know, I'm always baffled how you can take an established franchise with a rich story and history to back it, make it into a movie but completely, utterly, totally fuck it up.
I mean when I was growing up, I was a big fan of the Warhammer stuff and generally most Games Workshop games and I liked the ideas behind each reality they created but this film is absolute fucking gash. I wasn't expecting this film to be any good but a little part of me did hope that it would be better than the pile of hot, steaming shit it turned out to be.
This had quite the big cast! People lending their voices to the film include Terence Stamp, John Hurt and Sean Pertwee! So like I said, it had quite the big cast. what it didn't have was any kind of real storyline. Or decent animation.
When the Ultramarines are walking around, some of the walk cycles are pretty bad. They kinda look like they've been done by a student in his first year on an animation degree course. Which would be pretty good for the student, not so good for the industry pro. There was no real sense of weight in any of the movements and lip sync in the film... Just... well lets just say there was no sense of emotion in any of the figures. Everything about the facial expressions and lip movements just seemed rather dead or empty to me.
As for the story, Ultramarines have received a distress call from a squad of Iron Fist Marines that are guarding some sort of ancient chaos text. They get there, find all bar two of the marines dead and that they are under attack from Chaos Space Marines. Then they have to get off planet and the cycle of it all starts again. I think maybe the writers thought they were being clever with ending the film the same way it started.
They weren't.
Cue some actions scenes where, despite there being a lot going on, the uninteresting animation makes it seem devoid of any action and then get some really badly done demons in at the end. Boom! You have a Warhammer 40K movie.
The one thing I WILL say for this film though is that I think it's the first film I have seen in a very long while where a character that Sean Pertwee is playing didn't die. He seems to enjoy being killed off in everything he's in (He dies in: Event Horizon, Love, Honour and Obey, Dog Soldiers, Doomsday and Mutant Chronicles. are there any I'm missing?) so that was a refreshing change.
The only reason I'm not giving this film a zero is for some nostalgic love I have for the concept from my childhood. Seriously though, this is for die hard fans only and I think even THEY would struggle with this pile of wank. Avoid.
Rating 1/5

43.) Dead Space: Downfall (2008) Dir: Chuck Patton

Sooooo I've heard a lot of positive stuff about the Dead Space computer games. One of my friends, Paul, had told me while he was in the shop last Thursday getting tattooed, that it's one of the most terrifying, entertaining games he's played. I knew you could pick the games up for pretty cheap so I considered picking up the first one second hand but then he mentioned they had done a few animated films of it as well.
From what I gather, this film is a prequel to the first computer game. If I hadn't heard the reviews of the first computer game from magazines, internet sources and friends alike and only had this film to go on as what to expect from a Dead Space computer game? I think I would give the game a wide berth.
I know this is trying to set the scene but there's nothing even remotely terrifying about this film. It also tried too hard to pinch stuff from other science fiction films and doesn't pull it off any where near as well. A group or hardened soldier types taking on an alien threat? "Aliens" anyone? Some of the survivors of the alien attack going nuts and turning on crew members? Hell, too many films to name could fit in there. Lets go with "Event Horizon" to stick to the horror sci-fi genre though.
Humans find an alien artifact on a planet and decide to transport it for research but of course everything goes tits up and the crew mutate into freaky ass alien things that are more laughable than they are scary. I'm sure it's worse when you're playing the game because... well, quite frankly, they're probably rendered better for a start. It's one thing I will say for CG over 2D animation though, they can make something tenser or creepier (When the budget allows) within a scene because of the things they can do with lighting effects. But that's just my opinion.
The film ends with what I would assume is the start of the Dead Space computer game. I'd say this one is more for people who have already played the game and are fans for them to get a little bit more backstory but I think from the way it's been written here, they'd be disappointed. That in itself is nothing new really though. People loved the original "Star Wars" trilogy and always wanted to know more, about young Vader and how the Jedi were when they were in their prime... but they were only to be disappointed with the visual eyesore that was Lucas' prequel trilogy.
There was some severely bad storytelling in this too. At one point, the main character and one of her men are running from an alien horde and they get to some security doors. The main character tells her man to come with her and seal the doors behind them. He tells her they'll get through the doors in no time at all so she needs to carry on and he'll hold off the aliens. He seals her in the safe side with him to face the horde but the second the door shuts, you don't hear any gunfire at all, just the guy screaming. Then the main character falls against the door upset. You cant help but feel the dude just went and wasted his life completely unnecessarily! Particularly since they don't seem to get through the door straight after anyways!
Rating 1/5

