Frankenweenie (2012)

FrankenweenieRelease Date: October 5, 2012Director: Tim BurtonStars (voices): Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin LandauRuntime: 87 min.

Tim Burton isn’t my favourite director, but he has a style about him that’s usually easy to appreciate. I haven’t seen many of his classics; but I can tell lately, his charm has been lacking in many of his films. That is most prominent in 2012’s incredibly dull “Dark Shadows”. Burton also released the animated flick “Frankenweenie”, which is actually pretty damn good.

Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.

“Frankenweenie” has a real old-school charm about it, that will satisfy families and, more so, fans of classic horror. It has some attractive messages depicting science isn’t only about the facts, one must have a love and passion for it for their experiment to work properly. It also brings about ideas of the thought of life and death. It also teaches that isn’t so bad to be different. Kids’ll want to bring back their pet if (s)he died, so this movie is sure to strike an emotional chord or two with animal lovers. This movie simply works, as a fun time and a smart spin of that classic “Frankenstein” story. The beginning’s slow, but once it gets to the half-way point and many colourful (well, black and white) characters join in on the “bringing animals back to the dead”, it becomes a true blast.

This is a memorable creature feature. There might be some aspects that won’t have me rushing back to it, but it’s charming to see a stop-animation like this, coupled with an old-school feel thanks to the black and white, and its tone. On second thought, I’d probably add this movie to my collection thanks to the second half alone, because it’s an blast that doesn’t feel lazy in the way it gets resolved. I’m glad I like one of Tim Burton’s animated movies. There are some laugh-out-loud moments in this screenplay and some phenomenal voice-work in here. The most notable voice-work is from Atticus Shaffer (TV’s “The Middle”) as the hunchbacked Edgar “E” Gore, and Martin Short, who is just basically using his own sincere voice for the majority; but he is able to have a true blast as the incredibly strange Nasser, one of the school students hell-bent on winning the science fair. All of the voice performers have fun in this family movie that isn’t always easy-watching for little tykes.

Score: 75/100

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Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: Peter Ramsey

Stars (voices): Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher

Runtime: 97 min

Tagline: Legends Unite.

Wait a minute, wait a minute! Who’s Jack Frost, again…? Is he that one guy that’s always nipping at everyone’s noses?

When a forgotten bogeyman from the Dark Ages called Pitch launches an assault of fear on earth, the Immortal Guardians are all called to fight off against him to maintain the innocence of children all over the world.

The beginning feels sort of like one student in high school is trying to write a report, but they’re having trouble organizing their thoughts. That being said, the beginning is an introduction to the characters which feels a bit disorganized. Though, after a small amount of time, it finds its pace and the story just gets better and better.
This is a great time of year to try to build up the spirits of children everywhere. This is brilliant because this time around, it is not all about Ole’ Saint Nicolas. Everyone gets their chance to shine in this. The Guardians are just great, and they give all the figures, that children believe in, the chance to show their flares.

There’s of course Santa Claus, but this time around he has a funky Russian-esque accent offered by the voicework of Alec Baldwin. He is pretty traditional looking, but he also seems pretty edgy because of his ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice’ tattoos on his forearms. He offers some insight onto who’s actually making the toys at the North Pole. Apparently, it’s a bunch of Yeti’s, they only make the pointy-hatted elves think they’re making the toys. Who knew?

There’s also the Easter Bunny. Hop was the last Easter-themed flick, but the Guardians‘ Bunny makes the little Easter Bunny from Hop look very ordinary. Here, Hugh Jackman offers some great voicework to this character, and in the process he makes him Australian. He’s a six foot-two Easter Bunny that has a sweet boomarang, that makes him feel like he just stepped out of a video game.

There’s the Tooth Fairy, voiced by the beautiful Isla Fisher, who’s a mix between human and hummingbird. There’s also the mute Sandman (who isn’t voiced by anyone, the studio dodged a bullet casting this guy) who communicates with symbols and funny gestures. There isn’t any explanation necessary on what these two do. Though, this next character, you might need a little introduction to him.

The new Guardian in town is the wayward Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine). No, not anything like a snowman or Martin Short’s version of him. All Jack wants to do is cause snow days and havoc, but he wants to have a little fun while doing it. He constantly wonders of his true destiny, and he is a character that knows what it feels like to be invisible. Another character that knows what it feels like to be ostracized and forgotten is the film’s main antagonist, Pitch Black (voiced by Jude Law).

Pitch is a jagged-toothed Bogeyman that wants to instill fear in the hearts of children everywhere. His main motivation of doing this is so he can teach the Immortal Guardians the feeling of loneliness and invisibility he has felt for hundreds of years. He wants to be the big guy on campus for once. Pitch’s main rivals are both Jack Frost and the Sandman. When Pitch steals Frost’s memory of a former life, Frost’s motivation is to retrieve this very valuable material. Frost is also on the fence about his destiny, and he relates to Pitch from time to time because he, too, knows what it feels like to be overlooked because of his juvenile behaviour. The main conflict between Sandy and Pitch is simple. The Sandman brings happy dreams to the children of the world, while Pitch brings dark nightmares. Sandy is obviously not very happy about this, and you won’t like him when he’s angry. However, these are not the only conflicts – the characters are all given their time to shine, so it never feels as if there is one primary character.

