You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘★★’ category.

Director: Tomer Eshed
Release date:
June 23, 2011
Rating:
 
★★
Review:

‘Flamingo Pride’ tells about a flamingo who’s apparently the only straight guy at an enormous gay dance festival. Then he falls in love with a female stork flying by…

‘Flamingo Pride’ turns the tables around, making being straight the minority. That is, in the flamingo community, because outside their own festival all birds seem to be straight and having classic role patterns.

It’s not very clear what the film tries to tell us. For starters it is a bit confusing that apparently all flamingos are gay, and none of the other birds is. Moreover, the gay flamingos pretty much look like gay stereotypes. None of them, not even ‘our hero’ has a grain of personality.

At least the film isn’t as funny as it was meant to be. The short is hampered by some ugly designs (the flamingos have teeth, for example), and odd camera movements, which distract from instead of enhance the main protagonist’s emotions. More problematical was that I couldn’t quite follow its story: the role of the two tigers is puzzling, as is the flamingo’s subsequent move.

I’m afraid I find ‘Flamingo Pride’ to be a rather immature and mediocre animation film about sex with some unwelcome gay stereotyping.

Watch ‘Flamingo Pride’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Flamingo Pride’ is available on The Animation Show of Shows DVD Box Set 8

Director: Carlos Saldanha
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Rating: ★★
Review:

I will get down to business at once: I didn’t like this movie. It’s not so easy to pinpoint what’s wrong with it, though, and clearly most people rank this film higher than I do (it gets a pretty solid 6,9 on IMDb for example), but I’ll try to unravel what I think is wrong with this picture.

‘Rio’ tells about Blu, a blue macaw who by chance ends up with little girl Linda in Moose Lake, Minnesota (Wikipedia says Blu is a Spix’s Macaw, but I’m pretty sure the film makers intended Blu to be a fantasy species). A short sequence shows us how Linda and Blu grow up together as inseparable friends. Linda even names her bookshop after her pet. Then ornithologist Túlio comes along, telling Linda that Blu may be the last male of his species, and that he wants him to mate with a newly found female in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Linda reluctantly agrees, and the rest of the film takes part in Rio de Janeiro, where the two birds get stolen, and Linda and Túlio have a hard time getting them back…

Now, from the outset it becomes clear that Blu and Jewel, the wild female, are meant for each other, despite their obvious differences and life histories, but the film also immediately couples Linda and Túlio in a far from subtle fashion. And when little boy Fernando declares he’s an orphan, and we follow him for a little while in his loneliness, we know where he will end up at the conclusion of the film.

In other words, utter predictability is one of Rio’s main flaws. Outside of that it never deviates from familiar tropes. There are the two inept henchmen, there’s your obligate break-up scene, there are two birds whose sole existence seems to be comic relief. Everything in ‘Rio’ is tried and done. Even worse, in ‘Rio’ it isn’t done so well. For example, the two comic relief birds, Pedro and Nico are hardly funny and both have very shallow personalities.

The latter is the problem of all personas in ‘Rio’. Even main star Blu is hardly defined. An early scene with some Canadian geese suggests he’s a bit of a nerd, but during most of the film Blu’s actions follow from the facts that he has been a pet whole his life, and that he cannot fly. These can hardly be called character traits. During the break-up scene he even acts like a complete jerk, for no apparent reason. Voice actor Jesse Eisenberg has difficulties in breathing some sympathy into Blu, anyway.

Even worse fairs Linda, of whom I can only say she loves Blu and that she feels out of place in Brazil, and Túlio, who’s depicted as a quirky, not to say rather loony scientist. Why does he have to be loony, why can’t he just be a devoted scientist, for @#% sake!

Because Linda and Túlio hardly have a story arc together their bonding feels forced. Because Blu and Linda are forced to spend some time together, their bonding feels more natural, even if it follows all predictable patterns.

Another problem I have with the story is that it lacks a strong villain. Sure, the cockatoo Nigel is evil enough, but in the end he’s only a henchman of some petty crime thieves. In the all too quick and easy round up at the end of the film all visible criminals are punished, except for the mysterious off-screen buyer of the two rare birds. A very unsatisfying ending, indeed!

