A genre that Netflix often struggles with is animation when it comes to films, every once and awhile you will get some really good ones like Klaus or The Sea Beast for example. But a lot of the time they really land on the forgettable territory.
I watched The Magician’s Elephant yesterday (at the time this was written) and I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly what happens, mainly due to just how forgettable it really was. The few good qualities come from the animation, which does have it’s issues with the human characters. But for everything else it’s smooth and is nicely done for the most part. The voice cast isn’t too bad, it’s clear everyone involved is trying their absolute hardest to make this work.
What really does this movie in is mostly in the writing department, there’s so much potential here that could be written thoughtfully and in a way that could even resonate with audiences. But unfortunately it’s written in the sort of way a lot of bad kid’s movies tend to be, focuses a bit too much on humor and relies on very bland character moments to tell a story. The movie really lacks the spark in it’s writing to get the audience engaged and ultimately leads down a forgettable path.
Would you believe if I told you that The Amazing Maurice was at the Sundance Film Festival? I didn’t see it at the festival mainly due to two things, one the movie looked horrible and two it was coming out very soon anyway. And I don’t think I needed bragging rights for The Amazing Maurice of all movies.
Anyway the movie itself is quite honestly about what you would expect, while it’s definitely not as bad as I thought it was going to be. As it does have some genuinely interesting ideas floating around, the rest of the movie is just more on the bland side. Perhaps the most baffling thing about it is Hugh Laurie voicing Maurice, there’s some unintentional funny moments that really make Laurie quite fitting for the role plus he honestly does not do a half bad job. He works with what he has with the script and actually makes the most of it, in fact the same applies quite well to the rest of the cast. Particularly David Thewlis as The Rat King.
The animation while not anything good could have been a lot worse, does it look like one of those mobile game ads you frequently see? Yes but here it’s not as bad or very obvious, as they do try to change it up at times and some darker tones or get creative with the animation.
Honestly what really hurts the movie mostly is the narration, the fourth-wall breaks and the writing, the movie attempts to be a bit darker which I guess makes sense since the movie is based off of a book that was a twist on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Pied Piper.” Which may seem a bit off putting to some since the movie sort of marketed itself as this cute cat movie, which I’m all for the movie being a bit darker. In fact that was the movie’s strongest elements by far, it’s just when they mixed with fourth-wall breaking jokes and some very forgettable writing it became sort of an identity crisis.
The fourth-wall jokes really don’t land and as said before really don’t match the tone that some of the movie is going for, the characters are just sort of there. None of them are particularly memorable outside of Maurice himself and The Rat King everyone else doesn’t get a whole lot to do.
Overall The Amazing Maurice is definitely not as bad as expected, there is definitely some level of wanting to make the movie itself work. But is dragged down from bland writing and unfunny fourth-wall breaking.
I know this is a common cliche to say in movie reviews of movies that had a lot of potential but I’m going to ask it anyway…what happened here? I will say the animation is very colorful and has a lot of detail to it plus I really liked Ethan (voiced by Jaboukie Young-White) as well as the rest of the cast. They all give pretty solid voice work that adds to their characters quite well, even if some of the characters aren’t exactly that well written. Which is when the problems start to occur…the writing, what you have here is a pretty strong cast that unfortunately has to work with a very lackluster script that really doesn’t offer anything new to the table. A lot of this is a very basic Sci-Fi story of a group of people who get stuck on a planet, there’s some nice representation here (at least when you compare it to Disney’s other films) but that doesn’t help the movie all that much. Ethan is a great character that’s surrounded by a very bland movie that unfortunately doesn’t take the opportunity to explore the movie’s themes, there’s a few scenes that dance around the movie’s themes but don’t flat out want to tell them. Having that said I do think there’s some cute father and son bonding moments here that are effective and are by far some of the highlights of the movie. Strange World is just one of those Disney films that sort of exists, it’s not particularly bad but it’s a very forgettable and uninspired movie that could have absolutely been great had the writing been far better.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio was a project that I have been following for a very long time now, Del Toro is one of my favorite filmmakers ever and hearing him take on Pinocchio is just a match made in heaven. Let’s start out with the obvious…the stop motion animation, it’s absolutely gorgeous in every single way possible. There’s so much detail to the backgrounds, the characters facial expressions that really tell the story even with the more quite moments they don’t need to say any words to tell the viewer how they feel at all. There’s truly this magical aspect to the stop motion animation that’s both gorgeously dark yet filled to the brim with heart. That’s a huge running theme about Pinocchio it’s a beautifully dark film with a lot of heart that’s main theme is life itself. The film takes place during fascist Italy during the interwar period and World War II which it makes that clear in the beginning with a very sad but truly powerful scene that David Bradley absolutely masters, speaking of which the voice cast is truly brilliant here Gregory Mann, David Bradley and Ewan McGregor give some of the best performances of the year, they each bring so much heart into the film that just moves you to tears. There’s so many scenes here that truly have a human feel to them Tilda Swinton who plays The Wood Spirit has some of the best scenes of the film, her interactions with Pinocchio are truly thought provoking and really make the whole film’s theme about life that much more interesting. There’s so many moments that truly move the viewer to tears, there’s this element of wanting to be belonged that I’m sure many people have felt at some point in their life. Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Gustafson truly reflects this with their direction, they create a very spiritual fairytale yet at the same time create something very human like with a lot of very real themes that a lot of people tend to think about.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is available on Netflix.