There was a concept that came to mind when both the characters of Pitch and Man on the Moon (the moon practically, it’s like God to the Guardians) were initially introduced. It brought to mind the concept of how Lucifer was cast out of Heaven by God, because he wanted to be the head honcho. A plot point that I attempted to predict is that Pitch may have once been a Guardian, but then he was cast down because he was turning evil. That’s just a thought that came to mind because of the good vs. evil forces.

The message is one of the finest in animated films this year: if you believe, it will overcome all fear. It’s greatly displayed in this family film.

Like Monsters, Inc. was with Pixar, this DreamWorks’ edgy children’s and family film. It’s a sort of strange concept that works pretty well. Pitch, the Bogeyman, is sometimes depicted so ominously, it might be a little too hard to handle for the smaller children. There is also some thematic material that can get quite dark. However, there is enough innocent humour to level it all out.

The 3D effects are sometimes gimmicky, but that’s okay. While it is sometimes gimmicky, there are also many cool effects that bring very inventive animation to life even more vibrantly.

Rise of the Guardians is a slightly flawed animated adventure that may have some deeply thematic material and action sequences that could be midly scary for small children. The main flaw is the beginning, because it feels disorganized – but it finds its pace soon enough. The story is wildly inventive, as are the alterations of the beloved Guardians. It’s a great thing to teach the kids this holiday season – don’t just believe in Santa Claus, believe in the other figures too, when their time of year comes around, at least.

80/100

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Release Date: June 8, 2012

Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon

Stars: Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: Six years ago, they disappeared without a trace. Next summer, they finally resurface

After Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman (David Schwimmer) get abandoned by the penguins and the monkeys, they have to find a way to get off the African island. They swim to Monte Carlo to reunite with them, so they can get a ride home. They run into the antagonist of the movie when their actions attract the attention of Animal Control. How does the king of the jungle, a zebra, a hippo, and a giraffe get around Europe without attracting attention? The answer: they bamboozle their way into a circus. The penguins buy the circus with their earnings from Monte Carlo, and the gang try to find a way home.

The message is pretty nice and the story is great; the characters they meet are great, too; but most of all, this feature is fun.

It’s the ultimate road trip film of all animated films. It’s really the longest detour to home of all films. This is the third film featuring the New York Zoo gang, but they still haven’t found their way home. The Madagascar trilogy isn’t a great one, but it’s a good one. It isn’t great because the first two features aren’t anything special. This is a series that has improved in quality each endeavour. That is quite rare for a trilogy (the only other that comes to mind is The Lord of the Rings), and that makes it admirable.

The new characters they meet along the way are quite great. The character of Vitaly (voiced by Bryan Cranston) is a reserved character with a grudge toward life and the circus, itself. Though, the mystery behind this towering tiger is sort of intriguing. The other character of Gia the jaguar (voiced by Jessica Chastain) is nice. The potential relationship between Alex and Gia at first feels forced, but then it gets a little charming. Lastly, the other new main character is the scene-stealing Stefano (voiced by Martin Short). Stefano is hilarious, and he’s my favourite sea lion, ever (sorry scary sea lion from Eight Below and any sea lions at Sea World, but you guys can’t talk and this guy can, so he wins). Sometimes, he’s funnier than the primary characters themselves.

The message is a little preachy. It’s all about having a passion and finding one’s homeland; home is where the heart is, apparently. They don’t water this one down. It’s way out there.

Sometimes, the filmmakers just don’t give enough focus on the primary characters of Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman. The supporting characters are so vast in numbers, they just make the story feel a little flooded. Though, they’re all screen stealers and they offer some jokes the feature – so I won’t complain that much. The biggest screen-stealers are, as expected, the penguins. They’re masterminds at work, and they could probably work for the penguin version of James Bond. They’re little penguin Q’s in the making! The other large screen-stealer, besides Stefano, is King Julien, Maurice and that little big-eyed lemur, Mort. That little dude just multiplies the cuteness factor by 1002. Maurice may not get a big part in this (he has about two or three lines of dialogue) but when they’re all together [Julien, Maurice, Mort] – they make one of the funniest scenes in the film, possible.

The main antagonist, Captain Chantel DuBois (Head of Monte Carlo Animal Control), is simply annoying and over-the-top. Whenever she comes onscreen, it may make the viewer quite exasperated. She plays out sort like a parody of Cruella DeVille. She is despicable like Cruella DeVille, but she isn’t nearly as good a villain. Also like DeVille, their motivations are, in a way, similar. DeVille wanted the dogs to make herself a fur coat, and DuBois wants the lion’s head to put on her wall. They both wants trophies of sorts. Anyway, back to DuBois. I realize that the film must have a main antagonist, but it’s just a tad ridiculous to think that she’d have the audacity to follow this lion to Rome and London, while she only has any real authority in Monte Carlo. A few more notes on her: Why is her butt on backwards? And what’s up with that when she sniffs and crawls on the ground? She’s like a psychic spider. Her portrayal makes the people of France seem like a very animated and despicable people, and it’s sort of just a smack in their face. I’m not sure how much those from France would appreciate this sort of humour.

Madagascar 3 is filled with so many scene-stealing characters, that at times, they feel like the primary focus instead of the intended four zoo animals. The message is quite preachy and the antagonist is very irritating, but this is still great animation. The experience it offers is fun, and at times it is very exciting. There’s great humour for children, and for the older audience, too. It’s a great installment to the series, but in all honesty, I hope it’s over. They should really end it on a good note.

70/100