‘Rio’ isn’t a musical, but Nigel sings one of two songs that suddenly emerge. The song gives Nigel some background story, but he doesn’t need one and the song is completely superfluous. The other song is an R&B song by Pedro (musician will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas fame) and Nico (actor Jamie Foxx). Curiously, the two actors are black, not Latino. In fact, only Rodrigo Santoro, who voices Túlio, is a Brazilian, and George Lopez (Rafael) the only other Latino among the main characters.

And this brings me to another problem with ‘Rio’: Rio de Janeiro is well-depicted visually, but aurally little is done with the rich musical tradition of Brazil. True, the film opens and ends with an English language samba, and the toucan Rafael shortly sings ‘The girl of Ipanema’, but the two original songs mentioned above have no grain of Brazil in them, nor does the rest of the soundtrack, which consists of rather standard and uninteresting action fare. Likewise, the film fails to convey the magic of the Brazilian carnival. The parade is wisely chosen as the place of the grand finale, but unfortunately this is cut short in favor of one taking place on a plane. This makes sense in forcing Blu to fly (but nonetheless his sudden ability to do so feels more magical than natural), but also feels like a missed opportunity.

Apart from all story problems, ‘Rio’ also suffers from all too generic designs. Nothing in the film breathes particularly ‘Blue Sky’ and the film has none of the character ‘Ice Age’ (2002) and ‘Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!’ (2008) had. Moreover, the human designs and animation are surprisingly weak in this film. I particularly disliked the design of Linda, and the animation of Fernando, which looked disappointingly wooden. These straight characters fair less well than the broad comic ones, like the two henchmen Tipa and Armando, who are much more delightful to watch.

In all, ‘Rio’ is a too mediocre and too generic film to become an all-time classic. Instead, the film is a good example of the lazy, trope-driven plots and more and more common designs that started to overtake American animated feature film making during the 2010s.

Watch the trailer for ‘Rio’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rio’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Airing Date: December 11, 1996

Way of the Dee Dee

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★
Review:

In ‘The Way of the Dee Dee’ Dee Dee shows Dexter that he has become out of touch with nature, so Dexter begs her to show him ‘the way of the Dee Dee’.

With Dee Dee as his guru Dexter steps leaves not only his lab, but dares to go outside. What follows are some antics in the backyard, but for the final challenge Dee Dee takes Dexter back to the lab for some self expression…

‘The Way of the Dee Dee’ plays with the themes of gurus and enlightenment. The scene in which Dexter steps into the light, accompanied by sitar music is the episode’s highlight in that respect.

The Justice Friends: Say Uncle Sam

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: The Justice Friends
Rating: ★★
Review:

Major Glory’s Uncle Sam will come to visit, so Major Glory teaches his friends how to behave, much to the latter’s distress.

Highlight of this otherwise dragging episode is the scene in which Major Glory calls his justice friends to assemble, accompanied by some particularly heroic music.

Tribe Called Girl

Directors: Rob Renzetti & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Tribe Called Girl’ is an episode like ‘Dee Dee’s Room‘ and ‘Dollhouse Drama‘, without adding much.

Once again, Dexter goes to Dee Dee’s room, this time to observe the behavior of girls. But then he’s discovered by Dee Dee and her friends Lee Lee and Mee Mee…

Dexter is presented as being completely unable to communicate with the girls, who, in one scene, treat him like a shy animal.

‘Way of the Dee Dee/The Justice Friends: Say Uncle Sam/Tribe Called Girl’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: November 27, 1996

Babysitter Blues

Directors: Craig McCracken & Rob Renzetti
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘Babysitter Blues’ immediately makes clear that Dexter is in love with his babysitter. The scene in which he prepares the room for her arrival is priceless, with its strong posings on the little boy.

But when Lisa, the babysitter, arrives, it quickly turns out she has a boy friend, prompting Dexter to think out a devilish scheme.

Dexter is far from sympathetic in this cartoon, and the love theme with ca. ten years age difference between Dexter and Lisa is a little bit uncomfortable, but the episode still is great fun. Apart from the opening scene highlight of this episode is Dee Dee looking for something without knowing for what.