A Puss In Boots sequel was always in talks heck it started being planned out all the way back in 2012, one year after the first film came out which was a pretty solid movie. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish could have easily been a cheap cash grab but luckily that is certainly not the case here, first off the cast is incredibly strong here. Antonio Banderas still knocks it out of the park when voicing Puss In Boots and quite honestly this might be the best the character has ever been, we get some more development on the character some surprisingly emotional bits and the personality we all know and love. Florence Pugh and Olivia Colman are incredibly fun here as well, Florence Pugh plays Goldilocks while Olivia Colman plays Mama Bear. Their voices really push the characters into the entertainment territory where you can’t help but smile at the bond they share, Wagner Moura plays Big Bad Wolf or Death and he’s actually quite intimidating, sure he shows up every now and then but when he does he truly means business. The animation is actually quite different this time around, much like The Bad Guys which came out earlier this year, a lot of the inspiration of the film’s animation style came from Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. What they wanted to do here is make the film look more like a storybook and a fairytale land which I definitely think they completely nailed. There’s a lot of style to the film that really is very appealing to the eye particularly the action scenes that are quite some of the most beautifully done action scenes of the year, there’s so much detail to the characters and what’s going on in the background it’s truly fantastic. The humor is actually pretty hilarious too, while not every single joke lands a lot of it is genuinely hilarious, the emotional and character moment bits are by far the most surprising. They really pour a lot of attention to some of the characters and really make them lovable, the film really has that spirit of one of those films you saw as a kid and you would discuss with your friends or parents who your favorite characters were. That’s something I think some films have been missing in the last few years so it’s truly special to see that type of feeling back again. Overall Puss In Boots: The Last Wish is very well crafted and has so much heart in it, I absolutely recommend checking this one out when it releases in a couple weeks.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish releases December 21st in theaters.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is the second of the animated Diary Of A Wimpy Kid movies and much like last years animated installment it lacks the charm of the live action trilogy (once again we don’t talk about The Long Haul). In fact somehow Rodrick Rules ends up being worse than the last one that came out last year, the only positive is Ed Asner this is one of his final performances and he did manage to get a chuckle out of me. But good lord they cut so much out of the book and the live action adaption, I get they wanted to focus on the bond between Greg and Rodrick but the live action movie managed to do that just fine with other very entertaining scenes as well. The animation is very ugly combined with very phoned in voice acting (outside of Ed Asner) the movie completely falls flat almost immediately after starting, Rodrick Rules is actually longer than the first movie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid being 58 minutes and Rodrick Rules being 1 hour and 14 minutes. However the longer time does not help the movie, in fact it makes a lot of the flaws much more noticeable particularly the animation that is just very lifeless. There’s no charm here and really fails to capture the entertainment value of the books, overall Rodrick Rules is basically a retread of the live action movie except with a lot of scenes cut and lacking both in charm and entertainment.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is available on Disney+
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol is exactly what you expect it to be, it’s basically yet another take on the classic story by Charles Dickens. And it pretty much plays out all of the events of the story you expect to, only this one is a musical. The songs are surprisingly very charming and are by far some of the best parts of the movie, there’s a ton of energy to them and the singing voices are quite great as well, unfortunately what does bog the movie down is the character designs. Which really looks like those mobile game ads you commonly see, the three ghosts are exempt from this which they actually have some pretty neat designs and are voice very well! Olivia Colman voices Ghost of Christmas Past while Trevor Dion Nicholas voices Ghost of Christmas Present, both do a really solid job and bring so much charm to their roles, plus the two are actually pretty funny. Luke Evans as Scrooge is fine enough, he gets the job done but it’s nothing really to write home about. As I said before the story plays out exactly how you expect it to and if you can past the character designs you will find a genuinely fun movie here. It’s probably not something that you will ever revisit but for what it is it’s not half bad.
