Thursday, December 22, 2016

Still more realistic-looking than the CGI version in Rogue One!

ANI-MOVIES, *Rise Of The Guardians

Having no relation to Legend Of The Guardians which came out just two years before this, Rise Of The Guardians was a film adaptation of The Guardians Of Childhood book series by William Joyce. It's basically an imaginary characters version of the Avengers with Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy protecting the children of the world from evil.

We open up with the creation of Jack Frost rising from a frozen pond, learning he can fly and control ice, but that no one can see or hear him. Cut to three centuries later, Jack is brought to the North Pole by Santa's hired good squad of yetis to be inducted into the group of the Guardians, individuals chosen by the mysterious Man in the Moon to defend kids from the newly arisen Pitch Black(aka: The Boogeyman). Pitch learns how to manipulate the Sandman's power to create dark horses called Nightmares to torment children's dreams, while at the same time attacking the Tooth Fairy's domain and stealing all the collected children's teeth which contain all their earliest memories. Jack is tempted by Pitch who bribe's him with his old teeth to recover the memories of his past life, but ends up loosing to him in a fight after Pitch had sabotaged Easter(we had to give the Bunny some reason to be in this story aside from whining about how more popular Christmas is!). Jack recovers and brings the Guardians back together with the last few children on Earth who still believe they exist to have a final conflict with Pitch and rescue the world from darkness.

This was a fine addition to the Dreamworks catalog, although it was the last one so far that they did for Paramount. Background painter Peter Ramsey did a fine job directing this as his first full-length animated feature. The voice acting is okay, although Alec Baldwin does a lousy Russian accent as Santa(you know, like in the storybooks!), and for some reason the Easter Bunny is an Aussie played by Hugh Jackman. It does feature some unique character designs, and above average CGI animation. For sure makes for a good watch for the kids at any given time of year, although to show it at X-Mas or Easter doesn't hurt either.

Monday, December 19, 2016

ANI-MOVIES, *Escaflowne: The Movie

Similar to several movie spin-offs of a prior anime TV series, Escalflowne: The Movie is a complete remake of the original Vision Of Escaflowne. Directed by series director Kazuki Akane, this takes away the more shoujo-type visions of the series for a slightly darker fantasy, and was the first movie to be animated by Studio Bones.

Hitomi in this story is a somewhat suicidal schoolgirl, and willed to the alternate world of Gaea, a planet parallel to Earth being conquered by the head of the Black Dragon Clan, Lord Falken, who here is seriously trying to bring back the Goblin King's haircut. Hitomi awakes inside a mechanical giant called Escaflowne, and proclaimed the Wing Goddess by Falken's rebellious brother, Van, who is leading a revolution against the Black Dragon. Hitomi is kidnapped by some of Falken's beast-men, but Van rescues her by sprouting wings as she falls off a cliff. The two of them bond, and meet up with the rest of their forces run by Allen and the now redheaded Millerna. The Black Dragon takes over a capitol to unearth their own mechanical beat, which Van battles in Escaflowne. Van and Hitomi then go to confront Falken in a somewhat anti-climatic conclusion.

The motion picture was an improvement at least as far as the quality of animation in concerned. The fantasy takes a more Frazetta design with the characters and story, but with less skimpier outfits. It's more shonen than the TV series was, but not in the bad way like the first Escaflowne manga. Visually, its pure spectacle, reminding the viewer of Ralph Bakshi's Lord Of The Rings animated movie. Whether you see the original Bandai or the current Funimation dub, you'll still get the same thrill, and a killer soundtrack by Yoko Kanno.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

ANI-MOVIES, *Fire And Ice

Ralph Bakshi had already done sword and sorcery in animated films like Wizards and The Lord Of The Rings, the underground indy cartoonist teamed up with fantasy artist master Frank Frazetta to create Fire and Ice. Released in 1983, the concept of mature animation had peaked with titles like Heavy Metal(which by the way Bakshi had nothing to do with), this fantasy was set in a more prehistoric world as opposed to most Arthurian settings.

Set sometime in the past when humans and dinosaurs apparently still existed together, a kingdom ruled by the water-bending Nekron expands his terrain with ice flows, stopping only at the fiery volcano domain of King Jarol. His daughter, the sizzling Princess Teegra, is kidnapped by Nekron's cavemen minions. She escapes, and crosses path with Lam, the last of a tribe wiped out by Nekron's forces. Teegra is recaptured, so Lam teams up with the wandering masked warrior called Darkwolf(imagine a caveman version of Batman!). The two barbarians get help from Jarol's pterodactyl pilots to launch a Death Star-ish attack on Nekron's keep.

If you were a fan of Thundar The Barbarian, then this one is totally up your alley, or at least what most fans wanted the original He-Man series to be! There's some fantastic rotoscope animation, which had improved since Bakshi's films of the 70s, and Frazetta's designs are truly iconic, especially since Darkwolf was based on his legendary Death Dealer character. There isn't any blatant sex or nudity as you might thing for a primordial fantasy, but still plenty of action and violence. A live-action remake is currently being looked into, but it couldn't possibly compare to the awesome spectacle of the original!