The Justice Friends: Valhallen’s Room

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Justice Friends
Rating: ★
Review:

‘The Justice Friends: Valhallen’s Room’ starts with Major Glory calling the others for breakfast. When Valhallen doesn’t show up, he and Krunk enter his room…

This episode contains some nice references to Norse mythology, but otherwise is very tiresome and not even remotely funny. Most enjoyable of this otherwise forgettable short are the dramatic poses of Major Glory and his American themed breakfast.

Dream Machine

Directors: Rob Renzetti & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★
Review:

This episode starts with Dexter having a nightmare. Apparently he has had many lately, so Dexter builds himself a dream machine, which requires Dee Dee as its operator.

The premise of this scheme is all too predictable, and after Dexter’s initial dream there’s little to enjoy. Even Dexter’s second dream doesn’t really deliver, and most frustratingly, the episode ends abruptly and inconclusively.

‘Babysitter Blues/The Justice Friends: Valhallen’s Room/Dream Machine’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Airing Date: May 25, 1996

Jurassic Pooch

Directors: Craig McCracken & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dexter
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Jurassic Pooch’ clearly takes its inspiration from ‘Jurassic Park’: Dexter tries to revive a dinosaur from ancient DNA trapped inside amber.

Unfortunately and rather unscientifically, he’s missing the genes for the heart and the brain, which he takes from his dog. The result is a Tyrannosaur with dog characteristics.

Compared to the other characters, the dinosaur isn’t designed very well, and looks surprisingly like standard Hanna-Barbera fare. The humor, too, mostly falls flat, as the episode milks ‘giant dog’ gags to the max. The best gag may be the one in which Dexter’s cool jet plane turns into a bicycle.

Dial M for Monkey: Orgon Grindor

Directors: Paul Rudish & Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Dial M for Monkey
Rating: ★
Review:

The Dial M for Monkey were the least interesting parts of the Dexter’s Laboratory show, and ‘Dial M for Monkey: Orgon Grindor’ is no exception.

In this boring episode monkey gets hypnotized by some intergalactic gypsy called Orgon Grindor. This pale-green villain looks like a blast from the past: he’s dressed like an organ grinder cliché from the 1930s, he speaks mock-Italian, and partly sings his dialogue, e.g. on the opera aria melodies of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘La donna e mobile’ and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s ‘Ridi, Pagliacci’.

Much more interesting is the deepening of the relationship between Monkey and Agent Honeydew, who, for once, saves the day instead of Monkey. The two are depicted as being lovers in a rather risqué inter-species relationship.

Dimwit Dexter

See the post devoted to this episode

‘Jurassic Pooch/Dial M for Monkey: Orgon Grindor/Dimwit Dexter’ is available on the DVD ‘Dexter’s Laboratory Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Steve Box
Release Date: November 9, 1997
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Steve Box had joined Aardman in 1992 and was one of the animators on ‘The Wrong Trousers‘ (1993) and ‘A Close Shave‘ (1996).

‘Stage Fright’, his own short, is a short melodrama about a shy ‘dog juggler’ who is bullied by a mean silent cinema actor. The film uses designs reminiscent of the Wallace and Gromit films, excellent stop motion animation, and some atmospheric lighting, but it immediately becomes clear that Steve Box is no Nick Park.

Box’s way of non-linear story telling is confusing and heavy-handed. Because they’re not introduced properly we don’t care about the characters one bit. Worse, throughout the film the relationship between the three characters remains sketchy and trite. Add way too much dialogue, and the result is as disappointing as it is boring. The only interesting part is Box’s emulation of silent cinema using his clay characters.

Watch ‘Stage Fright’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Stage Fright’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

Director: Peter Lord
Release Date: April 10, 1996
Rating: ★★
Review:

Aardman founder Peter Lord penned and directed this medieval story for children about two royal twin brothers who get separated. One remains royal, the other becomes an ordinary peasant. But when their country is threatened by an enemy, the tables are turned, or not?

This film features silent comedy, with very little dialogue (only ‘me?’ and ‘hello?’ are uttered). More interesting is the returning use of a split screen. The animation and sets are both of a high quality, but Lord’s story is as rambling as it is boring, and completely fails to fulfil its promise. The film ends rather sudden and inconclusive, leaving us with Andy Price’s attractive quasi-medieval music. In fact, I’m surprised the film even got an Academy Award nomination.