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol is available on Netflix.
A Hollywood Christmas is HBO Max Christmas movie number four (not even halfway through December yet). This is not as bad as expected but good lord is this the definition of bland, it’s essentially about a movie director who wants to make a Christmas movie and wants to keep the Christmas formula until some network executive threatens to halt production. The premise itself actually leads to a couple moments that got a laugh out of me and I’ll give the movie credit it actually tried to use it’s premise in a interesting way. Well at least at first…it slowly but surely starts to evolve into the bad Christmas type of movie we all know and it does very little to recover. The writing is very forgettable, the characters aren’t anything to write home about and the rest of the movie is sort of a mess. A Hollywood Christmas isn’t offensive or anything, it’s just another very forgettable Christmas movie that after the credits roll you won’t ever come back to.
While My Father’s Dragon might not be up to par with some of Cartoon Saloon’s other films such as Breadwinner, Song Of The Sea or Wolfwalkers. There is still the imagination and charm here that was present in the other movies. Despite being based on the 1948 children’s book of the same name, there is still tons of imagination here mostly through the animation that really gives a lot of scenes a chance to pop out to the viewer. Jacob Tremblay and Gaten Matarazzo are both very solid here and give plenty of strong moments that really make the film stand, the friendship between Elmer (Tremblay) and Boris The Dragon (Matarazzo) is genuinely sweet even when they fully like each other at first. The main criticism mostly stems from the other characters and the third act, the other characters don’t really get a whole lot to do unfortunately. There was some interesting parts with the mother that I thought the movie was going to elaborate on but unfortunately never got around doing that. The rest of the characters are just kind of there for the purpose to move the story forward, the third act goes exactly how you would expect it to and really doesn’t offer anything that hasn’t been done many times before. But luckily the charm is still there and as I said before the imagination is still creative, there’s plenty of cute moments that kids will definitely love.
It’s both confusing and frustrating how poorly the advertising for Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm really is. You would think one of Adult Swim’s biggest names The Aqua Teen Hunger Force would get so much more respect than this instead it was very quietly put on to VOD platforms. Which is ridiculous because much like Beavis and Butthead and The Bobs Burgers Movie from earlier this year Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm captures a lot of what made the other show so great and entertaining. The movie does have a bit of a rough start with the beginning but once the film starts to kick it in with the classic humor and character interactions it’s smooth sailing from there. The characters of Frylock, Master Shake, Meatwad and Carl are just as hilarious and cleverly written as they were in the series, the bizarre nature of the interactions of the characters are still present, heck the movie still does a really solid job with the characters even when they aren’t all together. There’s a lot of well written jokes that are genuinely funny and actually some of the best fourth wall breaking jokes I’ve seen in a film in quite awhile, there’s a huge amount of charm that went into this film. It compliments the show’s bizarre nature very well and stays true to the characters. Overall Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm is a blast of fun, this is definitely something that fans will absolute enjoy!
Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm is available on all VOD platforms.
Henry Selick (director of Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline and James and The Giant Peach) is back in the directors chair and it’s such a beautiful sight to see. Wendell & Wild is such a creative film that has a lot more to it than you would expect. The movie has a lot of commentary on capitalism and the prison system and it establishes that quite quickly, a private prison company known as Klaxton Korp has taken over a town and the viewer can tell how damaged and lost the town is due to the clever use of color. Speaking of which the animation is truly beautiful, it’s great to see stop-motion animation still kicking as it’s a genre of animation that is truly creative in every single way possible. There’s so much atmosphere and color to the film that it really makes the film it’s own character, speaking of which the characters are truly well written. Wendell and Wild are truly fun characters with a huge amount of depth to them as well being humorous, Wendell is played by Keegan-Michael Key and Wild is played by Jordan Peele. The film is just another reminder of how well the two work together, their comedic timing is truly unstoppable and when the two want to display serious moments they will definitely display some very strong ones. The protagonist Kat played by Lyric Ross is truly fantastic, the depth to her character goes a very long way. Including some flashbacks and her strong desire of wanting to see her parents again, the cherry on top is the Raúl Cocolotl a character who is trans played by Sam Zelaya. Raul is such a very well written character that adds to the overall film especially the bond between Raul and Kat which develops over time. Wendell & Wild is truly a bold film that really hits it out of the park with it’s themes, characters, character development and atmosphere. This is a film that will definitely go on to be a classic during Halloween time for years to come.