44.) Dead Space: Aftermath (2011) Dir: Mike Disa

This film is somewhat better than its predecessor. I'm assuming that this one is set after the events of the second Dead Space game. Either that or it's set just before it.
A Government ship rescues four survivors from a spaceship that has been infected with an alien horde. How did it all go down on the ship though? Thats the basis of the film with each of the survivors being interviewed in turn and giving the full back story of events. Each time a different character gives their account of things, a different style of animation is used - in the sense that it's all drawn differently and with different styles. All 2D if memory serves but then when it comes back to the present, it's done with computer animation.
This is my main problem with this film to be honest. The CG models just look absolutely terrible (See above picture) and they almost look like something you would have expected on the Playstation one. Or again, maybe a student film. The woman in the pic above on the far right? She's supposed to be Asian!
There's also no sense of continuity between the styles in the flashbacks either. Designs are just too different. I know it's done to show that it's a different person telling the story but surely they would all still have the same idea of what their spacesuits and robotics would look like?! If my brother and I were separated from each other and put into two separate rooms and asked to describe a police officers uniform (Here in the UK) I've got a feeling that at the very least, the basics would match up. Not in this.
It just seems like a silly thing to do. If you read a comic book and in every panel the heroes comic kept changing, you would find it hard to focus on the story because of how all over the place the continuity is. That's what it felt like with this. Facial hair would change from one flashback to another, which might not sound like a big deal except that its the facial hair of one of the survivors! They've been with him all along! Same goes for the military uniforms. They all serve yet none of them seem to have pinned down an idea of what the military uniforms are supposed to look like. It just bugged me a little.
Over all with this film I kinda preferred it as it wasn't so over the top with the "in-your-face" monsters. But it still wasn't great. Again, this would appeal more to the fans of the games than anyone just wanting to watch an animated sci-fi flick.
Rating 2/5

45.) Planet 51 (2009) Dir: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad & Marcos Martinez

Don't try watching animated films for the first time when you've gotten home from a night drinking in the pub. You only end up putting it on the next day and having to watch it from the start again anyway... Silly boy.
This was another animated flick that seemed to totally escape the Dan Harris radar. I really have fallen out of the animated loop in recent years it would seem...
I quite liked this film though.
It's set on an alien planet that is in a very similar stage, appearance wise, as America was in the 50's (America again? *sigh*).  A visitor from outer space lands on their planet in a small (North American) town and turns out to be a human. He ends up being hunted by the native military and finds a friend in one of the locals who tried to help him get back off planet.
The human is voiced by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and I have to say I was thoroughly impressed with his abilities as a voice actor. You find some actors who are great on screen but just can't transfer very well to voice acting. The Rock was actually pretty good and may even be better in this than his live action roles. Although having said that, I have to say I do enjoy The Rock as an actor. I just find him a bit hammy when it comes to his role in the WWE is all...
One thing I did love with this film though is the Alien dog. Blatantly a homage (Or rip off if you like) to Gigers Alien design. It has the tongue instead of the jaw and it has the tail, lack of eyes and identical cranium. Brill.
I actually think I loved all of the design work in this film. I love the retro feel to the designs (I've looked at old 50's things in some of my own designs in the past.) and the simple, yet effective designs to the alien creatures. The character animation was nice and each character design matched the voice that went with it perfectly (If you want to see a film where it doesn't, watch "Final Fantasy: Spirits Within" - Gash.).
This film plays heavily on the old B-Movies of the 50's and is a good tribute to them. I was only going to give this film a 3 originally, but compared against some of the other films I've watched in this update, it deserves so much better and I don't honestly think I could say "Monsters vs Aliens" was better than this so...
Rating 4/5

There we go then folks! Another round of films done and the next bunch will take us all the way up to 50. If anyone reading this is currently doing the Animation course at the Atrium in Cardiff, I shall see you on Friday for drinks and much merryment. Come up and say hi.
Otherwise, as always, if you have an idea of a film you would like me to watch and slate... err... I mean review, then you can let me know by e-mailing me at or messaging me on Facebook, deviantART, or follow me on Twitter and receive updates when I've posted a new blog.
Now i'm going to try and avoid L.A Noire and get some sleep... I meant to go to bed ages ago as I haven't been feeling too clever today but I had to watch the absolutely incredible "Game of Thrones" before I wrote this and this has taken a fucking age in itself. 

Word to yo motha!

1 comment:

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