Watch ‘Wat’s Pig’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Wat’s Pig’ is available on the DVD ‘Aardman Classics’

Director: Raymie Muzquiz
Airing Date: April 20, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★
Review:

In ‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ Duckman wants to be alone, so he sends his son Ajax out on the street. Ajax gets abducted by hillbilly aliens from the planet Betamax, and revered as a prophet by the backward planet. But everything goes wrong when Ajax plays them the tape his father gave him, and the planet takes the word of ‘Dod’ literally.

‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ is violently anti-religion, connecting dogmatism with violence and destruction. The satire is rather blunt and in your face, and therefore actually fails to hit its mark. Meanwhile this is one of those many Duckman episodes tiringly playing with Duckman’s complete ignorance of his own offspring. The result is rather exhausting.

Most enjoyable are Ajax’s semi-profound remarks and the rather Dr. Seuss-like background art of planet Betamax.

Watch ‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 35
To the previous Duckman episode: The Once and Future Duck
To the next Duckman episode: Aged Heat

‘The One with Lisa Kudrow in a Small Role’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Raymie Muzquiz
Airing Date: February 24, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Apocalypse Not’ is an obvious spoof of disaster and monster movies.

When the whole town goes for an emergency drill led by Aunt Bernice, Duckman remains the only person behind, thinking he is the sole survivor of some apocalyptic event.

Many movie tropes can be found in this episode, including the killing of auxiliary personas and Duckman spraining his ankle. Unfortunately, on the way Duckman’s persona becomes practically a caricature of itself, behaving rather over-the-top. And thus the episode’s highlight remains it opening credits, in which something big causes havoc in the city…

Watch ‘Apocalypse Not’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 29
To the previous Duckman episode: A Room with a Bellevue
To the next Duckman episode: Clear and Presidente Danger

‘Apocalypse Not’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: John Eng
Airing Date: January 27, 1996
Stars: Duckman
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Color of Naught’ is one of those episodes revolving around an evil plot by Duckman’s arch nemesis King Chicken. These don’t belong to the series’ best, and ‘Color of Naught’ suffers from sloppy story telling, with its rather random plot twists, and obligatory finale.

Iggy Catalpa (from ‘Joking the Chicken‘) returns for a short cameo, but more interestingly is the return of Angela, Duckman’s love interest from ‘About Face‘. Her interactions with Duckman install some interesting moments in an otherwise disappointing episode. The cameo of three guys from the ‘Weird Sciene’ television show (1994-1998) has aged less well, as this series has fallen into oblivion.

‘Color of Naught’ is noteworthy for the outlandish animation on the Beautex Salesman, and for King Chicken’s rather original way of destroying Duckman’s world, reducing characters and background art to black and white sketches, before turning into nothingness.

Watch ‘Color of Naught’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 26
To the previous Duckman episode: Grandma-ma’s Flatulent Adventure
To the next Duckman episode: Sperms of Endearment

‘Color of Naught’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Brian Larsen
Release Date:
November 13, 2012
Rating:
 ★★
Review:

In ‘The Legend of Mor’du’ the witch from ‘Brave‘ tells the viewer the background story of the feature film, and the origin of the bear Mor’du.

The witch is animated in 3D, just like the feature film, but her story is animated in 2D, featuring angular designs, strong color schemes, and very little animation. In fact, the story itself is little more than an animatic. Unfortunately, the story is of little interest, and the attempts of humor only disturb the narrative, instead of enhancing it. ‘Brave’ wasn’t a very strong film to begin with, and ‘The Legend of Mor’du’ only succeeds in proving that many of the feature’s story problems already start at its foundation.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Legend of Mor’du’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Legend of Mor’du’ is available on the Blu-Ray and DVD of ‘Brave’

Director: Pascale Hecquet
Release Date:
June 9, 2012
Rating:
 ★★
Review:

‘Duo de Volailles, Sauce Chasseur’ is a short comedy film in which a white and a black chicken are threatened by a fox in their own home.

The film is is black and white itself and tries to play with the idea that the white chicken is invisible in light and the black chicken invisible in the dark. Thus the film features a lot of on and off switching of lights.

Unfortunately, the film never succeeds in getting funny. Hecquet’s facial designs on the fox are more trite than funny, and his timing is sloppy. It certainly doesn’t help that at one point the two chickens start dancing a tango. How this deludes the fox is beyond me, because both thus remain visible to the fox throughout. Hecquet’s use of split screen is a rather petty try to make the action more exciting than it really is. The end result is a disappointingly tiresome film that never lives up to its clever premise.

Watch ‘Duo de Volailles, Sauce Chasseur’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Duo de Volailles, Sauce Chasseur’ is available on the Belgian DVD ‘Haas & Hert en andere verhaaltjes’

Director: Peter Sohn
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Rating: ★★
Review:

During the 2010s Pixar lost quite some of its brilliance. Not only saw the decade a multitude of sequels (seven out of eleven), two of the remaining stand-alone films, ‘Brave’ and ‘The Good Dinosaur’ were in fact strikingly disappointing. Particularly ‘The Good Dinosaur’ feels rather lackluster for a Pixar film. The general public apparently thought so, too, causing ‘The Good Dinosaur’ to become Pixar’s first financial disappointment.

For once, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ feels as if it had hit the theaters before its story problems were entirely solved. The film’s story had a troubled history, with two of its original writers (Bob Peterson and John Walker) being removed from the project halfway, and a release date being postponed two years. And yet, the final product still feels half-baked, and badly thought through.

The film’s premise is an alternate history in which the asteroid that hit Earth 66 million years ago only passed by, sparing the dinosaurs, and allowing them to evolve to the present day.

If you realize that this allows for a staggering 66 million years of extra evolution, surprisingly little is done with the concept. First, we hardly see any dinosaurs, at all. Only four species are depicted: Arlo’s family of Sauropods, a single Styracosaurus, a few hideously ugly Dromaeosaurids (who look like plucked chickens which makes them the most revolting looking Dromaeosaurids ever put to the screen) and three Tyrannosauruses. We can add some grisly Pterosaurs to the mix (another example of appalling design), but that’s it.

As you may have noticed, the species depicted are all recognizable as familiar species, as if nothing would have happened in 66 million years! Thus, the whole initial concept has been largely thrown away at the beginning. Instead, we are invited to believe Sauropods have invented agriculture, and Tyrannosaurids (who are very well-designed, but certainly not according to the latest scientific evidence of the time) have invented cattle breeding. Even worse, the film makers have allowed mammals to evolve beyond, as well, as if they wouldn’t have had competition from the well-established dinosaurs, depicting buffalo and, sadly, humans. How humans could ever have evolved in the shadow of dinosaurs baffles me, but here they are, and in the Americas, too. And yet, the story seems to take place during the Pleistocene, not extending the time period to the present, but why this may be so, will never be known. It unfortunately only adds to the age-old trope of co-existence of dinosaurs and early man, making ‘The Good Dinosaur’ strangely akin to the nonsense of e.g. The Flintstones.

The film focuses on Arlo, a small, weak and cowardly Sauropod, who loses his father and his home, but befriends a little human whom he calls Spot, and who overcomes his fears on his journey back home.

This story is already pretty uninteresting, but the execution is remarkably boring, and despite a modest length of 93 minutes, the film plods through its story following familiar tropes, and delivering no surprises. As too often in Disney movies there’s a strong focus on ‘family’ that feels tired and cliché. Moreover, Arlo’s development, given the traumatic loss of his father, feels obligate and is rather unconvincing, to say the least. Unlike Simba in ‘The Lion King’ (1994) there’s no sense of guilt or self-punishment, and Arlo’s dream encounter with his father is nothing like that of Simba in the former movie.

It doesn’t really help that for most of the time Arlo is a rather unpleasant character. His weakness and cowardice is not appealing, but annoying, and he behaves selfishly most of the time. To me it’s no less than a marvel that Arlo doesn’t die in the wild, so unbelievably unfit is our ‘hero’ for survival. I certainly believe the voice choice for Raymond Ochoa is part of the problem, for Arlo’s voice got on my nerves over time.

The other animals don’t help either. True, Spot is a well-established character, and surely forms the heart of the film, but Arlo’s family is quite bland, and almost all other creatures Arlo encounters seem rather lunatic, not to say insane. The only exceptions are the three Tyrannosaurs, and they form the highlight of the film. The animation of their walk, which looks like cowboys riding horses, belongs to the most original and best animation of movement ever put to the screen. Moreover, voice actor Sam Elliott is cast perfectly as the leader of the three. I don’t know why but somehow this Tyrannosaurus design is the perfect depiction of the mustached actor in Dinosaur form, as if Elliott had always been a Tyrannosaur deep inside, and the animators have brought his inner dinosaur to life.

Apart from story and personality issues, the film suffers from design flaws. The problems already start with the very first scene, which is a very, very unrealistic depiction of the asteroid belt. As said, the Dromaeosaurid and Pterosaur designs are atrocious, but also Arlo himself suffers. Compared to his co-stars he is way to cartoony, with oversized limbs, eyes and teeth, and essentially unappealing.

Spot is much, much better, but for some unknown reason Spot is shown as only partly bipedal and he’s given some dog-like behavior, while this is discarded in the depiction of other humans. One can argue that the orphan Spot is a feral child, like Mowgli, but as it’s never explained, I doubt whether this concept was even used in the background story.

No, the film’s real highlights are its landscapes. The film excels in impressive depictions of North American nature. The rivers, forests, mountains and plains depicted all look absolutely gorgeous, and are a giant move forward since ‘Cars’ (2005), which itself had been a milestone of landscape building in computer animation. The depiction of wet rocks and needle covered forest floors is no less than stunning and are still unparalleled in their realism and beauty. Indeed, it’s clear the film makers were most proud of their background art, for it’s the landscapes that ornament the end titles, not the characters. To me this says enough.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Good Dinosaur’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Good Dinosaur’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1995
Rating: ★★

‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’ tells about farmer Nathan and his wife Emmylou, who have been married since they were eighteen, but who are secretly dreaming of another life.

It’s a bit unclear what the subject of ‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’ has to do with this particular commandment, and the film feels rather pointless, resulting in possible the weakest of Mulloy’s The Ten Commandment films.

Like most of the other Ten Commandments episodes the short is narrated by Joel Cutrara and takes place in Joesville.

‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’ is available on the BFI DVD ‘Phil Mulloy – Extreme Animation’

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date:
1995
Rating:
★★

‘Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother’ is the fourth entry in Phil Mulloy’s puzzling Ten Commandments series.

This short tells the story of Little Tucker, who is forced by his parents to run a county race, only to arrive last. This film takes place full of oil fields, and Mulloy not only uses his characteristic stark black and whites, but also some bright reds and yellows for a fire.

The short, narrated by Joel Cutrara, is rather simple and straightforward, and doesn’t really deliver its promise. Nevertheless, it contains a nice jazzy score by Dave King.

‘Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother’ is available on the BFI DVD ‘Phil Mulloy – Extreme Animation’

Director: Philip Hunt
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Ah Pook is Here’ is a short but rather pretentious film using texts by avant-garde writer William S. Burroughs on the atomic bomb.

Read by William S. Burroughs himself from the book of the same name, the film mixes computer animation and stop motion to vaguely illustrate Burrough’s texts. The film is set on a small black planet, enircled by Gods, who look like satellites and bombs. Ah Pook is the destroyer, a.k.a. the atomic bomb. On the planet lives a red-headed alien who asks another flying alien about the nature of man, the nature of death and of democracy.

Unfortunately, the images are pretty irrelevant to the text: they neither illustrate nor counter it. Moreover, Burroughs’s text is pretty disjointed itself, making this short animation film remarkably aimless. For this reason ‘Ah Pook is Here’ must be regarded a cinematic failure, despite the virtuoso mix of computer animation and stop motion.

Watch ‘Ah Pook is Here’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Ah Pook is Here’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Directors: Priit Pärn & Janno Põldma
Release Date: May 6, 1995
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘1895’ is Priit Pärn’s homage to hundred years of cinema. 1895 was the year the Lumière brothers invented the cinématographe, and Pärn, with his colleague Janno Põldma, tells their story in his own unique way. In fact, for 99% of the film we have absolutely no clue what it’s all about.

The film depicts the life of one Jean-Louis, born on November 26, 1863, whose life story takes him all across Europe. Jean-Louis’ biography is told with a voice over and in a rapid succession of short scenes, one more absurd than the other. Sometimes the narration switches to the life of his twin brother, which takes place underground, and which invariably is accompanied by a completely black screen. Little of it makes sense, and often the images are in sharp contrast with the voice over texts.

The film is chock-full of references to famous people of the 19th century, paintings, literature, and, of course, cinema. There’s even a Tom & Jerry parody, which is accompanied by the narrator naming all kinds of French artists. In another scene we can watch Jean-Louis crushing the penguin from Aardman’s ‘The Wrong Trousers‘ (1993).

The film is mostly shot in traditional cel animation, but Pärn and Põldma use a wide range of styles, including rotoscope done in pencil. Unfortunately, the film relies heavily on the narration, and is more absurd than satisfying. In fact, ‘1895’ should be regarded as Pärn’s least successful films, tickling one’s fantasy less than his other works.

‘1895’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Priit Pärn integral 1977-2010’

Director: Van Partible
Airing Date: March 26, 1995
Stars: Johnny Bravo
Rating: ★★
Review:

Johnny Bravo was one of the striking characters of the cartoon renaissance happening at Cartoon Network. Together with Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, The Powerpuff Girls, and Courage the Cowardly Dog he was the flagship of the creativity at the network in the second half of the nineties.

Yet, this isn’t immediately visible in the very first short starring the character, aptly titled ‘Johnny Bravo’. This very first Johnny Bravo episode first aired as part of Cartoon Network’s ‘World Premiere Toons’ (later renamed ‘What a Cartoon’), and was re-shown later as the first part of three shorts forming the first Johnny Bravo episode broadcasted on July 7, 1997.

The episode firmly establishes Johnny Bravo as a character obsessed by his own body and presumable attractiveness to women, who don’t care about him in a bit. The short starts at a zoo where Johnny Bravo hopelessly tries to impress passing girls. When a gorilla has escaped he offers the female zookeeper to retrieve the animal.

The gorilla is a badly designed, purple talking beast that is one of the least funny characters to hit the television screen, especially when Partible tries to make him Bugs Bunny-like funny when talking to Johnny Bravo. This is a painful attempt at humor, indeed. Much better are Johnny Bravo’s attempts to show off and to attract women.

The animation overall is limited and very jerky, with especially Bravo jumping from pose to pose, an animation style that was remarkably fresh at the time. The hands mostly are mere paws until the fingers have to be drawn. This style unfortunately gives the character an ugly and cheap look. The color design, too, is far from interesting and arguably non-existent. In all, this debut cartoon hasn’t aged very well. Yet, the character would last four seasons, being on television between 1997 and 2004.

‘Johnny Bravo’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Johnny Bravo Season One: All 13 Episodes’

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★

‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ is the most critical of Mulloy’s ‘Ten Commandment’ films.

This short tells about Hank, an honest worker in ‘Joesville, at the wrong side of the Mississippi’. Hank works at a building site, and all his colleagues are stealing stuff (in a rather absurd sequence of images), but he won’t.

When crisis hits Joesville, Hank ends on the street, while all his colleagues mysteriously have built homes for themselves…

The town of Joesville would return in the episodes ‘Remember to Keep the Holy Sabbath Day‘ and ‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ is available on the BFI DVD ‘Phil Mulloy – Extreme Animation’

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1993
Rating: ★★

After his absurd series ‘Cowboys’ (1991), which dealt with Western cliches, and the two-part ‘history of the world’, mostly devoted to sex, British indie animator Phil Mulloy embarked on a series on the ten commandments.

All stories are typically silent comedies, using a voice over by Joel Cutrara to tell the story. Unfortunately, Mulloy stays far from Krzysztof Kieślowski’s critical view on the ancient biblical laws. It seems he only uses the commandments as templates to build rather absurd stories on. Most attractive is Mulloy’s rough style, using broad black ink strokes on a white Canvas, with the occasional blood reds. His animation is very limited, but effective.

‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ is a typical example of the series. The short tells about one Uncle Josh from Arkansas, who loses his family rapidly, in Job-like fashion. A a reaction he commits suicide, flies to heaven, where he’s kicked into hell by God himself.

It’s as if Mulloy tells a joke, helped by visuals. In no way the series approaches the misanthropic criticisms of his contemporary film ‘The Sound of Music‘ (1993).

‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ is available on the BFI DVD ‘Phil Mulloy – Extreme Animation’

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,119 other subscribers
Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories